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Opt-Out Day Showing Little Impact, But Ideas Behind It Still Resonate

It’s going to be hard to get a handle on the impact of national “Opt-Out Day,” given the tens of millions of passengers and hundreds of airports involved. Most reports I’ve seen rate the impact as minor. Gallup was sure to roll out a poll showing that most people are OK with the new TSA procedures, because surely rights should be put up to a vote. The Nation, of all places, came out with a weird smear job on John Tyner of “Don’t touch my junk” fame. The short answer is that there’s a lot of pressure to show that the whole thing is a non-story, lest the herd be upset.

Nevertheless, the protests did get TSA’s attention. And I don’t think that will stop in the near term. I don’t agree with Matt Bai, predictably, that this shows some mass “distrust of government,” as that has sadly evaporated in the past few years. But I do think there’s an opportunity to present a full agenda that’s respectful of civil liberties and opposed to security theater, and now that agenda is on the radar screen.

I do think that if they try to take these scanners to trains and public transit, they’re going to face a bigger problem. The more than these draconian measures start hitting a larger segment of the public (not everyone flies), the more that they hit communities traditionally singled out and subject to profiling and abuse, the more stories of abuse will leak out. It’s just not compatible with an allegedly free society to have constant breakdowns in privacy protections. America is already pretty close to a surveillance state, and that has to stop.

Anyway, I’ll be road-testing these new security measures in just about an hour or so.

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David Dayen

David Dayen