Introduction to Dissertation 

...land of holes.

In the summer of 1991, I was fifteen and on route from my first trip to Europe with Dallas Fort/Worth Airport as my point of entry. The TSA was nonexistent, and security screening was done by low wage private contractors hired by the individual airline carriers per their terminal - federal oversight was the responsibility of the U.S. Customs Service. The basic security arrangement I was passing through had been routine since 1973 when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated inspection of carry-on baggage and scanning of all passengers (Aviation Security 1990). This measure was a response to the previous year's hijacking of Southern Airways Flight 49 by three men who threatened to fly the plane into a nuclear reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and would be instituted on August 5, 1974 with the anti-hijacking Air Transportation Security Act of 1974 being passed - "a landmark change in aviation security.'' I wrangled my checked bag and proceeded to screening. Most people had their passports inspected and then told to proceed to immigration, but a few others were asked to open their bags. The year before my trip, the 1990 Aviation Security Improvement Act was passed in response to the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990). Congressional findings contained in the Act assessed the then current aviation security system to be inadequate in addressing an emerging threat of aviation based terror and that immediate action should be taken to overhaul security measures (\emph{Aviation Security} 1990). 

 

The Act established the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) - "created to examine areas of civil aviation security with the aim of developing recommendations for the improvement of civil aviation security, methods and procedures.'' Upon being signed into law, the Act also resulted in an array of new operational positions: it created a special position of Director of Intelligence and Security within the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as, a position of Assistant Administrator for Civil Aviation Security within the FAA who would be charged with the "tasks of day-to-day management and operations related to civil aviation security" (\emph{Aviation Security}, 29). At the airport level, these tasks were to be coordinated by the also newly created positions of "federal security manager" and "foreign security liaison officer" within the FAA. These latter two positions were in theory to oversee the screening protocol I was going through in 1991. The Act also mandated specific measures to be taken for strengthening airport security. Some of these were: tighter controls over checked baggage, controls over individuals with access to aircrafts, covert testing of security systems, improvements to x-ray equipment, measures for better passenger prescreening and requiring background checks for airport security personnel. So in 1991, I was witnessing these mandated "Improvements". 

 

In fact, beyond creating the positions above, the Act delineated a lot more than it executed. By 1995, many critical assessments were levied on government efforts to address either the recommendations of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, or even the mandates set forth in the Aviation Security Improvement Act itself. Cited deficiencies\footnote{President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism} explaining this were lack of funding, complex technical challenges that the FAA was inadequately equipped to manage, and the fact that attention to the task of implementing aviation security was instead focused on policy geared to the failings of oversight functions (the positions created by the Act instead of the changes it mandated and the advisory committee subsequently recommended). In other words, apart from some modest equipment upgrades (e.g., x-ray machines), the screening assemblage (still largely performed by private contractors) had changed little since 1974.    

 

The pair of agents I was facing decided me to be a person of interest. I handed one my passport while the other dumped everything from my checked bag onto the table between us. The one with my passport mispronounced the name of my hometown, using a voiced palato-alveolar sibilant affricate "J" (or hard "J") rather than a voiceless velar fricative "J" (silent or X). If the reader does the latter now, you will both perform the indigenous name for the area I grew up in (the Kumeyaay called the area mat kulaaxuuy, or "land of holes") and telegraph the conclusion of my story. When the other agent found an unused pipe amongst my things, both began pressing me where the "stuff" is. Explaining to them that there was nothing to find proved futile. They told me to repack my bag (the contents of which had been recklessly dumped and searched through) and then accompany them to the back. Opening a door to (what I recall was) an empty room, they ushered me in, shut the door, told me to strip to my underwear, and then face the wall with my hands pressed flat on the wall. One agent proceeded to search me - first patting, then cupping and eventually vice gripping my scrotum. I viscerally turned wincing in pain to which he promptly ordered, "Face the wall, or I bloody it with your face." I obliged, him with his hand gripped where it was. Back then, airport security operations seemed incommensurate with respect to securing the border (from narcotics) and securing aviation transportation (from terror). Throughout the '90's, I could readily assume that most screening processes were going to involve some sort extra security work (thankfully, none like my Fort Worth experience).