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Felt-Up Fliers

Dec. 1, 2010
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I was way ahead of the media uproar over the latest airport security procedures that include either zapping passengers with radiation to look under their clothing or feeling them up.

I’ve long opposed the rituals of pretend airport security. My wife gets very nervous whenever Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents start putting me through a few of their extra little tricks. Ever since we learned about “rendition” under the Bush administration, she envisions me creating some kind of scene at the airport that results in government agents throwing a black bag over my head and flying me to some Middle Eastern country to be tortured.

For years I’ve written that most of the hoops the TSA makes us jump through are completely worthless. We all pad around in our stocking feet now because nine years ago some goofball named Richard Reid tried to blow up his own shoes.

A year ago when a potential bomber had an explosive in his underwear, we knew it was just a matter of time before TSA started poking around in our underpants.

The latest excess might even be my fault. I once wrote how fortunate it was Reid didn’t conceal his explosive where the sun doesn’t shine. We would all be lining up for far more invasive searches.

Well, now it’s happening. But not even typically inflammatory FOX News coverage was enough to upset most docile citizens.

A highly publicized national day to “opt out” of virtual stripping fizzled at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International and other airports the day before Thanksgiving.

Because all the news media were there, everyone heard good, little passengers declaring over and over that the government should do “whatever it takes” to prevent terrorism. Polls show the same sentiment.

This plays into establishing a police state mentality in a country where we once valued rights and freedoms. If the TSA is testing us to see how far it can go in a democracy before citizens rise up against unreasonable search and seizure, there is no end in sight.

Missing the Big Picture

Unfortunately, some of the loudest complaints about the screenings seem to miss the most important issues.

Politically conservative commentators and columnists were the ones most openly contemptuous. And it’s not because they suddenly rediscovered the libertarian principle of opposing government intrusion into everyone’s civil liberties.

Instead, they used complaints from otherwise privileged people like themselves as an excuse to call openly for racial profiling.

In other words, don’t bother white people with your humiliating pawing and potentially dangerous scanners. We all know who the terrorists are. The only people you need to inconvenience are people who look Middle Eastern and people with dark skin.

Oddly, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and newly elected Florida Congressman Allen West took up this Republican cry on the Sunday talk shows. Jindal, an Indian American, and West, a token tea party African American, would be among those first to be racially profiled.

It’s an ignorant approach to national security. Even though Muslims in Middle Eastern clothes on airplanes make FOX News commentator Juan Williams nervous, smart terrorists would be more likely to try to fit in.

Some of the search opponents also seem to make rather self-aggrandizing sexual assumptions.

That “don’t touch my junk” guy who became instantly famous on the Internet for forbidding anyone from searching him too carefully seemed to egotistically believe screeners would want to.

Most who worry about possible interest in computer pictures of their bodies under their clothes also have delusions of grandeur. They’re not that hot.

There are far more important questions about the safety of the scanners and government agencies using fear to take away the rights of citizens.

This country has a long history of minimizing danger from radiation. Those with the greatest concerns about the new scanners should be the TSA agents themselves.

Unions succeeded in exempting pilots and flight crews from the machines. The TSA, which has constant unprotected exposure to the scanners, is not so fortunate.

Republicans long tried to block the TSA from having the right to unionize, but the workers recently won the right to a union vote anyway. Protecting workers should be the first order of business for any successful union.

There also is a very good reason why no more explosives have been found in the millions of shoes carefully examined since Reid. It’s the same reason we won’t find any more explosives looking in everyone’s underwear.

Potential terrorists are opportunists. They exploit gaps in our security. They don’t put things where we’re checking.

That’s why those who welcome even the most ridiculous rituals of pretend security are wrong. It’s not making us safer.

While the TSA is busy focusing on our feet and our crotches—violating every citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable searches without probable cause—it is very likely to miss the next frightening innovation by a potential terrorist.


Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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