Abuse of Government Power

I never believed that American women, and the men who purport to protect them from abuse and humiliation, would passively accept the physical pawing and groping that is taking place in America’s airports under the watchful eye of the United States Government.

Before you start to tell me that it is better to be safe than sorry, let me say this: We can be a lot safer than we are right now without exposing women in this country to meaningless groping under the guise of security — conducted by a workforce that has already adequately demonstrated that it can’t be trusted to put its hands inside your luggage, much less your grandmother’s underwear.

The current program permits screeners of the opposite sex to feel the private areas of men and women for hidden explosives that cannot be identified by the screening equipment now in use. You may, of course, wait for a screener of the same sex to perform the search — if you know that you can request it, and if there is one available before your flight departs.

The point, however, is that the “pat down” search conducted by an airport screener is about as likely to find a concealed explosive on a determined suicide bomber as you are in finding a needle in a haystack. More importantly, the ability of the screener to select a likely candidate for such a search seems equally improbable, given the random nature of the selection process. Our current screeners don’t have the skills to handle the sophisticated criteria used in profiling.

Faced with the obvious problem of not being able to locate plastic explosives carried on the body, the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) — with its now expected ineptitude — has decided that, usual standards of morality be damned, they are going to show the public the power of the government to beat us into submitting to yet another meaningless show of “vigilance.” Hopefully, enough men and women — appalled by the sight of the women in their families being groped by screeners without even the probable cause that would be required of a law enforcement officer dealing with a suspect under arrest — will demand that the Department of Homeland Security come up with a better way to protect us, or move out of the way and let somebody who can do the job. Common decency demands no less.

The fact of the matter is that, in the face of other more menacing security threats to commercial aviation, Homeland Security’s TSA has deferred action because of the “inconvenience” it imposes on commercial organizations. They have focused on the possibility of a suicide bomber of the kind that likely brought down two Russian airliners some months ago, when it is believed two female passengers carried explosives under their garments and detonated them in flight. The TSA has responded with this amateurish approach to security. Rather than rely on dogs, x-ray, trace detection or profiling, they set loose a questionable workforce to molest travelers, knowing that we have become too intimidated to protest.

With our young men and women fighting terrorism overseas to protect our rights, the least we can do is protest, in order to protect the abuse of their loved ones at home. We have a duty not to stand idly by while our citizens are being subjected to unnecessary indignity by an agency that still hasn’t mastered the ability to provide security while protecting the dignity of the traveling public.

Why does the threat of a suicide bomber aboard an airliner outweigh the threat of an unsearched worker placing an explosive in checked baggage, cargo, or a food cart? Why do we allow a workforce of 900,000 airside baggage handlers, maintenance personnel, cleaners, and others access to aircraft without searching (at least) their bags, clothing, and parcels? Why do we allow airlines to resist such safety methods as the hardening of cockpit doors and bulkheads because of the cost of carrying extra weight, while we proclaim the need to protect the public from hijackers? Why do we reject passenger profiling, a technique that has protected Israeli aviation for decades, on the notion of its being too intrusive — while allowing an army of screeners the right to intrude on our personal privacy?

We continue to react to every reminder of our vulnerability to terrorism without forethought and without concern for the human dignity that our fight against terrorism is all about. Complain about having your private parts touched by a stranger, and you are put on notice that you will not be flying today. If the name of a “no fly” terrorist appears on the passenger manifest after departure, you’ll find F-16 fighter pilots on the wing of your airliner. Attempt to use the lavatory at the wrong time in your flight to La Guardia, or prepare for an arrival in Maine – and find yourself under arrest. Report a theft from your mandatory unlocked checked bag; and be told that such losses are within the acceptable range. Surely there must be a limit to the forbearance of the American people to the constant flow of abuse, indignity, and disrespect we have been shown by an agency of government that repeatedly bullies us into submission by waving the “better safe than sorry” card.

From the outset, I have disagreed with most of the policies and programs promulgated by TSA because I have felt the agency lacks a coherent plan for transforming commercial aviation security into an effective and viable reality. I recognize the enormity of the task of implementing the Aviation and Transportation Security Act out of whole cloth, and therefore a certain amount of trial and error was inevitable. However, the unwillingness of the agency to consider the need for an efficient system for screening passengers, baggage, and cargo with due respect for the rights and dignity of air travelers is unpardonable.

When an agency of our government goes to such lengths to humiliate those whom they are duty bound to serve, they can and should be held in contempt by those from whom their power has been derived. When, I wonder, will the traveling public have had enough and decide not to take it anymore?

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