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Terror in Our Airports ^ | January 22, 2002 | John W. Whitehead

Posted on 01/23/2002 9:41:29 PM PST by single malt

The lines at airports are getting longer, the random searches more frequent and invasive and the security measures stricter. Yet, are we any safer?

On Friday, January 18, 2002, airports across the country implemented the latest in security measures required by the Airport Security Federalization Act of 2001. The law, signed by President Bush this past November, is intended to greatly improve security at airports by requiring airlines to screen bags and travelers for explosives, either through the use of high-tech bomb x-ray devices, bag matching, random searches, manual searches or bomb-sniffing dogs.

One important part of the government's efforts to ensure safety in the air is the creation of a screener workforce to carry out the various searches of passengers and baggage. However, the qualifications of some of the personnel appointed to carry out the random searches leave some passengers even more hesitant to fly.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, a trained airport screener must possess: a discerning and discriminating ability; the ability to perform duties while being subject to distractions; the ability to follow sets of complex directions; a multi-tasking ability and alertness to objectives; the ability to perform well under demanding situations; the ability to comprehend and reason effectively; the ability to identify principles governing relationships between objects; and the ability to cope with conflicts.

Despite these requirements, reports continue to surface that raise serious questions about whether airport screeners possess "a discerning and discriminating ability" and "the ability to comprehend and reason effectively." Indeed, numerous invasive incidents concerning random searches have turned into intrusive full-body searches and have left women travelers—from grandmothers to flight attendants—feeling harassed and abused. It’s not just the female travelers who feel accosted, however. One travel agency president related that at a Miami airport he had to drop his trousers in public "to the top of the butt" so a guard could feel for contraband.

And as the following three incidents show, while transportation officials might hope that caution and common sense would work hand in hand during these searches, it’s easier said than done. Take, for instance, a recent incident that took place at an airport security checkpoint in Philadelphia between baggage screeners and a US Air pilot preparing to report for duty. According to media reports, Elwood Menear, a veteran of the skies with almost 30 years of flying experience under his belt, found himself being searched for prohibited "weapons," such as a nail file. After pointing out to the screeners that if it were his intent to harm anyone, he could do more damage crashing the plane than smuggling a nail file, he was promptly arrested, grounded from flight service and charged with making terrorist threats.

In another incident at a Philadelphia airport, 22-year-old Neil Godfrey, reading material in hand, was making his way through the metal detector when he noticed a security guard frowning at the novel in his hand. The cover of the novel, Hayduke Lives! by acclaimed writer Edward Abbey, bore an illustration of a man holding several sticks of dynamite in his hand. Before long, a National Guardsman had arrived to question Godfrey about his choice of reading material. Philadelphia police officers, state troopers and airport security officials arrived soon after. After extensive questioning and a pat down, Godfrey was informed that he would not be permitted to fly and was ushered out of the airport. Godfrey’s crime? He was reading good literature.

And in perhaps the most outrageous of incidents, when a security wand beeped during a standard search of an elderly woman in Chicago, the screener asked "if it was okay to feel [her] breasts to make sure [she] was not hiding anything." As the Pittsburgh grandmother reeled from the embarrassment of being "felt up in the middle of O’Hare Airport," it turned out that the metal underwire in her bra was in part to blame. But the complete lack of compassion and common sense on the part of the screener is just as much to blame, if not more.

For some of us, these may seem like humorous anecdotes brought to life from classic novels such as Fahrenheit-451 or Brave New World. However, because of the terror they bring to the lives of the victims, they are neither humorous nor fictional. These invasive acts are actually happening in airports across our country. But the subjects of such outrageous treatment are not terrorists; they are ordinary Americans.

These incidents obviously raise a number of questions not only about the quality of people who work as airport screeners but also about core American beliefs in our alleged commitment to freedom. For instance, in this climate of heightened sensitivities and extreme caution, when even a mild-mannered objection results in arrest and the wrong reading material can get you grounded, where is the protection of the First Amendment to be found?

As the war on terrorism wages on—and common sense takes a back seat to security concerns—it is becoming more difficult to determine where our constitutionally protected freedoms fit into the picture. It is all too possible that in their zeal to protect us from the terrors that might be, our government leaders, as well as our law-enforcement officials, run the risk of forgetting that the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect us from government’s most well-intentioned efforts.

Certainly, we must continue to wage this war on terrorism. But let us take to heart President Bush’s pledge to our nation, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, that "We will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms." Otherwise, we are allowing Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network to claim victory in this war of ideas, as our freedoms are gradually taken away.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial
This stuff is nuts! Saving American should not entail tanking traditional liberties in the process.
1 posted on 01/23/2002 9:41:29 PM PST by single malt
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To: single malt
None of these measures would have halted the 9/11 attacks. This is just an excuse to pass a bunch of stupid laws that the feds have kicked around for years.
2 posted on 01/23/2002 9:50:34 PM PST by baxter999
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To: baxter999
Doug Casey says as much in today's WND. Once the war machine gets rolling, it's hard to apply the brakes.

War is the health the state and the poison pill to freedom.

3 posted on 01/23/2002 11:17:53 PM PST by single malt
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To: ouroboros; Snuffington; Inspector Harry Callahan; Greg 4TCP; Loopy; cva66snipe; Askel5; ppaul...
4 posted on 01/28/2002 11:58:57 AM PST by sheltonmac
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To: sheltonmac
We flew down to Orange saturday morning for a memorial service, and came back in the evening. - While we were in line at the boarding gate, we got into a conversation with several other passengers, and we were comparing tickets. - At that point I began to realize that anyone with minimal HTML skills could create a very convincing fake ticket, and gain access to the 'secure' areas of the airport.

All of the measures that are being taken are worthless.

5 posted on 01/28/2002 1:01:08 PM PST by editor-surveyor
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