Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2002 / 4 Tishrei, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Over the Labor Day weekend, reporters for the New York Daily News sneaked weapons onto 14 flights at 11 airports. They were never caught once with their contraband, which included knives, box cutters and pepper spray.
"This is beyond disturbing," said Harvey Kushner, an expert in airport security. "It scares the hell out of me."
The Bush administration deserves savage criticism for its bungling of airport security. But it is unlikely to receive it because the administration's most egregious follies are championed by Democrats in Congress and liberals in the news media.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) already is arguably the worst federal agency, which is remarkable, since the Immigration and Naturalization Service is still with us.
In two stories in August, USA Today reported the air marshal program is in chaos. Hundreds are resigning because they are overworked, and have been lied to by administrators. Veteran marshals bemoan that standards for what had been an elite force have become "like security guard training for the mall."
"We were promised the Garden of Eden. We were given Hell," USA Today quoted a marshal Aug. 29. "If they don't make major changes fast, they're going to have no one left but the bottom of the barrel."
The only thing remarkable about the USA Today stories is that anyone with the good sense G-d gave chipmunks would have expected it to be otherwise. There were fewer than 50 air marshals last Sept. 10, about 6,000 now. It is impossible to expand a work force of any kind by more than 10,000 percent in less than a year without a substantial dimunition in quality.
Even if it were possible to expand the air marshal force so much without turning them into rent-a-cops, it was a stupid thing to try to do, because it draws qualified law enforcement personnel away from equivalent or arguably greater needs, such as guarding our land borders and seaports.
(Most new air marshals have come from the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, and local police departments.)
TSA also has slowed the introduction of bomb detection systems at airports. "Dallas-Fort Worth offered to spend $200 million of its own money to set up a bomb detection system, if the TSA would approve it quickly," the Washington Post reported Sep. 3. "But the agency's top administrators said they didn't want to rush into approving one system."
The sensible way to protect airports is the way the U.S. Marshals Service protects federal courthouses: The government pays for security, and supervises it. But most of the actual work is done by private contractors. But TSA was created by Congress, where common sense is not commonplace. Democrats in the Senate were more interested in creating a new public employee union which would give them campaign contributions than in protecting the lives of Americans.
At the insistence of Congress and Norman Mineta, the lone Democrat in the Bush Cabinet, TSA has placed fidelity to three Politically Correct shibboleths ahead of the protection of Americans:
The first is gun control. If pilots have guns, and hijackers don't, the odds on a successful hijacking drop to near zero. Not only would arming pilots be effective, it could be implemented quickly and cheaply. But it would involve trusting private citizens (more than two thirds of whom are former military officers) with firearms, and this liberals are loathe to do.
The second is profiling. Airport screeners randomly harrass old women and small children because they think it would be somehow wrong to pay special attention to people who might actually be terrorists.
The third is the assumption that only government employees can do anything. Most of the expertise in aviation security is in the private sector, but TSA refuses to call upon it. "They're hiring guys with no experience in airports or aviation," Douglas Laird, a former head of security for Northwest Airlines, told the Washington Post. "To think they could go in and in two weeks be making valid decisions is...ludicrous."
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