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Jewish World Review June 3, 2002/ 22 Sivan, 5762

Don Feder

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Consumer Reports

I committed one of the seven deadly sins of airport security and barely lived to tell about it | Happily, both the Gestapo and KGB are out of business. Still, since Sept 11, I keep bumping into their counterparts at airports nationwide.

Flying is getting to be as much fun as root canal without Novocaine or listening to replays of the 2000 presidential debates with the volume turned up.

Admittedly, security is a priority. Laxity led to the Sept. 11 disaster. Most of us are willing to trade convenience for the assurance that we won't board a transcontinental flight with one of Allah's hit men.

But airport screenings have become obsessive to the point of fetishism. These senseless rituals do nothing to thwart terrorism, but much to aggravate already harassed travelers.

On a recent cross-country trip, besides being x-rayed, my carry-on luggage was hand-searched three times. I wondered if the items in my briefcase had somehow been transformed (a type of airport alchemy) between the check-in search and the one at the boarding gate.

On this journey, I committed one of the seven deadly sins of airport security: My luggage was not in my control at all times. Waiting at the gate, I asked the blonde businesswoman sitting next to me if she'd watch my things while I ran to the newsstand.

When I returned, the plane was boarding and I got a lecture about the unpardonable offense of being AWOL from my carry-ons.

Apparently, I was supposed to jog around the airport with 30 pounds of luggage, rather than entrust them to a professional woman working on her laptop who'd already shown her ID several times to make it to the gate. (When you use a restroom and leave your luggage outside the stall, technically, it's out of your control for several minutes -- long enough for a constipated terrorist to slip something inside your overnighter.)

After the dressing down, my carry-ons were searched yet another time. When I made a sarcastic comment to Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S. (I asked if she'd like to examine the lining of my shoulder bag), the camp guard threatened to have me arrested.

I remarked that as a newcomer to our country (it seems to be an unwritten rule that all of these drones have to be foreign-born), she may not have heard of the First Amendment. But I have a constitutional right to express my displeasure at being treated like a convicted sex offender.

Ilsa and her ilk are on a permanent power trip. Where else could those who were high-school dropouts in their homeland have a chance to push around people wearing clothes that weren't bought at K-Mart?

What I experienced on that trip isn't the worst of it.

A friend told me that a screener insisted his 78-year-old mother stand while removing her shoes for inspection. (Is Al Qaeda now recruiting agents in nursing homes?) When he went to meet mom at the gate, another agent asked for his 5-year-old daughter's identification. Would that be her driver's license or Social Security card?

A colleague said he was going through a checkpoint when a Marine in uniform set off a metal detector with his dog tags. He was forced to remove the tags while a screener inspected them closely to be sure the wafer-thin objects didn't have hidden compartments where a micro-weapon could be concealed.

On a flight last fall, a screener snapped off the half-inch file on some nail clippers in my pocket. With that lethal weapon (and given my commando training), I easily could have hijacked a plane-full of midgets.

By November, the current crop of airport inquisitors will be replaced by 57,500 federal employees who will earn up to $40,000 plus all of the perks that go with government employment. Then, instead of minimum-wage obsessive sadists, we'll have federalized obsessive sadists with lifetime job security.

Everyone from the president on down pleads with us to get back to business as usual and fly more, while the friendly skies fascists make air travel an increasingly miserable, degrading experience.

We're told that Osama bin Laden seeks to destroy our way of life. Like turning our airports into mini-totalitarian states? If our enemies want lessons in terrorizing ordinary Americans, they should visit one of our airports and observe the thumbscrews crowd at work.

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JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate