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Jewish World Review Sept. 26, 2001 / 9 Tishrei, 5762

Walter Williams

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Consumer Reports

Airport safety regulations -- SECRETARY of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, Czar Norman, has ordered new, ill-thought out, oppressive airline regulations in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. Among them: a ban on knives -- plastic or steel -- anywhere in the airport and on airplanes, even in kitchens, no curbside check-in, restricted carry-on luggage, no visitors beyond security checkpoints and who knows what else.

Has Czar Norman gone far enough to protect us? I've watched "Investigative Reports" and the "History Channel" documentaries about supermax prisons. Taking away plastic knives is not enough for real security. Knife-like weapons can be fashioned out of plastic forks and spoons, toothbrushes, ballpoint pens, razor blades, eyeglass lenses and glass utensils. That means if Czar Norman is serious about protecting us, he should ban all these items on airplanes and from airports.

Even if all items that can be used to produce knives are banned, I know from watching documentaries about supermax prisons, such as California's Pelican Bay, simply passing people through metal detectors and patting them down is not enough. Weapons can be secreted in various body cavities. To ensure total air travel safety, Czar Norman can't allow indelicacies such as mandated body cavity searches to impede American safety.

But there's a potential problem. Given American litigiousness, I can easily see where body cavity searches might produce numerous suits for sexual harassment. But technology offers an alternative. Some supermax prisons have equipment, that the FAA might consider, that employs a tidier method of body cavity search. The prisoner is strapped to an X-ray chair and a picture taken.

If Czar Norman thinks that a ban on plastic forks and spoons, toothbrushes, ballpoint pens, razor blades, eyeglass lens, glass utensils and even fingernail clippers is impractical, and body cavity searches a bit too intrusive, a substitute would be to order that passengers be handcuffed to their seats during flights save for necessary bodily functions, and then escorted to the lavatory.

Being knowledgeable about World War II, I can suggest another way to deal with hijacking threats. Say there are a thousand planes flying from the East Coast to western destinations. Just have them take off, group up in a formation and then have squadrons of F-15s provide escort. If one plane deviates from the flight plan without permission, one of the F-15s could force it to land or shoot it down.

By now you should realize the potential for ridiculous air-safety measures. Also, you should realize that some mandates (such as banning knives) won't improve air travel safety by one iota. The reason why is that terrorists will never use knives to hijack an airplane again. The reason why knives were successful this time was that passengers thought that the hijacking simply meant that they'd wind up in Cuba or some other destination. If they knew that the hijackers were going to take them all to their death, knives wouldn't have stopped them from trying to subdue the hijackers.

The new air safety regulations are consistent with today's anti-crime strategies: If people commit crimes with guns, call for gun control; if people commit crimes with knives, call for knife control. Current law prohibits pilots from having guns to protect their crew and passengers. That law should be changed.

Instead of meekly going along with the FAA's new, costly, oppressive and stupid safety regulations, Americans should rebel against them. Are we so timid and feminized that we'll accept anything politicians do in the name of safety?

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate