Jewish World Review August 15, 2002 / 7 Elul, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Mineta's war on what? | There is no tyranny like petty tyranny, as Fred Hubbell has learned to his sorrow. Hubbell, 80, was tired and cranky as he was undergoing his second pat-down by security guards at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut August 2. Hubbell lost it when one of the Transportation Security Administration screeners started going through his wallet.

"You better look at it real good. There may be a rifle in there," Hubbell snapped, according to Dana Cosgrove, head of the local TSA security force. Hubbell was led away in handcuffs, fingerprinted, and locked in a holding cell. Eventually he was released without charges being pressed. But, of course, he missed his flight.

In Philadelphia in January, a pilot for US Air was strip-searched. He asked the screeners why they were searching him for tweezers or nail clippers when - since he was the pilot of the airplane - he could crash the plane in his underwear if he wanted to. The pilot was arrested.

Judy Powell, 55, a British tourist, bought a G.I. Joe doll for her grandson, George, while on a visit to Los Angeles. When she tried to board a flight home to London, security screeners at LAX confiscated the two inch plastic M-16 the doll was "armed" with. The Transportation Security Administration has a list of 66 items - including toy guns and transformer robots - that are now banned from airplanes. If you are caught with one in your luggage, you could be fined up to $1,100.

A security guard at JFK airport in New York forced Elizabeth McGarry, 40, to drink from the three bottles of breast milk she was carrying with her for her baby daughter Maggie to prove it wasn't dangerous.

The Flight Attendants union has written twice to Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta to complain that female flight attendants are being groped by male security guards. The flight attendants aren't alone. As she tried to board a flight from Phoenix to Sacramento in February, 50-year-old Susan Schmidt said a screener "ran his hands under her sweater, up to her bra, then down to her hips."

The Transportation Security Administration unquestionably has been effective in protecting us from grumpy old men, wisecracking pilots, and lactating mothers. But it has been less vigilant in other areas. Roughly a third of fake guns and bombs have gotten past screeners in TSA tests. And although passengers and aircrews routinely are searched, thousands of mechanics, caterers and ramp workers who have access to airplanes are not.

Airport security isn't rocket science. But it also can't be conducted effectively by arrogant idiots who lack both judgment and discretion. The job of the TSA is to protect air travelers, not to harrass them. What is needed is less petty fascism, and more common sense.

The great danger, as we learned on Sept. 11, is that hijackers will turn an airliner into a flying bomb. But if the pilots have guns, and the hijackers don't, the odds on a successful hijacking drop to near zero. Those pilots who wish to carry guns (which is most of them) should be permitted to do so forthwith.

The list of contraband items should be winnowed down to real weapons. If the TSA clowns spent less time rummaging through luggage for tweezers and nail clippers, they might actually find more of the guns and the bombs in the tests.

More attention should be paid to employees who have access to aircraft. If screeners weren't so gloriously incompetent, the easiest way for a hijacker to get a gun on an airplane would be to have a confederate in the food service or cleaning crews to preposition it for him.

Random searches should be ended. Senior citizens and small children are unlikely to harbor terrorist sentiments, and unlikely to be able to overpower the aircrew even if they did. The only people who should be singled out for special attention are those on law enforcement watch lists, and those who fit a terror profile. This means swarthy males in their 20s to 40s; people who travel without luggage, or who buy one way tickets for cash.

Finally, lose the attitude. Frustrated people shouldn't be arrested just for calling stupid and arrogant screeners stupid and arrogant. The First Amendment wasn't repealed on Sept. 11. We're fighting the war on terror to make sure it never will be.

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08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly