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Jewish World Review March 4, 2002/ 20 Adar, 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Don't blink: Common sense visits D.C. -- NAPLES | Note to Spock: There is intelligent life in Washington.

So rarely spotted -- and less often acknowledged -- I thought we should take a moment to recognize a few thinking, as opposed to merely talking, heads: Rep. John Mica, a Winter Park Republican, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat. The two House members committed an astonishing act Wednesday as they testified at a hearing on airline security: They used common sense.

Get this: Mica and DeFazio urged that the new Transportation Security Administration develop a system of identifying passengers who are most likely to pose a security risk rather than randomly yanking grandmothers and blond women out of line for body searches.

Mica, chairman of the aviation subcommittee, said he was afraid that "political correctness might be stifling the development of a sound profiling system." Said DeFazio, "I have extraordinary concerns that we are doing something that lacks common sense."

I'm so excited, I'm tempted to skip my flight home later this morning and rent a car just so I can stop at the Georgia border and buy some fireworks. Besides, I could use the extra three hours of sleep I've had to sacrifice in anticipation of my predictable detention at the airport security gulag.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my last foray in the skies. This latest trip was my first since the feds took over security. On the initial, early-morning leg of this trip -- between Columbia, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C. -- I was the only passenger approaching the terminal, and 15 federal employees needed something, or someone, to do. I felt like a stray cat at a Rottweiler convention. Fwomp!

"Right up here on this platform, ma'am." Let the wanding and patting begin. Camo to the left, badges to the right. "Mind if I search your purse?"

What if I did? Would I be in jail now?

The gentleman then carefully dismantled everything in my purse, from lipsticks to a small jewelry pouch. When he got to a tiny compact of pressed powder, I was suddenly reminded of an old Tarzan episode in which Cheetah finds some of Jane's personal items. (Note to self: Next time, buy everything when I get there.)

As I've said before, the thought that we're paying the salaries of 30,000 new federal employees to studiously search the make-up pouches of middle-aged women means only one thing: The Stupids are in charge.

When the smart people take over -- and I'm voting for Mica and DeFazio -- they'll stop wasting finite resources and -- employing reasonable judgment based on historical experience -- target people who most likely belong to the particular group of people who happen to be killing Americans these days.

That is, they'll profile. But let's not call it profiling anymore since that term has become so problematic to those who favor style over content. Let's call it duck-hunting. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck -- this one's easy -- let's take a moment to see if it's a dadgum duck.

Since we know that, in fact, exactly 100 percent of the 19 hijackers on 9-11 were of Middle Eastern descent, why don't we focus on them ducks? Since we know that explicitly zero percent of 75-year-old women in tennis shoes have hijacked an airplane, why don't we let the little ladies move along? To do otherwise is wasteful and, as DeFazio so brilliantly noted, defies common sense.

Put it this way, if I were a green person and green people of late were committing mass murder in the air, I would insist that green people, including myself, be carefully screened. What sane green person wouldn't?

But no, Katie Corrigan of the American Civil Liberties Union argued at the aviation hearing that profiling "is not an effective security measure, is potentially invasive of privacy and is likely to be discriminatory."

She's exactly right on the last two (I consider strip searching sorta invasive). But she's dead wrong about profiling not being effective. At the moment, it's the best if not the only effective weapon we have against potential hijackers, while randomness is just that, as well as wasteful, useless and plainly dumb.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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