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Opinion

Opinion

Airport security has gone too far

November 19, 2010

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— Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who’s ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube — where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a “flotation device” — has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.

Who cares that the crazed steward got arrested, pleaded guilty to sundry charges, and probably was a rude, unpleasant SOB to begin with? Bonnie and Clyde were psychopaths, yet what child of the ‘60s did not fall in love with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?

And now three months later, the newest airport hero arrives. His genius was not innovation in getting out, but deconstructing the entire process of getting in. John Tyner, cleverly armed with an iPhone to give YouTube immortality to the encounter, took exception to the TSA guard about to give him the benefit of Homeland Security’s newest brainstorm — the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett’s, warning the agent not to “touch my junk.”

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of “Don’t Tread on Me,” but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

Don’t touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the tea party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don’t touch my junk, Obamacare — get out of my doctor’s examining room, I’m wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don’t touch my junk, Google — Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don’t touch my junk, you airport security goon — my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I’m a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

In “Up in the Air,” that ironic take on the cramped freneticism of airport life, George Clooney explains why he always follows Asians in the security line:

“They pack light, travel efficiently, and they got a thing for slip-on shoes, God love ’em.”

“That’s racist!”

“I’m like my mother. I stereotype. It’s faster.”

That riff is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives — when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone.

We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to assure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety — 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling — when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

The junk man’s revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? OK. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.

But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

This time you have gone too far, Big Bro’. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don’t touch my junk.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com

Comments

kcaj 3 years, 4 months ago

Amazes me how many people give up their rights so quickly because Katie Couric & Barry Saltillo say so. Wow, oh yeah, also, it's in their best interests. That's a classic line. It really works for almost anything. I'd like to see them try to sell that to George Washington. Not gonna happen. Here's a new thought: think for yourself. Does this seem right? Not in this country.

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Starlight 3 years, 4 months ago

Just saw on the news that they aren't going to be searching the airline's pilots anymore. WHO'S wholly idiotic and ignorant notion was it that they needed to frisk the pilots????? They're going to have the yoke of the plane in their hands!!! What the hell do they need to stick up their craw to help them shove the yoke forward and crash a plane if they're so inclined????

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

"Toucha toucha toucha touch me, I wanna be dirty Thrill me chill me fulfil me Creature of the night."

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 5 months ago

Be ready to offer a stool sample if requested.

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bobberboy 3 years, 5 months ago

stop your whinning chuck. get it done or get out of the way !

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Roland Gunslinger 3 years, 5 months ago

Some new TSA slogans-

*Can't see London, Can't see France, Unless we see your underpants.

*If we did our job any better, we'd have to buy you dinner first.

*Only we know if Lady Gaga is really a lady.

*It's not a grope, it's a freedom pat

*TSA: Touchin', Squeezin', Arrestin'

*You WERE a virgin

*We handle more packages than FedEx

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Liberty275 3 years, 5 months ago

This a thorny issue with both sides having very good points. What hasn't been mentioned are the poor TSA employees. What you guys are calling "groping" is probably the last thing a TSA inspector wants to do. Given the "groping" is same-sex, I'm going to venture most agents are heterosexuals and find the idea of touching junk that looks like their own (size and circumcision status notwithstanding) pretty revolting.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm going to put a banana in my pocket next time I go through security, just so maybe----just maybe, the patter-downer will ask, "Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just enjoying this pat-down".

Whatya ya'll think, good idea?

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yourworstnightmare 3 years, 5 months ago

So what is this probable cause? I am not a lawyer, but it could have to do with the fact that you are voluntarily identifying yourself with a certain population (air travelers), among whom are known to be those who would try to use the airplanes in terrorist acts. The key is voluntarily.

I think this same idea of probable cause is used to justify drunk driving checkpoints. You are voluntarily identifying yourself with a group (late night drivers) among whom are those who are drunk and violating the law. The police have no reason to pull you over except that you are driving at that time and place, and it is known that drivers at that time and place can be drunk.

I do not necessarily agree with this from a constitutional perspective, but I think this is it.

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yourworstnightmare 3 years, 5 months ago

If you don't like it, don't fly. I also believe that it is, at base "security theatre". These measures are silly and ineffective.

However, no rights are being violated, as no one is forcing anyone to fly.

"No shoes, no shirt, no service" comes to mind. How dare these businesses violate freedom of speech guaranteed in the Constitution!

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kernal 3 years, 5 months ago

According to more stories being told, you evidently shouldn't fly if you have any type of prosthetic device, feeding tube, or anything that is inserted into your body due to cancer.

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monkeyspunk 3 years, 5 months ago

Why do people always paraphrase Ben? Oh right, because if they quoted him directly, it wouldn't have the same desired spin.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

It is important to emphasize "ESSENTIAL" and "TEMPORARY".

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independant1 3 years, 5 months ago

Ben Franklin: 'Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.'

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Richard Payton 3 years, 5 months ago

Would the new TSA training video be considered porn? Does the new TSA job application ask appliciants do you know how to grope? What happens to the mile high club? Rememeber the ad: Fly the friendly skies?

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independant1 3 years, 5 months ago

TSA screeners - "a high school diploma, a general equivalency diploma, or experience that the Under Secretary has determined to be sufficient for the individual to perform the duties of the position." (does the requirement imply no diploma/ged may be required?)

X-Ray Screener average hourly wage is $14 and the yearly salary around $29,000.

One word, morass.

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Jay_lo 3 years, 5 months ago

I think the whole privacy issue thing could be resolved fairly readily. The TSA contends that they need humans to view the full body scans because a computer might not do as good a job at interpreting something as "suspicious".

I believe that all full body scans should be sent through a computer that would interpret anything unusual as "suspicious". Then only these images would be sent through to human viewers who would then be on alert to look for whatever it was that the computer picked out instead of groggily viewing image after image that probably contains nothing.

Any innocent person who knew that they had nothing "suspicious" on their body could then logically assume that their image would not be viewed by any human and therfore would not worry about their privacy to such an extent that they would choose an invasive pat-down over the scanner.

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RidgeRunner 3 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if the people so critical of the TSA would take a job from them, being previously unemployed, knowing what the job would entail.

It seems to me that these people want to have their cake and to eat it, too,. A prevalent problem, as I see it, in the US; whether being driven internal or externally in nature.

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Jimo 3 years, 5 months ago

This is the same Krauthammer who has spent most of the last decade routinely defending every government invasion of people's privacy?

What's Kraut afraid of? Only guilty people care if government inspects your emails, monitors your telephone calls or slips a gloved finger into your body cavities!

What a partisan hack.

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CHEEZIT 3 years, 5 months ago

Why don't they have passengers sign a waiver. If your plane blows up the airline can not be held accountable. they would do the trick right???

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beatrice 3 years, 5 months ago

All of this argument back and forth is just another example of class envy. If any of you worked hard enough, you could have your own plane by now and not have to worry about this stuff. No x-rays and no junk touching unless you wanted it. Cindy McCain was right -- traveling on a private airplane is the "only" way to travel.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 5 months ago

This just in. A three year old girl was fondle searched at the Chattanooga Airport by TSA. You can hear her hysterically screaming, "Don't touch me!". The encounter was videoed by her own father with a camera phone who just happened to be a reporter! It's hit the web and it's being taken down as fast as it goes up. For now you can see it at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2010/11/5x8_-_111710.shtml

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 5 months ago

In the big picture, really how bad is a stimulating pat-down when you are exposed to: other's germs, smells, coughing, sneezing, kid's boogers, rude flt. attendants, delays, cancellations, starvation (unless you buy a Wolfgang Puck sandwich), waiting for a drink for half the mother loving flt., hot cabin, stale air, turbulence, waiting for baggage and the general nuisance of the public at large, whom I have considerable contempt for.

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MrRighty 3 years, 5 months ago

To settle the "is it Rep's or Dem's fault" argument from before AND elegantly segue into the latest comments.....we can all thank Clinton for being a PC puss when we could have shot bin Laden on two different occasions (before and after the WTC bombing) and he told the snipers to stand down. And for all you "this war was Bush's doing" folks, it could have never happened without the Aye votes of a majority of Dems in Congress to fund it. So soon you Dems forget that. Where's the condemnation for them? That's what I thought. There. Done. Now we can blame Dems for 9/11 and all this TSA crap in one fell swoop and also make them complicit in the Iraq War. I love delivering a clean neat package. LOL. Now that was totally tongue in cheek but, in all seriousness, I think we all need to take our heads out of the PC toilet and flush it permanently. The fact of the matter remains; national security is an often inconvenient and dirty business that isn't always suitable for Sunday School conversations. The fact that almost ALL serious terrorists of interest are Muslim foreigners or foreign nationals is not racial profiling, its fricking statistical fact. We are paying a hefty price now for being stupid in the past. We have all these new rules and regulations, heightened fear, and a whole new revenue-sucking bureaucracy because weak people refused to make tough decisions. Those same weak people STILL refuse to make tough decisions and thats also why our economy is so trashed and we can't decide what war, if any, to fight properly or just run away from. In the end you can talk about all your rights to privacy but seriously, who gives a damn what some TSA agent in a locked room 50 feet away from you that you will never meet sees as you pass through a scanner? Do you have three nipples? Both sets of genitalia? I mean really. I personally fall into the "don't touch my junk" category as well and thus I will happily submit to the scan and expect you to do the same or go home. Why? Because I feel I have the right to travel safely. If that means YOU might be uncomfortable for 10 seconds so be it. You still have the right to refuse both and get in the car or take the train instead. Sheesh! Start worrying about real problems people....like how our kids will pay off all this damn debt that politicians from both parties in two complete branches of our government seems hell bent to spend for their own political gain while they lie through their teeth and say its to help us.

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cooltrix 3 years, 5 months ago

Personally, I think they should just pat everyone down, why profile, why stereotype, we want equal rights, there it is. If it keeps me and my loved ones safe, I'll do it. I do think its going too far when strangers are inspecting infants/toddlers nappies. I'm not saying don't check it out, I'm just saying, how about we let mum or dad take it off and show that's its clear instead of a stranger!

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yourworstnightmare 3 years, 5 months ago

If you don't like it, don't fly.

Flying on an airplane is not a right.

I think the measures taken are silly and ineffective, but to claim your rights are being violated is ridiculous.

No one is forcing anyone to fly. It is a choice. There are no rights being violated, only inconvenience.

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Seth Peterson 3 years, 5 months ago

I hardly ever agree with the Kraut, but he hardly ever comes out with such a strong stance against 'conservatives' or Republicans and BushCo. Security is absurd, and a farce designed to help white people feel safe (in the words of George Carlin). Unfortunately policies such as this are hard to get rid of because of the emotional attachment and initial reaction most people have to the concept of changing or reducing 'security'.

After going through Security did the Kraut sit in a chair, in the sky and partake in the miracle of flight at hundreds of miles of hour? This is the best stance anyone can take when it comes to flying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

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pizzapete 3 years, 5 months ago

In the age of "girls gone wild" and people sending digital pics of their privates, I'm surprised so many are uptight about this. I don't want to get patted down anymore than the next guy, but I will go along with it if necessary. I have been completely strip searched in front of 3 people twice upon return to the US. Not very cool, but the government had suspicion I might have some weed or something on me. Yea, they didn't find anything, but they had me stand naked while they filled out their report and kept me over an hour after the flight. Now that is some real government intrusion and happened to me twice, way before 9/11. All in the name of freedom I guess.

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gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 5 months ago

First they came for my belt and I didn't speak up because I wasn't wearing a belt

Then they came for my shoes and I didn't speak up because I wasn't wearing shoes

Then they came for my beverage and I didn't speak up because I didn't have a beverage

and then they came for my junk and no one was left to speak up for my junk.

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Roland Gunslinger 3 years, 5 months ago

If you don't want to get groped by TSA agents at the airport, you can always get groped by passengers on Greyhound.

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bobberboy 3 years, 5 months ago

keep the safeguards in place and throw out those who don't like it.

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75x55 3 years, 5 months ago

Haven't there already been instances found where explosives had been surgically implanted?

More and more radical security measures will cause innovation of new and potentially effective terrorist methods.

All the while, 99.9999999+% of the populace is subjected to time-wasting, demeaning, and potentially health-damaging screening and procedures.

Terrorists always win.

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RoeDapple 3 years, 5 months ago

Bottom line. You are way more likely to die from the flu picked up from your fellow passenger than from a terrorist attack. Flying is and has been the safest form of travel for over fifty years. How many of you have to have that one last cigarette before you board or won't even fly because of your smoking addiction? Keep your filthy effin' hands outa my crotch and everyone elses, I'll take my chances.

Buncha hand wringing, paranoid, OCD bedwetters.

;-)

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sissezz 3 years, 5 months ago

Bottom line, we ALL wanna be safe when we fly. So get over yourselves get checked and keep it movin.

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RoeDapple 3 years, 5 months ago

Hmmm . . . Preparation H-Bomb anyone?

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Liberty_One 3 years, 5 months ago

For the people who support these invasive searches, you should watch the Human Condition. It's about a Japanese man who runs what amounts to a slave labor camp in war-time occupied China. All these terrible things are done to the workers, and while he tries to stop them, he ultimately fails to prevent the Chinese workers from being beaten, starved and even murdered. No one else seems to think it's a big deal because, after all, there's a war going on.

This is the banality of evil. We allow evil to go on because, like a cowed dog, people just obey instead of standing up for what's right. These searches aren't just unconstitutional, they're evil. Just look at the videos of children being touched by strangers. How could any human being watch that and not feel revolted?

Our government is doing far more harm to us than any terrorists ever could. We our terrorizing ourselves.

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sciencegeek 3 years, 5 months ago

OK, people, think a minute.

Nowhere else in the world are these things being done to the citizenry. We became a laughing stock when we started removing our shoes. There are other countries who are under attack by extremists of every ilk, and they don't go overboard. Why is that? What are they doing that we aren't?

Yes, we're a target, but we aren't the only one--think about Israel. That country has had a target on its back since its inception. How do they secure their flights? Not with body scanners and patdowns.

Let's look at other nations and see how they protect their people and their dignity, and go from there.

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Jimo 3 years, 5 months ago

Coming back into the U.S. this week, it was all that the foreigners could talk about. One more example of how we manage to offend the allies we supposedly need while making zero progress towards safety.

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Eybea Opiner 3 years, 5 months ago

When some terrorist inserts explosives into his/her rectum, submits to the 'pat-down' and blows the plane out of the air, will Americans then submit to body cavity searches in the name of "Safety?"

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SnakeFist 3 years, 5 months ago

Krauthammer is an idiot: There is no connection between wanting every American to have access to healthcare (a liberal notion) and requiring every American to be sexually assaulted in order to board a plane (a conservative notion).

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QuinnSutore 3 years, 5 months ago

Next time I fly, I'm going commando, wearing a kilt, and popping a Viagra an hour before my flight.

I hope they will feel as uncomfortable as they make me feel.

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seeker_of_truth 3 years, 5 months ago

Unless there are no roads to get there, I won't fly. In other words, across oceans.

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CorkyHundley 3 years, 5 months ago

It used to be that Democrats like D.B. Cooper was what you had to be alert for when flying. That was back when stainless steel cutlery was used to eat with.

But, now that every religion under clear blue sky is allowed to fly, Napolitano mandated feel-ups are needed to check for muslims out to blow up jets.

I think it was safer when when mostly Christians flew.

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RidgeRunner 3 years, 5 months ago

It's amazing the frenzy that the media is able to play on the public at large.

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Godot 3 years, 5 months ago

"If I had known this would happen because I wore a skirt, I would not have worn a skirt to the airport."

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_story.aspx?storyid=140233&catid=14

She should have worn a burqa.

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Godot 3 years, 5 months ago

Some people are more special than others.

"The head of Homeland Security has indicated the government is considering the request of an Islamic organization that has suggested Muslim women be allowed to pat themselves down during a full body search that is part of new enhanced procedures at airports."

http://www.greeleygazette.com/press/?p=6687

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 5 months ago

The other night Ann Coulter pondered where does it end? With anal cavity searches? Other body cavity searches? lol! Ann cracks me up. Bright, witty, attractive (sorta), despises liberals----dream girl. When you start hearing porn movie music playing in the background by the scanners or pat-down station, be afraid---very afraid.

God bless America.

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kernal 3 years, 5 months ago

Touch my junk and I'm filing charges, Bubba. I don't give a ff who you work for. "Just saying."

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 5 months ago

My standard comment when getting patted down: "Give ya' five minutes to stop that" ......they laugh every time (well some don't)---probably liberal TSA employees.

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Moderateguy 3 years, 5 months ago

At this point, if it's not within 2 days drive each way, we will not be going. I hate the airline industries arbitrary fare policies, bag charges etc. to begin with. I refuse to stand idly by while some wannabe gropes either my lovely wife or my 5 year old daughter. I realize not flying is the deal; I'm fine with that.

Of course the airline industry will get federal money to cover the lost airfares of folks like us. Too big to fail.

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deathpenaltyliberal 3 years, 5 months ago

"cato_the_elder (anonymous) says… The real problem with this is that airport security has morphed from the good-faith (and successful) efforts made during the Bush administration to prevent another 9-11 to Obama's pathologically obsessive fear..."

Cato, you've gone off the deep end with this obsequious portrayal of the Bush Administartion and your pathological fear/obsession with President Obama. Your posts are usually informative, but this one reeks of the ugly partisanship promoted by TS, Corkjob, lg40, and the other bedwetters. You can do better!

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deathpenaltyliberal 3 years, 5 months ago

After 9/11, the Bush Administration exploited traveler's fears to enrich the manufacturers of various "security" machines and expand government by hiring tens of thousands TSA workers. Of course, all that technology is not 100% effective and we're back to pat-downs.

The smart move would have been to copy the Israeli/El Al model and train security to interview every air traveler. El Al, which is a high value terrorist target, has not had a hijacking since the early 70's.

But that wouldn't of enriched GOP donors and expanded government.

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triplegoddess13 3 years, 5 months ago

Start checking everyone. You can't accurately decide who is going to cause a problem on a plane and who isn't just by looking at them. Those that are complaining about the long lines and checks will be the first ones complaining when another plane goes down because that 'white guy' over there didn't look like he would cause problems.

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Slowponder 3 years, 5 months ago

Let me see if I understand this: John Tyner's junk is so special that it should not be inspected? It must be nice to have such an inflated ego about something so small. If he does not want his junk inspected, walk away, hire a car and drive to wherever Tyner's junk has to be. That way if Tyner's junk is surrounded by C4 or PETN and he goes BOOM!, the loss of life is a plus for the rest of us.

The TSA cannot get by with a .992 batting average. It is this simple: Tyner's junk gets touched or he does not fly. There is no constitutional right to get on board a plane.

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 5 months ago

The real problem with this is that airport security has morphed from the good-faith (and successful) efforts made during the Bush administration to prevent another 9-11 to Obama's pathologically obsessive fear of what an air disaster caused by terrorists would do to him and his administration politically. In other words, Big Sis is just following orders from people above who don't ever have to go through security. This isn't likely to change soon, no matter who holds the presidency. It is, however, entertaining - just like the stone-cold, deafening silence from radical feminist groups after Bill Clinton's Oval Office sexual escapades came to light and were proven - to observe the stone-cold, deafening silence from most doctrinaire liberals who would be screaming bloody murder at how invasive all of this has become if a Republican were in the White House.

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jstthefacts 3 years, 5 months ago

The same people complaining are the ones who complained about the underwear guy. Folks, your just complaining to be complaining. Easy to see through you all.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

Oh puhleeze, Chuck. This invasiveness is a perfect example of why you need to be careful what you wish for. The hysteria over "security" that has been the drumbeat of Fox and the teapartiers who watch it (and cheer your columns) is what led us to the establishment of the American KGB.

The Obama administration is merely continuing what BushCo and the Republicans started. And you can bet if he does anything to moderate those policies, he'll be attacked for it-- Chuckie likely leading the charge.

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 3 years, 5 months ago

Ironically, the full body scanners are named the Maginot Line.

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Roland Gunslinger 3 years, 5 months ago

"...when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known"

And once you narrow your searches to just those individuals the profile will change to something other than who we are looking at.

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CorkyHundley 3 years, 5 months ago

How many times does the Dude have to tell you Chuck. It's a "Transformation" Jeez. One thing that I like about the sliver of transparency the Dude has been offering is his telling everyone of his "Transformation" motive.

Control of transportation is part of the Jihad he has been orchestrating on America. Look around you Chuck. Except for Fox News and MSNBC, his control of America is almost complete. btw, the mentioning of MSNBC as being part of the information problem, is just a bone for the Fox news listeners. It makes it appear that the Jihadists are being 'fair' with the NEWS.

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Liberty_One 3 years, 5 months ago

Government--doing things to us that are illegal for a private citizen to do. Thanks, liberals. Any more of my rights you want to give up?

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Gandalf 3 years, 5 months ago

If they grab me it better have a happy ending!

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