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Security or Unreasonable Search? Stop Treating Americans Like Suspected Terrorists
By Jennifer Hartline
November 24th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
It is unreasonable to subject every passenger to being seen virtually naked and/or groped by a government official. 3 year-old girls are not the enemy. 7 year-old boys are not the enemy. Elderly nuns in full habit are not the enemy. The overwhelming majority of people in the United States are not the enemy.WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - There've been many disconcerting stories from folks who've been subjected to the TSA's new security procedures at airports around the country. Three that most clearly illustrate the insanity and stupidity of these new screenings are the breast cancer survivor who was forced to remove her prosthesis from her bra and show it to the TSA agent; the image of a little boy standing shirtless near the metal detector as a grown man touches every inch of his half-naked little body; the bladder cancer survivor in Detroit who was left soaked in his own urine after agents broke the seal on his urostomy bag even though he begged them to be careful.
This is security?!? Have we lost our collective minds? Humiliation, undressing and groping are now the tools of counter-terrorism?
There is an uproar across the nation, but will it be enough? We're on the cusp on having these "procedures" cemented into permanent existence if we don't halt this gross violation of rights.
I'm among those who think this is a 4th Amendment issue."The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated."
It is unreasonable to treat every passenger as a potential terrorist. It is unreasonable to subject every passenger to being seen virtually naked and/or groped by a government official. It is unreasonable and inexcusable to treat small children this way. Random selection is not a sufficient reason, besides which it seems a laughable waste of time and resources.
3 year-old girls are not the enemy. 7 year-old boys are not the enemy. Elderly nuns in full habit are not the enemy. The overwhelming majority of people in the United States are not the enemy. The enemy, by and large, is Muslim men. But since the current administration won't even name the enemy, let alone employ security measures that actually target the enemy, now every American citizen is treated as the enemy.
The fact is, if we're only finding the chemical explosives hidden in a potential bomber's underwear while he's standing in security surrounded by hundreds of other passengers, then we're finding out too late. We've already failed.
Profiling is not a dirty word
We will never be secure if we are unwilling to do the logical, necessary, perfectly reasonable act of profiling. That must be the first step in determining if someone poses a security threat. As a law-abiding citizen, I have nothing to hide or fear. I would much rather have someone digging into my profile than into my pants.
El Al is widely held up as the model of how to achieve airport security. The Israelis have successfully kept their people and their planes safe from terrorist attacks and they've done it without requiring naked full-body images, reaching inside passenger's clothing or groping people's genitals.
Recall the interview in January of this year with Isaac Yeffet, former head of security for El Al in which he said, "Stop relying only on technology. Technology can help the qualified, well-trained human being but cannot replace him." Every passenger flying El Al is interviewed in person before check-in by one of their highly-trained agents.
When asked what we learned from the failed bombing in Detroit last Christmas Day, Yeffet said, "We learned one thing. We do not have a good security system to be able to prevent tragedies in this country. After Lockerbie, everyone thought, now we've learned the lesson of how to be proactive instead of being reactive. Unfortunately, September 11 came and we know the result. Thousands of people lost their lives. Security totally failed, not at one airport, at three different airports around the country."
"In 2002, we had Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. This man gave the security people all the suspicious signs that any passenger could show. The man got a British passport in Belgium, not in England. Number Two: he flew to Paris; he bought a one-way ticket from Paris to Florida. He paid cash. He came to the airport with no luggage. What else do I need to know that this passenger is suspicious?"
"What did we learn from this? Just to tell the passenger from now on, you take off your shoes when you come to the airport? This I call a patch on top of a patch."
His decisive recommendation for improving our security: "Every passenger - I don't care his religion or whatever he is - every passenger has to be interviewed by security people who are qualified and well-trained and are being tested all year long."
That sounds reasonable, does it not? It would require a redirection of funds and an investment in more than machinery. It would require we put time and money into finding and training qualified people to handle the task of security. El Al's approach is far different from ours. Their agents must be educated, speak two languages, go through long periods of classroom training, then extensive on-the-job training with supervisors to learn how to approach passengers.
It's expensive, but worth it because it's highly effective. El Al passengers cooperate because they know the security interviews are truly done for their safety and they're performed efficiently so people aren't missing flights or being delayed without cause.
When asked what he thinks of the full-body scanners, Yeffet replied, "I am against it. This is once again patch on top of patch. Look what happened, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, hid the explosives in his shoes. The result -- all of us have to take off our shoes when we come to the airport. The Nigerian guy hid his explosives in his underwear. The result -- everyone now will be seen naked. Is this the security system that we want?"
Indeed. Is this the security system we want?
Like many other folks, I can't help but wonder what will happen when the next terrorist bomber hides the explosives inside his rectal cavity where it won't be seen or felt. Will every passenger then be required to submit to a body cavity search? It's the next logical step in this progression of insane actions.
We are forever reacting, always two steps behind because we care more for political-correctness than for real security. Profiling is not a violation of anyone's rights. It is not discrimination. It is common sense to know who the enemy is likely to be and look more closely at that individual. It's time we paid more attention to passengers before they enter the security area in the airport.
How many patches will we keep putting on top of patches? And how many violations of our fundamental rights by our bumbling government will we allow? Many Americans simply do not trust the government, and that is not an unreasonable position. Promises of scanned images never being saved are already broken. Assurances of professional courtesy are hard to believe when some agents can't even exercise common decency when dealing with people with medical conditions and equipment.
Napolitano, the TSA and now the President are all digging in their heels and insisting that these measures - these ineffective, invasive, humiliating and inappropriate procedures - are the best we can do, and in fact, what we must do. Napolitano is even favorable toward TSA unionizing. Can you imagine? Never being able to fire a lousy TSA agent?
Pardon the pun, but we got caught with our pants down on 9/11 and we still haven't pulled them back up. Now we're treating every citizen like a suspected terrorist and calling it security. We're so clever.
Jennifer Hartline is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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