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Monday, November 29, 2010

TSA's terrorists

Look who TSA considers a terror threat.
Up ahead of me a family of elderly Hasidic Jews was preparing for a pat-down. The ancient-looking patriarch, in a wheelchair, was first. When a female security officer instructed him to remove his belt, he looked up, confused. So she leaned down and, unbuckling it for him, removed it. With his eyebrows raised in disbelief and his pants hanging half open, he was wheeled to the left for further inspection.

His wife, meanwhile, standing unstably on her own two feet, was guided to the right, where in full view of everyone she was treated to the same humiliation techniques.
But the same reporter notes what they missed after eight trips through the line.
So, were people freaking out? My screener flashed me a “you don’t know the half of it” look. Then she worked her way over my belly and inside the waistband of my jeans. (A note to airline travelers: You might want to rethink those fashionably low-waist pants. I wished I had.) Then it was up and down my thighs again, and over a “sensitive area” indeed.

How many films and novels have imagined thrilling physical encounters between traveling strangers, set against the no-nonsense atmosphere of the modern airport? After those encounters the participants head to the bar for a brandy. After mine, the officer tested her latex gloves for traces of dangerous substances, and I, cleared of suspicion, headed to the Cibo Express Gourmet Market for a yogurt.

Reaching into my pocket to pay, I found metal objects (keys and coins) that the pat-down had missed. Oh well. I exited the secure area, put a battery in my pocket to up the ante, and headed back to the tail end of the security line to see if a second inspector might be any more perceptive.


All told, I submitted to the security agency’s 10-fingered salutation eight times in one day — enough to win the respect of George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air.”

Some officers began their work with a lengthy preamble; others were terse. Some seemed grateful for a little friendly conversation; others appeared on guard. And some took their time, covering every square inch of my person, while others finished quickly.

All of the officers reassured me they would use the back of their hand on those sensitive areas. Who cares, really? A hand is a hand, even when it’s attached to the long arm of the law.

It’s amazing how quickly the pat-down evolves from shocking indignity to banal hassle, just like padding around barefoot while your pants fall down and your toothpaste tube gets the third degree, something airline travelers have been experiencing for years now. The inconvenience is worth it, of course, if it works — if it uncovers potential dangers before they board a plane.

That’s what a spokesman for the T.S.A. informed me, afterward, the officers’ job was: to assess whether I posed a threat to aviation. He would not comment on whether that should have included checking out the objects hidden in my pocket. All I know is I went through the line eight times, and not a single inspector noticed them.
These people would have searched the wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer and let hijack leader Abu Abbas go through. What could go wrong?

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At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so grateful we have no US travel plans at this time.

If I had, I would have done everything possible to cancel them.

I emailed this out to you and other bloggers a few days ago. You chose not to post it. I will. People should know to what extreme the idiots are in charge in the US. Pardon the vulgarity but that's just the point:

Menstruating woman subjected to TSA grope because panty-liner obscured her vulva on pornoscanner

I won't even bother searching for the article yesterday about the 4 year old boy who was forced by TSA crackpots to remove his artificial leg.

On and on....


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