In nearly a decade it hasn’t captured a single terrorist.
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This quarantine of troops returning from combat is not isolated. A planeload of servicemen were detained at nearby Oakland airport on their last layover while en route Hawaii in 2007 after departing Kuwait a day earlier. In spite of having all baggage x-rayed and hand-searched before boarding their aircraft in southwest Asia, the troops were ordered by TSA to deplane near an outdoor baggage handling area if they wanted to stretch their legs. TSA prohibited them from entering the terminal as they posed a threat to airport safety. Troops returning from Vietnam may have been spat upon but at least they were permitted to visit the snack bar and men’s room.
Last year a retired assistant police chief who observed she had been chosen for additional screening with uncanny regularity during her frequent travels asked a TSA screener why it appeared so many women had been selected for secondary screening on that particular day. The answer, said the screener, was that cross-gender pat-downs were not permitted and on that TSA shift there was a shortage of male screeners so women were singled-out for further scrutiny.
One commercial airline pilot confided his frustration at continually being subjected to x-ray screenings and pat-downs. He told me that in the first 1500 feet of elevation after take-off and the last 1500 feet before touch-down that no other crewmember in the cockpit could prevent him from using the jetliner as the ultimate weapon if he wanted to fly the aircraft into the ground. “I’m in complete control and no one can stop me.”
Another commercial pilot who is a licensed Federal Flight Deck Officer and is permitted to carry a sidearm onboard his aircraft reports that half of the time after checking in with the TSA he is whisked through security. The rest of the time he is instructed to place his weapon in his carry-on bag and run it through the x-ray machine to determine if he possesses any objects that might pose a threat in flight. It is as if the script writers on Saturday Night Live are making up the rules.
It is not as if the TSA is a highly professional workforce merely following asinine rules. In 2003, TSA baggage screeners at La Guardia airport were given the answers in advance of their certification exam to ensure an appropriate number of screeners were cleared to work.
The General Accountability Office issued a critical report earlier this year regarding TSA’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. The GAO found the SPOT program was not based on scientifically validated “methodology and work methods” and “it lacks outcome-oriented measures to evaluate the program’s progress toward reaching its goals.” In spite of spending $1.2 billion on SPOT over the next five years the program will accomplish nothing with respect to airport security.
Calling it a “bloated, ineffective bureaucracy,” Congressman John Mica (R-FL) reported that under the watchful eye of the TSA, at least 17 known terrorists evaded screeners and traveled on 23 occasions from eight U.S. airports utilizing SPOT methodologies. Among these was the failed Times Square bomber who was apprehended just prior to boarding his flight to Dubai. Meanwhile, TSA screeners continue to poke, grope and fondle longtime airline crewmembers who are merely trying to do their job.
Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that “at least 23” TSA workers have been fired since 2007 for stealing from passengers. There are numerous reports of TSA workers having also been fired for drug use, perpetrating pranks on passengers and other misbehavior. From a numerical standpoint, more TSA employees than terrorists have been caught who pose a threat to Americans.
The rash of reports of TSA officials humiliating passengers and overstepping the bounds of common decency underscore the agency is indeed broken. One surmises it is only a matter of time before it is discovered that naked body scanner operators are swapping graphic images of runway models and other attractive people who are forced to enter the voyeurs’ playground.
In 2003, a colleague filed a FOIA request with TSA requesting a copy of its security screening policies. According to multiple sources with access to such information, federal workers and the military traveling on official business are disproportionately singled-out for increased security screening. This is accomplished by coding airline tickets procured through government travel offices. The reason, according to the sources, is to pad secondary inspection numbers by relying on federal employees who are judged to be less likely to file complaints. Another source claimed the elderly are singled out for secondary inspection for the very same reason. The TSA denied the FOIA request.
Obviously U.S. airports require a competent security screening program. Two programs offer a model. Anyone who has crossed from Tijuana into California at the busiest border crossing in the world has witnessed U.S. border agents who observe, profile and question the public in order to narrow the field to those who legitimately require secondary inspection.
The same is true of the system at Tel Aviv Airport. Airline security officials in Israel are not required to be politically correct and give the third degree to a Danish school teacher on holiday for every Palestinian they further scrutinize. Israel’s El Al Airlines has had a rather impressive security record and it does not rely on humiliating elderly widows or terrorizing toddlers.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?