Another Perspective

Profilers in Discourage

The absurd theatrics of airport security.

By 8.16.06

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The Bank of England released the names of 19 people who have been taken into custody for plotting to blow up airplanes while in flight from England to the United States. You can always count on a bank to be the first to flush out deadbeats ("don't loan these people money!"). Sallie Mae will probably release more names later today.

The names of the terror suspects are:

Tim Johnson
Lori Waters
Marty McWilliams
Dwayne Franklin
Gladys Smith
Frank Thompson

What? Is something the matter?

Oh, that's the wrong list. That's the sign-up sheet at the Bingo hall.

The funny thing is that the above-mentioned names will be scrutinized with equal fervor at airports in the name of "fairness."

The actual list of 19 who were taken into custody read like invitations to a laser-tag party at a Riyadh Chuck-E-Cheese: all Muslim, all under 35, all male. Hmm, call me crazy, but I'm starting to notice a pattern here.

Yes, this particular plot seems to have been foiled, but in the meantime, while at the airports, everybody, and I mean everybody, is a suspect. An old lady from Pasadena and a Middle Eastern male will both be checked with equal suspicion, or lack thereof. Now that's fair. It's also stupid. Airport security resources are stretched thinner than chain restaurant cocktails because everybody's a suspect, so nobody's offended. As a result, we're all still in danger. To that end, our current system is indeed fair.

There's a scene in the movie Airplane where two heavily armed men in berets and one sweet old lady are walking through a metal detector. The buzzer goes off, and security grabs the elderly woman and throws her up against the wall as the two presumed terrorists proceed unimpeded. I wonder how many times something figuratively, if not literally, similar has actually happened.

What, if anything, can be done? Should we steal a partial page from the playbook of a Democrat icon and ban anybody with a Middle Eastern sounding name from being allowed on an American airline?

No, the real answer lies somewhere between the above extreme and common sense, but unfortunately common sense is, and will remain, shut out. So far, the only foreign thing banned from U.S. airports is a concept.

I was anti-profiled not long ago. While at Baltimore/Washington International I was singled out for "more extensive" checking. Apparently they were on the lookout that day for people who were most likely to be late for a meeting.

Three other guys and I were taken aside. There I sat with the other searchees, one who looked like Ward Cleaver without the rebellious edge, another who appeared to have fallen off the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, a finely dressed baby-faced gentleman who was missing only one fashion accessory -- a "first place, Rick Moranis look-alike competition" ribbon, and me.

There we were, in the security area for some extra searching -- a Barbershop Quartet of nerds, button-downs, and people who can't go to the bathroom without a permission slip from their neighborhood association. A terrorist threat disguised as a middle-aged Star Trek convention if you ever saw one.

I felt like the old lady in Airplane. I don't mind doing my part, as I understand that under certain sleep-deprived post-party conditions I can look "shifty," but that was a comical morning to say the least. In American airports we're relying on a law of averages to catch terrorists instead of averaging who's breaking the law.

Talk to many people who are in-the-know in the airline security business and they'll admit that the current system is kind of a joke. Don't forget that airport security is federalized, so, in other words, the government is in charge of your in-flight safety. The long-and-short of the current system is this: Pretend you're in an airport and all the screeners are members of Congress and FEMA. Feel safer?

This particular plot may have been thwarted, but a major threat still exists that we're still not serious about. As soon as we read about a major terror plot being foiled by airport authorities tearing apart the carry-on bag of a little old lady from Pasadena, then we can get on board with the current system.

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About the Author

Doug Powers is Michigan-based columnist for WorldNetDaily.com.