With Friends Like That...

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The first time around, Al Qaeda had to find terrorists unafraid to die to ground American aviation. It’ll be much easier the next. All they’ll need are recruits willing to run up a "down" escalator or wander terminals in search of a restroom and screeners who see in these mundane movements "security breaches." And whose resulting alarums bring terminals and whole airports screeching to a halt.

Our first such incident comes from Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) there can’t seem to let a month pass without shutting down a terminal or two. Last week, it was the "south section of Terminal C," according to the Houston Chronicle, when a passenger on the "down" escalator changed his mind. He turned midway and ran back to the top without ever leaving the so-called secure area. Nevertheless, this obvious terrorist two-step sent a security guard tattling to the TSA. Those bozos and the Houston police shut down part of Terminal C for almost an hour before deciding that the homeland wasn’t imperilled after all. "It had a minimal impact on our service,” chirped Julie King, spokesgal for Continental Airlines. “It affected a few dozen flights.” No doubt the "impact" was "minimal" on the non-travelling numbskulls delaying things, but it was major on passengers making connections or needing to arrive on time at their destinations.

This madness followed on the heels of a similar situation at the same airport three weeks earlier. On February 22, the Chronicle reported that "Authorities evacuated thousands of passengers" and even "forced" them out of the terminal because a woman "cut through a security checkpoint without being screened." But, like our escalator desperado, she didn’t get too far. "u2018She was, in fact, looking for a restroom,’ said Christopher White, spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. u2018She walked out the exit lane and turned around and walked right back in,’ White said."

According to the TSA’s magical thinking, this little maneuver endangered the entire terminal. We passengers are not only potential terrorists but also magicians, able to conjure bombs out of thin air during a few seconds in the "exit lane" and hand them off to our already-screened accomplices.

Naturally, the terminal and the trams servicing it were shut down. It only took the TSA 40 minutes to find its quarry, calmly eating at a restaurant and oblivious to the havoc she could have wreaked while the search was on. Thereafter, the "thousands" "forced" from the terminal were re-screened (read: re-groped), I suppose to ensure that our diner hadn’t smuggled a butter knife to them. "Officials do not think the woman intended any harm," the Chronicle informs us. Pity we can’t say the same of the TSA.

Then there are the geniuses at Eagle County Airport near Vail, Colorado who called the cops on an oil researcher. This American — who, ominously enough, sports a "Milddle-Eastern [sic] name," according to the Vail Daily — checked a suitcase full of the plastic containers and wires required for his job. His luggage was subjected to the warrantless, anti-Constitutional searches now abounding in the land of the free. And that search duly uncovered said containers and wires. "Security officials feared the materials could be made into a bomb, although no explosive materials were contained in the bag." OK, a nosy but rational "official" could draw that conclusion, I guess. But then: "Planes were ground [sic] while security workers cleared people from the area where the suitcase was being examined."

There’s that confounded magical thinking again. There are "no explosive materials," the containers and wires "could be made into a bomb" — but the danger is so great that planes must be "ground" and folks "cleared from the area."

At some point during this charade, the TSA questioned the suitcase’s owner. Picture a bunch of savages gathered around Dr. Livingstone as he assures them that the long tube which sees things afar is not a treacherous trick but a telescope. Likewise, our patient passenger "explained that he was an oil researcher…. The materials in the suitcase were used for performing pressure-pulse tests on wells…. A Transportation Security Administration employee with oil field experience confirmed that the materials in the suitcase were for testing wells."

Rather like one savage assuring the others that telescopes taste good, too.

The TSA has profoundly damaged America over its four years of existence. It humiliates passengers. It ruins lives. It entrusts pinheads with far more authority than any mere human should have, let alone the subspecies attracted to government work. But perhaps its worst crime is habituating Americans to that favorite tactic of the police state, the personal search. And it works all this evil at enormous expense: it sucks almost $14,000,000 daily out of taxpayers’ pockets, not to mention the man-hours wasted on its long lines and silly scares. Had Al Qaeda invented the TSA, it could hardly hurt us more than our own government has.

Wait a minute. You don’t suppose… Naw…

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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