Why I Avoid Airports
been avoiding airports. I haven’t been in one since 9/11. It isn’t
that I am afraid to fly. If there are Al Qaeda or other terrorist
operatives in the U.S. planning another attack, I don’t see why
their plans would necessarily involve another commercial airliner.
There are reasons to avoid flying that have nothing to do with any
of the consequences of 9/11 has been the across-the-board federalization
of airport security. Security checkpoints have practically become
owned subsidiaries of the federal government. The people working
in them have a lot of leeway to do as they please. Vastly more than
they should have, under any circumstances.
I’ve been checking out allegations of women and girls being "searched"
rather zealously, shall we say, at security checkpoints in airports.
Incidents of overly intimate touching and fondling have been reported
and elsewhere. Perhaps three dozen such cases have been reported.
I don’t know that they happen everywhere. There is no way to know
what hasn’t been reported, of course. A few of these cases involve
children. In the
Atlanta case, a 9-year old girl was frisked. In yet another,
a 3-year old girl was patted down. There are related cases of absurd
levels of paranoia among security personnel. At Kennedy
Airport in New York City, a woman was forced by a security guard
to drink from three bottles of her own breast milk to "prove" that
the white liquid posed no threat to anyone. The dominant news media
have been mostly silent about these cases except for a tiny handful
of local news stories. I’m surprised feminists haven’t had more
to say about them. I guess they are still busy griping about all
those dead white males in the textbooks.
makes these incidents so traumatic for both victims and their relatives
is their inability to protest in the face of overwhelming federal
power. As Lonnie Jaycox put it after watching his wife be frisked
"vigorously and inappropriately" at the checkpoint in Houston’s
Hobby Airport, "they make it clear that if you oppose them in any
way they will call the National Guard and cause you to miss your
flight and possibly be arrested."
the Portland case, this actually happened. On October 26, Los Angeles
writer Nicholas Monahan’s pregnant wife Mary was reduced to tears
after an episode of breast touching by a complete stranger. The
two of them had been pulled aside for individual inspections. This
has become standard practice: random searches of ordinary citizens
without any kind of reasonable suspicion. Mary Monahan’s sobbed
words: "I felt like a clown … on display for all these people, with
the cotton panel on my pants and my stomach sticking out." Monahan
records that he "marched up to the woman who’d been examining her
and shouted, ‘What did you do to her?’" The woman immediately summoned
police who handcuffed him and locked him in a jail cell in the airport
for two hours. They cited him for disorderly conduct. Monahan records
that he was threatened with a felony charge. The couple was escorted
off airport grounds and banned from returning for 90 days.
official statements ignored the issue of the touching of Mary Monahan’s
breasts. They report that her husband had been uncooperative from
the start, and "blew up" when scissors were found in his suitcase.
They allege that he began shouting obscenities. The arrest involved
a "struggle" to get him into handcuffs.
has accused the airport security personnel of lying and staging
a cover-up. "There was no willful disregard of screening directions.
No explosion over the discovery of a pair of scissors in a suitcase.
No struggle to put handcuffs on. There was a tired man, early in
the morning, unhappily going through a rigorous procedure and then
reacting to the tears of his pregnant wife." Monahan’s description
of his own search might be of interest: "My shoes were removed.
I was told to take off my sweater, then to fold over the waistband
of my pants. My baseball hat, hastily jammed on my head at 5 a.m.,
was removed and assiduously examined… Soon I was standing on one
foot, my arms stretched out, the other leg sticking out in front
of me a la a DUI test. I began to get pissed off, as most
normal people would."
and communications policy analyst Rebecca Hagelin reported the frisking
of her 9-year-old daughter Kristin: "Little Kristin’s hazel eyes
were as big as saucers and began to fill with tears as she stood
there, spread-eagle, while some stranger frisked up and down her
little body. I hovered close by with a weak, forced smile, in a
lousy attempt to reassure my daughter while at the same time trying
to hold back my anger over the absurd situation. I could do nothing
to stop this groping of my little nine-year-old …"
federal law requires that the federal employee doing the search
be the same sex as the person searched. In several cases, women
passengers report being fondled by male security personnel. The
most they can do is lodge complaints with the Transportation Security
Administration created by the Bush Regime to take charge of our
newly federalized airports in the wake of 9/11. These are the sort
of sexual harassment allegations that have destroyed the careers
of men in the private sector and in academia with far skimpier or
even nonexistent evidence.
really, how stupid is it to think any of these people might be terrorists?
are plenty of reports of Middle Eastern passengers being allowed
through without much more than a passing glance. Apparently, federal
employees can abuse power all they want with white Americans, but
politically correct fears of "racial profiling" remain in force.
Thus whatever danger existed prior to 9/11 is still there. Is anyone
really dumb enough to think that foreign-born Arabs are less risky
than native-born Americans (some of the latter under 10 years old!)?
like this should be of enormous public concern, as more evidence
that in our post-9/11 Crisis Era, what was once a Constitutional
republic is rapidly becoming a police state. Traveling by air never
used to involve routine humiliation of passengers, of course. My
father’s job in the private sector involved frequent flights to
New York City and elsewhere from the 1950s up through the late 1980s.
He logged hundreds of hours on airplanes. He reports almost uniformly
courteous treatment. Nobody bothered him. Even after security checkpoints
were introduced following the spate of hijackings of flights to
Cuba back in the 1960s, no one routinely searched his luggage and
confiscated items they judged could be used as weapons. The federal
government was busy expanding the whole time my father was working,
of course, but there were limits; airport security personnel were
not rocket scientists even then but had at least some common horse
sense. Anyone caught patting down a 9-year old girl would probably
have been fired on the spot.
situation has all the earmarks of institutionalized bullying, sexual
or otherwise. We have groups of federal employees vested with nearly
unchecked power. The federal government has hired some 70,000 of
them and dispatched them to airports all over the country. American
citizens are expected to keep their mouths shut and submit to these
highly invasive searches. This is why I consider it bullying. Obviously,
citizens individually going about their private business have no
means of standing up to this new federal police force. Most have
real jobs and busy schedules to keep, and can’t afford the disruption
a protest might create. They have none of the resources available
to the feds. They aren’t motivated by power. There is a strong incentive
to go along because they have been led to believe that by doing
so, they are helping fight the "war on terrorism." I can’t prove
it, of course, but I can’t help but think that at least some who
applied for federal airport security positions did so because they
get their jollies dominating others – of having complete control
over, say, a helpless woman whose husband they know they can have
arrested. There are probably many schoolyard bullies who never really
grew out of it. In addition, I have to wonder about anyone applying
for a job involving actions that would probably be classified as
sexual misconduct if anyone did them but a federal employee.
is of concern to me personally – in part because of my intense dislike
of anyone who abuses power. Were some bimbo drawing a federal paycheck
to touch my girlfriend intimately, I cannot say I wouldn’t react.
I know myself well enough to know I probably wouldn’t just stand
there and say nothing. If it were a male who did it, I cannot guarantee
he wouldn’t be picking himself up off the floor. I am very much
afraid I’d be one of the people handcuffed and hauled off. How is
a normal person supposed to react to this sort of absurdity?
recommendation? Unless and until a lawsuit of some kind puts a stop
to this nonsense, avoid airports like the plague. I do not relish
the thought of being in a situation where any protest against the
actions of people representing my government would result in escalating
penalties, as if I’d been transported back to Nazi Germany in the
early ‘30s. I imagine others are avoiding flying for the same reason.
The airline industry is in a financial tailspin, and no doubt this
is part of it. I would think airlines themselves would evidence
more concern about the direction the country has taken since 9/11
– unless, of course, the federal bailouts are already arranged.
has nothing to do with the "war on terrorism" and everything to
do with the U.S. government terrorizing its own people, whether
through humiliating treatment at airports, from the amoral John
Information Awareness, or whatever nightmare the feds dream
up next. My prediction: someone is going to end up staring
prison in the face after a confrontation at a security checkpoint
in an airport goes bad. Probably someone who saw his wife being
fondled and lost control, or possibly just a guy who lost patience
after a bad day at work or a poor night’s sleep. I’m surprised it
hasn’t happened already. I can see the feds trying to make an example
of such a person – a citizen whose "crimes" consisted in believing
that there should be limits on what the federal government can do,
even in an age of terrorism, and that citizens have an inherent
right not to be bullied by their government. When federal employees
can bully citizens with impunity, including getting cheap sexual
thrills out of it, the citizens cease to be citizens and become
subjects: subject to arbitrary federal power. I know of no answer
except litigation, which has already begun in the Monahan case.
If it should turn out that litigation is impossible, we will know
that we are living in a police state.
our government claim to be morally superior to Bush’s "axis of evil"
if its best answer to whatever terrorist threats really exist is
to terrorize its own people? How different are these federal employees
from the schoolyard bullies we grew up with who got their jollies
terrorizing smaller kids? At least you could talk back to them without
the risk of being handcuffed and thrown in jail.
Yates [send him mail] has
a PhD in philosophy and is a Margaret "Peg" Rowley Fellow at
the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
He is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press,
1994), and numerous articles and reviews. His new book In
Defense of Logic will be completed shortly. He is beginning work
on a new book to be entitled The Twilight of Materialism,
and is also at work on a sci-fi novel tentatively entitled Skywatcher’s
© 2003 LewRockwell.com