By Ron Holland
The latest terrorist assault on air travel again shows the futility and incompetence of most government security measures to protect the flying public. The TSA initial reaction has been to ban going to the WC for the last hour of flying time because this is when the alleged terrorist went to the bathroom and prepared his low-tech firecracker bomb. So, what does this really mean as a deterrent? What a joke, the terrorist simply goes to the WC 1:15 minutes earlier to do the dirty deed.
Once again, as with the shoe bomber, airline passengers in reality are the best defense against terror attacks, not overpaid airport and homeland security personnel going through the motions and watching the clock until their shift is over. I fear most airline security is simply a government make-work project designed to reduce public fears of flying rather than safeguard the passengers. This became very clear to me in a recent trip to Vancouver, BC.
First, I always fly with a carry-on because I dress casual when flying and have temporarily lost too many bags when I needed to be dressed for an event or business meeting. Second, once home from a trip I never think about my bag until the hour before I leave when I always find myself in a mad scramble to get packed as my wife looks on and says, "I told you to do this ahead of time."
Anyway to set the stage, I had flown numerous times nationally and internationally in the 5 months since my daughter had been to summer camp when she had used my bag. Going through airport screening and x-ray maybe 5 trips later coming back through Seattle, the security woman pulled me aside and said quite politely, "sir, I need to go through your bag." I have learned to relax and maintain a Zen-like "visit to the post office mentality" in airports because being in a hurry or protests are useless at best and can be counter-productive in post 9/11 America.
So I stood there, as she diligently searched my bag, not finding anything, running it back through the x-ray several times turning up nothing as I stood their stoically smirking at the waste of time. I answered, "of course not" when she asked about electronics, knives in my bag, after all, I thought, I'm not stupid enough to take a knife on a plane today.
At times like this, I always wish I had the guts pre-9/11 when one could get away with saying what you really thought in Customs, like Doug Casey and ask the bag searcher, "so when did you decide to spend your life going through other peoples dirty underwear?" But as usual, common sense and my wife prevailed and I was polite and quite amazed at her unusual work ethic for a government employee.
Finally, after a few minutes that seemed like forever in the line, she pulled a Swiss army knife out of my bag. Sir, this is the problem, why is a knife in your bag? Heck, I didn't know but Tami said, "Our daughter took it to summer camp back in June." Great I was off hook and not a terror suspect. Sir, would you like to go back through the line and check it or should I dispose of it? I apologized and told her to enjoy the knife and rushed to catch my flight.
It wasn't until later on the flight as I was thinking back on the incident, thankful I had been polite to the TSA person that I realized two things. First, through all my flying, I had finally discovered a pleasant, competent Transportation Security Administration agent and second, how many incompetent scanners and security checkpoints I had been through and no one had caught the rather large Swiss army knife apparently lodged in the corner of a difficult to see in screening bag pocket. It made me wonder if they missed this on numerous occasions, what else do they miss with the millions of airline travelers each year?
So will underwear checks and anal scans be next for air travelers as the cozy, incestuous private security industry and government relationship grows ever more powerful and profitable for those involved? I hope not because their failures just seem to mean more business for both the government and security industries all at the expense of our freedoms, civil liberties and real airline safety.
If we want to end the terror risk, most of which is targeted at Americans, maybe it is time to look at the failed American Middle East policy which is the fertilizer that fuels the growth of Islamic radicalization and terror movements around the world. This would safeguard our few remaining liberties at home and make the world a safer place for all concerned.
This is Ron Holland as disgusted and uncomfortable at our identical two-party foreign policy and political elites as the threat of future evasive underwear checks and anal scans. In both cases we are getting raped by a government in the name of security. It is time for peaceful nullification, secession and political change now because delay could be fatal to our liberties.
Ron Holland works in Zurich and is a co-editor of the Swiss Mountain Vision Newsletter