Thursday, January 7, 2010


The Hysteria That Doesn't Protect Us

By now, the blunders in not catching that Nigerian with the explosive underpants have been recited until we could all pass a test on the facts.
We have also listened in excrutiating detail to how we could improve our airport security. New searches, new machines, new techniques....
And we have heard the jokes. The Fruit of the Boom guy! Wouldn't he have been a disappointment for the 72 virgins! Etc.
What else is there to say?
But because of political correctness, there are only a few commentators who have pointed to a root problem. The silence about that is deafening, although there are few among us who have respect for either the process or the screeners who guard the portals to the airplane.
There is a bitter quip around, however, that when you look at who is doing the screening, perhaps the passengers should be checking them out.
The tragedy is that because so many countries and airlines pay their screeners so little, too many are minorities who aren't exactly rocket scientists. And their bosses seem rather slow too because they are too busy covering their asses and not busy enough protecting us.
It can seem the revenge of the Third World and the immigrant communities as you are bossed around with arbitrary commands and demands which are not always that understandable. But then you get what you pay for, and until the pay of ordinary screeners is raised, security will remain a gamble when it comes to detecting even obvious suspects.
Journalists, police and regular air travellers are filled with admiration for the El Al approach. Their screeners often are young too, and they often are part timers, but they are bright students who have done their military service. This is not the only job they can get.
And then they do interviews too, real questioning, so any 23-year-old who paid cash for a one-way ticket travelling without a coat to Detroit in winter would be caught.
I have experienced the lengthy El Al process many times, and the screening often takes longer than at other airports, but I was never annoyed because they are so thorough and professional.
Even when I was a guest of the Israeli prime minister's office, even when they have had a copy of my passport in advance, even when I had just spent the week with the famous Jerusalem mayor, the questioning and searching continued.
No wonder it is safer to fly El Al even though Islamic terrorists and the jerks who run too many Arab countries want to wipe Israel off the globe..
I have written often about just how stupid the screening process can get.
The surgeon who flew unchallenged out of New York the night of Sept. 11 with five skulls in his hand luggage that he was taking to a medical conference.
The confiscation of lighters when you could replace them at a news stand within sight of the gauntlet.
Why the screeners are so dumb, they used to routinely hassle Ted Kennedy, the late and famous senator, because there was another man of that name on the do-not-fly list.
Now that authorities have the guts to propose that we be strip searched by machines, it would be nice if they had guts to start racial profiling too. I know it would drive the PC folks nuts but young Arab males, indeed Arab males of all ages, should be given more attention than elderly nuns or an aged congressman with an artificial leg, to mention just two more of the notorious goofs.
My 74-year-old wife has had a metal knee replacement, so she is now patted down for more than five minutes. I even have to wait for her, and I have always got special attention as a big bearded man who often wears a vaguely military-looking Tilley jacket. My suspenders also give them hysteria.
Yet you just have to look around at who is getting the special attention to wonder if all of these screeners are playing with a full deck. A small group of us had been on a tour of Turkey and I volunteered to help a tiny 95-year-old woman whose daughters wanted to sneak off for a smoke and souvenirs. The screeners were demanding that the little lady removed a thin windbreaker so they could poke around her blouse when I erupted. I was so mad that they forgot to screen me as I told the woman to ignore them and move on.
I confess that from all my visits to the Middle East I am aware that, tragically, young mothers and teenagers can now be suicide bombers as well as radicalized males. But statistically, every cop in the world knows who are the more likely suspects.
So let's pay more attention to the passengers who make the rest of us uneasy just to sit near them. And let's buy more sniffers and scanners and train more dogs. We should have done this years ago.
There was a Canadian company that I invested in maybe a decade ago after the FBI and other policing agencies said its detection device for explosives was promising. But the tightwads in government security stalled on buying any equipment so the company went bankrupt.
A psychiatrist and his wife were driving to Florida through Detroit customs and immigration a few years ago and they were surrounded by gun waving security because she had been in hospital to have a minor radioactive test on a hip. That could be detected two weeks later through the wall of a Honda van. Why hasn't equipment like that been standard at border crossings for years?
When you consider the waste and pork barreling of every government, paying a decent wage to airport screeners and giving them the latest training and detection devices hardly seems onerous for taxpayers. If it is, charge us $5 a crossing, a small price to pay when you consider the waste of our time.
This present mix of dumb or rude or antagonistic screeners - with the exception of El Al personnel and a few gracious standouts - just can't continue. Any hamburger stand would fire them, so why are they poking under my clothes?
In the world of the future, they will look back on our primitive queues and and indecent probes and say no wonder our civilization became crippled because our governments were stupider than the combined leaders of the vanished Incas, Mayans and Easter Island civilizations.

1 comment:

Guard Partner said...

Actually El Al process is always lengthy. In-fact the immigration checks at major international airports are very lengthy and annoying. I have found many times during the immigration check they will treat their own citizens as a foreigner(whose name may sound as such) and they will treat them with unnecessary checking thinking they would be! Security guard training ontario