"What do you and a catfish have in common? You’re both scum-sucking bottom-feeders."
And that was the nicest, most printable comment Freindly Fire received after publishing the column "Don’t Like Airport Scanners? Take The Bus To London!"
Quite frankly, the emotional barrage on this issue was a surprise, since it really is much ado about nothing. In truth, this was a media-driven frenzy whipped up to scare travelers before the busiest travel day of the year. And it’s exactly that type of sensationalism that has led to the Fourth Estate’s plunging credibility.
That noted, there are some important points worth considering:
1) Despite the overblown hype, there were no protests on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. In fact, the travel day went more smoothly than anyone anticipated. The majority of Americans do not mind the procedures, so long as common sense and discretion are utilized.
And could we please stop with the deliberately inflammatory language? No serious debate can take place with terms flying around like "porno-scanners, don’t touch my junk, all passengers are being treated as criminals, groping, and cavity searches." These things aren’t happening, and such language is totally counterproductive.
2) The scanner and pat-down "horror stories" shown on TV are made out to be common occurrences, when, in fact, they are the needle in the haystack. Were there over-zealous Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners? Probably. But so what? Do we ban these tactics because of a few bad apples?
There are overzealous police officers, government bureaucrats, and retail clerks in the mall. Deal with them with the procedures already in place, and if more safeguards are necessary, then implement them. TSA screeners must treat passengers with courtesy and respect; failure to do so should result in sanctions. The opposite is also true. If passengers become unruly or physically aggressive with the screeners, they must be held accountable for their actions.
Now here’s where it gets interesting.
3) Many of the national conservative talking heads were against the scanners and pat-downs, citing the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure). That in mind, let’s be very clear about one thing: You can bet the ranch that these same individuals would be singing a completely contrary tune if this were 2002/2003, fresh off the 9/11 attacks. George Bush was at the height of his popularity, and Republicans controlled the House and Senate. These commentators, who rarely, if ever, fly commercially, would be leading the charge for scanners and pat-downs, reminding people that we were at war with terrorists who wanted to blow up our planes and destroy our economy. And I’d be willing to bet that anyone who disagreed with them would be labeled unpatriotic appeasers who simply didn’t understand the war in which America was engaged.
These people have national platforms, and many people put a tremendous amount of faith in what they say. If they are agitating viewers to rally against TSA policy because it is occurring under Obama — and to boost ratings and sell books — that is inexcusable. What these commentators say matters, and if they affect policy by helping to scrap reasonable security measures for their own agendas, they will have succeeded in placing lives at risk.
4) Undoubtedly, many critics of the TSA policy will be the loudest ones screaming when another of our planes is bombed. "Where was the government security to prevent this? How did this happen? Why didn’t we protect ourselves, and how didn’t we see this coming?"
5) Should our enemies succeed in taking out an airliner by ramming it through the Comcast Tower (and not because of bad cable service), the resulting depression will make 1929’s Great Depression look like a walk in the park. We are in perhaps our most vulnerable financial position ever, with no industrial base and a national debt of incalculable proportions. A successful attack now would eviscerate the stock market overnight — and that would just be the beginning. Tens of millions would be immediately thrown out of work. Chaos would ensue.
What would the critics say? "Well, yes, our country is in ruins, and yes, the terrorist got through because we didn’t pat him down, but individual liberties and the Fourth Amendment are more important."
Not much solace there.
And then we have the critics whose solutions are simply not grounded in reality, such as privatizing airline security. Not only is that unfeasible, but it’s never going to happen, so let’s focus on the ways in which we can effectively combat the terrorists without making flying unnecessarily cumbersome.
First, we must remember that we are at war, the enemy is at the gate, and they have what we lack: patience. It took them eight years to attack the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing, but they did it. In doing so, they realized immense success in using airplanes as physical, psychological and financial weapons. Their $500,000 investment has cost us over $1 trillion, and forever changed our way of life. Lesson: lest we forget, they will not stop.
Despite crazy conspiracy theories, no serious person is advocating scanners and pat-downs be performed on America’s streets. Airports are a different ballgame. It is not unreasonable to use these measures on passengers, which is why most don’t object. And by the way, if one sets off the metal detector several times, that person is, and always has been, subject to an aggressive bodily search.
But scanners and pat-downs are not a panacea. Instead, they should be viewed as pieces of the puzzle which our enemy must solve to penetrate our defenses. But that puzzle is vastly incomplete.
Where are the bomb-sniffing dogs? Why aren’t there uniform airport security measures nationwide? Why aren’t American security personnel screening passengers and cargo at foreign airports with direct inbound flights to the U.S.? And most important, why aren’t we actively profiling? Yes, profiling — the strategic weapon smart nations employ to most effectively weed out the bad guys. But in this country, the United States of Political Correctness, that’s a big No-No. And not just under Obama. It was the same with Bush and past Congresses.
So instead what do we do? We appease, revealing to the world (READ: the terrorists) one of our security secrets: that children under 12 won’t be subject to pat-downs.
How nice. Once again, we show our ignorance of the enemy.
So now, Mr. Al Q. Aida and friends knows exactly what to do. And they do it well. We celebrate our children by signing them up for soccer and dance class, while they strap bombs to their kids’ chests. It may be incomprehensible to us, but it’s reality, yet we pretend it doesn’t exist.
When will we learn? Probably not soon enough.
It is important to keep in mind that the government’s objective is to reduce the odds of a terrorist making it on board, while recognizing that nothing is foolproof. Just as the Secret Service cannot guarantee the safety of the President, we can’t guarantee that a plane won’t be incinerated at 35,000 feet — or on the ground. But to roll out the red carpet for our enemies under the misguided notion that being searched before boarding a plane — when thousands of lives and the world economy is at stake — is just foolish.
And here’s the biggest irony: if we get hit again in spectacular fashion because we
failed to employ basic, common sense screening measures, the pendulum of personal freedoms will swing so far the other way that the Bill of Rights will go out the window. It’s happened before, and most certainly can happen again.
What a pity that would be, especially since we could have prevented it.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe." Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX. He can be reached at [email protected].