Common sense missing from airport security

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
November 21, 2010

This begins a huge travel week, and a bunch of occasional fliers are going to realize they are the targets in the war on terror. But we have declared war on the wrong people. Sensibility and civil liberty are already early casualties in this battle.

In many airports, fliers now face the well-publicized choice between going through full body scanners (reportedly described by Transportation Security Administration employees as “penis measuring devices,” except in a more vulgar manner) and being touched in a way that teenagers might describe as “going to third base.”

We teach our children to treat strangers differently than friends and to never let anyone other than doctors touch their private areas, yet unknown TSA employees do things to your kids that would get a priest defrocked. This isn’t just if you decline the body scanner. Anyone who sets off the metal detector twice must now be grope-searched.

We’ve heard the arguments that the incredibly detailed images from the scanners can’t be stored and are completely anonymous. Yet a Miami International Airport security screener attacked a fellow employee after repeatedly being mocked for perceived inadequacies his co-workers saw on his scanned image.

The pat down procedures involve touching the genitalia, buttocks and breasts of the passenger. The TSA is kind enough to provide a molester of the same sex, but I wonder if a transgender or gay individual could request otherwise.

In the past ten years, 3,045 people (including the 9/11 attacks) have died as a result of terrorist attacks on commercial aircraft. Drunk drivers killed 164,000 people in the same time period. Where are the permanent police checkpoints outside bars?

Given what we know about carry-on baggage and cargo, it is interesting to note which packages the TSA has chosen to most closely examine.

Arrogance and ineptitude of the government have caused me to rethink all of my travel. From Knoxville, it takes about 6½ hours to fly to Orlando on Delta. Add driving to and from the airport plus airport waiting time, and you might spend eight hours flying to Disney World.

You can drive it in ten hours and you won’t have to rent a car when you get there. Either way, you will spend an entire day travelling, so why fly?

Following the failed Christmas day underwear bombing attempt, former Bush Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, made the television rounds touting the need for more full body scanners.

Chertoff’s consulting firm includes a client that manufactures the machines.

L3 Communications also makes the devices. The company’s board includes a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and two current members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Maybe if they did a better job at the Council on Foreign Relations we wouldn’t need all of these body scanners.

I don’t know the ultimate answer, but I know it involves common sense – something completely missing from today’s airport security. I’m certainly not trained in identifying terrorists, but I can tell you what a not-terrorist looks like. So could you.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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