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Fed Up with Stupid

Profiling isn't the answer either. The most ridiculous post-9/11 airport story I have seen involves an airport back in early '02. I saw them stop and aggressively question a young middle eastern-looking man after he'd paid for a one-way ticket to San Francisco in cash.
Sounds suspicious, right? Except that I'd been listening to him on his cell a few minutes before. My Hebrew is pretty bad, but I gathered enough to figure out he was an Israeli soldier on leave who had to fly to the west coast to visit some dying relative, not knowing
when he was going to return. Sure enough, he turned up back at the gate 45 minutes later, clutching his Israeli passport, putting stuff back into his IDF-issued backpack, and cursing up a storm. I've heard similar stories from Sikhs, who evidently give off the "other" vibe enough to be forced into humiliating removals of their turbans every time they go to an airport.

The TSA, at least at my local airport, has at least three corrupt officers. There's evidently something broken in oversight. (changing minor details in the following) I have a client who had a bottle of DEA-scheduled medication (she's epileptic) confiscated from her despite showing a legitimate doctor's prescription (forcing her to have to find an English-speaking hospital the moment she got to France to get a new prescription to avoid having seizures.) Upon follow up, there was no record of the confiscation whatsoever. Of course, I can't subpoena the videotapes for national security reasons. There's absolutely no question in my mind that the TSA guys realized that a bottle of a hundred downers was worth quite a bit on the street, and they decided to take it from her. Simple as that. This is, coincidentally, the same airport where a TSA officer was recently fired for planting baggies of white powder into the luggage of attractive women so he could take them to the back room and chat them up. It wasn't until one of the women went to the press that any investigation whatsoever was done.

I'm sick of it. I'll take planes for cross-continent or overseas travel, but it's gotten to the point that the TSA checkpoints cause more anxiety than the flight does to the point that I'd rather drive six hours than take a one hour flight. Because they're arbitrary, capricious, poorly trained, sometimes corrupt, and have attitudes that make the bouncers at your average strip club or dance club seem like milquetoasts.

Put the rules in writing. Stick to them. Fire, and if necessary, prosecute those TSA agents who don't stick to them. Have some degree of transparency. If it requires paying to hire people with brains, then pay for it. Realize that inconveniencing people for security is ok. Subjecting them to literal terror is not. And keep things in perspective. 2800 people died on September 11. Of course it was terrifying and horrible and tragic, but also remember that 42,000 people died in highway accidents in the US the same year....

(I don't even want to be acknowledged by initials in this one if you use it-- all I need is to end up on the no fly list!)

About The Author

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.