Federal Airport Security- Constitutional?
October 6, 2001
ELDERLY WAR HERO ARRESTED. In the wake of terrorist attacks in America, a frail 81-year-old decorated war veteran was arrested at a security checkpoint at the Charlottetown Airport in Canada. His crime? Elmer Blanchard jokingly asked a security guard if she was looking for a bomb in his wife’s purse. The article on NationalPost.com went on in detail about the national outrage over the ridiculous action of the rent-a-cop, but the key sentence in the article was, "Private security companies implement the rules on behalf of their clients, the airlines."
Mr. Blanchard’s daughter says her father is doing "...terribly. He hasn’t stopped crying." He faces a possible two-year prison sentence over this farce. The Canadian authorities are scrambling to save face. They don’t want to further embarrass themselves by prosecuting Mr. Blanchard, nor do they want to admit they were wrong in arresting him based on the word of a poorly trained minimum wage security guard.
The airport "security" situation is just as bad in the U.S. In congressional hearings, Representative Harold Rogers (R- KY) forced the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Kenneth Mead, to admit that over 80% of the security people supposedly protecting Americans from terrorists at Dulles Airport are not even U.S. citizens. On Fox News, the former head of the security firm "protecting" Logan Airport in Boston, from which two of the September 11 hijacked planes originated, said he competed with the airport’s fast-food operators for minimum wage employees. He admitted the security employees receive almost no training, and that indeed a large percentage are citizens of the very Arab nations from which the hijackers came.
A good friend of mine related the following story of his flight from Palm Beach International to Logan just a few days after the attacks. This was when security was supposedly on high alert. He found that he had lost his driver’s license, so he presented the only picture ID he had with him - a travel agent ID card which had expired two years earlier. "Security" waved him through without a question. At the same time, the FAA was "protecting" us by removing plastic knives, not just from the planes, but from the airport restaurants. This would have been humorous if it weren’t so ludicrous. If a hijacker planned to use a plastic knife on a plane, he would bring one with him. He certainly wouldn’t stop by the airport coffee shop for his deadly weapon. What’s next? Are we going to ban pencils and ballpoint pens from all planes and airports? While I was a deputy sheriff I was stabbed by a pencil during an arrest. I assure you a pencil is a far superior weapon than the plastic knives in airports, which break while spreading cream cheese on a bagel.
Private security doesn’t work. It has never worked. The idea that it has been working has only been an illusion. I went through an airport "security" checkpoint recently, and was checked by a very sweet grandmotherly lady who appeared to be about seventy and who weighed over 300 pounds. I had a vision of this lady detecting a terrorist trying to sneak a weapon past her. As he runs swiftly away to escape capture, the "guard" waddles after him yelling, "Stop, terrorist!!"
We have had hijackings worldwide for decades. We’ve known that cockpits should be protected, but the airlines didn’t want to spend the money. (Not too long ago, I mentioned to a flight attendant that my father had been a U.S. Air Force pilot. She took me into the cockpit to introduce me to the pilot, who had also been in the Air Force!) We’ve long known that screening passengers is the best way to avoid hijackings. Yet the airlines hire the lowest bidder for security, who in turn hired unqualified people, many of whom can’t speak English.
Here is a short airline security quiz for you. The airlines of two nations have not had a single plane hijacked in over thirty years. Which nations are they? The airlines of two nations have armed plain-clothes sky marshalls on every flight. Which nations are they? The answer to both quiz questions is Israel (El Al Airlines) and Switzerland (Swissair). Don’t tell me our airlines are unaware of these facts, which have been broadcast on national television. In spite of repeated hijackings worldwide and successful terrorist activity directed at U.S. embassies and military assets, our airlines have deemed our safety less important than the money they save by ignoring the example of Israel and Switzerland.
No one argues that we have a problem. The argument is over the solution. The Democrats and some Republicans want the federal government to take over airport security. The President, most Republicans, and all Libertarians don’t think the government should be involved. They want the airlines to continue to bear the responsibility under federal guidelines. I don’t disagree with President Bush on many issues, but I feel the government needs to take over airport security nationwide, and it needs to do so right away.
You’re shocked. My wife was shocked, too. "But Tom, you’re always talking about how the Constitution strictly limits the power of the federal government, that the government regularly oversteps those limitations, and that government solutions are always inefficient and waste money." All those things are true. But it is the Constitution which convinces me that airport security is the responsibility of our national government.
Those of you who have heard me preach about the limited role of the federal government under the Constitution know that I always emphasize two key responsibilities which the Founding Fathers gave to the federal government instead of to the individual states. Those responsibilities include the regulation of interstate commerce and the protection of our borders. Obviously, the airlines are key to our interstate commerce. Ask anyone who was waiting for an overnight delivery for a week after the Attacks.
Far more important is the protection of our nation. With our borders to a great extent unprotected, professional airport security becomes even more vital. And there is no question that the only people in our country trained and experienced in detecting possible terrorists are federal agents.
I can hear my Libertarian friends screaming as they tear chunks of hair from their heads. "We can’t give the government more power!" The Constitution gave the government this power in 1787. "All the government does is throw money at problems, most of it wasted." If there was ever a situation when we NEEDED lots of money thrown at a problem this is it. I know all about the $200 toilet seats and the $50 screwdrivers purchased by the Pentagon. Waste is a by-product of government. But I’d rather waste money on the security of an industry which is vital to the economic health of our nation than on some Senator’s pork-barrel project. "We’ll be giving up our privacy if the government gets involved." I am very concerned about privacy issues, but we’re going to have to deal with them whoever is in charge of airport security. At least the government is bound by privacy regulations (imperfect though they may be). This may surprise you, but I feel more comfortable with federal agents handling sensitive information than underpaid rent-a-cops. Well-paid government employees are less likely to accept bribes and jeopardize their fat government pensions.
The choice is clear. Untrained, unmotivated, unprofessional security guards, most of them with no loyalty to the country they supposedly protect. Or professional federal agents, sworn to defend the Constitution and our nation with their lives, with the highest quality of training and technology. Agents who are defending not only you and me, but their own families as well. I am never in favor of giving the federal government more responsibility. In this case, I believe that airport security is a responsibility of government that it has abdicated.
FROM THE FEDERALIST.COM. (This was too good not to include.) The Freudian parapraxis from Clintonistas in the last week is almost too much to bear. For example, explaining how his administration missed several opportunities to eliminate bin Laden, Bill Clinton said, "We did not have the necessary intelligence to do it." Yes, we always knew that was the case! And then Wednesday, former National Security Council adviser Nancy Soderberg piped up, "Clinton put terrorism on the map..." Indeed - most notably New York City at the World Trade Center, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
A TOUCHING RESPONSE. "Dear Mr. Barrett, I’m very grateful that you are out there sharing your thoughts with us. After the unthinkable attack on our beautiful country on September 11th, I found myself crying, almost uncontrollably for several days. The awful feeling of violation, and loss was almost more than I could stand. I found myself feeling a hunger for revenge that was hard for me to resolve. I accidentally came across your article, "Bin Laden’s Greatest Mistake," on www.FreeRepublic.com. Your tone was so reasonable, and so calming, I found it to be a great comfort and help to me. I passed along your article (and the two that followed) to several of my friends and family members who share my painful feelings and also appreciate your words. I never imagined we would ever have to experience anything like this horrible atrocity. I believe that God will see us through this, and our country’s leaders will do what is necessary to heal America and make us safe again. Thank you for your good work. God bless you and God Bless America. Cynthia Higgins."
BUSH RISES TO THE OCCASION by Christie Blatchford in the National Post 9/15/01
EVERYTHING HAS BEEN SO SERIOUS for the last month that I felt a little humor from our readers might be in order. Melinda Wallace, a missionary who is familiar with the terrible suffering of women in fundamentalist Islamic nations, had this suggestion. Instead of a military strike on Afghanistan, she said that the U.S. should arm the Afghan women, who would be more than happy to take care of the Taliban.
Ed Magi, a long-time subscriber, sent these two suggestions... "An Israeli friend recently told me that the British fought Islamic terrorist attacks by burying the criminals with a pig. Apparently the Islamic belief is that if ones’ body is buried with a pig (because
they are considered unclean) their soul will go to hell. I did a little research into this subject and found it to be true. This got me thinking. If we put a baby pig on every airline flight, then all suicide terrorists would abort their missions as they would not want their souls to go to hell."
As for what to do with Osama bin Laden: "Killing him will only create a martyr. Holding him prisoner would inspire his comrades to take hostages to demand his release. Therefore, I suggest we do neither. Let the Special Forces capture him, fly him to an undisclosed hospital and have surgeons quickly perform a complete sex change operation. Then return her to Afghanistan to live as a woman under the Taliban."
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