Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2002 / 4 Tishrei, 5763

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Inconvenience me, PLEASE! | Look, I'm happy to take off my shoes if that's what is required.

If somebody wants to paw through my underwear, swab chemicals on my briefcase or squeeze private regions of my body, I'm fine with that, too. Heck, if my seventy-something aunt with the bad hip objects to any of the above on the grounds that she hardly fits anyone's profile of a terrorist, I'm perfectly willing to hold her down until she has been well and thoroughly frisked.

Just so long as all that ensures that I can fly safely, secure in the knowledge that no one has been allowed to carry weapons aboard the aircraft. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently, yes. That's the unavoidable conclusion now that a team of reporters from the New York Daily News has managed, for the second time in a year, to carry contraband items through airport security. The reporters traveled over Labor Day weekend on one-way tickets - supposedly a security red flag. They took 14 flights from 11 airports, including those through which terrorists traveled last year. The reporters never tried to evade security checkpoints and made no attempt to hide the banned items, other than putting them in carry-on bags. And, even though the bags were X-rayed and some were hand-searched, in no instance did security find the pepper spray, razor knives and box cutters packed inside.

You know the part that scares me? Not just that somebody managed to get weapons through security, but that journalists did. Not to dis my own, but we members of the Fourth Estate aren't exactly known for our technical savvy and mechanical know-how. We're the kind of folks who keep Jiffy Lube in business. If a bunch of English majors can breach airline security, anybody can.

And that's a disquieting thought.

Remember those signs you used to see at security checkpoints warning you that the airport in Mugwump, Africa, or Cgyzny, Eastern Europe, did not meet U.S. safety standards? You shook your head, feeling vaguely sorry for the poor devils in those backwater places. Meanwhile, your security routine consisted of being waved through a metal detector and politely asked if anyone had given you a bomb to carry onboard.

Where airline safety is concerned, the events of last Sept. 11 were supposed to have done two things: end our smugness and toughen our security. A year later, it seems increasingly clear that while the former may have happened, the latter certainly did not. We've been given the illusion of increased security without the actual fact of it.

I made several calls, trying to get someone from the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington to explain this to me. No one ever picked up the phone. Apparently, the FAA was not at home.

You think I'm making that up. I only wish I were.

Hey, I won't pretend I'm an expert in airline security; I was an English major, after all. But I am absolutely an expert in the field of Not Wanting To Become Human Confetti While Trying To Get To Spokane. And in my considered opinion, the measures taken to beef up airport security have proven woefully inadequate.

In the first hot days after Sept. 11, there was lots of talk that U.S. carriers should emulate El Al, Israel's state airline, which thoroughly interrogates ever flier, hand searches every bag, stations air marshals on every flight. El Al security procedures are rigorous, time-consuming, invasive ... and effective. No one has hijacked an Israeli plane in over a quarter century.

The idea of learning from the Israelis seems to have been quietly dropped amid general consensus that Americans would never stand still for that sort of inconvenience. Inconvenience being a mortal sin in a drive-through nation.

But you know something? It's not exactly a barrel of laughs standing there in your socks being groped by some stranger, either. You put up with it because you think you're getting something out of it. Meaning security - not its illusion.

A year ago, we said this nation had been fundamentally changed. If that was truly the case, then the question of what to do to ensure air safety should be a no-brainer.

Inconvenience me, PLEASE.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column by clicking here.

09/06/02: Latest CBS joke isn't funny
09/03/02: A rewarding life as a working stiff
08/30/02: We infants in men's clothing
08/27/02: Sept. 11 - How much is too much?
08/23/02: Cut it out already, media!
08/20/02: Brace yourself for attacks of the stealth ads
08/16/02: Russia, please, pretty please let the rocker hitch a ride into space
08/12/02: Racial 'colorblindness' is silly
07/30/02: Oh, to be famous
07/19/02: In Pop-Music Thriller, Jacko Takes on Sony
07/09/02: The password is 'frustration'
06/25/02: My Head And Heart Are At Odds - I Can't Watch Video Of Pearl's Beheading
06/21/02: Your kid's going to pay for cheating --- eventually
06/18/02: Stuffy 'correctness' robs races of give and take
06/07/02: A gift of the Masai
06/04/02: Now what? Use your 9/11 pain to combat complacency
05/24/02: Has your life changed since 9/11?
05/19/02: New world disorder is nothing to smile about
05/14/02: White men can jump, so why do black kids come up short in the classroom?
05/03/02: Catholic Church should be ashamed for blaming abuse victims
04/19/02: A reminder of how small the world has become
04/16/02: 100 death-penalty mistakes and counting
04/12/02: Until all the bad guys wear black hats
04/10/02: Connecting with history with hope for future
04/08/02: Just me and the boys: A black father's road trip
03/26/02: It's time to give up fighting the good fight and join the masses
03/22/02: It's not the art, it's the artist who's troubling
03/19/02: Don't ask, don't tell when it comes to police work
03/15/02: Do we have an inalienable right to TV?
03/12/02: What will we learn about ourselves as war toll grows?
03/08/02: Marriage madness --- oh, please!
03/05/02: A risk free life
03/01/02: Pentagon's idea of lying to media was breathtaking' in its stupidity
02/16/02: Will the Afghans forgive the U.S. for the beating of innocents?
02/15/02: In search of manhood, some make a fatal decision
02/08/02: Time for blacks to give the same respect they demand
02/05/02: A question of character and "unlawful combatants"
01/31/02: There's only so much a parent can influence a child
01/29/02: Mike Tyson is incapable of embarrassment
01/25/02: Acts of patriotism or acts of desecration?
01/18/02: Waiting for tears in the rain at Ground Zero
01/15/02: A little cultural respect works both ways
01/11/02: Can blacks be racist?
01/07/02: What price for the priceless?
12/21/01: An intriguing study on race
12/18/01: To err is me
12/14/01: Admit it, folks, If you've ever been 16, you can probably relate to Walker
12/11/01: Blacks-on-blacks poll is a healthy project
12/07/01: The best defense against government excesses
12/05/01: Better hoist caution flag
12/03/01: Martin Luther Ka-CHING!
11/27/01: Beauty reflects an ugly truth
11/22/01: Another reason to be thankful
11/19/01: If only they knew our names
11/12/01: Watching a 'dying' man live
08/01/01: Should a man be put in jail for what he's thinking?
07/27/01: It's your responsibility to invade their privacy
07/20/01: Is optimism for fools?
07/17/01: Everybody should have a white man

© 2002, The Miami Herald