Across the country, people are being sexually assaulted in the name of airline safety. At Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, WBTV reports, one father blogged that he watched helplessly as his 6-year-old son was felt up by Transportation Security Administration agents.
"He was pleading for me to help him, and I was admonished for trying to comfort him," he wrote. "His genitals area was groped. He walked down to the plane in tears."
Another Charlotte woman, a breast cancer survivor who had been a flight attendant for 28 years at Charlotte-Douglas, was forced to remove her prosthetic breast and show it to TSA agents after a breast pat down on her way to work. She was humiliated, she told WBTV. Others find the full body naked image scanners now in use in airports equally humiliating.
Is all of this really necessary? U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says it is. She and other politicians say the attempted murder of 289 people aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has necessitated the tightening of screening procedures.
Isaac Yeffet, former head of security for El Al Israel Airlines and retired member of Israeli secret service, says it's all little more than theater designed to give passengers the impression the airlines are safe, but good for little more. He should know. The Israeli airline hasn't had a successful terrorist attack in three decades. All this without groping the genitals of randomly selected 6-year-olds or subjecting every flyer to full-body scans.
"When we have clear-cut information about passengers — [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] is connected to al Qaeda, his father more than a month before the flight called the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and warned them about his son," said Yeffet. "And we do nothing? We ignore it? What more [are] the security, the airlines looking for?"
Worse, Yeffet said, Abdulmutallab wasn't even put on a no-fly list, and there were no air marshals on the flight. Despite Napolitano's promises of heightened security, five months later, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad managed to board a plane bound for Dubai out of New York despite being on the no-fly list. The only way to stop this is to profile passengers on flight lists before they hit the airport, said Yeffet.
The gross physical intrusion into passengers' privacy by the TSA might be worth it if it was part of a genuine hard-core commitment to keeping Americans safe from terror. Instead, it seems like the only change in commitment level after recent terror attempts has been in the government's willingness to harass innocent American fliers. Everyone else seems to draw much less interest from the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.
Here's why. The TSA's own background checks for their employees, the now infamous gropers, is much less stringent than what they put travelers through. AirSafe.com News, an aviation trade journal, reports that the current system of background checks "may have allowed those convicted of rape and other sexually based offenses to join TSA."
In 2009, it was reported that the TSA cleared 12 illegal aliens who obtained their jobs using fake documents to work in secure areas of Stewart International Airport in New York. All 12 were background-checked by the TSA as a condition of employment. They had access to operations and cargo areas as part of their jobs, the Associated Press reported. The error was only caught after another airport employee became suspicious and reported them to local authorities. Nine of the 12 were issued security badges as "trusted agents" of the TSA that allowed them access to secure areas of the airport.
Then, two weeks ago it emerged that 34 illegal aliens were approved by the TSA to train as pilots at TJ Aviation Flight School in Stow, Mass.; several had obtained pilot's licenses. The school's owner, also an illegal alien, had both a pilot's license and clearance to train pilots. He was arrested, then released to await his deportation. He is still running the school.
WCVB TV in Boston reports that three of the illegal alien pilots claim they were never asked about their immigration status by the TSA during the application process.
Yeffet has it right. Homeland Security and the TSA are serious about looking serious, but not about terror.