Today is known as the busiest travel day of the year. I’m thankful that my journey, such as it is, will be by automobile and not by airplane. All the recent furor about enhanced pre-boarding searches at airports leaves me frustrated.
Just eleven months ago, on Christmas Day 2009, 23-year old named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest flight 253 in Amsterdam bound for Detroit. Sewn into his underwear was a six-inch long packet of plastic explosives, enough to destroy the aircraft and all on it. But for the failure of his detonator, that’s what would have happened.
Now the Transportation Security Administration has deployed full-body scanners that yield a silhouette of the body of the person being scanned, ignoring clothes but detecting any “anomalies” such as quantity of plastic explosives. If the scanner is unavailable or if the passenger refuses to be scanned, the passenger is “patted down” by a TSA agent. Not surprisingly, the areas searched include the spot where Mr. Abdulmutallab hid his bomb.
I don’t fly very much, only a couple of times each year, so I haven’t experienced these new searches first hand. Even so, I find the furor that has arisen over these searches both incredible and incredibly disheartening. Hiding a bomb in one’s underwear is not some fanciful fiction – the bad guys have already tried it. To avoid taking steps needed to prevent that from happening again would seem especially reckless, so why all the fuss?