Tag Archives: airport security

National security suffers from shutdown

Donald Trump has dug in on The Wall. He wants it built and he wants you and me to pay for it, not Mexico — as he had pledged during his campaign for the presidency.

As a result, part of the federal government has shut down. Trump says the shutdown is needed to bolster — ostensibly — our national security. The Wall would protect us from those hordes of killers, rapists and sex traffickers seeking illegal entry into the United States of America.

Oh, but what about national security.

Airport security officers are working without pay. They’re calling in sick. The post-9/11 travel restrictions are suffering now because TSA agents aren’t showing up for work. Those who do are being put under undue stress while they wait for their next paycheck; they don’t know when that day will arrive.

And then we have our air traffic controllers. They are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA cannot pay its air controllers, either.

Air traffic control is among the world’s most stressful of jobs even under the best of circumstances. As the head of the ATC union said this morning, those men and women have to be “100 percent 100 percent of the time.” Given the shuttering of the government, they aren’t functioning at 100 percent. They are worried about their mortgage payments, their kids’ tuition, their utility bills, grocery bills, car payments, credit cards payments. You name it, they’re stressing out.

Can these individuals spare a single moment away from their job of guiding airplanes, preventing jetliners full of travelers from crashing into each other? Of course not!

National security, Mr. President? You’ve got to be kidding — but you’re not.

Do you, dear reader, feel safer now? Me neither.

National security suffering from government shutdown

Donald Trump says the partial government shutdown is aimed at improving national security. He wants to curb illegal immigration along our southern border and says The Wall will do the job. He wants money to pay for its construction.

OK, but what about national security?

The shutdown has had an impact on the Department of Homeland Security, the Cabinet agency directed specifically to protect us against threats to, um, the homeland.

Airport security? Let’s see. Those TSA security agents are being denied paychecks for them to do their job. Many of them are calling in sick to protest the shutdown. Thus, airport security is put in jeopardy.

What’s more, we are learning that most of the terror suspects apprehended in the past year have been nabbed at — where do you think? — our airports!

If this wall matter is related to national security and if the president wants to shutter part of our government to get Congress to spend $5.6 billion to pay for a project he pledged would be paid by Mexico, then how does the shutdown improve our national security?

Just my guess . . . but I believe it inflicts grievous injury to it.

UAL settlement means airline messed up big time

Dr. David Dao has just received a lot of money — reportedly — from a commercial air carrier that treated him quite badly.

Many millions of Americans have seen the video that went viral almost immediately after it was recorded: airport security officers dragged Dao off a United Airlines flight after he declined to give up his seat. Dao suffered facial injuries, he lost some teeth, while passengers shrieked their indignation at what happened.

You know the story. UAL wanted to make room on a fully booked flight for four airline employees who needed to get from Chicago to Louisville. The airline sought passengers to volunteer to surrender their seats; no one answered the call. UAL then selected four names at random and ordered them off the plane; three of them complied. Dr. Dao said “no.” He had patients to see at the other end of the flight.

The airline then called security. Officers wrestled with Dao. They hauled him off the plane.

Well, that ain’t how you treat your paying customers, United Airlines. The airline’s boss, Oscar Munoz, at first defended the officers, then backed off. He now calls it a “system failure” for which he is responsible. “I own it,” he said.

Commercial air travel hasn’t been much fun since 9/11. You know what I mean. Air security has tightened. Passengers are subjected to random searches. Flight attendants get testy when passengers gripe too vigorously.

The settlement today tells me the airline has acknowledged it messed up. United has announced policy changes. It will offer significant amounts of money to passengers who give up their seats on overbooked flights.

This incident tarnishes an entire airline needlessly. Why? Because it employs a lot of folks who do their jobs well and who had nothing to do with the incident in question.

David Dao’s settlement amount is a secret. My sense is that it was for a lot of dough. Fine.

The bigger issue rests with the policy changes that United has enacted. May it not be lost on other air carriers who depend on the public to keep their birds in the air.

Muhammad Ali’s son detained at airport … for real!

Put yourself in the place of an airport customs/security agent for a moment.

A young man comes off an airplane that’s just traveled to the United States from a foreign airport. He presents his passport to you and it has the name “Muhammad Ali Jr.” on it.

What do you ask the young man?

If it were me — and I was allowed under customs protocol — I would ask: “Are you the son of The Greatest of All Time? Was your late, legendary father really The Champ, the baddest, prettiest, greatest heavyweight boxer in history?”

If he said “yes,” I’d stamp his passport, tell him how much I admired his dad and let him through.

That didn’t happen recently at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (Fla.) International Airport. Muhammad Ali Jr. arrived there on a flight from Jamaica. He was detained. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials say he wasn’t detained because he is a Muslim. They offered vague reasons for acting as they did.

Ali was profiled, according to an Ali family lawyer. The officials asked him if he is Muslim and asked him where he got his name. As USA Today reported: “Customs spokesman Daniel Hetlage declined to provide details of the incident, citing policies that protect travelers’ privacy, but he wrote in an email that the agency does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“‘We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity,’ he said. ‘Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles.'”

Young Ali, who’s 44, is blessed — or cursed, perhaps, depending on the circumstance — with having arguably the most famous name on the planet. It also is the name of world’s most beloved Muslim.

Part of me wants to ridicule the officer who stopped Ali Jr. Another part of me, though, suggests the officer was just doing his job.

Security breach? Do you think?

San Jose, Calif., airport officials are seeking some answers to a vexing — and terribly embarrassing — question: How did that youngster get past security to stow himself away on an outbound flight to Hawaii?

We know the story.

A 15-year-old boy got past security, walked onto the tarmac at San Jose International Airport, climbed into a wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 and flew across the Pacific Ocean.


The most remarkable aspect of the story really isn’t the security breach. It’s the fact that the kid didn’t freeze to death at 38,000 feet above the water, where temperatures plummeted to 40 below zero. What’s more, the compartment wasn’t pressurized, meaning he had precious little oxygen to breath at that altitude.

The kid huddled in there for — what? — five hours.

Airport security in this country is supposed to be air tight in this post-9/11 world. San Jose is a fairly busy air terminal to be sure. A lone youngster, though, just isn’t supposed to walk undetected across a vast expanse of open space, climb into a jetliner compartment and then take off as a stowaway.

I see a very serious wakeup call in he making here.

San Jose is bound to deploy a lot more eyes and ears on everyone who ventures onto the airport site.

As for the youngster, who remains hospitalized from the ordeal, he’ll get to explain eventually just how he pulled off this amazing stunt. Someone will need to ask him what, if anything, he did just to stay alive.

Yes, even babies can get a TSA pat-down

We are living in a strange new world, brought to us to by some terrorists who on Sept. 11, 2001 attacked the United States of America by using commercial jetliners as deadly weapons.

Everyone who boards an airplane is subject to potentially intense scrutiny by security agents working for the federal government.

Isn’t that right, Alec Baldwin?


Baldwin was returning from a vacation with his wife and five-month-old daughter, Carmen, when Transportation Security Administration agents decided to pat down — gulp! — the baby.

The sometimes-tempestuous actor tweeted about the incident, signing off with the hashtag #travelingUSisadisgrace.

I won’t get into Baldwin’s previous run-ins with flight crews and airport security officials, but I feel an odd obligation to defend the TSA in this latest incident.

I’m not sure how I would react if I was traveling, say, with my 11-month-old granddaughter and some TSA agent pulled Emma out of a line and started patting her down. I might express more-than-mild surprise, I suppose.

However, from a distance as it relates to little Carmen getting frisked, I have the luxury of being able to reflect just a bit.

Consider a couple of things here:

The bad guys who killed all those people on 9/11 told the world that virtually any act of evil is possible when flying on an jetliner. We also know that terrorists would use any means necessary — any means at all — to harm others. That means they would be fully capable of arming infants with explosive devices.

What’s more, it is totally plausible that someone seeking to sneak contraband into a country — say, drugs or weapons — might consider stuffing it into a baby’s diaper. Is it possible? The question you have to wonder, though, is its probability. Why take the chance to assume that such a thing cannot happen?

I’ve been aggravated myself by overzealous TSA agents in the years since 9/11. My wife and I have traveled some overseas and we’ve been subjected to intense scrutiny by security agents. You haven’t lived, for example, until you’ve been interrogated by an Israeli airport security guard at David Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

One consideration in this Baby Baldwin pat-down caper has to be how the TSA agent handled it. Was he or she discreet? Was the agent courteous and did the agent explain fully why? My wife and I were leaving Venizelos International Airport in Athens in November 2001 — two months after 9/11 — and had every luggage item searched meticulously by an agent, who took the time to apologize profusely for the intrusion.

Should it be routine to frisk every baby who flies on these commercial jetliners? No. I do get, though, the need to take extra precaution, even if it involves an act that seems ludicrous.