Tag Archives: TSA

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.

A pleasant airport/flying story … finally!


We’ve all bemoaned how unpleasant air travel has become since 9/11.

Long lines at security checkpoints; having to virtually undress to get through the scanners; occasionally brusque treatment from Transportation Safety Administration personnel; old folks and babies being whisked away for more intense interrogation.

I’m going to impart to you a pleasant airport tale that, frankly, caught my wife and I by surprise as we traveled to Germany.

We arrived at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport well in advance of our departure. We checked out luggage at the American Airlines ticket counter. We then proceeded to the security area expecting to be all but frisked and body searched by an overzealous TSA agent.

The fellow who greeted us checked out boarding passes and then handed us each a shiny card and said we could present it to the other agent standing by the body scanner. It would enable us to proceed through an “expedited” scanning process, meaning we didn’t have to take off our shoes and go through all the other normal nonsense.

Zoom! We were through slick as a whistle.

We proceeded to the gate area, where we purchased a hot drink and a bagel. The young woman asked us a bit later if we wanted coffee refills. “Well … yes. That would be nice,” my wife said. So, she gave us a refill and wished us safe travels.

We flew to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport aboard a brand new Embraer jet; a flight attendant told us it was brought online just this past spring. The flight was smoooooth, man!

We then went looking for where to eat at D/FW. We found a sandwich joint. The waitress could not possibly have been nicer, more courteous and efficient. She, too, wished us well as went to our gate.

Then we boarded a Boeing 777-200 jumbo jet for the nine-hour flight to Frankfurt. We departed at precisely the scheduled time and took off.

To top it all off, we arrived at our destination 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

So … there you have it. Traveling by air can be a pleasant experience.

Now, if only I could learn to sleep on an airplane.

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.