Saturday, March 29, 2008
Seemed like a good idea
Is this where the War on Terror is headed? Thursday's news out of Los Angeles that a woman was demanding an apology from the U.S. Transportation Security Agency for forcing her to remove nipple rings before she boarded a flight from Lubbock, Texas, in February raises troubling questions. Is that really what any of us want the government to be doing? The fact that airport personnel forced the woman, 37-year-old Mandi Hamlin, to remove one of her nipple rings with pliers before permitting her to board illustrates the ludicrousness of the government's position. Certainly the TSA has policies on how to handle sensitive situations — humiliating the customer, whose taxes help pay for the agency and its employees, is certainly not one of them. These airport baggage inspectors were making up the rules as the situation unfolded, not following established guidelines, and that's a sure way to lose the respect of the public. Give the government power and it always takes more. Remember the ban on bottled water? Law-abiding U.S. citizens tolerate a lot of insults in the interests of security these days — they practically can't go into a government building they paid for or meet a family member at an airport without submitting to a search. Fortunately, Hamlin has hired well-known Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who will at least be able to make the agency squirm. In a written statement after the incident, the TSA said the threat of female terrorists hiding explosives on their bodies was increasing. "TSA is well aware of terrorists' interest in hiding dangerous items in sensitive areas of the body, therefore we have a duty to the American public to resolve any alarm we discover," the agency said. Maybe it's time to re-examine the rules of flying to take power away from the TSA, maybe even to eliminate it altogether, along with its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and replace them with agencies more accountable to and respectful of the public.