Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What about safe flights?

It's remarkable that a Northwest Airlines flight was subject to a high-profile Christmas attack eight years to the day that shoe-bomber Richard Reid bumbled a similar airline assault. Equally noteworthy is the international media scrutiny placed on the uncommon events while few news outlets report on the more than 500 million airline flights that took place in the last 10 years without confrontation of any sort.

The years I worked in the airline industry before 9/11 made it clear that our security system was largely a charade, requiring vast improvements. For one thing, I would have felt more secure back then knowing that our security agents were earning more than $6 an hour. It's great that our dedicated screeners now earn something more approaching a living wage; however, I never dreamed we would become compliant to authoritarian rules of such a large, ballooning boondoggle agency. Besides being required to obediently kick off our shoes, we're now sometimes subject to fishing expeditions that have absolutely nothing to do with transportation security. At some airports, innocent flyers are even forced to pass through high-resolution X-ray scanners, which clearly violate child pornography laws.

Although the TSA has manufactured over 1 million "terrorists" for our state-of-fear watch lists, air travel remains a safer mode of transportation than most long highway journeys. It's too bad that while we're being hyped and barked at by talking heads all along the terrorism watchtower about these extremely rare violent air incidents, we aren't able to divert some of these massive funds for some simple, down-to-earth homeland security measures, such as upgrading some of Idaho's terribly dangerous, high-speed rural roads into safer, divided highways.

Jim Banholzer


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