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Not TSA Pat-Downs, but Freedom Fondles

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The latest controversy over Transportation Security Administration body scans and enhanced body pat-downs leaves no doubt: America truly is a nation of whiners.

A CBS News poll found that 81 percent of Americans support full-body airport scanning. That reasonable view is being drowned out by elements on the left and the right who love nothing better than to proclaim that they are victims.

First exhibit: Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who introduced the "American Traveler Dignity Act" to "protect Americans from physical and emotional abuse." Abuse? Have Americans become such babies that a pat-down designed to prevent another 9/11 causes adults to melt down?

Yes, I've been through body scans. Yes, I've been patted down, not just at airports, but also covering political events. Yes, I've had to contend with the rare overbearing TSA worker who let the power go to his head. Are these searches intrusive? Sure, but they beat crossing the country in a covered wagon.

I won't say that the TSA agents have handled every passenger deftly. A Michigan cancer survivor was humiliated after his urostomy bag leaked during a search. As the 15-seconds.com blog noted, the TSA's most lamentable error was failing to do the simplest thing: "apologize."

Blogger Brian Sodergren has called on airline passengers to participate in a "National Opt Out Day" on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. "We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we're guilty until proven innocent," Sodergren wrote.

In protest, he suggests that passengers who are asked to go through a body scanner instead "opt out" -- which means they submit to a body-pat. That's right, the body-pat Paul describes as "abuse." Sodergren even advises passengers to have their privacy-violating pat-down in public.

Sodergren contends "there is no intent or desire to delay passengers," but he must know that if more passengers opt for longer security checks during one of the year's heaviest travel days, delays are inevitable.

Some on the right argue that if the TSA engaged in profiling, agents would not have to bother granny and the kids. Now, I support directing security personnel to consider profiling information -- such as countries visited -- when screening passengers. But I disagree with Ann Coulter, who wrote, "In a lucky stroke, all the terrorists are swarthy, foreign-born Muslim males."

In 1986, a pregnant young Irish woman named Anne Marie Murphy was planning on flying to Israel to meet her fiance's parents. Little did she know the fiance had hidden plastic explosives in her suitcase. Israeli security stopped what would have been a horrific terrorist attack because they did not rely on the profile alone. Female suicide bombers have struck in the Middle East and Moscow. The Taliban have bought children to train them as suicide bombers. Then there's Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The conservative RedState blog likened TSA searches to "sexual assault, humiliation, and pedophilia." In the wake of the whining, the Obama administration has said it is looking at changing airport security.

Even to prevent another attack like the thwarted Christmas day bombing, nobody wants to appear to be insensitive. Cable TV is ruining this country.

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See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders.

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