Cliff May

The Gulf states also straddle the fence. It's hardly a secret that there are wealthy Gulf sheikhs who donate generously to such groups as the Taliban. Qatar both hosts U.S. military forces and funds al-Jazeera.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has a government that can most charitably be called selective in its opposition to terrorism. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been moving closer to Iran's rulers even as they have unleashed waves of repression against Iranian dissenters. The Wikileaks release also included files confirming that Turkey has assisted al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a powerful coalition of more than 50 countries, has nothing to say about terrorism carried out in the name of Islam or about the support for terrorism provided by some of its members. Here in the U.S., CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), not only denies the religious basis of most modern terrorism, it also encourages Muslims to think of themselves as victims. CAIR recently issued a statement asserting that "full-body scanners violate religious and privacy rights" and urging Muslims who object to the procedures to "immediately file a complaint with the TSA and report the incident to your local CAIR chapter."

It's clever of CAIR to encourage the idea that the TSA is the problem. Much of the major media also are pushing this narrative. The lead article in the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section last weekend was headlined: "The TSA is invasive, annoying - and unconstitutional." Its author, a law professor, included not one word about the jihadi terrorists the TSA is attempting to combat.

If the TSA is as described above, here's the reason: Its mission is to search for weapons. A more sophisticated TSA would expend at least some of its energy looking for terrorists. But that would require doing something politically incorrect: coming to terms with who the terrorists are, what motivates them, how they think and - most important -- how they can be expected to behave as they prepare for what they regard as final acts of martyrdom.

Is an individual about to kill himself and his fellow passengers to fulfill a religious obligation free of all signs of nervousness? Or are there subtle behavioral signals -- what poker players call "tells" - that agents can be trained to spot by watching body language, looking people in the eye, and asking them simple questions as Israeli airport security officials do?

Over time, a rigid bureaucracy will be no match for agile and adaptive jihadis eager to kill and be killed. The TSA needs to learn how to learn - it needs to be an organization that fosters a culture of innovation. Regrettably, the TSA appears to be heading in the opposite direction: Unionization is likely. "Imagine if every change in procedures had to be cleared with union shop stewards," the Wall Street Journal's John Fund wrote recently. "While it is not easy to fire TSA personnel now, just think how difficult it will be to remove bad employees if they are covered by union job protection agreements."

In security work, as in so many endeavors, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. For the traveling public, that means directing our anger not at the TSA but at the Islamist terrorists, their enablers and their apologists. For the TSA that means acknowledging that the enemy is not a bottle of shampoo, toenail clippers or even a Swiss Army knife. The enemy is a self-proclaimed jihadi who sees the airport as a field of battle in the great war of the 21st century.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.