Since you can't tell these days: This is not, in the strict sense, true. It is true, however, that the department has prohibited pilots from carrying guns and has rejected the idea of a "trusted traveler" program. In fact, it's not doing anything to make the airlines any safer. This should come as no surprise, inasmuch as Mineta recently said he was unaware of any "specific" threat against aviation.
They hate us. They're trying to kill us. They use airplanes as weapons. If Mineta doesn't talk to his boss, can't he at least read the papers?
In congressional testimony last week, Mineta mercifully spared the senators a recap of his experience in a Japanese internment camp and allowed his assistant, longtime Bush crony and ATF apologist John Magaw, to explain the department's key security improvements. The reason Magaw decided to prohibit pilots from having guns is -- and I quote -- "they really need to be in control of that aircraft."
This is literally the stupidest thing I've heard in my entire life.
The scenario under which a gun might become useful for a pilot is this: The hijackers have penetrated the locked cockpit and thwarted air marshals, passengers and crew. It's going to be difficult for the pilot to fly the plane after the cockpit has been stormed by Arabs. Whatever could go wrong at that point -- a wounded passenger, a hole in the side of the plane, terrorists wresting control of the gun -- is better than the alternative.
Ah, but Magaw is worried that the terrorists will now have a pistol. Think of havoc they could wreak with a gun. Of course, they'll also have a Boeing 767 careening at 480 miles per hour toward the nearest landmark building. Magaw seems to think the real danger is that terrorists will shoot at the White House from a window, not that they'll fly the plane into it.
Magaw is the worst kind of government bureaucrat. He defends fascistic government abuses -- but the trains still don't run on time. Fascism is at least supposed to keep the citizenry safe.
As the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Magaw famously justified an unprovoked government assault against Randy Weaver and his family, culminating in the murder of Weaver's wife. In testimony before a Senate committee investigating the raid at Ruby Ridge, Magaw stubbornly refused to admit the ATF had done anything wrong whatsoever.
Indeed, he even refused to acknowledge a jury verdict finding that the government had entrapped Weaver. Of the jury's verdict, Magaw said: "Do you believe Randy Weaver -- or do you believe the federal agents who have sworn to tell the truth and are carrying out a career in this government?"
If only airline pilots worked for the government! Then Magaw would not only allow them to tussle with terrorists, but they would also be free to gun down innocent Americans without criticism. (The Senate report found Magaw's testimony not credible and recommended abolition of his entire agency.)
Magaw's other airline safety improvement was to reject the idea of a "trusted traveler" program, which would allow passengers to avoid three-hour airport security lines after submitting to an intrusive background check by the government. As reported by The New York Times, Magaw spurned the trusted traveler idea on the ground that "he is not sure who could safely be given the card."
I don't know, how about ... NO ARABS? (Religion-of-Peace Update: As they prepare to stone a rape victim to death in Pakistan, the latest suicide bombing in Israel claimed the lives of a 70-year-old woman and her 18-month old granddaughter.)
Amazingly, President Bush has actually found someone even dumber than Norman Mineta to secure the nation's airlines. The secretary of transportation is the only person on the face of the globe who thinks the airlines face no terrorist threat, and his deputy -- by his own admission -- hasn't the first idea which airline passengers can be "trusted."
If these guys were doing their jobs right, Congress would be reining them in, civil libertarians would be screaming, and professional ethnic complainers would be holding candlelight vigils and singing "We Shall Overcome." Instead, Congress is forced to pass laws overruling Mineta and Magaw, civil libertarians are scratching their heads wondering why profiling is prohibited, and professional complainers are sending them flowers.
Maybe somebody else should be doing this job.