Airport insanity

Posted: Oct 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Ted Kennedy and I have something in common. We are both on airline lists as potential terror suspects.

Kennedy was recently denied access to a US Airways flight out of Washington, one he has taken for 40 years.

I am on a US Airways list of some type that apparently requires airline employees to take my driver's license behind closed doors, have a conference and then stamp my ticket with a code that mandates my person and my carry-on bag be searched. Every time I fly, which is sometimes several times a week. I especially appreciate the crotch grab to make sure I'm not hiding any weapons of mass destruction. How would you like to be the trainer for this procedure?

The idiocy virus is now spreading to other airlines. It seems someone who shares my name is wanted by authorities. I hope he is getting some of my hate mail. Logic should dictate that once I prove I am not the guy they are looking for, they would take me off the suspect list. But, no, our misnamed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is anything but logical.

US Airways gives me a TSA phone number to call. I am not surprised when a machine answers. The machine promises a "prompt" response. I leave a message. There is no response. A few days later, I call again. Same recording, same message, same non-response. I send an e-mail to TSA. This time I receive an "automated reply," assuring me of a prompt response. Two days later, I receive another e-mail informing me I will have to fill out a form to prove I am not a terrorist. This is an interesting twist on the "innocent until proven guilty" standard in law.

The confusion plot thickens. Two weeks ago, TSA approved my application for "registered traveler" status as part of an experimental program at some airports for frequent travelers. I recorded my "eye print" and fingerprint, and now a machine can identify me and allow me to go to the head of the security line, but only at the airport where I applied.

Other participating airports require applications to be made at each of those airports, even though the paperwork presumably goes to TSA headquarters. Why can't TSA look at that one application that has been approved and take me off their "watch list," or whatever they call it? Is "logic" not in government dictionaries?

Things have become so ridiculous on the road that a TSA screener in Duluth, Minn., last week required me to open my computer bag, whereupon she used one of those devices that resemble a deodorant pad and wiped every electrical cord. When I asked why, she responded, "The downed Russian airliners." When I noted that Duluth was the only airport in the country where my electrical cords had been wiped, she replied, "Everyone is supposed to."

The arbitrariness of all of this makes me think the "security" system isn't very secure and that it is all a sham created by politicians to fool the public into believing they are protecting us. Meanwhile, millions cross our borders illegally, including untold numbers from countries that hate us.

Why isn't the Bush administration doing something about illegal immigration instead of pretending these people are coming here solely to do manual labor we native Americans don't want to do? Wouldn't we be safer if we prevented those who wish us harm from getting into the country?

Thanks to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's misguided policy of refusing to profile travelers, we get equal opportunity inconvenience and stupidity. Imagine if cops were prohibited from describing gender, race or other physical characteristics when broadcasting an all-points bulletin for a suspect.

My profile is radically different from all those who killed nearly 3,000 of my countrymen on September 11, 2001. My "holy book" of choice is the Bible. My race is Caucasian. I am a loyal, taxpaying, patriotic, evil-hating, English-as-first-language, natural-born American. If profiling were allowed, I wouldn't be the one filling out government forms to prove I'm not a terrorist. The other guys would.

This is an outrage! The form will soon be in the mail. They'll probably send me a note assuring me of a prompt reply, before misplacing the application. Senator Kennedy, can you help?