The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

What It Takes

February 17, 2001

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 8

This article appeared on on Friday, February 14, 2002.

On Tuesday, February 12, 2002, warnings of another possible terrorist attack dominated the news. FBI, and other intelligence gathering agencies said terrorists, possibly inside this country, might try another attack on that very day.

This was of interest because I was returning from California to Virginia, flying American Airlines out of Long Beach. It was a flight that required a change of planes in Dallas, Texas. The terrorists who struck on the 11th of September last year factored in coast-to-coast jet fuel loads when they used airliners as bombs. These days, Iím hedging my bets.

Airline passengers are subjected to intrusive searches and long delays at airports, but donít mind when the searches and delays make sense. But Iíve seen grandmothers and grandfathers searched – old ladies mortified that some foreign-looking security guy without a high school degree is rummaging through their carry on bags.

Teenage kids, clearly of Anglo, African or Latin descent are touched with hands and electric wands by guards determined to find a nail-clipper. Smokers lose lighters at the magnetometer so that they canít light their shoes, and everyone nods approval because nobody wants to die. One senior congressman had to drop his trousers recently to prove he had a hip replacement! Good folks cooperate, grimly inching forward in long lines, hoping the U.S. government knows what itís doing.

But more and more are saying the U.S. government is not really doing the job well, yet. Some fear itís going to take some more deaths, along with the death of the airline industry, as we know it, before our leaders "get it." And if the airline industry goes down, our economy will be damaged for a long time. A hoped-for recovery will simply disappear.

A reminder of how confused, selfish or gutless bureaucrats and politicians are happened as I waited to board my plane. I noticed a Middle Eastern man in the waiting area who was between the ages of 20 and 35. He had a carry-on bag between his feet. He was not behaving in a manner that would make me suspicious, but his appearance was enough. He was a "match."

He fit the profile of the terrorists who had hijacked the aircraft in September. I reviewed what I knew. He had arrived at the airport and was stopped by the police officer at a first checkpoint where he produced evidence of a flight, plus identification. Those two items anybody can get easily. The officer had to notice he was a "match." Iíll assume he checked the man as well as he was allowed.

Next, the man had to go through the magnetometer, and obviously he got past that review. Again, I assumed the screeners noticed he was a clear "match."

But the real breakdown of security began when he entered into a large waiting area where vendors and maintenance workers, and other passengers, as well as bag handlers mingled. He could go into the menís room and be alone in a stall where he could retrieve an object left there for him, or he could meet a co-conspirator. I think itís fair to assume that the cleaning crew has not been given a through background investigation. Would the airport security search through every tub of cleanser? What about the many "vendors" who were doing business in the room? Many had the look and clothing typical of Middle Easterners. Do they "hate" America? Are they related to any of the terrorists?

There was one last precious chance to catch this "match" before he got onto that airplane, if he did score a weapon in the waiting area. But the gate screener and the airline employees followed the orders they have been given by the FAA: They selected benign-looking passengers – at random – for a complete bag and body search, while the Middle Eastern man who fit the terrorist profile ambled down the walkway to the plane.

They left him alone, because to single him out would have subjected them to criticism. They were not ordered to search every Middle Eastern man of a certain age, because the federal government has avoided this issue due to the continuing insanity of political correctness.

When I boarded, he was sitting in the very first seat of the coach section, a prime place from which to launch an assault against the crew or cockpit.

While itís true I had many years as an FBI agent and might be more suspicious of others, this guy looked like any of the terrorists that took those planes down in September, and looked just like any one of the terroristsí photos given to us by the FBI.

But this man matching the description of all the terrorists was not searched that "one last time" because we are locked into politically correct thinking. Political correctness has trumped safety, security, the national economy, our common sense, life itself – everything.

Itís up to the leadership of this nation to put a stop to this insanity before more people die. Iíll wager that another airline terrorist attack will destroy the airline industry, and our fragile economy along with it.

And if the media and Congress would talk about this threat as much as they talk about Enron, Iím certain weíll finally get the FAA into a war footing. Weíre still playing games with American lives, determined not to offend anybody. This is madness, and it must stop.