The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

G.I. Joe a Security Risk?

August 11, 2002

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 38

This article appeared on on Thursday, August 8, 2002.

Recently, my nine-year-old nephew and his mother traveled from Richmond, Virginia to Newark, New Jersey – by plane – to visit the city and pay their respects to “Ground Zero”; the hole in the ground where the twin towers existed before September 11, 2001.

My sister-in-law, Beth Phelan Brown, is as Irish in appearance as one could possibly be. Her freckles and her facial structure shout out her ethnic heritage. Likewise, her towheaded boy could never be mistaken for a youthful suicide bomber. Nevertheless, they were in for an unpleasant experience when they were catching their flight home.

My sister-in-law made the mistake of going by F.A.O. Schwarz, the famous toy store, to treat David to a small toy as they were leaving for the airport. Full of patriotism after visiting the site of the horrible terrorist attack, David selected a G.I. Joe World War II Medic Kit. Inside the small, colorful box was a miniature canteen, a first-aid box, some “dog tags” and a one-inch pistol made out of black plastic.

As they made their way through security, mother and son were inexplicably separated by two security guards. Beth was taken off to the side and the search was begun. She was very concerned to be separated from her son as it was a busy and confusing process. She turned to look back at him.

The security guard, busy going over every square inch of her body with that dreaded “wand” ordered her to “face straight ahead!” Maybe some would think my sister-in-law overly protective. She disobeyed the order and looked back at her son, who was at this point also being frisked aggressively.

Her guard shouted, “I told you to look at me! Do not look at him! Look right at my face!” With that, the guard who was looking through young David’s belongings, shouted, “Gun!” as he held up the offending G.I Joe Medic Kit.

She slowly, gingerly extracted the tiny plastic weapon from the box, as if it could possibly go off, and he held it aloft for all to see! What a discovery! Good job! The two guards immediately shut down their security line, totally humiliating my sister-in-law and bringing tears to my terrified nephew. He later told his mother that he thought he was going to “throw up.” He was sure that he had done something terrible.

Airline travel is more than getting from place “A” to place “B” and it used to be fun. It’s not fun anymore. People, who travel on other than business, use airlines strictly as an option. Families who fly save their money all year long to go on a deserved vacation, but I predict that this optional way to travel will soon go the way of the Buffalo, caused by government over-reaching, ordered by mindless, stupid bureaucracy. Who needs it? Moms and dads will simply stay home, take a train, or drive to their vacation spots.

The newspapers and airways are filled weekly with similar stories of Gestapo-like conduct at our nation’s airports. A former presidential candidate – an old man now – was totally humiliated when he suggested that they “do have time to get him on his plane.” The airline in question had invoked the inflexible 30, or 45 minute show-up rule. Some airlines allow less time to board aircraft, some allow more time. Who can possibly keep up with this?

Another old man – a World War II veteran – became annoyed after being subjected to yet another full body search. When the guard was rifling through his wallet pulling out every card, every piece of paper the exasperated traveler asked, “What do you expect to find in there, a rifle?” He used the dreaded “gun” word! He was promptly arrested and paid a hefty fine. Needless to say, he and his embarrassed wife missed their flight and had to take another one the next day.

Three weeks ago, my wife and I were flying back from Long Beach, California to Dulles, Virginia. We watched in astonishment as the first person selected to receive “The Full Monty” search was a 93-year old black grandmother in a wheelchair! Her daughter tried to help her, but was “shooed” away by the guards. They forced this poor old woman to stand up and remove her shoes. We watched in horror as she wobbled in her effort to comply. Would she fall? Would she break her hip? Not this time, thankfully.

Did we feel safer? No, we felt totally helpless and disgusted. Given a chance to make our airports and airlines safer, the political party that’s supposed to know how to make things safer, has totally blown it. There is an absence of leadership in the way these searches and security measures have been created and implemented. Everybody knows it, and lots of folks are saying it. Why won’t the White House pay any attention?

If airport and airline security is supposed to be the symbolic example of how this nation moves aggressively to protect its citizens, it’s a resounding flop. Anybody who travels on airplanes today can look at the system and see its obvious flaws. For one thing, the entire concept of searching passengers before they board an aircraft is built entirely around the concept of “political correctness.” Heaven forbid we make any Middle Eastern young men uncomfortable, or hurt their feelings! It’s so much easier to search the Irish woman, the young kid, the World War II veteran, or the 93-year old wheelchair-bound grandmother.

I think the federal government is killing the airline business with this nonsense. But there is much more at stake for the political party who is in charge of our “new, improved” airline security system. If politicians can’t think of the obvious reason to fix this mess – to catch real terrorists – perhaps they can think ahead to election time when a very annoyed traveling public will use their vote to indicate what they think about the federal government’s best attempt to make airline travel safer.

Airline travel is not much safer – but its lots more annoying and very time consuming.