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Paul Hayden

The Brave New World of Airport Security

January 11, 2010

President Obama's recent speech on his plans for enhanced security provided little comfort that the real issues we face will be addressed. As a result, the future air travel experience may prove to be more nightmarish for American travelers than it already is.

By refusing to drop the ridiculous, hand-tying political correctness for once and actually adopt some common-sense measures that include (gasp) profiling of suspicious-looking or acting people, Obama has ensured that the rest of the traveling public will be punished still further with even more draconian check-in procedures than we already are forced to endure.

As an example, given the previous reactions to methods (i.e., the shoe bomber beget the need for everyone to remove their shoes and run them through the scanner), we can project that in the future, thanks to the recent "panty-bomber," at least a random selection of passengers will need to disrobe and have every clothing item inspected and/or scanned before they are allowed to proceed. Conceivably, in the name of PC which seems to overrule even the most basic common sense, everyone may be forced to go through this procedure. Let's imagine for a moment what that might be like.

First, as you're herded toward the walk-through scanner, you'll be diverted to a "dressing room" that includes those flimsy, disposable gowns (after all, it would be way too expensive to provide thousands of travelers with a clean hospital-type cloth gown, and the environmentalists will have a fit either way). After disrobing and placing your clothes in the plastic bins (and in the mean time, what have you or they done with your laptop computer or other carry-ons?), you're forced to walk through the scanner clad in only the paper robe. As if that weren't embarrassing enough, what about folks who have metal parts in their bodiesóreplacement knees or hips, belly rings, or rings in other (ahem) more private places? How will they be "checked" by the friendly TSA employee? Will they need to be herded back into the dressing room for a "private inspection?"

While this scenario is ridiculous to the point of hilarity, can you imagine the added time, expense of building the "dressing rooms" complete with changing gowns, added confusion and the risk of lost or pilfered valuables if this or something similar were to become reality? Don't bet against it with this crew in charge.

Surely there will be a tipping point, as there seems to be with healthcare and out-of-control government spending, that will cause air travel to drop off dramatically as people decide it's just not worth the hassle of arriving three hours or more before departure and going through the criminal suspect treatment that should be saved for those who may be legitimate threats. Business travelers in particular have technology tools such as teleconferencing that have already reduced the need for face-to-face meetings. And airlines, most already on rather shaky financial footing, may not survive without (guess what?) another taxpayer bailout.

Here's a prediction: If 2010 goes like 2009 did for Obama, we will not only be looking at a vastly different political landscape in Washington, DC by this coming Novemberówe may be looking at the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency.

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