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September 21, 2006

Mary Gets Profiled

Mary_bridge Well, we finally have profiling at US airports.  The Transportation Safety Agency inspectors immediately spotted Mary as a potential carrier of suspect liquids.  They got their woman.

Mary and I planned this trip more carefully than usual: sent a suitcase full of stuff including forbidden liquids ahead to daughter Kelly, left ourselves nothing but carry-ons. We plan to train and drive back to Vermont so can carry anything on the return leg.

Get to the airport on my schedule (early, fortunately).  Already have home-printed boarding passes.  Government-issued picture IDs at the ready, we breeze through the short pre-screen lines. Off with easy-to-slip-off shoes, computers into the plastic trays, cellphone into attaché case (why does that computer go in the bag when the other one comes out?), no metal in pockets, bags on the conveyor belt, we trigger no alarms as we go through the scanner.

My bags quickly emerge.  They look at Mary.  They x-ray into her bag.  They pull the bag, rummage to depths she probably hasn’t gotten to in years in the makeup kit.  Aha! Yahvol! Eureka!  Mascara! And some other semi-liquid I didn’t even know existed.  Gotcha, you evil-doer; back to square one and the bagcheck line.  Do not pass Go!

They didn’t even glance at the rat’s nest of wires and strange devices that always lives in my nerd bag, much better potential there for an explosive device but profiling made it clear that I’m not a likely mascara carrier.

Seriously, it’s time we got over this nonsense.  We do need to profile.  I won’t go over the arguments you already know about the success never-hijacked always-threatened El Al has had with profiling nor will I bore you with statistics on how few grandmothers have been suicide bombers.  We need to look hard at those most likely to be a threat even though most that we look at will be totally innocent.

I’m a male of Middle-Eastern extraction.  I happen to be Jewish but I think I look disturbingly like the leader of Hamas.  You can’t tell me from a Lebanese or Jordanian and I can’t tell that they’re not my cousins since they were a few hundred generations back.  So I would get caught in the profile snare I’m recommending.

That’s OK.  I’d rather get to the airport fifteen minutes early knowing that I’ll be intensively screened (as I am in Israel) than get there an hour early because the lines are stalled by random searches of frightened and confused wheelchair-bound great grandmothers.

Oh yeah, I know the argument: the terrorists’ll start recruiting great grandmothers. Wanna bet?  More likely Mary’ll recruit me to carry the mascara.

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[UPDATED: Great post on this topic by Tom Evslin here] Following last week's arrest of the terrorists planning to explode airplanes mid-air by mixing explosive liquids, the Homeland Security Office released these new boarding regulations:NO LIQUIDS OR ... [Read More]


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