Commentary: TSA needs to check kids too

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverMay 4, 2012 

The last time I was in a really good strip club – and franky, it’s been too long – my cousin and I had to pass through a metal detector and get patted down.

We settled in for an evening of high-class, intellectually stimulating entertainment as Miss Delicious, Kandi and Florida Keys took the stage for their tribute to the Supremes, and we felt secure in knowing that the only thing that would be thrown would be dollar bills and perhaps a punch.

Wrong. As too often happened at the late, lamented 14 Kt. Dinner Theater, two dudes started throwing punches when one got the advantage and the other one pulled out a gun. So did the other combatant. So did just about every other dude in the joint – except my cousin and me.

Turns out that while all the men had to submit to a patdown, none of the dancers had to, and some of the men had paid the dancers to sneak in their weapons for them.

Genius. Sheer genius.

That long-ago incident came to mind upon hearing this week that the TSA is being assailed yet again for its security policies. According to published reports, a four-year-old girl who ran back through the metal detector at an airport in Kansas to hug her grammy was herself patted down again – despite her tears and screams.

It’s too bad the little girl had to submit to being re-searched, but the TSA agent is blameless. He or she had a job to do.

Over the years, agents have been lambasted for searching elderly people in wheelchairs and babies in strollers, as though they couldn’t possibly pose a danger to airline security.

As that long-ago night at the 14K showed, sometimes dangers are presented by the least likely person. The four-year-old girl who, according to her mom, was traumatized by being searched again, obviously was not a transporter of terror. What if, though, a person with terrorism tendencies had been in line that day and seen her get a free pass.

Terrorist: Note to HQ: Hmmm. Crying four-year-olds are not subject to searches. TSA has no stomach for resulting controversy.

On the TSA’s blog website, an employee named “Blogger Bob” disputed reports that the child was accused of having a gun. “This wasn’t the case... TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than the eye? Well... that’s the reason behind this procedure.”

Blogger Bob also said the TSA “did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the for pat-downs of children... But this is one of those examples where a pat-down of a child was necessary.”

You’re darned right it was, Bob.

Sure, TSA agents over the years have cost me dozens of dollars by forcing me to toss toothpaste and expensive skin moisturizer that the salesman said was made from special mud found only at the bottom of the Dead Sea. They’ve also confiscated and destroyed - or perhaps smoked - Cuban cigars they found in my suitcase as I tried to re-enter the country. (Hey, how’d those get in there?)

Earlier this month, a drug-sniffing dog zeroed in on my suitcase in Mexico. Fortunately, the drugs I had were legal, but if they hadn’t been, the incident would’ve made me rethink that whole “man’s best friend” thing.

Being a TSA agent is a mostly thankless job, one for which criticism is to be expected. Can you imagine, though, the condemnation that’d be heaped upon them if security is fatally breached and it turns out a weapon was snuck onboard by someone who an agent decided just couldn’t possibly pose a threat?

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