- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Protecting passengers and screeners

It is great to hear how concerned the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is for those passengers unhappy with its pat-down policy (“Airport pat-downs get less personal under directive,” Nation, Thursday).Female passengers raised concerns and the TSA admits it went too far with breast pat-downs. It was equally unfair for TSA to put us screeners in this uncomfortable position.

But we have serious safety concerns about the pat-down policy as well. No TSA policy should be ordered which places an unfair safety risk on every federal agent. The TSA’s most dangerous employee mandate to date clearly does that.

For the past month, TSA headquarters has chosen to ignore the policy adjustment request we submitted to managementlastmonth.Many screeners fear being blown up because of this pat-down policy. So, we asked permission to use explosive-trace-detection swabs on all passengers prior to doing any pat-down.

We deserve advance warning of a possible suicide bomber and currently are working blind because we lack the technology TSA should have provided us.

By not previously budgeting for improved checkpoint X-ray machines and walk-through metal detectors, Congress failed to protect everyone.

The current partial passenger pat-down followed by a nonexplosives-detecting hand-wanding does not improve screener safety. Screening passengers for explosives or concealed nonmetallic weapons never had to be as dangerous as TSA and Congress made it.

In amending the passenger pat-down policy, TSA ends the most controversial part of our pat-down policy. But by flip-flopping on this policy, TSA now invites passengers to challenge any other search procedure. This harms the morale and focus required to protect each of you, as well as ourselves.

A.J. CASTILLA

TSA screener

Homeland Security Department

Logan International Airport

Boston

Re-examining foster care

Your story gushing about the claimed success of the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act (“Fewer foster-care youths await adoption,” Nation, Monday) is, in fact, a tribute to administration spin and statistics abuse.

You note that the number of children in foster care fell from 567,000 in 1999 to 523,000 in 2003 and attribute this in part to ASFA. You neglect to mention that ASFA became law in 1997 — and at that time, there were just 520,000 children in foster care.

The truth is that ASFA encouraged a “take-the-child-and-run” mentality in child welfare. That’s why even as actual child abuse was going down, removals of children from their homes by government child-welfare agencies increased. It increased so much that even now, the number of children in foster care is higher than it was on the day ASFA passed.

The number of “waiting children” — children whose parents’ parental rights have been terminated and have adoption as a goal — also was lower before ASFA became law than it is today.

Also absent from your story are two of the most tragic numbers of all: Since ASFA passed, terminations of parental rights have exceeded adoptions by more than 117,000, creating a generation of “legal orphans” with no ties to birth parents but little hope of adoption. Also since ASFA passed, the average time children languish in foster care remains unchanged at 33 months.

ASFA backfired because it was based on a false premise: that children were languishing in foster care because of desperate attempts to keep families together. Pass ASFA, proponents said, and we’ll empty out foster care. However, the reason children languish in foster care is because they’re often taken after a family’s poverty is confused with neglect, then filed away and forgotten by overwhelmed workers who do nothing to help what is often a poor but loving family.

It would be hard to find an area where government has more untrammeled power over individuals than child welfare. Though it’s always interesting to see The Times endorse big government, it’s odd to see it endorse one of government’s biggest recent failures.

RICHARD WEXLER

Executive director

National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

Alexandria

Stop obstructing nominees

When the 109th Congress convenes Tuesday, President Bush will courageously and justifiably resubmit 20 qualified people for federal judgeships (“Bush resends 20 court nominees,” Page 1, Friday) whose nominations were either held in committee or threatened with a filibuster by Democrats on the Senate floor. But to Democrats, qualifications don’t matter, only ideology.

Opposition to the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, for example, was supposedly due to his deeply held personal beliefs on abortion. But how is it that senators can claim to be “personally opposed” to abortion while defending a women’s “right to choose,” but not judges?

The “crime” of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, President Bush’s nominee to the 5th Circuit, who graduated in the top of her class from Baylor Law School and earned the highest score on the Texas bar exam, was to be called “anti-choice” because she once upheld Texas’ parental-notification law, a view supported by more than two-thirds of the American people and the U.S. Supreme Court. Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, cited it as an example of “her extremism.”

California Supreme Court Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown, the daughter of black Alabama sharecroppers and Mr. Bush’s nominee for the District of Columbia Circuit, has been denounced as another Clarence Thomas, primarily for writing the majority opinion upholding Proposition 209, which dramatically changed affirmative action in California.

The filibusters by Senate Democrats had nothing to do with qualifications. It was about their desire to keep the courts at all levels in the hands of those who believe in a “living Constitution” that should be interpreted by liberal judges who legislate from the bench based on the agenda and passions of the moment, not as written by the Founding Fathers.

I hope the defeat of Sen. Tom Daschle will be a reminder to them that while “advise and consent” is fine with voters, “block and obstruct” is not.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

Stop obstructing nominees

When the 109th Congress convenes Tuesday, President Bush will courageously and justifiably resubmit 20 qualified people for federal judgeships (“Bush resends 20 court nominees,” Page 1, Friday) whose nominations were either held in committee or threatened with a filibuster by Democrats on the Senate floor. But to Democrats, qualifications don’t matter, only ideology.

Opposition to the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, for example, was supposedly due to his deeply held personal beliefs on abortion. But how is it that senators can claim to be “personally opposed” to abortion while defending a women’s “right to choose,” but not judges?

The “crime” of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, President Bush’s nominee to the 5th Circuit, who graduated in the top of her class from Baylor Law School and earned the highest score on the Texas bar exam, was to be called “anti-choice” because she once upheld Texas’ parental-notification law, a view supported by more than two-thirds of the American people and the U.S. Supreme Court. Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, cited it as an example of “her extremism.”

California Supreme Court Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown, the daughter of black Alabama sharecroppers and Mr. Bush’s nominee for the District of Columbia Circuit, has been denounced as another Clarence Thomas, primarily for writing the majority opinion upholding Proposition 209, which dramatically changed affirmative action in California.

The filibusters by Senate Democrats had nothing to do with qualifications. It was about their desire to keep the courts at all levels in the hands of those who believe in a “living Constitution” that should be interpreted by liberal judges who legislate from the bench based on the agenda and passions of the moment, not as written by the Founding Fathers.

I hope the defeat of Sen. Tom Daschle will be a reminder to them that while “advise and consent” is fine with voters, “block and obstruct” is not.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

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