- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2010

I blame Drudge! Yes, I blame the Drudge Report for this insane controversy about the use of high-tech body scanners and “pat-downs” at airport security zones.

A minor altercation can take place at Genghis Khan International Airport in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and it gets headlines on the Drudge Report. The millions of American travelers who are utterly insouciant to a high-tech scan or even a pat-down are ignored. The other day, a CBS News Poll found that fully 81 percent of Americans approve the use of the high-tech machines at airports, but that means nothing to Drudge. How many more Americans would welcome a soothing pat-down amid the hurly-burly of travel at our nation’s stress-filled airports I do not know, but count me in - especially if the pater-downer is a cute little number on the order of, say, Sarah Palin.

Now some of Drudge’s troublemakers are organizing a boycott of the scanners for the day before Thanksgiving. This happens to be one of the busiest travel days of the year. One George Donnelly, a self-appointed civil libertarian, says, “We are absolutely committed to getting the scanners and the groping rolled back.” Rolled back? What is he talking about, something on a production line? “Groping” apparently is what Mr. Donnelly calls a “pat-down.” Get your mind out of the gutter, George. Mr. Donnelly seems to think that if his followers opt for a time-consuming pat-down rather than a quick scan on this busy day they will foul up the airport for hours. Well, if I were traveling on the day before Thanksgiving, I would breeze through the scanner, get on my airplane, and insist that it leave on time. Mr. Donnelly can confer with his lawyers.

Another like-minded soi-disant civil libertarian, John Tyner, missed his flight completely owing to his protest. He greeted the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff, camera in hand, in San Diego. He had opted for the pat-down in place of the scanner, but warned, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” Yes, he referred to his genitalia as “junk.” Well, speak for yourself, Mr. Tyner. Now he is threatened by TSA with an $11,000 fine. That is a bit stiff. He missed his plane. That is enough, but Mr. Tyner might keep things in perspective. America is at war.

We are at war with savages who sneak explosives onto airplanes and turn them into bombs. Such brutes have no sense of discrimination between a war zone and a civilian zone. Actually, if they could mark off a war zone, wherever would it be? They are total nihilists and want to kill us all - and themselves. They cannot possibly win, but surely we can lose, and one of the things we will lose first will be our freedom.

The scanners are opposed on two grounds, health and privacy. It is claimed by some that the radiation emitted by the scanners is dangerous. The government denies it, saying more radiation awaits passengers on their flight than comes from scanners. The other ground is constitutional, the right to be free from unreasonable searches. I am not knowledgeable enough in science to address the first matter. Suffice to say, given the choice of a terrorist overhead with a bomb or loose on my airplane and a spot of radiation, I would choose the radiation. On the constitutional matter, I am more comfortable.

Terror poses an enormous threat to the free society. Terrorists can attack us anyplace, which is why I rather like the idea of citizens free to carry arms. The scanners and the pat-downs are a dreadful threat to freedom and personal dignity, except for what they are meant to combat: terrorists - thugs who would attack the unarmed and innocent. Scanners and pat-downs can be executed with care or with stupid disregard for our dignity. In the event that we are violated, we can protest. We will not have a chance to protest the terrorists.

In an age of Facebook and social networking, it is a little difficult to take all the protests over airport security seriously. How many of Mr. Donnelly’s legions have a Web presence? And, of course, no one is forcing us to use airplanes when we travel. Doubtless, in time we will have a technological fix for airport security. It seems we always have in the past. Until then, we will have to live like the Israelis. Be vigilant and thwart terror. They do it all the time, and an Israeli neurotic about personal liberty is just as neurotic as any American.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).