- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2010

In the past few days, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policies have been probed almost as thoroughly as the elderly men and teenage girls subjected to one of the agency’s indecent “enhanced” pat-downs. They’ve come up short. TSA’s top man, John S. Pistole, testified Wednesday that he had no choice but to implement the security measures based on the intelligence he has on potential threats. Not that he is willing to share this information. It’s all classified, of course.

A more likely explanation is that the Obama administration is engaging in a classic form of bureaucratic backside covering. Should another Islamic extremist board an aircraft while TSA agents are busy grabbing sippy cups from toddlers and confiscating fingernail clippers from Marines, the agency plausibly can claim there was nothing more it could have done. After all, with nude photography sessions and stories of nuns and 3-year-olds being groped, TSA has made it clear it has crossed every line of common decency - even laws governing sexual assault.

That’s an oversight that at least one member of Congress seeks to remedy. Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, introduced legislation last week that would strip federal agents of any perceived immunity from prosecution for their actions while handling passengers at the airport. The measure strikes at the heart of the present problem: TSA’s arrogance.

Consider the case of Oceanside, Calif., resident John Tyner, who famously refused to be scanned or manhandled with the phrase, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” TSA field director Michael J. Aguilar decided to get back by announcing at a press conference that he would investigate Mr. Tyner and perhaps impose an $11,000 fine. It’s now clear this threat was nothing but unauthorized bullying. Mr. Aguilar’s boss stated under congressional questioning that he had no interest in pursuing the matter. “I’m not aware of any instance where someone who’s refused screening has been fined,” Mr. Pistole said. “It is being reviewed. I don’t want to prejudge anything, but I do not anticipate anything coming from that.”

TSA’s tactics are all about bullying. The agency wants every American to enter a literal position of surrender while being undressed by an X-rated x-ray machine. There is good reason to question whether such devices are effective, let alone safe. The airport backscatter machines can easily detect metal objects on people, but they are quite a bit less effective at detecting chemicals whose atomic makeup is similar to that of the human body. Rational discussion of whether such machines do any good are swept away with the, “It’s classified” dodge.

In other words, surrender your judgment - and dignity - to the Department of Homeland Security because Big Sister knows best. One could only imagine what would have happened if the passengers on United Flight 93 had embraced this misguided “government will protect us” mentality. Likewise, it was the passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 who caught underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, not the TSA.

Allowing this rogue agency to demean and diminish the American spirit makes us less safe, not more secure. TSA must be stopped from its exploitation of fliers’ fears and doubts for the sake of expanding bureaucratic power. The current security charade weakens the nation.