- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Remember all the improvements to air-travel security the Democrats promised last fall? All we had to do was federalize the security personnel, they said, and we'd have no more of the problems caused by the poorly trained minimum-wagers those wicked private companies hired to screen our bags. Seems like yesterday when Sen. Tom Daschle was lambasting House Republicans, who disagreed with the idea of turning all those people into federal employees. On Oct. 11, Mr. Daschle said: "There are some in the House of Representatives who want to delay this bill because they disagree with making baggage screeners an elite force subject to stringent requirements and under the control of the Department of Transportation. I am simply baffled by this." And so were his opponents, who retreated at high speed. But this was a classic political bait and switch.
The bait was the "elite force" subject to those "stringent requirements." The switch that's being pulled now is something the White House and congressional conservatives should stop dead in its tracks. Seems like those dumb old minimum-wagers, now that they are becoming members of the correct unions, are perfect for the job. Those "stringent requirements," like having a high school diploma and being an American citizen, are being waived because the Department of Transportation has determined that years of experience (doing the job poorly, remember) are a substitute for a high school education. And just because people aren't American citizens which means we cannot do a reliable background check on them that doesn't disqualify them, does it?
Of course it does, and it bloody well should. Congress believed as did the president when he signed the legislation into law that federalizing the workers was a compromise they could live with. They, and the president, were wrong. Even aside from the attacks of September 11, there obviously is a problem with airport security. It seems that every week, another incident occurs. Only a few days ago, a man was arrested while getting on his third flight of the day, carrying a handgun in his bag. The people who missed it on the first two flights should be fired forthwith and their supervisors disciplined. But the problem is much larger than those few people. If we are serious about the safety of the flying public and we must be if our economy is to recover we must take a new approach.
The Israelis use private companies to screen baggage and provide other security, and the Israeli government imposes strict standards on those companies, and enforces them tirelessly. This is exactly what we should be doing. We must have strict standards regarding all aspects of aviation security. It's not too late.



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