'Don't touch my junk'

Our view: Public outrage over airport security procedures proves ill-time and ill-considered

November 22, 2010

The battle-cry of the outraged has turned from "Don't tread on me" to "Don't touch my junk." Clearly, this is a good time to be in the anger management business, but not necessarily to be an employee of the Transportation Security Administration.

Surely by now most everyone has seen the latest online video to go viral (surpassing even that middle school football trick play) featuring an annoyed San Diego airline passenger refusing a pat-down from a TSA worker. John Tyner, the Internet celebrity du jour, is now being hailed in some circles as the everyman victim of overzealous and insensitive government employees.

The timing of the groundswell could prove especially unfortunate for this week's holiday travelers as some are calling for protests at airport security checkpoints on Wednesdays, including this one, which happens to be one of the busiest travel days of the year. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has insisted that enhanced screenings are needed and has asked for patience from the traveling public.

But it appears the short-sighted among us are not so easily mollified. Incredibly, it was just one year ago that many were decrying the TSA for the kind of security shortfalls that allowed the underwear bomber to board a Christmas day flight to Detroit.

Is the TSA too intrusive with its "enhanced" pat-downs and full body scans? That may depend on whether you're the one being searched or caught traveling in an airplane where your fellow passengers weren't so carefully screened. You can bet that those traveling with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallah last year would have been much happier had he been frisked in Amsterdam.

That's not to defend some of the TSA's sillier policies. Everyone has experienced delays and indignities that seemed totally unnecessary. Having pilots patted down is especially ridiculous — and presumably could be eliminated with biometric screening such as fingerprints to confirm their identities.

But that doesn't mean the upset traveler should be allowed to set rules unilaterally. Mr. Tyner faces a $10,000 fine for his actions. That strikes us as excessive, but if everyone reacted to airport security as Mr. Tyner did, a difficult situation would quickly escalate into a full-blown crisis.

Whatever happened to the notion that we need to stick together to overcome extremists? U.S. soldiers are still dying for that cause in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis. Under the circumstances, it seems a small sacrifice for the citizens back home to keep a stiff upper lip and voluntarily agree to measures that experts believe are needed — at least until better technology and security techniques are developed.

What's truly beyond the pale are the claims that the terrorists win when Americans submit to pat-downs or full-body scans, as if this spelled an end to the American way as we know it. If anything, the terrorists win when Americans act terrorized. Getting hysterical over airport security procedures that are intended to save lives sounds regrettably like it.

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