Anti-Terrorism Officials Are Regulating Us, Not Terrorists

You didn't get a virgin when you drew me as one of your political
commentators, for I've been through the fires of Texas politics,
including having been elected state agriculture commissioner. Among
other duties, this office made me the regulator of such matters as
pesticide use, the accuracy of gas pump gauges and even the sizing of

I can tell you from experience that wielding regulatory authority is
both a blessing and a curse for political officials. You can do some
real good for the public, but your best efforts can also make fast
enemies of the regulatees.

So my general instruction to the staff was that we should not
regulate just for the hell of it, just because we could. Rather, any
rules we imposed should respond to a real need and should actually work
- work in the sense that they would deliver the protection the public

We had a little internal slogan to guide us: "When in doubt, try common sense."

I'd like to loan this slogan to the national authorities in charge
of protecting us from terrorist attacks, for they seem determined to
restrict the American people rather than actually to stop terrorists.
In response to the deranged Nigerian who tried to blow up a passenger
jet with his underwear on Christmas Day, they've done a collective
regulatory knee-jerk that is kicking us ever deeper into the wilds of
security silliness.

This was not their first knee-jerk. Thanks to the fizzled shoe bomb
incident aboard a 2001 flight, they still require all of us who fly in
our Land of the Free to bow to the gods of global terrorism before
entering the terminal by removing our booties and putting our tiny
tubes of toothpaste in little zippy bags. This ridiculous ritual, we're
told, will fend off another shoe bomber.

But terrorists seem to be somewhat adaptive (gosh, who could've
imagined it?), so the latest attack comes not from shoes, but from an
al-Qaida guy's shorts.

The only way to stop this, cry the knee-jerkers, is to have authorities peek under every passenger's skivvies.

To allow airport screeners to do just that, corporate profiteers are
peddling super-sophisticated x-ray machines with "superman eyes." You
will have to stand in the scanner, and spread your legs and raise your
arms in the arrest position to give your friendly screener a
front-and-back, full-body look right through your clothes. Supposedly,
faces will be blurred out, but body contours of every man, woman and
child who flies will be on the screen - and some images almost
certainly will pop up on Internet postings. "So what?" bark the
authorities. Freedom comes at a price, and this new rule is all about
us protecting you.

Really? Let's note that one of the big backers of the full-body
technology is former homeland security honcho Michael Chertoff. In
dozens of interviews he gave after the Christmas incident, Chertoff
demanded nationwide deployment of these machines to stop more underwear
attacks by terrorists. Now, guess whose Washington consulting firm
represents Rapiscan Systems, one of the major contractors selling the
machines to the government. Right. Chertoff's firm.

Rather than searching every one of us, officials need to be
searching for actual terrorists, using old-fashioned
intelligence-gathering and common-sense coordination to stop assailants
before they even get to an airport. The Christmas Day bomber should
never have gotten near that plane, for he was known by U.S. officials
to be a terrorist threat.

How did they know? His own father told our officials about him last
November! Yet, in a gross failure of inter-agency communications, no
official revoked his visa or put him on the "no fly" list.

Our authorities want us to pay (in cash and liberties) for a
whiz-bang technological gimmick that will enrich a couple of
corporations, but will do nothing to stop the next thing the terrorists
come up with. Let's raise common sense to high places. One group
fighting this latest technological silliness can be reached at

© 2023 Jim Hightower