2010-01-15 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Of Racial Profiling, Full-Body Scans And Common Sense
Commentary By Howard Schwach

If you were a police officer and a man came running up to you yelling that a young white woman just held him up at gunpoint and then ran into a local store, for whom would you look when you entered the store?

Common sense says that you should check out all the young white women fitting the victim’s description.

You wouldn’t pay much attention to the old white men or the young black men in the store.

You’d go right for the people fitting the description of the criminal.

Unfortunately, the United States, in some fit of political correctness, has give up common sense and instead is focusing on everybody, whether he or she fits the description or not.

If, as a police officer, you went into that store and lined up all the young white women and checked them against the description of the gun-toting moll, would you have been guilty of racial profiling?

Some would answer yes, that you had no right to check all the white women simply because one was guilty of a crime.

Some of those who would answer yes to that question are, unfortunately, those who make and enforce our laws.

Janet Napolitano is our nation’s Homeland Security tsar. She has already had her “You’re doing a heck of a job, Browney,” moment when she told the world that the system had worked when a prospective underwear bomber got caught setting himself on fire on a Detroit-bound airliner.

In fact, the system failed terribly. It failed to refuse a visa to a man on a terrorist watch list (put there by his father, who notified the CIA that his son had become radicalized). It failed to put him on the “no-fly list” even though his father said he was dangerous and planning some action.

We all got lucky that the bomb ignited but did not explode. Perhaps others have not been so lucky.

The underwear bomber incident aside, Napolitano and her boss, President Barak Obama, don’t like to use the word “terrorist,” and don’t understand that terrorists are not common criminals.

In February of last year, when Napolitano testified before Peter King and his House Homeland Security Committee, she never once used the word “terrorist” to describe those attacking the United States.

In fact, King said, she said that she and the president toyed with the idea of referring to terrorist attacks as “man-caused disasters.”

She explained to the committee that she and the president wanted to “move away from the politics of fear.”

It is that kind of thinking that allows Obama to send known terrorists home to plan and initiate more terror because he promised to close down the prison for terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.

It is the kind of thinking that places terrorists in criminal courts in New York City and elsewhere, giving those terrorists the same protections and rights they are trying to destroy by blowing up civilians.

Somebody once said that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Obama and Napolitano seem to think that it is, that terrorists, whether home-grown or not, deserve to be tried in civilian courts, with all the criminal rights that attend to those courts.

During World War II, when several German saboteurs were picked up on the eastern end of Long Island after being dropped by a U-Boat, they were not tried in civilian court. President Roosevelt sent them instead to a secret military tribunal and they were executed within a month. That’s the way to do it.

Obama and his minions say that we have to prove that our laws are strong enough to do the job with all sorts of criminals, including terrorists. The plethora of criminals running around our streets and the revolving door justice in many of our courts proves otherwise.

When the machines that provide a full-body scan first came into use, at least two of them were put into use at New York airports.

Because of complaints that the machines show too much, civil libertarians began to complain that they violated our right to privacy.

The machines quickly disappeared, and I have to believe that our federal representatives complained and forced their removal.

I called both Representatives Anthony Weiner and Gregory Meeks recently to find out their stand on the full-body scanning machines. Meeks never returned my calls.

Weiner, however, said, “Subjecting an expectant mother from Rockaway Park to the same scrutiny as a traveler from Yemen who violated his visa and pays for his ticket with cash is foolish.

A full body scan may be appropriate in some cases, but such an intrusive tool should not be a standard airport experience.“

I wonder in what case Weiner would find the machine “appropriate.” Would it be only with Muslim men who fit the terrorist profile? Would it be all men travelling alone on a one-way ticket who paid cash for that ticket? What would be the criteria? When are the machines necessary?

The machines are necessary. The machines would have easily picked up the explosive mix tucked into the man’s crotch. In fact, outside of a full body pat down, the machine is the only thing that could have caught the explosives.

“The big question to our country is how to balance the need for personal privacy with our safety and security needs,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah.

He is wrong.

When it comes to security, the personal need for privacy should go out the window.

Weiner is right about one thing. There is little need to check everybody who comes on a plane. The Israeli’s have it down to a science and they have had no problems in their terminals or on their planes for 20 years.

Baggage is checked the day prior to the flight and gone through very carefully.

People entering the airport boundary are checked carefully, not by five dollar an-hour clerks, but by highlytrained army investigators. They are checked again at the airport.

That is what should be done here in America, but our politicians are too concerned with political correctness to make a system like that a reality.

Americans need to understand that the need for security overrides the right to individual privacy when travelling on public transportation.

Don’t want to go through the machine? Don’t fly. There is nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing the right to fly anymore than there is to have the right to a driver’s license or to be a millionaire.

When flyers at JFK Airport were asked whether they would be willing to be “embarrassed” for a few moments to insure that a shoe bomber was not on board their flight, more than 85 percent answered that they would take the machine. They got it right.

Obama and Napolitano got it wrong, and they’d better get it right very quickly, or else we are all in danger.

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Give them a choice. Full

Give them a choice. Full body scan or cavity search. I bet that would make the body scan a whole lot less embarrassing. If one more American dies due to political correctness we have failed as a country.

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