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Don’t Look, Don’t Grope!

In the name of airport security, our privacy rights are being stripped.

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Since the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, airline travelers have suffered a full frontal assault on their personal freedoms. The mantra "It's for your protection" has been repeated ad nauseam to anyone who dared even to whisper a complaint about the utter absurdity of going through airport security.

Ninety-pound grannies are being hoisted out of wheelchairs to be scanned by metal detector wands. Mothers are being made to drink their own breast milk. Eighty-year-old veterans with steel plates in their hips are being patted down for setting off metal detectors. Traumatized 2-year-olds are being placed in glass puffer machines while their horrified parents watch.

Shoe removal. Clothing removal. Liquid bans. Jewelry removal. Scanning, puffing, searching, touching — of our bodies and our possessions — all being done "for our protection." Or so we are told.

But last week the ridiculous evolved into the reprehensible: A breast-cancer survivor was forced to show a TSA agent her prosthetic breast; some would-be passengers had to publicly display their colostomy bags; some men were compelled to watch their wives and daughters being groped by TSA agents; children watched their parents being felt up. The most personal of intrusions, from total strangers, we were told once again, was for our protection.

For the federal government to assume that every person boarding a plane is equally likely to blow it up is patently knee-jerk and reactive. Consider the add-on nature of the security measures we currently use. When one would-be saboteur was able to board a plane with explosives in his shoe, what was the feds' reaction? Everyone must take off their shoes!

Then a ring of terrorists was busted in a London flat for attempting to make liquid explosives. Our reaction? Everyone must be limited to three-ounce liquid containers in a quart-size plastic bag! (Once through the checkpoint, of course, passengers can load up on mini-containers at the airport arcade stores and bring it all onboard.)

Next, just as travelers got used to complying with the newly upgraded security measures, a man boarded a Detroit-bound plane in Amsterdam with explosives in his underwear. The reaction? Everyone must be body-scanned! Taken to its logical conclusion, the next step will be for TSA agents to glove up with KY Jelly, for without doubt, a terrorist somewhere in the world has already figured out how to make a suppository filled with explosive chemicals.

How do we pull out of this dizzying flight path, where every security measure involves a jolt not only to our civil liberties but to what remains of decency? Where does the insanity end?

It is time to listen to people like Isaac Yeffet, a New Jersey security-business owner and former antiterrorism specialist for the Israeli secret service who ran El Al Airlines for years. In a television interview, Yeffet pointed out the travesty of the U.S. system and said that technological measures used here are not only useless but actually work as a detriment to our security.

He called for a complete screening transformation by implementing the use of better employee training, eye-to-eye communication with customers, and questioning of passengers. These sensible measures have worked in Israel for years.

It is time for city officials across the country to listen to New York City councilman David Greenfield, who has proposed legislation that bans the use of all body scanners in New York City airports because they have been proven by outside security firms not only to be ineffectual but downright dangerous.

It is time for us to wake up and realize that Americans are having their Fourth Amendment rights violated by unreasonable searches, and the lawsuits that will ensue could further threaten our economy by forcing more airlines to go broke.

It is time to redeem that precious commodity called common sense. As Benjamin Franklin, who had his feet firmly on the ground, once stated, "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." The use of body scanners gives us neither.

Cheri DelBrocco writes the memphisflyer.com column "Mad as Hell," where a version of this article first appeared.

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