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FIRST-PERSON: Rethinking security checks for Al Gore, seniors, expectant moms

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–It is now official; we have the safest air travel of any country in the world. When a high-profile traveler like Al Gore has his carry-on bags rifled by airport security, you know you can feel secure flying the friendly skies of America!

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported the other day that the former vice president was recently subjected to not one, but two, security checks while traveling about the U.S.

On Friday, June 7, Gore was boarding a flight to Milwaukee from D.C.’s Reagan National Airport and was told he would have to undergo “extra screening.” The very next day, the former vice president was leaving Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport for New York when he was once again singled out for additional scrutiny.

A spokesman was reported to say, “… both times he [Gore] was more than happy, as all Americans are in these troubled times, to cooperate.”

Gore’s spokesman speaks only for himself and his boss, because I can assure you that not all Americans are overjoyed at being subjected to extra screening.

In mid-June I was traveling via air and, like Gore, experienced extra screenings twice. My first experience was boarding a flight in Portland, Ore. Prior to my additional scrutiny, I stood segregated in my own “special” space. When it was finally my turn, I stood with my arms extended palms up and to the side. A security wand, as well as the screener’s hands, was passed over my entire body. I was also asked to remove my belt as well as my shoes.

On my return trip from St. Louis, I was determined to avoid an extra screening. Anything I thought might trigger the security detector came off my person and was placed in my carry-on. I strutted confidently through the gate and was promptly told to step into the holding area for another lovely experience of extra screening.

Many have experienced the ordeal of additional airport security. Two dear friends who are in their senior years were subjected to additional scrutiny while traveling recently. During both my extra screenings, there were young ladies with infants who endured the experience with me.

You’re probably thinking, “Stop whining, this is simply the reality we have to live with because of Sept. 11.” In response, I have to ask, “Why?” The vast majority of those enduring extra screenings all have one thing in common — they do not fit the profile of a homicidal terrorist.

I know, I know, I used the dreaded “P” word. However, profiling is not prejudice on parade, it is common sense. It is ridiculous to subject the former vice president, 80-year-old citizens and nursing mothers to extra screenings since terrorist hijackers have been male, Muslim, of Middle Eastern descent, and under age 40.

Dennis Miller, the comedian who has done color commentary on ABC’s Monday Night Football, put things in perspective recently on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

“Of course we have to profile people. We live in some weird time now where we’re all trying to convince each other that we shouldn’t profile people. When 19 out of 20 people are from a certain country, and they blow up the two biggest buildings in your country, if you don’t start looking at people who are visiting here from that country, you’re not being open-minded. You’re being dead. Okay?

“And you know something, the American Civil Liberties Union, when they come out and say you never profile anybody who gets on an airplane, I say we create a new airline, called the ACLA, the American Civil Liberties Airline where you don’t check anybody, you don’t ask any questions and let those morons fly on that one, okay? The rest of us want to be protected.”

Miller’s points are well put. Airlines should gather pertinent information and individuals who fit the profile of hijackers or homicidal bombers should be subject to extra screening — a lot of extra screening. When a former vice president of the United States is subjected to additional airport security, political correctness has gotten way out of hand. Whatever you may think of Al Gore; he certainly is no homicidal terrorist.
Boggs, whose column appears in Baptist Press each week, is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs