12/31/09 — Profiles in safety: Screening for potential terrorists a matter of common sense

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Profiles in safety: Screening for potential terrorists a matter of common sense

Not so sure that you want to tackle the inevitable lines and awe-inspiring inconvenience that will now accompany a trip to the airport?

Feeling more than a little uneasy about the fact that the nation's Homeland Security chief thinks that passengers and crew taking down a terrorist on an airplane seconds before he could detonate a bomb is the "system working"?

Well, don't you worry, we have the solution to the problem of protecting the nation's airports -- and we are thinking about sending it on to the president as soon as possible.

You will be amazed by its complexity -- and you will understand why no one has thought of it before.

Heck, we might even be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

OK, now with that buildup, here it is:

It is time to profile.

Don't lie, you have thought of it, too. It is very likely that most of America has imagined a way to make this process more efficient -- especially as they waited in line with their shoes in their hands and three ounces of liquids and gels in their quart-size baggy.

It also seems pretty obvious when you watch Transportation Security Administration employees at the airport pull 80-year-olds in wheelchairs for the random searches for explosives and other terrorist-type weapons -- or when you, yourself, have been pulled coming and going to your destination (like you decided to become a terrorist during your trip to visit your Aunt Trudy in California and picked up a bomb for your return trip luggage).

This new security process is pretty simple really.

If you look like the people who have, to date, committed or attempted to commit terrorist activities -- or if you pay $2,800 cash for a one-way ticket to a U.S. city on Christmas Day and bring not a single stitch of luggage -- you are tagged to go through a special line with increased security.

And if you have been sending e-mails to Islamic extremists, have recently added stamps on your passport from Yemen or another Arab country without a legitimate business reason for being there, or if you are on a suspected terrorists' list, you will be required to prove you are clean before you come within 50 feet of an airport gate.

We know what you are going to say.

It's not fair. It will put innocent men and women through a little bit more stress. It will make some people of the Muslim faith angry -- it assumes that one of the red flags for identifying a potential terrorist is a certain heritage and a certain religion.

And that is because it is.

This solution might not be perfect, but it could very well make it less likely that you will get caught in a two-hour wait to get through security -- and that you will have to save your life, whether you are a Muslim or not, by wrestling a terrorist to the ground on a trans-Atlantic flight.

There is no reason that there could not be a prequalification procedure, and TSA employees, a whole new bunch of them that we could specially train, would have the option of identifying someone for extra inspection if they are carrying something in their luggage that is suspicious or if they are acting in a manner that warrants concern.

See, when you look at it that way, and not through the lens of political correctness, it makes a whole lot of sense, doesn't it?

It won't solve the problem of protecting the future security of the United States completely, but it will be a start.

And right now, that might be the best we can hope for.

Published in Editorials on December 31, 2009 11:28 AM