Thursday, August 17, 2006

Terror in the skies, or: Moon over Washington

Well, it is getting close to election time and you know what that means: Fake terror alerts!

Here’s a story in the Wednesday New York Times, headlined:

Faces, Too, Are Searched at U.S. Airports

It seems the government is ratcheting up the political charade known as the war on terror.

From now on, they're going to be stationing hall monitors (excuse me, Transportation Security Agency officials) at some of the nation's leading airports, such as Dulles International in D.C. These Costco storm troopers known as “behavior detection officers” (I kid you not) are going to be scanning our faces and scrutinizing our behavior to ferret out people with evil intent.

How will they know when you’re evil? Well, the list of suspicious terrorist activities includes smoking a cigarette, picking up and putting down a backpack, touching his fingers to his chin, and rubbing an object repeatedly.

So listen up, all you nail-biters: Homeland Security is onto you.

After they spot somebody acting suspiciously, the behavior detection officers give them a behavioral score. Like the Olympics judges. I wouldn't be surprised if they flashed cards. If your score is high enough they pull you aside for a casual conversation involving questions like WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN WASHINGTON? Followed perhaps by YOU'VE BEEN SIGHTSEEING. WHAT DID YOU LIKE BEST IN OUR FAIR CITY? And if you don’t give the right answer or, if you appear nervous because the reason you were in Washington was to see your mistress, then they’ll search you, starting with your face and moving south.

By the way, the name of the program is Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT.

See SPOT spot. See Dick and Jane being strip-searched. Bad Dick. Bad Jane.

In nine months the SPOT program has been in existence, a period in which about seven million people have flown out of Dulles, several hundred people have been referred for intense screening, and about 50 have been turned over to the police for follow-up questioning.

Of those, half a dozen have faced charges or other law enforcement follow-up, because of immigration matters, outstanding warrants or forged documents.

Nine months, multimillions of our tax dollars. And the net result is a half dozen illegal immigrants. So the next time you’re at the airport, and you see a couple of government goofuses trying to read lips and looking for people who have OCD, do me a favor. Pull them aside and ask them jauntily, So what did you see in D.C.?

Dispatch number two: An incident on a London to Washington flight last night. A middle-aged woman complains of claustrophobia. (That couldn’t possibly be, on an American airliner, in coach, right?) She starts wandering the aisles, and when the flight attendant tells her to sit down, the woman pulls down her pants. A telltale sign of terrorist activity. I mean, that's what Al-Qaeda operatives do when they're cornered and they want to evade capture. Drop their drawers.

The reaction to this woman’s panic attack? A full-scale emergency response. First, two an air marshal and a correction officer in passenger drag run up the aisle and tackle the woman, slamming her into the bathroom door, throwing her to the ground and putting her in handcuffs.
(It takes two of these macho studs to subdue an old lady.)

It gets much better: Fighter jets are then scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod to escort the diverted United Flight 923 into Boston. Yes, the flight had to be diverted because a passenger was mooning a flight attendant.

Remember September 11? When four planes were being hijacked and rammed into buildings and all that? Not one jet was scrambled. Just to give some perspective on the government’s priorities.

Anyway, this batty woman is now taken into custody and grilled by the FBI! All the passengers’ baggage is searched, for reasons that are, well, a little fuzzy to me. Guilt by association?

Oh, the one detail I forgot – the woman was babbling incoherently … but I guess the behavior detection officers must’ve missed that one.

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