Sunday, February 18 , 2018, 4:01 pm | A Few Clouds 63º

 
 
 
 

Jim Hightower: Anti-Terrorism Officials Regulating Us, Not Terrorists

A collective regulatory knee-jerk kicks us deeper into the wilds of security silliness

You didn’t get a virgin when you drew me as one of your political commentators, for I’ve been through the fires of Texas politics, including having been elected state agriculture commissioner. Among other duties, this office made me the regulator of such matters as pesticide use, the accuracy of gas-pump gauges and even the sizing of eggs.

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower

I can tell you from experience that wielding regulatory authority is both a blessing and a curse for political officials. You can do some real good for the public, but your best efforts can also make fast enemies of the regulatees.

So my general instruction to the staff was that we should not regulate just for the hell of it, just because we could. Rather, any rules we imposed should respond to a real need and should actually work — work in the sense that they would deliver the protection the public needs.

We had a little internal slogan to guide us: “When in doubt, try common sense.”

I’d like to loan this slogan to the national authorities in charge of protecting us from terrorist attacks, for they seem determined to restrict the American people rather than actually to stop terrorists. In response to the deranged Nigerian who tried to blow up a passenger jet with his underwear on Christmas Day, they’ve done a collective regulatory knee-jerk that is kicking us ever deeper into the wilds of security silliness.

This was not their first knee-jerk. Thanks to the fizzled shoe bomb incident aboard a 2001 flight, they still require all of us who fly in our Land of the Free to bow to the gods of global terrorism before entering the terminal by removing our booties and putting our tiny tubes of toothpaste in little zippy bags. This ridiculous ritual, we’re told, will fend off another shoe bomber.

But terrorists seem to be somewhat adaptive — gosh, who could’ve imagined it? — so the latest attack comes not from shoes, but from an al-Qaeda guy’s shorts. The only way to stop this, the knee-jerkers cry, is to have authorities peek under every passenger’s skivvies.

To allow airport screeners to do just that, corporate profiteers are peddling super-sophisticated X-ray machines with “superman eyes.” You will have to stand in the scanner, and spread your legs and raise your arms in the arrest position to give your friendly screener a front-and-back, full-body look right through your clothes. Supposedly, faces will be blurred out, but body contours of every man, woman and child who flies will be on the screen — and some images almost certainly will pop up on Internet postings. “So what?” the authorities bark. Freedom comes at a price, and this new rule is all about us protecting you.

Really? Let’s note that one of the big backers of the full-body technology is former Homeland Security honcho Michael Chertoff. In dozens of interviews he gave after the Christmas incident, Chertoff demanded nationwide deployment of these machines to stop more underwear attacks by terrorists. Now, guess whose Washington consulting firm represents Rapiscan Systems, one of the major contractors selling the machines to the government. Right. Chertoff’s firm.

Rather than searching every one of us, officials need to be searching for actual terrorists, using old-fashioned intelligence-gathering and common-sense coordination to stop assailants before they even get to an airport. The Christmas Day bomber should never have gotten near that plane, for he was known by U.S. officials to be a terrorist threat.

How did they know? His father told our officials about him last November! Yet, in a gross failure of interagency communications, no official revoked his visa or put him on the no-fly list.

Our authorities want us to pay (in cash and liberties) for a whiz-bang technological gimmick that will enrich a couple of corporations, but will do nothing to stop the next thing the terrorists come up with.

Let’s raise common sense to high places. One group fighting this latest technological silliness can be reached at flyersrights.org.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >