When Security Trumps Common Sense – by Dennis Prager


If the government prohibits airline passengers from getting out of their seats during the last hour of a flight, I hereby announce that I will get out of my seat either to escort someone who needs to use the lavatory or because I do. I understand that I may be arrested, but I am willing to make this a cause celebre.

Aside from a genetic incapacity to be directed by irrationality, I will make this protest on behalf of fellow passengers who are in pain because of this idiotic rule. What are diabetics, for example, supposed to do? And considering the fact that “the last hour of a flight” is always more than an hour, often considerably more — given the frequent delays in approaching airports and given the approximately 15-20 minutes between landing and passengers actually disembarking.

I am not prepared to obey rules that hurt the innocent while doing nothing to prevent terrorism.

When exactly will airline passengers be permitted to relieve themselves? Seatbelt signs are now illuminated — meaning passengers are not allowed out of their seats — for at least the half hour it takes to leave the gate and achieve optimum altitude. And on many planes, those signs are (often pointlessly) illuminated for much of the flight after that as well.

Therefore, if passengers are not allowed to get up during the last hour, that would mean that on a two-hour flight, passengers would be fortunate to have a total of 20 minutes when they could stand to stretch, get a book or go to the lavatory.

Furthermore, since passengers are also not allowed to “congregate” outside the lavatories, passengers will actually have to compete with one another in order to get to the bathroom. The slower ones, or the ones seated furthest from the lavatories, may not have any chance to go to the bathroom in a two-hour or longer flight.

These useless, dignity-robbing, rules could have been averted if available technologies and a more intelligent approach to catching terrorists had been adopted.

One such technology is full-body scanning.

According to Robert Poole, adviser to the White House and Congress on airport security following 9-11, the explosives “which the terrorist concealed in his underwear would have been detected had he been required to pass through one of the 15 millimeter-wave body-scanners now in use at Schiphol (Amsterdam Airport).”

And Charlotte Bryan, a former top TSA and FAA official, told CNN that a body scanner could have stopped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, terror suspect on Northwest 253.

The major objection to the scanner comes from the ACLU and from libertarians on “privacy” grounds. This objection led the House of Representatives to ban full body scans. That the ban was led by a Republican, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who continues to defend his opposition to body scanning, only shows that the left has no monopoly on foolishness.

But it was House Democrats who overwhelmingly voted to ban body scans. Only a fifth of the Democrats in the House voted against the ban while two-thirds of the Republicans voted against it.

The ACLU, which can almost always be depended on to say something foolish and advocate a position that harms society, calls the process “virtual strip search.” And Chaffetz declared, “I just think it’s too invasive. Nobody needs to see my kids — I have a son and two daughters — and see my wife naked in order to secure an airplane!”

So, the leftist and libertarian opposition centered on the issue of privacy. And the conservative opposition — to conservatives’ credit, the smallest of the opposing groups — centered on “nudity.”

It is difficult to say which one is more idiotic. Both illustrate what happens when dogma supersedes common sense.

What privacy are we even talking about? I cherish my privacy, but anyone who actually looks at the scans made by the whole body scanner cannot seriously talk of either privacy or nudity. They are indeed “virtual” images, meaning no skin is shown and the human figure looks metallic.

The ACLU and Rep. Chaffetz have read too many Superman comics — they imagine the superhero’s “X-ray vision.” But that is not possible. There is no skin shown. So how can there be “nudity”?

I willingly relinquish whatever “privacy” I lose by being scanned for the even more precious value of staying alive.

Those who think that TSA employees will be leering at naked bodies have a little too much sex on their minds. Same-sex TSA employees will be looking at metallic-like images of thousands of bodies that pass through airport security. Look on the Internet at those images and then tell me that they are “nude.” A necrophiliac would be bored.

As a conservative, I am embarrassed by people who put thousands of lives in danger under the guise of protecting their wives and daughters from appearing “naked.”

So until my government does something intelligent — like screening for dangerous people, not dangerous weapons (as Israel so successfully does) — to protect this frequent flyer, I will not play the pretend game of “do something” that prohibits me from relieving myself on the grounds that terrorists only blow up planes after going to the bathroom during the last hour of a flight.

I will surrender a lot of things to stay alive. But I will not surrender my intelligence. That and being told when to urinate are the real losses of dignity, not a full body scan.

  • R Ryan

    When the politically correct yammering idiots finally recognize that racial, cultural and age profiling combined would yield more captures of so-called religious zealots willing to give their lives in order to take the infidels with them, then I'll agree to submit to additional scanning to fly. So long as I see children and grannies being pulled aside for additional security screening while even one 20 something middle eastern man is not given the same added screening, then I'm opposed to the intrusion of the full body scan.

  • gajaw999

    The photos you have seen on the internet of body scans are not true images of what are seen by the TSA. They are doctored for the very reason you say does not exist. The image is much more detailed than you think,and yes, this is a strip search in no uncertain terms. By submitting to this humiliation you are letting the terrorists win.

  • Robert Bernier

    Americans WAKE-UP

    Hate to the US is part of a deep and sincere ideology.
    PMW Director Itamar Marcus spoke in the US Congress several month ago about the dangers inherent in the creation of a PA state. While US President Obama and other senior politicians have touted the creation of a PA state as beneficial to American interests, a PA state would in all likelihood ally itself with America’s enemies, he said. Among the statements quoted in the report: “Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies… Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.” Ahmed Bahar, speaker of the PA legislative council, on PA TV in April 2007. Be correctly informed :


  • Robert Bernier

    Muslim states use high-intensity violence.
    Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population, but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. There were, in short, three times as many inter-civilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were between non-Muslim civilizations. For more details : http://israelagainstterror.blogspot.com/2008/08

  • Robert Bernier

    Muslim states use high-intensity violence.
    Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population, but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. There were, in short, three times as many inter-civilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were between non-Muslim civilizations. For more details : http://israelagainstterror.blogspot.com/2008/08

  • suprkufrb

    Couldn't agree more! Body scanning is no more revealing than an x-ray or a mammogram. And so what if it was? If it's going to save my life, I'll cheerfully allow security personnel to look at any and all parts of my body they might choose. I, like roughly 50% of the world's population, have a penis, a scrotum and a triangle of pubic hair; my wife, like the other 50%, has two nipples and a triangle of pubic hair. Sorry, civil libertarians, there's nothing ground-breaking here.
    If some woman chooses to present herself dressed up as a beekeper and refuses to allow a body scan, I respect her decision and wish her an enjoyable journey via surface transportation.

  • poptoy1949

    Great Article.

  • Storm_Rider

    “Those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is; in general the greater the understanding the greater the delusion; the more intelligent the less sane… The heresy of heresies was common sense.” George Orwell – 1984

  • blainenay

    As an airline pilot, I spend about 16 days a month traveling by air. I've been subjected to the whole body scanners multiple times. Yes, the scanners are effective. But, they're expensive and incredibly inefficient. It takes several minutes to process each passenger. It is unreasonable to expect to process even half the passengers using this method. And it doesn't stop evil-doers from shifting contraband from their body to their luggage — and current technology still lets a lot of contraband get through in the luggage. It's time for airport screens to stop focusing on things and focus on people. Just like gun control, It is evil people who are the problem — not the things they use to hurt us. I have experienced the screening process used by Israel and by El Al. I was impressed. They know how to identify evil people. There is nobody in TSA — who is smart enough or trained enough to do what Israel screeners do. Banning the use of toilets and bottles of water should give one a clue about how far in over their heads the TSA really is. Whole body scanners are an unreasonable solution to a security system that is more eyewash and a government jobs program that it is security.


    Everytime a muslim commits an act of violence, the general public is punished. Until we profile, I will never agree to more infringement of personal privacy. I have been a flight attendant for 30yrs and I profile on every flight. I am sickened at how innocent people are abused while traveling. However, if you are male and look remotely middle eastern, you are virtually ignored. Bomb sniffing dogs should be walking the lines BEFORE security. I'd trust one of them to find something in a crotch before this incompetent government. I am now looking forward to retirement primarily because of the abuse that I am also subjected to far more frequently the you.

  • daughterofliberty

    So let me get this straight: you trust the same govt that is so boneheaded it prohibits you from getting out of your seat the last hour of a flight to accurately read and interpret X-ray scans. You aware of how often trained radiologists w/ yrs of education miss cancers on X-rays? Why do you think the semi-literate goons the TSA sics on us will immediately spot contraband?

    You might also want to research some basic facts. Here's a journalist who did it for you: http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/
    He points out that the density of most liquid and plastic explosives are too low for these scans to detect. So it's good that you don't mind exposing yourself to govt agents b/c you'll be doing so in vain.

  • http://www.compellingconversations.com Eric the sceptic

    While I share the author's contempt for stupidity and support profiling both passengers and behavior, I'm less comfortable encouraging disobedience on airplanes. We need to consistently nudge the Obama administration and the TSA toward more effective and rational defensive measures, but shouldn't encourage disobeying security measures – even silly and impractical ones.

    By the way, why can't the Obama administration place an armed air marshall on all flights – domestic and foreign? This might be one jobs program that both Democrats and Republicans could support. If adding an air marshall takes too long to train, etc, then what about deploying an armed soldier on every plane? That would both provide actual security and reassure the public.

  • Havoc

    Dennis Prager –

    The biggest lapse in common sense is allowing muslims into our country in the first place. The problem is Islam. The solution is No Islam.

  • USMCSniper

    The best nudge we can do is to admit that Terrorist states or proxy terrorists who impinge on America's freedom or threaten American lives have chosen the rules of the game – and the Marquis of Queensbury rule are voided. Defense is mandatory but no substitite for a good offense which must bring their war to them in spades. They bomb a public place, we bomb ten of theirs. They hijack a plane, we take out an airport. They execute American tourists, we tactically nuke an entire Muslim city, if they take out an American city with a WMD we eliminate Mecaa and all the Islamic holy places from the face of the Earth. Collateral damage? Bad shit happens in wars and it is better that it all happens to them. Our strategy should be to make Jihadist terrorism and support for it so horrific and costly that it becomes absolutely unthinkable to ever attack Americans or American assets anywhere.

  • BS77

    EL AL….no hijackings, no terrorists, no shoe bombers, no underwear bombers….why? Because they KNOW what to look for, what questions to ask, and who to search completely. Profiling? Of course….none of that PC multicult sensitivity crap…. I still cannot believe there was not ONE security person who asked themselves: Hmmmm, here is a guy from Nigeria with a Moozlim name, who paid cash for a one way ticket to Detroit of all places…he has no visa, no winter clothes and has never been to the US before….This guy should have NEVER been allowed on that plane without a complete body search, at the minimum.

  • BS77

    I liked Ann Coulter's response to this new idiocy…..why should people be confined to their seats for the last hour? What happens if a terrorist is on board and goes to the bathroom in the first five hours of your flight? A lot of these arbitrary and ridiculous rules come from FEAR instead of rationality. The best defense against terrorism is a good offense….like USMC Sniper says….HIT EM HARD, make them pay….if they blow up a jet, blow up their capital….if they hit an embassey, carpet bomb their hideouts and bases…..MAKE THEM PAY the price!!! Let's take these terrorists put them under military tribunal jurisdiction …enough fooling around!!!!! No trial for KSM in New York….that's absurd!! This is war, liberal clods!!!! Face reality. It's war and war means doing what is necessary to defeat an enemy that wishes to destroy us, enslave or murder us, burn our Constitution, burn our churches and take our freedoms. For generations our bravest men and women have fought to preserve our freedoms and dignity as a people….send in the Marines, not the ACLU lawyers…..Let's settle this thing now!

  • fredglass

    Better yet just pee on the seat.

  • Tom

    So let me get this straight: You have no problem with spendign hundreds of millions of dollars on a technology that will only succeed in getting the terrorists to SWALLOW the bombs? You tell me why they wouldn't?

    This technology is a seductive trap. We must profile and refuse to issue visas and hunt them down. The panty bomber should have met a Predator in Yemen.

  • josephwiess

    As an Xray Tech, my only problem with this, is that people are using the equipment who aren't trained to use the equipment. They don't know how it works, they don't know how to maintain it, and they have no idea what ALARA means.

    For those in the know, ALARA means As Low as Reasonably Achievable, and turning the scanners up to full violates the code of ethics. Besides that, Xray scans wouldn't have shown the compounds the guy put in his crotch. Unless a material is radiopaque, it won't be seen by xrays.

    Some materials, such as C4, wouldn't neccessarily be seen by xrays, because it's inert, and can be sewn into clothes. Xrays can only see metallic objects clearly, which is why they can detect certain guns, but not neccessarily the plastic ones.

    I have no problem with using technology as long as it's used right, and the people using it are trained in it's use.

  • zack0

    Banning people from using the lavatory for security purposes is just insane. If criminals can bypass body scanners, how can banning people from the toilet really help? Security should focus on more effective and efficient ways of ensuring everyone's security.

  • Concerned

    Another form of protest would be to just go to the bathroom in your pants in your seat, and do it at the very start of the final hour so that the olfactory impact will be greatest on the rest of the passengers and crew. Would they arrest your for that?

  • Jade

    On a flight back from Canada a few days ago, my 4 year old son was made to POOP HIS PANTS and then SIT IN IT because they would not allow us to take him to the restroom. When we complained, we were threatened to be arrested, too. Total crap. We flew because we had to. I will not step foot on another plane again until some common sense is used……

  • http://www.joshstrike.com Josh Strike

    The millimeter wave scans are just a temporary step. If we allow this, we'll soon be allowing much higher-radiation scans to check body cavities. All we're going to get from this is cancer.

    I'm so sick of hearing "if you've got nothing to hide, why do you care," or "flying is a privilege, not a right." Excuse me, but freedom of movement is a right. The fact that the government is now employing force to take that right away, doesn't make it less of a right. The fact that they can forcibly stop you from using getting on a plane or going to the toilet does not mean that they have the right to stop you. They have the FORCE to stop you. Force does not destroy rights; rights are still rights even when they are forcibly taken away from you.

    People in this country have lost an understanding of what rights are and what it means to exercise them. DO NOT SUBMIT TO BODY SCAN RADIATION. DO NOT STAY IN YOUR SEAT. DO NOT SUCCUMB TO FORCE. We do not have to act like cattle to prove we're not terrorists.