The full article is avialable at MSNBC.com
As a frowning agent tossed the stuff, I had a mental picture of terrorists seizing control of a passenger jet armed with mascara wands. Which is no sillier than most of what passes for airport security.
This is not merely an inconvenience. The whole cockeyed system has become a symbol of the shortcomings of government programs and responses. It's expensive, arbitrary and infuriating; it turns low-wage line workers into petty despots. And instead of making Americans feel safer, its sheer silliness illuminates how impotent we are in the face of terrorism. The hustle and bustle at U.S. checkpoints is window dressing, another one of those rote, unthinking exercises that are the hallmark of bureaucracies, like "Bleak House" with luggage.
By contrast, the TSA screeners are so poorly trained that this summer more than half of a group tested on recognizing explosives and other banned materials failed. And undercover federal agents have managed to get all sorts of weapons past security checkpoints—perhaps while workers were confiscating hair-care products. Meanwhile, much of what goes in the cargo hold of commercial planes hasn't been screened at all. And while there are allegedly terrorist watch lists in existence, the airlines don't get a look at them, and it's plain that the bored men and women comparing boarding passes with picture IDs aren't using them. In fact, many of them scarcely look up to see if the passenger matches the picture.
Some days I suspect that Osama bin Laden could get through the line if the name on his driver's license was the same as that on his ticket and he wasn't packing Oil of Olay.
Airport security lines should be places to check for egregious breaches, like handguns or box cutters in carry-ons, not a first—and last—line of defense.