The Bank of England has released the names of 19 people who have been taken into custody for plotting to blow up airplanes while in flight from England to the United States. You can count on a bank to be the first to flush out deadbeats (“don’t loan these people money!”). Sallie Mae will probably release the rest of the names later today.

Those names are:

Phil Johnson

Lori Waters

Marty McWilliams

Steven Fitzwater

Gladys Smith

Frank Thompso… what? Is something the matter?

Oh, that’s the wrong list. That’s the morning tee-time sheet from the country club.

Given that, did something stand out as odd? Of course it did. The funny thing is that the above mentioned people will be scrutinized with equal fervor at airports in the name of “fairness.”

Here’s the actual list (PDF file) of 19 who have been taken into custody. All Muslims, all under 35, all male. Hmm, call me crazy, but I’m starting to notice a pattern here.

Yes, the plot seems to have been foiled, but in the meantime, while at the airports, everybody, and I mean everybody, is a suspect. The old lady behind you can’t take liquid in her carry-on bag, and neither can the middle-eastern looking guy in front of you. Now that’s fair. It’s also stupid. Airport security resources are stretched thinner than Calista Flockhart because everybody’s a suspect so nobody’s offended.

There’s a scene in the movie “Airplane” where two heavily armed men in berets and one sweet old lady are walking through a metal detector. The buzzer goes off, and security grabs the elderly woman and throws her up against the wall as the two would-be terrorists proceed unimpeded. I wonder how many times something figuratively similar has actually happened.

I had my own experience in this area not long ago while preparing to fly home. At the airport I was singled out for “more extensive” checking. Three other guys and I were taken aside. There I sat with the other searchees, one who looked like Ward Cleaver without the rebellious edge, another who appeared to have fallen off the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, a finely dressed baby-faced gentleman who was missing only one fashion accessory – a “first place, Rick Moranis look-alike competition” ribbon, and me.

There we were, in the security area for some extra searching – a Barbershop Quartet of nerds, button-downs, and people who can’t go to the bathroom without a permission slip from their neighborhood association. A terrorist threat disguised as a middle aged Star Trek convention if you ever saw one.

Sitting there, I noticed the people who were being allowed to proceed with far less scrutiny. I felt like the old lady in “Airplane.” I don’t mind doing my part as I understand that under certain sleep-deprived conditions I can look “shifty,” but that was a comical morning to say the least.

Given the nature of the threat as it exists, wouldn’t the vast majority of Arabs who aren’t terrorists understand the need for further scrutiny at airports? Yeah, you’re right, probably not. I might not appreciate it if the police decided to start pulling over everybody who looked Irish as a DUI suspect either, but the terrorist threat is far different.

Talk to many people who are in-the-know in the airline security business and they’ll admit that the current system is kind of a joke. Don’t forget that airport security is federalized, so, in other words, the government is in charge of your in-flight safety. The long-and-short of the current system is this: Pretend you’re in an airport and all the screeners are members of Congress and FEMA. Feel safer?

This particular terror plot may have been thwarted, but a major threat still exists that we’re still not serious about. As soon as I read about a major terror plot being foiled by airport authorities looking in the carry-on bag of a little old lady from Pasadena, then I’ll be on board with the current system.

“There’s no reason to worry. Airport security is taking all the necessary steps to alleviate the threat.”


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