Nothing makes you forget bad news faster than a little manufactured good news, a PR secret the TSA seems to have stumbled upon last week.
The agency charged with protecting us from airborne terrorists revealed it would allow wedding dresses to be carried on the plane as luggage. Seriously, the TSA says yes to the dress!
Never mind that there’s no evidence jihadists ever have or ever will try to blow up a plane with a bridal gown.
In a second, more significant announcement, the TSA said it would begin testing “modified” screening procedures for passengers 75 and older next Monday. Senior citizens will now be allowed to leave their shoes and light outerwear on, and will be allowed an extra pass through the full-body scanners before having to undergo a pat-down.
Both these changes were timed to offset the unfortunate news earlier this month that those scanners are easily foiled, a fact the government desperately wants you to forget.
We are not so easily fooled, and it probably isn’t a matter of if, but when, all that “advanced” imaging technology will go the way of the failed puffer machines. Remember them? Carving out two new screening exemptions is hardly enough to sway public opinion or the votes of their elected representatives, who will likely soon end funding for the controversial machines.
But it’s worth asking if the TSA, in its haste to make air travelers forget about its technological shortcomings, just made flying a little more dangerous.
Reaction to the over-75 rule was predictable. Most travelers said it made perfect sense. Grandma is about as likely to blow up a plane as a 12-year-old, who incidentally is also subjected to a new “modified” screening procedure. Stephen Colbert mocked it. And Joy Behar worried about 90-year-old terrorists on The View.
I’m not joking. Here’s the clip.
Even though Behar is obviously paranoid, her question points to a valid concern: Has TSA — in a misguided effort to create a more “risk-based” screening system or to placate an increasingly angry flying public — just added one exemption too many?
In the recent past, TSA agents have done a thorough job (perhaps too thorough) of giving older passengers a once-over.
But most successful terrorist are young and male. The oldest of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was 33 and the rest were in their 20s.
But not all of them fit the profile. Consider Lalihan Akbay, who at the age of 102 holds the distinction of being the world’s oldest terrorist.
Akbay is reportedly being investigated for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Speaking in her defense, her son Tevfik says she can’t understand, speak or hear properly, and can’t remember what she has just said.
And yet Akbay would qualify for the TSA’s new “modified” screening procedures. I feel much safer now.
It goes the other way, too. This 11-year-old holy warrior, believed to be the world’s youngest terrorist, would also get to keep his explosive shoes on when he goes through airport security in the United States. If he ever made it here.