National Opt-Out Protest Against TSA Screenings Is Not the Answer

Forget blue-gloved gropes ... pulling out of Afghanistan is our safest bet

You can define a society by what it cares about, by what provokes its people to rise to action. Righteous protests of the past have ended wars and advanced civil rights. Those things now seem unimportant as we rise up to stop men and women in blue gloves from touching our genitals.

Specifically, the current outrage in this country is directed at TSA agents for doing their job. Tougher new security procedures at airports have been met with a barrage of media stories, a national protest and a Congressional inquiry. Many passengers don’t like the choice they are given either to go through the new body scanners, which can see the human form and, more importantly, bombs and guns hidden by clothes, or submit to a pretty aggressive pat-down that includes “the privates” we tell our kids not to let strangers touch.[SIGNUP]

It doesn’t matter that less than five percent of passengers are asked to make that choice, even the possibility of a blue-gloved grope has many Americans pointing to the fourth amendment that protects against “unreasonable search and seizure.” I guess the argument comes down to what is “unreasonable.”

Right after the attacks of 9/11, no one complained about the long lines and tighter security at airports, because the images of the day were fresh in our minds. Later that same year, when Richard Reid was caught with a bomb in his shoe in a flight over the Atlantic, we didn’t complain about being asked to take our shoes off at security.

When a plot was uncovered in 2006 to mix small amounts of liquids together in airplane lavatories to blow them up in midair, we didn’t complain when we were asked to limit the amount of liquids we could bring through security.

Then came the man we now know as “the underwear bomber.” Fortunately for us the bomb just barbecued the nether regions of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab but never exploded. Still, he got the bomb on the plane past airport security and so TSA reacted once again with the new search procedures.

Unreasonable? I don’t think so. Effective? It would appear so. There has not been a successful attack on an American airline since 9/11. The last Al-Qaeda attack attempt was by air mail, not airplane. The same terrorists who are willing to martyr themselves to kill us have been reduced to sending bomb-o-grams.

So, as a society, we are willing to rage and protest against an airport security procedure designed to keep our families safe, and yet we ignore the other more deadly result of the terrorist attacks — the war in Afghanistan.

Remember the war? I know it is easy to forget about because it is now a second-tier story in the media. And besides, with an all-volunteer army, chances are somebody else’s kids are fighting it. It is America’s ignored war. It is also America’s longest war. The casualties have tripled in the last two years. We send billions to Afghanistan during a recession. The reasons for us still being there are as cloudy as the chances of success. And the mission has changed. No longer are we looking for Osama Bin Laden; he isn’t there anymore. Now we need to stabilize Afghanistan and make certain it does not become a stronghold for terrorist activity.

I don’t think America or the rest of the world would have supported invading Afghanistan if that was the stated reason from the beginning. And yet there is no outrage that we are still there, even though the mission has changed significantly.

And now we are told that we will not be out of Afghanistan until at least 2014. Just in time for the holidays, President Obama is breaking his promise to get out of Afghanistan by next summer.

The announcement that our country will be at war for at least four more years was met with a collective yawn in this country. It was second-page news. Even though another American serviceman died this weekend making that 452 casualties for the year, by far the most for one year since the war started.

On the first page is the inconvenient pat-down at the airport. It seems the war on terror is fine as long as it doesn’t touch us.

Wednesday is National Opt-Out Day when we are all to protest the TSA pat-downs by telling the agents we “opt out” of going through a body scanner and submit to a pat-down. The idea is that the massive delays right before Thanksgiving will send a message to the government. More likely it will just annoy passengers trying to get to Grandma’s for turkey.

I would have a lot more hope for America, if those same people pushed for us to “opt out” of Afghanistan.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to