What the critics really mean is not that the TSA should let underwear bombers board planes. What they're saying is: Don't search me, and don't search my grandmother. Just search the potential terrorists.I’ve harbored the fanciful notion that TSA could profile behavior, not ethnicity or nation of origin. But what is “terrorist behavior?” Sweaty palms, shifty eyes, condescending smirk? Such characteristics might very well identify terrorists. The problem is they would also ID half the lawyers in the country. Short of shredding the Bill of Rights, I’m afraid we’re stuck with TSA procedures.
In other words, they want profiling. That's a seductive idea, I suppose, if you don't spend a lot of time worrying about civil liberties. But it couldn't possibly work. Our terrorist enemies may be evil, but they're not stupid.
If we only search people who "look like terrorists," al-Qaeda will send people who don't fit the profile. It's no accident that most of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were from Saudi Arabia; at the time, it was easier for Saudi nationals to get U.S. visas than it was for citizens of other Arab countries. If terrorists are clever enough to hide powerful explosives in ink cartridges, then eventually they'll find a suicide bomber who looks just like you, me or Granny.