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Mineta's maniacal madness

By Jeremy Reynalds
web posted September 2, 2002

Six days after 9/11, I was back at the Albuquerque Airport to board a plane for my regular 6.30 a.m. weekly trip to California's Los Angeles International Airport. What had previously been a very familiar experience had suddenly taken on very different overtones.

Being warned that I should be at the airport three hours prior to departure time, I was there by just after 3.30 a.m. However, nobody had said anything about the airport security not opening until about 4.30a.m., so along with a handful of people I stood there in line sporadically griping with the rest of these folk about bureaucratic inefficiency.

My hour's wait should have given me a hint of the chaos to follow. Sadly, the paranoia and inefficiency that marked the days following the terrors of 9/11 haven't gotten any better and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's edict of non-discrimination didn't serve to help matters either.

Specifically. In October 2002, Mineta's Department of Transportation sent a memorandum to all airlines cautioning them not to discriminate against passengers based on race, religion, national or ethnic origin.

The memo read in part,

"Treat people who may appear to be of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and/or Muslim with the same respect you would treat people of other ethnicities and religions, and treat all people in a polite, respectful and friendly manner. To the extent possible and permitted by law, answer questions from persons in a forthright manner.

If a search or inspection is necessary for safety or security reasons, whenever possible, provide the person involved a choice of a public or private inspection. Public searches may be viewed as humiliating while private searches may be perceived to be overly intimidating."

Now I don't have any argument with this portion of the memo, and can't imagine that you would either. But how much respect was (this evidently potentially lethal woman) Elizabeth McGarry shown at Kennedy International Airport when she was required to drink from three bottles of breast milk in order to prove that the contents weren't dangerous?

Elizabeth McGarry

As she told the New York Post, "It was very uncomfortable and very embarrassing and very disgusting. I'm all for security, but that was a little much."

According to one media account, when the security officer found the milk, McGarry claims she said, "That's the milk for the baby.' And he said, ‘You have to drink it.' And I said, ‘I can't, it's breast milk.' He said, ‘You have to drink it, or you can't get on the plane.'"

And how much respect was shown to a nine-year-old obvious young terrorist wannabe? As the Wausau Daily Herald pointed out,

"There are few who would suspect nine-year-old Ryan Scott of Plover is a terrorist or worry that he might hijack an airplane, certainly not with a 4-inch G.I. Joe rifle or the other tiny toy pistols he packed in his carry-on. Yet earlier this month, security screeners at Central Wisconsin Airport, sticking to the letter of the law, confiscated the boy's toys as federally prohibited items."

While the toys were admittedly held for mom to pick up later, as the Wausau Daily Herald pointed out, "the incident raises questions about when common sense should prevail over strict interpretations of security restrictions put in place after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11."

But here's where the DOT memorandum really began to irritate me. Read this:

"Do not subject persons or their property to inspection, search and/or detention solely because they appear to be Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim; or solely because they speak Arabic, Farsi, or another foreign language; or solely because they speak with an accent that may lead you to believe they are Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim."

Uh-huh. So force a mom to drink her breast milk, confiscate a nine-year-old's 4 inch G.I. Joe rifle (who Mineta apparently thinks are a threat to blow up buildings and down airplanes!), but don't subject people or their property to inspection, search or detention because they appear to be of Arab or Middle Eastern or similar descent (even though they closely resemble the terrorists of 9/11, because if you do the ACLU or some other civil libertarian group will be all over you threatening a lawsuit.


It's incredible that Mineta agrees with this nonsense. According to the folk at Conservative HQ.com, when Mineta was asked on network TV if he thought a Florida grandmother should receive the same airport scrutiny as a young, male Islamic Arab, "this liberal Clinton holdover icily replied, ‘I would hope so.'"

The problem with this philosophy is that it is typically bad liberal thinking. Liberals apparently don't understand that the World Trade Center wasn't blown up by a Florida grandmother collaborating with a mom threatening to throw breast milk over the pilot while passengers were held hostage by a nine- year- old waving a G.I. Joe.

As has been clearly pointed out, "Virtually every terrorist attack on Americans in the past 30 years has come from radical Islamists. They have painted a clear and present profile of danger. A profile Mr. Mineta chooses to ignore - for fear of embarrassing Arabs. That's why it's now time to end the Mineta menace."

We need a Secretary of Transportation who'll start leaving grandmothers, nursing mothers and nine-year-olds alone and start vigorously searching without fear of embarrassment known and suspected radical Islamists.

But for that to happen we'll need to get of Mineta That's where you can make a difference and help put an end to Mineta's maniacal madness by clicking on and asking President Bush to dismiss Mineta. It's a choice you'll never regret.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at reynalds@joyjunction.org.

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