April 12, 2013

Editorial: TSA vigilance appreciated

America is the land of the initials and acronyms. Government, particularly, seems to be the venue for indispensable letter combinations.

One of the newest and best known is TSA: the Transportation Safety Administration. Probably like NRA in the 1930s of the Roosevelt administration, TSA is on the tips of millions of tongues daily.

And deservedly so. TSA has made it safe for the American public to fly in an era of burgeoning global discontent and anarchy. Created in the aftermath of the unspeakable assaults of Sept. 11, 2001, it restored Americans’ confidence in civilian air travel, without which life as we know it would cease, our economy slowed to a crawl.

The efficiency of TSA was not without some growing pains. There was the outrage when elderly women and children were being subjected to pat-downs. There were debates over whether some of its practices were intrusions on civil liberties.

Through it all, though, the need for preventive measures in airports was generally seen as worth the aggravations. Who wants to board a plane and wind up a seat-mate with a terrorist?

Most travelers never even know when TSA has interceded in the interest of safety. It happened the other day in Plattsburgh, of all places.

A traveler was aiming to board a flight out of Plattsburgh International, when the routine search of the person’s belongings turned up what looked for all the world like a pistol.

The TSA official summoned the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, and the incident ended peacefully. The “pistol” turned out to be a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun. Nevertheless, it was confiscated, in accordance with well-established TSA guidelines, and the passenger was allowed to board the plane.

We assume this was something of an inexperienced flyer. Even if the person was Canadian and outside the direct jurisdiction of TSA, anyone who has been in an airport the last 12 years should know rules forbid taking anything that even looks like a weapon aboard an aircraft. The trouble that could result 30,000 feet in the air is scary to contemplate.

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