The recent dust-up over humiliating and invasive body searches by the Transportation Security Administration has fixated our collective attention on the wrong issue.
Of course patting down a woman's bra - a knee-jerk reaction to the two Chechen women who were thought to have carried nonmetallic explosives on two Russian airlines that were bombed - is a bandage solution to the security threat from terrorists.
Where's the real danger?
Don't look for it in the main cabin. I believe the actual threat comes from the cockpit.
Think about it. What does it take to turn a plane into a guided missile, 9/11-style? A pilot. Someone in control of plane can kill not only the 200 people on board, but thousands more on the ground.
Don't get me wrong. In my opinion, 99.9 percent of the nation's pilots are among the most honorable and committed individuals in the service industry.
But what does it take for a wayward pilot struck with financial difficulties to make a deal with the bad guys? Or maybe it's for ideological reasons?
Ponder that for a few moments.
You can probably come up with any number of reasons a disgruntled pilot could turn a plane into a weapon of mass destruction.
Perhaps the scariest aspect of this is the ease with which a pilot could commandeer a plane. Consider that most planes require only two pilots. This makes it relatively easy for one pilot to overtake the other, gaining complete control of an aircraft.
A deranged pilot could divert a plane off-course, explaining to air traffic control that the aircraft is experiencing a mechanical failure. In this short time, before fighter jets could be scrambled, a plane from La Guardia or JFK could once again plow into a heavily occupied building.
There are cities other than New York that are vulnerable. The proximity of Reagan National Airport to the Washington leaves it vulnerable to the kind of attack that could cripple the entire U.S. government.
Pilots are screened just like passengers - and they do submit to psychological tests - but once they're in the cockpit, they're alone. And those of us flying with them, and many more on the ground, are at their mercy.
Just last week we learned that uniforms and security badges have gone missing from 89 airports in Canada. Although the Canadian government has called the controversy a "tempest in a teapot," I beg to differ.
Who will end up wearing these badges? And where will they go?
It's time to focus on the genuine security threat. Let's look at those who might do tangible harm. If we're going to give passengers the once-over, how much more careful should we be about the people flying the plane?

Joel Widzer

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