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2002-09-11 US Airport Security after September, 11

Day 1 - Newark airport :

 

Good morning, youve been randomly selected to have your luggage searched, come with me. So off I toddled with my two randomly seclected Irish colleagues for our random searches. Having had difficulty closing my suitcase in the first place, it was now being opened and rummaged through, shoes swabbed for explosives and my tuning fork causing the usual stir. Off to the departure gate. Hi sir, youve been randomly selected to be security checked, could you walk this way please?. (I attempted to copy her walk. She seemed unimpressed with my efforts). Arms out, legs spread. Now take your belt and shoes off.(This proved quite difficult to do with my arms and legs spread). Then I got the full frisk. Could you loosen your trousers sir? (But we had only just met, I thought?). Youre all set to go sir. Have a nice flight.

Day 2 - Philadelphia airport :

Are you three travelling together? OK, youve been randomly selected to have your bags checked. (Yippee!) But how can the three of us with Irish passports be randomly selected?, I enquired in a soft and rather endearing West of Ireland voice.

Sometimes it just works that way. US Airways apologise for any inconvenience caused. The cases were passed through the X-ray machines and were spat out rather violently the other end. I need a closer look at your case sir. (But it has taken me ages to close it, and honestly, I am semtex and anthrax-free!). No good, my smalls were destined to be scrutinised. On to the gate. Youve been chosen randomly . . . Yes, we know the rest, thanks. Shoes off, trousers open, arms and legs spread, and away we go!

Reagan airport :

Tickets and passports please. OK, youve been chosen at random . . . To have our cases examined in detail, our belongings sifted through and swabbed on occasion, we continued. Of course its nothing to do with the fact that we have Irish passports?. Its purely random gentlemen. Three flights in three days and a random selection every time. Hmm? So we make our way to the gate. Hello sir, you have a big ass, you need to step aside. I beg your pardon?. Yes, you have a BIG S on your ticket, indicating you have to have a security check. So I got my big ass over for my big S once again.

Day 4 - New York, La Guardia. Same rigmarole, except in even more detail.

Day 5 - Baltimore. Youve guessed it.

Day 6 - Pittsburgh. Need I say more?

Day 7 - Chicago, OHare. You know the score by now?

Day 8 - Hartford, Connecticut. OK, Im bored with this now.

- Newark. Nine flights in eight days and nine random (I dont think so) searches.

Should some of these airlines go under, several of the staff could have a career as stand-up comedians, and their humour did help on occasion. I would suggest a few of the others could audition for roles as wardens in Prisoner Cell-block H, though several of the US immigration staff at Dublin airport would give them a run for their money. When travelling on internal flights into New York and Washington, it is forbidden to stand during the flights as it poses a security threat. If anyone does stand, the plane returns from whence it came. The roads around the White House are closed off and being patrolled by armed police. We also spotted several marksmen within the White House grounds. It is recommended that ID of some kind, preferably a passport, is carried on your person at all times.

Of course I can fully understand the punctilious security in the US at the present time, even more so in light of recent events in Sweden, so part of me was relieved that they were taking so much care. But does nine exhaustive searches of the same three Irish lads in eight days seem to be bordering on racism?

Are we really branded abroad as a nation of potential terrorists?

The other part of me feels sad that a pack of malevolent extremists can reduce the worlds greatest power to such a paranoid and security-conscious state. On our arrival into Newark from Hartford, en route home, the hostess wished us all a safe onward journey and hoped we would reach our final destination safely. I rest my case.