Start with the simplest of propositions: only Muslims are members of al-Qaeda.
That doesn't mean that all Muslims are terrorists, but it does imply that an eighty year old Scottish grandmother, travelling with her six year old granddaughter, is unlikely to be much of a threat. Why then, should she be wanded and patted down when the metal detector reacts to her replacement hip?
The answer is political correctness which, at the very least, is a gross detriment to effective airline security. Not all profiling is bad and a rational system will help ensure that the screeners are looking in the more likely places.
President Obama has taken a tiny step in the right direction. He has ordered that, as of today, anyone traveling from, or through, nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism (Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria) will be required to go through enhanced screening. That includes full-body pat downs, carry-on luggage searches, full-body scanning, and explosive detection devices.
Citizens and residents of, as well as transit passengers from, other countries, all of which are known to harbor terrorists and all of which have majority Muslim populations, will also face enhanced screening. The listed countries are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. A curious omission is Indonesia - a nation with a largely Muslim population and a history of terrorist attacks on Westerners and places that they frequent.
This is one small step in the right direction, for which the President should be commended. Unfortunately, he is being hotly criticized by an unholy alliance comprised of the American Civil Liberties Union (and its followers) and extreme right wing privacy advocates.
All for a tiny step in the right direction.
Much more can, and must, be done. Although it would inconvenience me, travellers with their own wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs (particularly if young and Muslim) should be screened very thoroughly. While I do get the pat down, it is incomplete and ineffective. At the same time, compliance with politically correct procedures forbids the screeners to ask me to remove my legs so they can be x-rayed or otherwise examined for contraband.
Must we wait until a wheelchair cushion, or a prosthetic leg, explodes on board before we act on the lessons that can easily be learned from Frederick Forsyth's novel 'Day of the Jackal'?