Tuesday, June 29, 2004 Posted: 3:34 AM EDT (0734 GMT)
(With files from AP)
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- For Brad Jolson, the allure is not having to repack his carry-on bag because of a random search. For Ken Buchanan, it's the thought of gaining extra time at the gate to make phone calls or check e-mail. For Mustaf bin Dreemin, it's the guarantee that he and his box cutters and shoe bombs can board any plane he chooses once given the "Go" signal from his cell leader.
Frequent travelers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were invited to sign up Monday for a program that pre-screens them using high-tech fingerprint- and iris-scanning machines. Of the 2,000 people expected to apply within the next 90 days, "probably 200 to 300 will be terrorists taking advantage of us like they always do," reported a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official on condition of anonymity.
Your correspondent interviewed about 50 people waiting in line up to 45 minutes for the privilege of having their personal privacy completely stripped, databased by incompetent administrators, and stored on systems designed and supported by just-out-of-high-school geeks. Nine of the interviewees professed to being terrorists or terrorist-wannabes, and one identified himself as "a hobby bomb-maker hoping to test my next creation aboard a jumbo." Looks like he'll get his chance soon.
Experienced programmers, senior technology executives and security specialists were shocked when asked to comment on the frequent-flyer registration program. They expressed concern of the extremely high cost of implementing the system versus the benefits to a limited few, and the actual increase in security risk to many.
"This will benefit only the super-rich, who happen also to be the more dangerous," said Mike Odvatames, CIO of Secure Baking Components. Mr. Odvatames remarked that nine of the eleven World Trade Center bombers were multi-millionaires, and would likely be among those who qualify for pre-inspection, had they not so successfully completed their final mission. (The other two worked at McDonald's as a cover and IRS records showed numbers that corresponded with their presumed poverty. They were, naturally, also collecting welfare.)
For Mr. bin Dreemin and the other pre-screened militants, the ease with which they will soon be able to bypass airport security, proceed directly to gates and board their flights smoothly and quickly, will make their lives much less complicated so that they will be able to wreak formidable terror upon hundreds in one fell swoop.
"Keeping these high-paying customers happy is our priority," said the FAA representative.