Do Not Lock Your Luggage!!
Jude Wanniski
January 9, 2003


Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Gary North's REALITY CHECK of January 7, 2003

This is useful information from Gary North, who often comes up with good stuff on his website.


North's law of bureaucracy is as follows: "There is no government regulation, no matter how plausible it initially appears, that will not eventually be applied by some bureaucrat in a way that defies common sense." For a regulation that makes considerable sense, it may take months or even years for the right bureaucrat to come along. But not always.

Last Friday evening, my wife returned from a trip to California. On Saturday, she began to unpack her bag. Not bags -- just one relatively small one. It actually fits in an overhead bin. For the sake of this report, I'm glad that she didn't do that with this bag. She noticed that the edge of the bag was torn. I thought this might have been the work of the famous gorilla in the old American Tourister luggage TV ad. But then she said, "the lock is broken." I told her: "It's probably the new flight security rules that went into effect on January 1. The inspectors broke the lock and got into the bag."

She opened it. Sure enough, she found a slip of paper. I reprint it here.

Transportation Security Administration
Notification of Baggage Inspection

To protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transpiration Security Administration (TSA) is required by law to inspect all checked baggage. As part of this process, some bags are opened and physically inspected. Your bag was among those selected for physical inspection. During the inspection, your bag and its contents may have been searched for prohibited items. At the completion of the inspection, the contents were returned to your bag, which was resealed with a temper-evident seal. If the TSA screener was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the screener may have been forced to break the locks on your bag. TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, and has taken care to reseal your bag upon completion of inspection. However, TSA is not liable for damage to your locks resulting from this necessary security precaution.

As for the slash in the bag, who knows? The gorilla left no note of explanation.You had better calculate this travel expense into the budgets of your flights from now on.

Upstairs in the terminal gates, the security people make searches of passengers. Searches are required to be random, for to go after some of Ann Coulter's famous "swarthy men" would be to violate people's rights on a racial basis, which is not allowed, rather than violating people's rights on a non-racial basis, which is required by law. So, to maintain the illusion of randomness in a world of surveillance cameras, government data bases, and other profiling technologies, they have to conduct random searches.

During World War II, the British cracked the Germans' military code. The Brits knew the times and routes of the oil tankers that were to supply Rommel's forces in Africa. To keep the Germans from figuring out that their code had been broken, the British would send a reconnaissance plane, which would make itself visible to the men on the tankers, and then run for cover. The plane would send a message announcing the whereabouts of the tanker. The Germans on the tanker would conclude that they had been spotted from the air. What bad luck! If they radioed home, they would tell the command that they had been spotted. Then a British submarine would sink the tanker. The Germans never did alter the code.

The reconnaissance plane was part of the deception. So are the random searches of passengers and bags. They are to provide camouflage: (1) from voters who demand action; (2) from lawyers who might otherwise get their swarthy clients released on the basis of racial profiling. Anyone who really expects searches like these to protect airliners is so abysmally dense that he might as be a Congressman. The other purposes of the new surveillance system relate more to controlling average people than catching terrorists.