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Volume 68, Wednesday, August 6, 2003


Staff Editorial


                            Bridget Brown    Matthew Dulin 
Geronimo Rodriguez      Keenan Singleton     Lisa Street


Is that man's watch ticking?

Thank God for the Homeland Security Department.

In its most recent alert, the federal department that's looking out for us warned air travelers of an increased risk of suicide hijackings and has tapped its screening crews to take special notice of passengers' electronic gear, The Associated Press reported.

The reason, it says, is that al-Qaida operatives are showing an increased interest in using common day electronics, like cameras and laptops, to house weapons or explosives. According to the AP, the official advisory detailed one possibility in which a terrorist could convert a camera flash into a stun gun.

Yeah -- we know. It sounds like MacGuyver. 

But the threat is real, says Homeland Security. So federal screeners will be eyeing passengers' electrical gear more closely. That means every tourist with a 35mm camera will endure a longer wait as an X-ray machine scans the camera along with their digital watch because it could, after all, house a razor sharp blade.

Other gadgets that might get a closer look include keyless entry devices, cell phones and multi-band or dual-speaker radios.

In fact, all electronics will have to be removed from passengers' luggage for screening. That goes for laptops, too -- because they can house explosives or weapon parts that can be assembled while in flight.

Unfortunately, all the advisory has served to accomplish thus far is to scare would-be travelers into sticking to the ground. Instead of feeling safer, we're left feeling more frustrated.

We're glad that Homeland Security is paying attention to terrorists' trends. But how about practicing such scrutiny all of the time, and not just when your reports indicate al-Qaida is suddenly interested in 20th century technology?

Advisories like this one only push the concept of "homeland security" even closer to being simply ridiculous. Eventually, can we expect warnings about certain kinds of tennis shoes or wristwatches?

If Homeland Security wants to keep this up, it could save a whole lot of people's nerves by being proactive and bolstering its search efforts without aggrandized announcements. Do the best job possible. Envision every contingency. Just stop scaring us and let us travel.


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