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Risks and frisks - Tom Purcell

I doubt a middle-aged, Irish-looking fellow would try such a thing.

I refer to the Christmas Day bombing attempt. Authorities allege that a Nigerian fellow with ties to al-Qaida nearly brought down a plane by setting off explosives in his bloomers.

I know it's unpleasant to acknowledge, but the al-Qaida fellows are at war with us.

Since they don't have battleships, fighter jets or tanks, they board our commercial planes and try to blow them up.

Since we know that's what they're trying to do, our government, since 9/11, has written new laws and spent billions to upgrade our systems.

Most importantly, it's stepped up efforts to carefully screen middle-aged, Irish-looking fellows who attempt to board commercial flights.

Thankfully, I don't fly as much as I used to, but I went through a stretch in which I was pulled aside for secondary screening three flights in a row.

Secondary screening, for those of you lucky enough to never fly, involves a thorough scanning and pat-down by Transportation Security Administration guards.

Now I have sympathy for the people who screen thousands of passengers every day. It isn't TSA's fault that some people are trying to blow other people out of the sky.

But why do so many airports have big, burly guards doing the secondary screening?

Guard Bubba directed me to sit in a chair and lift each leg as he waved an electronic wand all about me. He told me to stand as he waved the wand over the rest of me.

Then things got personal.

Bubba told me to hold my arms out to my side, then, standing behind me, patted me down so thoroughly there is only one word that approximates what transpired: dating.

I didn't know if I should slug the fellow or send him roses.

The process is even more intrusive for women. Because they have more places to conceal explosives, they get patted down in a manner that otherwise would require dinner and a show.

I can't prove it, but I suspect the guards are profiling passengers -- the more attractive the lady, the more likely Bubba will direct her to the special screening area.

That's what I'd do if I had Bubba's job. I'd single-handedly secure the skies from the threat of hot-looking female terrorists.

I know it makes some folks feel safe that all passengers -- even 92-year-old grandmothers -- are being rigorously screened at our airports.

But then again, it's frightening how easy it was for the alleged Christmas bomber to board a U.S.-bound flight.

He reportedly had been training with al-Qaida in Yemen -- he was supposed to be on a watch list, but wasn't.

His father warned the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that his son was boarding a U.S.-bound plane with no luggage -- he told them his son espoused a radicalized faith and might do something bad.

The son reportedly paid cash for his ticket and had no luggage -- yet he waltzed right onto the plane.

Despite all the dough we've spent since 9/11-- despite all the changes -- it was only through the grace of God that the undie bomb failed to detonate.

Everyone is scared again, so our government is promising to make the system work better again.

I know what that means: middle-aged, Irish-looking fellows can expect even more patting down.

I just hope Bubba is more considerate next time. We were once so close, yet he never writes, he never calls.

Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com, or e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.