Why I Admire Janet Reno (A Short TSA Story)

The Associated Press is reporting that various American potentates -- certain members of Congress, various Administration officials -- are now exempted from going through body-scanning or frisking:

Aviation security officials would not name those who can skip the controversial screening, but other officials said those VIPs range from top officials like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and FBI Director Robert Mueller to congressional leaders like incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who avoided security before a recent flight from Washington's Reagan National Airport.

This reminds me of a trip I took long ago with Janet Reno, who was then the Attorney General, from Washington to the Midwest. I was writing a profile of Reno for The New York Times Magazine. At each airport we hit (this was before 9/11, when the A.G. still flew commercial, as opposed to Federal Air), Reno would wait patiently in the security line for screening. At first, I thought this might have been for my benefit, but I asked a couple of members of her exasperated FBI security detail if she always did this. Yes, I was told -- she believed as a matter of principle that high-ranking government officials should be treated no differently than ordinary citizens. Contrast this with the high-handed behavior we see today. Of course, it wouldn't be particularly safe for John Boehner's security detail to leave him in the TSA's tightly-coiled, pre-security, bomb-magnet screening lines. It's just too bad we can't all have security details to worry after us.

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