HARPSWELL — In Maine, we pride ourselves on the how we treat the vulnerable. We do all we can to assure that the most vulnerable in society are treated with the respect they deserve.

This is not an issue of left or right, Republican or Democratic, tea party or Green – it’s a Maine issue. It goes to the core of what we all call “Maine values,” no matter who we are or where we hail from in Maine.

We work to ensure elderly citizens can stay in their lifelong homes as long as possible, rather than shuffling them off to homes when they become frail. Neighbors care for neighbors, and we genuinely care for each other.

The same can be said about our children. We strive to keep their education grounded in the local community and local schools, not controlled by far-off, faceless institutions. We strive for teachers who know their students both in and outside of school.

So it must greatly concern Mainers that as their family, relatives and neighbors head off for Thanksgiving, they risk being unduly harassed by Transportation Security agents.

As we enter some of the heaviest traveling days of the year, we ponder the disruption of the TSA’s overreaching examinations. We will be concerned with the reports of children, standing in terror, being groped by TSA agents as their parents watch helplessly. We will be horrified at the indignity of one cancer survivor having to show her breast prosthesis to a guard. Anger will flow as they read that another cancer survivor found himself covered in urine thanks to an overzealous TSA search.

In addition, imagine the indignity of a woman whose breasts were exposed to smirking TSA agents. Or shall we mention the affront to a returning soldier, who has been fighting for our freedoms abroad, being subjected to such a procedure?

My personal experience on Monday included the full-body scan, an advanced patdown involving my private parts and some hard squeezing of my cancer scar.

I spoke with a cancer doctor concerned that an untrained examination of such wounds and scars could lead to internal bleeding and associated problems.

I fortunately suffered no ill effects. I fear, however, that others who have managed to defeat horrible diseases such as cancer will face health complications solely as a result of the TSA improperly searching them.

Some believe this is a Fourth Amendment issue and that this sort of intrusion constitutes illegal search and seizure.

This is merely a matter of scale and common sense. I believe most Mainers realize how foolish it is to search a grandmother or a 3-year-old child.

No one doubts the need for security at airports in the post-9/11 world.

However, there is no proof that any of these intrusive methods is actually effective. Israel’s profiling methods are far more effective at finding and capturing prospective terrorists. Their record proves it.

No one wants to see a situation where Americans with families, the elderly and the recovering will feel unwilling to travel by air. The government’s security theater should not prevent families from traveling to see each other in the many cases where air travel is the only viable method of seeing each other.

Our country is large, and other forms of transport are often inefficient or too time-consuming.

Limiting the mobility of all honest Americans is an affront to all that makes this nation great. In fact, this sort of chaos and change of behavior is exactly what our enemies want..

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the TSA must re-examine the regulations and training of the TSA and bring them in line with our nation’s priorities and values.

The citizens of Maine and every other state in the country should declare their disgust with the current state of the TSA.

We owe it to the most vulnerable travelers to see things change. We owe it to our fellow Americans to see this made right.


– Special to The Press Herald