“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment”

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Christopher Elliott

The transcript from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” isn’t available yet, but here’s what we know: There was a lot of hemming and hawing — here’s a sample — and one keeper quote that could define her tenure.

“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment,” she told Candy Crowley this morning.

Excuse me?

Look, I don’t have a problem with letting Napolitano put a little spin on her accomplishments, but let’s be realistic about it. The last two years have been awful for air travelers, with new restrictions, security procedures and invasive, unconstitutional searches being performed in the name of homeland security.

The Secretary is blowing smoke.

And what’s worse is, we’re inhaling.

Covering her CNN interview, Jordan Fabian of The Hill likened her interview to a victory lap.

Napolitano’s comments suggest that the administration has weathered the storm regarding the new security, which began on the cusp of the Thanksgiving travel season.

I beg to differ with that analysis.

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A survey released just today suggests just the opposite — that people are canceling their flights to avoid being scanned and patted down.

I’m also troubled by the uncritical coverage of her interview by other mainstream media outlets, such as Bloomberg News and the Associated Press — two organizations that are known for asking tough questions, or at least challenging the obvious spin when they are presented with it.

They did nothing of the sort.

The only somewhat critical moment in today’s coverage came when the National Journal put some of her quotes in context — and folks, that’s really all readers want, since pretty much everything else in journalism is automated these days.

The Journal simply reminded its readers of Napolitano’s questionable track record, which included allowing the Underwear Bomber to slip through our defenses a year ago.

The failed attack was easily the most controversial moment of Napolitano’s tenure as homeland security chief.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, she told CNN that the nation’s aviation security system had “worked,” prompting widespread calls for her resignation.

She weathered that crisis, and is no longer seen as a likely candidate for replacement by the White House.

For now, at least.

My friends, if the federal government thinks the last two years have been a success — by any measure — it is delusional.

Air travelers have a special responsibility to stand up against this form of government incompetence. Why? Because the Department of Homeland Security is planning to take its unconstitutional searches to a mall, train station and bus stop near you.

And who knows where else?

We deserve better.

(Photo: Tatt ooed J J/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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