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Hannity

'Give Me Liberty or Give Me a Grope': Heated Debate on TSA Screenings

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The holiday season officially kicks off one week from today, and as airport prepare for the onslaught of travelers in the next few weeks, the growing outrage over the TSA's invasive screening procedures is sure to hit a boiling point.

And with every day that passes more stories leak out from coast to coast about the intrusive nature of these new security measures. Just yesterday the DenverPost.com got some up close and personal pictures of flyers being patted down at Denver's International Airport.

Now it's hard not to see why some believe that these screening procedures go way too far after looking at some of these photographs.

And joining me now with reaction are former Clinton special counsel Lanny Davis and international bestselling author Mark Steyn is here.

So you're filling in for Rush today and tomorrow, too, right?

MARK STEYN, COLUMNIST AND AUTHOR: That's right.

HANNITY: So I didn't hear it, but somebody told me, you said, what was Hannity saying?

STEYN: Well, you --

HANNITY: What was that?

STEYN: Well, you were talking about the professionalization of these guys yesterday. The guy who --

HANNITY: No, the TSA -- I'm saying -- my experience has been they are professionals, they are following orders.

STEYN: Yes. And that's exactly what you don't want in this situation. They are following what they call -- to use the head guy I saw at the airport yesterday, quote "standard procedure," unquote.

HANNITY: Yes.

STEYN: You know in 9/11, on the --

HANNITY: So they're -- they're supposed to quit their jobs?

STEYN: No.

HANNITY: And not -- but not pay their mortgages?

STEYN: They'd be better off using human judgment. Because the next time something happens it will be because everybody was brain dead and followed standard procedure in the same way that thousands of people died on September 11th because everybody followed the standard procedure of those outmoded 1970s hijacking.

HANNITY: Listen. The problem is, maybe we're just blaming different people because I don't blame them. If they don't follow those standard procedures they are going to get fired.

STEYN: Yes.

HANNITY: You know who I blame? I blame, you know, Sherlock Napolitano who believes in man-caused disasters...

STEYN: Right. Right.

HANNITY: ... and overseas contingency operations. And, you know, I believe -- look, we have a better option. Follow the Israeli model.

STEYN: Right. And we've done that here. We caught the millennium bomber, the British Columbia Washington state border, not because we were examining his hair gel or because we were feeling around in his underwear but because the agent used simple human judgment about how nervous and shifty he was.

HANNITY: Yes.

STEYN: If we had this system in place he would have whizzed through and he'd wound up blowing up LAX.

HANNITY: We're not really in disagreement.

All right. Lanny, let me bring you in here. Would it be wrong, Lanny, to -- Washington Times I thought used a good example. Spend more time on a 19-year-old Yemeni exchange student than a 90-year-old grandmother?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER W.H. SPECIAL COUNSEL: I'm in favor of increasing the scrutiny and increasing my inconvenience because I --

HANNITY: Come on, Lanny, answer the question for crying out loud.

DAVIS: The answer is you do both because the -- security makes me feel safer and most Americans feel safer.

HANNITY: Wait a minute.

DAVIS: And with all due respect to Mr. Steyn, I'm glad that people are being intruded upon because I feel safer flying because of that.

STEYN: But this --

DAVIS: And that sounds pretty conservative. Most liberals would say there's an invasion of privacy rights. But for me feeling security is more important than somebody patting me down.

STEYN: But this is -- this is the insanity. Lanny Davis is so worried about appearing politically incorrect. He would rather government bureaucrats have their hands down the underwear of 300 million law abiding Americans.

This is absurd.

DAVIS: Sean --

STEYN: You've got a great nation here and you're groping yourself over the cliff into oblivion with this obsession.

HANNITY: Well, that's a great line.

DAVIS: Sean, I don't know --

HANNITY: Hang on a second. That -- wait a minute. We're giving up our rights, people are going down our underpants, they're groping and grabbing, Lanny. Why wouldn't we do the intelligence venue first?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, your guest may be unfamiliar with me. I never attack people's motives or their political correctness. I take what they say.

HANNITY: Get to the point. We got that.

DAVIS: To be respected.

HANNITY: You're a great American, go.

DAVIS: No, the point is your guest is over the line when he attacks me for my views and my motives rather than the merits. The merits are that there are a lot of people like me who don't object to these security measures, even if they're intrusive.

And there are a lot of people like him who do object. That doesn't mean he ought to be attacking --

HANNITY: No, but address the question we're asking you, though.

DAVIS: -- people who feel more comfortable. Yes.

STEYN: This is the tragedy. The liberals used to be very good on the idea that --

DAVIS: There he goes again.

STEYN: -- subject someone -- you couldn't subject someone to undue search and intimate full body searches without probable cause. This was one thing that liberals were classically very good on. On the ACLU and everybody else.

And it's a tragedy to me that we now accept the right of government bureaucrats to poke around in our private parts because we are wedded to the pretense that all 7 billion people on this planet are an equal security threat to the United States of America.

That is a ludicrous proposition and it's a tragedy that civil libertarians, particularly somebody like Lanny Davis -- who was appointed to the Civil Libertarian Oversight Board, served on it a couple of years ago -- it's particularly said when somebody as distinguished as Lanny Davis is not concerned that the right of bureaucrats simply poking around in our underwear for no good reason.

DAVIS: Thank you, Mark. I appreciate that. But my -- I grant you that if you're uncomfortable, you're entitled. I erred when I was on that privacy board and I was given access to the surveillance programs and the counterterrorism measures, there were a lot of liberals who wanted to abolish those.

I surprised a lot of people when I came out of those classified briefings by saying --

HANNITY: All right. Lanny, let me ask you this.

DAVIS: -- and I supported the Bush administration's measures. So it all depends on your point of view.

HANNITY: Lanny --

DAVIS: I think given the age of terrorism it's worth taking that compromise.

HANNITY: Lanny, nobody could have doubt the Israelis have as big a threat as anybody. They don't use these measures. They use enhanced intelligence gathering efforts. Would you support profiling?

DAVIS: To the extent that we have data that shows particular ethnic groups, and we do have data, as Juan Williams was honest enough to say, it is not racial profiling to use data as the Israelis do to scrutinize certain categories of people.

HANNITY: So you support what the Israelis do?

DAVIS: I do but I also think that we have to be careful about judging people on their race, on their looks and there's a sensitivity issue about how you do it.

HANNITY: All right. Let me get Mark to respond.

DAVIS: But I don't mind being searched, although I have to tell you, Mark. Nobody has searched my body parts. How about you?

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: It just started.

STEYN: I was searched at Burlington Airport yesterday. I had to raise my --

DAVIS: Your body parts?

STEYN: I had the upper body searched. I said with my frequent flyer miles I'd like a free up-grope. But they didn't want to do me behind the belt -- but I'll tell you something --

HANNITY: Hey, wait, wait. This is important. These are new enhanced --

STEYN: Yes, these --

HANNITY: -- procedures, Lanny. They just started.

STEYN: But I arrived at Burlington Airport and I cleared through the screening. And there was a lady in tears, tiny rural airport, Burlington, Vermont. The frontline of America's war on terrorism.

The woman is in tears. The woman was in tears because she's had the enhanced pat-down. And this is the crazy thing, Sean.

DAVIS: Well, let me -- let me try to agree --

STEYN: She was a stewardess. She was part of the flight. She missed the flight and they left her in tears. This is insane.

DAVIS: Well, let me try to --

HANNITY: This has happened to nuns. This has happened to toddlers.

STEYN: Yes.

HANNITY: This has happened to pilots. This has happened to flight attendants.

DAVIS: Sean. I'll agree with one -- maybe we'll end with one agreement. I watched Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his elder years going through LaGuardia Airport and he was forced to takeoff everything that was metal and forced to be actually body searched.

I said to one of the security people, do you know who this is? This is Daniel Patrick Moynihan. This makes no sense. And he said exactly what Mark said. Standard operating procedure there. So there is a point of my weakness --

HANNITY: All right. Lanny, when they grope, fondle, grab the crotch of your wife and your kids, tell me you feel the same way.

DAVIS: I'll wait for that to happen and I'll probably tell you I don't like it.

HANNITY: Well, checkmate. It took all -- it took the entire segment.

(LAUGHTER)

STEYN: Give me liberty or give me a grope.

HANNITY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

STEYN: That's what it has come to.

HANNITY: All right. Mark, good to see you. Lanny, thank you.

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