A federal agent sizing up Nick George might peg him as Most Likely To Be Recruited By The CIA. He's a physics major at a top college, he minors in Middle Eastern studies, speaks Arabic, has lived in Jordan and is adventurous enough to have backpacked through Sudan and Egypt.
At Philadelphia International Airport last August, his interest in the world got him handcuffed.
The Wyncote native was detained for five hours after Transportation Security Administration screeners grew suspicious about something in his pockets.
Arabic-language flash cards.
Security technologist Bruce Schneier was less polite.
"This is just stupid," he said. "There's no other way to explain it. Someone saw these Arabic language cards and just freaked. It should have taken TSA 15 seconds."
The problem, he said, was that there is no cost to the security agent for doing the wrong thing. "If I detain someone and he's not a terrorist, nothing happens to me. I'm probably praised. If I let him go, and he is, my career is over. The TSA incentive is to overreact. Terrorism can't do this to us. I think only we can do this to ourselves."