But now, thanks to The Washington Post, we are reminded that Southers's past provides a bona fide excuse to give DeMint's fellow senators pause. Southers admits that a long time ago, 20 years, in fact, as an FBI agent, he collected some background police data on his estranged wife's boyfriend.

Granted, two decades is way in the past. And granted, there were extenuating circumstances and granted, Southers owned up to it then and now, and took his punishment at the time. Still, this is more than a commonplace egregious offense. A law enforcement officer sneaking unauthorized peeks into into confidential information for any purpose other than utmost official necessity is, probably beyond, as the Catholics would put it, a Mortal Sin. This is right down there in the vicinity of Original Sin.

It is particularly distressing when we consider the particular organization he would head. TSA, as we all know, handles some of the most wide-ranging vital and personal information about everyone who flies — millions of us. Unfortunately, it also mishandles a lot of that confidential data, but at least that's presumably by accident.

The last thing the force that mans (and womans) the terminal barricades needs is a suspicion its leader is capable of running roughshod through the nooks and crannies of our privacy. Could that further undermine the already tattered air security reputation?

Maybe Errol Southers's advocates are correct. Maybe this was an islolated "mistake" and Southers's exemplary performance since it happened is ample proof that he learned his lesson and that his record since then makes him the very best person for the job. Perhaps. But if it leaves all of us who must obey the orders and whims and pure power of his forces before we're allowed on an airplane, we really need to be certain that our lives and reputations are in good hands, and not vulnerable to embarrassment and abuse.

So take a breath, senators. Approve him only after deciding that a good case can be made to the public that he will be a stone wall against anyone under his command who might want to pry and invade someone's privacy. Even Jim DeMint's.

Visit Mr. Franken's website at www.bobfranken.tv.