In the wake of last Friday’s shootings at Los Angeles International Airport, some politicians and media commentators are feigning shock at the widespread hostility toward the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There was no justification for the shooting suspect, Paul Ciancia, to gun down three TSA agents on the job, killing one. Ciancia’s brutal rampage, though, should not obscure the fact that the TSA has perennially pushed many Americans to the breaking point.
The TSA gets shot at and everyone thinks they need guns. Citizens get shot at and everyone thinks they don’t need guns.
An accidentally published, unredacted document from a lawsuit against the TSA reveals that the Taking Shoes Away people believe that “terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports.”That is to say, there is no identifiable risk to America’s skies — and all of business with shoes and pornoscanners and horrible, abusive incidents involving toddlers, people with mental disabilities, cancer survivors, rape survivors, and the whole business of treating travelers like presumptive terrorists is all to prevent a problem that, to all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist.
… “Are you detaining me, then?” I’ve been through enough “know your rights" training to know how to handle police searches; however, TSA agents are not law enforcement officials. Technically, they don’t even have the right to detain you against your will.
"We’re not detaining you. You just can’t leave." My jaw dropped.
"Either you’re detaining me, or I’m free to go. Which one is it?" I asked.
He glanced for a moment at my backpack, then snatched it out of the conveyor belt. “Okay,” he said. “You can leave, but I’m keeping your bag.”
I was speechless. My bag had both my work computer and my personal computer in it. The only way for me to get it back from him would be to snatch it back, at which point he could simply claim that I had assaulted him. I was trapped.
This is only the beginning of what was a horrifying experience with airport security. I recommend reading the entire account.
It is time to stop pretending that the notoriously burdensome airport screening procedures are all that stand between us and devastation.
This charge for less government, shockingly, appeared in the New York Times:
The chance of dying in an airplane is vanishingly small. The chance of being killed by a terrorist in an airplane is smaller still. Mark Stewart, a civil engineer who studies probabilistic risk, has put the odds at one in 90 million a year. Looking at these figures dispassionately, one might wonder if the Transportation Security Administration has found the right balance between safety and convenience with its notoriously burdensome airport screening procedures.
The T.S.A. seems to understand that the status quo is barely tolerable for many travelers and is seeking to reduce the hassle. It recently announced that it was extending eligibility for a prescreening program called PreCheck to all American citizens. People can apply online before visiting an enrollment site in person, providing their fingerprints, passing a background check and paying $85 for a five-year term. In exchange, they will gain access to a special lane at the airport where they can keep their belts buckled, their shoes tied and their liquids in their carry-on bags (but still no more than 3.4 ounces, please).
PreCheck will provide a measure of relief for anyone who signs on. But it is absurd for the T.S.A. to demand background checks and fingerprinting for what amount to small modifications in the screening routine. The agency could relax airport security for everyone without gravely endangering the traveling public.
The former head of the T.S.A., Kip Hawley, has argued that the agency should allow passengers to carry on all liquids, in any quantity. As a safeguard against explosives, passengers would simply have to put their liters of Evian in gray bins and pass them through scanners. Mr. Hawley sees reasons for keeping footwear checks, but those, too, are of questionable value. Passengers do not remove their shoes in the European Union, or even in Israel, one of the world’s most security-conscious countries, with a famously stringent screening process.
It is time to stop pretending that annoying protocols like these are all that stand between us and devastation. The most effective security innovation post-9/11 was also the simplest: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, which has made it virtually impossible to hijack an aircraft.
As things stand, the T.S.A. asks its officers to enforce rules of questionable utility while giving them remarkably little discretion; they’re more like hall monitors than intelligence personnel. That is a huge waste of human talent and a source of inefficiency. At Heathrow Airport in London, passengers need to remove their shoes only if asked to do so by security officers. Imagine that: a screening agent entrusted with the solemn power to wave through a teenager in flip-flops en route to Honolulu.
Of course, the ultimate solution is eliminating the TSA altogether and leaving security to airports and airlines - who are ultimately accountable to consumers (meaning all of us) and thus have the most incentive in providing the greatest security with the least inconvenience.
(I believe my three-year-old post on this matter is still relevant.)
Last week, TSA agents in Denver detained actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, as they reportedly attempted to confiscate his light saber-shaped cane, which the 7-foot, 2-inch actor requires to walk.
Mayhew, who was on his way home to Dallas after the Denver Comic Con, tweeted about the incident, and then informed his followers that he was only released – with his cane – after the news hit Twitter.
The TSA are clearly acolytes of the Sith.
I have had some atrocious encounters with the TSA, including when my one year old daughter was forced to walk through the x-ray machine alone and then receive a pat-down and an explosive-residue check on her diaper.
Today - on our way to an international flight, no less - I experienced the most humane airport screening since before 9/11. Shoes stayed on. Laptops stayed in bags. Only phones and large metal objects needed to be removed from our pockets. Liquids and belts and nail clippers were no problem. My wife walked through the metal detector holding our two-year-old’s hand. All the agents were genuinely friendly and courteous. The only screening was a baggage X-ray, a metal detector, and a unobtrusive K9 that kept enough distance to never get in the way.
My wife made a point to note: “I know you hate the TSA but those four or five people were all very nice. This was great.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new policy the TSA is applying across the board as very few people got this white glove treatment. It looks like we were ushered into the “pre-check” line - possibly because of our two little ones.
This is what airport security would most likely be like without government’s interference: careful to guard against threats while respecting customers. (I said as much three years ago.) It’s shocking that this is the same airport in which, less than ten months ago, I received an outrageously invasive pat-down.
Still, as quick and painless as this experience was, the TSA must nevertheless be dismantled. Monopolies breed complacency, corruption, and inefficiency, and only by turning security decisions over to those who have the most to lose and gain will both safety and respect be maximized:
The TSA must be abolished, and responsibility of security must be returned to the airlines and airports, where there is greater accountability and incentive for safety, efficiency, and customer service. An airline that fails to take appropriate safety precautions to the satisfaction of customers will not do well. Same with airlines that treat their customers like cattle to be groped and ogled. The consumers - the flying public themselves - would ultimately decide what’s best for them.
What would a free market in airport security look like? It’s hard to say (for the same reason central planning doesn’t work - to paraphrase Hayek, there’s no way to imagine what can be designed by millions of people acting freely; and to paraphrase Mises, it would be impossible to implement it properly or efficiently even if planned by all-knowing angels). But if I were to guess: for starters, airlines will likely roll back the invasive scanners and searches, keeping metal detectors and baggage x-rays but allowing us to keep our shoes, sodas, and nail clippers. The airlines would likely implement some basic behavioral profiling and risk assessments, much like the kind that Israel employs with great success. I would not be surprised to see flight attendants trained in danger detection and defense. There could be one or two or more armed, plain-clothes security personnel (employed by the airline) hidden on every flight. In fact, maybe some airlines will allow passengers to remain armed (who would dare hijack a plane leaving Houston, for instance, filled with armed Texans?). For the especially wary traveler, some airlines may offer shackled flying where every passenger is comfortably strapped to his seat and may only be released from his restraints by a flight attendant who will personally escort him to and from the restroom. And who knows what methods and technologies await us in the future? Only the fervent competition of a free market would allow for flexible implementation of advancements. The point is: the airlines, because they have the most to both gain and lose, will find the most efficient methods to ensure safety while remaining sensitive to the privacy and needs of the flying public. No government can ever provide such balance.
But as long as the TSA is monopolizing flight security, it should at the very least do away with the security theater and apply these “Pre-Check” screening procedures much more widely.
The TSA is as loathsome as ever. And I get to deal with them three more times this summer. Yay.
In this video, the TSA insists on patting down a sobbing three-year-old on her way to Disney World. Agents first took away the girl’s toy, then tried to tell her parents it was illegal for them to film the encounter despite the fact that the TSA’s own website admits filming and photography at TSA checkpoints can’t be banned.
From the video description on YouTube:
The TSA wants to touch your kids…but you’re not allowed to document it. Like your “special secret”with the “Inappropriate Uncle” division of the federal government, that you’re not allowed to share with other grown-ups (they’d just accuse you of lying and trying to get attention anyway).
This is abuse, pure and simple.
Years ago, my then-20-month old was patted down and her diaper checked for explosives. Thankfully, the experience wasn’t near as traumatic as what this poor little girl had to endure to just go to Disney.
This is security theater. It doesn’t make us safer, it only aims to make us subservient.
The problem is the state, of course. But the root of that problem is among the public at large. Those who think this nonsense is necessary… those who are willing to sacrifice essential liberty for the facade of temporary safety… those who support, and campaign for, and vote for politicians who push for a bigger role for the state and who extend cushy government contracts to favored cronies… they are who are truly to blame.
If you voted for Obama or Romney, or if you quietly go along with all the government’s decrees, or if you cattle yourself through the porno-scanners without protest, or if you’ve ever uttered the phrase “they’re just doing their job” at an abuse of power, or if you believe in democracy or the state - then you are ultimately to blame for this little girl’s emotionally distressing ordeal.
And I don’t mean “you” as some general catch-all phrase to mean the general public. I mean you, specifically, as an individual. Just as you have the blood of innocents on your hands for what those you put in power ultimately do with it (drones, war on drugs, etc.), so is this abuse of innocents on your conscience.
As a supporter of the state and its so-called “leaders,” you are an accomplice to heinous acts.
One of my earlier posts on my blog (from late 2010): The Case Against the TSA.
[E]very known form of government is inefficient but nevertheless exists primarily to grow and protect itself. We Americans have witnessed in the short space of eleven years a government that has metastasized built around a fiction that the American people are somehow under serious threat from foreign enemies. This has produced two large and a number of smaller wars coupled to a US military and intelligence footprint that now extends to every corner of every continent. The festering sore of Afghanistan is like the story of Uncle Remus’s tar baby – easy to get stuck to but damned hard to get away from. Under Bush and Obama the cost and size of government have doubled, and Washington has added a massive new bureaucracy that has a primary function of monitoring the American people in the Department of Homeland Security. And to our eternal shame as a nation, it has all been done on a credit card with Asian governments picking up the tab and the US treasury printing money that has no actual backing, running up the national debt to hitherto unimaginable levels while doing grievous damage to the economy. Government never thinks far enough ahead to appreciate that any action on its part will result in unforeseen and sometimes catastrophic consequences, whether in the form of unacceptable collateral damage or blowback. The war on drugs has been disastrous for Mexico while the incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan[,] and Libya are prime examples of a structural inability to look over the horizon. The United States supported both Saddam Hussein and also Osama bin Laden before they became designated enemies. Government never admits failure and its response to shortcomings is to throw more resources at the problem in an attempt to either make it go away or delay the day of reckoning. Witness how the Transportation Security Administration, which has never caught a single terrorist, responds to incidents by engaging in panic buying of screening machines being hawked by former senior bureaucrats only to find that they don’t work well and eventually wind up in a warehouse in Omaha.
[E]very known form of government is inefficient but nevertheless exists primarily to grow and protect itself. We Americans have witnessed in the short space of eleven years a government that has metastasized built around a fiction that the American people are somehow under serious threat from foreign enemies. This has produced two large and a number of smaller wars coupled to a US military and intelligence footprint that now extends to every corner of every continent. The festering sore of Afghanistan is like the story of Uncle Remus’s tar baby – easy to get stuck to but damned hard to get away from. Under Bush and Obama the cost and size of government have doubled, and Washington has added a massive new bureaucracy that has a primary function of monitoring the American people in the Department of Homeland Security. And to our eternal shame as a nation, it has all been done on a credit card with Asian governments picking up the tab and the US treasury printing money that has no actual backing, running up the national debt to hitherto unimaginable levels while doing grievous damage to the economy.
Government never thinks far enough ahead to appreciate that any action on its part will result in unforeseen and sometimes catastrophic consequences, whether in the form of unacceptable collateral damage or blowback. The war on drugs has been disastrous for Mexico while the incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan[,] and Libya are prime examples of a structural inability to look over the horizon. The United States supported both Saddam Hussein and also Osama bin Laden before they became designated enemies. Government never admits failure and its response to shortcomings is to throw more resources at the problem in an attempt to either make it go away or delay the day of reckoning. Witness how the Transportation Security Administration, which has never caught a single terrorist, responds to incidents by engaging in panic buying of screening machines being hawked by former senior bureaucrats only to find that they don’t work well and eventually wind up in a warehouse in Omaha.
He grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone.
He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice close to my ear.
Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong, calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my calves, slowly but steadily. My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn’t care. His touch was so experienced, so sure.
When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply. Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties.
Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking `no’ for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say …
“Okay, ma’am, all done.”
My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse. “You can board your flight now.”
Seemed appropriate since I’ll be heading to the airport shortly…
Nothing like a TSA nut grab to start the day…
What the TSA is good at, apparently, is undressing teenage girls on church trips.
What has just come to light this week is Texas Congressman Ralph Hall’s 17- year-old grand niece was not just patted down two years ago by a TSA agent at the Los Angeles Airport in California, her sundress came down exposing her breasts to all the other travelers, including others from the religious group she was traveling, were present.
The classiest part: Apparently the TSA’s response statement placed the blame on the fact that the girl’s dress was loose-fitting. So wait…are you saying that because of the way she was dressed, she was asking for it?
But don’t worry, guys: The TSA officer responsible will get more training. Maybe she’ll practice feeling up mannequins wearing muumuus.
Regardless of training, however, the larger issue has (of course) been completely ignored by the TSA: We should be able to travel freely not only without public nudity, but also without the entire security theater farce which has taken over our airports.
As pointed out by William Shatner’s character in the television series Boston Legal, Americans love their dynasties. First there was Bush I, the Elder; then there was Bush II, the Younger; and now we have Bush III, the Obama.