Wonderful news about the TSA

Wonderful news about the TSA

The latest government report states, once again, that the TSA is nearly useless. What a lovely prompt to finally get rid of it.

An Inspector General has recently reported the wonderful news that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is almost completely useless. It fails in 96% of tests, and has apparently wasted over half a billion dollars of additional funding that was provided to it since 2009. Why is this wonderful news? It is a clear confirmation of what the American nation has long suspected: that we can do better than the TSA, and the abuse, waste, theft, and sexual assault it sponsors on a daily basis.

"According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General's report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with [investigators] repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints." (ABC News) "[U]ndercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints" in 96% of trials. That means only 4 of every 100 weapon-toting terrorists would be caught by the TSA on an average day. This isn't the first time that weapons have been smuggled right past TSA.  Pistols and stun guns have "easily" been brought onto planes in past years.

Another finding of the Inspector General was that the TSA appears to have wasted over a half billion dollars in additional funding; "the review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time." It remains unclear how the TSA was able to spend so much money without any meaningful result.

The TSA was hastily created in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It was primarily tasked with ensuring the security of airports and flights. Since then it has been granted extraordinary authority, including permission to conduct a prison-style "advanced patdown" routine that includes the touching the traveler's genitals an astounding 4 times per performance. Civil rights advocates objected that the TSA's authority exceeded the constraints of both the Constitution and common decency, but their objections were largely ignored. The government's latest report makes it clear that the TSA's authority was not only unconstitutional, but terribly misplaced.

The TSA has existed less than 14 years, yet has sponsored a staggering number of serious scandals:

Those are only the scandals that were outrageous enough to make the national news - they simply scratch the surface of the real story. The real story is told by reports of misconduct since the TSA's inception, of which there is a staggering volume. A handful of journalists, bloggers, and consumer rights organizations have adopted the task of chronicling the TSA's day-to-day abuses and criminal behavior.  For example, Judicial Watch is tracking reports of sexual gropings and genital injuries.  Multiple journalists have collected footage of inappropriate "advanced patdowns."  One  blog maintains an incredibly comprehensive list of criminal behavior by TSA employees.  It's a terrifyingly long list.

The TSA was part of a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. It was created in a climate of fear and shaped by hyperbole.  It is clear that the TSA was a mistake. We need to get rid of it, and we have a tried-and-true alternative – private companies that would be better, cheaper and more accountable.

There is no reason that our airport terminals need to be secured by the federal government. Airport security was tasked to private companies before 9/11 – with updated protocols, there is no reason private companies shouldn't be doing so again. In fact, we have every reason to believe they will do a far better job at much lower cost. After all, you can't get much worse than spending $7.3 billion dollars for a 96% failure rate.  But critically, if a private company does perform even nearly as poorly as the TSA, it can be fired in favor of a better company.

Right now, we can't fire the TSA no matter how ludicrously incompetent and abusive it is. When there is a scandal and a cover-up, our best hope seems to be that a Congressional committee scolds those responsible in a year or two. When TSA employees are accused of misconduct, they are consistently shielded from scrutiny by flimsy excuses that invoke "national security" as the reason they can't be held accountable. None of this is acceptable in the United States of America. There is no excuse for incompetence, waste, corruption and abuse in our government. There should be no tolerance.

The Inspector General's report makes it clear that we can happily eliminate the TSA in favor of private companies that would easily perform better and cost less. Most importantly, using private companies would finally make airport security personnel accountable to our nation again, as they were once before. It is time to get rid of the TSA.  We can fly more safely, less expensively, and perhaps with that single ounce of human dignity that the TSA considers a prohibited item.