TSA to Ruin Train Travel Now, Too

Bureaucratic security is bad security.

If you're an air traveler who feels the urge to pull your hair out every time you enter a security line at the airport, you may have considered taking Amtrak or even the bus instead. If so, you may want to scratch that idea. The Transportation Security Administration, you see, is showing up in train terminals. Perhaps you'd rather drive?

TSA has not shown itself to be exceptionally useful for thwarting terrorism. It has never caught a terrorist in its airport checkpoints or anywhere else, as far as anyone knows. But the bureaucratic urge to expand cannot be easily suppressed. Lacking evidence of its value in airline terminals, TSA is branching out to other places where it can be equally ineffective.

The agency "has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals," reports The New York Times. Its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program, created in 2005, now gets $100 million a year "and is growing rapidly, increasing to several hundred people and 37 teams last year, up from 10 teams in 2008," the Times says.

In 2012, it conducted some 8,800 unannounced operations outside of airports, or 24 per day. No, it's not requiring concertgoers and train passengers to take off their shoes and empty their pockets, but give it time. And never mind that local and state law enforcement agencies used to take responsibility for these venues if they were needed.

Maybe the change of scenery will keep some workers out of trouble. The federal Government Accountability Office says that cases of employee misconduct jumped by 26 percent from 2010 through 2012 -- everything from sleeping on the job to letting people bypass screening. Last year, an agent at the Newark Liberty International Airport was convicted of stealing $800,000 worth of laptops, cameras and other goods.

Humans being humans, any organization staffed with them will have its share of crooks. But you'd think an agency that has "security" in its name would be especially vigilant in preventing and detecting internal wrongdoing. GAO, however, said TSA doesn't keep track of how all the misconduct cases turn out and has no process to ensure they're handled correctly.

The more pertinent problem, however, is that once established, the agency can't be eliminated. On the contrary, it has a strong tendency to grow. In 2003, Congress limited it to a maximum of 45,000 employees, but -- I know this will surprise you -- that restriction was later lifted. It now has 58,000.

TSA is the tip of the iceberg. Republicans talk about radically downsizing the federal government, and Rick Perry even proposed to abolish three entire departments. But history tells us that Republican presidents don't close departments; they create them. (Ditto for Democrats.)

Ronald Reagan never followed through on his pledge to kill the Education Department. Instead, he signed a bill establishing the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In the aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush insisted we needed a new bureaucracy to protect the nation from attack -- which we used to assume was the job of the Defense Department. So the Department of Homeland Security came into being, with jurisdiction over everything from guarding our borders to combating counterfeiting.

It was justified as a way to consolidate and coordinate the functions of numerous government bodies with overlapping or complementary tasks. You would expect such consolidation to save money by minimizing duplication.

You would expect that, I mean, if you were born yesterday. If you have been around long enough to be familiar with the ways of Washington, you would expect nothing of the kind. DHS started out with some 170,000 employees and now has more than 200,000. Its budget ballooned by 40 percent, adjusted for inflation, between 2003 and 2012.

Thanks in part to helpful guidance from Congress, the department has funded programs that address no plausible threat. Cato Institute policy analyst David Rittgers noted that it gave $100,000 to a lightly populated Ohio county for a hazardous materials trailer and truck, which the county later sold, deeming it a waste of money. It provided tiny Bennington, N.H., with $6,500 for chemical weapons suits.

It's all a bit much, but in the age of terror, there is no such thing as excessive security. So TSA and DHS will go on finding ways to justify their existence. Threats come and go, but threat responses last forever.

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  • anon||

    Threats come and go, but threat responses last forever.

    How can Chapman understand this, yet immediately turns to the fed. govt. for everything else? I don't get it.

  • ||

    Where do you get this from? I've been reading Chapman for years and have found he's about the closest thing to a libertarian in the mainstream media there is.

    That's the thing, it's the "the mainstream media". Chapman's columns are written to be read by the public at large not doctrinaire libertarians like us. In order to keep the average reader's attention a journo cannot appear to be taking positions that are offensive to that reader.

    That's why he can say nice things about Obama while saying Obama's policies are not particualarly good. He has to pull his punches to keep the attention of readers who are not libertarians.

    I still fault him on the column he wrote opposing lowering the drinking age though.

  • Anomalous||

    She probably picked up a case of chlamydia as well.

  • Free Society||

    Where do you get this from? I've been reading Chapman for years and have found he's about the closest thing to a libertarian in the mainstream media there is.

    If you've been reading Chapman you've read him argue for the highest drinking age in the world, supporting Obama (twice), he's all about federally guaranteed loans, and closet-keynesian tax schemes. He's a progressive wearing libertarian skin, and his authenticity is only that deep.

    If he called himself a progressive I'd say "okay he's not bad for a progressive.", but he identifies as a libertarian which is dishonest and misleading for people.

    I certainly don't know how you describe yourself as a 'doctrinaire libertarian' in the same post you're defending Steve Chapman's credibility as one himself. I'm not necessarily saying you aren't, but you may need readjust your libertarian radar, or, "libertardar" if you will.

  • Free Society||

    How can Chapman understand this, yet immediately turns to the fed. govt. for everything else? I don't get it.

    Because he pretends to be a libertarian.

  • WTF||

    The best part is that TSA has searched passengers getting off trains, which wouldn't really seem too effective in protecting the train.

  • Duke||

    It really makes Alex Jones not sound so crazy after all doesn’t it.

  • daveInAustin||

    The trouble with Alex Jones is that what's actually going on is worse than the crap he is making up.

  • PH2050||

    Bill Hicks changed his name? Huh.

  • Duke||

    It’s cute how TSA doesn’t even hide the sinister-sounding name of its “VIPR” program. When I first heard of it, I immediately thought of John the Baptist: "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

  • ChrisO||

    It sounds like Dr. Evil's new organization. Probably about that level of effectiveness, too.

  • Sevo||

    So moonbeam's choo-choo will get to LA in 3 hours with a 2 hour delay for loading?
    Or you can get the government electric car and take a couple of days to get there after charging.
    That ol' petroleum is looking better all the time.

  • Brandybuck||

    You can drive from SF to LA in five hours! (Okay, five hours and thirty three minutes if you scrupulously follow the speed limit).

  • Invisible Finger||

    PC Miler gives me 7 hours for that.

  • Sevo||

    Invisible Finger| 8.8.13 @ 1:55PM |#
    "PC Miler gives me 7 hours for that."

    Depends on the 'wheres' at both ends and how big of a hurry you're in.
    There's some nice lunch places in between and some pretty scenery if you want it.
    You can do 5.5 if you're serious.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    As long as you don't drive across a state line, you avoid the searches......oh, wait a second......

  • ChrisO||

    The TSA: Failing Upward.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    No big loss to me. I took a train trip last year from Virginia to Rhode Island, then back again a week later. The ride was awful. Long stretches of the trip were like riding an old fashioned roller coaster, at least in the two horizontal axes. I thought I'd bloodied my nose, slammed into the wall while trying to use the restroom.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Take a stagecoach next time.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Good luck getting on the freeway.

  • Free Society||

    I have a rickshaw driver named Short-stack. Fucking minimum wage is ruining my mileage.

  • some guy||

    Last year, an agent at the Newark Liberty International Airport was convicted of stealing $800,000 worth of laptops, cameras and other goods

    How the hell does that not get noticed looooong before the number hits $800k? Other people were either complicit or hyper-negligent in their oversight of this individual.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Was the agent disciplined in any way?

  • LynchPin1477||

    The agency "has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos..."

    So we can just drop the "T" from TSA then? Let's see, that leaves us with...oh, hmm. They may want to rethink that acronym.

  • Invisible Finger||

    T = TOTAL

  • LynchPin1477||

    And here is the part that really gets me. When I moved to Montreal I walked into the provincial court house with my pocket knife, without going through any type of metal detector or security checkpoint. Ditto for concerts at the Bell Center (to hell with your British spelling). Presumably, tens of thousands of people were given the same level of scrutiny (that is, none) and yet I managed to not get terrorized. And Quebec is hardly a model of liberty. So what exactly am I being protected from again?

  • Duke||

    This has absolutely nothing to do with security of the citizens. Rather, it has everything to do with the incremental acclimatization of the population with the total enforcement state. People gradually get used to, and put up with, hassles at the airport, which moves to the train station, which moves to the bus station, which moves to the football game, and so on. It’s the inevitable progression of a militarized police state controlled by the politically connected that has plenary full spectrum power to quash anything they deem objectionable.

  • Stevecsd||

    It has already moved to the football game. This year no one is allowed in with a purse or bag larger than about a gallon baggie. They want everyone to bring things in clear plastic baggies. When was the last time a terrorist attacked a sporting event? The last one I remember is the 1972 Olympics, when Palestinian terrorists attacked and Israeli secret service responded appropriately.

  • Stevecsd||

    Specifically NFL games.

  • OneOut||

    But not kickball where violence is a common even.

    Mustn't upset the illegals ?

  • Inigo M.||

    I figure the small clear plastic baggy rule is meant to keep people from smuggling in their own food and drinks. It's more to protect the interests of the stadium vendors than anything else.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The creation of the TSA, or something like it, was a political necessity of no clear utility when President George Bush was reacting to the 9/11 attacks. If he hadn't allowed it, scores of self-important Congrescritters and self appointed Guardians of the Public Good would have pitched a tantrum until he backtracked and "did something'" about airport security. So, rather than waste time and effort while he was (understandably) busy Bush gave the responsibility of setting up this new 'service' to whatever useless nitwits he saw standing around and drooling, and thereafter paid it no attention, because he was still busy. Nobody with any sense signed onto the new entity, because there sensible people wanted to do something useful. Result; an agency full of puffed-up pillocks, under no significant oversight.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Or it was a bailout for airline liability.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Maybe we should be happy that he was too busy to oversee it himself. It could have been much, much worse.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    Rail travel? The 19th century called.

  • creech||

    More security theater nonsense. Why wouldn't a terrorist group just plant an IED along some lonely stretch of track and derail the train as it came by at speed? Or shoot out the Greyhound's tires as it
    barreled down the interstate at midnight? That all these kinds of things aren't happening is a pretty good sign that the number of terrorists in the U.S. is minute.

  • LynchPin1477||

    ^^ Aiding and abetting ^^

  • umh||

    A good part of the economic problems in the U.S. are because of all the money we are wasting in the "war on terror". Some people say that any money spent is good for the economy. What they forget is that money spent in such a way that others can benefit from it's spending has a multiplier effect everytime the resource is reused. Not only are we wasting money in this "war on terror", but we undermining the economy again with all the lost wages and time of everyone who travels by air (& maybe rail).

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    Has anybody ever considered the idea that maybe things like this were the whole point of the 911 bombings? It seems to me that there's nothing quite like a government boot on your neck and a government hand in your ass (searching for drugs) for spawning home-grown terrorists.

    I mean hell, if you believe the information coming from the media, terrorist ranks swell faster the harder our military style boots stomp on them. Can't think of a reason that wouldn't happen here, as well.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Didn't Al Qaeda openly say exactly this?

  • umh||

    Do you mean those people the U.S. is supplying with money and arms?

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    The Tar Baby. Bin Laden understood what the Tar Baby was.

    Br'rer Bush and Br'er Obama got suckered.

  • ||

    South Park already took this too its logical extreme.

    I suppose the next step would be to station TSA agents at every bus stop in the country.

  • DontShootMe||

    Well, this will solve the JERBs problem. We have what, 300 million people in the US? So, that's 150 million TSA JERBS, everybody gets their own security goon to follow them around and beat them mercilessly on a random schedule.

  • PH2050||

    SIR, I GOTS TO CHECK YA ASSHO!

  • Stevecsd||

    Don't be sarcastic, it is already happening:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....33302.html

  • daveInAustin||

    Wait, our president promised there wouldn't be pat downs.

  • grey||

    I have something travelling out of my ass and would like the TSA to inspect it.

  • IceTrey||

    Someone please give the details of that picture!

  • PH2050||

    VIPR Team: Sounds like the wet dream of Wannabe Warriors.

    And here I thought the kids on Call of Duty were bad...

  • anon||

    First CoD was in 2003. If they were 13 then, they'd be 23 now, graduated college, and working for the TSA.

    So yeah, sounds about right.

  • Almanian!||

    I like this. The Progs love them some choo choos. Now they can have the TSA, too.

    It was inevitable. I'll take a little schadenfreude - it's all I've got.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The bright side is that TSA will make riding the train suck so much that they'll drive away the passengers who switched to the train to get away from the thieving granny-gropers. Amtrak ridership crashes, maybe the congress will finally pull the plug on funding it.

    -jcr

  • OneOut||

    Fat chance. that will just spur them to increase funding.for some new reason.

    Because, FUCK YOU, that's why.

  • ||

    Amtrak ridership crashes, maybe the congress will finally pull the plug on funding it.

    Don't be ridiculous. The failure of a government project is always and exclusively because of a lack of funding.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Ha Ha Ha. Empty trains are the hallmark of a successful mass-transit program. It needs even MORE funding.

  • CE||

    You know who else ruined train travel?

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Unnamed DHS source:

    "Propagating the GOVT's War on Terror, good Americans happily submit to invasive body-cavity searches."

    Good American:

    "Search me, steal my stuff, gate-rape my sons and daughters, I'm for it 'cause it stops the terrorists from abusing me and raping my family."

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    How long do you think you'd live if you did this to police or government officials every time they entered your private property?

    Say, for example, you called the police for a legitimate reason, and they showed up at your house. Before you let them in, you asked them to consent to a pat down and cavity search, divested them of their weapons, and if they refused, beat them, shot them, and forced them into a cage for it.

    How many times would they stand for it, you think? I mean, before a swat team busted in your door at Three A.M. and shot you and your dog?

  • umh||

    Those girls spent days trying to get a evil sounding acronym.

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