Getting TSA Out of the Passenger Screening Business

In a column for the Daily Beast, Reason Foundation's Robert Poole expands on his earlier thoughts on fixing airport security: 

People are outraged at the TSA’s aggressive pat-downs and privacy-invading scans. Yet the TSA continues to foolishly pretend that everyone boarding a plane is equally likely to try to blow it up. This equal-risk assumption has caused knee-jerk reactions to the shoe-bomber (take your shoes off), the liquids bombers (small toiletries, no liquids through the checkpoint), the underwear bomber (body scans and pat-downs). Heaven help us the first time a would-be suicide bomber is caught with explosives hidden in a body cavity. By the TSA’s logic, they would have to make body-cavity searches routine for all of us.

This nonsense needs to stop, and that means shifting to a risk-based screening system. Passengers should be divided into three risk groups and dealt with accordingly: high, medium, and low-risk.

...Once that is done, maybe we can get TSA out of the screening business altogether. TSA shouldn’t be both the provider of airport screening and the regulator of all aspects of aviation security. TSA regulates itself and has hidden its mistakes in the past. It suppressed a report in 2007 showing that private security companies were at least as effective as TSA screeners and that if more careful accounting were done, were probably less costly, too. TSA never released that report, but the Government Accountability Office blew the whistle on TSA’s attempted coverup.

In Europe, regulators require each airport to be responsible for its security, and those airports are free to hire government-licensed security firms to carry out screening—which is the pattern in nearly every Western European country. In Canada, the government created an airport security agency following 9/11, but empowered it to contract with private security firms to do all airport screening in Canada. The United States is the only Western country that combines aviation security regulation and airport screening in the same entity.

Rep. John Mica (R-FL) was the Aviation Subcommittee chairman back in 2001 and voted to create the TSA, like nearly every other member of Congress not named Ron Paul. But Mica also wisely created a provision that allowed airports to opt-out of the TSA and use private screeners instead. He is strongly encouraging airports to opt-out of the TSA now.

In January, Congressman Mica will chair the House Transportation Committee and if his fellow Republicans are truly committed to smaller government then they can start radically reforming the incompetent, privacy-invading TSA monster they helped create.  

Full Column Here

Poole's April column "Get the Government Out of Airport Screening" and his piece last December on the underwear bomber, "Will We Get Serious About Aviation Security." 

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  • ||

    "...and if his fellow Republicans are truly committed to smaller government ..."

    We'll see, won't we.

  • ||

    "Here is what New York State's Office of Children & Family Services recommends that you tell your children about inappropriate touching:

    You are special and important.
    Your body is your own.
    You have the right to say "NO" if someone wants to touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable, afraid or confused.
    There are parts of your body that are private. You have the right to say "NO" to anyone who wants to touch your vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks. You have my permission to say "NO" even if that person is an adult ... even if it's a grown-up you know.
    Pay attention to your feelings. Trust your feelings about the way people touch you.
    If someone bothers you, I want you to tell me. I promise that I will believe you.
    If someone touches you in a way that does not seem right, it is not your fault.
    Children need to know that the safety rules about touching apply all the time, not just with strangers ... or with men ... or with baby sitters. In many cases ...children are sexually abused by people they know and trust [including] authority figures....

    Also, abusers seldom need to use physical force...Unfortunately, abusers can use threats successfully because children are taught to believe and obey adults."

    EXCEPT AT THE AIRPORT...just bend over, and let the fingers roam...

  • jasno||

    Sure, part of the problem is that you have a bloated government bureaucracy performing the inspections, but that private-sector security goon still has to touch my junk to comply with the TSA regulations, right?

  • Gary Chartier||

    Sorry--not nearly good enough. Since 9/11, the USG has made air travel hell. A few tweaks here and there simply aren't sufficient to fix the problem. (1) The most basic feature of any solution has to be the recognition that terrorism isn't a product of blood-lust or religious mania, however much those things may facilitate it: it's a (completely unacceptable) reaction, born of powerlessness and frustration, to imperial violence. If the USG really wants dramatically to reduce the risk of suicide terrorism, it simply needs to leave Iraq, leave Afghanistan, and close its network of military bases around the world (a move that would, conveniently, also save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars). (2) As long as it stays in the air travel security business, the USG can begin by, at minimum, rolling back air travel security regulations to those in place before 9/11; at least we'd be rid of shoe searches and long screening lines and limits on late check-ins and constraints on the freedom of non-passengers to visit departure/arrival gates. (3) Ultimately, though, the USG needs to get out of the airport security business. It needs to allow passengers themselves to decide just what kinds of risks they're willing to tolerate. If airlines compete for passengers in light of the security measures they do and don't provide, if passengers can choose high-security/high-intrusiveness airlines or low-intrusiveness/slightly-less-high security airlines (the deliberately tendentious formulation reflects my conviction that the real impact on passenger safety of Gestapo tactics is minimal), people will get what they want. Michael Chertoff can fly under whatever conditions he likes; I just don't want him determining under what conditions I do.

  • ||

    The most basic feature of any solution has to be the recognition that terrorism isn't a product of blood-lust or religious mania, however much those things may facilitate it: it's a (completely unacceptable) reaction, born of powerlessness and frustration, to imperial violence.

    Isn't it just possible that sometimes terrorism might be an (unacceptable) response to an illegitimate greivance?

    I mean, sometime it might be due to imperialism. Other times, it might be due to a really fucked up belief system that the terrorist ascribes to.

  • ||

    And what on earth makes you think that their sense of powerlessness and frustration stems from what the US does, and not from a combination of living in backward bumfuck barbarian countries ruled by inbred kleptocrats and infested with religious morons.

    If the US were to be whisked by aliens tomorrow, all the things that make them frustrated would still be there. The only thing that would change would be that they would now have to concentrate their impotent hate on the Jews, rather than spreading it amongst the Jews and the Americans.

  • ||

    ""and not from a combination of living in backward bumfuck barbarian countries ruled by inbred kleptocrats and infested with religious morons.""

    Perhaps they just prefer to live and rule their valley, do not want interlopers, and don't care much about the people in the next valley.

    http://www.villagevoice.com/20.....-vacation/

  • Jeff P.||

    To modernize an old joke...

    TSA Screener: Hey, there's a dozen roses lodged in your rectum!

    Passenger: Read the card! Read the card!

    I guarantee that somewhere right now production is beginning on a TSA-themed porn film, a Dominant is putting together a screener costume, and the first frames of ultra-violent Pat Down Bukakke are being drawn.

  • sarcasmic||

    Rule 34

  • ||

    Do you imagine the pat down takes place in a private room, or in front of all the passengers waiting in line?

  • Jeff P.||

    It's Japan, so the pat down will take place somewhere surreal and inappropriate, like a nursery school or a wine bar. All small-dick humiliation occurs in school. Musical rape-anime happens before an ever-changing montage of psychedelic backgrounds. Sumo-fisting is usually an outdoor sport.

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    If it includes a prosethetic-breast crush scene, then they've got my attention!

  • ||

    "...Once that is done, maybe we can get TSA out of the screening business altogether."

    Bingo!

    When they're done searching everyone going to the airport, maybe they should start searching everyone walking into the 7-11 after nine o'clock at night?

    If any particular airline wants to offer more or less security, then the airlines should compete that way.

    If the Feds want to require international inbound flights to have sealed cockpits or something, then so be it, but let domestic airlines compete on whatever security/inconvenience threshold their customers want...

    It's the only thing that makes sense.

  • Paul||

    Everyone keeps forgetting that the TSA only searches people at a certain point in the Airport. Why not just detonate a bomb in the security screening line before the patdown?

    Oh, I guess then the TSA would start screening checkpoint out in the parking lot.

    There's a disease in the government's thought proceses, and because of it, government only attracts more employees who have that disease.

  • kinnath||

    Mr. Poole ignores another key point -- not all targets have the same value.

    We haven't seen anyone trying to commit suicide to blow up a commuter aircraft with 35 passengers. They have gone after the flaghip, long-range twin-aisle jets with hundreds of passengers.

    In most international airports around the world (I've been in 20 or 30), you have the normal screening process for all pasengers (metal detectors and luggage x-ray machines) to enter the concourse. Then you head off to your gate for short-range, domestic travel without any additional security.

    But if you want to get on an inter-continental flight on a wide-body jet, you can expect to go through security again at the gate. Same as before, except the metal detectors are cranked up and they put alot more attention on your luggage. I have passed through the initial screening half a dozen times only to have to empty my carry-on bags out at the gate with several grim security personnel watching. Once, I actually had to take off my wedding band to get through the metal detector.

    And after you pass through this extra screening you will be held in a secure holding pen until you get to board the aircraft.

    I've been interviewed by security personel under the watchful eyes of guards with Uzis. Been wanded and patted down (including the soles of my feet). But no one every grabbed my balls or made me strip to get on an aircraft.

    Nothing the TSA does with its rent-a-cop staff comes close to real security screening.

    Nudie scanners and ball-grabbing aren't actually going to help when passengers can spend an hour or two wandering through shops and public restrooms before heading to the unsecured gate.

  • Paul||

    In Europe, regulators require each airport to be responsible for its security, and those airports are free to hire government-licensed security firms to carry out screening—which is the pattern in nearly every Western European country.

    He had me right up until he said "Europe does it" and then I got queasy. I admit the reaction is visceral, but still.

  • RyanXXX||

    I wouldn't support this if it just led to a Blackwater-type situation, with private security operating on a fat government contract. FULL privatization, with the airports or airlines providing their own guards, would be fine.

  • smartass sob||

    The airports and airlines definitely don't want to own that. Too much expense and too much liability.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Financial risk and liability is for those who DON'T seek rent.

  • ||

    But Mica also wisely created a provision that allowed airports to opt-out of the TSA and use private screeners instead. He is strongly encouraging airports to opt-out of the TSA now.

    And those "private" screeners are obligated to use exactly the same methods and equipment as TSA screeners.

    Keep trying, Poole.

  • ||

    Yeah. I also concerned about how they would determine risk. How would we know a person is of higher risk than others? I think it would lead to greater data collection of air travelers, emails, blogs postings (JB would end up on the no fly list), facebook, ect.

  • Chlorophyllite||

    Walking is the only environmentaly friendly solution.

  • ||

    I would happily recommend (to some people) attempting to walk from the US to England.

  • ||

    According to his followers, the Obamessiah could.

  • smartass sob||

    Heaven help us the first time a would-be suicide bomber is caught with explosives hidden in a body cavity. By the TSA’s logic, they would have to make body-cavity searches routine for all of us.

    It is my understanding that the scanning machines cannot see inside body cavities. So if one were to swallow explosives or insert them into one's rectum, or had them implanted in one's anatomy, they would be undetectable. The machine can't even see inside one's mouth. So yes, body cavity searches would be needed for detection.

  • creech||

    At which point the airline industry is toast. And then "teh terrorists" derail an Acela train at high speed.
    By and by, you won't be able to step outside your house without TSA checking you out.

  • ||

    I imagine that inserting a bomb into one's anal cavity would be a bit uncomfortable.

    How do you think terrorists might accomplish this more easily?

  • ||

    The Greenwich Village method?

  • jasno||

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....862247.ece

    Already been done. They'd have to take it out in the bathroom to be effective, but that's completely feasible. You could even have a group of terrorists board the same plane, each carrying a reagent.

    That's what I find so disturbing about all of this... it's not the naked pics or getting felt up - it's that none of that shit makes us any safer.

  • ||

    Do you tihnk we could arrange it so the terrorists would be forced to insert and remove the bomb several times before detonating it?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    No, it's the humiliation at the hands of government goons.

    I accept a larger risk that the plane will fail from mechanical complications every time I fly than I do from a plane being bombed.

    It's not that this will NOT make us safer, it's that they're doing it at all. Even if it DID make us safer, I'd prefer to incur the risk than to be fondled by some goon who likely gets off by incurring humiliation.

    Fuck the TSA.

  • Just wondering||

    Can I get AIDS from a TSA screener?

  • Just wondering again||

    Can TSA screeners get AIDS from passengers?

  • ||

    And vice-versa.

  • ||

    As I said earlier, passengers arriving from any airport foolhardy enough to opt out of TSA's clutches will be deemed "unscreened" and be forced to go through an extra-thorough grope before being allowed access to secure concourse areas and their connecting flights.

    Domination must be maintained.

  • Just wondering||

    Can I get AIDS from a TSA screener who screened a guy with AIDS a minute ago?

  • ||

    The funny thing about all of these "procedures" the TSA is using: they're in response to failed wacky concepts. Exploding shoes and underwear; it sounds like a discarded Get Smart script.

    Maybe I'm just insensitive but I'm really not feeling all that afraid.

  • ||

    Agreed.
    I thought the same thing after the shoe bomber.

    WTF? It didn't even work, so why do we have to take off our shoes again?

  • ||

    Just don't wear shoes. Problem solved. Mske sure one says something about the horrible foot infection they are tracking around...Just saying

  • King Of the USA||

    The only thing we have to fear is not being fearful enough.

  • ||

    Sums up the post 9/11 mentality.

  • ||

    AAAAA!!!! PROFILING!!!! RACISM!!! NO!!!!!

  • ||

    How long 'til kindly old Grandpa Buffett has a slobbery love note to the TSA in the New York Times, thanking them for boosting the profits of Netjets saving the lives of millions of otherwise doomed members of the traveling public?

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    Yes, and yes. In fact, it's virtually guaranteed.

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    *This was in response to 'Just Wondering'.

  • ||

    I read that headline as:

    Getting TSA Out of the Passenger Screwing Business

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I'd like them to get out of that too, even if they don't get out of the screening business.

  • Mark||

    Don't just "opt out" of naked scanners only to be sexually molested/assaulted, instead. Boycott Flying COMPLETELY, until sanity returns! Please join us: http://www.facebook.com/pages/.....1010710392

  • cynical||

    That's my plan.

  • ||

    All passengers shall be subject to the water test.
    If they drown they shall be judged inncocent and
    allowed to proceed. If they float they shall be
    judged as guilty of witchcraft Terrorism.

    Theodoric of York, Medieval TSA agent

  • ||

    <soapbox>

    Terror has succeeded. The Gov has suckered us in to being afraid. I say us not meaning the people who understand my fellow reader, but the common stupid sheep out there that thinks that this actually protects them from harm.

    Wouldn't it be great to wear a kilt or skirt and crap on the screeners hand when they tried the anal fondle? That would be humiliating for him/her. Probably anyway. It would be worth the detention time to see their response, if one could afford the throw away ticket.

    Do airports have "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" signs? I've never seen one. We should all go shoeless and shirtless.

    I agree with an earlier comment that a bomb before or in the screening area would cause more havoc than in the airplane. Here's the scenario. A dozen terrorists descend on Chicago O'Hare Int'l Airport. It's cold so big puffy jackets are the norm.

    Divide up and cover all or at least a large portion of the screening areas with a shrapnel bomb. Thinking the movie Swordfish. Easy enough to do for a suicide bomber. And if a couple get caught on their way to the screening area, they can simply detonate early. Think of the multitudes dead on Wednesday, Nov 24. Terror would reign again. The sheep would be afraid.

    Easy enough to do if one was a psycho fanatic that has twisted the Muslim faith into murder (They are actually under the same Commandments that Christians are taught as Abraham was a descendent of Moses and was the father to the bastard, Ishmael).

    Solution - Pull out of the world police force and mind our business. Of course a lot of Gov, military and defense personell would have to be let go, but so what. They should have to feel the pain the rest of us are in. Then the incredible sums of money can be diverted to helping the US economy.

    </soapbox>

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