Continuing TSA Follies

|

Over at Nobody's Business, Rogier van Bakel documents the latest triumph in airport security:

Putting the moron back in the oxymoron that is the phrase 'Airport security,' screeners turn out to be wholly incompetent at finding dangerous materials.

Security screeners at 21 U.S. airports failed to find bomb-making materials during recent government tests, NBC Nightly News reported on Thursday. Federal agents carrying materials that could be used to make bombs escaped detection in airport screening during tests conducted between October and January, NBC said, citing government sources. "In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one stopped these materials," the report said.

This abysmal job performance is despite the fact that the Transportation Security Administration, in the months after 9/11, spent as much as $143,000 per screener on simply recruiting these fine folks.

More van Bakel goodness here.

Reason answers the question, "Are We Ready for the Next 9/11?" here. Short answer: Nope.

And we documented "the sorry record of the Transportation Security Administration" here.

NEXT: Is Paris (France, Not Hilton) Burning Yet?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Gee, this thread plus the one about Paris burning are really making me look forward to my Paris vacation in a couple of months. NOT.

  2. They don’t even require a high school diploma, and they pay $43,000 a year. What the hell do they expect? Idiots.

    Also, the TSA screeners in Dallas don’t like it when you roll your eyes and mumble about due process violations.

  3. Security screeners at 21 U.S. airports failed to find bomb-making materials during recent government tests, NBC Nightly News reported on Thursday.

    Well, shouldn’t NBC Nightly News be tried for espionage or treason or something?

  4. No Ken, the terrorists don’t watch NBC.

  5. Here’s the truth, as opposed to Timothy’s take:

    “Albanese is one of 45,000 TSA screeners across the country, including 742 at Logan. His can be a thankless job, swabbing shoes and rifling through luggage. Every week Logan screeners inspect some 519,000 passengers. Depending on which gate he’s working, Albanese himself can help screen between 500 and 3,000 travelers a day.”

    “Pay starts at $28,300 for an entry-level screener, rising to $43,700 for a supervisor, with some perks like a 25 percent bonus for working Sundays or 10 percent for hours worked after 6 p.m.”

    “Many weeks, Albanese said, he spends more time with his TSA colleagues than with his family. His ”weekend” is Wednesday and Thursday and his 1 p.m.-9 p.m. shift can easily extend to midnight if flights run late.”

    http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2006/03/12/the_first_line_of_defense/

    JMJ

  6. No Ken, the terrorists don’t watch NBC.

    I was kidding, sage.

  7. Whoa, whoa! Let’s all try to remain calm here. I was kidding too.

  8. JMJ – In most of the US, that’s still damn good wages for a job that requires very little in the way of education or skills. Poor, poor TSA screener Albanese only gets two days off a week and may have to work more than eight hours a day. My heart bleeds for him, really. No one else in the US has such a tough job, no, never.

  9. Whoa, whoa! Let’s all try to remain calm here. I was kidding too.

  10. I once had to remove a two-inch-long rhinestone barrette because God only knows what dangerous substances I might have hidden in the one-sixty-fourth of an inch of space between the barrette and my scalp. And Jersey McJ. wants me to feel sorry for these overpaid nimrods who are supposed to be keeping us safe but can’t even distinguish between costume hair jewelry and bomb-making equipment?

    A twenty-five-percent bonus for working Sundays, or an extra ten percent for working past six p.m., is better than what most Americans get. I feel no sympathy for these TSA morons.

  11. JD – I was just correcting, that’s all. But you are dead wrong about the wages. Airports tend to be in expensive urban areas where that sort of income is poverty level. You get what you pay for, as all you libertarians know.

    JMJ

  12. That was my point, you idiot. They require no education, and they pay shit [while $28,000 is within the range of expectable entry-level salaries even with a college degree, the $43,000 upside isn’t exactly going to attract smart, talented people], OF COURSE the screeners are going to suck. Which is why we can hardly be shocked that they do a bad job, and which is why we shouldn’t bother with the TSA in the first place: the federal government mostly does things poorly.

  13. You get what you pay for, as all you libertarians know.

    No, you don’t. Otherwise, members of congress would be top notch thinkers and performers, and school superintendents would oversee efficient, high-quality educational institutions.

  14. How about we go back to the old, non-federal system? It wasn’t the screeners that screwed up in the first place. Not really.

    By the way, wages and recruitment expenses are two different things. And airports aren’t all in expensive, urban areas. In any event, throwing money at unskilled or semi-skilled labor is silly, as would be paying through the nose for an elite cadre of PhD-holding security officers.?

    I’m glad that someone can come here and tell us what all of us libertarians think, because I always thought we had a whole lot of different perspectives–much more so than most other political persuasions. Which is one of our big problems when it comes to winning anything, of course.

    ?Installing security robots with lasers and other nifty tools is another thing altogether.

  15. JMJ – I regret to say you are wrong about that sort of income level being “poverty wages”. In some cities, yes, that’s pretty scant. But when I lived in Phoenix, I was making $30k/year. I sure as hell was not just above poverty level.

    Your point about the overall economics of the situation is interesting, though. Part of the problem is that – much as Congresscritters don’t like to admit it – screeners are what you would call “very low value-adding workers.” There is no point to hiring Navy SEALs to be TSA screeners, because it would be a waste of their time and our money. We could pay more, and we might attract a few. But for what? So that 99.9% of them could stand around bored for 99.9% of the time?

    BTW, I think the server squirrels are weak from hunger again.

  16. Actually, I’ve noticed a real improvement in the quality of security staffing since the private-sector screeners were replaces with the TSA. Which is not to say the TSA screeners are any great shakes, but don’t you people remember the sullen dumbasses who used to stand around looking confused before 9/11?

    Also, it’s pretty weak to claim that Jersey is trying to drum up sympathy for airport screeners, just because he interrupted the Two Minute Hate by correcting a few factual errors.

    Hates the Tee-ESSSSSSSSSsssss-A’s, we does! Hateses them!

  17. it’s pretty weak to claim that Jersey is trying to drum up sympathy for airport screeners, just because he interrupted the Two Minute Hate by correcting a few factual errors.

    He did a piss-poor job of it. Free advice: if you want people to feel sorry for someone’s supposedly low wages, don’t quote the part that says they get all this bonus pay for working on Sundays or after six p.m. Also, don’t expect people to feel sorry for high-school grads that get a starting salary of over $28,000 per year, considering that many jobs requiring college degrees start lower than that.

  18. I don’t think he was making any effort to make “people to feel sorry for someone’s supposedly low wages.”

    I though he was just refuting the assertion that they’re making great money.

  19. though he was just refuting the assertion that they’re making great money.

    For high-school grads with no skills, they are.

  20. His can be a thankless job, swabbing shoes and rifling through luggage.

    They don’t get my thanks. Thankless and worthless.

    don’t you people remember the sullen dumbasses who used to stand around looking confused before 9/11

    And how did those exact same “dumbassess” look after 9/11? Remember, 9/11 changed everything, including the perceived importance of airline security. This made security personnel feel that their job had meaning again.

    Which it doesn’t. Most airline security jobs are about as useful as toenail clippings.

  21. Well, what do you guys want to do about it? Have the private sector leech off some more profit and have screeners making minimum wage – perfect bribery wage? Screening is serious business and it’s the business of all the entities involved – including the taxpayors. What we need are better technologies and better screeners. Pay them what they are worth – the value of your life on an airplane. 😉

    JMJ

  22. Pay them what they are worth

    Considering their inability to detect any of the bomb-making stuff the investigators smuggled through, I’d say we’re paying them several times more than what they’re worth right now.

    What’s a fair rate for a security screener who ignores weapons and bomb-making equipment but views my jeweled barrette as a security risk, do you think?

  23. Jennifer, follow me here – if you want great screeners, you’re going to have to pay the premium for them. Get it?

    JMJ

  24. “What’s a fair rate for a security screener who ignores weapons and bomb-making equipment but views my jeweled barrette as a security risk, do you think?”

    Though Canadian, I generally fly out of Buffalo if I’m travelling in the US. The last time I flew – about three months ago to Kansas – I had to dispose of the bobby pins in my hair (imagine how I looked after removing them!) but the pen in my purse, the kind solid enough that I could stab someone in the temple with it if so inclined, was permissible. Weird.

  25. Tanya, I can’t prove this, but I suspect that TSA requirements do not allow the hiring of screeners with three-digit IQs. Welcome to America!

  26. …if you want great screeners, you’re going to have to pay the premium for them. Get it?

    Not really. Can you supply some examples of well-paid public servants who do a “great” job? I’m not saying screeners should or shouldn’t be paid more or less than they are now, but maybe the answer is closer to being competently trained and supervised, which they’re obviously not.

  27. Boy, you libertarians sure hate and depise your fellow Americans. Only private sector people do good work, right? Only public sector people are goofballs, right?

    Why don’t you all go to Somalia and live the dream. You’re useless.

    JMJ

  28. Boy, you libertarians sure hate and depise your fellow Americans.

    Can you sincerely tell me why I should like or respect security screeners who think my little two-inch sparkly rhinestone barrette is such a grave security threat that I’m not allowed to board my flight unless I take it out? Can you tell me why I should respect professionals who don’t notice bomb-making equipment but confiscate tweezers from grandmas?

  29. So Jersey, are you essentially saying we should throw more money at the problem?

  30. Too bad this Website doesn’t let people post photographs. I’d love to show you guys the barrette in question (along with a dime, for a size comparison).

    SEE JENNIFER’S COSTUME JEWELRY IN ALL ITS MENACING GLORY!

  31. One more thing concerning the supposedly low pay of TSA screeners–I don’t recall reading that ANY of the guys who were on duty when those bomb supplies made it through lost their jobs over it. Talk about job security! My job doesn’t even involve public safety or national anti-terrorism measures, and nobody could POSSIBLY die if I screwed up, but if I did as bad a job as those guys, I wouldn’t be making this post right now–I’d be filing for unemployment and perusing the Help Wanted ads.

  32. Boy, you libertarians sure hate and depise your fellow Americans. Only private sector people do good work, right? Only public sector people are goofballs, right?

    Public sector employees are less likely to be effective, not because of their individual personality types, but because of the incentives and bureaucracy that is inherent in the public sphere.

    That being said, the costs, in both dollar and liberty terms, of the current airport security infrastructure far outweighs the benefits of lives saved. The whole system should be scrapped and replaced with bulletproof cockpits and devices which can detect explosives in baggage.

  33. Boy, you libertarians sure hate and depise your fellow Americans. Only private sector people do good work, right? Only public sector people are goofballs, right?

    Every time I hear an argument like this, I immediately think of: the US Post Office versus FedEx (or UPS, or that other one that begins with a “D” – forgot its name – but take your pick). There’s no contest. I would rather pry off a couple fingernails than try to get “service” at the post office anymore. Dealing with any of the others is a joy in comparison.

  34. Pay starts at $28,300 for an entry-level screener, rising to $43,700 for a supervisor

    I wonder if the pay varies by city, considering (just for example) that 28K goes further in Buffalo than 43K does in NYC.

  35. Even these public-sector TSA employees might improve if they had any sort of accountability. Like, say, if investigators are able to smuggle bomb stuff past you, even after they had themselves singled out for a special search, then your incompetent self is fired and you can go back to working at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  36. The airport security is a roust. It causes enough inconvenience to keep the citizens off your back, but achieves nothing.

    9/11 couldn’t happen again if you took away all airport security.

    Angry passengers will kill anybody who tries anything, today.

    And an airplane being bombed isn’t a 9/11. It’s just another downed airliner, just making up for technological improvement more or less. You’d get the usual reporters seeking out relatives at the airport, stories of relatives at the airport being shielded form reporters, short segments on how to survive an airplane disaster, comparison with the risk of driving, and so forth, until it’s been milked for everything it can be milked for, and then onto the next abducted white girl story.

    Bombing was fairly common in the 50s and 60s, until they took out the flight insurance vending machines from airports.

  37. Jennifer’s a slut with no tits.

  38. Lombardi,

    You make that sound like a *bad* thing.

  39. I once had to remove a two-inch-long rhinestone barrette because God only knows what dangerous substances I might have hidden in the one-sixty-fourth of an inch of space between the barrette and my scalp.

    Thay comfiscated my beard trimmer scissors but let me get on the plane with a 18″ x 24″ sheet of glass. Hell I could have done more damage with the metal in the the picture frame than I could have done with my scissors.

    idiots.

  40. Aaron, I have discovered that an effective way to get things like tweezers, nail clippers and terrifying barrettes through the airport is to keep them in my change purse surrounded by lots of metal coins. Of course, men rarely carry change purses, so I’d recommend you buy one of those “home safes” that are designed to look like an ordinary can of shaving cream or hair spray but are hollow inside.

    Either that, or just accept the fact that whenever you fly somewhere, you’ll have a shaggy beard. This protects us from terrorism.

    Lombardi, you’re wrong on both counts. But even if you were right, what has that to do with the topic at hand?

  41. Maybe it would be worth comparing the number of successful hijackings of aircraft that occured in the three years before airport security was de-privatized, vs. the number of successful hijackings that occured in the three years since. I’ve come up with four for the former number, and zero for the latter. Jennifer, care to check my math?

    Which is not to say that the current screening force is any great shakes, just a refutation of the easy, brainless assertion that private airport screeners just have to be better than public employees, cuz they’re all like corporate and stuff.

  42. Am I being naive in thinking that security would be more successful if provided by the airlines themselves?

    I don’t want to search every airline’s website, but if they are all like American Airlines they probably pay a “Sept 11 security fee of $2.50.” Judging by this stat there are about 8.5 million flights per year originating in the US. Obviously the airlines will have to charge more for their tickets, but they have an incentive not only to make sure that the security dollars are being spent effectively, but that the security actually accomplishes something. Like catching bombs in luggage they are about to carry along with hundreds of passengers. Forgive me, it’s Saturday and I’ve hit the interstate commerce early today.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.