For the second time in as many months, the TSA has admitted publicly that its non-negotiable screening procedures are really just security theater. After a picture surfaced of two smiling TSA agents patting down a diapered baby, "Blogger Bob" at the TSA Blog wrote that "the child's stroller alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm." A Drudge headline asked if the TSA was checking for "poop bombs." Blogger Bob answered that the TSA was not: "The child in the photo was simply receiving a modified pat-down which doesn't even come close to what the headline implies."
And then he went on to write this:
You may have read recently that our Administrator is looking into ways to move past the cookie cutter approach to screening. Recognizing that terrorists are willing to manipulate societal norms to evade detection, TSA has been actively assessing less invasive screening methods for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers, while still maintaining a high level of security.
Blogger Bob wrote the same thing after video surfaced in April of a TSA agent patting down a 6-year-old, but only after defending the agent who did the petting patting:
Some folks are asking if the proper procedures were followed. Yes. TSA has reviewed the incident and the security officer in the video followed the current standard operating procedures.
All this in the face of Rep. Jason Chaffetz's recent pronouncement that said conduct is in "clear violation of TSA's explicit policy not to conduct thorough pat-downs on children under the age of 13." But never mind the inconsistency in application; inconsistency in PR is even more mind-boggling. Here's DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano defending pat-downs in a November 2010 op-ed in USA Today:
Pat-downs have long been one of the many security measures used by the U.S. and countries across the world to make air travel as secure as possible. They're conducted by same-gender officers, and all passengers have the right to request private screening and have a traveling companion present during the screening process.
The deployment of this [back-scatter x-ray machines] and the implementation of these measures represent the evolution of our national security architecture, an evolution driven by intelligence, risk and a commitment to be one step ahead of those who seek to do us harm. [Emphasis added.]
Let me see if I have this right: The TSA's "cookie cutter" approach to screening, which terrorists can "manipulate" to "evade detection," is the product of "intelligence, risk and a commitment to be one step ahead of those who seek to do us harm."
That doesn't sound right.