This Holiday Season, The DHS Would Like To Remind You That It's Not A Huge Waste of Money


As you move slowly and shoe-lessly through the security lines at your airport, trying to get home to your loved ones for Christmas, the Department of Homeland Security would like you to remember that you would be dead if it weren't for them and their $50-odd billion a year. So give them some gratitude and dive into their "DHS' Progress in 2011: By the Numbers."

For example, airport travel involved the following"to prevent terrorism and enhance security": 

  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)'s 52,000 Transportation Security Officers screened more than 603 million passengers at 450 airports across the country.
  • TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints.

Aren't those numbers large-sounding, vague, and impressive? 

There's plenty more on the ten year old Department's list of yearly triumphs here.  I particularly enjoy the details that "to mature and strengthen the Department" they did the following:

  • Through the Efficiency Review and component initiatives, DHS has identified more than $1 billion in cost avoidances and implemented 36 efficiency initiatives across the Department.
  • DHS responded to more than 145,000 requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

No mention of what "responded to" actually entails, but like the rest of the list, it sounds nice.

The DHS blog also just dropped some aggrandizing photos from Secretary Janet Napolitano and CNN's Erin Burnett's trip through the wonderment of the DC area's various protections against Terrorism. 

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair has a delightful piece where the author goes airport-adventuring with security expert and staunch TSA critic Bruce Schneider, who you may remember from such 2008 Jeffry Goldberg pieces as "The Things They Carried" in which Schneider — as he does in the Vanity Fair piece — demonstrates just how easy it is to get around laughable security measures such as checks for fake boarding passes.

So once again, not only does the TSA subject grandmothers to various indignities, fear grenade-shaped belts and gun-motif bags, they also don't notice when you fake a ticket; their scanners would miss certain explosives, air marshals have high turnover rates and their cost is high when their benefits are overrated. In summary security theater is security theater and the article concludes: 

To walk through an airport with [security expert] Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest. Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.) During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs. Still more were killed by driving their cars into deer. The best memorial to the victims of 9/11, in Schneier's view, would be to forget most of the "lessons" of 9/11. "It's infuriating," he said, waving my fraudulent boarding pass to indicate the mass of waiting passengers, the humming X-ray machines, the piles of unloaded computers and cell phones on the conveyor belts, the uniformed T.S.A. officers instructing people to remove their shoes and take loose change from their pockets. "We're spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this—and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.

The rest here.

And Wired recently summed up TSA in similar terms:

According to Ben Brandt, a former adviser to Delta, the airlines and the feds should be less concerned with what gels your aunt puts in her carry-on, and more concerned about lax screening for terrorist sympathizers among the airlines' own work force. They should be worried about terrorists shipping their bombs in air cargo. And they should be worried about terrorists shooting or bombing airports without ever crossing the security gates.

Reason on TSA and DHS. And, once more for the folks in Gitmo, Remy's holiday classic:

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  1. I have solved my Xmas travel woes by deciding not to go anywhere but a friend’s house for Xmas. And it feels good.

    Fuck you, TSA!

    1. And f u to your friend, it would seem.

      1. Hey, he invited me. If I take a shit in the eggnog, that’s on him, not me.

    2. Flying here in Europe is still pretty laid back, except for Germany and Britain. But going through Heathrow always sucked balls.

  2. Hating the TSA is like committing nine eleventy all over again. Why do you hate america Lucy?

  3. Holy shit, the Atlantic article is hilarious.

    Schnei?er took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled “saline solution.”

    “It’s allowed,” he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don’t fall under the TSA’s three-ounce rule.

    “What’s allowed?” I asked. “Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?”

    “Bottles labeled saline solution. They won’t check what’s in it, trust me.”

    They did not check. As we gathered our belongings, Schnei?er held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, “This is okay, right?” “Yep,” the officer said. “Just have to put it in the tray.”

    “Maybe if you lit it on fire, he’d pay attention,” I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schnei?er would carry two bottles labeled saline solution?24 ounces in total?through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. “Two eyes,” he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

    1. (Later, Schnei?er would carry two bottles labeled saline solution?24 ounces in total?through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. “Two eyes,” he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

      The valiant man in blue is probably still trying to do the math…..

      1. i know weightlifters who take IV bags on their carryons. no problem (when you cut water top make weight , IV is a good way to replenish fluid)

        1. and those jokers confiscated hair mousse from me. I asked the TSA agent if there had ever been an incident involving hair care products. Let’s just say the agency has less than zero sense of humor.

          1. Sense of humor requires intelligence. You would have better luck running that line past your ATM.

  4. I haven’t flown in years simply because I know I would get supremely annoyed at submitting to the TSA’s moronic “security theater”. My attitude would probably get me detained.

    1. Don’t worry, I get annoyed enough to ponder rebellion each and every time and I’ve never gotten detained or even patted down.

      And I have a pretty angry-looking face to begin with.

      1. The first and only time I went to Mexico was with some friends and we crossed at the Calexico-Mexicali border. On the Mexico side I don’t think they even paid attention to who was coming over, but we returned less than an hour later (smelled like a sewer line broke on the Mexican side, it was gross), and the asshole US Border guard made me show ID and, with a suspicious look, asked what I was doing in Mexico. Oddly, my two hispanic friends (I’m white as can be) had no trouble and just walked through the gate without so much as a question.

        Granted, I was dressed like Hunter Thompson in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, but I didn’t even have any bags with me. Still remember the bastard squinting at my ID and staring at me with his beady eyes. Once he was done I snatched my ID from his hand and walked off. I guess I’m lucky he didn’t tackle me and put me under arrest for “assault” or something.

        No, I’ve got no patience *at all* for these surly tax-devouring creeps.

    2. Last time I flew I got the pat down and was pretty much seeing red the entire time I was so fucking pissed off and embarrassed.

      Articles about the TSA throw me into a fit of depression, I can’t even stand reading about it. What the hell happened to the country I grew up in?

      1. It got filled with pants-shitting candyasses who are terrified of terrorists?

        1. At some point in the future a kid will wear a bike helmet and the other kids won’t make fun of him. And then we will know that all has been lost.

          1. I’m pretty sure that point has already been passed, dude. Welcome to the future, and we’re fucked.

            1. Yet another useful WTF.

              1. WTtF, WTF?!?

      2. I always request the pat-down if the alternative is the pornoscanner. I don’t know how surly I can be without pushing my luck, especially since as a woman I get the haggard TSA cows who would I am sure like nothing better than to take out their hatred on someone like me. The stereotype about women “authority” figures is 100% true, and they reserve most of their bile for other women.

        1. Wow, what a hero that border guard was.

          What a piece of shit.

        2. Dagny, that’s just anti-woman BS; BTW, I loved my last pat-down, and she smiled when I said “slower baby”

  5. No mention of what “responded to” actually entails

    I responded to a request for information once.

    1. +100

  6. Psst, “as he doe in the Vanity Fair piece”

    Doe a deer, a female deer…

    1. Which apparently kill a lot of people, according to the article. It was a freudian slip.

      1. Having won the War on Passenger Pigeons, I think the War on Deer is within our grasp.

        1. iirc, deer kill more people in the US than any other animal

          war on deer not a bad idea

          1. dunphy, the last thing we need is cops killing deer; as it is your reputation with the canine species is shot to pieces

  7. TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints.

    That’s more than 125,000 flights saved the from the menace of toenail clippers.

    1. you can’t say Obama didn’t create jobs

    2. Or perhaps 4 ounces of perfume?

  8. Through the Efficiency Review and component initiatives, DHS has identified more than $1 billion in cost avoidances and implemented 36 efficiency initiatives across the Department.

    More than one million passengers, TSA employees, and equipment not covered in yogurt.

  9. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s 52,000 Transportation Security Officers screened more than 603 million passengers at 450 airports across the country.

    TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints.

    God that pissed me off. You screened people and found harmless items you arbitrarily prohibited! Big fucking deal!

    1. At a rate of 1 per 5,000 passengers.

  10. [rod serling voice]

    Lucy Steigerwald, a vibrant young woman who’s about to experience what it is like to be on the not-nice list…

    in the TSA zone.

    [/rod serling voice]

    1. Speaking of the naughty list, I just learned about the delightful Christmas devil Krampus. And I learned about him by drinking this delicious brew. Thinking about good beer and creepy European mythological figures > the TSA.

      1. I thought his little partner was Black Peter?

        1. Don’t mess with us! I’ll put you in a sack and take you to Spain.

      2. How could you not know about Santa Claus’ evil twin ? 🙂

    2. Rod Serling was hot. I wish he could narrate my life.

        1. Yes, dude?

      1. Damn, all I can manage in response is the Arte Johnson dirty old man shtick…

        mummble, mummble, mummble

  11. “Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.)”

    Yes, but think of all the people WOULD’VE died if not for their amazing efforts.

    Unfortunately the WoT benefits from the same non-existant null hypothesis as the Keynesian mulitiplier or the WoD.

    1. What would be the TSA’s version of “jobs created or saved”?

      Number of terrorists caught or intimidated?

      1. Number of buildings not flown into?

        1. # of toenail clippers manufactured

  12. Two final observations:

    1) Cable television news is completely retarded.

    2) Erin Burnett is kinda hawt.

    1. 2: Kinda… yeah she is.

    2. 2) Erin Burnett is kinda hawt.

      Yeah sometimes. I don’t like her delivery and on-air personality. I quit watching CNBC altogether because of her. I can’t imagine she’s better on CNN.

      1. Oh, you turned up the sound?

        1. The commentariat is on fire this evening. There’s a refreshing absence of troll.

          1. “The commentariat is on fire this evening”

            Do you have “I love sexist BS” tattooed on your ass?

            1. What’s that smell?

    3. Dude, if I was standing next to Janet Napolitano, I’d look kinda hawt.

  13. During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs.

    I agree with Vanity Fair and Lucy, we need the DHS to dispatch feds to watch us as we bathe.

    This paragraph from the VF piece sums it up nicely:

    From an airplane-hijacking point of view, Schneier said, al-Qaeda had used up its luck. Passengers on the first three 9/11 flights didn’t resist their captors, because in the past the typical consequence of a plane seizure had been “a week in Havana.” When the people on the fourth hijacked plane learned by cell phone that the previous flights had been turned into airborne bombs, they attacked their attackers. The hijackers were forced to crash Flight 93 into a field. “No big plane will ever be taken that way again, because the passengers will fight back,” Schneier said. Events have borne him out. The instigators of the two most serious post-9/11 incidents involving airplanes? the “shoe bomber” in 2001 and the “underwear bomber” in 2009, both of whom managed to get onto an airplane with explosives?were subdued by angry passengers.

    1. Right, but it’s not about safety. It’s about control.

      1. Yeah, so it takes Americans a little longer to turn on Feds seizing their balls than to turn on terrorists seizing their plane.

      2. Right, but it’s not about safety. It’s about control.

        Otherwise the sensible, practical and cost effective solution of reinforcing cockpit doors and keeping them locked would have been implemented without emotion.

  14. 125,000 of the 145,000 FOIA requests were of the form, “What was prohibited item 97,439?”

  15. OT: is there a way see alt texts with Android phones?

    1. Not that I know of. If you hold on the image you get a menu but alt-text is not an option.

      1. I think there are alternate browsers that will do it… but… yeah, I’m too lazy to even google it.

  16. TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints.

    1. Small 1/24th scale GI joe Assault Rifle
    2. Vaguely bullet-shaped belt buckle.
    3. Letter opener
    4. Ostomy supply bottle
    5. Halo Reach Action Figure.
    6. Li’l Slugger baseball bat.
    7. Braun hand blender.
    8. Orbital Sander
    9. American Flag
    10. Vice Grips, 1 pair.
    11. Cricket bat.
    12. 2 gallon compressor.
    13. Scissors, one pair.
    14. Socket Wrench.
    15. Butter knife
    16. Ball from trailer hitch.
    17. Hand grenade belt buckle.
    18. Pliers. 1 pair.
    19. 22 16 penny nails.

    Oh, you guys thought I was kidding?


    1. I think the next big leap for the TSA wil be sedating and shackling all passengers for the duration of the flight. After all, there’s no reason for people to have consciousness or mobility when they’re just a passenger. That is… unless they’re planning some nefarious deed, amiright?

      1. I’d pay extra for that.

      2. I would totally go for that. Especially if they had little sleeping boxes like in those weird Japanese hotels.

    2. “11. Cricket bat.”

      I always knew Ian Faith was a terrorist.

    3. American flag, eh? No wonder the Republicans suddenly turned on the TSA.

      1. If we could convince Democrats that the TSA was thwarting access to abortion, they’d swing against it, too.

        1. The Internet appears indecisive as to whether the TSA allows metal coat hangers on planes.

    4. I don’t know that the 2 gallon compressor is something I would want to allow. Unless the TSA guys could make sure it’s empty and vented by sucking on the drain cock.

      1. sage|12.22.11 @ 7:36PM|#
        “…the TSA guys could make sure […] by sucking on the […] cock.”

        Sounds better that way.

      2. You just won the internet.

    5. No snow globes?

      1. Only if they hold over 3 ounces.

  17. …their $50-odd billion a year.

    By the way, $50-odd billion is pretty much the entirety of the physical and human loss on 9/11.

    The US is taxing and spending that much every year to try to prevent an air travel incident that won’t do anything close to that amount of damage again.

    1. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this?and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do”

      I heartily approve these efforts. Now onto currency filled bottle burying….soon the economy should be humming along splendidly.

    2. The entire budget for NASA runs around $20 billion/year now. So instead of 2.5x more NASAs we’re getting disposable socks and gate rapes.

  18. TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints.


    Including dangerous items like cupcakes in a jar (the frosting is “gel”!).

    1. Wh…wh…what?

  19. All I want for Christmas is to pork Erin Burnett.

      1. I smiled. Just a little, but I smiled.

      2. He could bone her instead. No creaming, though.

        1. For some reason reading that made me want to go through a TSA checkpoint with a ziploc bag half-filled with semen. I want to make them handle it.

          1. Way to fail to continue the kosher joke theme, Jimbo, you ignorant slut. You just couldn’t bring yourself to make a clam/shellfish joke, or an all-beef hot dog joke, could you.

            I hope you take semen through the checkpoint and they charge you with a sex crime.

            1. I was just saying last night how Jim is the rapiest of rapier wits at H&R.

              1. Kosher hotdogs and clams are all well and good, but why beat around the bush? We all knew what this conversation was going to devolve into eventually; corprophagia and cum jokes.

                I just bypassed the middle-man.

              2. I thought that would be STEVE SMITH?

                1. STEVE SMITH is the rapiest of raper wits here. Jimbo is the rapiest of rapier wits. Big difference.

                  And Jimbo, I know you ruined the kosher running gag because you’re anti-Semitic. Zeig heil, right Jim?

                  1. I’m only anti-semetic in so far as I love and admire Hitler, and hate Jews and hope they all die. But other than that I wouldn’t really say that label describes me.

                    Speaking though of feces and semen, I thought this was an interesting piece in Time. A little over the top in descriptions of gay people having to hide themselves, but the point about Gingrich is interesting I think. I’d be curious to hear ya’ll opinions on it.

                    1. ts/dr;

                      (too stupid/didn’t read)

                    2. Thanks, I sincerely appreciate the effort you gave there.

                    3. Unlike a goldbricker like you, Jim, I am currently working.

                    4. I thought the article was pretty gay.

                    5. When Newt Gingrich, the leader of the GOP presidential nomination race in some polls on some days, was recently asked if gay Americans should support his candidacy he said they should vote for Obama.

                      I did read it and I have to say, damn you straight to hell for putting me in a position to kind of defend Newt Gingrich. However, I believe this is somewhat of a mischaracterization. The guy went there looking to get the answer he got, and got it only after saying he was a single-issue voter.

                      Gingrich may not be right on his stance on the gays, but I don’t know how terrible it was saying he wasn’t going to put himself in a position to help on that lone issue. Gay Americans could support a Gingrich campaign if they cared more about getting another asshole in the White House who thinks he can devise plans to minister to the wants and needs of 300 million individual Americans than they cared about getting another asshole who would cater to various identity politics.

                      So, in conclusion, I cannot stand Newt Gingrich.

                    6. I largely agree with you, but I also understand the author’s take that it’s strangely acceptable to basically just say, “I will do nothing to aid your cause for equality”.

                      Now everyone please don’t bombard me with, “They don’t want equality they want to force me to endorse their lifestyle!”

                    7. Oh, and here’s a very short and quick to read steaming pile of stupid so that you have something to talk with us about, Epi.

                    8. On paper it makes perfect sense. But once you put a human being in power, it shifts. We saw it in Russia, we’ve seen it all around the world. It’s nuts. But, I keep my fingers crossed.

                      This statement is actually perfectly reasonable for the most part. I dislike Whoopi Goldberg, most especially for being Guinan, but this statement will be leapt on by obnoxious TEAM RED schmucks and blown completely out of proportion for KULTUR WAR fodder.

                      Of course, she actively engages in that shit herself, so I have zero pity for her.

                    9. I don’t think it makes sense on paper at all, because it’s obvious from the get-go that it relies on perfectly unselfish people.

                      And the, “We wish them well in North Korea” esp. got on my nerves, because after talking about “keeping [her] fingers crossed” for communism, it seems like she’s actively cheering the on-going experiment there.

                      “We’re this close to getting that Worker’s Paradise?…”

                    10. Anyway, the real point is that Fist of Etiquette is a grade-A douche and should die. I bet he’s Jewish, too, that scumfuck.

                    11. So what you’re saying is that you hate FoE because he’s a Jew and you hate Whoopi because she’s black.

                      Confession: I found Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Burglar to be passable, even amusing, films.

                    12. I’ll grant you Sister Act. That is all.

                    13. It was all a trap just to get you to say you liked that movie.

                      You. Have. Been. Busted.

                    14. Yeah, I wish I was Jewish. They have all the money.

                    15. Oh I was also going to ask if you’d seen the trailer for Prometheus. I’m litterly creaming my pants I can’t wait.

                    16. I was hoping the next Alien installment was going to be Aliens vs. Freddy Krueger.

                    17. When I saw the first teaser for Cowboys and Aliens my mind flashed on that Alien.

  20. “TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints.”

    Woulda been higher, but I snuck a lighter and a pocket knife through.

    1. I bet that number includes liquids, which I see confiscated almost every week.

      1. I generally sneak through with a lot of liquid, if you catch my drift.

  21. There’s no “D” in Bruce Schnei?er’s name, or Giants Stadium.

    1. Zing!

  22. TSA discovered over 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints

    Thank god I don’t have to worry that my fellow passengers might clip their toenails in flight! Cause that’s like, really gross and shit.


    1. OK, but it did finally stop women from doing their nails in-flight.

      Honest to fucking gawd, I’d rather sit next to a chain smoker than some women with nail polish remover.

  23. they should be worried about terrorists shooting or bombing airports without ever crossing the security gates.

    Exactly. The only time I’m nervous in the airport is when those TSA idiots are making me stand in a crowd of 500 people waiting to go through the security theater machines. Perps wouldn’t even need any weapons, they could just jump a curb, bust through a window, and plough down dozens of us with an SUV.


    1. Don’t give ’em ideas.
      Next the ‘security perimeter’ will extend 10 a mile radius outside the airport; you’ll have to strip ‘n bend both ways on your commute.

  24. “125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints”

    “Yes we confiscated 124,000 brightly colored toy squirt guns from would-be child terrorists and and 1,000 nail clippers that could be used to overpower flight attendants — it was worth it.”

  25. dhs.gov “DHS conducted more than 9300 Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Team (VIPR) operations across various modes of transportation.”

    google VIPR and Homeland Security, please, all of you.

    I read a bit about VIPR, “intermodal” is a euphemism for we STOP YOU ON THE FUCKING HIGHWAY AND LOOK FOR TERRORISTS IN YOUR TRUCK! Holy shit. The airports aren’t enough anymore. The probable cause to search for terrorists means they can arrest you for that weed on the seat next to you. Convenient to pump up the numbers of prohibited items.
    The American people think bombs and guns, but weed and other harmless shit constitute the statistics.

  26. Here I found a link http://www.examiner.com/homela…..e-innocent

  27. Lucyyyyyyyyyyyy!

  28. I’m sorry, but I think my Florida home security system is more successful than DHS at keeping the bad guys out.

  29. Not sure DHS hasn’t done more harm that good…

  30. I am from the UK and a few years ago was travelling through San Francisco airport whilst on holiday with my family when we passed through security checks my 14 year old daughter was asked to remove her belt, remove her shoes and was subject to a physical search, needless to say she felt totally humiliated. These guys need think a little before treating people in this way. Just for the record we are a typical caucasian British family.

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