A proposal to scale back federally operated screening at small airports has been abandoned. Security theater wins again.
CNN reported in August on a potential plan to eliminate security checkpoints operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at 150 smaller airports in the United States. The proposal called for passengers from those small airports to go through security at larger airports for any connecting flights.
It wasn't a huge plan, affecting only 0.5 percent of domestic fliers. Yet, some had a massive freakout over the very idea that a small number of fliers might not be fondled by federal officials before boarding planes. They saw a security vulnerability, even though there are already several airports within the United States that have privately operated screening, not TSA screeners. Presumably, these other airports would implement some sort of screening of their own.
Alas, there will be no scaling back of the oppressive TSA apparatus: TSA Administrator David Pekoske told Congress Wednesday that his agency will not go forward with the plan. What's more, Pekoske told legislators the TSA needs to actually "Improve our security profile at smaller airports."
Disappointing, but hardly surprising. As I noted when this concept was leaked to CNN, the trend for airport security under President Donald Trump's administration has been more theater, not less. Even the now-scrapped plan was a neglible reform; it would not have saved money or spared travelers from overly intrusive security measures. It would simply have redirected the security spending–and TSA encounters for small airport fliers–to the larger airports.
We also shouldn't be surprised that the TSA wants to make security even more oppressive. We know now that the Department of Homeland Security is going completely overboard with tracking some domestic air travelers, sending air marshals to stalk Americans as they travel, even though there's no actual suspicion of wrong-doing, just previous overseas visits to certain countries. The security theater has gotten so absurd that even the air marshals themselves are complaining, wondering why they're being forced to play spy games tracking some social media manager of an arts-and-crafts company simply because she went to Turkey.
Despite the complaints from the air marshals and the fact that this program has found absolutely no evidence of criminal or terrorist threats, the TSA is insisting that it's going to continue. So we shouldn't really be shocked that the TSA would quickly abandon the idea that not every airport requires federal employees to grope out terrorists.