Free Minds & Free Markets

Classy: TSA Uses 9/11 Anniversary to Debut New Slogan

"Not on our watch" to replace "not on my watch." Great work, guys.

JASON REED/REUTERS/NewscomJASON REED/REUTERS/NewscomThe Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, whether its for its ineffectiveness in spotting contraband going through its security checkpoints, overeager pat downs of passengers, or just generally being an affront to the liberty and dignity of the traveling public.

Now the much-maligned agency is taking the 17th anniversary of the tragic, violent attacks that brought it into being to roll out a new slogan, one that will hopefully remind Americans that airport security is not the just province of a brave, blue-shirted few.

"Since our inception, TSA has lived by the motto 'Not on My Watch.' This has served as a powerful call to action for TSA," said agency administrator David Pekoske in remarks at a September 11 commemoration ceremony in Virginia. "But we know that we are stronger together. So today, I ask each and every one of you, whether you are a TSA or a DHS employee, a veteran, an active duty member of the U.S. military, an industry partner, a law enforcement officer, a first responder or a private citizen, to join me in adopting and embracing a new creed: 'Not on Our Watch.'"

Everything about this motto is classic TSA.

There's of course the matter of timing. One might find the anniversary of a major tragedy an inappropriate occasion to engage in a little rebranding. Not the TSA! The agency owes its existence to the terrible events of September 11, and stands only to gain by reminding people of that terrible day.

This is hardly unique for the agency either. In posters, pronouncements, and press releases the TSA has taken every conceivable opportunity to remind flight catchers that they would be endangered yet again without their gloved watchers on the wall.

Then there's the explicit shift in focus, from the agency being separate and distinct from its charges ("not on my watch") to a part of all of us ("not on our watch"). Hokey as it is, this isn't terrible PR.

Whatever slogan the agency chooses to adopt is of course utterly irrelevant to the wider fight against terrorism. That's because the TSA writ large is utterly irrelevant to the wider fight against terrorism.

Time and time again investigations from the TSA's own watchdogs have exposed the agency for the sham security it provides. In 2015, the TSA sent undercover agents through airport security checkpoints carrying fake weapons, knives, and explosives. TSA security personnel managed to miss 95 percent of these items. Similar tests two years later found a failure rate of at least 70 percent, and possibly higher than 80 percent.

Rather than reconsider its approach, or even question the justifications for the agency, TSA is expanding its scope. The agency is beginning to roll out facial recognition scanners in airports across the country, while its body scanners have migrated to subway stations and bus depots.

Anger around the TSA usually revolves around what it does to passengers for our safety; shepherding us through invasive, ineffective body scanners; poking, prodding, and occasionally molesting us with latex-covered hands; rooting through our bags in search of contraband liquids and suspicious items. The new motto attempts to cast these measures as things done not to us, but with us, and with our own consent or even help. They're on the front lines and so are we.

Whether intentional or not, it helps reinforce the notion that the hassle and indignities of air travel post–9/11 are not just the product of TSA agents at security checkpoints, but part of a wider counter-terrorism bureaucracy and security culture that has firmly wedged itself into modern American life.

Photo Credit: JASON REED/REUTERS/Newscom

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 or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Maybe they should have used this moment to debut their new fingerless gloves.

  • Tony||

    When they start forcing passengers to wear transparent plastic jumpsuits, I'm telling you I will be more choosy about which cities I connect in.

  • Longtobefree||

    How could you miss the inevitable end game were?
    All passengers will be stripped naked and handcuffed to their seats.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    All it takes is one wildcard with Explosive Diarrhea before they're sewing our buttholes shut as well.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Passengers will be forced to become part of a giant human centipede. That way the flight attendants only have to provide one in-flight snack for whoever is at the head of the human centipede.

  • Tony||

    And so stackable.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Definitely will be paying extra for First Class.

  • Paloma||

    Go on.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Rather than reconsider its approach, or even question the justifications for the agency, TSA is expanding its scope

    In government, nothing succeeds like... y'all know the drill here.

  • GoatOnABoat||

    Speaking of drilling... bend over, we have to search you.

  • Sevo||

    "We grab your junk because we can!"
    Did I guess right?

  • The Last American Hero||

    Where every passenger has the opportunity to fly Fist Class.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||


  • Reformed Republican||

    Outside drinks on a plane?

    Not on our watch!

    Stop molesting travelers?

    Not on our watch!

    Speedy, efficient, and non-invasive?

    Not on our watch!

  • Shirley Knott||


    Not on our watch!

  • GoatOnABoat||

    I wonder how many committees and meetings it took them to come up with that.

    TSA - We're here to help you molest yourself.

  • Dillinger||

    Touchin' Someone Always

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    "This Is Going To Hurt"

  • Mr. Dyslexic||

  • LibertarianJRT||

    Sounds like passing the buck to some collective unknown rather that taking responsibility for themselves as individuals.

  • CE||

    Stronger together? Are they just trolling Trump now? Wasn't that Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan?

  • The Last American Hero||

    I thought it was "Hospital next right."

  • Tony||

    So they didn't go with "Molesting You for Freedom"? or "Protecting the Nation from Shampoo since 2001"?

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    What Watch?
    You couldn't catch cold in a blizzard.

  • Longtobefree||

    Classic escape from individual responsibility (my) to collective (our) diffusion of responsibility, thereby guilt.

  • Jerryskids||

    So the TSA is admitting it's a failure and needs us to do the job of protecting ourselves that they were explicitly created to do? In a sane world, such an admission would be cause to disband the TSA.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "Not on our watch" to replace "not on my watch."

    It must have taken all the brain power they could muster to come up with that.

  • BarkingSpider||

    I don't care what they do. This inept agency of groping azzhats have never caught or thwarted anyone. Being I cannot change them I just choose not participate in their privacy invasions and no longer use Airports. Life goes on.

  • Tony||

    Of course you're more likely to get well and truly fucked going by road, especially if you have a little cocktail first.

  • Morbo||

    A near certain chance of being stripped of your rights and your dignity vs. a somewhat-larger-than-flying chance of being involved in a fatal accident.

    Not really that hard of a choice.

  • Tony||

    I'm talking about the pigs. Mind your own business at the airport and you will get where you're going and you can even be drunk while doing so. Yes, you'll be molested, but your life won't be ruined without pretty good cause.

  • Conchfritters||

    ..they would be endangered yet again without their gloved watchers on the wall.

    They should take a vow to not father any children.

  • Robert Crim||

    So, how many millions of taxpayer dollars did they spend to come up with this?

  • Eddy||

    "Groping Towards Freedom" didn't make the cut?

  • Duke of url||

    " Not on my crotch "
    /Duke of URL

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    And all these years I thought their slogan was "The best defense it to be incredibly offensive"

  • majil||

    " Grab ya by the Pussy"!


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online