TSA wasting passenger time for no results

Hardly a surprise, really, as I don’t think anyone with critical thinking skills expected that a bunch of TSA employees could suddenly become behavior detection specialists overnight, but now there are some real statistics proving the point.

Over the past 16 months the TSA’s SPOT program has led to 160,000 additional screenings (that’s ~350/day for a staff of ~2,500 people). Those screenings have led to a whopping 1,266 people actually being arrested, mostly for drug possession or having a fake ID. That’s a conversion rate of fewer than 1%. Even worse than that, in my mind, is that about 10% of the people confronted under this program (~15,000) faced questioning by the police and still only 10% of those actually were arrested.

The TSA is doing their best to spin the results, reminding us that some people were actually doing illegal things. They seem to forget, however, that their mission is about protecting the airspace from terrorists, not from kids with fake IDs or drug dealers.

TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said the program has been “incredibly effective” at catching criminals at airports. “It definitely gets at things that other layers of security might miss,” Howe said.

The other great thing that the TSA continues to tout is that possession of a fake ID is a terrorist act. They take pride in the fact that they are catching all these fake IDs since ID = security in their minds and since anyone with a fake ID must be out scouting an airport for a possible attack. Better let all those bars in college towns know that they are targets and that they need to up their security. What a joke.

There is no real reason to believe that the ~1% number is statistically any different than if the TSA just randomly picking a group of 160,000 passengers and subjecting them to an invasive and over-reaching search. But we can continue to spend money on it and grow the program because we haven’t had any more attacks on the airspace so it must be working.

This program is simply the worst functioning and most misguided bit in an organization bent on suppressing privacy rights while returning zero value in actual security. So sad.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.