Part of me says that I should have seen this all coming. The TSA has been pretty good about demonstrating just how incompetent they are and their latest moves really are just a continuation of that trend. Still, I’ve found myself so completely dumbfounded over the past 3 weeks that I’ve not been able to form a coherent set of thoughts about just what specifically I find so objectionable. As National Opt-Out Day approaches tomorrow, however, I’m going to try.
It was about 50 weeks ago that I posted what I thought was a relatively tame post here on this blog: The TSA makes another stupid move. Just another example of the TSA being stupid, right? Actually, this one was worse then most. The story got some legs and before I knew it there were congressional hearings where I was excoriated as part of the problem (“Rest assured that we will hold the department to account”) while the Acting Director of the TSA sat there, smiled, declined to actually answer any of the questions posed and then went back to running the circus that is the TSA. Congress promised changes but no oversight of the agency materialized.
Fast forward 11 months and we’re dealing now with outrage and near revolt on the part of the passengers in many camps. The Director of the TSA has made statements effectively blaming us, the passengers, for causing the problems and reminding everyone that if they are delayed at security and miss their flight on Wednesday it is because other passengers have decided that being strip-searched was simply too much, not because the searches are happening.
I hear people say “Well, as long as it makes us safer,” as a justification for the searches. They do not. These searches are not based on any actionable intelligence report. They are based on random reactions to previous events and to extensive lobbying on the part of former DHS employees to score huge contracts to sell the strip-search machines.
I hear people suggest that doing it “Israel-style” will make us safer. Probably not, and even if it would our society is not willing to accept the costs – time or dollar – to go there. And we shouldn’t. The threats and the infrastructure being secured are very different.
Some airports (Orlando and Colorado Springs are the two most recent to suggest such) want the TSA out and replaced with private screeners. Sadly, however, the screening policies are still set by the TSA and ultimately it is these policies that cause the problems. Having transited security at SFO several times in the past couple years I can safely say that the private contractors performing the unreasonably invasive searches are no better than anyone else performing the same.
When I can walk through the checkpoint and see a document out in plain view labeled “Unpredictable Screening Checklist” complete with the details on what types of events are considered “unpredictable” and how often each TSO is expected to perform such there is something VERY wrong with the SOP. When I explain to the folks running the checkpoint that they probably shouldn’t have those documents in plain view they generally shrug and move them somewhere else that is still in plain view of the passengers.
Lots of people suggesting lots of things, except the obvious solution: hold the TSA accountable. Elected officials are only just now starting to consider suggesting that the TSA isn’t perfect. Doing so when it was not clear that the public was opposed to the TSA was political suicide as their opponents would campaign against them on that front. But now that there is some political cover – hard for their not to be as the TSA is groping passengers, adult and child alike – the politicians are finally starting to speak up. Not enough, yet, but the movement is afoot.
Here’s hoping the uproar continues. Here’s hoping that passengers see the TSA for what they really are. Here’s hoping that our country can finally choose to not live in fear. These will be my thoughts as I travel this week, knowing that I have the right to not be strip-searched just to get on an airplane.
I will fly proud, not afraid. I will not let anyone terrorize me, including my own government.
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