Finding a politician willing to speak out against the TSA has, for the most part, proven to be a challenge. No one wants to give an opposing candidate the opportunity to label them soft on terrorism or other similar smears. So it is somewhat surprising to find that not only is there a Congressman starting to make some noise, but it is Representative Mica (R-Fla), the Chairman of the House committee that oversees the department and one of those intimately involved in building the organization. Apparently he’s having some regrets about that move now.
Among other things, Mica notes that the "chat" interrogations being conducted at Boston‘s Logan airport are a farce implemented by untrained individuals and which offered up "idiotic" questions to passengers. This implementation in Boston is the first trial site of an expanded program where the TSA tries to analyze the behavior of passengers, a plan that the GAO has noted lacks scientific validity. Said Mica, "It’s almost idiotic. It’s still not a risk-based system. It’s not a thinking system."
Speaking of the TSA, why not pile on a bit here. There are a couple additional stories in the news over the past couple weeks that can make one sympathize with Mica’s view on things. For starters, there was the hand-written note on the back of an inspection notice in a checked bag with the simple message, "Get your freak on girl" when the agent spotted a vibrator in the checked bag. Real classy there.
And then there is House Resolution 3011 which is now under consideration. This bill will, among other things, amend Section 709 of Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 33 of the US Code. That section defines a variety of federal agency names, mostly related to banking or law enforcement, and makes it illegal to use the names or associated images (e.g. badges or uniforms) of such agencies in print or performance in a manner which is meant to convey that the agency involved is approved, endorsed or authorized by that agency. The amendment will add the TSA and Federal Air Marshall services to the laundry list of protected agencies.
There is some concern that adding the names to this list will prohibit satirical and other less than sanguine portrayals of the Agency. I’m not quite as convinced, as it would also require that the portrayal suggest that the agency approves the parody. I suppose making a movie where the TSA officer character, wearing a suitable costume, is a buffoon or otherwise does something stupid could be construed as a violation, but that would be quite the stretch on the enforcement side of things. Still, it is an interesting move by a group that is frequently subject to significant mockery to potentially limit that. If you can’t beat ’em, outlaw them??
Next up there’s the report of a handgun falling out of a checked bag at LAX on Monday. This one is actually not the TSA’s fault so stop beating them up on it. Guns are permitted in checked bags. The owner is an idiot for not properly declaring it or packing it (supposed to be in a separate, locked container), but the TSA didn’t do anything particularly wrong here.
Finally, there’s the story of Eduardo Valdes who tried to bring a gun through a TSA checkpoint in Miami a couple weeks ago. This wouldn’t be so awkward if
- Valdes wasn’t a TSA agent responsible for keeping guns out of the secure area of the airport;
- The gun was not unregistered; and,
- Valdes did not have a permit to carry the gun.
Nothing but top-rate professionals minding the farm it would seem.
Yeah, it is hard not to sympathize with Mica and his views that the TSA is an idiotic system that doesn’t involve much thinking. The only question is whether he can actually put some action behind those words. Let’s see out elected officials hold the Agency accountable. Let’s see them actually do something about the problems rather than just campaigning for political gain. So, Mica, you’ve identified the problem. What are you going to do about it?
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