TSA Roundup

Here’s a roundup of some of the stories regarding the wonderful folks at the TSA.

TSA scanners are useless: This is an interview with security consultant Bruce Schneier who coined the phrase “security theater.”

Q: Has there been a case since 9/11 of an attempted hijacker being thwarted by airport security?

A: None that we’ve heard of. The TSA will say, “Oh, we’re not allowed to talk about successes.” That’s actually bullsh*t. They talk about successes all the time. If they did catch someone, especially during the Bush years, you could be damned sure we’d know about it. And the fact that we didn’t means that there weren’t any. Because the threat was imaginary. It’s not much of a threat. As excess deaths go, it’s just way down in the noise. More than 40,000 people die each year in car crashes. It’s 9/11 every month. The threat is really overblown.

Q: Do you think there’s been an over-reaction, on the part of the government and the press, to the underwear bomber?

A: That case was really instructive. Nobody was injured, and the plane landed safely. It was a success! And it was pre 9-11 security that made it a success. Because we screen for superficial guns and bombs, he had to resort to a syringe and 90 minutes in the bathroom with a bomb that didn’t work. This is what success looks like.

It’s all about politics.

Mythbuster Adam Savage: WTF TSA?

The lack of standards, inconsistent application of searches and policies, and occasional rude agent all combine to make flying an unpleasant experience. It’s often derided as “security theater,” which describes the experience of Mythbuster Adam Savage before a recent flight.Savage was put through the full-body scanner, and while he joked that it made his penis feel small, no one seemed to notice the items he was carrying on his person. The video tells the rest of the story.

If the TSA thinks you can hijack a plane with saline solution and nail clippers, Savage’s 12″ razor blades are the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Since the blades weren’t anywhere near Savage’s privates, they likely would have been missed by the pat-down as well.

Sleep well, America.

Finally, here’s a great piece from Mark Hyman at the American Spectator that calls for the disbanding of the TSA. This is not just based on the recent lunacy but on the history of this useless agency.

In a previous career I was a U.S. intelligence officer stationed in London during the 1980s. I traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. I worked on terrorism and related issues. During that time I was in a small group that had access to a highly classified codeword program focusing on suspected terrorists and terrorism planning. Not a single alleged terrorist planner was ever caught or an anticipated attack thwarted as a result of this program. Yet, that did not stop the sponsors of the program from claiming incredible success.

I am reminded of this as I review of the performance of the Transportation Security Administration. In nearly a decade there is not a single report of a terrorist having been caught during the TSA screening process. No bombs have been discovered. No hijackings have been thwarted. For the TSA to claim it has made the nation’s skies safer is as absurd as the rooster taking credit for the sun rising each morning. Observant passengers have caught more terrorist-wannabes than the 67,000 TSA employees.

And what is one of the biggest problems with the TSA? A policy driven by political correctness.

It is the TSA’s premise that the 89-year old great-grandmother in a walker, the soccer team comprised of 11-year old girls, the two-year old toddler on the family vacation, the airline crewmember and the soldier traveling home from Iraq pose the same potential threat to airline safety as the Middle Eastern man traveling alone, without luggage, on a one-way First Class ticket that was purchased with cash. The TSA is fueled by political correctness run amuck. Its sole accomplishments to date have been establishing a sizable airport presence and humiliating passengers.

And no one is immune from this lunacy, including the military and members of congress.

In 2002, then-75 year old Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) was forced to strip down to his underwear because his artificial hip set-off alarms on the magnetometer. The issue is not that Dingell should undergo the same invasive inspections as everyone else. Instead, it is that the 99% of American airline passengers who do not raise meaningful red flags should not be subjected to such invasive inspections.(As an aside, I happen to believe members of Congress pose a greater threat to the American way of life when they are voting than when flying.)

Then-U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) was asked to produce a picture I.D. at the Washington National Airport security screening area before a 2002 trip. Reagan National is the airport used by nearly every member of Congress when flying. Burns showed the TSA screener his U.S. Senate identification. The official refused to accept the government-issued I.D. but allowed Burns to proceed to his flight when he produced his Sam’s Club shopping card as proof of identification.

In 2003, a U.S. Army medic who was wounded in Afghanistan when he was shot in the jaw was grossly mishandled at San Francisco International Airport. His jaw wired shut, the soldier was given a small pair of wire clippers to use in the event he became air sick in order to keep from choking on his vomit. TSA officials confiscated his wire clippers and he was forced to fly from San Francisco to Texas even though flight attendants informed him there was nothing on board the aircraft to open his jaw in an emergency.

In 2004, a chartered airline flight rotating an Army unit back to the U.S. from an Afghanistan deployment was stranded on the tarmac at San Francisco airport for hours during a layover. The troops were not permitted to deplane to purchase food and drink nor to use the bathroom. TSA officials ruled the soldiers posed a threat to airport security because the unit’s weapons were stored in the cargo hold of the aircraft.

A planeload of servicemen were detained at nearby Oakland airport on their last layover while en route Hawaii in 2007 after departing Kuwait a day earlier. In spite of having all baggage x-rayed and hand-searched before boarding their aircraft in southwest Asia, the troops were ordered by TSA to deplane near an outdoor baggage handling area if they wanted to stretch their legs. TSA prohibited them from entering the terminal as they posed a threat to airport safety.

Of course pilots also pose a threat to security according to the asinine policies of the TSA.

One commercial airline pilot confided his frustration at continually being subjected to x-ray screenings and pat-downs. He told me that in the first 1500 feet of elevation after take-off and the last 1500 feet before touch-down that no other crewmember in the cockpit could prevent him from using the jetliner as the ultimate weapon if he wanted to fly the aircraft into the ground. “I’m in complete control and no one can stop me.”

Another commercial pilot who is a licensed Federal Flight Deck Officer and is permitted to carry a sidearm onboard his aircraft reports that half of the time after checking in with the TSA he is whisked through security. The rest of the time he is instructed to place his weapon in his carry-on bag and run it through the x-ray machine to determine if he possesses any objects that might pose a threat in flight. It is as if the script writers on Saturday Night Live are making up the rules.

Read the whole thing.

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One Response to “TSA Roundup”

  1. […] with any other government agency, the TSA has been a miserable failure. At an annual cost of over $10B/yr it represents the type of low hanging fruit ripe for picking by […]

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