TSA’s Failures Mean Worse
Airport Ordeals for Travelers The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently flunked a performance audit conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. TSA creeners failed to detect mock explosives and/or prohibited weapons in an astonishing 95% of cases. A well-trained monkey could do better than that.
But in the perverse world of government incentives, an agency that fails miserably is rewarded with more money and more power. That’s exactly what the TSA is getting.
According to Politico, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has “ordered TSA to start doing more manual screening, such as using handheld metal detectors and doing more random tests for trace explosives.” That likely means more TSA employees coming soon to an airport near you. And longer waits to get through airport security. The TSA is also considering new restrictions on who can access the PreCheck lanes.
Undoubtedly, more whole-body imaging scanners will be deployed for TSA agents to corral passengers through. The Rutherford Institute likens these machines to “virtual strip searches.” It recently filed suit in federal court to try to force the TSA to comply with a previous court ruling. That ruling found that the agency violated federal law when it unilaterally rolled out whole-body scanners in 2009.
In addition to being personally invasive, such scanners may pose a cancer risk. They emit 20 times the radiation of an X-ray at the dentist, according to Rutherford Institute president John Whitehead.
Airport Screeners Now Trained to “SPOT” Your Personality Quirks
A secret TSA document called SPOT Referral Report (SPOT stands for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) was recently obtained by investigative journalists at The Intercept. The report instructs TSA “Behavior Detection Officers” on what to zero-in on when observing the behavior of travelers.
“Suspicious” behaviors these agents need to watch for include excessive laughter, yawning, or throat clearing. They are also on the lookout for people with a downward gaze, who are staring with wide-open eyes,or blinking too fast. Did you shave recently? That’s suspicious. So are sweaty palms, carrying large sums of money, or arriving late for a flight.
The same TSA buffoons who fail to detect dangerous weapons in suitcases 95% of the time are supposed to be able to assess the threat level you might pose via
intuitive psychoanalysis of your mannerisms and mood.
The SPOT Referral Report also urges TSA agents to treat passengers as potential terrorists if they engage in “excessive complaints about the screening process”! That’s right. TSA agents who can’t even screen out bombs, guns, and knives are being empowered to detain passengers who criticize TSA. Then, a team of TSA agents can administer an additional, personally invasive examination that has nothing to do with making us safe and everything to do with being petty and punitive.
The Government’s Twisted Priorities
Coming Straight at You As if SPOT weren’t creepy enough, the TSA also runs a program called VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response). VIPR squads aren’t confined to airports. Through VIPR, the TSA “has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals,” reports the New York Times.
The federal government is now patting people down at rodeos. Yet the Obama administration says it lacks the resources to deport illegal aliens with known criminal histories. And it lacks the will to prevent high-risk populations from coming here in the first place. Perverse outcomes, indeed.
Rethinking Flying vs. Driving
Despite the TSA’s efforts to make air travel less and less pleasant, flying remains the safest, most efficient mode of long-distance transportation. But it’s the least private.
You’ll have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of flying vs. driving (or going by train or bus or boat) for yourself. If it was a close call before when you flew to get somewhere, the latest TSA incursions may tip the balance slightly in favor of avoiding the airport.