It seems axiomatic that when government is threatened, it creates more government. So it was that shortly after the September 11 attacks, Congress — under pressure to DO SOMETHING !!!— created the Transportation Security Administration. At the time, we were told that getting rid of the “miniumum wage” security guards then employed in most airports was essential to protecting the nation’s airways. And, without much real discussion or debate, the Congress and President saddled the taxpayer with another bloated and inefficient federal bureaucracy.
The results of this charade were recently on display at Newark International Airport. On October 19, a special undercover team was able to smuggle an array of fake guns and bombs through various TSA checkpoints at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. They did so with such regularity that one anonymous official is quoted as saying, “We just totally missed everything.” It wasn’t quite that bad, of course, as TSA agents did catch 2 of the 22 fake weapons.
This is not an aberration. In August, ABC news reported that over fifty percent of screeners at Orlando’s airport failed a test to determine whether a bomb was hidden in a bag. Numerous other accounts exist of passengers takings guns, knives and other contraband items through security checkpoints and onto airplanes without detection.
The bottom line here is that with all the increased spending and hassle, TSA agents continue to perform as poorly as the old minimum-wage screeners they were supposed to replace. Indeed, a 2004 congressional study revealed that the old screeners failed to detect concealed guns twenty percent of the time, and failed to detect fake bombs in luggage in two of three bags. Overall, that seems actually a bit better than Newark’s record.
The latest test merely proves the silliness of the entire passenger screening system. Desperate to ensure that no one’s feelings are hurt, the federal government is currently spending billions of dollars looking for needles in haystacks, rather than concentrating its efforts on real prevention. Thus, rather than institute a rational profiling system, designed to isolate and seach likely terrorism suspects, TSA is wasting vast amounts of time ensuring that 80-year old ladies do not take tubes of toothpaste on an aircraft.
This is a game of Russian roulette that Americans are destined to lose.
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