TSA profiling? It’s been happening for a decade

by Wendy Thomson on November 29, 2011

The following commentary was written by Wendy Thomson of the advocacy group Freedom to Travel USA.

The TSA is reportedly being taken to task by Rep. Bennie Thompson for the possibility of profiling by the TSA within the TSA’s recently piloted SPOT program.

News flash: The TSA has been profiling since its inception.

What, you say? Oh, yes, the fashionably correct phrase “Driving While Black” has been replaced with the popular “Flying While Handicapped.”

Let’s look at the similarities: both rely on a physical characteristic upon which governmental employees rely to justify suspicion. Both engender searches that are above and beyond “normal.” However, in the case of the latter, there is positively no correlation between the physical limitation and an increased incidence of crime. I suspect that there might even be a negative correlation.

So, Rep. Thompson, if you are so against profiling please expand your outrage to those that are truly being profiled. Every time they fly – it’s like the first time. There is no amount of certification or pre-approval even available to allow those with medical assistive devices to get those devices pre-certified prior to flight.

I suggest the following to those who are uneasy with a medical “get out of jail free” card: if the glorious State cannot decide that a person with decades of tax returns to their credit (and for whom said Glorious State does not possess even fingerprints due to such a crime-free existence) does not pose a viable threat, then I don’t know what does.

The TSA cannot possibly succeed in its mission because it cannot possible guard everywhere that hundreds congregate, nor should we expect it to. The missing piece to every argument I’ve heard is the answer to the following question: should citizens expect the government to protect them from every eventuality? Citizens should not. We should not ask for the impossible. To expect virtual safety guarantees from anyone or anything is folly.

Here are some statistics for you:

From the GAO: there are many international airports that still are “seriously non-compliant” with safety standards.

From the TSA: in 2004-2005 screeners failed 70% of the tests run to measure successful interdiction of prohibited items getting through security.

From the BLS: in 2004-2005 there were 21.9 million departures of domestically owned airlines carrying over 1.5 billion passengers.

So let’s put that all together: during a period of significant detection failure, when international airports were at least as porous as they are now, when we didn’t have AIT machines or enhanced patdowns, when billions of people flew in millions of flights.

There were no incidents. None. And as you can see from the TSA failure rate, it has nothing to do with the efficacy of the TSA, nor with the efficacy of non-US security personnel.

Rep. Thompson, I encourage you to help deep-six the TSA in its current form. Maybe deep-six it entirely. If you want to use the race card to help sink that ship, well, go for it. However, I think that both you and I know that trying to make this into a race issue is so yesterday. If that’s the best ammunition you have, oh, well (sigh). But I’ll accept help from any quarter. Just know that trying to turn this issue into a racial one is quite a stretch.

(Photo: Unhindered by Talent/Flickr)

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