TSA: Failure by the numbers

by Lisa Simeone on May 22, 2012

I just got back from a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill organized by Freedom to Travel USA – specifically Wendy Thomson, Renee Beeker, and Jeff Pierce — and other TSA activists including Sommer Gentry and Jon Corbett. (Thomson and Gentry also write for TSA News).

The briefing was attended by several Congressional aides from various Representatives’ offices. Sommer Gentry, who’s a math professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, presented solid evidence on the inefficacy and harm of current TSA procedures using statistical analysis, risk assessment, mathematical precision, and logic.

Jon Corbett, you may recall, is the creator of the video that went viral demonstrating how easy it is to slip metal past the strip-search scanners. Today Jon presented a brief recap of his video, explained how the scanners work (or don’t), and added to Sommer’s powerful presentation.

This briefing was long on facts and short on emotion. Which marks it in stark contrast to the fear-mongering that characterizes TSA Administrator John Pistole’s appearances on Capitol Hill. (Gentry, Thomson, and Beeker also spoke Monday at a meeting of the TSA’s Aviation Security Advisory Council; Gentry will have an update on that later for TSA News.)

The briefing underscored much of what we write about at TSA News: the scanners are ineffective, unsafe, and grossly expensive; the so-called pat-downs are abusive; the TSA has been allowed to behave irresponsibly and with no oversight; the risk of dying from a terrorist attack in this country is so vanishingly small it can barely be quantified (though Prof. Gentry did quantify it); you’re far more likely to be struck by lightning, to drown in your bathtub, to be killed by a home appliance (no joke), and obviously to die in a car accident, than you are to be the victim of a terrorist attack.

In short, the threat of terrorism in this country has been grotesquely exaggerated, and the fear of it irrationally hyped.

Freedom to Travel USA will post video of today’s briefing on its website. In the meantime, you can read the abundant information already provided there.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Vinoth Chandar)

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