Another day, another TSA outrage. This week we learned that he TSA strip-searched a woman with a feeding tube in Dallas and started fiddling with the tube itself. There is something pathological about the TSA’s obsession with the weakest members of our society: children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled.
TSA apologists will cry that the agency was only being thorough and keeping us safe by making sure that the woman hadn’t introduced explosives into her abdomen via the tube. This daft reasoning might almost be believable if there weren’t a dozen simpler ways for terrorists to strike. For example, this week we learned from Government Security News that because of “significant holes in [TSA’s] security and immigration checks,” illegal aliens are taking flight training in Boston. You remember Boston, the place where most of the 9/11 hijackers boarded their planes?
So while the TSA is looking for explosives in your pants, they’re still pretty much letting anyone take flying lessons, including those on the “no fly” list.
Here’s another detail: in 2010 (nearly a decade after 9/11) a mandate to screen all cargo on passenger planes finally went into effect. The TSA had until the end of 2011 to get the job done. They missed that deadline. But a year and a half ago they promised that screening would be 100% by 2012. This month, in a report titled “Aviation Security: Actions Needed to Address Challenges and Potential Vulnerabilities Related to Securing Inbound Air Cargo” (Report No. GAO-12-632), the GAO said that the TSA is still failing to meet the mandate. Now TSA head John Pistole says he’s pretty sure it can be done by 2013.
So while the TSA is making a production of checking the coffee you bought inside the “sterile area” of the terminal, they really don’t know if someone has loaded explosives into the cargo hold. Never mind the needles that were found in six sandwiches aboard U.S.-bound Delta planes, which the FBI is now investigating. Why go to all the trouble of building and hiding bombs, when other, simpler means of terrorizing people exist?
And, of course, we know from WSB-TV in Atlanta that the agency hires employees who aren’t fully screened until long after they’ve been given access to sensitive areas of the airport, and that catering carts aren’t being screened at Hartsfield-Jackson, the country’s busiest airport. As recently as this May, WSB showed photos of continued security breaches at ATL, such as doors to secure areas left hanging open.
So while the TSA is searching disabled kids on their way to Disneyland and still insists on confiscating their souvenir snow globes (unless – oh thank you, TSA! – they are small enough to fit into a Ziploc bag, which somehow renders them safe), it’s still possible for far more dangerous people to just wander onto the tarmac.
Yeah, I get it: the TSA screens millions of passengers each year, and mistakes are bound to happen. The point is, these are not small mistakes, they are happening with alarming frequency, and they are accompanied by an arrogance of biblical proportions.
Before TSA agents puts their hands down one more pair of pants, it’s about damned time they tell us how much radiation their x-ray scanners shower us with, when they are going to hold court-ordered hearings on use of the machines, why they have such an obsession with kids and the elderly, and just how much politics and political cronyism had to do with buying those machines in the first place.
Before another VIPR team takes to the highways, or the TSA sends more screeners to the train station or another contingent to London for the Olympics, maybe they can ensure that all the metal detectors they left behind at JFK are actually plugged in. Before “Blogger Bob” writes one more condescending, snarky post about things Americans accidentally leave in their bags, maybe he could address the disproportionately high number of thieves and sex offenders among his co-workers.
Before we go any further, maybe it’s time to fire TSA Administrator John Pistole and bring in someone who doesn’t approach security with the idea that every single person at the airport – including (and sometimes especially) the young, old, and disabled – is a suspect.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/renaissancechambara)