Your pants may be cleared, but baggage still goes unscreened

by Lisa Simeone on August 27, 2012


As so many Americans love to say, “Meh, facts schmacts.”

What difference do facts make when irrationality is so much more fun?

After all, we can pretend that the TSA is Keeping Us Safe by strip-searching us and sticking its hands down our pants. Never mind that the practice is degrading, humiliating, criminal, and just plain stupid, it makes us believe the TSA is Doing Something! And obviously, Doing Something is better than Doing Nothing, no matter how indefensible it is.

No matter that the TSA’s own spokesperson has admitted that the TSA hasn’t caught or thwarted a single terrorist in its history, no matter that scores of actual security experts with actual security credentials have debunked the TSA umpteen times, no matter that Jon Corbett physically demonstrated that the scanners don’t work, no matter that a TSA agent concurred, no matter that you face more risks every day than the risk of a terrorist attack on a plane, no matter that TSA whistleblowers have exposed the voodoo “behavior detection” program as nothing more than racial profiling – that is, when it’s not outright harassment – no matter that the TSA robs and abuses people all the time.

Facts don’t matter.

So here’s another fact that won’t matter to millions of Americans: while you’re getting a TSA reach-around, hundreds of bags are going into the hold unscreened.

That’s right, while the TSA is busy confiscating your dangerous shampoo and explosive coffee, it’s letting hundreds of unscreened bags every day go into the cargo hold of the plane you’re on.

But that’s only according to the baggage screeners themselves, and what do they know?

You know better!

Oh, and the baggage screeners who are making this claim (impossible to believe this goes on only at their airport) work at SFO, San Francisco, which employs the much-vaunted private security. You know, private security, that panacea that’s supposed to fix everything?

Baggage screeners at San Francisco International Airport allege that dozens if not hundreds of bags identified by X-ray machines as high-risk bomb threats are loaded onto planes each day without any human inspection in a clear violation of federal rules.

The screeners work for Covenant Aviation Security, the company charged with baggage and checkpoint security at SFO. They complain that company managers routinely cover up such security breaches and retaliate against employees who complain too loudly.

. . . These whistle-blowers say their employer’s emphasis on profit before safety lies behind all the security breaches. Covenant’s goal, whistle-blowers claim, is to process bags more quickly, something essential for retaining its lucrative contract with SFO.

“All management is looking at is profit motive and how to save money,” said Ron Davis, a former supervisor in Covenant’s baggage screening room.

. . . “All of the allegations alleged in your questions were investigated in depth by Covenant Aviation, the local TSA and TSA in Washington, D.C.,” Cummins wrote. “The results of those extensive investigations found there to be no basis for the allegations.”

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez confirmed that his agency received such complaints.

“TSA determined the application of screening procedures was not consistently applied, but passengers’ safety was not compromised,” he wrote. Melendez said the TSA would take the latest allegations seriously, but declined to answer more questions.

However, whistle-blowers say they don’t recall a single screener being interviewed by the TSA in the agency’s first inquiry. They also were perplexed about how any investigation could fail to spot security breaches they say are documented in daily baggage logs.

Oh, heck, so what’s a few unscreened bags here and there? It doesn’t matter what goes on behind the scenes — as long as you don’t see it. And as long as Doing Something makes you feel better. Because that’s really what this is all about — the pointlessness, the inefficacy, the humiliation, the security theater, the $8-billion-a-year budget — making you feel better.

Let the rest of us silly civil-liberties-loving loonies keep spouting off about principle and liberty and dignity and common sense. That doesn’t make you feel better.

Bon voyage!

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Arenamontanus)

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