Rand Paul re the TSA: “Is this the pose of a free man?”

From a New York Times blog post by Juliet Lapidos, that’s the perfect thing to say to the TSA as you’re assuming the position of a common criminal. I missed this piece from earlier in September:

On the Sunday before the Republican convention, Senator Rand Paul ranted against his least favorite government bureaucracy: The Transportation Security Administration. Addressing a crowd at the University of South Florida, he mimicked the backscatter-machine stance (arms up in the air, legs apart) and asked “Is this the pose of a free man?”

. . . Mr. Paul’s vendetta against the TSA has some merit. Nearly 11 years since its establishment, there’s plenty of evidence that the TSA is inefficient, and if not ineffective, at least less effective than it should be.

The House Subcommittee on Transportation Security released a report on Monday that calls TSA operations “in many cases costly, counterintuitive, and poorly executed.”

. . . Echoing security experts such as Bruce Schneier, the report says the TSA “maintains a reactive approach to security.” After the attempted bombing of American Airlines Flight 63 in December 2001, the TSA required passengers to remove their shoes at checkpoints. After the discovery of the liquid explosives plot in Great Britain in August 2006, the TSA banned liquids and gels. And so on. The report notes, dryly, that “once a procedure is put in place, it is almost never removed.” Airport security is a game of catch-up, and it seems the TSA rarely considers whether new technology obviates the need for annoying and intrusive restrictions.

. . . While the TSA insists on confiscating lighters, it’s oddly slow to enforce protocols that actually make sense. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Congress instructed TSA agents to vet foreign flight students. They do; but there’s a hitch. The Government Accountability Office said in July that “this vetting does not occur until after the foreign national has obtained flight training.”

The TSA seems like a caricature of a wasteful bureaucracy, spending astounding amounts of money even during a sluggish economic recovery.

•The TSA employs roughly 62,000 people, including 47,000 screeners, at a cost of more than $3 billion a year in payroll, compensation, and benefits. But “there does not appear to be a correlation between TSA’s staffing model and the number of travelers that need to be screened.” The TSA workforce is larger now than it was in 2005 despite a “net decrease in the number of people traveling” domestically.

From the comments there:

Our screeners are composed of a workforce that includes individuals like a member of my extended family. —A person who did not graduate high school, has a severe problem with alcohol, personality problems, and in all probability, psych issues. Yet this person was hired & employed as a screener in one of the nation’s busiest airports. It’s time to get serious about making our air traffic safer or stop wasting billions of dollars on the window dressing/charade that passes for security in our airports.


All TSA has done in 10 years is to stop idiot gun-nuts who “forgot” to take their handgun out of their bag and stop me from carrying on my terrorist Swiss army knife with its one-inch blade and half-inch scissors. Oh, and a half-empty bottle of aloe vera.

What a huge waste of time and taxpayer money TSA is.


On a recent trip I was shuttling from the rental car return to the terminal when the driver began to chat about her other job as a TSA inspector. Am I the only one who finds it jarring that TSA positions require the same level of expertise as driving a shuttle bus? My husband wasn’t a bit surprised.

Another — great point:

There are thousands of venues in which a machine gun could have killed hundreds–security lines outside airports, at Disneyland, at malls and sports stadiums, high schools, and on and on.

There is no reason that a terrorist has to get on an airplane in order to kill and maim and terrify. They could do the same damage on subway cars or classrooms. They could buy their weapons and ammunition legally and create major events on a weekly basis. They could stand on freeway overpasses.

In fact these things *have* happened, just not by terrorists. Therefore, we can safely conclude that there are no terrorists planning to do it. If there were, they would not have lain quiet for 11 years.

Another — also right on:

The article is based on the premise that the role of TSA is to keep us safe. It appears to me that the real goal is to purchase extremely expensive equipment from politically connected companies. It seems to be accomplishing that mission quite effectively.

And very important:

Just a gentle reminder since many of us, including you, have forgotten our civics class lessons: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

More on that:

Because you want to get on an airplane, suddenly all of your constitutional rights are suspended and you are presumed guilty until proven innocent.


  • Hivewhacker

    I have, as an experiment, never, ever removed my plastic baggie full of “Forbidden Dangerous Items” (eye drops, toothpaste, travel size shampoo, mouthwash, hand lotion) from my carry-on bag, and never have I been questioned about it, ever. But heaven forbid you should leave a bottle of water in there- the one time I did, I was loudly bollocked by a TSA goon in ATL, who was obviously quite proud that he had busted a potential terrorist. Holding up my bottle for all to see, he loudly berated me, using the security theater technique of public shame, not unlike a communist show trial prosecution lawyer (“Comerade Ivanoff! You are clearly guilty!”)

    • Hivewhacker, totally agree. Back when I still flew, I didn’t remove my toiletries for their prying eyes either. I made that mistake only once, early on, and got everything thrown away. Never made it again. After that, I always left the Magic Explosives-Proof Baggie in my carry-on and never gave the power-mad goons the opportunity to chuck it.

    • cjr001

      I’ve forgotten a couple of times to remove the baggie, and TSA has never said a word about it. Which just proves (again) that the whole exercise is pointless.

  • frostysnowman

    It’s my understanding that the liquid/gel rule was changed from none being allowed in checked bags to the 3-ounce rule due to pressure from the airlines to change it. The original rule cause everyone to check their bags, which cause luggage delays, so the airlines told them something must be done to help the situation. So the 3-1-1 rule was put into place due to that pressure. (Although now I wonder why the airlines complained ab out the original rule, since it probably resulted in more baggage fees, but I digress.) Maybe we need to also work on getting the airlines to help make changes to the current Kabuki security theater. If more and more people stop flying because of the current TSA incarnation, the airlines lose more money, and if they are motivated by loss of profit I’d still take the help. Of course, I could be wrong about the reason why the 3-1-1 rule was put into place…

    • frostysnowman, you are correct. The 3-1-1 rule was implemented for money reasons, not security reasons. And yes, if enough people were willing to stop flying, we’d bring the airlines to their knees. Quickly. But most people, by all evidence so far, would rather be assaulted than be “inconvenienced.”

    • TSAisTerrorism


      In addition to the extra burden on the baggage processing system, people were avoiding trips they could make out and back in a day. These are, by far, the most lucrative for the airlines. Think businesspeople traveling NY to DC first thing in the morning and then back. The airlines were losing tremendous business travel money due to that rule.

      The baggage fees came shortly after, so they wouldn’t have really been losing money on those at the time.

      • frostysnowman

        OK – could not remember whether the baggage fees were before or after 3-1-1.

    • LeeAnneClark

      The stupidest part of the 3-1-1 rule is that somehow the TSA seems to think that bottling liquids in 3-oz containers and putting them in a very specific size baggie someone renders them harmless. The reality is that anyone who really wanted to blow up a plane using liquids could simply put them in little shampoo bottles, pack ’em in a quart-sized baggie, and waltz aboard with them. But lord forbid we should attempt to bring 4 oz of sunscreen…somehow I guess having that extra oz in the bottle renders the liquid a danger.

      (Of course, as we all know, there ARE no scawy tewwowists attempting to blow up planes by carrying scawy liquids onto planes…)

  • Drontil

    Although I had made a comment when the blog post was first released, I’d miss this one:

    “Our screeners are composed of a workforce that includes individuals like a member of my extended family…….”

    Thank you for including it in this thread as it seems to describe quite well the type of people hired by the TSA.

  • How did TSA News Blog get so many good people behind it?! 🙂

  • 1amWendy

    Yes ma’am!!! Well said.