TSA mission creep


As we wrote in August
, TSA whistleblowers have come clean about the fact that they’re racially profiling passengers. Not because it has anything to do with security, but because they can. They’re especially targeting blacks and Hispanics for harassment.

Virginia Postrel has added her voice to the criticism of the TSA’s risible “behavior detection program.” It’s nothing but TSA mission creep. PostrelĀ blogged the NYT story by Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Lichtblau. From that story:

At a meeting last month with T.S.A. officials, officers at Logan provided written complaints about profiling from 32 officers, some of whom wrote anonymously. Officers said managers’ demands for high numbers of stops, searches, and criminal referrals had led co-workers to target minorities in the belief that those stops were more likely to yield drugs, outstanding arrest warrants, or immigration problems.

The practice has become so prevalent, some officers said, that Massachusetts State Police officials have asked why minority members appear to make up an overwhelming number of the cases that the airport refers to them.

“The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program,” one officer wrote in an anonymous complaint obtained by The Times.

Postrel is right on with her remark about these civil liberties-violating searches:

The TSA has no business looking for drugs, outstanding arrest warrants, or immigration problems unless it has serious reason to believe that the person involved poses a serious threat to air safety. If it is going to serve as an extension of every other sort of law enforcement, then its searches should be subject to the same requirements for probable cause, which would allow almost everyone to travel without submitting to TSA examination.

A few wise points from the comments at the NYT:

jbaker, saint louis: There are a number of people who believe that if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide, but with our expansive criminal code on any given day anyone could have violated the law. Just how many of our rights are we required to surrender on the altars of safety and security?

wsschaillcom, florida: As many of us have suspected for some time, the TSA is not in the business of protecting us from terrorists but rather of trying to catch drug users and other common criminals. It’s ‘stop and frisk’ on a national scale.

As we have pointed out at TSA News several times, the TSA is legally prohibited from searching for or questioning people about anything but WEI — weapons, explosives, and incendiaries. Yet as we’ve also pointed out, TSA agents routinely ignore that prohibition.

  • Whatever

    In my 6 flights this year, the only people being pulled out of line and searched – were white women.

    • Whatever, probably so the TSA could get off on scanning and groping them.

    • Or the TSA thinks white women make easy targets. The TSA knows that passengers don’t approve of their pointless harassment and some TSA employees may want to minimize the number of passengers who yell at them and shame them for their crimes. Perhaps they were picking people who looked docile.

  • frostysnowman

    Meanwhile, the only people they WON’T profile are the ones most likely to be terrorists. That doesn’t mean I’m for profiling, just making an observation.

    • frosty, who’s “most likely to be terrorists”? Swarthy people? Like me?

  • cjr001

    Here’s another fine example of mission creep on TSA’s part: stealing.

    ABC News Tracks Missing iPad To Florida Home of TSA Officerhttp://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/abc-news-tracks-missing-ipad-florida-home-tsa/story?id=17331937#.UGTXmqRWqPg

  • I have a girlfriend, pretty… young… who often traveled from CA back east with her child (in arms at that point) to visit her parents. She said that each and every time she went through TSA check points she was pulled out. She finally asked one of the TSA folks actually willing to talk what was up with that and he told her that there is a high percentage of women traveling with babies who smuggle drugs in their baby bags. Another type of profiling going on.