The TSA Fails Travelers

by Gray Cargill on December 30, 2009


I think it’s time we admit that the Transportation Security Administration is almost as much an enemy to the flying public as terrorists are. After all the resources that have been pumped into this agency, all they’ve really succeeded in doing is making travelers’ lives miserable.  The attempted bombing of an Amsterdam to Detroit flight on Christmas Day demonstrates this, yet again.  Certainly, there is plenty of blame to go around as to how this guy wound up on a plane to begin with.  But the more immediate problem for travelers is that the TSA continues to react to these incidents with more and more restrictive rules that treat us all like suspected terrorists and don’t actually make us any safer.

As has happened in the past with shoes and liquids, among other things, the TSA’s new knee-jerk rules following the Christmas Day event are based on the precise manner in which the most recent attack was carried out–as if an attack could never be carried out in any other way.  So in their infinite wisdom, the TSA declared that travelers on international flights to the US would be forced to stay in their seats for the last hour of their flight with no access to their carry-ons, nothing in their laps, and no potty breaks.

The phrase “Security Theater” has taken flight on the Internet as an apt description of the TSA’s actions. Everything they do is for show to make the flying public think they’re taking actions that will make us safer.  But these rules have no impact on terrorists, just the rest of us.  To the rational mind, these measures make no sense.

Who’s to say a future terrorist won’t just try to detonate a bomb earlier in the flight?  How exactly does a magazine or book in your lap be deemed a security threat?  What’s a mother supposed to do about her crying baby?  Why must we all be treated like criminals because of the .0001% chance that a potential terrorist might be on board?

Run a background check on me when I book my ticket, pat me down for potential weapons and explosives or run me through an x-ray machine at the airport if you must. Those things at least make sense from a security perspective.  But don’t strip away my food and water, my reading material, and my ability to use the restroom all in the name of my safety.  I know those things won’t deter a terrorist.  All they do is turn airline passengers into prisoners.   If they keep this up, it won’t be terrorists who drive us away from air travel and destroy the airline industry, it will be the TSA.

I’ll have an opportunity to witness the new security rules firsthand in 3 weeks when I fly home from Puerto Rico, which is apparently being subjected to the international rules, despite the fact that it’s part of the U.S.  I am hoping that reason prevails and these new “security measures” are abolished by then, but I’m not holding my breath.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

SoloFriendly January 4, 2010 at 5:56 pm

You raise good points, Ted, about fear being a motivating factor by many. I don't think that's ever a good way to approach something.

Ted January 2, 2010 at 7:36 pm

I think expressing our outrage at the TSA's ineffectiveness could finally make a difference.

Congress has hesitated to do anything other than give the TSA blank checks because of their fear that it would be interpreted as “soft on terrorism.” I would not doubt that whenever the TSA leadership got wind of any Congressman or Senator attempting to impose oversight or restrictions, they would contact that member and remind them that if they succeed, everyone who voted for it would be accountable to the widows and orphans after the next terrorist attack for having voted to “weaken the TSA's ability to protect aviation.” The TSA was born of mindless reaction to fear, so they're experts at continuing to exploit that for their own purposes. And of course, there was also a significant proportion of the public who bought in to the security theatre and Believed that all the hassles were necessary and effective.

But the TSA's latest reaction was so clearly pointless, stupid, and ineptly communicated that, I think, it finally convinced even Believers that something needs to change. If enough of us make it very clear that we are no longer “reassured” by the TSA's costly, intrusive, reactive security theatre, Congress may be receptive to doing their long-delayed job of making the arrogant secretive agency accountable to the public it claims to serve.

SoloFriendly January 2, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Excellent comment at that link, Stephanie. I agree with you completely. When the TSA thinks they need to be secretive about their methods to thwart terrorists, they're treating us all like terrorists and it makes the flying experience more stressful. I am APPALLED at what happened to Steven Frischling, and to a lesser extent, Chris Elliott. The TSA has its priorities all screwed up.

Stephanie Diehl January 2, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I commented very similar

SoloFriendly January 2, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Thanks for the comment here and on my Facebook fan page, Ted. You are correct that this incident has really been sort of the “last straw” for the traveling public. Whether or not our collective vocal outrage online and to our legislators will have any effect at all on the TSA remains to be seen, but I do think we need to try.

SoloFriendly January 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Thanks, Keith. Yeah, I'm bracing for my next flights as well. We'll see how it goes.

Ted January 1, 2010 at 12:57 am

One good thing has come out of the “underwear bomber” incident. It seems to have awakened many people's pent-up outrage at the TSA, and empowered many of us to publicly criticize the bumbling, arrogant, out-of-control agency just as you are doing here. In the past, such an incident would have produced a terrified plea for further sacrifice of liberty and privacy. But instead, there is a chorus of entirely justified criticism of the TSA's pointless and even counterproductive response of requiring passengers to spend the last hour of flights sitting at attention.

The incident represented multiple failures of the government's security apparatus, none of which involved TSA screening. But the only action anyone took was to punish all passengers with a restriction that anyone with half a brain could see made no sense at all. Indeed, utterly stupid reaction may well have demolished any shred of credibility the TSA might have had.

We can only hope that the awakened public will also wake up the administration and Congress, and finally compel them to shine some light on the dark secretive caverns of the TSA bureaucracy. Mass airport screening has a place in a well-coordinated scheme to fight terrorism. But the TSA's increasingly costly and intrusive security theatre only burdens travelers without providing any actual security. It's time to speak up, and particularly to let our elected representatives know that we're no longer buying the TSA's charade.

Keith December 31, 2009 at 5:17 am

Here here. Good points all around. I'm somewhat dreading my next flight.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: