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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

And Who Are Those Valiant Guards?

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is tasked with guarding our nation's transportation infrastructure in order, to a large extent, to prevent the tragedy akin to the 9/11 from ever again taking place. Given the risks associated with a potential disaster on a scale even significantly lower than what one saw happen on that terrible day some three years ago, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the agency manning the first line of defense would settle for nothing short of excellence as far as its standards are concerned. That, however, does not seem to be the case.

Some facts are truly telling. Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas and a 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President, writes in a article:
Problems within TSA are legion. In the rush to hire a new workforce, 28,000 screeners were put to work without background checks. Some of them were convicted felons. Many were very young, uneducated, with little job experience. At Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York, police arrested dozens of TSA employees who were simply stealing valuables from the luggage they were assigned to inspect. Of course, TSA has banned locks on checked luggage, leaving passengers with checked bags totally at the mercy of screeners working behind closed doors. None of this is surprising for a government agency of any size, but we must understand the reality of TSA: its employees have no special training, wisdom, intelligence, or experience whatsoever that qualifies them to have any authority over you. They certainly have no better idea than you do how to prevent terrorism. TSA is about new bureaucratic turf and lucrative union make-work, not terrorism.
The TSA is known for its intimidating tactics. I have noted that earlier, and Rep. Paul seems to be sharing my view:
TSA has created an atmosphere of fear and meek subservience in our airports that smacks of Soviet bureaucratic bullying. TSA policies are subject to change at any moment, they differ from airport to airport, and they need not be in writing. One former member of Congress demanded to see the written regulation authorizing a search of her person. TSA flatly told her, "We don't have to show it to anyone." Think you have a right to know the laws and regulations you are expected to obey? Too bad. Get in line and stay quiet, or we'll make life very hard for you. This is the attitude of TSA personnel.
While judging a large organization is never an easy proposition, it is my impression,- based upon both personal observations of the TSA personnel at work and what is being reported about them,- that the TSA is certainly adding a cloud of intimidation over the heads of the traveling public without being obviously effective as an anti-terror force. As a society, we should not just blindly accept the government's position on either who should do the important work the TSA is tasked with doing, or how it ought to be done. I do not believe that they know better, as they so often claim. And they hardly ever fail to prove the opposite to me.

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