TSA is useless

The TSA (United States Transportation Security Administration) agent at the airport made me throw away an unopened bottle of juice that I had just bought. Amazing.

Seems to me that TSA is a real regression from private security. It has been accused of being “security theater” by notable security experts. There is good reason for this.

  • TSA baggage and body checks do not extend much beyond what was already being done at airports by private security.
  • TSA, by virtue of being a government agency, is almost assuredly more expensive and ineffective than the airlines’ private security.
  • TSA no-fly lists can be easily circumvented with a fake boarding pass and fake ID, because TSA does not refer to the airline’s passenger database, and the airlines do not check ID as the plane is boarded, at which point the real boarding pass would be substituted. In fact, a real ID is never required throughout the screening and boarding process. And an individual on the no-fly list can even fly under their real name, because the no-fly list is considered a state secret, and as such the airlines don’t have access to the list when the suspected individual books his ticket or uses his boarding pass. Airline private security, on the other hand, would be able to verify that the boarding pass is valid and matches the ID at the security checkpoint.
  • TSA has absurd regulations on what can be brought on board, including many items such as containers of liquid that cannot possibly be used to gain control of or to bring down a plane. These regulations are not subject to market forces, meaning that I cannot choose to fly at an airline where I am not assumed to be a criminal until I prove otherwise. Thus, the terrorists have won by removing my freedom of choice.

The lone benefit to the TSA system is that security constraints at airports are now uniform, meaning that another airport can now trust that passengers who are arriving by plane at that location have been subject to the same security screening that is performed on passengers who are entering the terminal by foot.

But is that benefit worth the inefficiency and hassle that will in the end just leave the airlines with more empty seats?

In what way does the TSA dog and pony show make more sense than requiring passenger screening by private security, armed pilots, a cockpit barrier that cannot be penetrated while in the air, and/or a flight crew trained in riot control?

Speaking of useless security measures, you may notice that the instructions that come with the form for obtaining a passport (DS-11) mention the new electronic passports. They make some funny statements:

“Use of the electronic format will provide the traveler the additional security protections inherent in chip technology“.

“The electronic chip must be read using specially formatted readers, and is not susceptible to unauthorized reading.”

What wishful thinking. You have to wonder if some of these people know anything about the technology basket they are putting all their eggs into.

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