TSA an ongoing national failure
The Transportation Security Administration has been a failure by just about any measure. A recent undercover test provides even further evidence of this, as if any were needed.
The TSA was a mess before it was merged, along with 21 other federal agencies, into the superbureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. At the time, then-President George W. Bush promised that the new department would “improve efficiency without growing government,” but as with other DHS agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Secret Service, the TSA has only gotten more bloated, more incompetent and less accountable.
The latest example is the dreadful performance of security screeners at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the 16th-busiest airport in the U.S., where undercover agents with the DHS’ Office of the Inspector General successfully smuggled explosive materials and fake weapons through security on 17 of 18 attempts — that’s a failure rate of 95 percent! The TSA’s performance was so bad that the covert tests were reportedly halted prematurely.
This seems to be consistent with the national trend. In 2002, USA Today reported that undercover agents got bombs and weapons through security about a quarter of the time. By 2007, the failure rate had jumped to 75 percent, the paper reported. Between 2007 and 2015, the TSA beefed up its screening staff by more than 50 percent — from about 30,000 to 46,000 — and spent $550 million on staff training and new screening equipment, but then TSA famously failed to detect mock explosives and banned weapons in 67 of 70 cases — a 96 percent failure rate — in 2015, leading to the ouster of agency chief Melvin Carraway. It seems things have not gotten any better since then.
If that was not enough, the U.S. Government Accountability Office again blasted the TSA for wasting resources on a behavior detection program that has little, if any, scientific basis, much less actual results to justify it. As a new GAO report explains, officers were trained to look for “behavioral indicators” like “assessing the way an individual swallows or the degree to which an individual’s eyes are open,” supposedly as evidence that an individual might pose a threat.
But, as the GAO concluded in a 2013 report, “The human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance,” and it recommended shutting the program down
Yet, even as the TSA’s performance remarkably continues to deteriorate, as in numerous other areas, the government’s solution is more of the same: more employees, more taxpayer money, more pointless harassment of passengers, including “enhanced” pat-downs and inspections of books and food. These efforts have never caught a terrorist or foiled a terrorist plot, but they have successfully beaten Americans into submission to ever-growing government authority and intrusions.
We are told that these infringements of our liberties are the price of security, but as Benjamin Franklin so presciently warned 262 years ago, these sacrifices have only led to less liberty and less safety. In the interests of both liberty and safety, we should get government out of the security business and let airlines compete to serve customers while also keeping them safe.
Orange County Register, July 23, 2017