August 17

TSA boondogle

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John Tierney poses an interesting question in his comment piece in Tuesday’s New York Times. He poses the following choices to would-be terrorists trying to decide how to wreak maximum havoc:

Which of the following plans sounds more feasible?

1.Smuggle a pocketknife or scissors on board. Then force your way into the cockpit and crash the plane.

2.Walk into the airport with a bomb and detonate it in the most crowded spot: in the middle of the passengers waiting to have their bags inspected for pocketknives and scissors.

You make the call.
I thought along these same lines a couple of days ago when MD and I went to pick up our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter from the airport. We got there on time; their plane was slightly delayed. We circled and circled and circled the airport along with all the other people doing the same thing. If we decided to stop for a minute to see if passengers were starting to come through baggage check an airport security guard started walking toward the car to tell us to move along.
I always get infuriated when this happens because of the grotesque stupidity on the part of the people who made these rules. First, if we were dealing with rational, semi-normal people that were perpetrating the terrorist acts we are so afraid of, then these rules might make sense. A rational person might a la Timothy McVeigh park a vehicle loaded with explosives next the airport terminal, get out and run, then detonate the explosive once he (or she) had gotten clear. The terrorists we’ve dealt with so far, the ones all these idiotic rules have been designed to circumvent, all die along with all their victims. A person wanting to blow up our airport can detonate the explosive while driving by—stopping the vehicle isn’t a requirement. Yet the security people (more accurately, the nimrods who wrote the rules the security people enforce) act as if stopping for a few minutes while waiting for passengers endangers the airport and all the people in it.
I wonder how much gasoline people circling airports waste each and every day in this country?
In Europe the security situation is much more civilized than here, and the entire airport experience is much less of a hassle. You don’t have to take your laptop out of its case and put it through the X-ray; you typically don’t have to take off your shoes; the metal detectors are set in such a way that the change in your pocket or a belt buckle won’t set them off; you basically put your bags through the scanner and you walk through the metal detector—just like in the old days.
Along with Mr. Tierney I blame the TSA for the nightmare we have here now. The TSA needs to be dismantled, but can’t be gotten rid of easily because of pressure from congressional Democrats to keep it. I find this strange because in the knee-jerk, we’ve got-to-do-something-fast days immediately post 9/11, the Democrats, rightfully, in my opinion, objected to the formation of the TSA, saying it would be a budgetary nightmare and a boondoggle. They were correct then, but are now fighting tooth and toenail to keep the TSA around.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but according to Mr. Tierney

When the T.S.A. was created, Republicans insisted on letting five airports – San Francisco; Tupelo, Miss.; Rochester; Kansas City, Mo.; and Jackson Hole, Wyo. – use private companies instead of T.S.A. screeners. A study by the Government Accountability Office found that the private screeners were more likely to detect smuggled contraband.

John Mica (R-Fla), chairmen of the House aviation subcommittee, is leading the charge to get rid of the TSA and replace it with private screeners. The TSA and its allies many of the Democrats in Congress are fighting this change. The TSA, which is basically its own watchdog, is trying to curry favor with Congress by floating a proposal to exempt members of Congress from having to endure all the screening the rest of us routinely do at airports.
I hope they fail in their efforts because, as Mr. Tierney writes, no one deserves more to go through the hassle they’ve created for the rest of us.


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