People shuffle in line, zigzagging like cattle, chattering nervously to one another, holding bags and babies, children, loved ones, while up ahead, a squad of federal officers in blue shirts and black pants (both usually bursting at the seams) checks ID’s against boarding passes with powerful scrutiny. They gruffly direct passengers through metal-detectors, run their gloved hands up and down anyone with skin darker than an almond, tearing random suitcases apart to gleefully confiscate aerosols, pastes and liquids that exceed the 3.4-ounce maximum. It’s a mad scene. Nervous travelers dodder along shoeless and confused, yanking computers out of their carry-ons, jerking their belts from their waists, and frantically emptying their pockets. If they can just get through security in time for their flight and without being pulled aside for a healthy pat-down, things will be okay – because this bored gang of black and blue sentinels rifling through backpacks and wanding inseams is here to protect the avergae citizen and sieve out terrorist scum. Right?
That’s what a lot of people are starting to seriously question. TSA searches are a downright pain in the ass – that is something we can all agree on. They make the prospect of going to the airport stressful, and extremely time-consuming. But they are considered a necessary pain in the ass. The Transportation Security Administration was created only two months after the events of 9/11 and their job is to prevent attacks of similar nature from happening ever again. They are there to catch terrorists or other evildoers that would otherwise be a threat to passengers on the plane and civilians on the ground. Without them, who knows how many attacks there would have been in the years since 2001…
Well, we checked – and the facts are not just sad, they are frightening: in the 15 years since the creation of the TSA they have never caught a terrorist or stopped a terrorist attack that they have publicized. And they have never been quiet about their success stories. On top of that, an audit by the Department of Homeland Security discovered that the TSA had failed to identify 73 airport workers who “had links to terrorism”. The organization that was created specifically to screen people failed to properly screen airport employees. And it gets worse. In 2015 the TSA flunked a security test when 67 out of 70 planted security threats successfully slipped past their watchful eyes. That is a 96% failure rate.
Numbers like that aren’t good for the nerves. In fact, they make the entire TSA look like a big sham – a show put on by paid actors to present the image of security and endow the masses with a sense of safety. And actually, that was exactly what the TSA was intended to be. When created it was originally called “security theater,” which is a tactic for investing in countermeasures that provide the feeling of real, meaningful security, but do little to actually provide it. The name has changed, but that principle hasn’t.
Perhaps, even more ominous is the promise of improvement. In the wake of these results the TSA removed its old leadership and replaced it with a new chief, Peter Neffenger, who vowed to minimize that 96% failure rate and “train those failures out of the system.” And that is the nefarious self-perpetuating loop: federal agents snuck explosive devices and other illicit objects/materials through TSA security checkpoints, almost none of which were caught, which is leading to reform within the TSA and the guarantee of higher security… It comes across like the federal government wanted the TSA to fail miserably, so that security could once again be beefed up – just like it was after 9/11. But to what ends?
As for us, the people, we can expect the airport security lines to get even longer as TSA agents flex their proverbial power, and screen passengers with renewed vigor and refreshed training. The Security Theater will make its act even more elaborate, and passengers will be encouraged to arrive four hours ahead of their scheduled flight instead of three – hell, maybe the maximum carry-on liquid volume will even be decreased from 3.4-ounces to 3.3 or, god forbid, 3.2… The possibilities are endless. Inconvenience will compound, traveling will become an ever more challenging exercise of freedom, and who knows, maybe someday the TSA will actually catch themselves a terrorist.
Sources: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/airport-security-transformed-by/article_7d19ed26-893d-5fdb-ac53-4f554daa9a6e.html, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/11/does_the_tsa_ever_catch_terrorists.html, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/travel/new-tsa-chief-vows-improve-96-failure-rate-weapons-detection-n401011, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/2/tsa-bragged-gun-seizure-rate-ahead-failure-report/?page=all, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-security-experts-say-tsa-is-due-for-an-overhaul-20150605-story.html, http://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/tsa-has-made-airport-security-worse-than-private-system/, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/11/does_the_tsa_ever_catch_terrorists.html, http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/01/politics/tsa-failed-undercover-airport-screening-tests/index.html, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/08/homeland_security_audit_finds_tsa_didn_t_catch_73_terrorism_linked_airport.html