Analysis Domestic Policy

the TSA is a joke

It was my pleasure to travel through airport security earlier this week in order that I could board a plane. With an hour to go before it was due to take off, I was slightly apprehensive about the longish line snaking away from the nudie scanners. Luckily it all worked out, but I was quite surprised while I waited to encounter a sign advertising yet another seemingly arbitrary TSA rule:

“Right,” I declared incredulously, “old people are never terrorists. Eventually you reach a certain age when you just don’t want to kill innocents anymore.”

Luckily, an old woman was standing in line right next to me and offered, “Well I certainly couldn’t do that. But now I get to go in that line!”

“There’s no other line,” I said, pointing at the sign. “That just means you get to leave your shoes on.”

“Oh,” she said, “I thought this meant I got to go straight to the front of the line.”

“No, see that would make sense,” I replied. “This doesn’t.”

There are clearly reasons to allow the extremely elderly to leave their booties in place. They’re old, they’re slow, they chill easily, they’ve got medical conditions that might necessitate special shoes. Maybe the feds really like folks from 1937. But this sort of obvious security hole is just another example of how little TSA actually does to protect us.

Recall how the underwear bomber managed to scald his bits with a concealed bomb shortly before his plane was to land in Chicago, and that was in 2009 after the TSA had had eight years to perfect its art. How many terrorist attacks have been thwarted by TSA screenings? That information is apparently a lot harder to find out than reporting about the idea, ineffectually parried by a TSA blog, that its weapon detection rate could be as high is seven in ten. Fantastic.

Finally almost to the boarding pass legitimacy assurance engineer, I was waiting behind a small family. The man was carded, but the boys were simply asked their names. Surely we can’t ask for much more: federal law doesn’t require minors to be ID’d and no one is ever kidnapped anymore since federal agencies prevent it perfectly. Plus, children can’t be part of a terrorist plot any more than late stage septuagenarians.

Finally through the backscatter porn machine, I saw a young girl, probably about eleven years old, collecting her things from the conveyor belt in front of me. I muttered “You know, it didn’t used to be this way. This didn’t used to happen. But it changed, probably before you were born.” She smiled and nodded. Later, she asked her mother what TSA stood for. She couldn’t quite remember. “Transit Safety Agency,” I said, wrongly. And we headed toward our respective gates to sit in a giant aluminum tube with gas tanks and jet engines strapped on for several hours.

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