Unfortunately airport security checkpoints don’t stop terrorists.
- The TSA has never caught a terrorist.
- When the TSA does catch something, like toy guns or bullets accidentally left in a bag, they crow publicly about it. Everything they do find is trumpted as a “good catch.”
- But they miss 95% of the dangerous items taken through the checkpoint. That wasn’t just a one-off anomaly, the number has been over 90% in tests for a decade. (Of course even if they did catch dangerous items, their air marshal program brings guns through the checkpoint for the terrorists.)
- TSA is too focused on water bottles and pocket knives, there’s a limit to what you can actually find, but they have to alert law enforcement to pot and miss the dangerous stuff. TSA has wanted to correct that, focusing on actual dangerous items, but Congress wouldn’t let them.
TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)
What’s made us safer is reinforced cockpit doors (although that has tradeoffs, a rogue pilot locking everyone out of the cockpit can take a plane down themselves if they wish), and passengers who will no longer sit idly by assuming that if a situation is left to play out everyone will be safe. And that there are fewer people trying to take down aircraft, and give up their own lives in the process, than is popularly imagined.
We need security at airports because aviation is a target, albeit perhaps an overblown one relative to the response.
But government is bad at directly producing security. The FAA regulates safety for airlines but doesn’t actually fly the planes. Private screeners are more effective and efficient than TSA screeners while over 20,000 TSA employees have been accused of misconduct, more than half multiple times.
- They’re a lawless agency that does whatever it wants.
- Agents steal things from passengers going through their checkpoints (is that an ipad in your pants or are you just happy to see me?)
- And take toys from children under the guise of security (mind you, the TSA hires child sex abusers, too)
- And TSA agents have been known to work together to see the most attractive passengers naked and ‘alarm’ in order to fondle them
Via the Wall Street Journal‘s Scott McCartney the TSA has new plans to make us more of a target for terrorists.
Changes are coming to airport security checkpoints: TSA wants you to declutter your bags.
New procedures, such as requiring all food or all electronics larger than cellphones be placed in bins separately, are still being tested. Changes haven’t yet been finalized, but senior Transportation Security Administration officials agreed to discuss them publicly for the first time. Decisions will be made in a few weeks, with new rules implemented after the summer travel rush, once screeners are trained and announcements made.
…TSA says new procedures likely will be confined to standard screening lines and not PreCheck lanes, where trusted travelers get expedited screening and get to leave more items in bags.
This is going to mean slower security lines as people have to unpack more things through the checkpoint. And screening more bins takes longer for screeners to accomplish, too.
The lesson of the Brussels and Istanbul airport bombings is that you don’t want to force people to congregate outside security because that’s too tempting a target for terrorists. I wrote as far back as 2002 that long security lines are as good or better of a target for terrorists than planes.
[T]ake the long security screening lines that have become the bane of air travelers everywhere. An ambitious terrorist could easily detonate a bomb in the crowd, killing hundreds and scaring Americans away from air travel–possibly for good. Moving the lines further out of the airports simply recreates the problem elsewhere. And as security measures become more stringent, our freedom to travel is further encumbered, though we aren’t any safer than before.
We know the new procedures aren’t actually urgent and responsive to a real immediate threat either, or else TSA wouldn’t be waiting until after the summer travel season to implement them. In fact, these procedures are so urgent they’ve been under consideration “for about 18 months.”
Now, TSA claims this won’t slow down security. Here’s their explanation:
TSA figures lines won’t lengthen because the total time at the checkpoint will be the same. Tests have shown TSA can slow down the process of decluttering bags at the start of security, known as divesting, but gain the time back by speeding up X-ray reading and reducing manual bag checks.
If you don’t count time spent at the start of security as part of the screening process, then the total screening time can stay the same. Brilliant!
And this isn’t just getting people to pull things out of their bags and reorganize them while waiting in line (using time more efficiently) it’s getting them to pull things out of their bags when they “first start hoisting their bags on tables for the X-ray machine.” There’s no conceivable universe in which that saves time.
And either way that’s more time in total in the airport outside the checkpoint when Brussels and Istanbul teach us you want to move people from outside security airside as quickly as possible to keep them safe.
The TSA tested requiring people to take paper out of their bags in Kansas City. They killed that test once it was reported, because it’s stupid. They’re not telling us what the final rules are going to be, but they’re unlikely to make us safer.
At the end of the day though outrage over TSA incompetence is passé because influential frequent travelers bypass much of this via PreCheck. It’s the once a year traveler in the regular screening line that’s inconvenienced — and less safe — so their voice isn’t heard particularly loudly.