Abolish the TSA: Half of Americans agree security theater isn’t keeping us safe

TSA Security Pose

“Is this the pose of a free man?” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul asks, hands raised above his head. He’s mocking the Transportation Security Administration’s security pose.

Dylan Matthews over at Vox makes a timely case about abolishing the TSA’s security theater, which delays and degrades millions of traveling Americans annually:

Happy Memorial Day! This weekend is one of the year’s busiest for air travelers, with the AAA forecasting that 2.6 million people will travel by plane sometime between Thursday and Monday, up from 2.4 million last year.

That means 2.6 million people will be reminded yet again of the unremitting awfulness of the TSA, which has been subjecting fliers to friskinginvasive body scans, (alleged) racial profiling, needless checking of liquids and nail clippers, and various other indignities for nearly thirteen years now.

It’s worth remembering that the inconvenience and injustice of the TSA’s activities exists for literally no reason. If the agency’s privacy violations and annoying carry-on regulations were merely the price we paid for reducing the incidence of terrorist attacks, that’d be one thing. But, as security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, there’s no evidence that the TSA has ever prevented a terrorist attack, and there’s some research suggesting it could serve to increase non-airborne terrorist attacks. Airline security is, so far as we can tell, totally useless.

In 2012, Senator Paul introduced two bills aimed at air travel: one that would establish a “passenger bill of rights” and another that would abolish the TSA altogether. Neither bill gained any traction.

According to a recent Harris Poll, only “fifty percent of U.S. residents believe the Transportation Security Administration makes flying safer.” And though Americans seem skeptical about the TSA’s effectiveness, they don’t seem particularly concerned about reforming or abolishing the current system, despite horror stories of TSA agents making wheelchair-bound children cry and aggressively groping the traveling public.

Tennessee Congressman Marsha Blackburn released a 2012 report of “50 Failures of Transportation Security Officers,” which revealed the 50 most egregious criminal backgrounds of TSA agents, including murder, bribery, child pornography, and sexual assault, to name a few.

Vox writer Matthews suggests privatizing airport security, making it the responsibility of individual airlines to handle security through their gates. He concludes:

Some people, naturally, will value the security theater of screenings and metal scanning, just like Homer Simpson values having a rock to defend himself against tigers. So why not let them fly Bodyscan Airways while the rest of us fly airlines that don’t include scans? You could imagine companies that own several different airline brands using this as a method of diversification. American Airlines could offer no-screening flights and US Airways screened flights, and the company that owns both services could enjoy the business of worrywarts and more relaxed fliers alike.


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