Sunday, July 10, 2005


This article came from April 14th, 2005. I found it particularly amusing because of the amount of adjectives used to describe the management of the TSA.

Once again I would like to reiterate...I take my hat off to the TSA Screeners of America, they work their asses off. The management and administration on the other hand...I hold very little regard for that bunch of numbnutts.

In the meantime, I will be mentally preparing myself for what is sure to be my free proctological exam that the TSA is more then likely preparing for me the next time I fly.

By Dan Alban
Government agencies tend to accumulate like barnacles on a ship's hull - once created, they're pretty hard to remove. Journalist Jonathan Rauch described this petrification of bureaucracy as "demosclerosis" in his book of the same title. So it's not every day that a government agency passes on to that happy regulating ground in the sky.

But last Friday, news reports revealed that Admiral David Stone, the director of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), was stepping down and that the incompetent, mismanaged, wasteful & inefficient, cost doubling, under-trained & corner-cutting, repeatedly failure-prone, safety illusion creating, performance mismonitoring, screener certification bungling, threat ignoring and internally miscommunicating, rights trampling, privacy violating (& cover up promoting), sexual harassment promoting, thievery enabling, hypocritical security side-stepping, long line creating, nail clipper, scissor, pocket knife/tool, tiny toy gun and cigarette lighter-confiscating, peanut butter sandwich thieving, elderly & disabled harassing, on the job sleeping, air marshal hemorrhaging, employment discrimination facilitating, employee health hazard creating, and just generally awful1 Transportation Security Administration may soon be a thing of the past, or will at least have a much reduced role. As you can tell, I'm heartbroken. But I only wonder why this hasn't happened sooner.

TSA was created in November 2001 with a goal of securing our nation's (primarily airline) transportation, largely by replacing private airport security screeners with "fully trained, professional" federal screeners. TSA went about this, of course, by hiring a private company, TCS Pearson, to hire over 50,000 screeners, and by hiring a pair of private defense contractors, Lockheed and Boeing, to train passenger and luggage screeners respectively. Yeah, that sure showed those lousy private screeners that the federalistas were taking things over.

The 2001 Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which created TSA, established a deadline of Nov. 19, 2002 for TSA to federalize all airport screeners and a deadline of Dec. 31, 2002 for examining all checked bags for explosives. Miraculously, TSA met the first deadline (but failed the second). How? Because price was no object; TSA blew through its original $2.4 billion budget like a craps player on a bad bender, and was requesting an additional $4.4 billion by the summer of 2002. Then-chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) put it simply: "The meeting of that deadline has cost a lot of money that it should not have."

Not only was there no cost control, but TSA wasn't necessarily spending to enhance security; they were just desperately trying to meet the Nov. 19 deadline. As Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, said in a 2003 hearing, "We've created a multi-billion-dollar mirage. You can have 200,000 screeners, whether they be private or public, and we're still at risk. TSA has done a good job of ramping up an army of screeners. They have not done a good job in developing technology."

Recognizing this reality, I tend to favor the radical suggestion of magician/comic Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller), who suggests that we Make Terrorists Do the Profiling, in his article of the same name, by permitting anyone to carry anything on a plane. Yes, anything: knives, guns, nail clippers, brass knuckles, tweezers, chainsaws, bazookas, cigarette lighters, Martin Scorsese's Oscar - oh wait, I meant anything real or plausible, not anything deeply deserved but utterly improbable. Basically, the idea is that knowing anyone could be carrying anything on a plane will deter terrorists because they know they'll meet with armed resistance, rather than passengers stripped of even the smallest pocketknife or deadliest pair of nail clippers. Is this a risky strategy? Sure it is; life is full of risks and we can't pretend they don't exist by creating a government agency that pretends to eliminate them with massive spending, spiffy uniforms, high-tech theatrics, and goonish intimidation tactics. Freedom is a risky proposition, there's no doubt about it. But risk is always relative - how much more risk are we accepting by surrendering our freedom and trusting the TSA overlords to not only protect us from the bad guys, but to not be the bad guys themselves?


Lonewatchman said...

We've seen backwards reactions from the government for decades. Take a look at gun laws, whenever gun crime increases, the government simply cracks down on law abiding gun owners. If illegal immigration is the problem the government cracks down on citizens. There simply is no will or thought to perform criminal control, it's just easier to vomit more misdirected laws.
Hell we had a controlled breach recently and the lead did about everything possible to appease the person that commited the breach. I bet it didn't even make it's way to the shift notes.

Dan Alban said...

Thanks! I wrote that!

A version of the rant with each adjective explained is at

(the versions vary a little)