Beating up on the TSA – It’s not just me

So here is the latest on TSA’s inability to provide effective airline security. I held off on publishing this, because very often things that come out on the web turn out to be sensationalist reporting. This doesn’t seem to be one of those. Steve Moore appears to have the credentials, and he certainly has the opinions. He’s conservative to a fault, and as far as I can tell, this the first time he’s written about TSA (meaning this isn’t part of a larger agenda).

Most of what he said I didn’t find surprising. It had been said before. The fact that someone with his background has finally said it is what makes it newsworthy, just as when people with extensive and current Afghanistan experience say it’s time to leave. I can say the same thing, but I’m just this old fart, non-current, semi-retired guy.

So, we have expert testimony that TSA is dangerously incompetent at catching Al Qaida terrorists (or any other kind). We have (see an earlier rant) an Assistant Secretary of Defense saying that Al Qaida isn’t, and hasn’t been, that much of a threat. How much more do we need?

Our current Democratic administration can’t do what needs to be done — disband TSA, and turn its job over to a more effective organization, like, say, the Girl Scouts — for fear of being labeled soft on terrorism (OBL is so last year). If I thought a Republican administration would have the balls of a Henry Kissinger and be willing to take TSA on a metaphorical trip to China, I’d seriously consider voting for them. But there’s too many opportunities for federal control of our lives, and too much contributor money at stake for the Republicans to even consider something like statesmanship as an option.

The trouble is, once a bureaucracy is created, it never goes away. The traditional story is of a UK guard unit that was posted near Dover to watch for a Napoleonic invasion in 1803, and was finally withdrawn in 1927. As an aside, the alternative version is that there was a single man in a civil service position. I’ve found brief filler articles from five different 1944 newspapers that say the job had just been deleted after the death of the current incumbent. All five are obscure US papers, and I don’t have a single reliable British source for any of this, but it illustrates the point. Bureaucracies never get smaller. They not only grow, they also attempt to collect more power. The only thing that can stop them is well-funded special interest groups, and that in itself speaks worlds about our government.

The cancer that is TSA won’t go away. It won’t lose any of its powers. Given the decade-long climate of fear, there’s no prospect that this will change in my lifetime.

And so we continue our slide into a police state.

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2 Responses to “Beating up on the TSA – It’s not just me”

  1. Kurt Says:

    I have a loose knit hypothesis (aka notion) that the purpose of the TSA is not to stop terrorism directly but to increase the fear or irritation level (and thus volume and amount of discussion) so that everyone is worried about their relative or cor-worker, or that guy on the bus and report him. Which is one of the real symptoms of a police state–where we self-police out of fear as a by product of irrational rhetoric. I know by acquaintance a couple of TSA trainers–one a woman, one a man, both smart people who are ex-military, both in their late 30’s with families. They think they’re doing the right thing, they want to be paid, and they know that the staff they train are often hopeless. Frisker isn’t the kind of career you can really build upon, after all.

    • FoundOnWeb Says:

      Like the DHS itself, which didn’t start out to be the Dienst Heimat Sicherheits, TSA was a panicked response to a crisis, combined with a lack of information and an urgent need to Do Something. Then it became its own distinct government organization, which (as any systems scientist will tell you) took on a life of its own. Key features of government organizations are an absolute inability to admit mistakes, coupled with a fervent belief in their goal, and a continuing need to extend their powers. These features are in the DNA of every government organization that ever was. I could go on, but I see the shape of an essay there and so will stop.

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