In a painfully ironic turn of events, the Transportation Security Administration, whose job it is to keep us safe at the airport, is apparently receiving training in how to save themselves in instances of security checkpoint mass shootings. I wouldn’t expect any one to take a bullet for me, but this policy does bring to light the TSA’s long history of questionable effectiveness, and the ill-conceived manner in which we’ve been forced to accept this bloated bureaucracy.
The attacks of 9/11 offered us a real opportunity to truly reassess our domestic security. We could have reviewed our harbors and ports to better monitor cargo imports, invested in highly developed detection technologies safeguarding us against explosive, radioactive, and biological substances, hired a cadre of ex-military experts trained in behavioral recognition techniques, etc. Instead, the TSA was quickly commissioned to take over security at all our airports, and implement what has unequivocally become the most detested security force in the country.
For the last decade, the TSA’s reputation has been synonymous with invasive pat downs, dignity erasing nude scanners, theft of personal property, and general ineptitude. Israeli security experts, long-celebrated and respected for their effective techniques at thwarting constant threats, have often ridiculed the methodology employed by the TSA. The Economist hosted a passionate debate between former head of TSA Kip Hawley, and security expert Bruce Schneier. The readership overwhelmingly favored Schneier’s assertion that “[e]xactly two things have made air travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers that they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money. Add screening of checked bags and airport workers and we are done. All the rest is security theatre.”
Let’s examine one of the TSA’s most notorious issues — the "backscatter" machine (or "nude scanner" to some). Ever since these invasive, demeaning, and voyeuristic machines were implemented, many have questioned their necessity. Although you do have a choice: have agents scrutinize a computer scan of you naked, or enjoy a latex glove exploration of your crotch.
Who was the first person to recommend the use of these machines over any one of a thousand competing security options? Well, Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security under President Bush, assisted Rapiscan (manufacturer of the backscatter) in securing the contract and was quickly hired by them for his efforts, netting approximately $41 million from the federal government. Is this a thoroughly researched security assessment, or a back room partnership of power that resulted in fascist economics?
Since 2006, there have been talks of increasing the use and presence of these radiating machines, to include highways, courthouses and train stations (not to mention discreet vans which scan citizens on the sidewalks of New York)
Why do we continue to accept an ineffective, ill-trained, and invasive security system paid for by our tax dollars? We all want our airports to be secure, but that should mean substituting the blue-shirted "agents" with actual security experts — perhaps even the many unemployed army vets looking for work.
If the nightmare scenario they’ve dreamed up does occur, and there is a mass shooting at the airport, I want highly skilled security forces shooting back, not running for cover alongside terrified citizens.