The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is once again in the news for refusing to obey a federal appeals court order from last year mandating that the agency hold public hearings over its "naked body scanners." They'll get around to it in 2013, says TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers. Despite the TSA's incredibly unpopular presence at U.S. (and even international) airports, Obama's 2011 budget proposal called for a significant increase in funding, including 1,000 additional body scanners.
This latest TSA scandal is just one more example of how the agency violates the Fourth Amendment and further increases government control over airports; TSA should be abolished.
Created by the Bush administration after 9/11 as part of the new Department of Homeland Security, the TSA is one of the most visible signs of a continuous erosion of civil liberties, the lengths the state will go to expand power, and the backwards incentive structure of government programs. After perhaps the biggest intelligence and defense failure in American history, the federal government was not only given an increased budget but a new department as well. The TSA was ushered in and soon began violating the rights and privacy of all Americans who were once under the assumption that they had a natural right to the freedom of movement, and despite many lawsuits, the TSA has only grown and expanded to cover train and bus stations as well.
One could easily write an entire book detailing the outrages and crimes perpetrated by the TSA, and many Americans are no doubt well aware of them or have experienced them directly themselves. There are cases of toddlers and 85-year-old women being searched and humiliated;private property confiscated from passengers; millions scanned with radiation and photographs taken and stored in a database. Perhaps most egregious of all, are the amount of convicted pedophiles and child molesters that have somehow earned a TSA badge.
The growth of TSA also exemplifies a point made by economist Robert Higgs. Higgs, in his classic work Crisis and Leviathan, describes what he calls a "ratchet effect" that perpetuates the costs and increases in government power. Whenever there is a crisis, real or imagined, the government claims news authority, creates agencies, and transfers wealth. After the crisis is over, the authority may shrink, but never to the extent that it was before.
Unfortunately, the "crisis" that is used to justify the TSA is an endeavour with goals -- defeating terrorism -- that by definition are open-ended and are perpetuated by a policy of empire and foreign military intervention. In the TSA's expanded budget, an extra $1 billion was added in response to the Christmas Day "underwear bomber" from Yemen. But for the previous year before the attempted bombing, President Obama had launched multiple drone strikes in Yemen, including a strike with cluster bombs.
In other words, the predictable boomeranging of an interventionist foreign policy abroad is somehow used to justify domestic interventionism in the form of TSA domestically. A self-licking ice cream cone in which the American taxpayer, and their liberty, loses.
If President Obama's political opponents were smart, they could hammer him on issues like this and the countless other Bill-of-Rights-shredding policies that take place on his watch. This issue is popular with Americans, the lawsuits keep piling up, and it would be an easy few billion to actually cut the federal government and save some money. The only problem Republicans have with the TSA, however, and America's creeping police state in general, is that they're not in charge of it.
Ron Paul, the only candidate in the Republican field who wants to abolish the TSA (and has defended civil liberties for decades), consistently polled even with President Obama, and actually defended the liberty the GOP only pays lip service to wasn't even asked to speak at the GOP convention in August despite his significant amount of delegates and support.
Americans are sick and tired of the TSA and our vanishing Bill of Rights. It's truly a shame that at the same time our distaste has been expressed with public outcries and lawsuits that its budget keeps growing while enjoying bipartisan support.