Byron York of the Washington Examiner is reporting that the new Republican-controlled House sees TSA overreach as a new issue to be investigated. Not only are millions of airline passengers being humiliated and degraded, security is not being enhanced.
One thing not being reported by the media in the firestorm over body scanners that electronically strip one naked and pat-downs that resemble sexual assaults is that a provision of the law creating the TSA allows airports to opt out of using TSA personnel in favor of private contractors.
House Republicans, including the incoming Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, John Mica, are already reminding airports of this fact.
According to Byron York:
“In addition to being large, impersonal, and top-heavy, what really worries critics is that the TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what those critics call ‘security theater’ — that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. ‘That’s exactly what it is,’ says Mica. ‘It’s a big Kabuki dance.’
“Now, the dance has gotten completely out of hand. And like lots of fliers — I spoke to him as he waited for a flight at the Orlando airport — Mica sees TSA’s new ‘naked scanner’ machines and groping, grossly invasive passenger pat-downs as just part of a larger problem. TSA, he says, is relying more on passenger humiliation than on practices that are proven staples of airport security.”
Many have suggested that the TSA adopt the highly successful Israeli practice, which includes behavior profiling and interviewing passengers.
“So TSA created a program known as SPOT — Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques. It began hiring what it called behavior detection officers, who would be trained to notice passengers who acted suspiciously. TSA now employs about 3,000 behavior detection officers, stationed at about 160 airports across the country.”
The problem is that the TSA has messed this one up as well.
“A recent Government Accountability Office study found that TSA ‘deployed SPOT nationwide without first validating the scientific basis for identifying suspicious passengers in an airport environment.’ They haven’t settled on the standards needed to stop bad actors.”
Republicans are very likely to propose privatizing airport security and abolishing the TSA entirely. Democrats, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, are likely to resist these initiatives. During the debates over how to best handle airport security in the wake of 9/11, it was congressional Democrats who insisted that airport security be handled by a federal agency rather than private contractors.
However, the experiment with the creation of the TSA has been such a failure, which has added to the horrendous burden of air travel for millions of people, resisting change is likely to be politically damaging for Democrats. One ought not to be the party that is in favor of nuns and 3-year-old girls being felt up by security guards while Secretary Napolitano is seriously considering an exemption for Muslim women in order to be more sensitive to Islamic beliefs.
And after all, who would think of smuggling a bomb inside a burka?
Even before assuming control of the House, Republicans have had an issue handed to them like an early Christmas gift. The trick will be not only to point out how insane, intrusive, and ineffective the current security procedures being championed by Secretary Napolitano are, but to point out better solutions. If the TSA cannot handle the job, perhaps American airport security can be contracted out to the Israelis. After all, when was the last time an El Al flight was hijacked or destroyed, or even had trouble on board?
Sources: Amid airport anger, GOP takes aim at screening, Byron York, Washington Examiner, November 16th, 2010
TSA Body Scanners, Pat Downs Sparking Airliner Passenger Revolt, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, November 12th, 2010