Why pick on TSA?

Circus poster, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938. John Vachon, American. ( Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

First, let’s take a look at what they say they found during the period between March 16th and 22nd, 2012:

  • Firearms: 29: 21 loaded; 8 unloaded
  • 3 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints

As far as I can tell, none of these people with firearms (unloaded or not), “artfully concealed items” or whatever are being arrested, unless they’re found with drugs. And the TSA was not intended to be part of the drug war.

At the TSA Blog, there are more photos and stories from airport checkpoints around the country, including a “debrainer”, IED training aids, inert landmines, model rocket engines and airbag actuators.

The TSA’s budget for this year is $7.85 billion, up $153 million from 2011. According to WolframAlpha, that’s $21.51 million per day, or $894,100 per hour. TSA is security theater, designed to make it seem that something is being done to keep us safe, but there is absolutely no proof that TSA measures have ever thwarted a serious plot. If they had done so, you wouldn’t have had to wait for me to blog about here. It would have been all over the news. Instead we get lists of items that range from ninja weapons to a jar of poisonous snakes preserved in alcohol (yes, really).

There are many ways that we are vulnerable to attack that don’t involve airplanes. Think about that the next time you find yourself in a crowd anywhere–shopping centers, sports events, traffic jams, parades, even the lines of people waiting to go through a TSA checkpoint. (Of course, statistically you are most likely to be killed by your nearest and dearest.  And hands down, the most dangerous thing you regularly do is get behind the wheel of your car.)

The real risk for anyone traveling by air happens before you get on the plane and is caused by X-ray backscatter machines, the use of which have been banned in the European Union due to concerns about the danger from cumulative exposure to radiation.

Meanwhile, the greatest threat to passengers on an airplane this week came from a deranged JetBlue pilot.