If it’s today, it must be TSA

Easter Egg Hunt Circa 1950s (Source: Christopher Vaz at seasideheightshistory.com

Checking in with the TSA, here’s their list of what was found for the period between March 30th and April 5th, 2012:

  • Firearms: 27, 24 loaded; 3 unloaded
  • 4 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints

Over at the TSA Blog, the lists (and puns and bad jokes) continue. Knives hidden in a bag of dirt = dirty trick (sigh). And they still seem quite taken with the knife in mayonnaise story from last  time.

Kip Hawley, head of the TSA from 2005 to 2009, has voiced some criticisms of the TSA’s current mindset.

Hawley criticises the current procedure for reducing airport security into an ‘Easter-egg hunt’ where TSA officers look out for low-risk prohibited items, such as lighters, rather than focusing on disrupting terror plots.

Here are some quotes from Mr Hawley taken from his piece in the Wall Street Journal:

First, the TSA’s mission is to prevent a catastrophic attack on the transportation system, not to ensure that every single passenger can avoid harm while traveling. Much of the friction in the system today results from rules that are direct responses to how we were attacked on 9/11. But it’s simply no longer the case that killing a few people on board a plane could lead to a hijacking. Never again will a terrorist be able to breach the cockpit simply with a box cutter or a knife. The cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers, flight crews and air marshals would intervene.

Second, the TSA’s job is to manage risk, not to enforce regulations. Terrorists are adaptive, and we need to be adaptive, too. Regulations are always playing catch-up, because terrorists design their plots around the loopholes.

And his suggestions for change include: no more banned items, allowing all liquids, and randomizing security (because predictability is counterproductive).

To be effective, airport security needs to embrace flexibility and risk management—principles that it is difficult for both the bureaucracy and the public to accept. The public wants the airport experience to be predictable, hassle-free and airtight and for it to keep us 100% safe. But 100% safety is unattainable. Embracing a bit of risk could reduce the hassle of today’s airport experience while making us safer at the same time.