Don’t forget the TSA!

Magazines weighted down with pistols, Drugstore, Gonzales Texas, March 1939. Russell Lee, American. (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division Washington, DC)

I guess more of our air travelers must have been feeling threatened during the period between April 13th and 19th, 2012, because there were a lot more loaded guns found, according to the TSA‘s weekly accounting.

  • Firearms: 30- 26 loaded; 4 unloaded
  • 3 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints

According to the TSA Blog, one of those loaded weapons was carried by a man at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. It was the second time the same person has been caught attempting to board a plane with a loaded gun and he was actually arrested this time. Elsewhere, not only did TSA agents find a sword in a cane, but there was also a knife in a lipstick case–there’s a photo on the blog’s website but the case doesn’t appear to have any notches.

Atlantic writers/bloggers James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg have both written about the TSA this week.

Let’s start with Mr Goldberg’s story of his 79-year-old mother-in-law’s experience at Washington Reagan Airport on April 24th. I’ll let you find the title here. Afterwards, she offered a critique and a suggestion.

The experience left her flummoxed, however. “What did they think I was, a lady underpants bomber?”

I asked her if she felt embarrassed by the manner in which the TSA treated her.

“I’m not embarrassed,” she said. “I just think they’re stupid and their machinery is defective and they should learn to whisper when they’re talking about my crotch, or anyone’s crotch.”

James Fallows first post (here) includes the story of the 4-year-old Missoula girl who’s still having nightmares after her TSA experience–she thinks they tried to kidnap her after she ran to her grandmother’s arms. (Be sure to read his peeved update at the bottom–he’s promised to write about his most recent personal experience when he’s cooled down some).

In his second post (here) Mr Fallows directly addresses the difficulties in scaling back the excesses of security theater in response to a conservative comment he added to his previous post.

The full answer, of course, involves the ratchet effect of “security” measures. It’s easy for politicians to slap on extra “precautions,” in the name of keeping us safe; and by the same logic it is hyper-perilous for any politician ever to suggest their removal. After all, eventually there will be another attack, another death, another thing that has gone wrong — and at that moment all fingers will point at the leader who “let down our guard.” I made that case more fully back in 2010.

He quotes David Moles from San Francisco on political realities:

 [M]ost people in this country don’t fly very much, and when they do, they don’t expect to enjoy it. Many people in this country (even otherwise quite sensible people) are at least a little afraid of flying, and many people in this country are afraid of terrorism, and both fears are far out of proportion to the actual risk of either; terrorism on an airplane is the stuff of nightmares. Any politician that made reining in the TSA a cornerstone of his or her campaign would attract a small constituency of aviation buffs and frequent flyers — and a storm of gleeful attack ads accusing said politician of being weak on national security and soft on terrorism.

And our own glorious Blogmaster Bob posted about a couple of other recent outrages several days ago, in case you missed them.