The Washington Post editorial, “In the wake of Flight 253, the TSA must get more anti-terrorist tools” makes a short-sighted argument for increasing resources for the TSA. Terrorists, as we’ve seen in Iraq and elsewhere, have diversified, wreaking havoc wherever individuals congregate. Malls, mass transit systems, sports stadia, churches all represent targets. To focus scarce taxpayer funds on the risks of air travel alone neglects the broader terrorist threat.
Why not encourage a more active anti-terrorist role for air travelers and airlines – and enact “Good Samaritan” laws to reduce their liability? Unfortunately, current privacy laws and anti-discrimination lawsuits have restricted their ability to augment efforts of the TSA. Consider how airlines might have responded to 9/11. A US Michael O’Leary might well have launched a “John Wayne” or a “Nervous Nelly” option. The first would arm passengers (and crews) for self-defense (that approach might well have minimized the killing sprees at Virginia Tech and Fort Hood). The latter might require passengers to strip and don strait jackets for the duration of the flight. Competition would encourage a more careful balancing of security and privacy concerns with passengers playing a creative role. Thank God the passenger on Northwest was not forced to remain in his seat!
Why should efforts to advance public safety exclude the public? America’s history shows numerous ways in which the citizenry has played a critical security role. Government should play a role in defending the citizenry but your focus on the role of bureaucracy alone risks losing the creativity of travelers and airlines. Why not encourage their involvement too?
And, given the problems already observed with both the TSA and the HAS in their preemptive efforts to alone provide security, shouldn’t the possibility of enlisting business and the citizenry in this effort be considered?