TSA Backlash Directed at Failed Screening Methods, Not Airport Security

Contrary to what mouth-frothing Obama apparatchiki claim, critics of the current TSA screening practices are not hyper-partisan corporate shills. Nor are we irrationally attacking airport security per se; rather, we are pointing out inherent flaws in the status quo government security monopoly. The major, if not fatal, flaw is that current screening methods are seemingly based on the ridiculous notion that every flyer presents a nearly identical risk profile. It this isn’t one of TSA’s assumptions, it is difficult to explain why the TSA behaves as if safety is increased by forcing all passengers into backscatter X-ray machines or that “randomly” selecting passengers for enhanced screening is superior to more precise methods.

In reality, the actual objective of the TSA is giving travelers a false sense of security by treating them all like criminals (oh, how far we’ve come). If you look at the data, the risk of being killed by a terrorist plot involving an airliner approaches the infinitesimal. But that being said, most Americans are not great with statistics, and thus their responses to this risk are and will continue to be hugely disproportionate. This means that many travelers will modify their behavior based on this false sense of danger, and some will, unfortunately, choose a far more dangerous mode of transportation: driving.

Unlike flying, where crash risk is essentially determined by the number of intermediate take-offs and landings (by far the most risky portions of a flight), driving crash risk is proportional to how far you drive. Airline travel is always safer than driving, but given that Americans will fail to comprehend this, throwing an aversion to invasive screening on top of this that results in more Americans substituting air travel for cars is incredibly reckless and will most certainly have deadly consequences.

So what is to be done? Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole has an excellent new paper on reforming airport security and proposes three concrete steps the federal government should take if it wishes to actually enhance passenger safety:

  1. First, to remove the inherent conflict of interest, the TSA should be phased out of performing airport screening services. Instead, its role should become purely policymaking and regulatory (and better balanced among all transportation modes).
  2. Second, the screening functions should be devolved to each individual airport, under TSA oversight.
  3. And third, screening and other airport security functions should be redesigned along risk-based lines, to better target resources on dangerous people rather than dangerous objects.

Unfortunately, TSA’s head honcho, John Pistole, shows little interest in meaningful security procedures, instead opting to continue the theatrics that have become TSA’s defining characteristics since its creation during the United States’ post-9/11 hysteria. A good first move would be to wind down the agency and return the responsibility of airport security to airline/airport consortia, which would allow for creative, competitive, and effective screening.