If you’re flying this holiday season, once you’re on board the plane — after getting through with the stripping of belt and shoes, the unfolding of laptops, the confiscation of liquids, and possible patdowns — you may want to whip out a book the Transportation Security Administration doesn’t want you to read.
The new book that lays bare the TSA’s sorry record at flight security is called Unsafe at Any Altitude. Don’t let the sensational title fool you. Being the author of Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health — another great stocking stuffer — I know the virtue of strong titles to grab attention.
Written by husband and wife Joseph and Susan Trento — respectively, a former CNN reporter and a former Congressional staffer — and published by the prestigious independent Steerforth Press, Unsafe at Any Altitude is the exact opposite of a Naderite expose and a call for more government regulation. This book exposes government bungling at its worst, while showing that the private security firms performed better in almost every respect when it came to ensuring flight safety. As such, makes one of the most compelling cases for privatization in air travel in years.
The Trentos obtained non-public documents they say show the TSA passes random safety tests — detecting weapons in bags — only 50 percent of the time. By contrast, the pre-911 private security firms would regularly pass 80 to 95 percent of the time. The Trentos also defend the much-maligned Argenbright Security, who they show was actually a pioneering firm in baggage screening that Europeans countries learned from. And they show how John McCain was largely to blame for pushing the GOP to go along with the Democrat-pushed plan to create an Army of unionized TSA workers.
The Trentos also show how there was more accountability. Not just from regulatory agencies, but also the airlines. The airlines would push to fire a service that didn’t have a satisfactory screeing record. The TSA, by contrast, answers to virtually no one.
The airport system wasn’t perfect. Largely, because, unlike countries from Great Britain to Mexico, the U.S. had barely any airports that had been privatized or corporatized. But the Trentos show that we can learn from the semi-private system of the recent past to make for a safer system of air travel in the future.
The Trentos also have a web site. Have a nice flight!