TSA versus America

The TSA doesn’t have very many friends these days. Do they deserve any?

In an interview (halfway down on the left sidebar), John Pistole (TSA director) was pressed twice at why the gentleman from San Francisco was told that he might be subject to a $10,000 fine for his unwillingness to go through with new invasive security procedures. He dodged this question both times it was asked, despite it being critically important for him to acknowledge how outrageous this type of fine would be.

For a background on what happened, you can read an account here. According to Tyner, he had looked at the San Diego Airport’s website ahead of time, which didn’t indicate that they were using these scanners. He didn’t feel comfortable using them and it seems he might not have made his trip (or driven instead, etc.) if he knew he would be subjected to the scanners.

So, when he was selected for the scan, he refused, then refused the pat-down when he found out the TSA agent would be patting down his private parts. The recurring attitude featured by the TSA, etc., here is that the peasant-citizenry should have no qualms with the enlightened technocrats and their unfortunate but necessary intrusion into the privacy of everyday Americans.

Even if you accept the premise that these technologies are necessary to keep our flights safe (which many people don’t), it doesn’t follow that he has violated any sort of reasonable law. He didn’t believe the benefits of his vacation outweighed the costs of his loss of privacy, so he “accepted” not being allowed to fly. What is the point of also attempting to fine him $10,000 other than bullying other Americans towards acceptance of these new procedures?

Many free-marketeers have suggested the U.S. would benefit from returning to non-nationalized airport security. It certainly makes sense — after all, airlines stand to lose a lot of money if anything goes wrong on their planes. In a security game that involves keeping up with ever-changing terrorist threats (i.e., 10 years ago, we could wear shoes and not need to buy new contact solution every time we left town), I trust the profit-seekers over the government to find an appropriate balance between consumer demands for privacy and airline security.

Is the TSA capable of finding that balance? Here is the TSA patting down a three-year-old. They also require pilots to go through the same security procedures (remember, pilots have the ability to steer planes into buildings), who undoubtedly already go through long background checks before they become licensed pilots.

Photo credit: jello2594’s flickr photostream.