Editorial: Naked truth about TSA

From an editorial in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus:

The fact that TSA is pursuing the case is no surprise given the agency's apparent inability to even recognize that the airline passengers its employees regularly violate have constitutional rights. Take, for example, the agency's continued failure to seek public comment regarding its highly intrusive full-body imaging scans.

In a column which appeared in Viewpoints Friday, Robert L. Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines, and Marc Scribner, a policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, reminded us that though 700 scanners are operating in nearly 190 airports across the nation, we still don't know whether this highly intrusive technology is making us any safer. "Yet because TSA failed to solicit public comments about the scanners — in violation of federal law — the agency is flying blind," they wrote.

Despite a July 2011 court order to "promptly" begin putting together rules for allowing public comment, a year later TSA still hadn't done so, claiming it does not have the resources to begin a public comment process.

Nonsense! As Messers. Crandall and Scribner tell it, TSA's discretionary budget is "larger than that of the entire federal judiciary and a staff larger than those of the Departments of State, Labor, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development combined."

And it's not as though the agency has to hammer those public comments out on stone tablets. The same technology which made Mr. Brennan and international star would ease the collection of comments and data regarding full-body scan screening.

Last month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which had filed the suit against the Department of Homeland Security, petitioned the D.C. court to enforce its mandate.

"This rulemaking is the only way to determine whether TSA's air travel security regime is worth its huge costs and adverse effects on the public's well-being," Crandall and Scribner write. "Several independent analyses have found that TSA's use of these machines would be economically wasteful even if they worked as well as TSA claims, but may actually make us less safe."

We don't know, for example, whether the scanners are worth their $500 million purchase price. Indeed, there has been congressional testimony which suggested that the body scans, in too many cases, fail to recognize such dangerous threats as explosives.

But security and cost aren't the only concerns regarding scanners they say "may be endangering the public's health and driving consumers to far more hazardous forms of transportation."

The naked truth is that the agency should have to prove that the benefit to public safety outweighs the high cost of full body scanners to personal privacy and the public purse.