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The Three Stooges Guard The Airports
Does the TSA make us safer, or just more inconvenienced -- and worse? James Bovard tells the whole sorry tale over at

In June 2002 news leaked out that TSA airport screeners missed 24 percent of the weapons and imitation bombs planted in the governments undercover security tests. At some major airports, screeners failed to detect potentially dangerous objects in half the tests. The results were worse than they first appeared, because the testers were ordered not to "artfully conceal" the deadly contraband and instead pack their luggage "consistent with how a typical passenger in air transportation might pack a bag." Although the tests seemed designed to see if screeners could catch terrorists with single-digit IQs, they still failed to find the weapons much of the time.

That does not mean TSA screeners dont find anything. Notable triumphs have included seizing a tiny pair of wire cutters from a Special Forces veteran who had been shot in the jaw in Afghanistan and needed the cutters to snip his jaw open if he started to choke; evacuating terminals in Los Angeles upon discovering that travelers were carrying such dangerous devices as a belt buckle or a tub of jam; and shutting down several concourses in St. Louis after a federal security screener spotted what appeared to be a "cutting tool" in a carry-on bag. After detecting the suspicious object, the St. Louis screener followed proper procedure: He fetched his supervisor to take a look at the frozen image on the video screen at the checkpoint. A few minutes later, the supervisor concluded that the bag was indeed suspicious and needed to be manually searched. But the passenger had long since retrieved it and headed to his or her flight. Hundreds of passengers were evacuated and up to 60 flights were delayed; despite many searches, the suspicious item was never found.

Larry! Moe! Curly! Bag-check on one!

Posted by aalkon at February 3, 2004 8:57 AM


Haven't read the piece yet, that would take the sport from this. But...

Sumbuddy who I fergit suggested shortly after the atrocities that if we really wanted to do airport security right, the TSA would be an ARMED SERVICE. Meaning-

- Physical fitness
- Intense training
- Soldierly deportment
- ARMS! Heaters! Rods!
- And most importantly, MARTIAL JUSTICE.

The latter not to be confused with union grievance.

Years ago Buckley wrote a book called "Gratitude" wherein he argued for a vaguely Peace Corp-ish term of service for able-bodied youths between high school and college. (It's been a long time, so don't harsh me unless I missed the gist.) History's delivered another arrow for his quiver.

Think what that would mean to the (often young, often minority, almost-always-innarticulate) kids you see working the metal detectors at LAX. They'd have to learn how to deal with their seniors and the public in an EXPLICIT language of respect. They'd presumably be trained in first aid and other skills that could be useful to the community in times of crisis (e.g., 'quakes).

And most importantly, they could wear something green instead of those gawdawful maroon sweaters.

I hate being told to take off my fucking sneakers by a 53-year-old, 247-pound weasel making $26K/year.

Posted by: Crid at February 3, 2004 1:22 AM

Damnit, YOU try spelling "inarticulate" after a double shift and a full serving of sake!

Posted by: Crid at February 3, 2004 1:27 AM

Crid, you're rather cuddly and charming while tipsy.

My most recent amusing TSA story is about the lady at JFK who rationed the plastic bins to put your stuff in. I have a laptop, and I travel light -- in the mode of Liz Taylor, only with uglier luggage, I'm sure. Anyway, I try to whip off my shoes, strip down, and get my laptop and enormous purse and clothes and shoes into bins very quickly so as not to hold up other passengers. Of course, this is rather difficult if the TSA lady is guarding the bins like a snarling mother bear, refusing to give them out until the belt is empty, then telling you "now you can go ahead." Duh! Yeah, and now those 30 people behind me are all going to miss their planes.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 3, 2004 4:40 AM