Reason TV on TSA: We’re from the government, we’re here to be unhelpful

posted at 2:55 pm on January 8, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Reason TV takes on the favorite whipping bureaucracy these days, the Transportation Security Administration, in its latest video.  A clever spoof of a public-relations ad, Reason gives a couple of trenchant criticisms but also adds to some of the unfair criticism of the agency after the EunuchBomber attack last month:

We’re the Transportation Security Administration. We’re working hard to make sure you enjoy a safe flight. And while we cannot apprehend every terrorist, you can count on us to do what we’re trained to do whenever there’s a security breach–overreact to tiny threats.

Overreact to tiny threats; ignore the big ones. That’s what we do, and we do it better than anyone.

Overreact? Well, yes they did.  TSA responded to the EunuchBomber attack by immediately announcing a series of protocol changes that would have done nothing to actually have prevented the detonation of the bomb — but would inconvenience everyone who flies into the US.  Those changes include no one being allowed out of their seats in the final hour of the flight, even though Umar Abdulmutallab prepped his underwear earlier and actually didn’t give it enough time to process — and could have prepped it any time after passing through security.  TSA also banned the use of laptops on international flights coming to the US even though that had nothing to do with the attempted bombing.

That’s a fair point.  But the criticism of allowing Abdulmutallab on the flight is not fair at all.  First, TSA did not provide security for the flight on which Abdulmutallab took; since it originated in Amsterdam, the Dutch did the security screening.  The failure that allowed Abdulmutallab to fly didn’t come from the TSA, but from a combined failure of the CIA, the DNI, and the State Department to revoke his visa and put him on the no-fly list on which he clearly belonged.

We obviously need to recalculate our strategies and processes for flight screening, both here and abroad.  TSA needs a top-to-bottom review, and we need to stop overburdening travelers with useless demands and start focusing on the terrorists.  But we can’t blame TSA for Abdulmutallab, and we should make sure we focus our criticism properly if we want to see the kind of rapid improvement we need.

In terms of changing those strategies, would anyone have expected David Frum to argue for profiling?

In the early 2000s, the airlines proposed “trusted traveler” programs. Individuals who wished to pass more easily through airports could volunteer to disclose information to confirm that they presented little threat: length of time at their current residence, for example. These pieces of information would together generate a risk profile, and people who scored low would pass more easily. (The governments of the U.S. and Canada operate an analogous program at North American customs and immigration crossing points.)

Repeatedly, however, civil liberties groups objected to these proposals. They complained that the information requested was intrusive and excessive. Perhaps they also surmised that the passengers who would speed through the lines would be older, richer, more employed, more native-born, and more married than those waiting for Murphy-style questioning.

But of course it is the younger, poorer, less employed, less native-born and less married who are more likely to commit an attack — and who are thus more appropriate persons for scrutiny.

And once we get that through our heads, we can apply our resources to where the most risk lies, making air travel more efficient and safe for everyone.  That’s not a bureaucratic TSA problem — that’s a political problem that needs to be addressed.


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Comments

This may help to bury the air industry. My wife doesn’t want to body scanned like that, nor my mother……..

Terrorists win, because the US is too STUPID to profile the age and ethnicity that carries out ISLAMIC TERRORIST ACTIVITIES.

How much freedom will we be willing to give up to be PC?

This is just one more step.

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Good fun.

myrenovations on January 8, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Got a cousin working for TSA, love her but don’t want her anywhere near something expensive and/or dangerous.

abobo on January 8, 2010 at 3:04 PM

The last time I was at an airport it was backed up, and so after checking in you had to go put your checked bags in a line to be x-rayed before they could go off to the plane.

The woman from the TSA shouted at a guy who had already dropped his bag in line to come back and ‘set it up on the wheels’ so it would be easier for her to move.

The guy’s first language wasn’t english, so he couldn’t figure out what she was trying to get him to do. She figured she just had to say the same thing, only louder, to get the point across. By the time she was done she was basically yelling at the guy to rotate his luggage 90 degrees, despite the fact that she was standing 3 feet from the bag for the entire 30 seconds.

Annecdotal, but it stood out.

BadgerHawk on January 8, 2010 at 3:06 PM

“Mommy, why is that man with the turban – the one who smells like gasoline – allowed to get on the plane?”

“Be quiet Johnny and bend over for the nice TSA agent.”

AubieJon on January 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

TSA responded to the EunuchBomber attack by immediately announcing a series of protocol changes that would have done nothing to actually have prevented the detonation of the bomb

If you don’t know where you are going any route will take you there.

Cheshire Cat on January 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

First of all, this is hilarous. All comedy has to have some element of truth to it to be really funny, and this is. It’s true that the TSA has over-reacted to numerous, probably too numerous to list, events. From barring Joan Rivers, to taking the Medal of Honor from Joe Foss because the idiot in question thought it might be a throwing star.

Snake307 on January 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

and the inaccuracies are???….sounds pretty accurate to me.

PatriotRider on January 8, 2010 at 3:08 PM

You can federalize a monkey, but it is still a monkey.

HornetSting on January 8, 2010 at 3:08 PM

TSA needs a top-to-bottom review, and we need to stop overburdening travelers with useless demands and start focusing on the terrorists.

Sorry, but this is NEVER going to happen. A user-friendly bureaucracy simply doesn’t exist.

search4truth on January 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM

Read Michelle’s scathing take on it.

RushBaby on January 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM

Unfair? Let’s ask Michael Yon and Shoebox about that.

steveegg on January 8, 2010 at 3:11 PM

This may help to bury the air industry. My wife doesn’t want to body scanned like that, nor my mother……..

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

No kidding. Take a look at the image on Drudge.

RushBaby on January 8, 2010 at 3:14 PM

But of course it is the younger, poorer, less employed, less native-born and less married who are more likely to commit an attack — and who are thus more appropriate persons for scrutiny.

IIRC all of the 9/11 terrorists, as well as this latest Nigerian fellow, were from relatively upper-middle class backrounds (and bin laden’s family is of course quite wealthy), so let’s stop pretending it’s the poor folks who are doing these things. Poverty ain’t the cause.

Mr. Bingley on January 8, 2010 at 3:15 PM

They should just put the passengers in little holding tanks before the flight and let them vote off anyone they think is suspicious.

TexasDan on January 8, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Who is paying to defend Hassan and the panty bomber.

They are both able to pay for their own defense.

Is the USA stuck with Holder’s buddies and paying for them too?

nondhimmie on January 8, 2010 at 3:17 PM

They should just put the passengers in little holding tanks before the flight and let them vote off anyone they think is suspicious.

TexasDan on January 8, 2010 at 3:16 PM

“Survivor: O’Hare”

hahaha! great idea!

Mr. Bingley on January 8, 2010 at 3:18 PM

This may help to bury the air industry. My wife doesn’t want to body scanned like that, nor my mother……..

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

No kidding. Take a look at the image on Drudge.

RushBaby on January 8, 2010 at 3:14 PM

The Drudge photo is exactly my point. My wife’s response was “HELL NO”. If we can’t drive, we won’t go.

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:19 PM

Yeah, and Drudge also has a link where Carville says he’s just fine with TSA measuring his penis and he’ll give up his ‘civil rights’ to fly safely. Beyond needing some brain bleach for that one, the hypocrisy of the liberals on this one is just stupifying. Can you imagine the outrage if Bush had considered body scanners?

Firefly_76 on January 8, 2010 at 3:22 PM

This may help to bury the air industry. My wife doesn’t want to body scanned like that, nor my mother……..

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

No kidding. Take a look at the image on Drudge.

RushBaby on January 8, 2010 at 3:14 PM

The Drudge photo is exactly my point. My wife’s response was “HELL NO”. If we can’t drive, we won’t go.

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:19 PM

I cancelled our trip to Singapore and Seoul. No way we are flying with this level of indecent exposure

macncheez on January 8, 2010 at 3:22 PM

Yeah, and the Drudge link to a story on Carville saying he’s just fine with TSA measuring his weeny; he’s glad to give up his ‘civil rights’ to fly safely. [brain bleach please]

The hypocrisy of these liberals is astounding. Can you imagine the outrage if Bush had wanted body scanners?

Firefly_76 on January 8, 2010 at 3:25 PM

It’s true that the TSA has over-reacted to numerous, probably too numerous to list, events. From barring Joan Rivers,

Snake307 on January 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

She was denied boarding in Costa Rica. That was not the TSA. I’m not defending the TSA, but it is ridiculous to blame them for every blunder by airport security in every corner of the world.

ProfessorMiao on January 8, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Has CNN asked if the video has been fact-checked?

ConservativeTony on January 8, 2010 at 3:29 PM

The hypocrisy of these liberals is astounding. Can you imagine the outrage if Bush had wanted body scanners?

Firefly_76 on January 8, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Liberals want to go through a nudie scan if Obama wants it

but it was a violation of civil liberties when Bush wanted to check the library records and reading lists of muslim terrorists

macncheez on January 8, 2010 at 3:30 PM

TSA needs a top-to-bottom review, and we need to stop overburdening travelers with useless demands and start focusing on the terrorists.

The travelers are the terrorists. That’s the problem.

In terms of changing those strategies, would anyone have expected David Frum to argue for profiling?

Frum would argue for forced labor camps, if it polled in the forties.

And once we get that through our heads, we can apply our resources to where the most risk lies, making air travel more efficient and safe for everyone. That’s not a bureaucratic TSA problem — that’s a political problem that needs to be addressed.

That’s what the Army Corps of Engineers said about dikes in New Orleans for 30 years. Except of course, terrorism doesn’t involve unthinking masses of water, it involves thinking evil people.

If you succeed in creating a two-tier security system, where one kind of traveller will get a lot of attention, and a different-looking traveller is spared most of the scrutiny, because “they’re not the threat”, what is Al-Qaeda going to do about it?

Chris_Balsz on January 8, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Here‘s a good reason to criticize the TSA:

Starting over a year ago, a TSA contract worker has being selling identities of TSA workers at Logan International Airport.

Anthony M. Amore, a former high-ranking official for TSA in Boston, called identity theft a serious matter, but added that “no one loses their life over it.”

RushBaby on January 8, 2010 at 3:40 PM

The travelers are the terrorists. That’s the problem.

No, a certain, very small subset of travellers that share a number of characteristics, most of which have nothing to do with what they look like, are the terrorists.

If you succeed in creating a two-tier security system, where one kind of traveller will get a lot of attention, and a different-looking traveller is spared most of the scrutiny, because “they’re not the threat”, what is Al-Qaeda going to do about it?

Chris_Balsz on January 8, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Why are you obsessed with how high-risk and neglible-risk groups look? The characteristics that are relevant to distinguishing these two “tiers” either have nothing to do with looks are incidental to them.

ProfessorMiao on January 8, 2010 at 3:47 PM

what is Al-Qaeda going to do about it?

Chris_Balsz on January 8, 2010 at 3:34 PM

What IS Al Queda going to do about it? It’s not as though they are having great success at converting 80 year old Grannies and successful and established businessmen.

99% of Al Queda are Young, Male, and Muslim. You filter out ANYONE that meets those criterion and you will eliminate 99% of the threats.

It is far easier for us to start profiling people based on ethnic and religious demographics than it is for Al Queda to change the demographic makeup of their members. But by ignoring this simple fact we end up in this stupid “Security Theater” situation where all the things we do simply serve to inconvenience and annoy honest people and do jack squat to stop the crazies.

It’s time to drop the curtain on the security theater and start really protecting America.

wearyman on January 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM

First step in the solution: Ban insurance payments to airlines for damage/loss due to “man-caused disasters”. Allow civil suits for “negligence resulting in death” lawsuits. When the plane blows up, it’s a direct financial loss to the airline. That puts their “skin” in the game.

First consequence of above: Airlines become interested in making flying safer. Really interested. Right now, they simply shrug their shoulders and say it’s the TSAs responsibility. When the “armored” cockpit doors were mandated, the airlines coughed and sputtered and mumbled about cost, and schedule, and passenger inconvenience. Some aircraft, to this day, do not have the new cock-pit doors. Too expensive. But, when the personal entertainment seatback LCD screens came out, man O man….they got stuck every plane within 6 months. No complaints about that.

Second step: Probably won’t need one after step one.

Food for thought: It’s easier to sneak a panty-bomb onto an aircraft than it is to sneak out of Wal-mart with a tube of deadly toothpaste (deadly when on aircraft in large containers, anyway).

BobMbx on January 8, 2010 at 3:54 PM

It’s true that the TSA has over-reacted to numerous, probably too numerous to list, events. From barring Joan Rivers, to taking the Medal of Honor from Joe Foss because the idiot in question thought it might be a throwing star.

Snake307 on January 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

My understanding is that Joan Rivers was in Costa Rica when she couldn’t get on a plane.

Does TSA man the airports in Costa Rica?

Don’t get me wrong, they’re goofy in many ways, but let’s not make stuff out to be their fault when it’s not – there’s enough to laugh at as it is.

Midas on January 8, 2010 at 3:56 PM

ProfMiao beat me to the Rivers/Costa Rica response. Sorry bout that.

Midas on January 8, 2010 at 3:58 PM

IIRC, some Lib suggested hiring illegals to work at TSA.

Or am I confusing that with some Lib suggesting hiring illegals for something else?

ConservativeTony on January 8, 2010 at 3:59 PM

I’m surprised that you guys so completely miss your own point–it’s the very fact that not one of TSA’s oppressive, arbitrary, unconstitutional, and plainly ineffective security procedures would have actually stopped an even slightly determined and prepared bloomer-boomer that proves they are the mere petty, incompetent bureaucrats the traveling public knows them to be. Bloomer-boomer is just an example, as are the other many examples of wrongful conduct against completely non-threatening U.S. citizens. TSA has been proven by testing, by performance, and by analysis to be completely ineffective and affirmatively oppressive. They are, because of their PC approach in hiring and OTJ performance, a more likely conduit for a terrorist incursion than an impediment. We need to disband this costly and ineffective squirming pile of crap and get down to the real business of security, like El Al and private security contractors do and have done. It serves no good purpose to lighten up even for one moment on TSA and Big Dumb Sis.

Ay Uaxe on January 8, 2010 at 4:05 PM

I have to fly, no way around it. I dont dig those scanners, but I would be willing to walk thru the airport buck naked if I knew for a fact my plane wasnt going to blow up. I just cant believe that the same libs who were so terrified about wiretaps are ok with this.

di butler on January 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM

But of course it is the younger, poorer, less employed, less native-born and less married who are more likely to commit an attack — and who are thus more appropriate persons for scrutiny.

Bin Laden is pretty damn rich, David. Is he not? These are not the people that need profiling. For the bazillionth time, its 18-24 year old muzzie males. Why is this such a brain buster?

Andy in Agoura Hills on January 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM

I’m surprised that you guys so completely miss your own point–it’s the very fact that not one of TSA’s oppressive, arbitrary, unconstitutional, and plainly ineffective security procedures would have actually stopped an even slightly determined and prepared bloomer-boomer that proves they are the mere petty, incompetent bureaucrats the traveling public knows them to be. Bloomer-boomer is just an example, as are the other many examples of wrongful conduct against completely non-threatening U.S. citizens. TSA has been proven by testing, by performance, and by analysis to be completely ineffective and affirmatively oppressive. They are, because of their PC approach in hiring and OTJ performance, a more likely conduit for a terrorist incursion than an impediment. We need to disband this costly and ineffective squirming pile of crap and get down to the real business of security, like El Al and private security contractors do and have done. It serves no good purpose to lighten up even for one moment on TSA and Big Dumb Sis.

Ay Uaxe on January 8, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Maybe the TSA could run Obamacare? ;-)

Andy in Agoura Hills on January 8, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Why are you obsessed with how high-risk and neglible-risk groups look? The characteristics that are relevant to distinguishing these two “tiers” either have nothing to do with looks are incidental to them.

ProfessorMiao on January 8, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Such as? I don’t hear much about that. What I do read is:

But of course it is the younger, poorer, less employed, less native-born and less married who are more likely to commit an attack — and who are thus more appropriate persons for scrutiny.

So that people should be able to say “Look at me, do I look like a terrorist?”

What IS Al Queda going to do about it? It’s not as though they are having great success at converting 80 year old Grannies and successful and established businessmen.

99% of Al Queda are Young, Male, and Muslim. You filter out ANYONE that meets those criterion and you will eliminate 99% of the threats.

It is far easier for us to start profiling people based on ethnic and religious demographics than it is for Al Queda to change the demographic makeup of their members.

But when they do– they’re sure to get as far as the EunuchBomber. They’ll get on the plane, and trip the fuse before you know what went wrong.

We need to disband this costly and ineffective squirming pile of crap and get down to the real business of security, like El Al and private security contractors do and have done.
Ay Uaxe on January 8, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Those guys look at how people behave, and deny them service based on it. That will not be tolerated. It’s inconvenient, and bullying, and disrespectful. It’s incompatible with the bourgeouis customer-is-always-right horseshit that people have come to confuse with civil liberties.

Hey I think we’re wasting resources trying to stop planes from blowing up. Let’s save everybody a lot of inconvenience and disrespect. End baggage screening. Require all aircraft to carry fuel-air explosive and reactive armor in the hull. That way, when the rare terrorist gets on board, we can render the whole plane into harmless chaff. We won’t even have to explain it as a terrorist attack, thus denying the enemy a propaganda victory. No crashed skyscrapers, nobody killed on the ground. No wasted tax dollars. The only casualties would be the pampered few who freely chose to walk the firing line of the War on Terror. And you’ll go first-class.

I call that a win-win.

Chris_Balsz on January 8, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Ed I think you missed the point. The “little things” are searching kids, holding up lines or closing down terminals for idiotic reasons like the guy walking the wrong way at Newark or bringing honey on a plane, having nothing to do with Underoos Bomber.

Missing the big things is about Abdulmutallab.

Watch it again, maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am.

russcote on January 8, 2010 at 4:29 PM

You can federalize a monkey, but it is still a monkey.

Rather apt definition of the bama presidency…

jgdp on January 8, 2010 at 4:36 PM

People should REFUSE to fly until this administration cleans up it’s act and creates a system that focuses on PEOPLE, not THINGS.

And if the ACLU doesn’t like it, tell ’em to put their heads where the sun doesn’t shine. The Constitution was never intended as a suicide pact.

GarandFan on January 8, 2010 at 4:40 PM

You can federalize a monkey, but it is still a monkey.

HornetSting on January 8, 2010 at 3:08 PM


And You can’t fix S-T-U-P-I-D!!!!!

huskerdiva on January 8, 2010 at 5:06 PM

This may help to bury the air industry. My wife doesn’t want to body scanned like that, nor my mother……..

RealMc on January 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

I’m way ahead of the curve as I haven’t flown since the new TSA security measures were put in following 9/11. Previously I had logged 30,000 to 50,000 air miles per year. Even back then, I viewed the so-called security measures to be ineffective yet extremely bothersome.

docdave on January 8, 2010 at 5:18 PM

BadgerHawk on January 8, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Practicing for unionization?

chickasaw42 on January 8, 2010 at 5:56 PM

The failure was not a TSA failure. The reaction to it is a TSA reaction.

But what should have been done immediately upon knowing that the bulge bomber was on board was to have all the passengers fasten their belts, nobody out of their seats, and divert to the nearest airport. A flight from Amsterdam to Detroit would fly over the UK, Ireland, and Newfoundland and would not have been far South of Greenland at the midpoint of the trip. At practically no point of the trip is the plane more than 90 minutes from a place to land.

That plane should have landed immediately, the crotch bomber removed, and then allowed to proceed on its way.

This notion of “we will talk to him if he doesn’t blow the plane up on its way here” doesn’t fly.

crosspatch on January 8, 2010 at 6:17 PM

Next week, I’ll be leaving for a five day trip to South Carolina I took two similar trips last year; one by car, one by air. Same destination. Between jerking around with airport security, delays, and waits between connections, it actually only took me 90 minutes longer to drive. The difference in stress levels were immeasurable.

Perhaps the goal of the Obeyme administration is to force domestic airlines to go the way of passenger rail service. (Ref:http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/Amtrak-Train-Delayed-81008957.html)

That way we could have federal employees running the trains and planes.

oldleprechaun on January 8, 2010 at 6:45 PM

Idiotic, like what our tax dollars are paying/being squandered for!

jgdp on January 8, 2010 at 8:57 PM

It would be funny…. if it weren’t so accurate.

clancy_wiggum on January 8, 2010 at 10:29 PM

…unfair criticism of the agency after the EunuchBomber attack last month

Unfair criticism? The guy did everything possible to call attention to himself as a threat. The only thing he could have done to be more obvious would be to have carried a sign proclaiming his intentions and lighting a long duration 3 hour fuse on his bomb while at the boarding gate.

RJL on January 8, 2010 at 10:46 PM

Great expose Reason is what it is all about. If I cannot take my snow globe through the check in, I think I’ll leave my “odor eaters” at home too. That ought to set off something.

MSGTAS on January 9, 2010 at 9:57 AM