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Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

I know there are stereotypes about libertarians being a bunch of dorks.

Conservatives think we’re potheads. Liberals think we’re heartless.

And many other people simply think we’re a bit weird.

These stereotypes can be amusing, but I also think they’re wrong.

And regardless, I think there’s much to admire in the libertarian ideals of small government, personal liberty, free markets, non-intervention, and individual responsibility

Moreover, we have other redeeming features.

For instance, we’re actually the last of the great romantics.

Don’t believe me? Well, check out this collection of libertarian valentines.

My two favorites include this one mocking Obamacare.

And I also think the valentine mocking the National Security Agency is in the running to be my favorite.

But they’re all good and worth sharing.

So remember that libertarians are cuddly and loving!

P.S. There’s no policy angle in this postscript, but I feel compelled to offer a public service announcement for any men in the audience.

If your significant other tells you she doesn’t want you to do anything for Valentine’s Day, don’t believe her.

Sort of reminds me of the famous Dave Barry column about men and women that I linked at the end of this post.

P.P.S. Let’s close with a serious point about public policy.

I’ve mocked the Transportation Security Agency for its empty “security theater.”

And I’ve shared horror stories of utterly pointless harassment of travelers.

But nothing will be more compelling and convincing than this article by a former TSA bureaucrat. Here’s an excerpt, but you really need to read the whole article.

It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show. I confiscated jars of homemade apple butter on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security. I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots—the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying. Once, in 2008, I had to confiscate a bottle of alcohol from a group of Marines coming home from Afghanistan. It was celebration champagne intended for one of the men in the group—a young, decorated soldier. He was in a wheelchair, both legs lost to an I.E.D., and it fell to me to tell this kid who would never walk again that his homecoming champagne had to be taken away in the name of national security.

And here’s another example of the TSA in action.

A bureaucrat confiscated a tiny toy gun that was part of a sock monkey’s outfit.

I’m not kidding. Here are some passages from a news report on the incident.

May and her husband were going through the screening process when she noticed that one of her bags was missing. “And the (TSA agent) held it up and said ‘whose is this?’” she said. “I realized oh, my God this is my bag.” May said the TSA agent went through the bag, through the sewing supplies and found the two-inch long pistol. “She said ‘this is a gun,’” said May. “I said no, it’s not a gun it’s a prop for my monkey.” “She said ‘If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn’t know if it was real or not,’ and I said ‘really?’” said May. The TSA agent told May she would have to confiscate the tiny gun and was supposed to call the police. “I said well go ahead,” said May. “And I said really? You’re kidding me right, and she said no it looks like a gun.” “She took my monkey’s gun,” said May, who has retained her sense of humor. “Rooster Monkburn has been disarmed so I’m sure everyone on the plane was safe,” she said.

Let’s end with some humor about the Keystone Cops of airport security. If you want some TSA laughs, see this, this, and this.

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This may be a sign of the apocalypse, but I’m going to praise a government agency.

In the past, I’ve scorched the Transportation Security Administration for pointless and foolish “security theater.”

  1. I’ve commented on the TSA’s incompetence.
  2. I’ve shared some horror stories about TSA abuse.
  3. And I’ve posted many jokes about the Keystone Cops of airport security (for more laughs, see this, this, this, and this).

But I’m willing to admit when the government makes a wise decision (even if all they’re doing is reversing a previous dumb decision), and the TSA’s policy on pocket knives deserves some applause.

Here are some details from a CNN report.

The nation’s aviation security chief on Thursday defended his recent decision to again permit knives aboard commercial flights, despite concerns from major airlines and their flight crews, and sharp criticism from some members of Congress. …He said small knives no longer pose a threat to aircraft security, which now emphasizes bomb detection. “A small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft and an improvised explosive device will,” he said. “And we know, from internal covert testing, searching for these items, which will not blow up an aircraft, can distract our officers from focusing on the components of an improvised explosive device.” Small knives were banned along with a host of other undersized sharp objects like nail clippers, screwdrivers and cosmetic scissors, following the 9/11 al Qaeda hijack attacks on the United States.

I’ll be particularly happy if the new policy allows softball bats, since I sometimes have to fly to out-of-town tournaments with my over-50 team.

The rules also allow passengers to carry up to two golf clubs, certain toy bats or other sports sticks — such as ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues — aboard in carry-on luggage.

For skeptics out there, here’s the simple reality. In the post-9/11 worlds, passengers will not allow dirtbags to take over a plane with small knives, golf clubs, or any of the items being allowed on planes.

Chill, folks, this is not a threat

The TSA is correct to focus on things that represent bigger real-world threats.

P.S. I should also applaud the TSA’s “pre-check” program. I’m actually at Dulles Airport right now, having breezed through the new screening process that allowed me to keep on my shoes and jacket and to keep my laptop in its bag.

P.P.S. To show that I’m not getting too soft in my old age, I still think the TSA is inefficient and incompetent, and I invite everyone to peruse this remarkable info-graphic.

P.P.P.S. And because I don’t think the government should discriminate (even when it’s discriminating in my favor), I still object to special checkpoint lines for frequent flyers and first class passengers.

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Another good job by Remy and the folks at Reason TV.

Last year, they produced this parody about Grandma’s Christmas visit to Gitmo.

Now we see what happens when Santa tries to slip past the Transportation Security Administration.

And if you’ve ever been curious about what a “hooha” is, here are two additional TSA Christmas videos.

P.S. If you’re in the mood for some more holiday humor, we have a couple of videos from Larry the Cable Guy, one featuring slightly modified Christmas carols and the other telling the politically correct version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

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I’ve written about the TSA being a wasteful, stupid, and ineffective bureaucracy, and I’ve also shared some good anti-TSA humor (see the links in this post, which also contains an amazing visual).

Today, let’s focus on the wasteful and ineffective part. It seems that Keystone Cops of airport security have a new “pilot program” that is unpleasantly reminiscent of the old internal passport regime maintained by South Africa in the apartheid era.

Here is some of what one passenger wrote about his experience.

I came face-to-face with Big Brother the other day, and it was a frightening experience. He actually presented himself in the deceptive form of a young, attractive female officer, working for the Transportation Security Administration at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. At first she simply seemed chatty and friendly. She looked at my airline boarding pass and noted that I was coming from Denver. Then she mentioned that I was headed from Detroit to Grand Rapids. “That’s a pretty short flight,” she said. “Talk to my travel agent,” I grumbled. At that point she asked me what my business would be in Grand Rapids. “I’m headed home,” I replied. Then she wanted to know where home was. That’s when the mental alarms went off and I realized I was being interrogated by Big Brother in drag. I asked her why the federal government needed to know where I was going and what I would be doing. She explained that the questions were part of a new security “pilot program.” I then told her I am an American citizen, traveling within my own country, and I wasn’t breaking any laws. That’s all the federal government needed to know, and I wasn’t going to share any more. Not because I had anything to hide. It was because we live in a free country where innocent people are supposedly protected from unwarranted government intrusion and harassment.

Good for Mr. Gunn. Here’s more of his story.

At that point the agent yelled out, “We have another refusal.” One of my bags was seized and I was momentarily detained and given a hand-swab, which I believe was to test for residue from bomb-making materials. I passed the bomb test and was told I could move on, but I hung around a moment and told everyone within listening range what I thought about this terrifying experience. So, this is what we’ve come to. The federal government now has a need to know where citizens are going and what they are doing before they are allowed to peacefully pass. I’m starting to wonder what separates us from Russia or Cuba. …TSA officers, being the brilliant people they are, are given the responsibility of picking out airline passengers “whose facial expressions, body language or other behavior indicate a security risk.” They are then subjected to a “chat down,” where officers interrogate you and decide if you are indeed a terrorist.

I confess I’m not as brave as Mr. Gunn. I wouldn’t want to risk missing a flight because a peevish bureaucrat deliberately delayed me. But I fully agree with his conclusion.

This program is a bizarre and outlandish violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is supposed to protect us from “unreasonable search and seizure” by agents of the government, unless they have probable cause. I doubt any judge would have considered my droopy face as sufficient cause for harassment. I lived through 9/11 and I understand the need for tight security at airports. …The idea is to keep dangerous materials that could be used in a terrorist attack off commercial airliners. Fair enough. But stopping people because they look sort of funny to security agents, and probing into their personal business, is going too far. What’s next? Check lanes on city streets, where jackbooted thugs from Washington, D.C., will stop everyone every morning to ask them where they’re going and what they’re up to? And if our answers are not what the government wants to hear, perhaps we’ll be sent home and put under surveillance, to make sure we’re not involved in anything that Big Brother doesn’t approve of. Our freedom is severely compromised when government is allowed to do this sort of thing. We are supposed to be presumed innocent and able to come and go as we please, as long as we don’t break any laws or give authorities reason to believe we may have. The “chat down” program has been a failure, by the way, at least according to a recent editorial published in USA Today. TSA officials interviewed about 725,000 travelers at Logan International Airport in Boston over the course of one year, and none of them turned out to be terrorists. ..There is no justification for this type of unwarranted harassment in America. Even people who look a little different should be allowed to move about as they please, unless they give authorities a specific reason to stop them.

So what’s all this mean? What’s the answer. Simple. Put the private sector in charge, as Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz have argued. As Steve Chapman explains, there were lots of benefits to the pre-TSA system.

(h/t: J.D. Tuccille)

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I don’t like discrimination by the government.

I’m even against government-sponsored discrimination when I’m the beneficiary.

It bothers me, for instance, that the Transportation Security Administration has special lines for people – like me – who have some sort of elite frequent-flyer status with one or more airlines.

I have no problem with United Airlines treating me well. I give them lots of money because they’re my main airline, so it’s good business practice for them to reward me with special treatment regarding boarding, seat assignments, and upgrades.

But the Transportation Security Administration has only one responsibility (don’t laugh), and that’s to make sure people don’t bring dangerous items on airplanes.

So why should I get VIP treatment from a government agency just because I fly a lot?

That might be justifiable if I paid extra, sort of like drivers who pay more to ride in H-O-T lanes.

It might be justifiable if I participated in some sort of pre-screening process that enabled me to bypass some or all of TSA’s pointless security apparatus – assuming, though, that the pre-screening process was open to everybody.

And maybe there are other examples where special treatment might be warranted, such as payments from the airlines to cover the costs of the VIP lanes.

But buying a first class ticket or being a frequent flyer should not be sufficient to get someone favoritism from the government.

P.S. This post does not imply I approve of the TSA’s performance. Indeed, I’ve commented on the TSA’s incompetence in previous posts. I’ve also shared some horror stories about TSA abuse. And I’ve posted many jokes about the Keystone Cops of airport security (for more laughs, see thisthisthis, and this).

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I’ve commented on the TSA’s incompetence in previous posts.

I’ve also shared some horror stories about TSA abuse.

And I’ve posted many jokes about the Keystone Cops of airport security (for more laughs, see this, this, this, and this).

But this graphic, sent to me by Tony Shin, is a superb visual display of what the TSA really means.

TSA Waste
Created by: OnlineCriminalJusticeDegree.com

All of this underscores why the private sector would do a better job.

Unfortunately, the Obama White House seems more interested in using airport security as an opportunity to expand the universe of unionized bureaucrats.

And to make matters worse, it’s very distressing that the ideologues in the Obama Administration are trying to reverse the very successful policy of arming pilots (many of whom are former military).

Remember, this poster sums up everything that happens in Washington.

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I’ve expressed my disdain for the bureaucrats from the Transportation Security Administration, including stories such as:

Confiscating a plastic hammer from a mentally retarded man.

Detaining a woman for carrying breast milk.

Hassling a woman for the unexplained red flag of having sequentially numbered checks.

Demanding that a handicapped 4-year old boy walk through a metal detector without his leg braces.

Putting an 8-year old cub scout on the no-fly list.

o Stopping a teenager from flying because her purse had an image of a gun.

Yet these Keystone Cops still fail to catch guns and box cutters – even when using the body-scan equipment!

So let’s make fun of these bureaucrats by looking at some of my favorites images mocking the TSA from Cracked.com. There are 17 of them, and I’ve only picked four, so feel free to peruse the rest.

And here are three other pics that rank high on my list. Click to enlarge.

The only thing that worries me about these clever parodies is that some TSA bureaucrat may see them and decide they’re a good idea.

By the way, if you like music and TSA humor, enjoy this, this, this, and this.

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Remember the TSA hokey-pokey song?

Well, now the folks at Reason TV have a new song to celebrate the bureaucrats clogging our airports.

Here’s another version of the song with even better lyrics (and there’s also another bonus Christmas TSA song at the link).

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I’ve had some fun mocking the bureaucrats from the Transportation Security Administration, including stories such as:

o Confiscating a plastic hammer from a mentally retarded man.

o Detaining a woman for carrying breast milk.

o Hassling a woman for the unexplained red flag of having sequentially numbered checks.

o Demanding that a handicapped 4-year old boy walk through a metal detector without his leg braces.

o Putting an 8-year old cub scout on the no-fly list.

Keep in mind that these are the geniuses who still fail to catch guns and box cutters – even when using the body-scan equipment!

With this track record of incompetence, this next story probably won’t be too surprising. Here are some excerpts from a report showing a freaky combination of brainless stupidity and idiotic political correctness.

Dangerous Weapon?!?

Vanessa Gibbs, 17, claims the Transportation Security Administration stopped her at the security gate because of the design of a gun on her handbag. Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia. …her preference for the pistol style didn’t sit well with TSA agents at the Norfolk airport. Gibbs said she was headed back home to Jacksonville from a holiday trip when an agent flagged her purse as a security risk. “She was like, ‘This is a federal offense because it’s in the shape of a gun,’” Gibbs said. “I’m like, ‘But it’s a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?’” After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over. By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teen missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive at JIA. …TSA isn’t budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a “replica weapon.” The TSA says “replica weapons have prohibited since 2002.” It’s a rule that Vanessa feels can’t be applied to a purse. “Common sense,” she said. “It’s a purse, not a weapon.”

The moral of the story, needless to say, is that we should listen to Steve Chapman and shut down this counterproductive bureaucracy.

And then listen to Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz, so we can allow the private sector to do a better job at much lower cost.

(h/t: Instapundit)

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As a frequent traveler, I have a special loathing for the TSA.

And it’s not just because I get stuck in line behind families that take 20 minutes to go through security, just so the bureaucrats can confiscate toy soldiers, plastic hammers, toothpaste, and baby food.

Or poke and prod 95-year old women with adult diapers.

The TSA is even incompetent at being incompetent. The worst thing about the TSA are the long lines, even though ticket data lets the bureaucracy know exactly how many passengers to expect at any given time.

Yet with the boundless incompetence of government, they fail to adjust their staffing, leaving hapless people like me to slowly creep though long lines while growing increasingly irritated (particularly when we see the idle scanning machines that could be used).

And let’s not forget that the TSA inevitably fails when subjected to independent testing.

Here’s what Congressman Mica, in a bit of a battlefield conversion, has to say about the TSA.

They’ve been accused of rampant thievery, spending billions of dollars like drunken sailors, groping children and little old ladies, and making everyone take off their shoes. …a decade after the TSA was created following the September 11 attacks, the author of the legislation that established the massive agency grades its performance at “D-.”  “The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats,” said Rep. John Mica (R. -Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.  “It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said.  “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”  As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”  “Everything they have done has been reactive.  They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said. …Mica said screeners should be privatized and the agency dismantled.  Instead, the agency should number no more than 5,000, and carry out his original intent, which was to monitor terrorist threats and collect intelligence.  The fledgling agency was quickly engulfed in its first scandal in 2002 as it rushed to hire 30,000 screeners, and the $104 million awarded to the company to contract workers quickly escalated to more than $740 million.

I’m glad Rep. Mica has had a change of heart, though I wonder about both his sincerity and intelligence.

Why has it taken so long for him to reach this conclusion? Has he proposed legislation to dismantle the TSA (that’s not a rhetorical question, I’m genuinely curious)?

And, most important, why didn’t he realize that the TSA would morph into an inefficient bureaucracy – particularly since that it what happens whenever the clowns in Washington give the government some new power and/or authority. Seems like a no-brainer.

I’m being unkind, I realize, probably because I’m going to be back at an airport on Friday.

Someday, I hope I can be one of those evil rich people that Obama demagogues about. Then I can sidestep the TSA’s hollow security theater and hop on a tax-dodging private jet.

P.S. To de-agitate myself, I’ve perused these examples of TSA humor (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

P.P.S. You won’t be surprised to discover that the Obama Administration is kowtowing to union bosses by blocking private airport screeners.

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I’ve largely stopped beating up on the TSA because it seems like a dog-bites-man or sun-rises-in-the-east issue. Do we really learn anything by repetitively discussing the stupidity on one bureaucracy?

But sometimes the idiocy reaches such an extreme level that it can’t be ignored.

Here are the nauseating details of how TSA bureaucrats confiscated a toy hammer – made out of plastic – that a mentally retarded man had used as a sort of security blanket for 20 years.

The Mandy family says they were on their way to the happiest place on earth (Disney), but had to go through hell to get there. …The family was going through security when two TSA agents singled Drew Mandy out for a special pat down. Drew is severely mentally disabled. He’s 29, but his parents said he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, which made the experience that followed at metro Detroit’s McNamera Terminal that much harder to deal with. …The TSA agents saw Drew holding a six-inch plastic hammer. “My son carries his ball and his hammer for security. He goes everywhere with (them),” said Mandy. The TSA it seems saw the toy as a weapon. “He took the hammer and he tapped the wall. ‘See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon,’” Mandy explained. …”It just killed me to have to throw it away because he’s been carrying this like for 20 years,” Mandy said.

That’s a disgusting example of bureaucratic stupidity, but I don’t know whether it’s better or worse than what happened in Florida, where the Keystone Cops of the TSA made a 95-year old cancer patient remove her adult diaper as part of the screening process.

The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t think its agents did anything wrong in asking an elderly woman with cancer to remove her adult diaper during an airport security screening. The agency came under fire after Florida woman Jean Weber claimed her 95-year-old mother was forced to take off her diaper for a pat down at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport last weekend. “It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber told the Northwest Florida Daily News. …Weber says watching her mother, who is battling leukemia, be subjected to the security screening drove her to tears.

Plastic hammers and soiled diapers are deadly weapons to be sure, especially in the hands of retarded people and senior citizens. We should be mighty proud that the TSA is on the job!!

Not surprisingly, Senator Rand Paul has the right assessment, believing in common sense and individual liberty. I’ve already shared a video of him mocking an Obama appointee for imposing inferior, toxic light bulbs. Now here’s a video of him grilling the head TSA bureaucrat.

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I used to have lots of posts about TSA inefficiency and stupidity, but then I got discouraged and stopped. It seemed pointless to discuss the issue when there was no hope for improvement.

I still think that’s the case, at least so long as Obama is in the White House and acting as a toady for the union bosses, but I’m somewhat encouraged by a new study from the House Transportation Committee. Here’s part of a report from KTVU.

The federal government could save $1 billion in the next five years without sacrificing security by replacing federal airport screeners with private screeners, Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, said Friday. …a four-month study by his staff showed that private screeners are 65 percent more efficient then government screeners and could save taxpayers “at least 42 percent.” …Currently, 16 airports have opted out of the federal airport screening system and use private screeners who work under federal supervision. …Mica’s study, released Friday, compares checkpoint operations at Los Angeles International Airport, which uses federal screeners, with those at San Francisco International Airport, which uses private screeners. It concludes that the government spends $4.22 screening each passenger in Los Angeles, versus $2.42 at San Francisco. San Francisco screeners were 65 percent more efficient, screening 16,113 passengers on average last year, compared with 9,765 in Los Angeles. San Francisco also had significantly lower recruiting costs, training costs and attrition.

You won’t be surprised to find out, however, that the Administration is blocking more airports from using more efficient private screeners. Here’s another passage from the article.

In January, Pistole firmly sided with those favoring government employees in the screener role. Pistole put the brakes on expansion of privatization of the screener work force, saying he did not see “any clear or substantial advantage” to allowing other airports to privatize their screener work force. But Mica and several airports are contesting that decision, saying that private screeners are more effective and provide better service. “TSA employees frequently have no concern for customer service,” Shawn Schroeder, acting director of aviation at Springfield-Branson National Airport in Missouri, wrote to the House committee. “We feel participating in the (private screening program) will increase screening efficiency and flexibility, and improve the customer service experience.”

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Here’s a classic video from Reason TV mocking our intimate friends at the TSA. Enjoy…and share.

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My New Year’s Resolution was to stop making fun of the Transportation Security Administration. Not because I changed my mind about the bureaucracy and its level of (in)competence, but rather because I felt as if I was taking candy from a baby. Kicking the TSA is just too easy.

But I can’t resist low-hanging fruit. I recently mocked the TSA for repeatedly failing to catch an undercover agent who carried a gun through the porno-scan machines.

Now it’s time to abuse the bureaucrats for another world-class blunder. A man recently got on a flight with three of the weapons that were used to hijack planes on 9-11. According to the New York Post.

A passenger managed to waltz past JFK’s ramped-up security gantlet with three boxcutters in his carry-on luggage — easily boarding an international flight while carrying the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers, sources told The Post yesterday. The stunning breach grounded the flight for three hours Saturday night and drew fury from Port Authority cops, who accused the Transportation Security Administration of being asleep on the job. “In case anyone has forgotten, the TSA was created because of a couple boxcutter incidents,” said one PAPD source, referring to the weapons used by al Qaeda operatives to commandeer the jets they later slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

In an unusual display of honesty, a TSA bureaucrat basically admitted that passengers were not in danger because of other factors. Which raises an obvious question of why we maintain an expensive bureaucracy that has no impact other than to inconvenience the traveling public?

The TSA spokeswoman Davis insisted that the traveling public was not at risk. “There have been a number of additional security layers that have been implemented on aircraft that would prevent someone from causing harm with boxcutters,” she insisted. “They include the possible presence of armed federal air marshals, hardened cockpit doors, flight crews trained in self-defense and a more vigilant traveling public who have demonstrated a willingness to intervene.”

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This is really remarkable. We’re supposed to go through porno strip machines at the airport so the bureaucrats can detect firearms. Yet the Keystone Cops at the TSA in Dallas failed when an undercover agent tested their awareness by hiding a gun in her undergarments. They didn’t just fail. They. Failed. Every. Single. Time.

Check out this local news report, including a video at the link.

An undercover TSA agent was able to get through security at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with a handgun during testing of the enhanced-imaging body scanners, according to a high-ranking, inside source at the Transportation Security Administration. The source said the undercover agent carried a pistol in her undergarments when she put the body scanners to the test. The officer successfully made it through the airport’s body scanners every time she tried, the source said. “In this case, where they had a test, and it was just a dismal failure as I’m told,” said Larry Wansley, former head of security at American Airlines. “As I’ve heard (it), you got a problem, especially with a fire arm.”

This story worries me. But not because a terrorist might smuggle a gun on board. Passengers are now the most effective line of defense against hijacking, along with hardened cockpit doors and armed pilots.

But I am worried that the TSA might over-react, demand more intensive scrutiny, and cause airport security lines to become even slower.

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I’m sick of the TSA and haven’t written about that incompetent bureaucracy since posting a mock press release early last month.

But after enduring the slowest-moving line in recorded history at the Miami Airport yesterday, motivation is no longer a problem.

So it was serendipitous (in a bad way) to see a story in the New York Times indicating that an Obama political appointee is giving union bosses the power to represent TSA bureaucrats.

Seeking to end a debate that has brewed for nearly a decade, the director of the Transportation Security Administration announced on Friday that a union would be allowed to bargain over working conditions on behalf of the nation’s 45,000 airport security officers.

Barring some sort of miracle, this guarantees that airport security will become even more tedious and inefficient in the future. Unions are notorious for creating inflexible working conditions. That’s a big reason why American car companies have lost market share (the second half of this post provides a powerful example), but that’s not something the public directly experiences. Everyone who flies, however, will suffer the consequences of importing UAW-style intransigence into the world of airport security.

Added TSA incompetence might not be completely terrible news if airports had the freedom to choose a better approach. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration also recently decided to prevent additional airports from opting out of the government monopoly and choosing private companies. There are 16 airports using this more efficient approach and many other airports were about to make the switch, but that option no longer exists. Here are some of the depressing details.

TSA Administrator John Pistole also indicated TSA was eliminating the use of private screeners at airports nationwide, except for 16 that already have them in place. “Shortly after beginning as TSA Administrator, I directed a full review of TSA policies with the goal of helping the agency evolve into a more agile, high-performing organization that can meet the security threats of today and the future,” said Pistole. “As part of that review, I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time.” …Springfield airport spokesman Kent Boyd said having a private company doing the security screenings gives the airport an opportunity to strengthen its customer service. “While a private company is still under the supervision of TSA, the screeners are employees of a private company,” Boyd said. “If there’s a problem, the airport can go directly to the company to seek a resolution.” He said that process “tends not to happen with the TSA.”

The funniest line in that excerpt, albeit in the form of unintentional humor, was Pistole asserting that a government monopoly system would be “more agile” than private companies. It must have been difficult for him to keep a straight face when uttering something so preposterous.

There’s nothing funny, though, about politicians and bureaucrats undermining the safety and efficiency of flying. Yet that’s the inevitable outcome of these two reprehensible decisions.

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I suppose there’s a slight possibility, perhaps asymptotically approaching 100 percent, that this is a parody rather than a real press release, so enjoy with appropriate skepticism. Click to enlarge.

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Definitely clever. Share widely.

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I was thinking of doing a serious post about the TSA, especially after reading about the government’s petty and reprehensible attack on the pilot who exposed the bureaucracy’s absurdly inconsistent security rules. I also noticed a story about a 56-year old former rape victim who was arrested because she refused to let TSA bureaucrats grope her.

But then I saw these videos and they appealed to my juvenile sense of humor. Since most of my TSA posts poke fun at the bureaucracy in some form or fashion, I decided that they deserve to be my final (hopefully!) TSA post of 2010.

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There’s an unconfirmed rumor that Wiki-Leaks got hold of a romance novel being written by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I don’t want to get the folks at Harlequin upset with me, so I can only share a small excerpt from one of the chapters.

He grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone.

He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice close to my ear.

“Just relax.”

Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong, calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my calves slowly but steadily. My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn’t care. His touch was so experienced, so sure.

When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply.

Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties.

Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge.

A man not used to taking `no’ for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say …

“Okay, ma’am,” said a voice. “All done.”

My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse. “You can board your flight now.”

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We all grumble that going to the airport now means long lines and invasions of privacy, but we hope that at least we’re getting safety in exchange for all the hassle. But based on results of random tests, the only thing we can really conclude is that terrorists must be very stupid. When undercover agents try to sneak bombs, guns, and other contraband through TSA security, they inevitably seem to succeed more than 50 percent of the time. Here are some key passages from an ABC News story about TSA’s incompetence, and I also encourage you to watch the video at the link.

Last fall, as he had done hundreds of times, Iranian-American businessman Farid Seif passed through security at a Houston airport and boarded an international flight. He didn’t realize he had forgotten to remove the loaded snub nose “baby” Glock pistol from his computer bag. But TSA officers never noticed as his bag glided along the belt and was x-rayed. When he got to his hotel after the three-hour flight, he was shocked to discover the gun traveled unnoticed from Houston. …the TSA did miss it, and despite what most people believe about the painstaking effort to screen airline passengers and their luggage before they enter the terminal, it was not that unusual. Experts tell ABC News that every year since the September 11 terror attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert “red team tests,” where undercover agents try to see just how much they can get past security checks at major U.S. airports. And while the Department of Homeland Security closely guards the results as classified, those that have leaked in media reports have been shocking. According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles’s LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago’s O’Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.

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Youtube made me state I was over 18 to watch this, though it really doesn’t deserve more than a PG rating.

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I want to stop blogging about this issue, but can’t resist sharing this video.

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I hate writing about the TSA and airport security, especially since I fly frequently and despise the pointless “security theater” of the whole process. I keep doing posts about the issue, though, because it seems a day doesn’t go by without some new revelation about foolish government action.

Here’s a video (courtesy of Pejman Yousefzadeh and Megan McArdle) indicating that TSA bureaucrats violated federal law and deliberately hassled a woman for not surrendering to their petty demands.

A couple of quick thoughts…

1. If the statements in this video about the treatment of breast milk are true, the manager and screeners involved should be fired. And if they’re not fired, that tells us things will get even worse.

2. The passenger being harassed may be an activist who deliberately wanted to provoke this reaction, but even if she was the world’s biggest b*tch, that does not justify the TSA’s behavior.

3. What did the TSA accomplish by making the woman pour the breast milk into smaller containers? Let’s assume the liquid actually was some sort of compound that becomes dangerous in amounts greater than 3 ounces. Couldn’t the woman just pour the little bottles back into the big bottle once she got on the plane?

4. Having said all this, we do have real security concerns. I have no doubt that there are people in the world (and even in America, as shown by the recent Portland bombing plot) who gladly would like to blow up a plane using fake breast milk. Heck, some of these nut-jobs would probably be willing to smuggle explosives onto a plane in the diaper of one of their own children (though I’m not sure what an infant will do with 72 virgins if such a bomb plot succeeded).

5. When all is said and done, I’m amazed that these fanatic morons haven’t blown up a plane since 9-11. In part, this may be because they actually are morons. But I suspect a lot of the credit goes to our intelligence services, so kudos to the FBI, CIA, et al, but continued jeers for the TSA’s empty security theater.

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The resolution on these is not exactly crisp. Clicking and zooming will give you a better view.

In any event, many of them are worth the trouble. I think the last one is my favorite.

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Freedom, liberty, and common sense are all good things, which explains why I criticize the TSA’s bureaucratic approach to airport safety.

But I’m a glass-half-full guy, so here’s one good argument for the TSA’s new guidelines.

And since we’re having some fun at TSA’s expense, here’s how the Taiwanese interpret our policy.

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One of John Boehner’s first announcements after the GOP House takeover was that he would continue to fly commercial. This is in sharp contrast to Nancy Pelosi, who insisted on using luxury jets operated by the military. Boehner deserves praise for that decision, but he only gets two cheers rather than three since, like many other government officials, he is spared the indignity of being groped by the TSA.

This is wrong. The political elite should have to live under the rules that are imposed on the peasantry. Yes, it will be stupid and pointless for Boehner and other officials to be harassed by TSA, but it’s equally dumb for TSA to be frisking little kids from Minnesota, grandmothers from Kentucky, and frequent business travelers from Dallas.

And if we want to force the TSA to use common sense, letting politicians get some first-hand experience (no pun intended) with the process is a good idea. Here’s a blurb from an article in the New York Times.

The Republican leader, who will become the second person in line to assume the presidency after the new Congress convenes in January, took great pride after the midterm elections in declaring his man-of-the-people plans to travel home as other Americans do. In a time of economic difficulty, it was a not-so-subtle dig at Ms. Pelosi, who has access to a military jet large enough to avoid refueling for her flights home to San Francisco. But he is not giving up all the perquisites of power. …Congressional leaders or members of Congress with armed security details are allowed to go around security. The same privilege is afforded to governors and cabinet members if they are escorted by agents or law enforcement officers. Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the Republican leader had neither requested nor received special treatment at the airport security line.

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Craigslist TSA Ad

Warning, this is not G-rated.

Here’s the original link, though I won’t be surprised if it gets taken down.

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A pretty good summary of where we stand. I wonder if the IRS is getting jealous of their friends at the TSA?

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Our airport security system is a giant hassle. It’s very costly. And now we have the incredible privilege of having government bureaucrats grope our private parts.

So are we getting big benefits to offset these high costs? Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner has a column about the TSA that includes a single sentence (actually, a fragment of a sentence) that pretty much tells us what we need to know.

…despite years of imposing increasingly invasive new security procedures, the TSA has yet to catch one terrorist.

To be fair, one interpretation of this sentence is that the TSA and its overseas counterparts have done such a great job that terrorists have given up. Yet the “shoe bomber” made it on a plane, as did the “underwear bomber.”

Moreover, the Government Accountability Office warns that it’s unclear whether the new body-imaging approach would have caught the underwear bomber. And since this approach apparently is unable to detect certain types of bombs hidden in body cavities (use your imagination), we’re still left with the fundamental issue of whether the bureaucracy is imposing high costs on innocent people without providing a fail-safe way of stopping bad guys.

That being said, I confess that I’m amazed that terrorists haven’t succeeded in knocking down more planes since 9-11. Somebody, somewhere, deserves some credit. After all, protecting us from aggression is one of the few legitimate responsibilities of government.

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