In his Chicago Tribune column, Steve Champman suggests that the TSA’s bureaucratic inefficiency does more harm than good, especially if we place any value of liberty.
Get rid of the no-fly list entirely. For that matter, get rid of the requirement that passengers provide government-approved identification just to go from one place to another. Americans have a constitutionally protected right, recognized by the Supreme Court, to travel freely. They also have the right not to be subject to unreasonable searches and other government intrusions. But in the blind pursuit of safety, we have swallowed restrictions on travel and infringements on privacy we would never tolerate elsewhere. The no-fly list is a punishment in search of a crime. As Richard Sobel, a director of the Cyber Privacy Project and a scholar at Northwestern University, points out, it inflicts a penalty without a trial or any other form of due process. The TSA doesn’t say what it takes to get on the list, and it doesn’t make it crystal clear how to get off. If it acts in an arbitrary or malicious way, the victim has little recourse except appealing to the agency’s better angels. But the whole idea behind the list doesn’t make much sense. Supposedly, we have hundreds or even thousands of U.S. residents who are too dangerous to be allowed on a plane — but safe enough to be trusted in all sorts of other places (subway trains, sports venues, shopping malls, skyscrapers) where someone carrying a bomb or a gun could wreak havoc. If those on the list are truly dangerous, the government should arrest and prosecute them, with their guilt decided by courts. If they are not dangerous enough to arrest, they should have the same freedom to travel as everyone else. We don’t prohibit all ex-convicts from flying. How can we justify barring people convicted of nothing? …Not so many years ago, Sobel notes, you could show up without a reservation or a ticket at Washington’s National Airport (now Reagan National Airport), walk onto the hourly shuttle to LaGuardia, take a seat and pay your fare in cash. No one knew who you were, and no one cared.