Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Is Rudderless TSA Thinking Up Something Else To Do?
Oh sweet Jayzus, are we headed back to the old days at the TSA -- after Kip Hawley, now departed, spent three years drilling sense into the asinine mess that was airport security before he arrived? Or it just that this report in USA Today today is a breathless reaction to obtaining a secret memo from some bureaucrat that nobody knows what the hell really means until somebody actually takes charge of the rudderless TSA?
It says that there will be more random searching of passengers at the departure gates, after same passengers have already cleared security. (Actually, I have noticed that screeners have been setting up their church-basement bingo tables at departure gates here and there, and dragging people out of line to search for ... well, what? Butter knives that were somehow missed during the actual checkpoint screening and might be used by some deranged soul to attack the fortified cockpit door? Two ounces of toothpaste remaining in a 6-ounce tube?)
It also quotes the worst of the former TSA chiefs, "Adm. James Loy," as USA Today deferentially refers to him, who said back around 2003 that the second round of random checks and patdowns at the gate (which pretty much stopped after he went away) were a visible sign of security that helped passengers "regain confidence" after 9/11.
They did nothing of the sort, nor did they add an iota of extra strength to security, as security experts kept saying. They just made people ridicule and despise the TSA more.
This was the apex of the festering contempt for, and public opposition to, the security process. When he came on the job, Kip Hawley went a very long way to tackle that problem by professionalizing and beating sense into the screening procedures, with the underlying assumption that a security process that is ridiculed, confused, haphazard, arbitrary and capricious and despised by the citizens is in and of itself a security hazard. That's where a smart terrorist finds a hole.
By the way, as I kept pointing out at the time (and as one actual retired Navy admiral insisted to me) Adm. Loy was actually "Coast Guard Admiral" Loy, which is a whole different kettle of stars.
And during his tenure TSA got so out of control that many women stopped traveling because they were unhappy about being felt-up by out-of-control screeners during those patdowns.
Do remember that the Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano hasn't yet announced a replacement for Hawley, who will, one would hope, pick up where Hawley left off and not go back to the bad old days of ever-more silly "security theater."
The TSA's main tasks now -- aside from continuing to guard against terrorist attacks -- are to improve technology, get that ridiculous $8 billion budget under control, and get on with putting Secure Flight into effect so that seven-year-old kids named Jack Anderson aren't routinely pulled aside because someone named Jack Anderson, deceased, is on the terrorist watch list, which is supposed to contain only the names of terrorist suspects and not those of muckraking columnists who pissed off dainty J. Edgar Hoover and foul Richard Nixon lo these many years ago.