TSA Follies

Having spent a few weeks on the road this year, I’ve had more exposure to the TSA recently than I really care to. This, coupled with the announcement that the current theater that passes for airport security will be enhanced with random hand-swabbing, is enough to bring into sharp relief the myriad reasons that I dislike the TSA and everything for which it stands. This isn’t new, of course. I’ve written about the TSA before and that I believe common sense will eventually prevail, and the TSA will be relegated to the dustbin of history. I look forward to one day regaling my grandchildren with stories of the post-9/11 world, and their slack-jawed reaction to the sheer absurdities of this life. So here is the start of a collection of these stories.

In January, traveler Bucky Turco took a photo of a TSA agent sleeping on the job at LaGuardia airport. Granted, the agent was not on duty at the time, but gaffes like this do little to improve the TSA’s image. Also in January, a terminal at Newark was on lockdown after a TSA agent left his post, allowing a man to duck under the rope to say his goodbyes to a friend. I suspect incidents like this are fairly rare, but again, they do nothing to improve the general perception that the TSA is is suffering from a severe lack of professionalism. Whether you leave your post, or fall asleep on the job, no one is going to believe that you are taking the security of passengers seriously.

In yet another story from January, an agent in Philly tried to remedy his boredom by playing a prank on traveler Rebecca Solomon, planting a plastic bag of white powder in her bag, and then letting her off the hook with a grin and a “just kidding!” Using your position of authority to meet women was a helpful plot device in the recent movie She’s Out Of My Leauge, but when it comes to real life, these agents need to stay a bit more focused. The agent was subsequently terminated for this behavior, but it does lead one to question, where did that bag of white powder come from? Was this simply the desperate action of a lonely guy, or are TSA agents actually trained to use tactics such as this?

What about the agents that detained Ron Paul campaign staffer Steve Bierfeldt at the St. Louis airport in 2009? His quick thinking to record audio of the entire incident on his iPhone helped him win his case and reestablish some proper boundaries around the agency’s outrageous power grab. The TSA subsequently “issued a new policy directive making clear that its safety screening procedures would be strictly limited to passenger searches for the purpose of safeguarding flight safety.” We owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Bierfeldt for standing up for all of our rights, and striking a significant blow in defense of common sense.

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