Friday, August 20, 2010

The TSA Strikes Again

The TSA is supposed to be the first line of defense for threats crossing into our country via the airlines. They are also supposedly created to ensure that our flying experience is safe. According to the TSA website, their mission is,
The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.

The TSA website continues with their core values:
To enhance mission performance and achieve our shared goals, we are committed to promoting a culture founded on these values:

* Integrity:
o We are a people of integrity who respect and care for others and protect the information we handle.
o We are a people who conduct ourselves in an honest, trustworthy and ethical manner at all times.
o We are a people who gain strength from the diversity in our cultures.
* Innovation:
o We are a people who embrace and stand ready for change.
o We are a people who are courageous and willing to take on new challenges.
o We are a people with an enterprising spirit, striving for innovations who accept the risk-taking that comes with it.
* Team Spirit:
o We are a people who are open, respectful and dedicated to making others better.
o We are a people who have a passion for challenge, success and being on a winning team.
o We are a people who will build teams around our strengths.

Not a single one of these core values applies to the TSA's performance, as any traveler can testify. And as for their 'mission, the simple fact is that the TSA is utterly incompetent at every job is purports to perform. The TSA has stopped not a single terrorist attack since its institution - every single major attempt has been thwarted either by passengers or by the terrorists' own incompetence. Examples of the TSA failures can be found in the Shoe Bomber, the Crotch Bomber and the fact that TSA screeners fail the vast majority of tests every time they are tested.

But they are certainly vigilant about trying to take passengers' personal possessions - especially if they are valuable. According to a story today by Daniel Rubin in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the TSA once again has ignored a citizen's Constitutional rights (they are VERY good at ignoring citizens' rights, though they are signally bad at actually doing their jobs) and treating an innocent passenger as a criminal. Writes Rubin,
At what point does an airport search step over the line?

How about when they start going through your checks, and the police call your husband, suspicious you were clearing out the bank account?
Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."

This is absolutely infuriating. Citizens are under no compulsion to tell government officials anything and police and TSA personnel have absolutely no right whatsoever to behave with this kind of contempt. Congress needs to make the individual TSA screeners liable for their actions and the police officers in question need to be sued for civil rights violations and hopefully fired. Have any of these people ever heard of the United States Constitution and its prohibitions on unreasonable searches? How about search warrants? How about the presumption of innocence?

i hope this poor woman sues and gets a massive payout from those who utterly ignored her rights. I hope the TSA screeners in questions are fired (oh, wait, they are government workers. You could kill someone and not lose your job - see Ted Kennedy. At the very least the ignorant police officers who showed an equal disregard for the law need to be brought into court and at the very least have their badges stripped.

The TSA is looked about with justifiable contempt by anyone who has ever had to deal with their low-grade, ignorant and incompetent employees - which is just about everyone who has ever flown. Incidents like this simply reinforce the case for the immediate disbandment of the TSA. They are not in any way an improvement on the private firms that formerly did airport security. And like most government workers, they have an inflated sense of their own importance. I hope that the first thing a new Congress does is strip the TSA of their law enforcement status. These people are not law enforcement as they clearly do not know the most basic law of the United States. And the second thing they should do is get rid of the TSA and return its duties to the private firms - at least they have no illusions as to their status!

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