TSA: Broken From The Start

The real problem with the TSA isn’t that they have stupid rules and arbitrary rules that don’t do anything to protect us. The real problem is that that’s the only way they can work.

The TSA is focused on stuff. They have a list of stuff that they’re not supposed to allow on the plane. That seems like an easy way to keep air travelers safe, right? Keep dangerous things off the plane, then there won’t be any danger.

The problem is that dangerous stuff isn’t the problem. A person could get on an airplane with a box full of hand grenades, an M-60 machine gun, a knife, a sword, and even the most dangerous thing of all, a pair of nail clippers, and that flight would not be in any slightest danger at all if that person doesn’t intend any harm.

But a person with evil intent could wreak havoc with a pencil and piece of string.

There is an old saying that there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people. That is absolutely the case when you are talking about things like airplane security. Taking things away from people who don’t intend to do any harm does absolutely nothing for passenger security. (In fact, it may do harm, by reducing the passengers’ ability to protect themselves from the people of evil intent. Imagine if the non-terrorist passengers on 9/11 had all been carrying pistols.)

I’ll say that again: Taking ‘dangerous’ stuff away from good people is totally useless.

Taking dangerous stuff away from bad people isn’t all that useful either, because practically anything can be dangerous. The trick isn’t to try and stop dangerous stuff; the trick is to stop dangerous people.

The TSA is completely hopeless at that. They don’t even try.

People say that the Israeli method of doing airport security wouldn’t work here because of the volume of air travel, and that’s true enough. The lesson to be learned from how the Israelis do security isn’t to copy everything they do, but look at where their emphasis is. The Israelis do some scanning for bombs and the like, but most of their passenger screening efforts are on looking at the people, not the stuff.

That is what we don’t do, but what we should. There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people. The TSA isn’t interested in dangerous people, only in looking at their list of dangerous stuff and making sure nothing on that list gets past them. (Though they’re not even very good at that.)

That is why the TSA must go. It is a broken organization; no matter how good they get at doing what they do, it won’t make us safer because they do the wrong thing. And they aren’t even any good at that.

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