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Time to Close the Security Theater (forbes.com)
162 points by gatsby on July 1, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

The power to end the TSA lies with the public. The responsibility to end the TSA lies with the public. The public need to make enough fuss, so the media reports the fuss, so that more public become aware of the issue.

The key points to identify;

a) The TSA does not make flying safe. The FAA makes flying safe. The TSA allegedly keeps bombs off planes but going by their press releases they've never actually done this. It's always some kid with a pen-knife.

b) For years Customs have been attempting the opposite goal, detecting stuff coming off planes. They have a good success rate, but clearly plenty of stuff gets through. Is there any evidence that the TSA has a better success rate?

c) It's not hard to get forbidden items onto a plane. It just isn't. All the TSA does is make it harder to do it via the main entrance hall. Given the amount of merchandise, and number of people who work on the "other side" of the security barrier, does anyone think it's hard? For example it's easy to take liquids on a plane, just buy them in the departure hall. [edit - It's also not hard to get a job as a TSA agent. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?]

d) Given that the TSA doesn't make us any _safer_, it's hard to find a reason for it to exist. But large govt. departments do not go softly into the night.

It takes sustained, broad-based pressure to make this sufficiently important for politicians to get involved. Until that happens _nothing_ will change. No, I lie, until that happens the TSA will spend more money, and intrude on our lives more, but won't actually provide any benefit.

The power to end the TSA lies with the public. The responsibility to end the TSA lies with the public. The public need to make enough fuss, so the media reports the fuss, so that more public become aware of the issue.

Really? Just like the power and responsibility to prevent Greece from imposing further utterly useless austerity measures on its citizens lies with the Greek public? The riot police would beg to differ.

If the public anywhere was actually properly informed and asked to make a decision on any of the insanity going on all around the world, then yes, you could make that claim. But as long as we have no say in anything, you're just spewing out seemingly righteous but empty rhetoric.

Just like the power and responsibility to prevent Greece from imposing further utterly useless austerity measures on its citizens lies with the Greek public? The riot police would beg to differ.

Oh come on, Greece is not North Korea.

Do you really think the Greek government could push anything through if more then two thirds of the population was violently against it?

Yes, the clashes with police look spectacular but what percentage of the electorate is out on the streets?

Oh come on, Greece is not North Korea.

There's a difference in their respective levels of totalitarianism, yes. But Greece, just like any other country, can turn it up a notch when "necessary".

'Who watches the watchers?' is indeed a good question with the TSA. It's not clear based on their behavior that anyone is doing much watching over there, unless you count watching out for #1.

no the power lies with the politicians...it's just too small of an issue for the general public to make it a deciding voting issue. Most people travel once a year(if that) so they don't really care about it

Who elects the politicans? bruce's point is that if the public cared enough, the public could end it.

Sadly, I don't think there's any way to make the public really care about this. For one thing, it's a sufficiently rare pain in the ass that virtually no one worries about what the latest nonsense from the TSA is on a day to day basis.

I also suspect many people actually do believe it makes us safer. Many others probably don't care one way or another, but if a politician were to seriously attempt to end the TSA, they would be branded as soft on terror so fast their head would spin.

This is true, but the current electoral system in the US isn't very responsive to public input. First past the post voting systems will tend to two parties, which makes voter opinion less effective since election winners will not have to form a multi-party coalition. This means that politicians and lobbyists can use wedge issues to divide voter attention and reduce the effectiveness of voter choice.

Corporations elect them, duh.

Terrorism is about creating terror. It's about magnifying, in your enemy's mind, what is actually a small threat.

If you have an entire military, you don't use terrorism; you kill your enemies en masse. If you're a small band of nutjobs, you scrape together the resources for a few small hits. You hope that fear will do the rest of the job of crippling your enemy.

The way to defeat terrorism is to not be terrified. To call them on their bluff. "You are a tiny band of nutjobs. You can't kill us all. You can't even kill .00001% of us. You are less of a problem than peanut allergies. If you set off a bomb once in a while, we'll have you hunted down, and the rest of us will continue with life as usual."

"You are a tiny band of nutjobs. You can't kill us all. You can't even kill .00001% of us."

If we're talking about the US population, then 0.0001% is thirty people. They can probably manage that.

However, on your broader point, nouveau-Islamist terrorism differs from more traditional varieties (the IRA et cetera) in that its practitioners are markedly less rational. For them, terrorism isn't a tool which they're applying calmly in the hope of achieving a political goal. Most of them seem to just want to kill infidels, because the existence of people who aren't Muslim makes them angry.

So I don't think the refuse-to-be-terrorized strategy actually works. They don't particularly care whether you're scared of 'em, as long as you die.

(They're not very rational or very nice.)

No. This is very likely true of the schmucks who blow themselves up, but those people aren't so much Al-Qaeda as they are victims of Al-Qaeda.

Did you ever notice how UBL never participated in any suicide attacks? Not saying he wasn't crazy, of course, but he was crazy like a dictator. Like, say, Hitler, he was shrewd in pursuit of his bizarre ideological objectives. You can't look at him and say Al-Qaeda had no political strategy.

We suffer from the same security hysteria here in the UK, albeit somewhat less hysterical.

There was an article on HN a while back about how 'israelification' of US airports would have a positive effect on actual security and a negligible affect on passenger experience. As a layman, it made a lot of sense to me.


It recently occurred to me that we can see what "appropriate" security measures would be by looking, even within the US, at what security is in place at sites that are not targets of mass hysteria.

For example, subways are generally known to be good terrorist targets. What's the security level on subways? In Boston and NY, it's a bunch of signs saying "if you see something, say something" and "we reserve the right in principle to search your bags (penalty for refusal: leaving the subway)".

Intercity trains are sometimes suggested to be terrorist targets (I'm not sure whether they are). What's the security level on Amtrak? Well, I've seen K9 teams at Penn station. I've noticed that K9 teams are a damn sight less intrusive than airport security (and K9 dogs are a damn sight cuter than X-rays).

Except terrorists aren't any more rational than the general public are (hey, some would argue even less so), and it's the terrorists who keep on trying to target the planes, not the subways, at least in the United States. If there were a series of successful high-casualty subway attacks you'd see insane security on the subway (and let's really hope that doesn't happen).

Besides, you just can't kill that many people on the subway. A single bomb on a 747 can kill 400 people... and with a single gun you could kill thousands. (A knife probably isn't good enough any more since folks will fight back, but with an assault rifle you can probably kill anyone who tries.)

It seems to me that to make your argument valid you have to be implicitly claiming the following: we're so confident that no fragment of the current Islamist terrorism movement will target subways that we don't need to put in place the security measures that would be necessary if we thought they might; and yet we are so clueless as to when, where and how they plan to attack airplanes that we have to strip-search every 95-year-old/5-year-old/this week's TSA victim stereotype across the entire system.

Security theater, political theater, Broadway -- it's all theater.

Chomsky and Edward Herman go over this in detail in "Manufacturing Consent" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_The_Poli...).

When the public starts to see it for what it is, it will lose its effect, and the playwrights will have to find a new tactic.

Which is great - except that the public will never, ever see it for what it is. Or rather, said insight on the part of the public will be treated with the same respect as any other conspiracy theory. (Oil companies colluding to raise the price of oil! Ha! That would never happen in our free-market system!)

Evidently, but it crossed over into the theater of the absurd years ago. I would be curious to hear from those who don't see it, what is your perspective?

Reddit has a community around it called Operation Grab ass: http://www.reddit.com/r/OperationGrabAss/

I'm amazed this post was so popular. A populist point "let's shut down the TSA" is supported by a series of really poorly thought out and subjectively supported arguments.

Mind you, I agree that the TSA introduces unprecedented invasions of personal privacy. And I agree that it should be shut down on those grounds. But making the point that TSA kills because it incentivizes driving is silly.

What else is stupid? Privatized Airports. Besides security and fleet maintenance concerns, this sounds like a recipe for monopolistic airport practices, ie, come to Hartsfield Jackson, an airport paid for with tax-payer dollars. I'm not saying that public airports are run like well oiled machines, but I'd rather roll back one stupid administration than throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The supporters argue that all these measures are required to preserve "our way of life". The hard truth is that, it is already lost - unless constantly living in fear counts.

What are folks actually suggesting here? That we go back to the more relaxed pre-9/11 days where you'd go through a metal detector and get your carry-on X-rayed, but it wasn't that big a deal? Or that we actually abolish airport security entirely?

The former seems pretty sensible to me, the latter seems a bit crazy.

I guess the other problem is this: there's no doubt a bunch of Al Qaeda-ish folks sitting around right now plotting how to kill people. A big sudden announcement that "guess what? you won't have to take your shoes off any more" might just give 'em the idea.

I think you completely missed the point. The TSA is, at best, plugging a few holes in a sieve. Any non-retarded terrorist could setup attacks. Un-plugging those few holes by reforming the TSA would free resources badly needed elsewhere and not change actual risks a iota.

Y'see, this is where the argument turns into hyperbole. Airport security does, in fact, make it much harder to carry out an attack on a plane.

Maybe you can sneak a blade through, but you're not getting on board with a gun. Maybe you can stick forty grams of plastic explosive up your butt, but you're not getting on board with a bag full of TNT. The 9/11 hijackers used shitty weapons because it was all they could get on board -- they changed the rules, and now they're stuck with even shittier weapons. The shoe bomb was a crappy bomb, and the underpants bomb was even crappier.

Now, if your point is that a terrorist would have to be stupid to even try to attack an aeroplane when so many other opportunities for killing folks exist... then you'd be right. But that's exactly the kind of stupid that terrorists seem to be... they keep on going for the aircraft rather than the crowded music festival. And hey, if they want to keep going for our best-defended rather than our softest targets then I'm not gonna try and talk 'em out of it.

Perhaps the TSA is really a desperate cry of "Oh please don't throw me in that briar patch!"

I'm all for what the Author is getting at here. My one nit to pick is the following:

"Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out."

What does that mean? We need to have a security incident before one private firm is replaced by another? Flying is the kind of business where you need to be spot on every single time or people will surely die. TSA is obviously not the way but neither is simply saying that market forces and capitalism will solve the problem.

Very next sentence: "It is important to remember too that just because competitive markets might not provide the best of all conceivable worlds doesn’t mean that government intervention can."

The show must go on

Better yet, it needs to be replaced with a competitive market for air travel in which the airports, the airways, and the airliners are in private hands.

Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out.

Ugh, how are they going to 'weed this out' exactly? Seems to me competitive pressures would lead private firms to do exactly what the TSA is doing i.e. give the appearance of being serious about security. And do it cheaply. Christ, all these high-profile hacks against big corporations recently and this guy really expects anyone to believe that competition will 'tend to' force businesses to take security seriously? The author hasn't given this a lot of thought, I strongly suspect.

The TSA is awful. But the idea that competition and the free market is a panacea for all problems financial and social is too often used as a crutch by bureaucrats and politicians who don't want to do their god damn jobs, and as a cudgel by idiot pundits on the payroll of big business, as we see here.

Just fix the TSA.

Edit: and it appears Forbes stores your passwords as plaintext. Really shining example of the free market and competition magically solving all our problems, fellas.

Seems to me competitive pressures would lead private firms to do exactly what the TSA is doing i.e. give the appearance of being serious about security.

In the marketplace competitive pressure leads to better service, not worse.

LASIK has gone from a novelty for the rich to a treatment everyone can afford, for example. Possibly counter examples exist, but I can't think of any offhand. Perhaps after I've had my morning coffee.

The reason I would prefer a private company over government is that you have a choice with a private firm: don't like AA's service, think their security guys are fools? Fly with Southwest. Write a letter to AA. Become a shareholder and annoy the board with your opinions.

So do something like this: require private security firms to meet standards X, Y, Z. Enforcement by government inspection. Bust a standard, loose your business license.

This works in other areas - workplace safety, food inspection.

Am I missing something?

Your friends can tell you how well their LASIK worked, and how much it cost, as soon as their eyes heal. This allows market forces to do what they do pretty well.

Anti-terrorist security measures have neither of these advantages. It's very difficult to find out how much they cost; especially if you include indirect costs to travelers. It's also very difficult to determine how effective they are since, to a first approximation, terrorists attacks don't happen even with lowered security.

It's also very difficult to determine how effective they are since, to a first approximation, terrorists attacks don't happen even with lowered security.

This is also a problem with TSA. And we can calculate - roughly - the cost of TSA in delays, wages, missed flights.

A good argument just popped into my brain: we used to run security at airports with either local cops or private companies. This worked, pretty well, except for 9/11.

But everyone was taken by surprise, then.

We've made effective changes since then -- they just haven't been at screening. Passenger awareness that they should resist and reinforcing cockpit doors have greatly increased security. The TSA? Not so much. See http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/the-thin...

I think you're missing that enforcement by government inspection tends to go against the "unrestricted free market" ideal, that customers will vote with their feet and not patronize unsafe businesses.

(In reality customers are never that well informed to make such a decision.)

In theory an unrestricted free market is nice, in reality unworkable. The role of the State is provide ground rules and regulation of the market.

A prudent State recognizes such a thing works best with a light hand, of course.

Customers need not be un-informed on safety issues. There are many, many organizations that provide such information to consumers - think Consumer Reports, Ralph Nader and so on.

When you get to matters of safety you can either take an unforgiving, Darwinian view and stake people's survival on whether they read Consumer Reports that month, or you can take responsibility and be proactive about preventing theses dangers.

The "pure free market" ideal of caveat emptor makes businesses sound an awful like muggers loitering in dark alleys waiting for victims; something you need to protect yourself from. Sure, in a perfectly rational market and with perfectly informed participants these dangers are known and avoided, but perfection is never achieved in reality. Government regulation and licensing, when done properly, papers over the irrationality and information asymmetry by making the decision of what a business can do. After all, would any rational person eat at a restaurant that gave you food poisoning more often than not? If the government didn't force its closure lack of business would, and with more sick people too.

No, I have no problem with any of that. The author seemed to be proposing that the government should get out completely, and there would be no standards X, Y, and Z.

He proposes abolition of the TSA. Which I endorse.

Nothing about what to replace it with. Long on emotion, short on details.

He supports privatizing airports and airliners (both already are so I'm not sure what he's on about) and the 'airways' (presumably he wants to abolish the FAA?). He implies that government intervention in air travel can't make us more secure. It's pretty clear what his solution is, and it isn't a well-regulated air travel industry. It's a not-regulated air travel industry, or nearly so.

Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out.

He's not talking about regulation here. He thinks solid airline security will just happen.

both already are

My local public-use airport (Outagamie County Regional Airport) is owned by the county.

DFW is owned by the cities of Dallas and Forth Worth.

JKF is owned by the City of New York.

What airports are owned by private interests?

The rest of the points you make I did not see in the article - but I merely skimmed, having read things like that before.

Airlines themselves may want to take over security, since the TSA is hurting air travel. As for the TSA itself, the organization is causing preventable deaths by deterring people from flying, making them use the much more dangerous roads.

This was the exact sentence in the article when I stopped reading it seriously (despite earlier attempts by the author).

"Competitive pressure" = bad PR when a plane crashes. And then, the company will just lie low and latch on to another airline.

IE - ValuJet merging with AirTran


The TSA should be an easy agency to write a scathing article about. This author came in with some preconceived notions about the wonders of the free market and just layered the TSA on top, with little effect.

Don't attribute to malace what can be attributed to ignorance. What's more likely? High profile private organizations thinly veil their shoddy secruity measures hoping to never be exposed, or high profile private organizations erroneously believe their systems to be robustly secure?

I'll take the latter.

Plaintext passwords solve the problem of being able to recover your password by email with out clicking some link bs. (Which are equally hackable with the crappy passwords that most people use.) Surprisingly, lots of people would prefer this to ultra secure one way hashes. The market provides what people want, not what makes them most 'secure'. If you don't like that forbes stores your password as plaintext you're free not to sign up.

Also, you do use separate passwords for each site which completely nullifies the majority of the risk from such a system, correct? Or could it be that you chose the convenience of reusable passwords over security?

I do not reuse passwords site-to-site, however that nullifies almost none of the risk in storing passwords in plaintext over storing hashed passwords. Perhaps you can explain why you think that if you disagree.

At any rate, that the market provides "what people want" (this is not always an uncontroversial statement) is precisely why airport security can not be deregulated. People tend to undervalue security until it's too late.

People tend to undervalue security until it's too late.

This seems unclear to me. Surely, in being disproportionaly exposed to failures of security, as opposed to people getting away with insecure practices or the inconvenience of good security procedures, security professionals are going to have a distorted view of the costs of security? People tend to be very bad at multiplying in the process of making moral judgements[1], and its very hard to give equal weight to the sum total of traveler inconvenience our airline security policies cause relative to the risk of terrorist attacks. And there's no reason to think that the TSA takes into account the >100 people killed each year by their policies [2]. If you think that airline passengers aren't going to allow another 9/11 that's probably more deaths right there than the TSA could plausibly claim to be preventing in terms of airline bombings.

I don't think private airline security would be perfect and it probably would go a bit too far towards lax security, but it would almost certainly be much better than what we have right now.

[1] As an example, people will pay almost as much money to save the lives of 10 starving orphans as they will to save 1 starving orphan. No, I didn't get that reversed, and if you've ever studied psychology you shouldn't find that too surprising.

[2] http://aem.cornell.edu/faculty_sites/gb78/wp/JLE_6301.pdf http://ur.umich.edu/0405/Nov22_04/09.shtml http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/constitution/... http://patrick.wagstrom.net/weblog/2010/11/24/do-the-tsa-new... and relatedly http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/11/16/5477568-are-... and previous HN discussion http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2049894

The problem with airport security in America is that they search for "Dangerous Items", not "Dangerous People". A dangerous person is allowed on an American flight if he/she doesn't have any dangerous items with him. In my opinion, a motivated group of guys could take a plane hostage with nothing but car keys, ju jitsu and some creative thinking.

I'm not saying searching for the dangerous person is superior to searching for the dangerous item. But I think TSA needs to be reminded that weapons don't kill people, its the people that do the killing.

Safe person + Dangerous Items = Safe. Dangerous Person + Safe items = Unsafe.

Actually, they only search for dangerous items coming through one door. Do you think every person, product or vehicle that enters an airport goes through the same scrutiny as the passengers?

It's like having a bank, where the front door is policed by an army, but the backdoor is wide open for employees, and every window in the place is open every day.

Given the amount of theft from airport bags, and hence stolen goods _leaving_ the airport, do you think it's any harder to bring illicit stuff in?

Well, just to play devil's advocate, I don't get patted down leaving the airport, so I'm not terribly sure that your point about baggage theft is relevant...

If I see someone holding a laptop I don't immediately think "crime", if I see someone holding a gun...

There's a big difference between looking for certain objects that are banned, and looking for objects that are perfectly allowed but might be in the hands of someone other than the owner.

Don't forget that they aren't even able to find the dangerous items. Their system frequently allows box cutting razor blades onto airplanes. How do I know? It happened to me: http://bit.ly/if5XDR after experiencing a traumatic "enhanced" pat down procedure.

After my incident I went to both of my Senators and my Congressman (in person) and recounted my story. I also followed the TSA procedures for reporting civil abuses, which incidentally was a completely worthless excercise.

Their written response to my Congressman's letter to them was, "We followed procedure".


They also try to identify dangerous people. That is what the TSA "no-fly" list is all about. The fact that it worked so poorly is evidence that trying to identify dangerous people has been even less effective than identifying dangerous things, and has a greater impact on civil liberties.

Furthermore your opinion about what a small group of dangerous people can do is over-inflated. FAA regulations mandate a locked pilot cabin during flight. This lock is strong enough that an unarmed man, no matter how motivated, should be unable to get into the cockpit. This does not make breaching the cockpit impossible, but it makes it harder. Particularly since, following the initial attacks on 9/11, on multiple occasions it has been demonstrated that people on airplanes will take extraordinary risks to subdue attempted terrorists.

What constitutes a 'dangerous person'? There is already an extensive no-fly list in place, which incidentally is secret and gives people no avenue for appeal if they have been wrongly put on it.

Israeli airports use extensive profiling to identify potential suicide bombers, from car checkpoints away from the airport to airport staff instructed to look people in the eye and ask them how they're doing (people about to blow themselves up tend to act differently from normal people).

They definitely seem to focus on identifying people rather than things. Seems to work ok for them under much harsher conditions than the US has ever or, hopefully, will ever know.

The TSA already seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for their screeners. Given the tremendous discrepancy in the number of airports in Israel vs. the United States, how are we supposed to come up with enough people who are as qualified as the ones Israel can handpick for their airports?

The number of airports is consistent with the number of people. But who in his right mind would want to work in TSA if they can find a respected job elsewhere? Israeli screeners, on the other hand, are respected.

To be clear I didn't mean that there are not literally enough people to hire to do the job. I should've been a bit clearer but what I was really getting at was the massive scope and cost of such an agency with staffing requirements like that. We're talking about something on par with or larger than the FBI.

There is only a $1 billion difference between the two agencies budgets (2010).

TSA is $8billion, FBI is $9billion, DHS is $55billion.

As the US military uses less air conditioning in Afghanistan, that should free up at least a couple billion.

Wow, I should've looked at that, that is stunning, considering that the FBI actually regularly solves crimes.

I imagine if you paid what it really cost to have screeners with that level of training we'd be talking about a pretty hefty increase over the FBI. Mind boggling.

But where is the other $47 billion going to? It is not the FBI's or CIA's budget.


Probably to ICE for government provided IP protection and enforcement without due process.

The DHS is huge now. It covers everything from stuff like ICE to the Coast Guard. If you ask me, TSA is the tip of the DHS iceberg. The whole thing is suspect, top to bottom, and probably ought to be scrapped and done over.

Israel has one major international airport, Ben Gurion. It serves ~12 million passengers a year.

That's two months of traffic for Hartsfield-Jackson.

The Israeli security model will not scale.

Your argument:

Your site serves 20'000 users a month. There are more than a billion potential internet users in the world. Your site will not scale.

Everything scales if you put the effort into it. Ok, maybe some things don't, but saying "The Israeli security model will not scale" just because it hasn't scaled, without providing further arguments, is a bit like saying "Rails doesn't scale" without providing further arguments. Sure, Rails does things differently from how PHP does the same things, and that means the performance trade-offs are different, but that doesn't mean it can't be engineered to scale.

And if it makes the passengers/developers happier, it may be worth looking into, not dismissing without argument.


I'm saying that requiring a face to face interaction with every person about to board an airplane in an American airport would be unreasonably expensive and introduce massive delays.

I won't deny that it works well in a country with a very high risk of terrorist incidents and a low amount of air traffic.

The US, however, flies 633 million people per year, and is at a much lower risk for terrorist attack.

You've got to pick the right solution for the right problem. Israeli security isn't it.

Devil's Advocate: There already is a face to face interaction, though; right before you get into the checkpoint, when they check your ID and ticket. Adding an extra 30 seconds on to have a bit more interaction wouldn't slow things down much - in a crowded airport, it often takes more than 30 seconds to get past there anyways, and in an empty airport where things are already going quickly an extra 30 seconds won't matter much.

You could be correct. At the end of the day, we may be able to make the Israeli model work. But the question most people don't seem to ask or answer: should we?

IMO, there have been exactly two positive security advances post-9/11: you can't barge into the cockpit anymore, and everyone in the air knows to resist attempts to hijack the plane.

Adding more air marshals, creating the draconian TSA, forbidding liquids on flights -- it's not worth the time or money.

Israel's population is less than 7.5 million people.

People don't fly into Israel now? :)

No. Only planes and missles.

The reason the TSA is not reigned in is that only the little people are subject to search. If you fly on a private jet you and your luggage are whisked right to your plane with no inspection whatsoever.

Why would you need inspection if you are flying privately? I'm a GA pilot, what am I going to do, hijack myself with a fork?

The threat the TSA is trying to address is preventing someone from converting a plane into a cruise missile.

That is not possible to do that on the commercial side not because anything TSA does but because of the reinforced cockpit doors and because passengers would fight back.

Anyone with a $15k limit on a credit card can call NetJets and order up a jet which they can load up with as much explosives as the plane can carry. Yet another reason everything TSA does is theater - it does nothing to prevent another 9/11 style attack.

Pilots and air crew have to go through the TSA theater as well. The only immune people are the high-profile politicians.

Not when you get on a plane at the general aviation side of an airport. There are no TSA agents, no metal detectors, and certainly no virtual strip search machines. You just give your plane's tail number as a kind of password and walk right out onto the ramp.

By 'immune' I mean with an ability for recourse. That benefit is not reserved to mere mortals.

Without TSA we would have lowered the bar on airplane hijackings and opened the door to lower level threats that could easily bring down a pressurized cabin at 35K feet:

Idiots with firearms or other dangerous items on planes. Simple criminals looking for media attention. Robberies like D. B. Cooper.

We just need better technology for TSA to make it faster and less invasive. It will happen. In the mean time, relax and enjoy the fact that you can get from SFO to NYC in less than 6 hours instead of 7 days by car.

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