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Time To Close the Security Theater 457

Posted by Soulskill
from the homeland-security-should-stay-out-of-my-pants dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An editorial at Forbes calls for the dismantling of the TSA, pointing to recent headlines as the latest examples of 'security theater' at its worst. From the article: 'The problem isn't that the TSA is harassing the wrong people. The problem is that the TSA is harassing anyone. The TSA is encroaching on fundamental liberties and providing no discernable benefit. ... Naturally, the TSA responds to incidents like these by saying that the agents are highly trained and that they have followed proper procedure. This indicates a signal failing for the agency: if "doing it by the book" involves touching people in ways that would be considered sexual assault in virtually any other context or telling a 90-year old breast cancer survivor to remove her bra lest it contain explosives (as happened to a friend's grandmother), then the book needs to be shredded and rewritten. 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.'"
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Time To Close the Security Theater

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:56AM (#36633616)

    Security theater. Education theater. Infrastructure theater.

    And near impossible to get rid of once established.

    I would bet you will see TSA checkpoints on street corners before we get rid of this cancer at airports and train stations.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:01AM (#36633676)

    is that they aim to fly as close to the line as possible.

    In a system where safety rating is part of the commercial offering, you'll end up with cheap, dangerous, low margin airlines because (and it's a shame it has to be said so often) enlightened self interest is a myth.

    of course the rest of this stuff is spot on. The TSA should be disbanded.

    • In a system where safety rating is part of the commercial offering, you'll end up with cheap, dangerous, low margin airlines because (and it's a shame it has to be said so often) enlightened self interest is a myth.

      Right, because nobody buys safe cars because they're safe.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:02AM (#36633688)

    All animals are created equal, yet some animals are more equal than others.

    The problem is that those people that created the TSA should have to go through this type of security screening. Make these invasive procedures personal to those in power. They'll have a change of mind when Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi are getting groped instead of hearing stories about some random grandmother. Too bad those three women always fly privately. I guess we're all equal under the law unless you get elected to office.

    • by rtb61 (674572) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:15AM (#36633854) Homepage

      You politicians are what you make of them. Your government departments are what you let them get away with.

      The difference between a slave and a free person is the right to say no. Next time you feel that authority oversteps it's demands upon you, don't be a bloody slave, simply but firmly state, "Freedom, I wont".

      Either you are a free citizen of a country with constitution that provides you with inalienable rights or you are a slave destined to spend the rest of life afraid to say 'NO' and, condemning your family to the same.

      Show some genitalia by refusing to have it radiated and exposed or groped, just say "NO".

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      They'll have a change of mind when Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi are getting groped instead of hearing stories about some random grandmother. Too bad those three women always fly privately. I guess we're all equal under the law unless you get elected to office.

      Technically, they fly publicly. It's just us normal people dont get to fly with them. Those flights are paid out of our tax dollars.

    • No, we're all equal under the law unless we have enough money and/or power to buy a better form of equality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pachooka-san (88633)
      And if Congress had to participate in Social Security, ObamaCare, or any one of a thousand indignities and injustices inflicted upon the American people, they wouldn't have lasted 15 minutes in debate, let alone get passed. Maybe we need to take a cue from Libya, Egypt, and Dhubai and get rid of the privileged overlords.
      • by Zenaku (821866) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:50AM (#36634356)

        You must watch a lot of Fox News.

        Congress does participate in Social Security. What made you think they do not? They pay income and FICA taxes on their salaries just like anyone else.

        As for "ObamaCare," you are probably right that it wouldn't have been passed if Congress were forced to participate, since that would mean giving up their free government health care and being forced to buy private insurance instead.

  • False dichotomy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eobanb (823187) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:02AM (#36633692) Homepage

    This isn't an either-or situation. The TSA's perpetrated a number of civil liberties violations, yes. On the other hand, some kind of free market libertarian fantasy should not come at the expense of public safety either.

    The TSA needs to be re-imagined, but we shouldn't revert to the system we had before. But c'mon. A free market system has no incentive to improve in this kind of situation (oh, you died in a terrorist attack? Fine, go to some other airport next time!)

    • Re:False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Smidge204 (605297) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:16AM (#36633866) Journal

      The TSA has done no better and no worse than pre-9/11 airport security in terms of hijacking/terrorist attempts.

      But it has had a noticeable, negative impact on traveler experience, dignity and basic rights both legal and social. I'm hardly anything approaching a"free-market" advocate but what we have now does nothing but cost taxpayers money. I have no problem paying taxes in general but I'd at least like to see some tangible benefit from it, y'know? We can go back to "normal" airport security and put that money towards investigative efforts where it will actually do some good.

      Let's be honest, if a terrorist plot gets to the point where the airport security catches him, we have already failed. Next step is to just blow themselves up while waiting in line to be groped... all the airport security goons in the world couldn't stop that. We don't need the TSA.
      =Smidge=

    • Re:False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:21AM (#36633948)
      Why shouldn't we revert to the system we had before? The only reason that the 9/11 hijackers were successful was because the passengers on three of the four planes assumed that they would be flown to some destination such as Cuba, negotiations would be conducted, the hijackers would release the passengers for some consideration and the passengers would be flown to the destination of their choice. The only harm being the loss of several hours to several days.
      Now people know that that outcome is not likely to be the case and they will attempt to overwhelm the hijackers.
      However, my recommendation would be to revert to the basic system we had on 9/11, except that the TSA gets reorganized as security inspectors. The job of the TSA would be to inspect the security procedures of various airlines (including passenger screening) and fine those airlines that failed certain objective standards (such as allowing a gun onto the plane--something the TSA has on several occassions failed to prevent).
  • Typical Forbes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sonamchauhan (587356) <sonamc@noSPam.gmail.com> on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:04AM (#36633704) Journal

    They're a one-tune-band.

    Private enterprise. Rah Rah Rah. Solution to everything .... blah blah blah... Capitalism, the savior of us all... blah blah blah. privatise airports, roads, the police, fire brigade, army, air, water, everything.... right to property, profit, business efficiency.... Private enterprise. Rah Rah Rah.

    • I agree. Privatizations of infrastructure rarely go well. We end up with the nuisance of toll roads. And the track record of computer security in private firms has taught us that private enterprise is terrible at proactive security: it is almost entirely reactive.

      People who call for capitalism as the solution for everything generally don't understand what capitalism is. We don't have pure capitalism: we have regulated capitalism, with some socialism. Pure capitalism is not stable: it evolves into feudalism,

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:06AM (#36633724)

    Most of the TSA officers I've seen look like they just stepped out of the ghetto with their shiny new high school diplomas. I don't even think they're salaried employees. It looks like a barely-above-minimum-wage job. You can't expect to get professionals on $10 an hour.

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:11AM (#36633792) Homepage

    This article one of the better I've read, and the author is right: the TSA is flawed to the core. The TSA also makes the case that law enforcement should never be above the law... sexually assaulting people, stealing people's stuff (taking away contraband) and creating a system of checkpoints with a do not pass list all are contrary to existing law and at least as bad as anything Eastern Europe had to offer in the 1960s and 1970s. If we are exempting law enforcement from sexual assault and theft laws, then we need to change that as there is not one good example where law enforcement should be able to rape, molest or steal from a citizen, EVER. The TSA also has little regard for citizen health as seen in it's apparent lack of safety testing for backscatter detectors and their treatment of people in wheelchairs.

    TSA isn't impossible to get rid of. All it takes is one Senator or member of the House to stand up and hold public hearings where citizen after citizen get to tell stories of their wives, children, and grandparents being sexually assaulted, relieved of property or denied access to travel without any kind of right of redress, and the people will be more than happy to get rid of the beast the TSA has become. Personally, I have avoided commercial flights since the TSA became more Stalinist in its tactics because I fear that I would lose my temper and be arrested for questioning the TSA's right to sexually assault, irradiate people, steal stuff and impede other citizens right to freely move. I'll continue to fly privately or not at all (if the boarding+flight+bag claim time is under 5 hours, you usually can drive there in the same time) until this changes. In 2001, I flew over 340,000 miles. Last year, I flew 0 on a commercial airliner.

  • ....when air travel becomes too expensive due to fuel costs or unaffordable at the volumes currently used due to other economic issues?

    • by leuk_he (194174)

      This does not change the problem of a organisation that can press out of proportion securty rules.

      If there are going to be less flight then they have even more time to harrassand scare people.

      Of they are going to do more "security" on sail ships or something like that.

  • I hear the government is looking for places they can cut spending. This would be an excellent place to start. The TSA has done absolutely nothing to make us more secure since 9/11, and it's about time people start realizing this fact.
  • While others have aptly pointed out that the Forbes article advocates (perhaps wrongly) free-market solutions to air security, I've noticed a lot of anti-TSA op-ed pieces in the media of late. Oddly enough it seems that the 95-year-old traveler who was forced to remove her adult diaper, and not the 6-year-old who was molested by TSOs in New Orleans, was the catalyst for massive media criticism. I'd have thought TSA abusing children would have a stronger (albeit only slightly so) impact than TSA abusing ad
  • by forand (530402)
    Largely I agree with what the article concludes however, the statement:

    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. 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.

    is just crazy. Competitive markets have been shown, time and time again, that they will not implement

  • Sorry Forbes, but public safety is not one of those things that free market economics has any chance of doing better than government standardized or government run schemes.

    It'd be almost an exact parallel of health care in the US. An organization responsible for something generally considered in the public interest, but with motivations other than, and sometimes in direct conflict with, that public interest.

    As far as grievous things done by the TSA .. yeah, they are grievous and demand changes to only perf

    • "As far as the specific example .. it's unfortunate, but as soon as TSA says they won't examine women who have had mastectomy is the day certain nefarious organizations start recruiting women who have had a mastectomy to take a defacto one way flight somewhere."

      Okay...so? So a bomb goes off, so a plane blows up, so people die, so the airline industry suffers as people fear flying for a while and then everything goes back to normal when the fears die down.

      The risk of lost life is neither an excuse nor a justification for violations of the inviolable rights upon which the US was founded. Simply put, freedom trumps lifesaving, all the time, every time, without exceptions.

  • If we rely on competitive pressure with airports, we're likely to get a situation similar to the ISP situation. Most people who want broadband in the US have a choice of one or two ISPs. If they don't like the one they're with, either they are SOL or have to go with the one remaining one. This means that ISPs can do pretty much anything they want and the customer has no choice.

    With airports, how many do you think there would be in any given area? Probably just one. So what "competitive pressure" would

  • "It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out.' - Yea, just look at how the market weeded out ValueJet. Oh wait, they killed 110 people [wikipedia.org], changed their name to AirTran to escape their tarnished brand, and are doing fine now.

  • by nedlohs (1335013)

    Sure the TSA is stupid, consitution bending (at least), inconveniant, expensive, and doesn't increase security by any useful amount.

    But from that we get private airways? Seriously?

    So what companies would buy bits of airspace and set the rules in them? So I'd have to make deals with 20 different companies to fly a small plane between two cities? And the communication protocols and frequencies would change as I flew from one company's space to another?

    I'm all for the free market, but sometimes there are some

  • by FrootLoops (1817694) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:23AM (#36633978)

    if "doing it by the book" involves [...] telling a 90-year old breast cancer survivor to remove her bra lest it contain explosives [...], then the book needs to be shredded and rewritten.

    That the person is 90, a woman, or a breast cancer survivor shouldn't matter. Perhaps the "book" should be rewritten so that a 20-year-old bra-wearing drag queen otherwise in the same situation shouldn't have to remove his bra, just like the old woman shouldn't have to. Randomly deciding some people aren't dangerous is dangerous.

    • That the person is 90, a woman, or a breast cancer survivor shouldn't matter. Perhaps the "book" should be rewritten so that a 20-year-old bra-wearing drag queen otherwise in the same situation shouldn't have to remove his bra, just like the old woman shouldn't have to. Randomly deciding some people aren't dangerous is dangerous.

      May your wife have breast cancer and she be groped every time she goes through the airport and force you to listen to her bitching about it for the next few days after. That is the real boat that people are in right now, but because it is happening to other people and not yourself you can shrug it off. You would be amazed how much your wife will effect your opinion over time.

      Passengers at airports get the shit end of the stick right now. You don't deal with this kind of crap on any other form of mass tra

  • by jabberw0k (62554) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:30AM (#36634102) Homepage Journal
    The First Amendment guarantees freedom of association -- that means the freedom to travel and meet whoever you like. We used to laugh at the Soviet Union for requiring "internal passports" to travel. America, we proudly said, was a free country and we do not have "identity papers," much less need to carry them. Now you cannot board an airplane or train without Identity Papers in what we used to call America. The terrorists have won, we have become Nazi Germany, and nobody seems to care.
    • by salesgeek (263995)

      I think people do care, and their annoyance with the TSA is now surpassing their fear of reprisal by the TSA. Matter of time until some politician realizes he can win office by running on an anti-tsa platform... after that the TSA will go down very quickly.

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Friday July 01, 2011 @11:07AM (#36634552)
    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Ben Franklin Bin laden could have never of dreamed of how successful he would have become and must be laughing in his grave that Americans are allowing organizations like the TSA to do this.

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