Who Searches the Searchers?

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It’s not as if we need further evidence of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) futility, but it keeps dishing it up for us anyway. The latest example comes from Orlando, where two passengers smuggled guns — that’s right, plural, as in 13 "handguns" and an "assault rifle" — aboard a flight to Puerto Rico.

Zabdiel Santiago-Balaguer and Thomas Anthony Munoz, both 22, worked for Delta Air Lines’ subsidiary, Comair, at Orlando International Airport. They booked a flight from there to Puerto Rico for March 5. At 3 o’clock that morning, they flashed their employees’ ID to bypass the TSA’s checkpoints, then hid a bag containing the aforementioned arsenal and eight pounds of pot near their boarding gate. The two are not terrorists looking to get stoned after the day’s mayhem but part of an enterprise that smuggles drugs and guns to Caribbean customers. It’s a highly lucrative business, for which the smugglers, if not their patrons, can thank Leviathan: "Puerto Rico has one of the toughest gun laws in the nation, which makes buying, selling and bearing weapons difficult. Consequently, guns that sell at less than $200 at a mainland Wal-Mart can command more than $1,000 on the island’s black market."

Eight hours later, the duo grabbed their bag and boarded their flight — even though the FBI has minded Zab’s business "for some time," according to the Orlando Sentinel. I imagine their surveillance didn’t overly concern an entrepreneur of Zab’s initiative and spunk: "Despite having him under scrutiny, federal agents did not know he had made plans to fly to Puerto Rico on a gun-running mission that day." Indeed, they and their fellow thugs would have remained clueless but for an alert citizen, a.k.a. jilted girlfriend or disgruntled competitor, who called Orlando’s "Crimeline." The anonymous snitch blabbed about Zab’s flight and his carry-on contraband. Cops "pulled [him] off the flight at the last minute," as the Sentinel euphemized it. I wonder if that required one SWAT team or two for a 22-year-old boy selling customers the weapons and weed they want to buy.

The cops searched Zab but found nothing on him. "Airport officials then checked computerized records that can identify all employees who use their card keys to swipe doors in secure areas. That’s when they realized another Comair worker was likely on the plane" and called the TSA.

The reports don’t tell us what the cops knew nor how much they shared. We’ll assume very little. Let’s say they told the TSA only that Tom, an associate of the guy "detained," was still aboard the flight and so was his unspecified contraband. The TSA’s drama queens figure another 9/11 is imminent every time a pilot sneezes or passengers whisper. The mysterious "contraband" must have jangled all their alarms.

At the very least, we might expect them to divert the flight for an emergency landing. Perhaps they’d even notify the White House so it could authorize fighter jets to shoot down — sorry, protect the flight. The TSA did neither. Instead, it ordered "authorities" in San Juan to search not just Tom but everyone aboard once the flight landed.

Whoa! Obviously, the TSA knew that terrorists weren’t threatening the plane. So why was the agency involved? Because, like all Federal enforcers, the TSA seeks to control us, not terrorists. Witness the warrantless, anti-Constitutional search it requested from San Juan’s cops: we can’t have passengers getting hold of contraband, now, can we?

Meanwhile, we’ve got a plane mid-flight with a "criminal" and contraband aboard. It’s also carrying two air marshals, who, when they aren’t shooting passengers, theoretically protect them. But the TSA never told them anything was amiss. That heartens those of us who understand the real purpose of air marshals. But it should infuriate everyone who swallows the Feds’ propaganda. There reclined two of the Homeland’s sworn defenders, blissfully ignorant of potential catastrophe. Just as well: that ignorance allowed the flight to land without casualties. The passengers were groped, their bags rifled, and poor Tom arrested.

So is the TSA completely irrelevant or what? Despite the elaborate checkpoint charade, contraband made it aboard this flight — and who knows how many others. (Spokesguy Christopher White blustered that “… no weapons were brought through the security checkpoints…” Duh. No, just around them.) And not any old contraband, either, but guns, which, from the way the TSA carries on, cause planes to self-destruct. Isn’t that why its minions search us as though we’re felons entering a maximum-security prison? Yet these incredibly lethal objects, these btes noires so dangerous that "violations" of the TSA’s ban on them "can result in criminal prosecution and civil penalties of up to $10,000,” sailed harmlessly through the air for 1200 miles.

You knew this would spur politicians to prattle about more power for the TSA. In whacked-out Washington, failure and futility earn bigger bucks and responsibilities. We also behold the limits of Congressional imagination here: rather than eliminate the smuggling "problem" by honoring the Second Amendment, these twits want to strengthen a bumbling bureaucracy. Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) trotted out a bill that "would set up a test program at five airports to screen all workers each time they entered a secure area." Actually, the TSA already searches the poor slobs at random. But that’s insufficient; the other "unscreened airport workers present a u2018gaping hole’ in airport security." Really? Where’s the evidence for that? A couple of enterprising kids made gaping fools of the TSA, but they’ve threatened no one. Indeed, ole Chris White himself assured us that "At no time were passengers put at any risk." [Emphasis added.] Ha! Seems Chris has forgotten the air marshals on that flight.

Meanwhile, other charlatans elbowed their way to the mike. "The back door is wide open here," announced Rep. Peter "Tired Metaphor" DeFazio (D-Ore). "We need to move to the British model where anything and everything that passes through the airport is inspected." Apparently, Pete neither knows nor cares that Orlando International alone employs 16,000 souls (nationwide, there are "900,000 airline employees and vendors…with access to secure areas") and that "the logistics of screening tens of thousands of workers a day is daunting," according to the Sentinel. It quotes Rich Roth, "a former Secret Service security specialist," who estimated that such wholesale searching "could cost $3 million to $10 million per airport each year, leading to higher ticket prices and longer security lines. u2018Is it worth the risk to have the delay and the cost of your ticket going up?’ Roth asked." Yet these mundane considerations don’t worry our guy Pete: “If it’s a little bit expensive, so be it." Ah, the insouciance with other people’s money!

And the ignorance of that classic question in Juvenal’s Sixth Satire, "Sed quis custodiet ipsos Custodes?" Statists from Plato on down have never solved the problem of who watches the watchers, so it’s a safe bet that our congressional dimwits won’t either. Ergo, look for employees of the TSA, rather than the airport, to smuggle hereafter. Nor will the TSA ever lack for job applicants what with profits of 400% on guns. That’s not all bad: smugglers trying to earn an honest living will be a vast improvement over the pedophiles, thieves, and criminals staffing the agency now.

Speaking of which, Orlando’s own Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL) wants everyone to know that he presciently wrote the TSA on Jan 31. His letter "expressed concern that airport workers can bypass screening by flashing their employee badges. …[and] called the situation u2018a serious flaw that may lead to a breach of security.’" Poor Ric is awaiting the TSA’s answer. Still. A whole seven weeks later. But take heart, there, buddy: "Tamara Faulkner, spokeswoman …, said the department had received Keller’s letter. u2018We try our best to fulfill requests from members of Congress,’ she said." Oh, I bet they do. And they’ve got plenty of time since they dang well ignore requests from us serfs.

Now you know why the media’s been burbling this last week about "security surges" at airports. That’s TSA-speak for searching and abusing hapless employees as though they’re passengers. All because a couple of entrepreneurs tried to fill a need in Puerto Rico and coincidentally made fools of Leviathan.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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