A Meaner, Nastier TSA

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Just in time for Thanksgiving’s travelling throngs, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has agreed to "introduce u2018more aggressive, visible and unpredictable security measures’" at airports. Apparently, molesting the handicapped, groping grandmothers, and killing passengers don’t suffice.

The TSA is evil enough to dream this up on its own, but it didn’t have to. The "recommendation" came from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) after its undercover investigators tested "checkpoints at 19 airports in March, May and June of this year" — as they have many times. And, as usual, the GAO found holes the size of a jumbo jet in the alleged "security": "It is possible to bring the components for several IEDs [improvised explosive device] and one IID [improvised incendiary device] through TSA checkpoints and onto airline flights without being challenged by transportation security officers." Yeah, but "transportation security officers" never miss your bottle of Coke, so it all balances out.

Merely smuggling weapons didn’t satisfy the GAO’s goofballs; they wanted to concoct them first in a sort of Martha Stewart-meets-Al Qaeda farce. I guess heading over to the FBI and borrowing something stolen from Randy Weaver would have been too easy. And so our industrious goons trolled the Net, where they "learned about the components to make an improvised explosive device and an improvised incendiary device." Seems it’s news to the GAO, even if not to normal folks, that websites offer instructions for assembling bombs. The subtext here is that such sites ought to be shut down — a tad extreme so long as the far more dangerous gop.com and democrats.org flourish.

Having implied that free speech can be lethal, the GAO tacitly maligned commerce as well, with agents shopping for the bomb’s ingredients "at local stores…. Investigators were able to purchase the components for the two devices [IED and IID] for under $150…" Rep. John Mica (R-FL) seized the chance to parade his gutlessness yet again: "What’s really scary is they’re using the components that are readily available on the open market." I don’t know about you, but I’m hardly terrified that entrepreneurs provide kerosene and ammonia. Rather, I’m grateful they do so cheaply lest more of our taxes be squandered on this lunacy.

The GAO’s success in sneaking its purchases through the checkpoints proves the TSA’s futility: CBS News fears that "…a team of terrorists working together could easily beat the system. u2018If you start to break up all the components [of an IED or IID] over several different people, and you bring them in in different ways, on your person, in your carry-on luggage, how is a TSA screener supposed to put all those pieces together?’ says CBS News security analyst Paul Kurtz." But the Feds take a contrary lesson from the TSA’s inability to detect "components": screeners should abuse us serfs more "aggressively" and "unpredictably." Why is it that every time the TSA fails, passengers pay the price?

This is only the latest of the agency’s scandals. Its incompetence and chicanery have been hogging headlines for weeks now. In October, USA Today "obtained" a "classified report." It said screeners’ "failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers" in 60% of the tests run at Chicago O’Hare last year and in 75% of those at Los Angeles International. Such jaw-dropping scores are about average for the TSA: screeners routinely miss most of what agents try to smuggle.

And that’s despite cheating. Though they aren’t supposed to know that they’re being tested, let alone the investigators’ identities, what contraband they’re carrying and where they’ve stashed it, screeners are often alerted to all those details. And have been for years.

But only recently did we learn who’s cluing them in. Earlier this month, NBC News reported that "those tipoffs may have come from high officials" at the TSA — specifically, from Mike Restovich, Assistant Administrator of Security Operations. On April 28, 2006, he emailed "Federal Security Directors" at airports nationwide a "NOTICE OF POSSIBLE SECURITY TEST." Mike advised that "This information is provided for your situational awareness." Let’s hope Restovich retched at such noxious jargon, but probably not. He then announced that "several airport authorities and airport police departments [why do airports have police departments? Are we passengers or prisoners?] have recently received informal notice of possible DOT/FAA security testing at airports around the nation." There followed a description of the investigators, their whereabouts, and how they would bamboozle screeners.

This set the usual nitwits roaring. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, caterwauls each time more of the TSA’s dishonesty surfaces as though it’s the first. True to form, he wrote TSA chief "Kip" Hawley, “Any effort to undermine the integrity of covert testing of TSA’s screening checkpoints is unacceptable.” He posted his letter on the Committee’s website, no doubt in the interests of transparent government.

Bennie also convened a hearing on Wednesday to further the pretence that he’s saving us from the TSA. This charade was as slickly packaged as the latest bestseller, complete with title and subtitle, "Cover Blown: Did TSA Tip Off Airport Screeners about Covert Testing?" Duh. Bennie tried to make his sound bites equally slick: “Our government cannot play on our fears of an attack and then try to ‘cheat’ its way through its mid-term exams," decreed the politician who plays like a maestro on those fears.

Meanwhile, Kip dragged his sorry butt to the hearing’s microphone: "There was no intent to tip off. There was no cheating.” How to explain Restovich’s wretched email, then? "Neither the Transportation Department nor the Federal Aviation Administration — which were [sic] referenced in the e-mail — conduct undercover tests at TSA checkpoints, Hawley said…. The official who sent the e-mail found the reference to these two agencies suspicious and decided to share it with federal security directors at airports across the country…" See? As always, the TSA was protecting us despite our doubts and ingratitude. The email "was sent not as a tip-off, but out of concern that al-Qaida or other terrorists might be posing as transportation officials."

Yep. That’s our concern, too.

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

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