Thursday, December 11, 2008

DISMANTLE THE TSA

Becky Akers, Christian Science Monitor - Sometime in 2010, the Transportation Security Administration will stop swiping airline passengers' bottled water and cups of coffee at security checkpoints. Instead, the agency will once again permit us to carry liquids and gels aboard planes.

It's not that the TSA has finally realized mouthwash and moisturizer really can't explode, not even at 30,000 feet. Rather, it claims it has a combination of new contraptions to prove that. Advanced Technology X-ray machines, bottle scanners, and spectrometers will confirm that your unopened, factory-sealed Listerine is, well, Listerine.

In fact, chemists worldwide doubt that even the most accomplished terrorist can concoct a combustive cocktail high above the Atlantic. . . .

But none of these facts seem to matter to the TSA. It needs something to justify its existence: Despite six years of patting down passengers, it hasn't reported uncovering a single terrorist. No wonder it latched onto the nonsense about liquid bombs. Ferreting out and confiscating everyday substances not only makes work for 43,000 screeners, it also fools us into thinking this protects us.

The TSA has always been a political, not practical, response to 9/11. It hassles us at checkpoints not because of penetrating insights on security or some brilliant breakthrough, but because politicians handed it power. Specialists in security didn't invent the TSA; the Bush administration imposed it on us. So we might hope the incoming president would abolish this absurd agency.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama wants to improve the TSA rather than send it packing. His suggestions for that improvement? Passengers still aren't screened against a comprehensive terrorist watch list, his website proclaims. Such a list must be developed.

Why? The watch list has already kept Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts off planes: Will a comprehensive list bar Republican congressmen, too? That'll protect us about as well as unionizing screeners will ­ another change the campaigning Obama said he favors.

An administration serious about preserving passengers' lives rather than screeners' jobs would dismantle the TSA. Experts in the field, not the government, should design security. . .

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