Why do we have a TSA?

John Tyner became a YouTube sensation this week for recording and sharing his confrontation with TSA officials over the pat-down he was required to endure to get on an airplane. His outrageous experience clearly touched a nerve with a lot of Americans — myself included.

No matter how many times I go through an airport, which is almost daily, I am outraged each and every time. Whether it is the disgusting thought of a “full-body scan,” being touched in ways nobody should be touched, or having a guy in a uniform confiscate my one ounce of toothpaste because it’s in a six-ounce tube, I ask myself what has brought us to the point where we let the government do the kind of stuff to us that we wouldn’t let anyone else do?

My friend Congressman Ron Paul has introduced legislation to make it clear that TSA officers are not immune from basic laws regarding unwanted physical contact. I commend him for doing so, but cannot help but point out how unbelievable it is that such a law might even be necessary. How is it that we line up like sheep at the airport and let the government grope us in ways that would get anybody else in the country fired or arrested? I say enough is enough. Let’s stop being sheep.

Instead of trying to fix or adjust or moderate TSA airport screening procedures to make them less abusive or slightly more tolerable, I say it is time to turn airport screening and security over to those who should be doing it in the first place: the airlines.

We all want to be safe when we fly. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that the TSA doesn’t seem to answer to anyone. They don’t really care how intrusive or offensive their procedures are, and they have no interest in letting us, the flying public, make our own decisions about how much privacy and dignity we are prepared to sacrifice in the name of security.

The airlines, however, who after all own the airplanes and are ultimately responsible for their passengers’ safety and comfort, have every reason in the world to care about security — and providing it in ways that are acceptable to their paying customers.

If allowed to take the responsibility for airport screening, airlines would turn to the best and brightest minds and entrepreneurs on the planet to develop technology and best practices that would certainly be more effective than whatever the government is doing now — and financial necessity would ensure that those procedures did not constitute abuse and unacceptable invasions of our privacy and our bodies.

Certainly, like many other aspects of our lives and businesses, the government may be compelled to establish minimum standards and criteria for airport security; however, let entrepreneurs and the marketplace figure out how to meet those standards — rather than bureaucrats. The result, I am absolutely confident, will be safer air travel, more efficient airports, lower costs, and a lot less officially-sanctioned touching.

Gary Johnson is the honorary chairman of the OUR America Initiative (www.ouramericainitiative.com), a 501(c)(4) advocacy committee. He is also the former Republican Governor of New Mexico (1994-2002), and has been a consistent and outspoken advocate for efficient government and lowering taxes.

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  • lonecracker

    Profile! Profile! Profile! TSA needs to look at the security measures of Israeli airports.

  • Sidez

    The TSA has gone way overboard, but eliminating it and letting the airlines do their own security is a spectacularly horrible idea, bourne of a knee-jerk reaction. The article inadvertantly tells us the reason. It would result with security levels being set to what passengers deemed to be acceptable. The problem with this line of reasoning is that the passengers are the least likely to tolerate any increase of security, no matter how reasonable. Nor are the passengers and the airlines the only ones with a vested interest in airline security. Now that we’ve seen airliners used as missles, those on the ground, who have perhaps never even purchased an airline ticket, have every right to a voice in this discussion.

    Leaving such a task in the hands of the airlines themselves is a recipe for disaster. An over-correction that would result with as many problems as we currently see, if not more. It would result with passengers flocking to those airlines that had security policies that provided for the least amount of hassle for them, personally, without any consideration for true security.

    What really needs to happen is to have some common sense forced upon the TSA. The politically-correct nonsense, to which we have been subjected, needs to stop. Stop pretending that 80-year old grandmothers and small children are security threats, just to appease the sensibilities of the Muslim special interest groups. Start emulating other security policies that have been successful in other parts of the world.

    Reform the TSA and surgically remove the liberal namby-pamby notion that all people are equally threatening.

    • Dras

      So you’re saying that the government’s enforcement of unconstitutional activities should remain in place because if it was removed, the choice people would make would be for less security.

      That not only is it unconstitutional, but also directly against the wishes of the people, whom the government is intended to serve.

      Doesn’t that logic speak to the original point that it needs to be abolished?

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  • stogtv

    Well all we need is for a terrorist or someone we think might be a terrorist to say ‘BOO’ and we all jump. It appears to me they’ve won. Now when they threaten to put bombs inside the body cavities of persons riding buses and trains and may even driving autos in places like the Lincoln tunnel, we can all begin locking ourselves in our homes and having some government employee or contractor deliver all our needs to us there. We can all work from home via the Internet with government providing the necessary physical bodies to perform tasks requiring them and ….
    Then at this point we can begin to worry about terrorists infiltration of these government workers.

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