The TSA makes airline passengers less safe, not more

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Victims of sexual assault seldom defend their attackers. So it’s always surprising when passengers insist that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should molest us at airports. “Whatever keeps us safe,” these folks argue, as if every groped grandmother vanquishes another 10 terrorists.

And that’s music to the TSA’s beleaguered ears, given that so many other passengers and groups are calling for its abolition. Perhaps that’s why the agency isn’t trumpeting its tenth anniversary, which is this Saturday.

Over its 10-year existence, the TSA has spent about $75 billion of taxpayer money but still has nothing to show for itself. Its screeners have never caught a terrorist despite having delayed, inconvenienced, hassled, sexually molested and detained countless passengers while making us all less free.

Ironically, the people who are so dedicated to safety that they’ll excuse fondling should be the ones most strenuously damning the TSA, because the agency actually makes passengers less safe. Indeed, it surpasses even Mother Nature — and certainly al Qaida — as the greatest threat to airline passengers.

For starters, it ignores terrorists who enter its checkpoints. CBS News reports that federal investigators have found that “at least 16 individuals later accused of involvement in terrorist plots [had flown] 23 different times through U.S. airports” between 2004 and 2008. “Yet none were stopped by TSA … officers working at those airports.”

When it isn’t overlooking bad guys, the TSA is perturbing pilots so much that they can’t function. Last fall, when the agency unleashed its “enhanced pat-downs,” it frisked flight crews as well as passengers. Pilots tend to be pretty tough. Yet so many were so distressed that a union warned them, “After being subjected to an enhanced pat-down procedure, pilots must evaluate their fitness for duty.” The Dallas Morning News reported that one pilot vomited from the abuse.

You might suppose an agency that constantly bleats about safety would immediately desist from upsetting the folks at a jet’s controls. Yet it was months before the pilots’ union won members an exemption from the TSA’s rubbings. Thank God — not the TSA — that no flights crashed in the meantime.

Then there are the carcinogenic scanners with which the agency irradiates us — but which it insists are perfectly safe despite reams of evidence to the contrary. On Monday, in fact, European authorities banned the x-ray scanners from European airports because of safety concerns.

Of equal menace is the TSA’s pawing of our private parts. The National Center for Victims of Crime says survivors of sexual assault often battle “uncontrollable intrusive thoughts about” their abuse, “realistic nightmares … flashbacks … social withdrawal … hyper-alertness and hyper-vigilance … trouble falling or staying asleep … irritability, hostility, rage and anger …” Some even attempt suicide.

Decades of research substantiate molestation’s excruciating consequences. Yet the TSA continues manhandling us.

Ditto for contagious illness. Doctors rigorously practice such simple prophylaxes as washing their hands frequently and changing gloves between patients. Not the TSA. Screeners probe our most intimate areas, often touching bare skin; obviously, this spreads germs. All it takes is one passenger in the early stages of a communicable disease, or one returning from an exotic locale with equally exotic bugs lurking about him, to launch an epidemic.

And what about the TSA’s compelling us to shuck our shoes and walk on the checkpoints’ filthy floors? Dr. Marybeth Crane is a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon in Texas who asks, “You would never walk barefoot in an airport bathroom, right? … Yet, the bathroom floor probably is cleaner than the carpeting in the security line. The bathroom floor gets cleaned several times a day with disinfectant. The carpeting in security might get vacuumed once or twice a day…” She warns that we risk “warts…herpes … fungus … staph” and even the horrifying MRSA every time we jump barefoot through the TSA’s hoops.

I could continue, pretty much ad infinitum. I haven’t yet discussed the passenger the TSA killed let alone the countless travelers its abuses have chased from the skies to the open road, where accidents claim about 40,000 American lives each year.

The TSA not only threatens our liberty, it threatens our lives. And no wonder: The same government controlling security now controlled it on 9/11. Yes, “private” screeners staffed checkpoints, but every move they made, every item they confiscated, every method and all their technology, even the checkpoints themselves, came straight from the FAA’s playbook. All the TSA did was bring that control into the open.

To truly protect passengers, we need to entrust aviation’s experts, not bureaucrats, with security. Let’s celebrate the TSA’s tenth anniversary by abolishing it.

Becky Akers is a freelance writer and historian whose articles have been published by Barron’s, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Independent Review and many other publications and websites.

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