Did you know that the nation's airports are not required to have Transportation Security Administration screeners checking passengers at security checkpoints? The 2001 law creating the TSA gave airports the right to opt out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners after a two-year period. Now, with the TSA engulfed in controversy and hated by millions of weary and sometimes humiliated travelers, Rep. John Mica, the Republican who will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is reminding airports that they have a choice.Have you looked at most of the people who make up the TSA staff at your airport? Do any of them look like they could get an actual sworn law enforcement job ANYWHERE? It's unlikely at best. Most of the people I've encountered would be lucky to make it into supervision at a McDonald's if they weren't wearing a TSA badge and ordering passengers around.
Mica, one of the authors of the original TSA bill, has recently written to the heads of more than 150 airports nationwide suggesting they opt out of TSA screening. "When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees," Mica writes. "As TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy, I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law."
In addition to being large, impersonal, and top-heavy, what really worries critics is that the TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what those critics call "security theater" -- that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. "That's exactly what it is," says Mica. "It's a big Kabuki dance."
Now, the dance has gotten completely out of hand. And like lots of fliers -- I spoke to him as he waited for a flight at the Orlando airport -- Mica sees TSA's new "naked scanner" machines and groping, grossly invasive passenger pat-downs as just part of a larger problem. TSA, he says, is relying more on passenger humiliation than on practices that are proven staples of airport security.
If passengers start conducting their own revolt and jamming up airport screening lines, perhaps the airports will begin rethinking whether the TSA is the right fit for smooth airport operations. After all, like the airlines, they want passengers to use their facilities and not avoid them in favor of other airports or means of travel.
Here in Southern California we have a lot of airport choices and if one announced that they were dropping the TSA I wonder what that would do for their passenger numbers?