Getting TSA Out of Passenger Screening

In a column for the Daily Beast, Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole expands on his earlier thoughts on fixing airport security:

People are outraged at the TSA’s aggressive pat-downs and privacy-invading scans. Yet the TSA continues to foolishly pretend that everyone boarding a plane is equally likely to try to blow it up. This equal-risk assumption has caused knee-jerk reactions to the shoe-bomber (take your shoes off), the liquids bombers (small toiletries, no liquids through the checkpoint), the underwear bomber (body scans and pat-downs). Heaven help us the first time a would-be suicide bomber is caught with explosives hidden in a body cavity. By the TSA’s logic, they would have to make body-cavity searches routine for all of us.

This nonsense needs to stop, and that means shifting to a risk-based screening system. Passengers should be divided into three risk groups and dealt with accordingly: high, medium, and low-risk.

…Once that is done, maybe we can get TSA out of the screening business altogether. TSA shouldn’t be both the provider of airport screening and the regulator of all aspects of aviation security. TSA regulates itself and has hidden its mistakes in the past. It suppressed a report in 2007 showing that private security companies were at least as effective as TSA screeners and that if more careful accounting were done, were probably less costly, too. TSA never released that report, but the Government Accountability Office blew the whistle on TSA’s attempted coverup.

In Europe, regulators require each airport to be responsible for its security, and those airports are free to hire government-licensed security firms to carry out screening—which is the pattern in nearly every Western European country. In Canada, the government created an airport security agency following 9/11, but empowered it to contract with private security firms to do all airport screening in Canada. The United States is the only Western country that combines aviation security regulation and airport screening in the same entity.

Rep. John Mica (R-FL) was the Aviation Subcommittee chairman back in 2001 and voted to create the TSA, like nearly every other member of Congress not named Ron Paul. But Mica also wisely created a provision that allowed airports to opt-out of the TSA and use private screeners instead. He is strongly encouraging airports to opt-out of the TSA now.

In January, Congressman Mica will chair the House Transportation Committee and if his fellow Republicans are truly committed to smaller government then they can start radically reforming the incompetent, privacy-invading TSA monster they helped create.

Full Column Here

Poole’s April column “Get the Government Out of Airport Screening” and his piece last December on the underwear bomber, “Will We Get Serious About Aviation Security.”