The very influential graphic novel The Watchmen, made into a gorgeous 2009 film, raised the question “if there were masked crime fighters out there protecting society, who would watch them, in case one of them went bad?”
I thought about that when I started thinking about who is watching over the Transportation Security Administration? At a minimum, the recent terrorist attempt to blow up the flight to Detroit reveals that TSA:
- failed to put the suspect. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on its list of people who need additional scrutiny when it clearly should have,
- failed to effectively use the search technology it has available, and
- continues to focus on creating rules that react to the latest terrorist tactics, rather than seizing the initiative with a risk based approach that would make us safter from the NEXT attack, rather than the previous one.
The problem is that TSA has no real oversight, they are the airport security watchmen, but they make the rules AND they implement them. Each time there is a terrorist attack or attempt, Congress and the Administration pay attention to TSA fora few weeks, demand changes, get assurances, but in the end little does change. The TSA continues to watch over itself, answer really only to itself day-to-day on whether it is being effective.
Think how much better the system would work if TSA were responsible for setting security policies and enforcing them, and providing oversight of airports’ implementation of security. In other words they would be watching to see if the folks from some other entity who manage the no-fly and selectee lists, and others who screen passengers at airports, are doing their job right, holding them accountable for doing their job. If we had a system like that, it is painfully obvious that heads would be rolling right now over the attempted bombing of the Detroit flight. The people who failed would have watchmen busting their chops.
It is common sense that having someone watching the watchmen is a better system. It is time for common sense.