Who is Watching the Watchmen?

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:

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.

Adrian Moore

Adrian Moore, Ph.D., is vice president of policy at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. Moore leads Reason's policy implementation efforts and conducts his own research on topics such as privatization, government and regulatory reform, air quality, transportation and urban growth, prisons and utilities.

Moore, who has testified before Congress on several occasions, regularly advises federal, state and local officials on ways to streamline government and reduce costs.

In 2008 and 2009, Moore served on Congress' National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission. The commission offered "specific recommendations for increasing investment in transportation infrastructure while at the same time moving the Federal Government away from reliance on motor fuel taxes toward more direct fees charged to transportation infrastructure users." Since 2009 he has served on California's Public Infrastructure Advisory Commission.

Mr. Moore is co-author of the book Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, "Speaking from our experiences in Texas, Sam Staley and Adrian Moore get it right in Mobility First." World Bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

Moore is also co-author of Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit, published in 1997 by the Brookings Institution Press, as well as dozens of policy studies. His work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Orange County Register, as well as in, Public Policy and Management, Transportation Research Part A, Urban Affairs Review, Economic Affairs, and numerous other publications.

In 2002, Moore was awarded a World Outsourcing Achievement Award by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Michael F. Corbett & Associates Ltd. for his work showing governments how to use public-private partnerships and the private sector to save taxpayer money and improve the efficiency of their agencies.

Prior to joining Reason, Moore served 10 years in the Army on active duty and reserves. As an noncommissioned officer he was accepted to Officers Candidate School and commissioned as an Infantry officer. He served in posts in the United States and Germany and left the military as a Captain after commanding a Heavy Material Supply company.

Mr. Moore earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. He holds a Master's in Economics from the University of California, Irvine and a Master's in History from California State University, Chico.