I linked yesterday to the story that in undercover tests the TSA failed to detect weapons and explosives 95% of the time.
I’ve had some time to think about this result, and what it means… and most importantly what the government’s reaction may be.
Already the TSA’s acting director has been reassigned because someone must take responsibility and goodness knows it won’t be the people who designed our current approach to security. Somehow the person placed into the caretaker role, without yet having a mandate for change, is responsible and changing the person in that seat will make a difference.
TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)
One positive is that the report should put to rest the (fallacious post hoc ergo propter hoc) claim that despite flaws the lack of a successful terrorist attack against US aircraft since 9/11 must be chalked up as a win for TSA. Clearly the TSA isn’t likely stopping terrorists (and indeed, they’ve never caught one). Instead, the airplane thing has been done. It’s hard. And there aren’t that many people on US soil with technical know-how out to get us.
The change in mindset – for passengers to push back against a hijacking rather than acting docile and letting it play out, combined with reinforced cockpit doors and a rule not to let anyone in instead of giving in to demands on the assumption that will save lives – makes using aircraft as missiles again highly improbable.
Of course, anything seen as ‘soft on security’ will have its proponents blamed should anything unfortunate occur, regardless of the cause, which makes increased government presence, spending, and restrictive rules very difficult to push back against.
My fear is that the bureaucratic response of do something will be the natural path here. If the TSA isn’t working, it needs to crack down. We’ll need to redouble our efforts to win the War on Water. We need to be more skeptical of relaxed screening through the PreCheck program. Every rule must be 100% enforced, 100% of the time. Instead of looking for bombs, then, they’ll be taking away scissors. This will make the TSA less effective rather than more effective, because their attentions will be diverted from real threats. But they will look like they are doing something. And of course they’ll make the case for more funding, as though we should always reward failure with more resources.
Fortunately, for now, the initial response from the all-too-Germanically-named Department of Homeland Security is:
- “Directing Transportation Security Administration to revise procedures so that they address vulnerabilities mentioned in report;” Their procedure really didn’t focus on weapons and bombs? Clearly the problem is the manual!
- “That TSA share the results of testing with airport officials across the country;” The first step is to admit you have a problem…
- “Training for all transportation security officers at every airport;” Because it’s the frontline agents’ fault, and because all we need is for the rent-a-cops to learn better what they’re supposed to be doing!
- “Directing testing and retesting of equipment used at airports;” It’s amazing, but the equipment isn’t actually regularly calibrated. Which means we can say it’s the machines’ fault. Anything to keep our phony baloney jobs!
- “Asking inspector general and the TSA to conduct “random covert testing” of security practices;” We’re going to keep repeating these same tests until we score better!
- “Appointing a team of TSA and DHS leaders to make sure changes are implemented” Someone needs to be in charge. Then they can take the blame. And goodness knows it’s not going to be the actual head of any agency.