Thursday, December 28, 2006

TSA: More Not-So-Positive Press has an interesting trio of articles on TSA and airport security (the articles date from Jan 31, 2006 to Dec 10, 2006).

In the first (and most recent) article, writer "Adrianm" discusses what many perceive to be a conflict of interests within TSA's functions: regulatory agency and service provider:

But three recent events illustrate that the conflict is very real. One was the widely reported Red Team testing of screening at Newark*, in which the team beat the screeners 20 out of 22 times. A second, reported last week by Annie Jacobsen at National Review Online (Nov. 28th), concerned a four-foot sword (!) that a passenger managed to carry on board an American plane at Dallas-Fort Worth. And the third, also reported by Jacobsen, was an incident at Kona, Hawaii, in which a baggage screener accidentally dropped a binder of information designated SSI (Sensitive Security Information) into a passenger’s luggage while it was being screened. The passenger, Navy veteran Joe Langer, only discovered the binder when he unpacked the bag the next day.

As an aside, it should be noted that the "source" for two of the incidents is Annie Jacobson, whose claim to fame was the "Muslim wedding band" incident I've mentioned in the past, so I would take her with a grain of salt, more so now that she's affiliated with National review.

Adrianm points out that TSA's response to the Newark problem was to dispatch an investigative team... "not why the screening performance was so miserable but who leaked the report to the media."

Adrianm points out -- as have many others, including yours truly -- that the best cure is to restructure TSA solely as a regulatory agency, and spin off the operational aspects (at which they suck, so it would be no great loss).

Next, in an article dated Nov 28, Adrianm comments on how the Democratic-controlled Congress may affect travel security. Adrianm starts with this:

One of the fragile reeds that keeps the system from being worse is that the federalized airport security workforce is not allowed to unionize and bargain for hundreds of policies to benefit the workers and make things worse for the traveling public. No [sic] the least continuing the process of diverting more security dollars into screeners pockets rather than into real security measures.

I think that Adrian meant to say that being prohibited from unionizing would prevent "diverting more security dollars into screeners pockets." I would beg to differ on that point: a starting salary of $24,000 per year is hardly a livable wage. Perhaps in someplace like Duluth, one could survive on $500 a week, but in places like metro NY, DC, Boston, or LA, it's impossible. Coolie wages like these were what got the private screeners into trouble in the aftermath of 9-11, as I've pointed out. Adrianm again makes the point, however, that TSA needs to be overhauled, with which I fully agree.

In the third (and oldest -- Jan 31, 2006) article, Chris Mitchell refers to two studies, both of which are quite interesting: "Airport Security: Time for a New Model", and "Reason's Airport Security Research and Commentary."

*Note that this is not the incident I reported on earlier, in which TSA officials conspired with private screeners at LAX to cheat on penetration tests. The Newark case is a completely separate screw-up by TSA.

No comments:

Post a Comment