Patrick Smith, Ask the pilot | Salon Technology:
You would think, nearly seven years after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, that TSA would have gotten its act together. Not just tactically, but functionally. Take a look at the typical checkpoint. There are people yelling, bags falling, trash bins overflowing with water bottles. There's nowhere to stand, nowhere to move. It's a jury-rigged circus.
But we should hardly be surprised, perhaps, at the Frankenstein monster now before us. Propped up by a culture of fear, TSA has become a bureaucracy with too much power and little accountability. It almost makes you wonder if the Department of Homeland Security made a conscious decision to present bureaucratic incompetence and arrogance as the public face of TSA, hoping that people would then raise enough of a fuss that it could be turned over to the likes of Halliburton. (Funny, how despite this administration's eagerness to outsource anything and everything, it's kept its governmental talons wrapped snugly around TSA.)
Except there is no fuss. Serious protest has been all but nil. The airlines, biggest losers in all of this, remain strangely quiet. More and more people are choosing not to fly, and checkpoint hassles are one of the reasons. Yet the industry appears to have little concern while an out-of-control agency delays and aggravates its customers.
And it's going to get worse, not better. As I'm sure you've heard, TSA is deploying body scanners that can see through clothing. It is also implementing gate-side luggage checks similar to those that were common in the days following Sept. 11. After proceeding through the main screening checkpoint, selected passengers will be enjoying a second one just before boarding.
To scare away complainers, TSA is also deploying signs at airports around the country. "Interfering with security personnel or procedures in any manner," the signs read, "is prohibited."
That "in any manner" bit is an eyebrow raiser. Does that include questioning or challenging TSA's methods? Are guards not answerable to those they're supposedly protecting, and who are paying their salaries? How about a sign that cuts to the chase: "Don't question us, just do as you're told."