Hear, hear! Anyone who follows Bruce Schneier and his book Beyond Fear knows that the reason air travel is safer today is less about the TSA taking away your nail clippers and more about reinforced, locking cockpit doors and the common understanding among passengers that if your plane is hijacked in a post 9/11 world then you man the fuck up and fight to the death.
If you don’t believe the TSA is doomed after watching yesterday’s House Aviation Subcommittee hearing, then you’ll have to at least agree that the agency as we know can’t continue to exist as it does.
For starters, TSA Administrator John Pistole refused to testify before the committee on the innocuous subject of “common sense” improvements to America’s airport security, reportedly because the committee has no jurisdiction over his agency. (That’s odd – I always thought Congress funded the federal government, but maybe I wasn’t paying attention during government class.)
One by one, panelists took turns excoriating the agency charged with protecting America’s transportation systems. It was plainly clear why Pistole was a no-show, and it had nothing to do with jurisdiction; it would have been an openly hostile crowd.
Charles Edwards, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general, described the TSA as bureaucratic and dysfunctional. Stephen Lord of the Government Accountability Office, suggested the agency was ignoring the thousands of complaints from air travelers. And Kenneth Dunlap, who represented the International Air Transport Association, criticized the current TSA as expensive, inconsistent, and reactive.
“As this mushrooming agency has spun out of control,” the committee chairman, John Mica, concluded, “passengers have not been well served.”
The congressmen present in the hearing agreed with many of the criticisms, but it’s the solutions that would have sent Pistole running for the exits. On the conservative end, critics recommended aggressively reforming the TSA to create a smaller, more responsive agency that fulfills its mission of protecting and serving air travelers.
But some went much further. Charlie Leocha of the Consumer Travel Alliance, who represented the interests of air travelers on the committee, said the TSA should not just be downsized, but also limited to protecting only air travel (something it currently isn’t).