APRIL 17, 2012
More than a decade after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history it’s a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect.
That harsh assessment comes from the former head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the 65,000-employee agency created after 9/11 to protect the nation’s transportation system. Instead it is best known for compromising national security and invasive, genital-groping personal searches of innocent citizens.
Over the years the TSA has made headlines for regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports, approving background checks for illegal immigrants to work in sensitive areas of busy airports and clearing dozens of illegal aliens to train as pilots just as several of the 9/11 hijackers did.
Last year the agency missed a suitcase filled with explosives that blasted after a three-hour domestic flight and it came under fire when a veteran commercial airline pilot exposed grave security flaws at San Francisco Airport. The pilot actually posted video on the internet showing ground crews entering the airfield without undergoing any sort of screening process.
The TSA has also been blasted for failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of thousands of planes that fly over the U.S. annually. This could allow a terrorist to explode a plane with a dirty bomb, biological or nuclear weapon, according to a veteran U.S. intelligence operative who assessed the matter.
In November a scathing House Transportation Committee report called for an overhaul of the TSA, referring to the agency as inept and bloated. Titled “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” the report outlines the Homeland Security agency’s endless transgressions and concludes that it has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security. The TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement,” the report further states.
No wonder the one-time head of the TSA, Kip Hawley, calls it a national embarrassment in a newspaper article promoting his new book about the agency’s inner workings. “Airport security in America is broken,” he says. “The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.”
Hawley points out that the TSA’s mission is to prevent a catastrophic attack on the transportation system, not to ensure that every single passenger can avoid harm while traveling. Never again will a terrorist be able to breach the cockpit simply with a box cutter or a knife, Hawley writes, because the cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers, flight crews and air marshals would intervene.
A variety of suggestions are offered by Hawley to improve airport security, but the bottom line remains; he no longer heads the TSA and those who do should work to improve the situation. After all, the agency gets monstrous amounts of taxpayer dollars to fulfill its mission. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asked Congress to increase the TSA’s budget this year by $459 million to a whopping $8.1 billion.
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