Enough is Enough: the TSA Must Be Privatized

Aaron Pressman, Contributing Writer

There is only one governmental body in the United States that handles nearly as many packages on a daily basis as the United States Postal Service. Every air traveler has heard of it: the Transportation Security Administration. If you’ve flown in the United States before, you may know TSA officers as the people who always make you late for your flight, or the routine grop- ers before you board an aircraft. These officers may have taken some of your carry-ons, or they may have ransacked your bags in an attempt to find prohibited items. The ineffective TSA has been ruining air travel for far too long and needs to be stopped.

There was once a time in the United States, just a few years ago, when taking X-ray style images of unwilling people would land the perpetrator in prison. The TSA has changed at the expense of the flyer. For a mandatory $5 fee per round trip journey, passengers can wait in lines, lose their civil liberties and have their belongings confiscated. Select Middle Eastern travelers can even be racially profiled to receive extra screening at no ad- ditional charge!

What is the reasoning behind this, you may ask? According to the TSA, our security is at stake. While the TSA is right when they say that airport screenings are crucial to our homeland security, you might want to think twice about trusting an organization that fails to stop thousands of passengers each year from bringing in prohibited items through checkpoints. Some of the items that have “slipped through” include box cutters, knives, large quantities of liquid and even loaded guns. Since the birth of the TSA in 2001, millions of passengers have been screened, yet the organization has successfully caught zero confirmed terrorists.

The TSA has, however, made a significant impact on the life of air travelers. For one, passengers are much more likely to leave checkpoints with fewer belongings than when they arrived. Some passengers have their belongings stolen by TSA officers, while others accidentally leave valuables at checkpoints. Other passengers have their belongings confiscated, even if the items are not specifically prohibited, such as a young child who had his Christmas present, Play-Doh, snatched from him just in case it might have been a bomb.

The TSA has also been known to terrorize and abuse passengers, including intrusively patting down 3-year-olds in wheel- chairs and verbally abusing passengers who do not immediately obey all commands, treating these innocent Americans like convicted terrorists.

If, hypothetically, air travel were safe and secure because of the TSA, I could overlook these downsides, but the TSA’s fundamental problem is that the terrorists are always one step ahead. Each rule created by the TSA stems from an act of terrorism that has already been attempted or committed. After Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden in his shoe, the TSA mandated that passengers take their shoes off. Likewise, after terrorists in Britain tried to blow up a plane with liquid explosives, the TSA implemented a prohibition of liquids. Terrorists continually create new ways to get around TSA’s regulations because the TSA only responds to terrorist plots that have already been attempted. In order to truly stop terrorism, security needs to be one step ahead of the terrorists, not the other way around.

To put it simply, the rules and procedures of the TSA just do not make any sense. There really are not any “good” solutions to the problem of airport security, but there certainly are better alternatives to the current set up. One fundamental reason why the TSA can get away with so many transgressions and unreasonable rules is that they are not held accountable for their actions. The organization is run and operated by the government, meaning it has no competitors. Private corporations, on the other hand, would be required to treat customers well and make all possible efforts to keep lines moving and keep costs down. If a private security firm does not do a good job, it will lose its business to another firm. This is a form of encouragement for private entities that the government does not have.

The privatization model required to reform the TSA should go significantly beyond the privatization model used currently in 16 U.S. airports. Right now, these private screeners are required to follow the same guidelines as TSA employees, nullifying many of the benefits of privatization. Although it is a small step toward accountability, private security firms need to be given the freedom to create their own models for effective security. This will solve the problem of the TSA’s ineffectiveness. Private firms can create less intrusive systems that catch more terrorists. Unlike the TSA, private firms are motivated by their competitors. Firms should still be regulated by the government to ensure that their policies do not place national security in jeopardy, but they should also be given enough freedom to be innovative and responsive to the requests of passengers. This model should slowly be phased into all airports across the country, leading to the ultimate disbanding of the TSA.

The current state of air travel in the United States is not safe. Beyond the hassles and abuse that occurs each day at checkpoints, the TSA is largely ineffective. Through privatization, there is so much to gain and so little to lose.