Monday, November 26, 2012

Business Week: Airport Security Is Making Americans Less Safe

Wow, a mainstream dagger into the heart of the TSA.

Charles Kenny at BW writes:
The arrival of the holiday season in the U.S. marks the start of the busiest travel period of the year. For millions of Americans, it’s a time of misery—hours spent waiting out weather delays and missed connections in crumbling domestic airport terminals with oppressive overhead lighting and bad food. But what makes the experience of air travel truly abominable is the government agency ostensibly designed to ease anxieties about getting on planes: the Transportation Security Administration. Far from making travel safer, the U.S.’s approach to airport security is putting the lives of even more people at risk.

The TSA was created to replace the patchwork of private security companies that handled airport security in the pre-9/11 era. Its budget quickly ballooned: Since 2002 the number of TSA agents has risen from 16,000 to more than 50,000. Still, to a traumatized public, any amount of overreaction in the name of preventing another terrorist attack seemed acceptable.

More than a decade later, it’s time to move on. For one thing, the attention paid to terrorism in the U.S. is out of proportion to the relative threat it presents...

Yet the TSA still commands a budget of nearly $8 billion—leaving the agency with too many officers and not enough to do. The TSA’s “Top Good Catches of 2011,” reported on its blog, did include 1,200 firearms and—their top find—a single batch of C4 explosives (though that payload was discovered only on the return flight). A longer list of the TSA’s confiscations would include a G.I. Joe action doll’s 4-inch plastic rifle (“it’s a replica”) and a light saber toy. For all the face cream, breast milk, and live fish that vigilant screeners collected in airport security lines last year, the TSA didn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airline in the U.S....

 According to an estimate by the New York Times, the 9/11 attacks caused $55 billion in “toll and physical damage” to the U.S., while the economic impact was $123 billion. Costs related to increased homeland security and counterterrorism spending, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, totaled $3,105 billion. Mueller and Stewart estimate that government spending on homeland security over the 2002-2011 period accounted for around $580 billion of that total...

All this spending on airline security is worse than wasteful. Following the official rules while still attempting to show decency toward passengers all but forces TSA employees to delay, embarrass, and inconvenience many thousands every day. Faced with the prospect of such unpleasantries this holiday season, countless Americans will skip the flight to grandma’s house and drive instead...

But compare the dangers of air travel with those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University estimate that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. The Cornell researchers also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.
Read more here.

1 comment:

  1. The folks in charge have been notified. This guy will be writing about high school sports in Akron, Ohio by the end of the day.