Confusing Control and Security

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard W. Rahn, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Suppose you were a sadist and really hated your fellow men - what type of job would you try to get? Well, you might try to become head of airline security for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), where you could devise a system like the following.

You would:

* Hire people who are wannabee drill instructors, to order passengers around as if they were new Marine Corps recruits.

* Demand passengers show their IDs up to four times before boarding, even though you know IDs are easily forged.

* Require people to wait in long lines, even though you know almost precisely how many people will travel through each airport each hour.

* Force people confined to wheelchairs or who have implants or pacemakers to go through unnecessarily lengthy, degrading, embarrassing and intrusive physical inspections.

* Take away relatively harmless personal items, such as tweezers, hat pins, sewing scissors, etc., while leaving people with items that are much more lethal in trained hands.

* Harass small children, elderly women, infirm individuals, and young attractive women by making them go through difficult body motions and inappropriate touching.

* And finally, waste taxpayer monies by hiring excessive personnel to ask the same questions over and over or allow them to hang around doing nothing.

You would think, of course, what is described above could not possibly occur in a society that calls itself free and democratic, but unfortunately every day millions of Americans are subject to some or all of the above if they try to fly.

People are being unnecessarily abused by agents of their government because those charged with our security all too often fail to distinguish between security and control, fail to use basic cost-benefit analysis when designing systems and procedures, and are ignorant or insensitive to civil liberties.

As a frequent flyer, I find most TSA personnel polite, but I also see far too many who seem to enjoy abusing their fellow citizens. Airlines often have a legitimate need to know who is flying on their planes to account for their frequent flyer and other discount programs. However, in a free society, the government should not monitor innocent citizens' movements and require them to provide IDs.

Yes, the government may want to track criminals and terrorists, but all IDs now required are easily forged, and remember, the September 11, 2001, terrorists all had IDs. …