TSA Measures “Success” by How Much They Harass You

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Yet another study shows that the ritual the federal government makes you go through before you step onto an airplane does little if anything to prevent any sort of terrorist attack.

But note the TSA’s reaction:  “That’s not true.  We’ve taken 13 million things away from people trying to board planes!”

Which is about par for the course with government agencies.  They tend to measure their success based on how much “stuff” they’re doing, not on whether they’re actually reducing the problem they were created to solve.  The DEA and ONDCP, for example, measure drug prohibition’s effectiveness not by whether or not their efforts are reducing any real harm caused by illicit drugs, but simply by how many people are no longer getting high.  Those two things aren’t at all the same.  In fact, you could greatly reduce the number of people who get high, and cause a hell of a lot of real harm in the process.

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7 Responses to “TSA Measures “Success” by How Much They Harass You”

  1. #1 |  David Z | 

    List of items I’ve carried (unknowingly) through TSA, post-9/11:

    The most startling was on a one-way ticket from Detroit to Houston in December, 2001 – a boxcutter knife. (did custodial work during college) On this trip I was manually searched at the checkpoint AND AT THE GATE immediately prior to boarding the plane. The boxcutter made it to Houston, and back, before I knew it was in my bag.

    On other trips throughout the U.S. and Europe, I’ve found various lighters and/or matches, pocketknife, and a multi-tool in my bag after landing.

    Recently, despite the ban on bringing my own bottled water through checkpoints, my backpack with hidden reservoir containing a liter of water made it through the x-ray unscathed.

    But god forbid I don’t take off my sandals…

  2. #2 |  Zeb | 

    I simply cannot believe that a well organized, determined group of terrorists could not have gotten through airport security and done another 9-11 type thing if they really wanted to. So I must conclude either that:
    1) no such group exists, or
    2) such groups are not really as determined to hurt Americans in any way they can as we are lead to believe

    I think that the whole thing was invented by the bottled water and/or the airport concessions industry so that they can sell more $2 bottles of water after security.

  3. #3 |  Heartless Libertarian | 

    What you’re looking at is the difference between “measures of performance” vs “measures of effectiveness.”

    MoP measures how much you’re doing.

    MoE measures whether you’re achieving the desired effect

    And honestly, I think the biggest deterent to any terrorists attempting to repeat 9/11 has to be the knowledge that passengers can no longer be counted on to simply let them take over the plane. Passengers since 9/11 are much more likely to reason that they’re going to die if the terrorists gain control of the plane, and resist accordingly.

  4. #4 |  Phelps | 

    HL is right. The method was already broken before noon on 9/11/01, when United 93 went down. As soon as passengers were aware of the strategy, they fought against it and prevented its use.

    Never forget that the reason the attacks on the WTC were successful is because the passengers followed the government’s instructions to “let us handle it.”

  5. #5 |  mnuez | 

    I swear this is true.

    A couple of months ago I flew from Las Vegas to Chicago.

    I was pulled over by security after my (rather large) handluggage passed through the “x-ray” machine.

    The large and physically-intimidating security guy told me to stand still while he slowly opened my carry-on with gloved hands.

    The very top item among the assorted contents of my bag was a book. The title? The New Fascist State.

    He gingerly placed it down on the table.

    He then slowly removed the opaque bag that had lain hidden underneath The New Fascist State. He opened the bag and gently removed its contents: Shaving cream and a razor.

    He confiscated the shaving cream, repacked my bag and wished me a nice flight.


  6. #6 |  Persona non grata | 

    Phelps typed:

    Never forget that the reason the attacks on the WTC were successful is because the passengers followed the government’s instructions to “let us handle it.”

    Not that I would ever be confused with being a pro-government apologist but when did the “governments instructions” to the passangers to “let us handle it” occur?

    How were the orders transmitted?

    When and by whom the instructions recieved?

  7. #7 |  Matt Moore | 

    PNG – I remember constantly hearing that you should always do what a hijacker says, because he just wants to take the plane somewhere. I don’t know where that message came from, but it was obviously received loud and clear by more than just me.