I dread the summer travel season, and every year I drive more and fly less. Why? The TSA.
I used to love flying, and have logged more than a million miles in the sky. But years ago, I made the mistake of reading a TSA union report on the complex machines that have replaced the simple magnetic scanners at airports. Once I read what the TSA union had to say about the health effects of the machines, I have opted out and asked for the alternative – or even hand screening.
Hand screening is a violation of my 4th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, but the speed and ease of flying trumps my desire to vindicate my rights. So like the millions of other sheep, I stand in line to be molested, poked, and probed.
Could the system be worse? I don’t see how. And so I decided to poll members of Congress to see if any fixes are on the horizon. What I found out was ugly.
The TSA is an agency riddled with crime. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report that revealed the number of wrongful conduct cases involving the TSA’s workers rocketed higher from 2,691 to 3,408 between 2010 and 2012. And congressional hearings meant to improve the TSA haven’t been promising.
As Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said of the GOA conclusions, “These findings are especially hard to stomach since so many Americans today are sick of being groped, interrogated and treated like criminals when passing through checkpoints…If integrity is truly a core value, then TSA, it’s time to prove it. Stop with the napping, the stealing, the tardiness and the disrespect, and earn Americans’ trust and confidence.”
And that’s not all, either. Theft is an escalating problem. iPads, computers, and other valuables just shouldn’t be checked in luggage that the TSA is going to screen. Ironically, the argument that launched the TSA stated: “We need to replace the poorly trained, often minimum wage-earning contract staff manning scanners at our airports, and replace them with an efficient, well-trained force of Federal workers who will dramatically upgrade the professionalism of the scanning experience.”
Instead, we’re now screened by poorly trained, unionized, and deputized Federal agents that are part of an agency riddled with corruption. They have the work ethic of unionized postal workers (and the customer service skills of the Department of Motor Vehicles.)
Digging into the GAO report is depressing because it reveals that the TSA isn’t even keeping records of all the wrongdoing. Here’s what the GAO statement said: “Without a review process, it is difficult to determine the extent to which deficiencies, if any, exist in the adjudications process. Further, TSA does not record all misconduct case outcomes, including cases that resulted in corrective action or no penalty, in its Integrated Database (TSA’s centralized case management system) because the agency has not issued guidance requiring the recording of all outcomes.”
Even TSA employees who were found stealing, and are amongst those reported, didn’t get fired. The GAO report also said that nearly half of the employees cited received a letter reprimanding them for their actions, while just 31% were suspended and only 17% were fired.
Here’s the real problem: The TSA is damaging the economy by disincentivizing travel. Studies have repeatedly shown that they can’t find bombs and guns in bags much of the time anyway. What valuables they do find are often at risk of being stolen.
It seems clear to me that the only solution is to abolish the agency and turn all screening over to the airports and airlines that managed it before the TSA was ever created. If you want to establish federal guidelines for screening similar to the guidelines for airline maintenance, so be it. But the TSA is beyond reform, and abolition is the only solution.
This article originally appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.