Finally! Other people are starting to say what has only been whispered up to now: airport security is a giant boondoggle and a waste of, well, everything connected with it – most prominently tax dollars and traveler time. It is a waste because it is vastly out of proportion to the problem it is allegedly solving – the danger of death from terrorism when flying.
This point is made and thoroughly documented in an article titled “Airport Security Is Killing Us” in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Yes, I said “Bloomberg Businessweek”. This is not a small nor a fringe publication, certainly not radically right or left, although some at those extremes might disagree. As yet, this article does not appear to be online, so if you want to read it, buy the magazine: November 26 – December 2 edition with a flaming Jack Welch on the cover. If and when it appears online, I’ll post a comment. Meanwhile, here are some points to whet your appetite.
What it costs: the TSA annual budget: 8 billion dollars. Number of employees: 50,000, up from 16,000 in 2002. Indirectly, the spending on homeland security from 2002-2011 is estimated at $580 billion. As Senator Everett Dirksen said a couple generations ago, “that adds up to real money.” Think how much squawking there was about far smaller amounts of government spending during the last campaign and over the past few years. Did anyone question what we are actually getting from that $580 billion? If so, I didn’t hear it.
So what are we getting? Supposedly, protection from the risk of being killed by a terrorist attack while on an airline flight. Alright, so what is that risk, and how does it compare to the risk of other ways of dying? Here are a few examples, again courtesy of the article: chance of dying in a motor vehicle accident, 1 in 98; dying by drowning, 1 in 1103; dying from contact with hornets, wasps, bees, 1 in 79,842; dying from being hit by lightning, 1 in 134,906; dying in terrorist attack aboard a US commercial airliner, 1 in 25,000,000.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my chances on the airliner, so long as they don’t let any bees on board.
I suppose some would say that those statistics shows what a good job TSA is doing – making flying 180 times less risky than being hit by lightning! Wow. And for only $8 billion a year. I am reminded of the story I heard as a kid: I see this guy walking around, snapping his fingers and chanting “hooba hooba”. I say to him, “why are you doing that?” He says, “to keep the elephants away!” I say, “but there aren’t any elephants within 6000 miles of here!” He says, “works good, don’t it.”
It is, quite simply, time we stop being stupid about airline security and homeland security. In the wake of 9/11/2001, we were in fear and paranoia. The politicians rushed to provide all kinds of ‘protection’ to allay our fears. Unfortunately, neither the politicians nor the people stopped to ask what it cost and what we get for the cost. For a few years there, any such questions were derided as being “soft on terrorism” or worse. Over the years, I got really tired of hearing people say, “better safe than sorry” as if that were the actual choice. Nobody stopped to ask if we what were really getting was “safe and sorry” – sorry for the delays, personal intrusions, and huge expenditures that didn’t make us any safer – and whether just plain “safe” wasn’t the real alternative. No. “Better safe than sorry” was simply a surrender to unquestionable government control.
OK, so there may still be some who believe we are safer. In effect, they say, “what if there were no TSA? We would have had more events like 9/11/01″. Of course, we can never know for sure “what if”, but I say there is ample cause to believe that more changed on 9/11 than putting the TSA in motion. I wrote years ago, including here on 9/11/2006, that we the people learned enough on 9/11/2001 to be sure it would not happen again. Specifically, we learned the answer to the question:
“How the hell could several hundred people have been controlled and killed by 3-4 guys with nothing more than BOX CUTTERS???”
We learned the inconvenient truth that we were terrorized by a few guys with box cutters because:
“…that’s what we were taught and told to do before 9/11! Go along, don’t fight back, try to negotiate, stall for time, leave it to the authorities. Well, that doesn’t work when your adversary is unequivocally intending your death or their own or both.”
This was proved on that same day – 9/11/01:
“We didn’t need Afghanistan, or Iraq, or the 5 years of shit that’s been done in the name of homeland security since then. How do I know? Because the 4th airliner never reached its target. Because enough extra minutes had elapsed that the passengers on that 4th airliner found out through use of their cell phones what had happened in NY and DC, and they did rise up and they brought that fucking plane DOWN — sacrificing themselves rather than let the bastards fly it into another target.”
It was proved again a couple years later in the infamous “shoe bomber” incident. Remember, the TSA had nothing do to with it. The guy was on the plane, and when nearby passengers saw what he was doing, they wrestled him to the floor.
Ever since then, we have had to remove our shoes and put them through the x-ray, but no claim has been made that that procedures has detected a single terrorist attempt. Not one. Zero.
Sure, the TSA can report some discoveries. Per the Bloomberg article, “The TSA’s ‘top good catches’ of 2011′ 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.)” The report doesn’t say it, but obviously, none of those things were found in somebody’s crotch. And by the way, the TSA didn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airline in the US.
Anyhow, I strongly you recommend you read this article, however you can find it. And after you do, see if you don’t agree with me that there has been, and continues to be, a cost of all this beyond the tax dollars and the delays and the personal intrusions. The cost I have in mind is our loss of freedom. The loss that occurs when we surrender our judgement and physical being to the power of government. When we stop owning the right to ask questions and instead place near-absolute power in government authority, we become just one more populace at risk of succumbing to totalitarianism. We are actually practicing for the role.
Fortunately, we have drawn back somewhat from the specter of martial law or the like. But just because we have, don’t imagine that we are blessed or somehow immune. Never say, “it can’t happen here.” It can’t happen here only if a substantial number of us speak out and call out the fear mongering and appeals to paranoia used by politicians to advance their own power. It can’t happen here only if a substantial number of us resist “group think” and are willing to question “better safe than sorry”, head-in-the-sand thinking.
We have a good opportunity right now to reverse the mistakes of the past decade. To stand up say we do not want the delusion of security created by inconvenience, personal intrusion, and the massive expenditure of money. To stand up and say we expect and demand concrete justification for the money we spend, and evaluation of the money we have spent. To really understand that dying in a car crash is 100,000 times more likely than dying from a terrorist attack on an airliner, and start acting accordingly.