Federal officials blitzed Texas this week to fight a bill pending in Austin that would control TSA groping of air travelers in that state, reports Forbes’ “Not-So-Private Parts” blogger Kashmir Hill.
Federal government officials descended on the Capitol to hand out a letter … from the Texas U.S. Attorney letting senators know that if they passed the bill, the TSA would probably have to cancel all flights out of Texas. As much as they love their state, the idea of shutting down airports and trapping people in Texas was scary enough to get legislators to reconsider their support for the groping bill…
The federal government’s threat to shut down air travel is serious, but empty. As we’ve seen time and again with the REAL ID Act, the federal government does not have the political will to attack passenger air travel in the name of increasing surveillance and intrusion.
In fact, earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security didn’t even bother to threaten any repurcussions for states before it once again pushed back a May 2011 (false) deadline for REAL ID compliance. (Previous instances noted here and here.) The REAL ID Act allows the federal government to refuse licenses and ID cards from non-complying states at airport checkpoints, but it’s just not going to happen.
The DHS announcement notes $175 million in spending on REAL ID so far. That waste continues to accrue so long as Congress appropriates money for the national ID program, which will never be implemented.
While we’re on the subject of empty threats from federal officials—and do see Julian Sanchez’s post hitting the same subject—it has been more than four years since then-Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said about the REAL ID Act:
If we don’t get it done now, someone is going to be sitting around in three or four years explaining to the next 9/11 Commission why we didn’t do it.
Secretary Chertoff was wrong—factually wrong on the imminence and nature of the terror threat, and ethically wrong to tout terror threats in an attempt to defeat the will of our free people.
With our stubborn insistence on freedom, the American people and state leaders have done a better job of assessing the threat environment than the Secretary of Homeland Security. As I said when I testified on this topic to the Pennsylvania legislature, state leaders should continue to recognize that they are as equipped, if not better equipped, than federal officials to judge what is right for their people. Counterterrorism and airport security are not an exception to that, though federal imperiousness in these areas remains at a high.