Your Thanksgiving TSA Update

On this, the storied biggest travel day of the year, it’s worth reviewing the latest TSA news.

Will your checkpoint pat-down soon be administered by a TSA agent in short pants? That’s one of the employment conditions the TSA employees’ newly elected union might push for. TSA’s unionized workers will now pay about $16 million a year to the American Federation of Government Employees, which will push for comfortable uniforms and other felicitous policies for TSA agents—and for politicians felicitous to government employees. Oh, and the AFGE will defend weak links in the TSA cadre against termination. Conscientious TSA workers—and there are many: they touch my sensitive areas with the backs of their hands regularly—will go unremembered while their loud, rude, and occassionally kleptic colleagues make their imprint on public opinion.

Did you opt to drive instead of fly this year? You put yourself in a great deal more peril than you would have been aloft, whether the TSA existed or not. Read Matt Yglesias’ recent piece, “The TSA Is Killing Us”. More people die each year because of the TSA than would if security were handled in a way that didn’t discourage air travel.

Those airport strip-search machines are continuing their long, slow, expensive decline. News emerged in a hearing last week of glitchiness in software intended—finally—to respond to privacy concerns around exposing naked images of people to TSA agents. Because processing people using these machines is slow, they’ve been moved out of high-volume airports. Because they are large and unwieldy, they haven’t been installed in the smaller airports where they were headed. End result, the machines have been warehoused.

This latter story inspired a conversation between Caleb Brown and me, one that Caleb thoughtfully recorded and put in a podcast just for you! Early in 2013, the TSA will have to begin a formal rulemaking in which these machines must be justified. The agency will have a hard time doing so. And you were wondering what to give thanks for this year…

You can also give thanks that this TSA-related Twitter account is a spoof.