The TSA’s response yesterday to a video challenging strip-search machines was so weak that it acts as a virtual confession to the fact that objects can be snuck through them.
In the video, TSA strip-search objector Jonathan Corbett demonstrates how he put containers in his clothes along his sides where they would appear the same as the background in TSA’s displays. TSA doesn’t refute that it can be done or that Corbett did it in his demonstration. More at Wired’s Threat Level blog.
More than six months ago, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals required the Transportation Security Administration to commence a rulemaking to justify its strip-search machine/prison-style pat-down policy. TSA has not done so. The result is that the agency still does not have a sturdy security system in place at airports. It’s expensive, inconvenient, error-prone, and privacy-invasive.
Making airline security once again the responsibility of airlines and airports would vastly improve the situation, because these actors are naturally inclined to blend security, cost-control, and convenience with customer service and comforts, including privacy.
I have a slight difference with Corbett’s characterization of the problem. The weakness of body scanners does not put the public at great danger. The chance of anyone exploiting this vulnerability and smuggling a bomb on board a domestic U.S. flight is very low. The problem is that these machines impose huge costs in dollars and privacy that do not foreclose a significant risk any better than the traditional magnetometer.
Corbett is right when he urges people to “demand of your legislators and presidential candidates that they get rid of this eight billion-dollar-a-year waste known as the TSA and privatize airport security.”