War on Terror

U.S. Government Undermining Air and Rail Security

| by CEI

By Hans Bader

An alleged terrorist from Nigeria has been charged with plotting to blow up an airliner. He carried explosives onto a plane and set them on fire. Only the quick action of passengers put out the fire and prevented an explosion. He was allowed on the plane despite the fact that he was on a terror watch list.

Despite this utter failure, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claims that “the system worked” because no one died. Her agency is now planning to make overseas air travel much more onerous, by banning passengers from getting out of their seats during the last hour of a flight (even though a passenger who did just that that foiled the terrorist attempt) and by restricting carry-on luggage and items like blankets on flights.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Congress shifted airline security screening to the inept Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which fails to detect explosive ingredients and fake bombs, in performance tests. A study found that the TSA is more than twice as likely to fail to detect a bomb as the private security firms it replaced. And TSA’s failure rate is three or four times as high as the few remaining private firms still allowed to handle airline security.

In tests, TSA failed to detect fake bombs 60 percent of the time at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, and 75 percent of the time in Los Angeles. Yet the Obama administration plans to make TSA even more bureaucratic by introducing collective bargaining, which will make it even harder to get rid of incompetent employees.

Rather than having the federal government take over airline security screening, the feds should have stepped up policing of the private companies that performed it, to weed out bad companies and promote the best.

Bush initially objected to Congressional demands for a federal takeover, but then knuckled under for political reasons. Ironically, even in European countries governed by Socialist parties, airline security and screening is generally in the hands of private companies, because private companies are usually more diligent and innovative and less bureaucratic and inefficient.

The Obama administration is also undermining the security of railroad passengers by gutting an expert, highly-rated, anti-terror agency at Amtrak, which Amtrak’s unions hate, despite its efficiency, because it is not unionized. Political cronyism is also playing a role in the gutting of Amtrak’s Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations (OSSSO). Ultimately, OSSSO’s “highly-specialized officers” will likely be replaced by unionized employees with ”alarmingly low pass rates” in “basic” classes.