by Doug Bandow
The Transportation Safety Administration long has made air travel as unpleasant as possible without obvious regard to the impact on safety. Thankfully, the TSA recently dropped the inane procedure of asking to see your boarding pass as you passed through the checkpoint — a few feet away from where you entered the security line, at which point you had shown both your boarding pass and ID.
However, there are proposals afoot in Congress to set new carry-on luggage restrictions, to be enforced by the TSA, even though they would do nothing to enhance security. An inch either way on the heighth or width of a bag wouldn’t help any terrorists intent on taking over an airplane. But the proposed restrictions would inconvenience travelers and allow the airlines to fob off on government what should be their own responsibility for setting luggage standards.
TSA also has restarted ad hoc inspections of boarding passengers. At least flights as well as passengers are targeted randomly. After 9/11 the TSA conducted secondary inspections for every flight. The process suggested that the initial inspections were unreliable, delayed passengers, and led experienced flyers to game the process. It was critical to try to hit the front of the line while the inspectors were busy bothering someone else. There was no full-proof system, but I learned that being first or second in line was particularly dangerous.
Finally TSA dropped the practice. And, as far as I am aware, no planes were hijacked or terrorist acts committed as a result. But TSA recently restarted the inspections, though on a random basis.
I had to remember my old lessons last week, when I ran into the routine on my return home from a trip during which I addressed students about liberty. Luckily I was able to get on board, rather than get stuck as TSA personnel pawed through bags already screened at the security check point.
There’s no fool-proof way to ensure security for air travel. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier
to inconvenience passengers while only looking like one is ensuring airline security.