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Burdensome Airport Security: Pay the Government for Relief?

Posted By Ivan Eland On August 13, 2013 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 4 Comments

For air travelers tired of the ever-worsening burden of airport security, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is widening to all U.S. citizens the eligibility of its prescreening process, called PreCheck. Americans, who recently have had their phone records vacuumed up by the National Security Agency spies, can now give the TSA their fingerprints, undergo government snooping into their backgrounds, and pay $85 to undergo this further erosion of their privacy – in order to get only a minimal reprieve from the security indignities at the airport. What a deal!

The government is using American’s tax money to create the misery of airport security and then getting even more revenues from slightly alleviating the pain. This is like paying a bumbling electrician to wire your house, incurring the heartache of an electrical fire, and then having him offer to charge you to fix his botched handiwork so that a similar conflagration will never happen again.

In fact, it’s even worse than this. What if you discovered that you had given to a charity that provides scholarships to vocational schools, and the incompetent electrician had received one of the scholarships? You would have inadvertently contributed to your own problem. Likewise, many Americans frequently ignore that numerous Islamist terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, have given their reason for attacking the United States as its profligate interventions in Muslim countries. As is frequently the case, the government has helped cause the security problem that it rides to the rescue to save the public from. Even American military interventions allegedly designed to battle terrorism – Afghanistan/Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq – have led to…well…more terrorism. The attempted Times Square bombing was in retaliation for the US drone campaign in Pakistan, the attempted underwear bombings were in retaliation for US airstrikes and drone attacks in Yemen, and the US invasion of Iraq spawned a worldwide spike in terrorism and the creation of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which killed US forces and is still killing Iraqis long after the United States troops have withdrawn.

Every government security program needs a threat, and the sensationalist media is a willing accomplice to the government’s exaggeration of the terrorist menace. The average American’s chances of ever being killed by a terrorist is about the same as his or her chances of being struck by an asteroid and less than the change of being struck by lightning. Even more rare is the chance of getting killed by a terrorist in an airplane. Mark Stewart, a researcher on risk, calculated that even smaller probability at one in 90 million.

And airline travel likely would have become much safer after 9/11 even had the government done nothing at all. Under the old paradigm for dealing with airline hijacking, aircrews and passengers cooperated, expecting that they would be released eventually after the hijackers got their publicity. That paradigm changed permanently during the 9/11 episode, as the passengers and crew aboard the fourth plane over Pennsylvania heard that the other three aircraft that had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been used as suicide missiles. The subsequent thwarting of the underwear and shoe bombings also have demonstrated just how surly passengers and crews on commercial airliners have become.

Of course, all this evidence buttresses the argument that TSA airport security is excessive for the rarity of the threat and in the face of the better intrinsic security already provided from enhanced vigilance by passengers and crew. It would also point to avoiding needless US interventions in Muslim countries, thereby reducing blowback terrorism even further.

Compared to NSA’s confiscation of US citizens’ phone records, however, Americans can take some comfort that TSA’s PreCheck program is voluntary – at least for now. Yet in the past, government experimentation has become permanent, which in this case, would then require every American to undergo fingerprinting and a background check to be eligible to take commercial flights. In other words, as government’s thirst for security mounts, its "no-fly" list, which includes names of suspected terrorists, eventually could be replaced by a "OK to fly" list. So you think this scenario is outlandish and would never happen? But then who would have ever predicted that we would be required to disrobe – either physically or electronically – before boarding a plane.

Read more by Ivan Eland


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