The Heat Is on TSA

by Shannen W. Coffin

The Transportation Security Administration is not doing itself any favors. With Matt Drudge and other media outlets paying close attention to its every move, viral video and photos in recent days have shown strip searches and careful pat-downs of small children (a recent video posted on Drudge shows a TSA officer removing a child’s shirt in a search — the reason is not apparent, but the video shows the boy may not have removed his outer hoodie), nuns, and disabled individuals. 

It may be a good time for TSA to start exercising random acts of common sense and passing on the shakedown of less obvious terrorist suspects. With Thanksgiving travel upon us and a change in Congress coming, it is likely that TSA will come under greater scrutiny. Right now, its biggest problem is a public-relations one — driven, fairly or not, by Drudge and local media covering each excessive (or perceived excessive) search. In reality, the agency is acting with privacy constraints placed upon it by Congress, so it is playing the hand that it was dealt. Obviously, it would be much more preferable for it to look for terrorists, rather than underwear, shoe, or shaving-kit bombs, but privacy advocates and their allies in Congress have made the current nonsensical regime possible, if not necessary. So some of this regime is beyond the control of TSA. Having said that, it isn’t helping its case and is giving ammunition to its critics. And the more we see amputees and kindergarteners getting shaken down on holiday travel, the more likely change will come. 

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