The Corner

I’m So Fed Up, I’m Suing the TSA

Earlier this year, I bit the bullet and obtained TSA PreCheck as part of the Global Entry package that the security folks offer frequent international travelers. Global Entry really speeds up re-entry into the United States, and I’m really happy with it. PreCheck is supposed to expedite your travel through the security processes at domestic airports and give you “a better air travel experience.”

Last week, traveling to Dallas for an excellent Institute for Justice conference on occupational licensing, I was randomly selected at Dulles Airport to go through additional screening, which meant I had to go through one of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) body scanners in any event. I hate those, and avoiding them is one of the reasons I applied for PreCheck in the first place (the alternative is an intrusive pat down). On the way back, I was dropped near my gate at Dallas Fort Worth, but was directed from the security line to a dedicated pre-check line, which turned out to be ten minutes’ walk away, and the line there was longer than the one I’d been directed from, so it turned out to be at least 15 minutes longer than going through the priority lane my status entitled me to at the original gate. This was not an “expedited” process.

This sort of arbitrary treatment of low-risk passengers is exactly why I am joining with my colleague Marc Scribner, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Rutherford Institute in suing the TSA over their body scanner rule. You can find the legal details here and here, and Marc amply explains our frustration with the TSA, going back years to 2008, here.

At the heart of our complaint is that TSA has ignored the trade-offs its security theater imposes on the public. We argue that the TSA arbitrarily downplayed the intrusiveness of its scanners, which are replacing walk-through metal detectors at many airports. As a result, the agency ignored the fact that the scanners will cause many would-be air travelers to drive instead. But because car travel is much riskier than air travel, the net result could be an increase in overall travel fatalities.

As Marc says,

“While the TSA is promoting body scanners as a security measure, the odds are that this rule actually puts the traveling public at greater risk, not less. For years, the TSA violated federal law and a court order by deploying body scanners in airports without a required regulation. When they finally produced the court-ordered rule in March, they failed to account for the invasiveness and delays associated with the TSA’s scanners that prompt some air travelers to take to their cars instead, which is a riskier mode of travel than flying. This failure is yet another violation of federal law and we seek to hold this rogue agency accountable.”

If you want to know what sort of security we should be running to best reflect the actual risk in travel, check out my recent article at CapX.


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