The Corner

TSA’s Theater of the Absurd: The Bigger Picture

Wesley, I don’t mean to be obstreperous about this, but the issue at the root of this controversy is so vitally important — and affects so many different aspects of our society — that perhaps it merits another turn of discussion.

What we see at the root of the TSA controversy is the same social pathology we see in such disparate things as the latest gun-control proposals, the disastrously costly new EPA regulations, and the ten-thousand-fold explosion in products liability.

Our society has embraced an absolute — and absolutely insane — form of the precautionary principle. There is no pretense of even a minimally rational cost-benefit analysis. If there is a vanishingly small chance that some onerous precautionary measure might make it difficult to hijack one plane at some point in the next 100 years, then by all means let’s impose that onerous burden on millions of American passengers every year for the rest of time. I laughed when I read Mark Steyn’s vision of a TSA “obergropinfuhrer” poking around in your pumpkin pie, but actually most TSA security measures are just as laughable — and just as depressing.  

What has put a stop to virtually all airline hijackings is the reinforcement of cockpit doors. That is a common sense measure that should have been taken decades ago and which would have prevented 9/11 all by itself. Most of the rest of what TSA does is foolishness. As Mark suggests, airport security has foiled not a single terrorist attack. TSA has an unbroken record of false positives. Profiling and robust intelligence operations abroad are what actually protect people — by identifying ahead of time the one-in-ten billion airline passengers who is actually dangerous. 

Putting grannies from northern Wisconsin through state-sponsored sexual assaults is justified on the basis of fairness. But in reality, it is nothing more than the shameful theatrics of a fatally insecure people who, having abandoned the bold leadership to which God and the world had called them, now recoils from every shadow, like King Lear on the heath.

Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola is a fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University School of Law and a former defense-policy adviser at the Pentagon and in the U.S. Senate.


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