More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect. Preventing terrorist attacks on air travel demands flexibility and the constant reassessment of threats. It also demands strong public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve.

The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.

Any effort to rebuild TSA and get airport security right in the U.S. has to start with two basic principles:



  1. noname says:

    chirp, chirp.

  2. Grandpa says:

    Doesn’t matter, I can’t afford to fly anyway :-)

    • mal says:

      oh, so because you’re not directly impacted yourself it’s fine?

    • NewformatSux says:

      TSA doesn’t apply to just flying. They have checkpoints at train stations, bus terminals, and even on highways. They even appeared at a political campaign event and patted down attendees. They don’t limit themselves to the US either, appearing at the Olympics in London. They have even been known to set up at a high school prom.

  3. dusanmal says:

    Partly correct (particularly 5 detailed points in the whole article) but this man still thinks inside the box. The only real solution that would actually reduce risk vs. present situation and satisfy most of his goals is complete revamp of the system and TSA purpose. Minimal orientation to technology and maximized profiling (some random checks for wider security) not based on fixed criteria but based on personal opinions of highly trained TSA replacement force (none of current workforce likely has a chance for that job). Israel and Brazil have systems in place that best exemplify this different approach. Improve their process and stop tub stacking.

    • ± says:

      Your idea will only work if all the dumbest people that money can buy (of which there are many) working for the TSA are fired and smart people are hired to replace them get to implement it.

    • noname says:

      It is time we face the simple truth.

      American’s want rock solid safety, so we must treat people better then our precious cargo. We need to wrap passengers in Kevlar lined bubble wrap stamped with breakable, fragile and this side up!

      This would eliminate hijacking and terrorist, because; who could get out of their Kevlar bubble wrap?

      Even in accidents and crashes the cargo remains intact for recovery, taunting us that we care more about our stuff then our-selfs.

      To keep this a green and sustainable initiative, people could be safely stacked, reducing the number of flights and the bubble wrap is reusable. We could even build in a biodegradable green body fluid pouch.

      I am rushing to the patent office as I type.

      • jpfitz says:

        I’d invest in your Monty Python reality of the sheep transport…. as long as you dose all the sheep with a safe sleep inducing med. The safety of the meds is of utmost importance.

        Do we still get free peanuts?

        Sign me.
        Tired of getting groped at the checkpoint.

        • noname says:

          There will be plenty of peanuts and soda available up in front of the cabin.

          Funny thing, in our test flights we never had any passengers take peanuts. We have consulted our best engineers and scientists and we can’t figure out why?

      • msbpodcast says:

        This could be solved extremely easily: with a simple injection of anesthetic and soporific into the arm of every flyer before the injection of the flyer into a rack system before the injection of the rack into its inter or intra-continental carrier.

        They could carry you like parcels to your destination and wake you up infront of the taxi stand ready to whisk you away to some hotel or other or infront of the arrival gate parking lot where relatives are waiting for you or, more likely, are late in getting there.

        No more jet lag, no more screaming kids, no more drunken passenger pissing all over the damn toilets, no more interminable conversations with grandmothers flying to identical butt-hole communities everywhere and wanting to tell you about their lack-lustre progeny and their lack-lustre progeny, no more having to pretend to be deeply interested in the in-flight catalog, trying to not catch the eye of the fat bore next to you all the while trying to get the stewardess’ eye so she get you another glass of crappy house ginger ale and one of those ridiculously over-priced little plastic bottles of booze, no more getting trod on by idiots who want to get away from you and your smelly body so badly that they’re on their cellphones the instant the captain has turned off the fasten seat belt sign, bashing each other with their flight bags and standing in the aisle only to get sucked out into the anonymous airline terminal in order to discover that their baggage has taken a trip to a much more interesting destination.

        Yeah, I just fucking love flying… Can’t you tell?

  4. AdmFubar says:

    remember the the republican mantra big government is bad

    that is why the tsa gets larger…more tech , more ineffective procedure… more, more more… because big government is wrong…. unless your crony campaign contributors are making a bundle on swindling the american taxpayer.. :) have a nice day

  5. Anon says:

    TSA is not meant to protect.

    TSA is meant to provide a pleasant sort of security theater to the citizens who pay their federal taxes.

    Kabuki performance is better, though, because at least you get to eat sushi with that.

    • jpfitz says:

      We had sushi at LAX, does that count? Show first, then the store bought restaurant served if you can call it sushi.

  6. NewformatSux says:

    His ideas would not fly with liberals because two of his points call for random treatment of passengers with ore direct contact and intrusive questioning. Just today we have a post complaining about software liedetector that could be used by TSA.

    • noname says:

      I would like to understand your magical ability to know who the terrorist are, so that the TSA can single them out for questioning or making direct contact with.

      Please give us your contact information and a TSA representative will contact you shortly.

  7. Derek says:

    In the name of “political correctness”, we treat the entire country like they are terrorists to avoid the natural and evolved survival skill of profiling.

    • noname says:

      I suppose you have data that offers proof to your premise off the efficacy of “natural and evolved survival skill of profiling”

      Your name is not “Trayvon Martin” is it?

  8. jpfitz says:

    Last line in linked article.
    “If Americans are ready to embrace risk, it is time to strike a new balance.”

    Only if we take some of the steps the former administrator recommends. Only then will flying be fun again.

    • noname says:

      Flying will be fun again when I have more leg room, a decent meal and honestly friendly staff (not the smile feigning brutes of today).

  9. dave 1001 1001 1001 says:

    Yep the system is a mess. Whether there is a correlation or not, there have not been additional successful air incidents. It would take a very ambitious and risk taking individual to make a massive change in the system.

    Should there be an incident, even a small one, every Monday morning quarterback, arm chair general, lawyer, and supplier to TSA would crucify the individual.

    There is just too much money in the system for corporations to go after now.

  10. bobbo, atheists in charge could not make the church look any worse says:

    Security Theater, a jobs program, and insulating politicians from having to respond to the public is all this is about.

    Once airplanes were turned into weapons, the meme of hijackings changed in the public’s mind but the government as usual was off fighting the last war.

    All that is needed to be done is to use a metal detector, have an alert public/passenger haul, and locked cockpit doors.

    After that…you pay your money and you take your chances.

    Silly Hoomans.

  11. dcphill says:

    There needs to be an airline for the rest of us non paranoid fliers.
    Just go to the airport, get your ticket and board your special plane without interference from touchy feely TSA.
    I am more worried about beeing hit on the freeway then terrorists on airplanes.

  12. Yankinwaoz says:

    He forgot #6 – Get the TSA out of the law enforcement business. I keep hearing story after story about how TSA agents are looking for drugs, and bundles of cash, and even pretending to be immigration officers.

    The TSA’s job, and only job, is to keep weapons off of aircraft.

    If someone wants to walk on board with 6 pounds of cocaine, and $1m in $100 dollar bills, then let them. That isn’t their job. There should be no reward or incentive for reporting this. This only distracts the staff from their core duty… keeping weapons off planes.

  13. The Watcher says:

    I’ve always favored “arm the passengers”, although it might make a trip to the bathroom a little iffy….

    Kinda half & half on that, but there are a LOT of people in the US who are otherwise licensed to carry firearms, and only a tiny percentage of them should prove to be a problem. Whereas terrorists are _all_ a problem….

    We also need to eliminate “checking in” for firearms. Just wastes times, and marks bags with “steal me” codes. A firearm in the baggage hold is no danger to anybody. Why should I spend fifteen minutes checking in?

    We need to go with a LOT more flexibility, and a lot less foolishness. But the public wants theater….

    100% on the checked baggage v.s. carry-on, too…. I’ve got a firearm with me, so I have to check _something_, so my carry-on is either a computer, camera, or nothing. But I’ve seen some impossible stuff, too….

    (One of my last flights was on an aircraft that had been re-fitted with oversized overhead bins, just for folks hand-carrying pianos or something like that…. More claustrophobia for those who don’t like being cocooned into a chair for three or four hours. And the stuff that came out of that bin….)

    And, NEVER put anything you really want to keep, or want to find at your destination, into a checked bag.

  14. Sam says:

    Technology is the real enemy that’s eroding our quality of life and will eventually destroy everything but the cockroaches.

    For every “well intentioned” technological gadget or solution invented, society’s maniacs have adapted them as weapons against us.

    Since advanced technology requires increased civility (that isn’t happening), say good-bye to the peace and freedom you remembered.

  15. Guyver says:

    We’re too politically correct of a society to officially sanction profiling. It’s too offensive.

    So TSA was the best compromise. Treat everyone as a potential terrorists so as to not offend people from a demographic that is a much higher risk for terrorism.

    Same thing happened to the AIDS scare. The CDC used to publish AIDS statistics which showed that the lion’s share was due to homosexuality. When it became offensive to say AIDS was largely a gay disease (which it statistically was regardless of your beliefs), there was a political push to promote anyone can get it.

    Making the hard / right decisions is getting more impossible to do in this country because we’re more afraid of offending someone than we are about truly preventing the problem.

    • msbpodcast says:

      The CDC used to publish AIDS statistics which showed that the lion’s share was due to homosexuality.

      The CDC was dealing with a blood borne disease.

      As fas as I can tell, women have blood too.

      That homosexuality crap went out the window when we could identify a cause, the aids virus, which turn out to have been this enormous virus envelope, and a transmission mechanism, blood exchange, because it was an extremely fragile enormous thing, so fragile that the very process of looking for it destroyed it so all you had left were fragments.

      The researchers spent a long time looking at the pieces before they figured how the fragments went together, like I said, it was enormous, and it was a virus, meaning it wasn’t quite a living thing.

      Then the researchers spent a long time wondering how it worked, all the while people were dying, just to ratchet up the pressure.

      Then the researchers spent a long time wondering how to stop the transmission of this slow acting, blood borne, enormous virus.

      Now we know. We’re just too stupid to act on it.

      • Guyver says:

        That homosexuality crap went out the window when we could identify a cause, the aids virus, which turn out to have been this enormous virus envelope, and a transmission mechanism, blood exchange, because it was an extremely fragile enormous thing, so fragile that the very process of looking for it destroyed it so all you had left were fragments.

        And this disqualifies the fact that the lion’s share of AIDS victims in the U.S. happen to be homosexual because?

    • msbpodcast says:

      We aren’t too politically correct, we’re too stupid.

      Meanwhile, the idiots with the explosive vests don’t discriminate.

      Just wait until the seniors in this country have had enough of wondering if they’re too poor to afford Alpo this month, never mind their meds.

      We’ll see a bunch of old people in bulky coats going to museums and shows, and nobody’s coming back…

      • Guyver says:

        Meanwhile, the idiots with the explosive vests don’t discriminate.

        Do you suppose they’re little kiddies or someone’s grandmother?

        If you were to narrow down the likely choices how would you do it? Treat everyone like a potential terrorist and spy on the citizenry 24/7?

        Or do you profile people to reduce your pool down to a specific demographic group(s)?

        • Guyver says:

          Meanwhile, the idiots with the explosive vests don’t discriminate.

          Do you suppose they’re little kiddies or someone’s grandmother?

          If you were to narrow down the likely choices how would you do it? Treat everyone like a potential terrorist and spy on the citizenry 24/7?

          Or do you profile people to reduce your pool down to a specific demographic group(s)?

  16. deowll says:

    I will leave this to those whose privates are actually being felt up. I care but I’m not at risk of either being felt up or being injured if someone with weapons gets through.

    It does appear that the Nashville TSA does occasionally find people carrying firearms in their carry on luggage. It also appears that so far at least all instances have been due to brain farts rather than malice.

  17. Faye_Kane says:

    the column ends with “right in the U.S. has to start with two basic principles:”

    Where is the rest of it?

    faye kane

  18. Stephen Anderson says:

    I used to travel extensively in the US. I’ve been to 24 out of 50 US states (far more than your average America). I refuse to subject my self to the BS that is the TSA.

    At a time when the US economy is in a shambles, you’re think tourist and business traveler dollars from Canada and Euro’s from over seas would be welcome. And instead a traveler is treated not as the friend he/she but as a criminal. And that goes for American citizens as well. It is a disgrace to a country that prides itself on “freedom”.

    • msbpodcast says:

      Ask Mittenz when was the last time he had to take off his shoes before getting on his private jet.

      The TSA is only for us 99%ers.

      The 1%ers own a share of their own planes. They’re not the really rich though.

      The oligarchy, the demographic anomaly that owns 80% of everything, the 12,400 really rich fucks out there, has its own airports, airplanes, pilots ground crews and security.

      Its like with yachts, if you have to ask, you can’t afford.

  19. kerpow says:

    In order to agree with anything in the article you first have to believe that there is a terrorist threat to begin with. I can’t seem to get past that point. If there were really a threat why wouldn’t terrorists blow themselves up while IN the security line? That would still disrupt our travel infrastructure. Probably more than hijacking a plane.

    • noname says:

      Good point!

      Of which our esteemed security professionals (HLS?) would likely retort, we have hidden safeguards to prevent that.

      To which, the public naturally asks HLS, why then have security ck points if “terrorist” can be caught before the ck points?

      Sadly, the illogic of HLS escapes public comprehension and the public influence on Gov-for-People-by-People has been rendered impotent by laws made by corp-brought-politicians and upheld by-corp-brought-courts.

  20. SchwettyBalls says:

    Nuke it and pave. The TSA needs to be dismantled and replaced. The thieving, incompetent and otherwise generally unemployable TSA agents and administration can find a new line of work. Maybe mall cops?

  21. JimD, Boston, MA says:

    Re: the photo – That’s how they got the name:

    the TITTIE SQUEEZING AGENCY – TSA !!!