After 9/11, there was a faint sense that all this might be only temporary, but now we know this security is never going to go away. We can only hope it gets better.
Given the public’s view of the Transportation Security Administration as inept and overly aggressive, the last thing the agency needed were accusations of corruption.
Yet in a hearing held earlier this month in Washingon, U.S. Rep. William Keating of Massachusetts described the number of such allegations against the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security in general as “staggering.”
Information released at the hearing included a 22-count indictment stemming from allegations that TSA agents in Los Angeles accepted bribes from passengers seeking to smuggle drugs.
What’s worse is that the TSA opted not to send top administrators to answer questions from the House Homeland Security Oversight Subcommittee, on which Keating is the ranking Democrat.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, only 38 percent of respondents had a positive impression of the TSA. Meanwhile, 43 percent mentioned a perception of “TSA incompetence and overstepping its authority.”
Anybody who flies regularly has seen both.
John Pistole, the administrator of the TSA, says the agency is planning to address that, including such changes as easing up on elderly passengers. The Journal reported that, in New York, two female passengers in their 80s recently were required to drop trou so screeners could check their medical devices and that a 4-year-old became hysterical for having to endure a full-body pat-down for hugging her grandmother before the grandmother had completely exited security.
When challenged, the screeners fall back on the repetitive invocation of “rules and procedures,” as if that excuses or explains anything. After 10 years of this, the TSA should be building up a level of professionalism that gives screeners and their supervisors some discretion.
The TSA is going to streamline screening for people over 75 and children under 12. While this is overdue, it may also be too late. The newest entrant in the terrorist field, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is determined to bring down a U.S.-flagged aircraft. It has tried twice, through underwear and printer cartridges packed with explosives.
Unfortunately for the TSA, this group would have no scruples about using elderly women or young children to bring down an aircraft.
Still, it is encouraging that Pistole is going to stress efficiency, professionalism, judgment and good manners.
The Enterprise News