Monday, November 22, 2010

Airport Security (G)Randtanding

Paul Rand usually tries to portray himself as a different sort of politician - one who truly believes in individual responsibility, effective government, and who could cure much of what ails our system of government. But his position on TSA airport screening seems like run-of-the-mill politics - shifting responsibility for something that's unpopular from those who could actually do something, that is, people like Rand, to people who are trying to do their jobs as ordered.
My legislation is simple. It establishes that airport security screeners are not immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.
No, really, it means that rather than addressing the TSA as an organization, or working through Congress to hold accountable those who created and implemented the policy, Rand is choosing an easy target and blasting away, knowing full well that his bill has no chance of being passed.

Rand does make some valid points although, as made, this one shares some of the same flaws as his legislation:
Imagine if the political elites in our country were forced to endure the same conditions at the airport as business travelers, families, senior citizens, and the rest of us. Perhaps this problem could be quickly resolved if every cabinet secretary, every member of Congress, and every department head in the Obama administration were forced to submit to the same degrading screening process as the people who pay their salaries.
I share Paul's sense that, if the nation's wealthiest and most politically powerful figures had to go through standard airport security, they would be insisting upon change. Does this mean that Rand will be including in his proposed legislation the requirement that "the political elites in our country" go through standard security screenings? Hm. He seems to have left that part out of his bill....

Rand's better point is this:
The incident of the so-called “underwear bomber” last Christmas is given as justification for the billions of dollars the federal government is spending on the new full-body imaging machines, but a Government Accountability Office study earlier this year concluded that had these scanners been in use they may not have detected the explosive material that was allegedly brought onto the airplane. Additionally, there have been recent press reports calling into question the accuracy and adequacy of these potentially dangerous machines.
Yes, there should be a demand that security measures be cost-effective, that we figure out if new technologies are safe and effective before spending $billions on implementation, and that those who made the decision to roll out the machines should be held accountable if the money proves to have been wasted. But alas, apparently there was insufficient space in Rand's proposed legislation to investigate the decisions involved or to hold the decision-makers responsible if their haste turns out to have produced massive waste.

Rand closes with dogma no less irresponsible than "security at any cost":
The solution to the need for security at US airports is not a government bureaucracy. The solution is to allow the private sector, preferably the airlines themselves, to provide for the security of their property.
So we are to disregard the history of private security at airports, and the massive holes it created that were supposed to be closed by the creation of the TSA, the professionalization of airport security and standardization of security screenings, and drink the Kool-Aid that "the private sector always does it better"? Paul and those who rolled out these new measures with no evidence to support their position represent two sides of the same coin.

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