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Who's sneaking what past who?

Date: 2015-Jun-05           Author: Barry Shatzman

If you're shaking your fist at the TSA for allowing government testers to sneak bad things through it's checkpoints 67 times while catching them only 3 times, you've got the right to.

These are the guys we depend on to keep dangerous stuff like guns and water bottles off of our airplanes so nobody can blow them up. And they were beaten at every level. During a pat-down, they failed to detect explosives taped to a tester's back. And we already knew the x-ray scanners could be easily fooled. You know... the ones that basically show you naked so there's no way you'd ever get anything by them.

So Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson responded by overhauling TSA's management and promising to evaluate its training and procedures. Seems like a good answer.

But it's not. Why? Because it's answering the wrong question. The question isn't, "how can we stop more bad guys from bringing bad stuff onto airplanes?" The right question is, "are bad guys even trying to do that stuff in the first place?"

I'm sure the question you must be asking now is, "Barry.... have you been living under a rock for the past umpteen years?" Well if so, it's a rock that's heavy with evidence.

It's been about 14 years since the 2001 hijacking of airplanes that brought down three skyscrapers in New York and rammed into the Pentagon. We immediately took care of the weakest link by securing cockpit doors.

For about half the time since then, TSA still relied on metal detectors to find guns and stuff on people. In 2007, the x-ray scanners started to come around. So how many more people tried to hijack planes before 2007 than since 2007? I think you can count them on that closed fist you're shaking. So exactly what problem were the x-ray scanners supposedly solving?

Not enough evidence you say? OK. It's been public knowledge for at least three years how to fool the x-ray scanners. So how many airplanes have been hijacked since then, considering the bad guys know how to do it if they wanted? No need to unfold your fist yet.

But now we have more than evidence. We have 95 proof. That's a 95 percent success rate of sneaking stuff through. These were all good guys. So what makes you think bad guys wouldn't have a similar success rate? But if there really were bad guys trying, don't you think you would've heard of at least one hijacking?

I hope your fist is still closed, because by now you should be shaking it at the government that has spent oodles of millions of our dollars to fix a problem that clearly does not exist. Why did they do it? One could argue it's to keep people afraid. That was then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's reasoning when he pushed for the scanners. Funny how he didn't mention that the lobbying group he formed in 2010 was about to be hired by the maker of those scanners.

Now before you start throwing your shoes (or underwear) at me, i'm not saying we don't need security at airports. But we already had security - both before and after 2001. It not only was working then, but the TSA knows that it still works - because they still use it.

Which brings us to the real question we ought to ask. What are we getting for that money versus what we could get for it by spending it on things like public schools, health care, infrastructure, and other things that truly benefit the overwhelming majority of us?

Ask the people you elect to represent you in Congress that. And if you don't get the right answers, maybe unfurl a single finger when the next election comes around.

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