TSA watch: A crazy agency finally gets an official diagnosis

You probably already suspected that the idea of a Department of Homeland Security in general, and the Transportation Security Administration, specifically, was a little crazy.

Last week, all doubts were removed.

I mean, nothing says “nuts” like the plans for Janet Napolitano’s new office, which will be in the very same room used by the director of the nation’s first major federally run psychiatric institution. I’m not making this up.

DHS Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Homeland Security team, including parts of the TSA, will soon move to a renovated castle-like structure opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane.

Ironic? Perhaps.
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Can things get any worse for the TSA?

To say the TSA just had a bad week would be a lot like saying Muammar Gaddafi is dealing with a little opposition in Libya.

And how.

This week’s TSA shenanigans are almost too bad to be true. I take absolutely no pleasure in reporting them, because after all, this agency is supposed to be protecting us when we travel.
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“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment”

The transcript from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” isn’t available yet, but here’s what we know: There was a lot of hemming and hawing — here’s a sample — and one keeper quote that could define her tenure.

“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment,” she told Candy Crowley this morning.

Excuse me?

Look, I don’t have a problem with letting Napolitano put a little spin on her accomplishments, but let’s be realistic about it. The last two years have been awful for air travelers, with new restrictions, security procedures and invasive, unconstitutional searches being performed in the name of homeland security.

The Secretary is blowing smoke.

And what’s worse is, we’re inhaling.
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“We don’t like the idea that Metro riders are being treated as if they are potential terrorists”

Sue Udry is the executive director the Defending Dissent Foundation, a 50-year-old organization whose mission is to protect and advance the right of dissent. Her organization has teamed up with two other civil rights groups to protest the Washington Metro Transit Police’s decision to begin searching subway passengers in the nation’s capital. They’ll be at Union Station between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. today, collecting signatures. I asked Udry to explain why her group objects to the new searches.

What are you protesting?

We don’t like the idea that Metro riders are being treated as if they are potential terrorists.

We believe the Fourth Amendment, which protects us against unreasonable searches, is being violated. We have collected the names of nearly 500 metro riders, many of whom have indicated their inclination to reduce their use of the transit system rather than resign their rights.
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Coming soon: full-body scanners at salad bars?

Sounds absurd, I know, but after the latest report that terrorists are targeting our all-you-can-eat restaurants, would anyone be surprised?

The plot, uncovered earlier this year, is said to involve the use of two poisons – ricin and cyanide – slipped into salad bars and buffets, according to CBS News.

It comes just as we’ve begun digesting a generous serving of more false terror alarms, notably at Newark airport, Rome, and several UK airports.

In a related development, a survey released by the U.S. Travel Association this morning found 8 in 10 people said they support a trusted traveler program that would provide alternative screening measures for Americans who submit to a background check and meet other risk criteria. I wonder if that would include a trip to the salad bar?

Respondents also said they would take an average of two to three more trips per year if the hassle involved in flying could be reduced without compromising security. Those additional trips would add $84.6 billion in travel spending and support 888,000 additional jobs, according to the survey.
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