security theater
May 28, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security "might" prohibit laptops as carry-on items for all international flights in and out of the United States, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The United States being a "free and open society" is "one of our vulnerabilities," Kelly said. "There's a real threat — numerous threats against aviation. That's really the thing that they're obsessed with, the terrorists: the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of mostly U.S. folks." Electronic carry-ons are already limited for flights from 10 Muslim-majority countries in the Mideast and North Africa.

Kelly also said he would "likely" expand nationwide a new TSA policy of requiring passengers to more substantially unpack their carry-on bags at the checkpoint, separating food and paper items into different bins. A 2015 DHS investigation found TSA officers failed to detect 95 percent of explosives and weapons passed through airport security in an internal test. Terrorism experts say the long lines caused by slow TSA checkpoints are themselves a security risk. Bonnie Kristian

May 4, 2017

They can take our privacy, but they'll never take our Post-Its. Since the creation of the Transportation Security Administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Americans have endured much in the name of security. We've been through the nude scanners, the aggressive pat-downs even for children and people with disabilities, the endemic incompetence at detecting actual security threats, and so much more.

But being asked to remove all our paper products from our bags at the checkpoint — an actual new rule the TSA tested in Kansas City, Missouri, this week — is a bridge too far.

After initially defending the policy, the TSA backtracked on Wednesday, announcing it shut down the extra paper screenings the day before. As you rejoice in this small victory for common sense, check out The Week's "Confessions of a former TSA officer" for the appalling inside scoop on all the stuff the TSA hasn't rescinded. Bonnie Kristian

June 1, 2015

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted 70 undercover tests to determine if the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) could detect fake bombs and other weapons at airport checkpoints. A whopping 67 of those tests failed.

Though the DHS and TSA continue to maintain that American airport security is keeping us safe, this is hardly the first time TSA screeners have demonstrated similar incompetence. The agency has a long history of failing tests and missing loaded guns, knives, and explosives.

Perhaps most frustrating is that the TSA appears to be getting worse: This latest test had a 95 percent failure rate, while similar tests in 2007 "only" failed 60 to 75 percent of the time. But still, if you don't put your shampoo in a plastic baggie, the terrorists will win. Bonnie Kristian

May 13, 2015

A new report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general concludes that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) "is not properly managing the maintenance of its airport screening equipment" and therefore cannot be certain that the machines are "ready for operational use." Nevertheless, the TSA has still managed to spend $1.2 billion on maintenance contracts that it now admits maybe didn't actually fix stuff.

As J.D. Tucille points out at Reason, it's remarkable we found out about this expensive incompetence at all: "The TSA has a history of sitting on negative reviews. It also buys expensive equipment and then forgets about it, so that maintenance never becomes an issue." And per a former TSA screener, the agency may have known from the get-go that the body scanners that are now in disrepair are not effective. Bonnie Kristian

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