Edited by Harry W Richardson, Peter Gordon and James E. Moore II
Chapter 4: Airport Security: Time for a New Model
Robert W. Poole, Jr. Two months after the 9/11 attacks, Congress enacted the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) of 2001. This law created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), initially as part of the Department of Transportation but later folded into the newly created (in 2002) Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The law is perhaps best known for ‘federalizing’ airport security, by creating a large federal workforce of passenger and baggage screeners to replace the private contract screeners previously employed by airlines to staﬀ passenger screening checkpoints at airport concourses. As part of this federalization, Congress mandated that all checked bags be inspected for explosives by 31 December 2002 (later extended to 31 December 2003). Built into this federalization were two unstated assumptions: that all passengers are equally suspicious and should receive the same scrutiny, and that the principal purpose of airport security is to keep dangerous objects oﬀ airplanes. This chapter will argue that, though well intentioned, much that was legislated in ATSA was poorly thought out and ill-advised. The law, as implemented by the TSA, has wasted large sums of taxpayers’ money and passengers’ time while doing little to increase aviation security. The DHS plans to shift some functions from the TSA to other parts of the DHS. It needs to rethink TSA’s role in airport security, as well, beginning with the underlying, unexamined premises about equal risk. TSA’S BASIC FLAWS Broadly speaking, there are three basic ﬂaws with the current approach to airport security, each of which...
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