Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 21, 2013

Editorial: Bring TSA back down to earth


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — One of the most frightening things to come out of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, beyond our new national awareness of al-Qaida and the realization of how vulnerable a free nation can be, has been the Transportation Security Administration.

That’s a joke. But it’s not funny.

The TSA has become, without doubt, the poster child for all that is inept and dull-witted about the federal government. The stories of overzealous TSA agents patting down grandma while failing to detect shoe and underwear bombers are legion.

Things have been relatively quiet on the TSA front since the national outrage over full-body screening machines that created nearly-nude images of travelers, sometimes for other travelers to see, died down.

But have no fear, the TSA is still on duty, and still making hare-brained decisions that raise the specter that despite the billions we’ve spent to beef up airport security and the untold millions of hours travelers have spent removing their shoes, air travel is not much safer now than it was on Sept. 10, 2001.

The latest decision — made, typically, with zero input from anyone, including the airlines, pilots or flight attendants — is to again allow passengers to carry small knives on board airplanes.Yup, knives (blades less than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide). Just 11 years after a bunch of terrorists armed with box cutters — knives by another name and shape — hijacked four airliners, slammed two of them into the Word Trade Towers in New York and killed nearly 3,000 people.

It defies reality, let alone common sense.

The TSA said its decision was made to comply with international standards and to allow the TSA to focus (perhaps not the most apt description of what the TSA does) on more serious threats, such as bombs disguised as shampoo. Heaven forbid we’d want to get crosswise with international standards.

And you’re no safer here. Not long after 9/11 Michigan passed a law that prohibits anyone from carrying knives of any blade length in the secure area of an airport. The TSA says, essentially, so what? “The checkpoint is our jurisdiction,” a TSA spokesman said. “We still have the authority under federal law to allow these changes to go into effect.”

The new rule will also allow souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks and other sports equipment. No danger there, eh?

No, it’s not funny. It’s appalling. But these are the people calling the shots, and they have almost unlimited authority to make the rules. That has to change.