Whistleblower Accidentally Demonstrates How Much Of The TSA's Security Efforts Is Pure Theater
from the Best-Actor-In-An-Inadvertently-Comedic-Disclosure dept
There’s a whistleblower talking about TSA stuff, but it’s not the sort of whistleblowing you’re probably accustomed to. Frustrated by the internal routing of his complaints, the TSA’s highest-ranking official in [checks notes] Kansas has brought his complaints to CNN.
We all know the TSA has done almost nothing to make traveling safer over the course of its existence, but what the TSA’s Jay Brainard has observed shows the actors in our nationwide security theater are tiring of their roles.
A whistleblower with the Transportation Security Administration is sounding the alarm about loosened security at US airports, charging that top TSA officials have prioritized speed over security by reducing the sensitivity of metal detectors, disabling technology on some X-ray machines, issuing orders to keep the baggage conveyor belts moving in certain circumstances and ordering policy changes that result in fewer pat-downs.
It’s true the TSA is somewhat concerned about long lines. This concern doesn’t seem to be enough to rid the agency of extraneous steps or equipment that make traveling a hassle without providing a security boost in exchange for longer waits at checkpoints. Every so often the TSA will do weird things like waving no-Precheck passengers into Precheck lanes to speed up processing. This temporarily alleviates the problem while also providing a clear demonstration of just how theatrical the TSA’s security theater actually is.
Jay Brainard, has a long list of complaints. Among them are accusations that walkthrough detectors have had their sensitivity lowered, X-ray belts aren’t being stopped to examine questionable items in bags, and passengers with medical devices being allowed to self-frisk if they’ve tripped an alarm.
None of this is particularly surprising. This new laxness appears to date back to at least 2015 and may have something to do with TSA screeners repeatedly (and spectacularly) failing explosive device audits by government oversight agencies.
Here’s what’s motivating Brainard’s disclosures:
“In the last two years, the focus of sacrificing security over wait times has increased tremendously,” Brainard said. “That’s the reason I have come forward. It is happening so fast that it’s difficult to keep up with the notes.”
But is the TSA really “sacrificing security?” Or is it just streamlining processes that have done more to increase the length of screening than generate any additional security?
Brainerd’s right to complain the TSA isn’t doing its job properly. But claiming these efforts have resulted in less travel security simply doesn’t make sense. If this was resulting in less security, you’d think we’d be hearing more about attempted hijackings, explosives/weapons being discovered on board, or would-be terrorists successfully boarding planes. We’ve heard nothing like this over the past couple of years. Whatever the TSA is sacrificing for efficiency doesn’t seem to be making fliers any less safe.
At some point, a report by the US Office of Special Counsel will release its report on Brainerd’s accusations. Don’t bother flagging the CNN article for future reference. The OSC has repeatedly delayed its release of this report. It’s currently 500 days overdue.
But the lack of corroborating evidence in the “less secure” column makes Brainard’s dire warnings seem a whole lot less dire.
He believes airports are less safe than they were five years ago due to the “diluted” security procedures — a trend that he says has accelerated in the last two years.
Maybe some terrorist will be emboldened by the public release of the TSA’s dwindling attentiveness. But that seems unlikely. The TSA has admitted terrorists aren’t nearly as interested in planes as they used to be. Most terrorism carried out today involves vehicles not subject to a gauntlet of screening devices. And with cockpits being pretty much inaccessible, hijackings are all but impossible. Someone could still blow up a plane, but there have been no recent attempts made by passengers to take a plane down — at least nothing during this time period of escalating laxness.
The whistleblowing is still valid. Americans should know when the agencies they fund are underperforming. But claiming the skies are less safe is a bit much. If Brainard’s going to suffer any retaliation, it won’t be because he exposed the TSA’s adjustments to screening procedures. It will be because he exposed just how many of these screening procedures are absolutely useless.