Essay on Airport Security Pros and Cons

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This paper will look into the different situations facing the TSA, since it was created on November 19, 2001. Before 911 each airline and airport had its own security measures, but after 911 the government and the airlines agreed that it was not effective and something has to be done about it. TSA was created since its creation there have been many problems going on with the TSA.

History of the TSA

The Transportation Security Administration was formed after the tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City, The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania where the passengers took over a plane heading for the Capitol. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, it was believed by many in the Federal government that a single Federal agency should be responsible for airport security, as well as all other modes of transportation, in particular, mass transit and the nation's seaports. Alexander. It was also believed by many in the political establishment that a federalized transportation security apparatus would be considered more professional, and as such would be more capable of handling any situation that may arise. The phrase used by many members of Congress was 'you do not professionalize until you federalize' when in actuality all that was accomplished by federalizing the airport security force was to add 27,000 new dues-paying members of government employee unions. CTI 2011 pg13

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On November 19, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 into law, and it created a new government agency and a new set of bureaucratic hurdles. Before 9/11, airport security was the responsibility of individual private security companies, which operated independently at airports across the nation. The TSA is now the exclusive security force at more than 450 airports, with a total cost to the public of more than $1.0 trillion since 9/11. It is now the sole government entity responsible for protecting our skies and keeping us safe. Berger

We now have the spectacle of humiliating pat-downs, invasive searches of our belongings, body scanners, and shoe removal. We even have that occasional comedic scene of seeing an elderly individual have to take off their prosthetic device so it can be scanned. We have all seen the occasional commitment of sexual harassment when an adolescent girl has to be patted down by a male screener because there are no female screeners that are available. The stories about how the TSA is abusing the flying public are endless, but it is all done in an attempt to make the public believe that this federal agency is doing everything possible to make the traveling public safe. Berger

Failures of the TSA

In the years since the TSA has been in operation, it is estimated that there have been an estimated 25,000 recorded breaches of security. In the decade since its formation, the TSA has failed to catch a single terrorist attempting to board an aircraft. For many Americans, the invasive measures that the TSA takes in the name of security are out of proportion to the risks that they are trying to prevent. The possibility that another 9/11 type of incident happening again is quite low because the same series of events that led to the 9/11 tragedies do not exist. The terrorist knows that we are on the lookout for individuals with box cutters who are traveling cost to cost with a one-way ticket. Despite the low-risk levels, the traveling public is subjected to a series of draconian rules that do very little for security. The question is the same- Does all this enhanced airport security makes us safe? SDH

  • In January 2010, it was reported that a TSA agent left his post unmanned, allowing the boyfriend of a passenger to simply walk through the security checkpoint unchecked. The man walked past all of the checkpoints and proceeded to the gate to kiss his girlfriend goodbye. This resulted in an airport shutdown that delayed flights and grounded passengers. SDH
  • In January 2012 the TSA conducted covert testing of access control to the secure areas of the airport. The testing found that the security checkpoints were vulnerable to incursion by an uncleared individual into sensitive areas of the airport. Roth
  • In October 2012 the TSA reported that it has fired 25 screeners who were caught sleeping while on the job. SDH
  • On February 2013 TSA agents failed to detain an undercover federal agent who carried a fake bomb in his pants onto the airport. SDH
  • On April 2014 A teenager breaches airport security stows away in a wheel well of a San Francisco jet and flies to Hawaii, undetected. SDH
  • In September 2014 the TSA agents conducted covert testing of the baggage screening process where it was discovered that the equipment used for explosive detection had failed to properly detect the presence of explosives, nor could they determine if the system was operating at the correct detection level. Roth

These and many other failures have fueled the critics of the TSA. To many, airport security is more about public relations than it is about security because the strict policies and procedures followed by the TSA are meant to calm the fears of the traveling public who are terrified of the potential of another 9/11-type attack. SDH

Criticism of the TSA

For critics of the TSA, and for the traveling public, there is a consistent belief that airport security is not making us safe.

One of the primary criticisms is that security measures are inconsistent because fewer than 70 of the nation's airports have enhanced security features like full-body scanners. Moreover, many airports allow you to choose between the body scanner or going through the metal detector. There is also inconsistency in how and when pat-downs and individual searches are conducted. At some airports, the elderly or disabled in wheelchairs are subject to extremely invasive searches, while at other airports they simply go through security with just a simple search.

The inconsistency insecurity also leads to bottlenecks at the security checkpoints. The spectacle of long lines clogged with travelers taking laptops out of their carry bags, people taking off their shoes, and elderly and young children waiting to be scanned have all the indications of a tragedy waiting to happen. All we need is an intrepid terrorist that sees the chaos caused by the long lines at the security checkpoints to simply detonate a bomb to cause mass casualties.

There currently are too many parts of an airport that is virtually untouched by security and as such can easily be breached by a terrorist. In many airports around the world, visitors are screened before they are allowed onto airport property, and in most cases, you have to show a ticket or have evidence that you are on official airport business. At American airports, the ticket counters, shopping concourses, and restaurants are open to the public with little attention paid to who is in the common areas of the airport. Poole

To many critics, intelligence is more effective than the current security measures. The best security policy would be to have a process where we detect susceptive individuals, detain individuals who may pose a threat, and we deny entry to anyone who is a certifiable security risk. Instead of having a proactive system, the TSA employs a politically correct series of procedures and policies that serve to alienate the traveling public instead of enhancing security. The lack of intelligence hunting permeates all levels of national security. Remember that the 9/11 hijackers were unknown to intelligence, even though they were doing things that should have alerted many security agencies within the federal government. Roth The 2002 shoe bomber was allowed to board a flight from Paris to Miami, even after being questioned by the French police Roth. I guess a nervous Brit with a bomb in his shoes did not spark the interest of French police. The TSA response is to have everyone take their shoes off so they can be scanned for possible explosives. The 2009 underwear bomber was known to the intelligence community, yet was not put on any No-Fly list and was allowed to fly from Nigeria to Detroit with stops in Amsterdam and with a bomb strapped to his leg and no one gave him a second look. Roth, I am surprised the TSA is not making the traveling public put their underwear in the basket so it can be checked for explosives.

While the TSA and the current security apparatus have many flaws and critics it has nonetheless done its duty to keep the traveling public safe. The issue for those who care about security is one of efficiency and effectiveness. How efficient are we in using the limited resources available for security operations versus how effective are we in stopping the potential terrorist threat? Given the failures that surround the TSA, both these issues are constantly being discussed, and most importantly how to fix the situation.

Ideas to Fix the TSA

When the TSA was created in 2001, the Congress and the Bush administration did so with two massive conflicts of interest: the TSA serves as both the provider of aviation security and as the regulator of aviation security. When it comes to the screening of passengers, baggage, and cargo the TSA is regulating itself. Poole CTI 2011 pg30

For the TSA to fix its ongoing conflict of interests, it should divest itself from its duty as an airport screener. The TSA should regulate and oversee security operations at the airports but should leave the responsibility for all aspects of airport security to each airport. Poole. The TSA should also return the job of airport screening to the private sector, where airports would be free to hire their airport security or contract with TSA-certified security firms. CTI 2011 pg8

The cost of airport security should be paid for by the primary users of the airport: the airlines and the passengers. By returning the cost of security to the airports, the federal government would save billions of dollars in airport security costs that are currently not covered by aviation taxes. It will also make airport security a much more visible cost to both the airlines and the flying public that would have to pay for it. CTI 2011 pg11

If these changes were to be made, it would shine the light of truth on the extremely expensive, government-run one-size-fits-all bureaucratic airport screening process that is currently in place. By returning to airports' control over their security apparatus, we would empower them to be effective, efficient, and resourceful in the application of airport security. We would also be moving them to a more risk-based approach to passenger screening with the flexibility to detect and prevent any security risk that may come their way.


The creation of the Transportation Security Administration was a massive bureaucratic mistake that will not be easy to correct. While the quality of airport screeners before the attacks of 9/11 was low it was not the cause of the tragedy. The real failure was of the government itself, the first failure of the government was in having a security policy that did not take into account a passenger's history or law enforcement information that should have alerted someone in airport security that these suspicious individuals warranted enhanced security scrutiny. The second failure of the government was its compartmentalization laws that prevented one law enforcement agency from talking to another agency about a potential security issue. Before 9/11 if an agency like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had information that a potential terrorist is operating in the United States, they could not alert the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the situation because federal law prohibited inter-agency information sharing.

When it comes to the issue of transportation security, the failures of the past should only serve as a teaching example of what not to do. What we do as a nation to protect our transportation infrastructure is the most important duty we have going forward.

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