For air travelers tired of the ever-worsening burden of airport security, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is widening to all U.S. citizens the eligibility of its prescreening process, called PreCheck. Americans, who recently have had their phone records vacuumed up by the National Security Agency spies, can now give the TSA their fingerprints, undergo government snooping into their backgrounds, and pay $85 to undergo this further erosion of their privacyin order to get only a minimal reprieve from the security indignities at the airport. What a deal!
The government is using Americans tax money to create the misery of airport security, which is now generating even more government revenues from slightly alleviating our pre-boarding pain. This is like paying a bumbling electrician to wire your house, subsequently suffering an electrical fire, and then having to pay him a fee to fix his botched handiwork so that a similar conflagration will never happen again.
In fact, its even worse than this. Many Americans frequently ignore that numerous Islamist terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, have been clear that United States interventionism in Muslim countries is the motivation behind their attacks. Essentially, the U.S government is perpetuating a problem that they tell Americans we need intrusive federal agencies like the NSA to prevent. Even American military interventions allegedly designed to battle terrorismAfghanistan/Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraqhave ultimately led to more, and new types of terrorism. The attempted Times Square bombing was in retaliation for the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan, the attempted underwear bombings were in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes and drone attacks in Yemen, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a precursor to a worldwide spike in terrorism and the creation of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which killed U.S. forces and is still killing Iraqis long after the United States troops have withdrawn.
Every government security program needs a threat to remain in business, and the sensationalist media is a willing accomplice to the governments exaggeration of the terrorist menace. The average Americans chances of ever being killed by a terrorist is about the same probability as being struck by an asteroid and less than the chance of being struck by lightning. Even more rare is the chance of getting killed by a terrorist in an airplane. Mark Stewart, a researcher on risk, calculated that even smaller probability at one in 90 million.
In fact, airline travel could have likely become much safer even after 9/11 without the government doing anything at all. Under the old paradigm for dealing with airline hijacking, aircrews and passengers cooperated, expecting that they would be released eventually after the hijackers got their publicity. That paradigm changed permanently during the 9/11 episode, as the passengers and crew aboard the fourth plane over Pennsylvania heard that three aircraft had been used as suicide missiles to hit the Pentagon and World Trade Center. The subsequent thwarting of the underwear and shoe bombings also have demonstrated just how surly passengers and crews on commercial airliners have become.
All of this evidence buttresses the argument that TSA airport security is excessive for the rarity of the threat and in the face of the better intrinsic security already provided from enhanced vigilance by passengers and crew. It would also point to avoiding needless U.S. interventions in Muslim countries, thereby reducing blowback terrorism even further.
Compared to NSAs confiscation of U.S. citizens phone records, however, Americans can take some comfort that TSAs PreCheck program is voluntaryat least for now. Yet in the past, government experimentation has oft become permanent policy, which, in this case, would then require every American to undergo fingerprinting and a background check to be eligible to fly commercially. In other words, as governments thirst for security mounts, its no-fly list, which includes names of suspected terrorists, could eventually be replaced by an OK to fly list. Do you think this scenario is outlandish and would never happen? Many would not have surmised that we would be required to disrobeeither physically or electronicallybefore boarding a plane, either.
|Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.|