TSA’s liquidity trap

When the TSA banned liquids and gels on flights in response to a potential terrorist plot uncovered by British police, I largely agreed with the folks who showered rare praise on the agency for instituting a reasonable response. But, two weeks or so later, continuing the ban indefinitely, as the agency apparently plans to do, seems silly. If you’ve ...

607354_TSA.thumbnail5.jpg
607354_TSA.thumbnail5.jpg

When the TSA banned liquids and gels on flights in response to a potential terrorist plot uncovered by British police, I largely agreed with the folks who showered rare praise on the agency for instituting a reasonable response. But, two weeks or so later, continuing the ban indefinitely, as the agency apparently plans to do, seems silly.

If you've flown in the last two weeks, you probably know what I mean. Last Friday, I flew from Washington Reagan National Airport to Chicago. I arrived at Reagan, checked in, and went to security. The screeners were confiscating bottles of water and tubes of toothpaste like they were bubble gum in a junior high school classroom. Once past security, mind you, bottled water, beer, or whatever else your thirst desires is for sale (at a substantial premium). You just can't take such items past security. The same ritual takes place when planes are boarded. As I boarded my flight, two TSA employees looked in purses and briefcases, grabbing bottles of water and other new forms of contraband. They apparently got bored, however, because they left my gate with only about half the passengers on board the plane. More pressing matters must have called (smoke break anyone?).

I'm all for making air travel safe. But continuing the ban on liquids only spreads fear and causes inconvenience without making America any safer. "The threat is not over," a TSA spokesman recently said when asked why liquids would continue to be banned. Well, yes, but it never will be. Terrorists have historically repeated both their targets and the means used to attack them. So instead of instituting reactionary, knee-jerk safety procedures, let's look forward and focus on policies and procedures that really make America safer. Wouldn't that highly trained TSA employee standing at the gate be better off doing something -- anything -- other than confiscating the bottle of water I just bought at the airport newsstand? 

When the TSA banned liquids and gels on flights in response to a potential terrorist plot uncovered by British police, I largely agreed with the folks who showered rare praise on the agency for instituting a reasonable response. But, two weeks or so later, continuing the ban indefinitely, as the agency apparently plans to do, seems silly.

If you’ve flown in the last two weeks, you probably know what I mean. Last Friday, I flew from Washington Reagan National Airport to Chicago. I arrived at Reagan, checked in, and went to security. The screeners were confiscating bottles of water and tubes of toothpaste like they were bubble gum in a junior high school classroom. Once past security, mind you, bottled water, beer, or whatever else your thirst desires is for sale (at a substantial premium). You just can’t take such items past security. The same ritual takes place when planes are boarded. As I boarded my flight, two TSA employees looked in purses and briefcases, grabbing bottles of water and other new forms of contraband. They apparently got bored, however, because they left my gate with only about half the passengers on board the plane. More pressing matters must have called (smoke break anyone?).

I’m all for making air travel safe. But continuing the ban on liquids only spreads fear and causes inconvenience without making America any safer. “The threat is not over,” a TSA spokesman recently said when asked why liquids would continue to be banned. Well, yes, but it never will be. Terrorists have historically repeated both their targets and the means used to attack them. So instead of instituting reactionary, knee-jerk safety procedures, let’s look forward and focus on policies and procedures that really make America safer. Wouldn’t that highly trained TSA employee standing at the gate be better off doing something — anything — other than confiscating the bottle of water I just bought at the airport newsstand? 

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