Jeffrey Goldberg highlights the TSA’s absurd response to his frightening article on airport security (you really should read the whole thing). I’d highlight my favorite part, but there’s so much inanity I can barely stand it. Exhibit A:
The comments about TSA not hassling the reporter for carrying a Hezbollah flag or AQ [Al- Qaida] T-shirt are more in the entertainment category along with the thought of splashing water on your face to simulate sweating as a demonstration that behavior detection doesn’t work.
Hezbollah flags and Al-Qaida propaganda now fall under “the entertainment category?” That’s a comforting thought. Here’s another gem (emphasis mine):
Items carried on the person, be they a ‘beer belly’ or concealed objects in very private areas, are why we are buying over 100 whole body imagers in upcoming months and will deploy more over time. In the meantime, we use hand-held devices that detect hydrogen peroxide and other explosives compounds as well as targeted pat-downs that require private screening.
Clever terrorists can use innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities. But don’t forget that most bombers are not, in fact, clever. Living bomb-makers are usually clever, but the person agreeing to carry it may not be super smart. Even if “all” we do is stop dumb terrorists, we are reducing risk.
Stopping the ‘James Bond’ terrorist is truly a team effort and I whole-heartedly agree that the best way to stop those attacks is with intelligence and law enforcement working together. Anyone who knows would tell you that TSA is, in fact, an intelligence-driven operation, working daily with our colleagues throughout the counter-terrorism community in that common effort.
Appropriating a technique developed by fratboys smuggling booze into football games to get illicit liquids through airport security is more Austin Powers than James Bond. If Goldberg’s article proves anything, it’s that any terrorist with a modicum of intelligence has a decent shot of sneaking past airport security. It’s also worth noting that several of the 9/11 hijackers were actually rather well-educated.
Despite the TSA’s enthusiasm for high tech gadgetry (” . . . we are buying over 100 whole body imagers in upcoming months and will deploy more over time. In the meantime, we use hand-held devices that detect hydrogen peroxide and other explosives compounds . . .”), what’s striking about Goldberg’s article is their staff’s evident lack of professionalism. Airport security personnel come off as completely disinterested, incompetent, or both. After reading this exchange, my first thought was that perhaps our homeland security agencies should invest in better pay and recruiting instead of buying more hydrogen peroxide sensors. No amount of gee-whiz technology, it seems, can overcome the TSA’s current incompetence.