Sunday, August 07, 2005

Column on Those TSA Folks

Those Eager TSA Folks

Tibor R. Machan

Maybe I am seeing things but my impression from going through hundreds of
airports since 9/11/05 is that too many TSA folks are plainly gung ho.
Yes, they perform their jobs eagerly, often seeming to relish that bit of
power it gives them to order people around. (One of my daughters
speculated, recently, that these have personalties attracted to such work!)

I am not one of the most cooperative folks at these security checks,
mainly because I believe most of it fits the motto, ?Closing the barn
doors after the horses have fled.? All this might have made sense before
9/11/05 but afterwards it doesn?t, as far as I can understand it. But
that?s by no means all.

The inconsistency with which these security checks are carried out
suggests to me that these folks are rather lost about what they should be
doing in the first place. Take sneakers, for example. In one airport they
must come off, in another they can stay on. And when you point this out to
a TSA officer, you risk getting barred from the airport because they are
so convinced that they are God?s little helpers. If you say anything, you
are definitely a bad guy who is just about to undermine world peace and
good will to all.

Not all these people are the same way, of course. Some have good days and
will show it. But too many seem to have this attitude that questioning
anything about what they do amounts to enthusiastically serving Osama bin
Laden, which is just BS. After all, the bulk of us haven?t done a thing
wrong, didn?t act suspiciously, are indeed not guilty of anything
pertaining to national security, yet we are being treated by these TSA
folks as if we had been tried and convicted of treason. Why? Because the
federal government is trying to show that it?s doing something, anything,
to cope with terrorism.

No, I haven?t got some great alternative but do I need to in order to
notice that there?s something amiss with the way the matter is dealt with?
Here a coat must come off, there it doesn?t matter; here you should remove
your glasses, there it?s unnecessary. Here the wrist watch needs to be put
into that little tray, there it can stay on your wrist. And it goes on
like that, from one airport to the next. And if you assume you have a clue
what the next one will demand of you, you are in for a surprise. And for
threatening looks, even words, should you make mention of the fact.

Yes, words. Several times, after I make polite mention of the
inconsistency of their procedures, a gruff TSA official has told me to
?shut up.? Other times I have been told that if I say another word, I will
be arrested. And I do not mean a word like, ?I am about to carry some
bombs on this plane,? but, rather, ?Why is there no consistency in how
this procedure is being administered??

But then I am not really surprised. I recall when I was a cop in the US
Air Force and manned the main gate at Andrews AFB night after night, I,
too, had (though resisted) the temptation to lord it over some poor bloke
who came on base at 3 AM. I recall wanting to stop the car, look into it,
check for IDs, etc., all out of sheer boredom, certainly not necessity,
and just a little sense of superiority. Even at the gate of some hospital
or similar facility, the guards routinely exhibit this tendency to indulge
their tiny power, never mind that there?s no reason for it at all.

But then it is not for nothing that we recall Lord Acton?s saying, ?Power
tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.? Here, then, is
the full context of this wonderful bit of understanding: "Liberty is not a
means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political
end...liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no
sincere opposition...The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to
govern. ~ Every class is unfit to govern...Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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