AirTalk for May 7, 2012

Would airports be safer without the TSA?

LA Mayor Villaraigosa Uses Airport Scanner At LAX

David McNew/Getty Images

Can the problems surrounding the TSA be solved?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is putting together a bill right now not to overhaul the Transportation Security Administration -- he wants to end it completely.

According to a fundraising email from Paul that was sent out by the Campaign for Liberty, the TSA are “government thugs posing as ‘security’” who are subjecting the American people to “harassment, groping, and other public humiliation simply to board an airplane” and doing very little to keep us safe from terrorist threats.

"We… recognize that there are an awful lot of good people who are working at the TSA," said Matthew Hawes, Vice President of Campaign for Liberty. "We've seen in the 10 years since the TSA's existed just numerous failures on a security level. We have people who continually get through, and we're seeing numerous abuses it seems like hardly a day goes by that we're hearing a whole new story"

Paul plans to release his new legislation next week and, according to POLITICO he’s also working on a plan to privatize the agency as well as a passenger bill of rights.

The TSA has been a pet target of both Ron and Rand Paul ever since Rand was barred from a flight after refusing a routine screening at a security check point in Nashville, TN. Problems at the TSA have been widely reported.

Late last month several TSA screeners at LAX were arrested for allowing large amounts of drugs through security checkpoints. Nationally we see stories of octogenarians forced to remove diapers, mothers forced to drink breast milk and mentally handicapped children forced to endure aggressive screening procedures.

"For one thing we are very concerned about the way that they are doing things right now, they're doing these extreme pat-downs that we argue is a massive violations of people's dignity for one thing, people's privacy," said Hawes, arguing that allowing private companies to handle security checkpoint duties would allow for more flexibility and better screening. "There'd still be some federal guidelines in place, that's being worked out as Senator Paul finalizes his legislation and gets it ready. The main focus is work rules, personnel decisions, reverting back to local control."

But does that mean the TSA needs to be scrapped altogether?

Not according to some security experts. They say with millions of people boarding flights every day, some lapses are to be expected. And though there are ways to make the administration run better, a privatized system would be both more expensive and less safe.

"Scrapping the TSA is not a solution," said Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of the Rand Corporation. "We probably don't have to be looking at small pairs of scissors and things of that sort. On the other hand, the problem that we really confront is the fact that terrorists are able now to construct smaller and smaller explosive devices and conceal them in ways that make them undetectable to all but the most obtrusive searches, so that means we're going to have to start looking at the passengers as well."


WEIGH IN:

Are the problems with the TSA too big to fix? Can private companies do the job better? Should we trust them with the security of our flights? With the government out of the picture, who will be in charge of security; airlines, airports?

GUESTS:

Matthew Hawes, VP of Campaign for Liberty

Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of the Rand Corporation and one of the nation’s leading experts on terrorism and homeland security.

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