There are two things that need to happen before TSA employees should and/or will use their common sense. One - and this is simple - TSA officials have to let them. Right now screeners get fired for not following the precise letter of regulations. Two - and this is trickier - Congress has to fund TSA in a way that allows the agency to hire capable employees.
But the same TSA critics who are calling for common sense are also complaining that TSA employees have too much power and that TSA should have less funding. And just as a punchline, it turns out that 75% of Americans support the no-fly list. So it's somebody's fault why low-paid TSA screeners are mindlessly enforcing no-fly regulations. But don't blame the screeners.
TSA recruits employees via pizza boxes. Just Monday the agency posted a job call offering part-time employment at just under $15/hour for anyone with a GED. There are already plenty of problems with TSA "bad apples" who abuse their power and harass travelers. We're quite confident that TSA critics would veto giving screeners more discretion over travelers. There's nothing wrong with someone taking their GED and getting a job they found on a pizza box. It's simply not the cream of the employment crop.
Jaunted has as many anti-TSA posts as any site on the Internet (that isn't a feverish conspiracy cesspool). There are rants here and here, and more substantive airline security posts here and here. But this focus on common sense - something TSA agents are banned from using, and according to critics for very good reasons - is just unproductive.
The same people who complain about the lack of common sense oppose what it would take to get agents to start using it. We don't know what the solution to that tension is, just like we don't know how to resolve the random screening vs. profiling conundrum. But we can still spot obvious incoherence.
[Photo: redjar / Flickr]