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Yes, There are TSA Agents Who Don't Know Washington DC is a Place in America

July 16, 2014 at 1:20 PM | by | ()

We like to think of ourselves as fair-minded, in the sense that we are equally likely to publish facepalms about TSA agents and about the passengers that they have to deal with. Last week we gave a shoutout to idiot travelers who were bringing fireworks on airplanes, and let this be your official notice that there are also apparently idiot travelers who are bringing credit card knives through security. Idiots.

Now let's talk about this incident, in which a Florida TSA agent refused to accept a Washington DC driver's license. In this case, the problem appears to have been that the agent did not know that Washington DC, the capital of the United States, was in fact a real place, in the United States. This kind of stuff happens so much that the District's delegate to Congress was getting into the debate months ago.

That's annoying, and the obvious reaction is to worry about those agents' overall competence in keeping Americans safe. But let's be clear about what that means.

We complain about TSA's personnel quality control as much as anyone. Our favorite example, which we trot out every time one of these stories break, is that the agency recruits its employees by putting ads on the back of pizza boxes.

But there are two caveats that, though we drone about them endlessly, bear repeating.

The first is that if you're going to complain about TSA's low quality employees, we want to see you being intellectually honest and pushing for more funding. That's the only way the agency will be able to hire better agents. There's another intellectually consistent alternative - you could push for Congress to totally dismantle TSA - but that's never going to happen because no lawmaker wants to get tagged for a possible future terror attack.

The other caveat - and this is the one that really upsets people - is that if you don't trust TSA workers to make their own decisions, then you can't complain about some of the TSA's dumbest rules. The reason those rules are so dumb is because they're designed to be idiot-proof. If you think that some of the personnel at checkpoints are in fact idiots, that's what you want.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying: if you're a TSA hater who wants smart agents capable of reliably using their judgment, you're probably going to have to suck it up and push for more support for the agency.

If not, we're all in for more of this:

[Photo: WFTV 9]

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