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We've written more than once that, when it comes to security policies, TSA is damned if they do and damned if they don't. When they scale back their security restrictions, they get slammed for endangering Americans. When they diversify how they approach security, they get blasted for inefficiency.
We've also repeatedly discussed real problems with the politics around how the agency is funded. No one wants to be the politician who cuts off funding for the agency, because that's the politician who will get tagged for the next terror attack. But no one wants to propose increasing the TSA's funding, because in Washington "funding" equals "approval," and politicians prefer to grandstand by criticizing the agency. So we end up with an underfunded agency facing criticism for cutting corners.
TSA / Airport Security / Airline Security / Airport News / ORD / DEN / MCO / PDX / Travel News / VIPR / → All Tags
In the name of giving credit where credit is due, we're hereby noting that TSA is considering maybe letting travelers over the age of 75 keep on their shoes and light jackets as they pass through security. The pilot programwhich will be launched Monday in ORD, DEN, MCO, and PDXjoins other experiments designed to speed the screening of trusted fliers, pilots, and children. They're all part of TSA's effort to move away from a one-size-fits-all model, which is quite laudable and so three cheers for slightly less stupid airport security.
But come on. Have we really gotten to a place where we need staggered pilot programs to evaluate whether it's OK to let grandma wear her beach flip flops as she shuffles, ever so slowly shuffles, through a scanner? It's definitely worth trying out, but it just seems so small.
TSA / Airport Security / Bus Travel / Train Travel / Road Trips / Travel News / VIPR / → All Tags
Since the rest of this post is going to be a mix of straight news and borderline paranoia revolving around the increasing creepiness of TSA VIPR teams, let's start with some balance. Here are the TSA's top 10 good catches of 2011 and here is how they tried to help holiday travelers with medical conditions. Fair's fair. We also want it noted that we decline to create separate posts for each and every negative TSA story that crosses our desk (e.g. this annual holiday nonsense about hostility to pastries or this brutal Vanity Fair article on the uselessness of security theater). That would be obsessive.
Now that that's out of the way, let's proceed with the unpleasantness. Last November we told you about the increased tempo with which TSA has been deploying its so-called VIPR teams, which conduct anti-terror monitoring outside of airports. The program's actual scope is vague and arguably designed to expand, with different government sources and politicians having "differing descriptions of VIPR's exact mission." Critics ranging from mainstream civil liberties groups to batshit crazy conspiracy theorists have specifically picked out VIPR teamswhich do their work at highways, ports, bus stations, tunnels, rest areas, etcfor violating the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.