Why are Republicans Soft on Terror?

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick
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    says:

    Fix the TSA, or just get rid of it.

    One of these is improbable. The other is impossible.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    One wonders if privatizing would help insofar as there might be an impetus for private companies to hire, you know, people who won’t inspire all of us to write posts on the net.

    Posting a video to youtube in which it is documented that “I went through Chicago’s O’Hare and had my junk touched by Agent Smith, Elrond, and Mitzi Del Bra” might, possibly, result in Hugo Weaving being fired.

    If I may get *REALLY* crazy, it might even result in the company in charge of hiring Hugo Weaving in the first place being let go and having a new company be put in charge of touching people’s junk.

    Don’t get me wrong. I want to go back to pre-TSA days.

    But moving to get rid of the TSA and having private companies in charge of security is a step in the right direction, maybe. It doesn’t strike me as obviously worse than standing still…Report

  3. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    We have laws against cartels and monopolies, right? Is there any way we could privatize and enforce anti-trust laws such that the security at various airports must respond to market incentives and consumer demand. If Boston Logan’s security is too much of a burden for me, I can drive down to T.F. Green in Providence and deal with less of a hassle.

    Let me also add on an unrelated note that when I get on an airplane in Tokyo Narita to fly home, they look at my passport for about three seconds, I wait in line to walk through a metal detector for about two minutes, they ask me what I have, I say clothes and stuff, I get on the plane, and fly 14 hours across the Pacific and THE ENTIRE NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT before disembarking in Newark and being forced for some reason to go through TSA hell for only my 30 minute flight to Boston. I can’t think of a dumber policy. We’re getting absolutely no security, since many other countries don’t comply, and we’re getting hassled for no reason to boot.

    If I wrote a letter to the TSA or Homeland Security detailing this concern, they would probably put me on the no-fly list and begin monitoring my communication. Actually, I’m sure one of the 600,000 or whatever people they’re paying to monitor message boards and cell phone traffic is reading this post now preparing to deny my wife’s visa.Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      This is why we use pseudonyms.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      No law applies when the monopoly or cartel is the government or a union.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Scott
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        says:

        That would be one of the main draws of privatization. I normally hate privatization, but if we had privatized security, we could force airports to compete. People who are seriously worried could fly out of Newark, which might be stricter, and people who were less worried about terrorist attacks could fly out of La Guardia, for example.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Christopher Carr
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          says:

          Perhaps I’m being dense, but if you have complete information about the level of strictness at each airport, wouldn’t a terrorist also choose to fly out of the less strict airport? If you have incomplete information, security through obscurity, then what’s the point of privatizing?

          And I’ll indulge my lefty gut instinct by also pointing out that this system effectively burdens the poor with flying out of the more dangerous airports.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to trizzlor
            Ignored
            says:

            I think that is definitely a legitimate concern, and there definitely is a tradeoff. But as it is now, a terrorist could fly out of Tokyo or Lagos or Oslo or any of the other international airports that have far, far more lax security standards than we do and attack us. Would federalizing or privatizing security change anything really in that regard?

            As for the poor flying out of dangerous airports, I could actually see prices rising at the more lax airports because it seems there is a lot of demand to avoid security hell. We may have to worry instead about the poor being groped disproportionately.

            Also, any differences in security will be differences in kind and not degree. It’s kind of like comparing the murder rates of The United States and Japan. Sure, you’re ten times more likely to be murdered if you live in the United States (U.S.: 5 per 100000 to Japan: 0.4 per 100000), but the rates are so low for both countries that this doesn’t really mean anything (I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of murder by any means by the way.)

            The odds of being killed in a terrorist attack are several orders of magnitude lower than either the murder rate of the U.S. or the murder rate of Japan such that just as I think it’s safe to conclude that living in the U.S. is no more of a burden than living in Japan in terms of the possibility of being murdered, federalizing or privatizing security poses even less of a risk mathematically speaking.Report

            • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Christopher Carr
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              says:

              From what I’ve seen of international travel (Europe mainly), I believe anyone flying into the US has to go through a special set of checkpoints set up specifically for US entry; for now, we’re still an economic stimulus enough that most airports provide for this rather than risking US travelers.

              I like the sentiment behind your market-oriented approach, particularly as, like you said, lax does not necessarily mean dangerous. But I don’t see any reason why the TSA couldn’t establish something similar (in spirit) by running surprise drills in each airport and naming & penalizing those airports that fail. Heck, privatize the regulators running the drills if you don’t trust the gubmint, but this sort of centralization seems to me much more efficient than waiting for the market to swing against ineffective airports when no-one really knows what ineffective means until a plane goes down.

              Of course, this doesn’t solve the main problem that the system is really only as strong as it’s weakest airport.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to trizzlor
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                says:

                I actually tend to trust privatized entities less than the government, because as inefficient, lazy, and inept as the government usually is at doing stuff, privatized firms are usually that AND corrupt.

                But the problem as I see it right now is that it is total political suicide to relax security at all no matter how ridiculously over-the-top everything is (I really think just other customers being heads up and locking the cockpit doors would stop the vast majority of would-be terrorists), so the question we should be asking ourselves is how do we remove the responsibility of collective security from our elected leaders while remaining safe?Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Christopher Carr
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          says:

          Given the responses below I don’t see ow privatization helps the situation, nor do I see how it helps the political medicine go down.

          The problem is more than bad personnel or management. It is bad policy that is used for security theatre. I don’t see how you could justify to the people who want security theatre letting security at one site get lax after 9/11 and the use of planes as weapons themselves.

          Fixing this requires going after the security theatre problem directly. Any momentum that could be used to battle against security theatre would be wasted on privatization as it would split the coalition against the non-sense.

          I would recommend that everyone start filing complaints with the TSA immediately. That and writing letters to the editor and sending emails to all major media. Raise a stink and don’t let go.

          This is still hot in the media now is the time to strike.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            Because locked cockpit doors and enough foresight not to let guys with bazookas on planes means that planes will never be used as weapons again. The only security threats we really have to worry about are terrorists infiltrating staff security and becoming actual pilots, or the same kind of threats we worried about prior to 9-11 of terrorists just blowing up planes themselves.

            (Sorry for the short, direct response. I’m not trying to be curt, just on the way out the door for work!)Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      If I’m not already on the list for all the comments I’ve posted about the TSA on Schneier’s blog, I’m not ever going to get on that list.Report

  4. Avatar AMW
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    says:

    Jason,

    Would the private companies be required to follow the same policies, or do they have some leeway in how they keep the airlines secure?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to AMW
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      says:

      Yeah; this was my first thought. Maybe private companies will do it, but the government’s going to write the specs and approve the procedures.

      Indeed, I’d think that a private company would be MORE likely to cut corners and hire shady characters and do a bad job. The government hasn’t got a profit motive, and the civic-duty aspect is clearer. This whole thing sounds like hiring Halliburton instead of using the Army Corps of Engineers.Report

      • Avatar AMW in reply to DensityDuck
        Ignored
        says:

        Depends on who the customer is. Companies will go to great lengths to keep their customers happy, as long as there is a reasonably good reputation mechanism. If the airport is the customer, then they’ll want to keep the screening process sufficiently perv-free to prevent travelers from using a different airport or a different form of transportation. If the TSA is the customer, though, they’ll want to make sure the private screening process is at least as pervy as their own.

        Also, profit does not equal waste.Report

  5. Avatar Robert Cheeks
    Ignored
    says:

    “Don’t touch my Junk!”
    or “Let that Islamist on the plane, don’t worry if he’s got a bomb!”

    I dunno but if at say 32,000 feet in the middle of a tin can a swarthy bro jumps up from his seat and holler’s “Allah Akbar” I would think it would be my position that I’d have rather had my junk poked.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks
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      says:

      Of all of the Haggard moments that I expected on this website, this is the one that I expected the least.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Robert Cheeks
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      says:

      This is a textbook example of the false dilemma fallacy. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. As for letting Islamicist terrorists with bombs on planes, why not mandate that everyone must wear a special rubber suit any time they are outiside in order to protect against Thor. Not only are the odds of getting struck by lightning an order of magnitude higher than getting attacked by a terrorist, but wearing a special rubber suit makes more rational sense as a preventative measure than patting down a three-year-old.

      I would actually go so far as to claim that suitable numbers crunching would show that a policy of making people wear special rubber suits to protect against Thor’s lightning attacks would be five-figures or better times more cost effective in terms of preventing unneccesary death than TSA security theater.Report

  6. Avatar MFarmer
    Ignored
    says:

    My God, if the choice is between government management and private management, if competition is allowed, I prefer private security hands down.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees,” Mica writes.

    Oh, I don’t know. Give some leeway in the precise number of employees, and I’d say this was pretty well envisioned by everyone whose studied bureaucracy.

    if at say 32,000 feet in the middle of a tin can a swarthy bro jumps up from his seat and holler’s “Allah Akbar” I would think it would be my position that I’d have rather had my junk poked.

    Not mine. Because I can participate in a group takedown of the potential terrorist, as passengers have been showing very well since 9/11. A righteous take-down of an overzealous and truly sexual predator body screener would still land me in jail.Report

  8. Avatar Robert Cheeks
    Ignored
    says:

    I hope I didn’t miss this suggestion in the thread but perhaps we can combine a full body search with a proctological exam? I know we’ll have to work out a few things, but talk about efficiency!
    On a more serious note, why can’t we do airport/airline security like the Israelis? I think they target people (the ever popular ‘profiling’) who look like/act like wacko Muslims.Report

    • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah, ’cause if memory serves me correct, the 9/11 hijackers went through security dressed in their traditional garb shouting “Allah Akhbar” and “Death to America” all the way onto the plane. So that whole “look like/ act like” profiling thing ought to make it all better.Report

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