Why TSA Fails, the short version.

by wonderfullyrich on January 12, 2009

I like to travel and I don’t travel as much as others, but being intelligent, curious, and fascinated by airplanes, airlines, and travel I’ve been engaged in a continuing cycle of learning about how secure our travel really are.  If you’ve done any real research in the matter you’ll have found that TSA is equivalent to security theater.  It just looks good and although higher-ups tout that we are more secure then we were before 9/11 it is in reality not true.


Simply stated, TSA and our security apparatus are hyper-focused on the short-term technological methods of security.  Real security doesn’t come from technology because tech is a short order evolutionary cycle which means security becomes an arms race of knowledge rather then a dialogue of knowledge.  Real security comes from stopping people from wanting to hurt you.

Focus on the long term gains of the golden rule internationally and domestically, and you’ll result in pushing that tipping point of recruitable international terrorist and domestic discontents far enough to the extreme to be ineffective.  Security is inextricably tied to our daily actions and existence.  How we live as a people and nation will shape how our neighbors (personally and internationally) perceive us and are able to paint us.  This can be amplified or muffled by marketing, propaganda, and alike, but you still require a base to work from.

To digress a moment, much of the reason that our security apparatus is hyper-focused on tech is because tech is expensive and means big money for those selling it.  It is an issue of living within a perpetuating conflict-of-interest.  The loudest voice and often the only voice on security matters comes from reactionaries and alarmists who benefit by more spending on security technology.

Beyond the long term reason TSA fails, it fails daily in a variety of ways:

* TSA fails Red Team test them 80% of the time.

* TSA fails to secure the tarmacs

* TSA 3-1-1 rule fails to hinder bombs

* TSA fails to restrict “authorized” people from the concourse

* Fails to treat employees or screened people humanely (which causes resentment and long term problems)

Excluding security TSA also:

* Fails to design screening processes that are efficient and intuitive.

This is all fixable.  It requires some more rational thinking based on real data and continuous auditing, but it is entirely possible to step away from the irrational reactionary “security theater” we are stuck in now.  How do we move away from the short term tech solutions to the long term relationship building solutions?

* Build a relationship with your representative’s staffers and let them know there is an option.

* Use one of the many tools that exist to voice your opinion.

* Ask questions when presented with emotional data, and don’t be satisfied with feel good patriotism.

* Ask questions about where you spend your money, at home, in businesses, and in the government.

* Make a friend in internationally, and teach them why the US is a friendly country.

* Treat everyone as you’d like to be treated.

This may all seem like squishy feel good acts that don’t amount to much, but the point of this exercise is to utilize the force of scale and exponents.  If we had a thousand good first impression today, and a 1001 good impression tomorrow, then 10 years from now it’ll pay off in scale tipping dividends.  Just like happy people are contagious, a minimal effort will provide a logrithmic improvement in the perception and it’s associated reality in your community and across the nation.

This is as opposed to the tech option and although technology does scale, but the equipment itself doesn’t scale.  An X-Ray scanner once purchased is static and has a Mean Time Between Failures predicted lifespan, but will only process so many people before it will break and more money has to be spent on it. An idea, perception, or belief is intangible and dynamic.  People, like our soldiers in Afganistan and Islamic militants, fight hard for intrinsic ideas, far more then they do for extrinsic monetary gain.  More importantly, these ideas can be entirely divorced from reality.  By spending money, time,  and effort, on changing perceptions, beliefs, or ideas, you are providing (as the military calls it) a force multipler which amplifies past efforts.  By changing the perception of the game and you can win the game.

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