4 years, 10 months ago
Believe it or not, only 7 years ago, TSOs went by a more deserving title, “airport security screeners.” At the time, their title and on the job appearance consisted of a white shirt and black pants. This was fitting because airport security screening is exactly what’s required of the position. However, this is no longer the case.
In the dead of night, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administratively reclassified airport security screeners as Transportation Security Officers. The TSA then moved to administratively upgrade TSOs uniforms to resemble those of a federal law enforcement officer. They further completed the makeover with metal law enforcement badges. Not surprisingly, government bureaucrats at the TSA left out one crucial component during the artificial makeover – actual federal law enforcement training as is required of Federal Air Marshalls.
While TSOs may have the appearance of a federal law enforcement officer they have neither the authority nor the power. If a passenger brings a loaded gun or an explosive device into an airport screening area there is nothing a TSO can do until the local police step in to save the day.
If TSOs are truly our nation’s last line of defense in stopping an act of terrorism, then the TSA should immediately end the practice of placing hiring notices for available TSO positions on pizza boxes and at discount gas stations as theyhave done in our nation’s capital. Surely, this is not where our federal government is going to find our brightest and sharpest Americans committed to keeping our traveling public safe. I would contend that we can surely strive for a higher standard and may want to look first to our veterans returning home from the battlefield.
Interestingly enough, as TSA officials like to routinely point out, their agency’s acronym stands for Transportation Security Administration, not the Airport Security Administration. This fact has extended the TSA’s reach has far beyond the confines of our nation’s airports. Many of my constituents discovered this first hand this past fall as those familiar blue uniforms and badges appeared on Tennessee highways. In October Tennessee became the first state to conduct a statewide Department of Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) team operation which randomly inspected Tennessee truck drivers and cars.
VIPR teams which count TSOs among their ranks, conduct searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and every other mass transit location around the country. In fact, as the Los Angeles Times has detailed, VIPR teams conducted 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year alone. The very thought of federal employees with zero law enforcement training roaming across our nation’s transportation infrastructure with the hope of randomly thwarting a domestic terrorist attack makes about as much sense as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s Environmental Justice tour.
I have seen this. Its scary. No, not the look of the “officers” or the demeanor they exude, but the belief that these people are law enforcement officers. I saw a gaggle of them a few months ago walking the light rail in Charlotte, N.C. They were sporting body armor, drop holsters, Tru-spec pants and other tactical gear, and ‘TSA’ in huge letters across their chests. Swaggering, they were.
It occurred to me that if they had wished to seek out or prevent some perpetrator from harming the transit system or those who frequent the same, then hiding their identity would be the best bet (no gear, IWB holsters). The existence of TSA screeners swaggering down the sidewalk for the light rail wouldn’t have prevented me from doing harm to the system if I had chosen to do so. It wouldn’t be hard. Dress in a suit, carry a gym bag full of C4, slide it under a seat when you exit, and then watch the explosion from a safe distance. It sounds so cold, and yet it would be this easy to pull off. And again, the existence of TSA screeners walking down the rail line wouldn’t have made a bit of difference in this scenario. They need to think outside the box to ensure safety. Strutting around in this garb won’t cut it.
My son spent a combat tour in Fallujah, Iraq, and I asked him about all of this tactical gear. He reported to me something like the following:
The body armor is heavy (of course, he wore the SAPI plates too), and it makes you sweat, it constrains your breathing, it constrains your movements and motions, and the other gear is equally terrible. I carried a SAW as you know, and so I routinely had enough stuff on my vest, including SAW drums. I would do everything I could to minimize my PPEs and move things about to keep them from getting in my way. When your CO dictates your PPEs there was only so much you could do. As a SAW gunner I carried a handgun, and there wasn’t any place left for it on my vest. I had to wear a drop holster. It got in my way. Go around a couch when clearing a room, it got caught. Go through a doorway, it got caught on the doorjamb. It flopped around endlessly like some loose appendage to your body that had been damaged and was barely hanging on. Drop pouches are the same way, except worse. If you ran in all that stuff, it banged around and beat you up without mercy.
No one in their right mind would voluntarily wear that crap. There is nothing going on in Charlotte, or any other major American city for that matter, that requires a peace officer to wear that stuff. If you see someone wearing it, whether TSA or Charlotte Police, they want to look tacti-cool. There is no other reason.
Yea, and I won’t have one ounce of respect for a TSA luggage screener stopping me on the road wanting to know what’s in my car or where I am going. If they want to legitimize their role, then get training, stop molesting children and old women, stop looking at cute figures in the body scanners, and perform their jobs like everyone else has to in America. Or better yet, install explosive trace detection portals in airports, negating the need for groping children and old women, just like we have in nuclear power plants around the country. Then, contract airport security out to private contractors.
Either way, simply declaring yourselves to have legitimacy doesn’t change the fact that you’re a laughingstock and nuisance. Legitimacy comes with service and skills, not oafishness and bullying.