Wasted money on airplane security

Anne Applebaum almost gets it right.  Right up to the very end when she should be concluding the obvious (“security screening” probably cannot ever be made to work successfully and should be abandoned) she wimps out and doesn’t face the facts she herself put forward.  But it’s close enough to get people thinking.  Here’s a taste of the good stuff:

…outside inspectors have found, over and over again, that federal screeners perform no better than the private screeners they replaced. Since they inspect only passengers and baggage, not the airport and its perimeter, they haven’t eliminated the need for other forms of law enforcement either. And even when they are doing their rather narrow job correctly, their impact is dubious.

…this mass ceremonial sacrifice of toenail clippers on the altar of security comes at an extraordinarily high price. The annual budget of the federal Transportation Security Administration hovers around $5.5 billion — just about the same price as the entire FBI — a figure that doesn’t include the cost of wasted time. De Rugy reckons that if 624 million passengers each spend two hours every year waiting in line, the annual loss to the economy comes to $32 billion.

But, then, this isn’t a country that has ever been good at risk analysis. If it were, we would never have invented the TSA at all. Instead, we would have taken that $5.5 billion, doubled the FBI’s budget, and set up a questioning system that identifies potentially suspicious passengers, as the Israelis do.


I conclude that we don’t actually want value for money. No, we want every passenger to have the chance to recite that I-packed-these-bags-myself mantra to a uniformed official before boarding an airplane. Magic words, it seems, are what make Americans feel really safe.

Yup.  You got that right.

See also my web pages on this topic.