Pat-Downs and Pumpkin Pie

Pat-downs and body scanners seem to be keeping some from getting in the Thanksgiving spirit this week.

As if the security lines weren’t bad enough during the busiest time of the year to fly, travelers are now faced with the invasive screening measures. Seniors speculate how to get out of their wheelchairs to walk through scanners, and parents wonder if their toddlers will be selected for additional screening. The bottom line is that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently treating every traveler as a threat.

Last week Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano set out to ease traveler concerns in an op-ed in USA Today. “Our best defense against such [terrorist] threats,” she wrote, “remains a risk-based, layered security approach.” There is a real threat of terrorism out there, yet most Americans fail to see the risk posed by the three-year-old in line.

Simply throwing the phrase “risk-based security” around is not enough. Risk-based security means focusing on those who pose the greatest threat. That isn’t what TSA is doing. Rather than treating all passengers as equally suspicious, TSA should be focused on “finding the most efficient and effective way to keep terrorists off planes.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should seek to move from the current “suspect everyone” security model to one that focuses our resources to the areas of greatest risk. Heritage has suggested efforts such as Secure Flight, which allows TSA to check passenger data and identify dangerous individuals before they board the plane, and improving watch-listing procedures. Allowing airports to more readily opt out of using the TSA screening force should also be on the table.

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Instead of wasting time and resources on screening low-risk individuals, DHS should focus on using intelligence gathering and information sharing to keep high-risk individuals away from the terminal. If TSA doesn’t want talk around Thanksgiving dinner to be about bad travel experiences, they’ll dish up some common sense and reassess their screening practices.

Source material can be found at this site.

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