Is privatized airport security doable? 

Returning from a most excellent RightOnline convention in Las Vegas yesterday got me thinking about airport security, for obvious reasons. As I stood in the cattle chutes set up for those waiting in line for the opportunity to be subjected to the rudeness of some perpetually grouchy TSA employee, I began to wonder...would it be possible to roll back the nationalization of airport security? Would Americans be better served by it?

The motivations behind the TSA are good ones. After all, flight safety is important not just for those flying but for those on the ground too. As we saw with the 9/11 attacks, it’s not just people in airplanes who can be the victims of hijackings.

But is the TSA really doing us any good?

We’ve all been subjected to the onerous and  mostly absurd requirements of this modern era of the TSA. Shampoo rationing. Baggies. Scrambling to put your belt and shoes back on while juggling your carry on and boarding pass as others behind you sigh with impatience. We’re told that this is all extremely necessary to the security of our flights, but a lot of it seems like make-work to me. And, indeed, while I was grumbling about my most recent run-in with the TSA on Twitter from the airport, one wiseacre responded to my griping by suggesting isn’t so much a security program as a job-creation program.

Judging from the number of people standing around airport security in those blue uniforms not doing much of anything, this could be true. Perhaps the acronym should stand for Thousands Standing Around.

Returning to my thesis, though, is there a better way to do this? Obviously airlines have a vested interest in making their flights secure. If flying is seen as unsafe, people won’t fly. So why not leave airport security up to the airlines and/or the airports?

I think we can all agree that some level of security screening is necessary before boarding these airplanes, so the question is are airlines capable of providing the the requisite amount and doing a good job of it?

I think they can.  They have the motivation.  And with the government off their backs, they’d have the resources. Privatized airport security would be both less onerous for the airlines and less aggravating for passengers. Why not make this happen?

Except for the fact that the TSA employs one heck of a lot of public employees these days, and has a lot of big-money contracts with some companies with powerful lobbyists. And there’s a public perception, at times, that things aren’t really secure unless the government secures them.

So my yearning for privatized airport security is, no doubt, likely a pipe dream.

But who said dreams couldn’t come true?

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Rob Port

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