Privatize The TSA?
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who’s been spending a lot of time in airports recently, wonders why we need government-provided airport security to begin with:
Instead of trying to fix or adjust or moderate TSA airport screening procedures to make them less abusive or slightly more tolerable, I say it is time to turn airport screening and security over to those who should be doing it in the first place: the airlines.
We all want to be safe when we fly. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that the TSA doesn’t seem to answer to anyone. They don’t really care how intrusive or offensive their procedures are, and they have no interest in letting us, the flying public, make our own decisions about how much privacy and dignity we are prepared to sacrifice in the name of security.
The airlines, however, who after all own the airplanes and are ultimately responsible for their passengers’ safety and comfort, have every reason in the world to care about security — and providing it in ways that are acceptable to their paying customers.
If allowed to take the responsibility for airport screening, airlines would turn to the best and brightest minds and entrepreneurs on the planet to develop technology and best practices that would certainly be more effective than whatever the government is doing now — and financial necessity would ensure that those procedures did not constitute abuse and unacceptable invasions of our privacy and our bodies.
On a more fundamental level, there doesn’t seem to be much justification for airport/airline security to be the responsibility of the Federal Government. Yes, it’s true that both are most likely high on the list of terrorist targets. However, as history in Israel and elsewhere shows us, so are shopping malls and pizza parlors, yet nobody is seriously suggesting that we federalize the nation’s force of mall cops. At least not yet.
Johnson goes on:
Certainly, like many other aspects of our lives and businesses, the government may be compelled to establish minimum standards and criteria for airport security; however, let entrepreneurs and the marketplace figure out how to meet those standards — rather than bureaucrats. The result, I am absolutely confident, will be safer air travel, more efficient airports, lower costs, and a lot less officially-sanctioned touching.
Now, it’s entirely possible that a private airport security provider could end up being as bad as the TSA. The difference is that if there were multiple security services competing with each other, airports and airlines would be encouraged to look for companies that cost less, waste less time, create less embarrassment, and don’t make the traveling experience the nightmare that it has become for many people. Additionally, private security forces would not have the same immunity from prosecution that employees of a government agency do, although Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill in Congress designed to remove that immunity from TSA employees. Most importantly, though, a private security provider would be answerable to the airport authority and the airlines for whom customer satisfaction is as important as security, not bureaucrats and politicians in Washington for whom the primary concern is making sure they don’t get blamed if there’s another terrorist attack.