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Cutting the TSA Down to Size

By way of introducing H.R. 3608, the Stop TSA’s Reach in Policy Act (the STRIP Act), over at Forbes.com, Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn issues scathing criticism of the TSA and its TSOs. 

One thing I learned from reading her op-ed is that despite the nomenclature, Transportation Security Officers are no such thing. As Rep. Blackburn points out, these TSOs are not trained law enforcement personnel, and their training is less rigorous than the requirements to become a security guard in most states. What’s more,

While TSO’s 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 TSO’s 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 they have done in our nation’s capital.

Rep. Blackburn also details the appearance of the DHS’s new Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) team operation, which has set up 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and search operations on highways, and in train stations, subways, and ferry terminals. “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,” Blackburn argues, “makes about as much sense as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s Environmental Justice tour.”

At first blush, Rep. Blackburn’s proposed legislation seems pretty insubstantial, and essentially consists of rolling back the TSA to its pre-September, 2008 status. Among the aims of the STRIP Act are prohibiting the use of the title “officer” for any TSA personnel who have not received law enforcement training, and a change to the standard TSA uniform — Rep. Blackburn argues that allowing TSOs to wear a police-like uniform and metal police badge amounts to false advertising and empowers TSA overreach.

It doesn’t seem like much, but any attempt to cut these glorified airport screeners down to size has my stamp of approval.