Never has an agency of the United States government done so little, and so much, to deserve the disgust of the citizenry, as the Transportation Safety Administration. The latest incident on the radar, the beating and arrest of poor 18-year-old Hannah Cohen, is a travesty. She, like so many of us, went through their machines and a light went off.
“They wanted to do further scanning, (but) she was reluctant — she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” said her mother, Shirley Cohen.
Cohen said she tried to tell agents with the Transportation Security Administration that her 19-year-old daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed and easily confused — but she said police kept her away from the security agents.
The confused and terrified young woman tried to run away, her mother said, and agents violently took her to the ground.
The key line was Hannah’s mother, Shirley tried to explain, but no one would listen. The official agency response was typical of the TSA’s shocking tone-deafness:
“Passengers can call ahead of time to learn more about the screening process for their particular needs or medical situation,” said TSA spokesperson Sari Koshetz.
Yes, the fault is the passengers’, because it’s never the TSA’s. And the Cohens brought this on themselves.
It’s unlikely that anyone who travels by air regularly doesn’t have a story of TSA stupidity, at minimum. I have a few of my own, but none that involve anything as outrageous as what was done to Hannah Cohen. Or Amy Alkon. Or the children who have been sexually molested.
Never before has an agency been so annoying at its finest, so cruel to those it exists to protect at its worst, and such a monumental failure throughout. The TSA has never caught a terrorist. When tested, its flagrant ineptitude is revealed. Yet, it exists born of the knee-jerk desire to feel safe from the threat of terrorism.
Or, if you’re a bit more cynical, born of the Machiavellian desire to keep the public afraid of a threat so remote as to be unworthy of concern, so that they will be and remain compliant as they are treated like cattle being herded to the slaughterhouse of their constitutional rights. Although, to accomplish that, the people with their hands on the controls of government would have to be rather brilliant. The evidence does not support this.
Regardless of why the TSA was conceived and allowed to exist by those entrusted with our happiness, it’s never panned out as promoted. There has been no rush by the best and brightest to become TSA agents. The qualifications are breathing and eating the occasional pizza. Still, they can’t manage to get and hold enough agents to manage their mindless, repetitive work. These are not brilliant detectives, but grunts who would otherwise be working the assembly line, if we still had assembly lines in America.
The TSA deals with millions of people daily, the overwhelming majority of which have neither weapon nor contraband, and simply prefer they keep their hands off their genitalia. Some TSA workers are miffed at the lack of respect for their hard work touching children, another trait they share with Dairy Queen employees, and get more than a bit vindictive about the attitude. If they had weapons, there might be a tendency to use them.
Without guns, Hannah Cohen was bloodied and beaten. With guns, she might be dead. Or her mother might be dead. The the person on line thinking about the great barbecue he had for dinner the night before might be dead, because bullets in the hands of inept shooters sometimes miss the target and strike someone else. And there is nothing to suggest that the TSA is drawing from the most qualified law enforcement pool available to put on a uniform and latex gloves and herd cattle.
And that goes back to the reason why the TSA agents to whom Shirley Cohen tried to explain that her daughter was physically and cognitively impaired, didn’t listen. As lousy a job as being a TSA agent is, so much so that they can’t seem to come close to having enough staff to sufficiently walk harmless people through checkpoints to get to their airplane on time, the culture of the job makes the third-teamers even less capable of conducting themselves like sentient beings.
Have you ever tried to talk to a TSA agent, to explain something with which they’re personally unfamiliar? They suffer from “command presence” lite, where they shut down any questioning of their authority. This is bad enough in situations where there is a known danger, as with a police officer confronting an armed and malevolent perp, but when the concern is extremely remote as with Hannah Cohen, the resort to force is the moment when a person too stupid to be entrusted with any authority whatsoever gets to break up his day of working on the assembly line and be a potential hero. This is what the TSA has managed to accomplish when left to its own devices.
Granted, a great many Americans let their irrational fears guide their choices. Some cynical folks might call them “sheeple,” reflecting the failure to appreciate that vague feelings and a desire for safety, real or imagined, have become the coin of our realm. Even if satisfying the “we must do something” reaction in the thought challenged deserves to be taken seriously by our government, the TSA is not the agency to do so. It has failed, and failed miserably.
The best argument to be made in favor of the TSA is that there has not been an airplane hijacked and flown into a tall building since 9/11. While the concept that correlation does not equal causation eludes most Americans, even if we were to assume this was due to the fine job the TSA has done, the price it has exacted for doing so is far too high, far too disconnected from the null accomplishment it can putatively claim.
There is no tweak that will change the TSA agents into becoming smarter, less cavalier, more thoughtful in the performance of its duties. You can’t change stupid. Whether we really need an agency to herd people through airports, now that we’ve had the opportunity to calm down and reflect from a distance on the potential for terrorists on planes, is one question. But even if we agree that we do, the TSA is not the agency to do this job. It’s time to put this mutt out of its misery. Out of our misery.