Following the horrific events that transpired on that fateful Tuesday morning in September, the federal government assumed the tremendous responsibility of safeguarding America’s travelers. When establishing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Department of Transportation (and later, the newly formed Department of Homeland Security) ultimately chose between two methods of protection to combat the exponentially growing threat of global and domestic terrorism.  Type one consists of a security force that, among an unfortunate list of other failures, identifies a mere 30% of all knives and guns that pass through its security detectors, yet simultaneously views cupcakes, cans of Play-Doh (a small-boy’s Christmas present from his grandmother), and cheese as a national security threat.  Type one rationalizes and accepts the extensive search of a 95-year-old leukemia patient, the pat down of an 8-month-old baby, and most recently, the detainment United States Senator Rand Paul. Type one, the avoidable and inconvenient security approach, was unfortunately selected as the route most appropriate for the TSA.

The common thread that links all of these outlandish ramifications of daily travel together is the approach of reactivity. In a reactive security structure, a central emphasis is placed on detecting harmful weapons rather than harmful individuals. The ultimate danger of limiting the focus of TSA’s manpower to the paraphernalia used in attempted acts of terror (such as shoes and liquids) is twofold. Firstly, it would be unwise for a terrorist to repeat failed methods that have gained international notoriety. Additionally, overt initiatives for specific weaponry merely serve as an incentive to create new, alternative means of explosives. It must be understood that the true enemy lies not in a shotgun or box cutter, but rather in those who seek to use them.

Advocates of the TSA continue to justify its practices by expressing rhetoric that includes “since the creation of the TSA, there has yet to be a successful terrorist attack on American soil.” While a correlation does indeed exist in the relationship between the TSA’s creation and the lack of successful terrorist attacks since 2002, the fallacy of this claim arrives in its assumed causation. By adjusting the first word of aforementioned claim to one which states that“ because of the creation of the TSA, there has yet to be a successful terrorist attack on American soil”, one can grasp the deceptiveness in attributing the lack of terrorism to improper security measures.

In tandem with its deceptive attribution error, the assumed causality between the methods of the TSA and the lack of terror attacks has consistently been proven false by Israeli security since 1972 (the year in which Israel suffered its most recent act of terror under the realm of aviation). Israel’s success serves as a paradigm for the preventive approach – the second method of protection that was available for the TSA to implement during its 2002 establishment. In stark contrast to the reactive TSA approach, which has been called “hysterical” by Israeli security experts, the preventive structure is directed towards future threats rather than past ones. This ultimately yields a sole focus towards the goal of detecting terrorists (a continuous element) rather than weaponry (a changing variable).

After recently returning from Israel just a few short weeks ago, I was simply stunned at the connection between the minimal visible security techniques employed and my overwhelming feeling of safety. While Israel is a country that exists under the constant threat of terrorism, I, along with all other passengers that have visited Israel throughout the past four decades, could not have felt or been more secure while departing Ben Gurion International Airport. Though all passengers must undergo traditional security procedures, the process has become streamlined as a result of profiling; this allows passengers to swiftly proceed through metal detectors without the removal of shoes, laptops, liquids, or even belts.  It is because of the TSA that the relationship between unobtrusive security protocols and a peace of mind has developed into an unattainable paradox for the American traveler. In a reactive security society, one is not supposed to feel safe without invasive pat-downs, hectic lines, and confiscations of household items.

This begs the question as to how Israel, a country of only 7.8 million people, executes a more efficient transportation security system than does the United States of America. The answer unequivocally lies in political correctness (or Israel’s lack thereof).  As a reactive system (which therefore concentrates its security efforts on weaponry), the TSA has not joined Israel in the innovative sector of profiling.  While the very word “profile” generates hyperbolic condemnation from progressives, its empirical practice would serve to discriminate not on grounds of religion or race, but rather on intent and behavior. In fact, I point out to organizations such as the ACLU that remain staunchly opposed to profiling, that the Israeli process of asking a few questions with discreet observations remains extraordinarily less intrusive than the current practices of American airport security.

The TSA’s avoidance of behavioral profiling via its implementation of a one-size-fits-all approach is inherently unsuitable for the United States. This is because of the duality that exists among passengers, comprised of those who seek harm and those who do not.  Political correctness and our unwillingness to utilize common sense forces the TSA to regard members of our military and legislative bodies as analogous to the radicals bent on the destruction of this nation. By applying behavior profiling, the TSA can successfully remove subgroups of good and evil, and accordingly achieve unrivaled benefits in areas of safety and convenience.

Parker Mantell :: University of Indiana at Bloomington :: Bloomington, Indiana :: @ParkerMantell