Saturday, September 07, 2013

Elysium at the airport: TSA groping now only for poor people

Techdirt has an item on an airport security development that Grits first noticed during my vacation last month, but which I forgot to blog about upon my return. The Transportation Security Administration has partnered with the airlines to allow passengers who pay an extra fee to skip most security protocols. Reported NBC-News:
Currently, the program has been limited to U.S. citizens who are members of frequent flier programs on select airlines, or the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler program, or Canadian citizens who are members of the CBP NEXUS program.

Later this year, the TSA said it will allow other U.S. citizens to apply for 5-year enrollment online after submitting fingerprints and paying an $85 fee.

A TSA Precheck emblem embedded on the barcode of passengers' boarding passes indicates if a flier is eligible for expedited screening under the program.
Why should I pay extra to avoid groping, and by what logic would paying extra make me less of a risk? Don't you think an actual terrorist would be itching to pay the $85 and avoid the extra scrutiny? None of it makes any sense except from the airlines' perspective. They were allowed to profit by giving people in their frequent flyer or club-card programs special treatment, so I understand why they'd approve of this Elysium-esque logic. But from the TSA's perspective it seems like a public-relations calamity that a) demonstrates their irrelevancy, a tacit admission that such screenings were really pointless security theater and b) amounts to a tone-deaf snub of all passengers not so favored.

Bottom line: It appears groping at airport security is now only for poor people.

RELATED: Airport security, Kurt Cobain and the Fourth Amendment


Anonymous said...

The airlines were allowed to profit the day the taxpayers had to pick up the security bill at airports after 9/11. And we aren't even talking about previous tabs for FAA radar services, weather forecasting services, etc. Heck airlines were subsidized by federal mail contracts in the 30s. Real corporate welfare queens at its finest. They just can't seem to get off the dole.

sunray's wench said...

Poor people and foreigners (who are supposed to have "close", "special" and "historic" relationships with the US).

Perhaps evidence shows that people who blow up planes never sit in Business or First Class seats?

FreeManinAmerica said...

Those who pay the fee for TSA Pre Check enrollment are subjected to a criminal background check before admission to the program. Frequent fliers find this worthwhile, because the time consumed in the pre check queue and inspection is shorter. The TSA hopes to enroll as much as 40% of the passengers inspected in the program, which will lower their staffing and equipment costs, benefitting other travelers and taxpayers. And it's not very likely the remaining travelers are "poor" in any meaningful sense of the word, since the poor are unlikely to afford the trip in the first place. Your blog is just demagoguery.

Anonymous said...

Yes, airline companies are welfare queens and want the tax serfs to pick up even more costs. They complain about regulation but enjoy tax bought airfields.
Airlines should have been pushing back against tsa from the start but were glad to shed much 'security' cost. TSA abuses the customers every day but the airlines don't care as they got to shed those costs. The pirate (oops, pilot) and stewardess (oops, flight attendant) unions bitched about tsa right up to the time they got their special deals, then they fell into line with mouths shut.
The pay to play to avoid tsa grope a dope programs are an abomination. It's bad enough that 'we're all suspects now', but the thought of paying vig to get out of it is ridiculous. It perpetuates the lie that tsa has anything to do with anything except teaching obedience and forcing us to accept the concept of gov issued travel permits.
By the way, I am connected to the airline industry. My colleagues do not speak of tsa except in terms of...'they're keeping us safe'...yep, and pigs fly on their own power.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oooh, 6:33, an actual criminal background check? Wow, well that would have picked up all the 9/11 hijackers, wouldn't it? No? Oh well ...

Of course you don't want to stand in the queues, but it's a government queue, not a corporate one. I pay the same taxes as they guy in the frequent flier program. Making this a perk of the airlines promotional programs was a blatant and inappropriate corporate subsidy.

Finally, if anyone has engaged in demagoguery it's TSA and the feds in justifying all this pointless BS security theater. They've known forever most of it was worthless but passengers only got relief when they figured out how corporations could make money off granting it.

jcfromnj said...

The sad truth to airport security and the unemployable's that work there is that when a REAL trained professional terrorist goes to work you will never see him coming and the useless eater's at the TSA will never be able to protect you or me from anything!
Anyone with military combat experience knows that you will never see a professional coming, and he's gone before you know it !

Patrick Butler said...

Several hours ago my wife and I experienced what Grits describes. After waiting in a line of 50 or so for 15 minutes we reached the TSA boarding pass and drivers license checker. After I was passed through, the checker reached behind my wife for the passport of the first in a side line of exactly 3 customers and told my wife to "please let Mary" go first. We were too surprised to object. It's an insult to idea of equal treatment by our government.

Will Yablome said...

Yo, jcfromnj...just to reassure/enlighten you, there are some of us airport employees who are NOT TSA and who are paying attention to unusual activity. We have a modicum of intelligence and know what the "usual" looks like because we observe it everyday. I agree that terrorists are skilled and hard to catch. However, I would submit to you that some of us are paying attention!

Anonymous said...

This is similar to the "Global Entry" program for international travel. One item you didn't touch on but I've noticed anecdotally is how the TSA is steadily making service worse and lines longer and longer in order to force people into these programs. It's difficult to quantify and almost impossible to prove they are doing it intentionally, but I've seen lines get worse and worse over the last year.

Michelle C. said...

This seems like a stupid idea, someone could spring the extra money to get something they shouldn't have through security.