Former TSA Head Slams Agency: 'No More Banned Items'


Photo: TSA via Wikimedia Commons

In a scathing article for the Wall Street Journal, former Transportation Security Administration chair Kip Hawley slammed the agency saying “it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect.”Hawley, who served as TSA chair from 2005 to 2009, says the agency requires a complete overhaul, and that it has spent years standing behind a “wrongheaded approach to risk.”

He goes on to say that the rules and regulations in place today are outdated given modern security improvements.

“Never again will a terrorist be able to breach the cockpit simply with a box cutter or a knife,” he says. “The cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers, flight crews and air marshals would intervene.”

In order to improve, the TSA must focus on managing risk, not enforcing regulations: “Terrorists are adaptive, and we need to be adaptive, too. Regulations are always playing catch-up, because terrorists design their plots around the loopholes,” he writes. Otherwise, the TSA will continue to waste time and money that can be better spent preventing risks, he explains.

To that respect, Hawley proposes five initiatives to improve the agency. Here they are:

  1. No more banned items: Aside from weapons, Hawley believes that the TSA shouldn’t be banning items from being taken on planes. His explanation? “The list of banned items has created an ‘Easter-egg hunt’ mentality at the TSA. Worse, banning certain items gives terrorists a complete list of what not to use in their next attack. Lighters are banned? The next attack will use an electric trigger.”
  2. Allow all liquids The benefits are minuscule, but the cost to both the TSA and fliers are incredible.
  3. Give TSA officers more flexibility and rewards for initiative, and hold them accountable: “No security agency on earth has the experience and pattern-recognition skills of TSA officers.” Hawley writes, and so they should be given the freedom to interact with passengers as they see fit.
  4. Eliminate baggage fees: This one’s not really about security, but it would make the lives of passengers a lot easier, according to Hawley.
  5. Randomize security: “Predictability is deadly. Banned-item lists, rigid protocols—if terrorists know what to expect at the airport, they have a greater chance of evading our system,” Hawley says. The idea is that this will prevent terrorists from learning how to evade security protocols.

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