Canada is cracking down on the latest terrorist threat to innocent people everywhere: transgendered people. A July 2011 provision added to the Canadian Aeronautics Act’s Identity Screening Regulations says, “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger… who does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”
Suppose someone was born female but lives life as a male. If his valid government-issued photo ID still identifies him as female, he may not board an airplane. It can take years of filling out forms and enduring hearings to convince courts to legally recognize that someone has crossed genders, as the economist Deirdre McCloskey (formerly Donald) movingly writes in her autobiography, Crossing. The result is a de facto ban on flying for most transgendered Canadians.
Dennis Lebel is Canada’s Transportation Minister. He supports the ban. He believes it increases passenger safety.
It doesn’t, actually. Here’s why. A passenger is a threat if he carries weapons or explosives on board. If he doesn’t, he’s not. This is true whether or not his appearance matches his ID, or whether it says “M” or “F.” This is true even if the passenger uses a fake ID, or none at all. Can this person bring down a plane? That is the question.
In other words, showing ID has precisely nothing to do with passenger safety. It’s all for show. The point is if you have weapons and explosives or not.
Lebel and the Canadian security screeners who work for him should keep this in mind. The nasty little provision may or may not be specifically targeted at gender crossers. But in practice it is discrimination, and it does not make air travelers any safer. If anything, by distracting screeners from searching for weapons and explosives, it makes passengers a little less safe. This is bad policy all around. It should be repealed immediately.
TSA officials recently performed a bomb drill at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and didn’t tell anyone about it in advance. Local police surrounded a TSA-employed “bomber” with guns drawn before someone finally told them it was only a drill. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
A spokeswoman says that TSA will “ensure the correct procedures will be followed in the future.”
Sometimes people wonder why I favor abolishing the TSA outright and putting airlines in charge of their own security. One reason is incentives. If airlines don’t keep people safe, they go out of business. That’s a powerful incentive to have high standards.
The TSA’s incentives aren’t geared towards performance — and it shows. Instead, its incentives are geared toward growing its budget and expanding its mission.
That’s the primary intellectual argument. But some reasons for getting rid of the TSA are more visceral. This video of a TSA agent groping a 6-year old girl shows one of them.
This picture is its own argument for disbanding the TSA. Better to put security under the charge of people who actually have an incentive to maximize safety and minimize intrusiveness — airports and airlines. The TSA takes the opposite approach, as shown above. Original picture here.
Don’t like dealing with the TSA’s body scanners or pat-downs? Consider getting into politics. The Associated Pressreports:
Cabinet secretaries, top congressional leaders and an exclusive group of senior U.S. officials are exempt from toughened new airport screening procedures when they fly commercially with government-approved federal security details.
Maybe Congress and the President would be more willing to rein in the TSA’s excesses if more of them actually had to endure them.
Apparently TSA head John Pistole goes through the same security that you and I do, for which he deserves praise. Though one does wonder why it hasn’t made him realize the absurdity of modern security theater.
Pajamas Media’s Andrew Ian Dodge links to my OpenMarket.org blog post from yesterday and points out that scanners and pat-downs aren’t necessarily an either/or choice. Sometimes it’s both, as he found out the hard way. Read what he went through here.
TSA’s policies are at least as degrading as they are ineffective.
The TSA has crossed a line. Its new security procedures require employees to either touch passengers’ genitals or take pictures of them. The public backlash is loud and growing. My colleagues Michelle Minton, Brian McGraw, and Ivan Osorio have all covered the issue. Here are what other people around the country are saying:
-A group of activists has declared November 24 to be National Opt-Out Day. November 24 is the day before Thanksgiving, and will be one of the year’s busiest travel days. Since pat-downs take more time than full-body scans, the goal is to clog security until TSA removes full-body scanners from airports. I will be participating.
-The proprietor of Our Little Chatterboxes, a blog about child development issues, recounts her encounter with the TSA’s new pat-down procedures. She writes, “[The TSA employee] felt along my waistline, moved behind me, then proceeded to feel both of my buttocks. She reached from behind in the middle of my buttocks towards my vagina area… She then moved in front of my and touched the top and underneath portions of both of my breasts… She then felt my inner thighs and my vagina area, touching both of my labia.”
-The blogger at Insert Title Here tells his story, with video. He was threatened with a $10,000 civil suit.
–Art Carden calls for abolishing the TSA. “The airlines have enormous sums of money riding on passenger safety, and the notion that a government bureaucracy has better incentives to provide safe travels than airlines with billions of dollars worth of capital and goodwill on the line strains credibility,” he writes.