Saturday, November 27, 2010

Roger Ebert's New Job

TSA Monitor.  I am linking his blog here--he has had some problems with folks hacking the sites to which he links but this youtube post should be ok (but I am warning folks anyway).

The short story is that a woman brings bottled breast milk to security following TSA protocols, but does not want it x-rayed.  There is an alternative procedure for medicinal stuff (and breast milk counts as such).  The TSA folks ignore her explanation and make her wait and wait and wait, so that she misses her plane.  They give her a pat-down for no apparent reason except that she refuses to go along with their orders to x-ray the milk.  She even hands the supervisor a set of TSA instructions she downloaded from the web, and they refuse for a while to go along with them.  They basically treat her like a threat and as an abusive passenger.  You cannot see what she is saying, but her gestures indicate a normally frustrated person. 

Does this indict all of TSA?  No.  But it shows that agents will interpret their authority and their rules in ways that may not be what the principal anticipates.  So, the principal needs to consider such possibilities before crafting rules that have a significant risk of being mis-applied. 

My cynical reaction: too bad the women was not more obviously pregnant, as that would make the video even more compelling.  Our security system needs some serious re-thinking because it is raising costs and inconvenience without really demonstrating effectiveness.  They can cover up the statistics with secret sauce: " we cannot release information about the program as it would provide useful information ...."  But there should be ways that measures can be published that get at the essential questions.  And, because our congressional committees have security clearances, any argument that they should not see the real statistics is bullshit.

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