Have no fear, fellow travelers. You’re safe from my kids’ tubes of Go-Gurt.
But guns? Fake bombs? Flattened plastic explosives?
An inspector general’s report on the Transportation Security Administration this week confirmed what many of us have long suspected: that we’ve been humiliated, probed, poked, made into nudie ghosts, brought to tears and delayed, delayed, delayed by an $8 billion operation that is far less effective than many would want you to believe.
TSA checkpoint officers — those folks in blue shirts who start off many a vacation on such a great note — were outsmarted 67 out of 70 times this year by investigators from the Department of Homeland Security, who passed through our billion-dollar defenses with hidden weapons and fake explosives.
Not good, fellow travelers. Not good at all.
Do you have a TSA story? Everyone does.
They get your water bottle, the new perfume or expensive face cream you saved up for. They take children’s snow globes. They make mothers drink from bottles of their own breast milk and yeah, they flagged the little plastic tubes of yogurt — Go-Gurt — that my kids snack on.
Last Christmas, they brought my mom to tears over the combination of frozen dumplings in her bag and her metal knee replacement. Don’t worry, folks on Flight 7832, you were safe from Grandma’s dumplings.
Listen, we’re all willing to give a little in the name of everyone’s safety. Folks grumble, but generally we law-abiding Americans take off our shoes when we get to the airport and empty our pockets before the metal detectors at City Hall screech.
A while back, my children, born after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, stopped to take off their shoes outside a Macy’s when they saw the anti-theft gates. Yay! We’ve brainwashed an entire generation into submitting themselves as presumed suspects.
And yet, amid our culture of fear, the TSA wasn’t able to find the real menace in 95 percent of test cases, the IG found.
We were warned that this would happen.
In late September 2001, I co-wrote a story about security lapses at federal workplaces that sounded an awful lot like these — agents, posing as civilians, who walked right into the heart of the Department of Justice with fake bombs, guns or knives — all without turning a head.
“With the government planning to invest huge sums of money to bolster airline security after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — including a proposal to hire 28,000 federal security workers — the experience in trying to safeguard federal buildings is a cautionary tale,” we wrote. “It shows, in reams of government audits and special reports, that more security workers will not necessarily bring more security, that there are no simple fixes and that making so many changes in so many places is extraordinarily difficult to coordinate.”
Many billions of dollars later, a nearly identical report is being written about the very agency that was being proposed.
There is a new way to avoid the indignities and inconvenience of airport security — by joining the club called TSA PreCheck. It costs $85, but so few people have shelled out the cash to join that agents randomly grab folks out of long lines and send them through the empty PreCheck lines. An ex-offender convicted of explosives offenses was recently whisked through one of these lines.
Um, so what is all this for? Why are we are willing to spend billions in tax dollars to take off our shoes and be treated like cattle when the deadliest places in America aren’t even in the air?
Thousands of people die from gun violence every year in this country. Where’s the backscatter X-ray for the neighborhood sidewalk, the school or our bedrooms?
As of this week (remember, we’re not even halfway through the year), there have been 20,388 reported incidents involving guns in our nation, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That includes 5,205 deaths and 10,177 injuries.
How many kids — you know, those little people who we insist wear bike helmets — have been killed by guns this year? There were 275 children 11 and younger and 980 teens.
So, what’s up, America? Why are we so willing to give up our basic freedoms, our dignity and billions of dollars for an airport security system that’s anything but foolproof, but we refuse to pass gun control after 20 first-graders are slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School?
We spend more time at school, in the streets and in our homes than we do on airplanes.
We let fear, not fact, drive the decision-making. And we pay the price in more ways than one.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.