TSA: Trivial Security Agency?

Courtesy of U.S. Federal Government (Transportation Security Administration).

On Nov. 1, a man identified as Paul Ciancia approached Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and opened fire, killing a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent and wounding three others. Ciancia, a native of New Jersey who had been living in the Los Angeles area, had a duffel bag full of ammunition and a high powered assault rifle.

According to CBS News, Ciancia had told his mother earlier in the day that he was going to commit suicide. When his mother called the police, they responded to his home, where he was not found, and a roommate did not know his whereabouts. While Ciancia had not yet gone through security, the public is still debating whether or not the TSA is doing enough to keep our airports and airplanes safe.

The TSA has a yearly budget of $7.91 billion, according to a consolidated appropriations act published by Congress.¬†From 2001 to 2010, the TSA saw over 25,000 security breaches. During this time period, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimated that 4.3 billion people traveled through our nation’s airports; leaving public to question whether the TSA was doing enough to prevent a terror attack.

“Unfortunately, we have to be right all the time,” Representative Jason Chaffetz said to the House subcommittee on National Security in Jul. 2011. “Terrorists only have to be lucky once.”

This is not the first shooting that LAX since the institution of the TSA. In 2002, a man killed an airline employee and a civilian at a ticket counter. The TSA, while searching bags and people, also have personnel that patrol the airport looking for suspicious people via behavioral detection.

Items prohibited in carry-on luggage includes any kind of firearm or explosive, any sharp object, including scissors and nail clippers, liquids in a container over 3.4 ounces, and all lighters and matches. While metal is easily identified on an X-ray scanner, the new body scanners seem to have little effect. Looking for objects like plastic explosives carried by the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” the X-rays show blurry outlines of the body, and something very close to the body would be undetectable. Seven out of ten weapons taken through airport security, like knives and scissors, will make it through security without being caught.

According to an infographic created by Blake Lafond, Ph.D., a researcher and professor of criminal justice for Everest College, the government has spent over $60 billion on airport security. $36 million alone were spent on 207 machines that could “smell” explosives when a small amount of air was forced at passengers. None of these machines were ever instituted. The infographic also states that 16 individuals who were later accused of terrorist activity flew 23 times, without being stopped for extra security precautions once.

Every year, the Los Angeles International Airport, sees over 60,000,000 passengers. This comes to about 165,ooo passengers a day. With nine total terminals, over 18,000 people will go through Terminal 3 on any given day. If someone were to detonate an explosive, or open fire, mass casualties could easily occur. Many wonder if the TSA is failing to protect one airport, and if the $60 billion spent on airport security is worth it.

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