TSA Security a Mixture of the Serious and the Silly

Even given the serious nature of the threat posed by terrorism, one has to feel a bit of sympathy for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Tasked with protecting the nation’s security at points of entrance and egress -- particularly our airports -- they face a delicate balancing act.

On one side they have the nation as a whole, demanding 100% efficacy in stopping violent attacks on civilian flights. On the other side we find all of the individuals who make up that nation who wish to be inconvenienced as little as possible while flying grandma’s annual fruitcake to her during the holidays.

If they are too trusting and complacent you wind up with some maniac getting on board with explosives tucked into his shoes, underpants, or fringed bonnet. Err in the other direction and you get an overzealous agent slapping handcuffs on journalist Michael Yon for failing to provide his W-2s for the last ten years during screening.

The entire subject seems to set off alarms and hot-tempered emotions on both sides of the aisle. This became exceedingly clear when the excellent conservative political cartoonist Sarjex published a bit of satire on the subject of the undie-bomber at another website where I write. She was immediately labeled a “racist” in comments and email for reasons I never managed to work out. But the single panel cartoon managed to highlight one of the core issues under debate: we don’t want to offend anyone, but we are equally averse to having our airplanes explode in mid-flight.

It’s not as if the TSA isn’t trying. If you visit their website you can view a wide range of items which are banned from flights, keeping us all safer in the friendly skies. These are broken down into helpful categories for the easily confused which include sharp objects (makes sense), guns and firearms (ya think?), and explosives (who could have guessed?).

But along with the no-brainer categories, they have expanded their list to include others such as sporting goods. I suppose I can see where some people would need to be reminded that they can’t bring their golf clubs or pool cues as carry-on items, but spear guns made the list as well. Honestly, folks, the lady took away your Bic lighter when you went through the inspection station. Did you really think you could stroll on with a spear gun?