I've noticed that our friends at the TSA haven't announced their New Year's resolutions yet -- at least not publicly -- so as I thought I'd help the federal agency charged with the challenging task of protecting our transportation systems.
You know, as a public service.
Here are 12 things the TSA should stop doing in 2012.
No more body scans.
The TSA's pricey and controversial body scanners, which are being deployed across the country, are an invasion of privacy and an unacceptable health risk. Many American oppose their use. Isn't it time for the TSA to admit they're a failure and try something else?
Stay off our streets.
The TSA is here for one reason, and one reason alone: To stop another 9/11 from happening. Its expansion to subway stations and other public areas is a costly and unnecessary step that no one asked for. This is the year to end the ill-conceived VIPR program once and for all.
Quit pocketing money.
Harassed air travelers left a lot of loose change at checkpoints -- an estimated $376,480 in 2010. And guess who kept it? That's right, the TSA. But it isn't the agency's money (one Congressman wants to funnel it to the USO, which isn't a bad idea). It's your money. The TSA has no business taking it.
Stop calling screeners officers.
It's a little known fact that TSA employees have zero law enforcement authority and technically shouldn't be called officers. One Congresswoman wants to fix that. What a great idea.
Stop harassing grandma.
It isn't just Lenore Zimmerman, the 4-foot-11, 110-pound, grandmother who alleges she was strip-searched at JFK in late 2011. It's a whole stack of similar cases that have stirred public outrage. Stop frisking the grannies, TSA. You're better than that.
No more special lines.
TSA's new Pre-Check program, which selectively pre-screens certain passengers and lets them move through the security line faster, seems like a move in the right direction. But it isn't. The elite-level frequent fliers join a growing list of others, including members of the military and airport employees, who get special screening privileges. Shouldn't TSA be trying to find the bad guys instead of determining who the bad guys aren't? This process-of-elimination screening is not only expensive, but puts ordinary, law-abiding air travelers at a disadvantage.
End the liquid and gel restrictions.
There's no convincing evidence that our Starbucks lattes are going to blow up our early morning commuter flight. Let's stop this nonsense, which has been going on for way too long and hasn't prevented a single act of airborne terrorism. Let air travelers bring their harmless liquids on board.
Stop the shoe removals.
The TSA now allows kids 12 and under to leave their shoes on. Why not the rest of us? When's the last time the agency caught a terrorist with explosives in his insoles? How about never?
Don't prevent passengers from taking pictures.
Even though the TSA insists that taking snapshots of its screening areas is allowed, its "officers" apparently never got the memo. Here's what happened to Carlos Miller last week when he tried to tape his screening. Puh-leeze!
Stop hiring criminals.
TSA's hiring practices leave a lot to be desired. Its employees have gotten themselves into a whole lotta trouble in 2011, including some very disturbing crimes that leave you wondering: Where did they find these people? Come on.
Don't ignore the public you're trying to protect.
A recent White House website petition comes to mind. It only took about 30,000 verified signatures requesting the Obama administration eliminate the TSA, for Administrator John Pistole to offer a clueless rebuttal that suggests he has virtually no contact with real air travelers. How 'bout spending a little more time at the airport, John?
No more lies.
Time and again in 2011, the TSA has been caught telling lies and half-truths. They're exhaustively documented by Bill Fisher on the TSA News Blog. The scope of the TSA's misinformation is absolutely staggering. It's really amazing that we believe anything the agency tells us anymore, given its record of bending facts to suit its agenda. That needs to end.
As we look ahead to 2012, the TSA is poised to become a part of how we travel, whether we fly, drive, cruise or take the train. But the agency will not make any of these common-sense reforms unless it hears from you.
So if you think this federal agency needs to make a few changes, this is a good time to let your elected representative know about it.
And if your congressional representative doesn't do anything, well, you're in luck -- it's an election year.
Follow Christopher Elliott on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elliottdotorg