Today's word is "inconsistent."
Say it with me: inconsistent.
If the last week's events have shown us anything, it's that the federal agency guarding America's skies is inconsistent.
Dangerously inconsistent, sometimes.
Consider the outrage over rapper Freddie Gibbs, who slipped a bag of marijuana in his checked luggage on a flight last week. But when the TSA found his stash at the airport, it didn't report him. Instead, it let him off with a lighthearted warning when an agent allegedly wrote, "C'mon son" on the official "you've been inspected" card.
Interestingly, another TSA representative, in a separate case, claimed the agency doesn't care about drugs in the suitcases it inspects at the airport.
Oddly, we got word that more than a dozen TSA screeners in Charlotte could lose their jobs after an internal investigation showed they didn't properly screen luggage. Over a one-week period in June, 80 of 80,000 bags were "not screened according to security protocol," according to the TSA.
Of course, the apparent lapse led to no terrorist incidents. Not even a single rapper tweeting about his grass.
So let me get this straight: Drugs are OK, but letting a few unchecked bags with nothing dangerous on board -- not OK?
But while those inconsistencies are laughable, this one isn't: The Senate just voted to give members of the armed services and their families a special expedited TSA line. It suggests soldiers should experience a less thorough screening when they are flying. This, in itself, is troubling because there is no evidence that being in the military makes you less likely to commit an act of terrorism. As a former TSA officer observed on the TSA News Blog, being in the military may actually increase the likelihood you're a terrorist.
You might not realize this, but the TSA has quietly been giving itself and its friends these special privileges all along. I received a copy of the TSA's in-house newsletter, the originally named "TSA Today" with a little blurb about a new "flying employee's lane" that opened earlier this year in Nashville. It allows non-uniformed crew, airport employees flying out and families of airport employees traveling with them to use the lane. (My source believes TSA agents also have access to the special lane.)
"There is a saying that 'some of the smallest things can make you very happy'," TSA Today wrote. It noted,
I have noticed in the past month instead of a constant flow of complaints from crew and airline employees; compliments and kudos to the FSD [Federal Security Director].
Whenever I am watching the Employee Lane and interact with the employees, you can see the smiles on their faces and hear words of appreciation.
Alright, so let me see if I understand this: Off-duty baristas, airport parking attendants, the great-niece of screener trainee -- they can all use a special lane and are probably waved through the checkpoint, while the rest of us have to stand in a long line, get scanned, patted down, prodded and poked?
Look up "inconsistent" in the dictionary. One of the definitions is "Transportation Security Administration."
I've actually spoken with the agency about its uneven approach to security -- why one passengers may get a thorough search and swabbing and another may not. The TSA wants to keep terrorists on their toes by being unpredictable. Consistently screening every passenger, it argues, would give the bad guys a roadmap for their next attack.
Problem is, the agency is inconsistent when it shouldn't be and consistent when it shouldn't.
TSA has already said children's shoes won't be scanned for explosive devices. It's also promised not to do any body cavity searches. An enterprising terrorist could recruit children to do Allah's work and wedge a block of Semtex into an adult passenger's body cavity to help them along. (And while you're at it, how much would it cost to procure a fake military ID and uniform, so you could take the shortcut line?)
Now the agency is waiving obviously illegal items like drugs through its checkpoints, an action the majority of American air travelers almost certainly would disapprove of, but it's firing agents for letting a couple of harmless bags slide.
Inconsistent? That may be putting it politely.