7 Reasons the TSA Sucks (A Security Expert's Perspective)

#3. "Security" Happens in One Place

Paul J. Richardson / AFP / Getty

In security, if the target is moving, you have to move with the target. There is one place for security in an American airport, and it's that long line where you wait for Larry, a TSA worker from Des Moines with exceptionally coarse hands, to fondle you. Everything past that line is a lawless free-for-all of Sbarros and tacky souvenir shops. But even kids smuggling pot back from Amsterdam can keep it together through a 12-second wanding. Terrorists are made of sterner stuff.

Brian Brainerd / Denver Post / Getty
And they rarely travel with two young kids.

Security should happen in rings, so different teams can check each other's work and make sure no suicide bombers slip through. All it takes is one baggage handler ogling a passenger while she takes off her shoes and boom, Jeff the Terrorist gets through security free and clear.

But thanks to the layout of modern American airports, he doesn't even have to get through security. The TSA conveniently packs hundreds of travelers together in cramped security lines. Terrorists love crowds because they can inflict the most harm that way. Anyone who watches the news knows that. So what does American airport security do? It gathers folks together in long lines BEFORE they've been scanned at all.

Scott Olson / Getty
The line is the fourth safest shape in nature.

What really scares me when I'm in America is picking up my luggage. If you've ever picked someone up from a flight, you know there's no sort of scrutiny around who gets to walk in there. It's like the TSA thinks the terrorists have some sort of death grudge against planes. So if we can keep them from getting on one, they won't bother murdering a bunch of people clustered around baggage claim.

#2. There Is Literally No Intelligence

Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

The United States and Canada don't have anything that puts all the relevant data from every security agency on the same page. The FBI, the CIA, and the NSA all have their own different databases. Bush nominated John Negroponte as the director of national intelligence with the express goal of fixing this.

Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty
It was an uphill battle, to say the least.

He failed. As of 2012, 46 percent of federal security agencies still failed to share leads. Only 15 percent shared with any kind of frequency. Eleven years has been enough time for the TSA to decide pocket knives are safe again, but law enforcement agencies still share info about as well as starving dogs share kibble. In Israel, we have the same types of agencies, but they all share information to one single point of contact. That's how we stop 90 percent of threats. We share information.

I did an experiment once. I asked MI5, "Let's say a known terrorist is boarding a plane in Heathrow, going to JFK. How do you alert the Americans?" They responded, "By fax." To Langley. Which is fine -- fax is old but instant. So then I asked how long it takes Langley to alert JFK.

48 hours.

Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty
Carrier pigeons are faster.

They don't have a direct line to the airport. This is how people like the underwear bomber make it through airport security. Someone somewhere knows there's a problem, but he can't talk to anyone useful. This should not happen in a world with text messaging, let alone phones.

#1. We Don't Think Our Airports Through

Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images

If there's one airport-related thing Americans are good at, it's using lots and lots of glass. Here's Pearson International, of Canada:


The lovely Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, D.C:

Matt Wade

And, glassiest of all, Dulles Airport, hero of Die Hard 2:

Joe Ravi

Now all that glass is lovely, and it saves a bundle on lighting, but have you ever wondered if it's all ... y'know, explosion-proof? Because it totally isn't. Which makes each of these lovely airports a build-your-own shrapnel bomb kit (just add gunpowder!). Two of these airports are in the capital of the United States -- you know the security officers there are looking out for bombs every single day.

What happens if they find one?

In Israeli airports, the security checks are done in a small, blast-proof area with a few people in it at a time. So if there's a bomb, we only have to evacuate one room. Not an entire terminal full of drunken businessmen and sleep-deprived families on vacation. Do you know what would happen if I made a fake bomb out of Play-Doh and wires and hid it in my checked bags? In America or Canada, they'd shut down the terminal.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
Um, nobody do that OK? -Cracked Editorial

So you don't need to explode anything -- take these bags into 20 airports around the country and you'll close them all for days. Air traffic in the United States would grind to a halt, all with materials terrorists could raid from a preschool.

Robert Evans is Cracked's head of Dick Joke Journalism. If you have a story you'd like to tell him or a whistle you'd like to blow, click here for his contact info.

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