The TSA: TWICe as Tyrannical
Nope. While customers avoid airports and aviation’s profits plummet, the TSA busily destroys yet another industry. And this secondary target may be even more essential than flying you and the kids to Grandmother’s house: she couldn’t serve much of a dinner without the ham cured three states away, Georgia’s sweet potatoes, the broccoli from California, or the pie whose blueberries grew in Chile.
Alas, the “supply chain” that transports food and just about everything else from producers to us is under attack from the TSA. True, the agency’s goons aren’t groping longshoremen and truckers – yet. But they’ve made moving goods from one area to another increasingly expensive and difficult.
It’s easy to forget shipping’s indispensability. Wares from all around the world appear as regularly and effortlessly in our homes as do those originating next door. We enjoy more wealth and better health than any generation in history; some of that improvement results from our greater access to the international cornucopia.
Contrast such luxury with our ancestors’ hardships. The Continental Army famously and agonizingly suffered during its winter at Valley Forge. And yet the harvest that fall was abundant. Farmers miles from the army’s camp enjoyed a surfeit – but no way to ship it over the muddy quagmires that were eighteenth-century roads.
The TSA is effectively plunging us back into that false scarcity, in which there’s plenty of inventory but no quick and efficient transport. All in the name of securing the ol’ Homeland, of course.
The bureaucracy’s attack on shipping comes courtesy of George W. (for “War-criminal”) Bush and Congress, with their Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. MTSA supposedly “ensure[d that] individuals who pose a threat do not gain unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime transportation system” – despite the lack of any such “individuals’” trying to do so. Ergo, the legislation has forced over 2.2 million “longshoremen, truckers, port employees and others” to purchase – at a cost of $130 for five years – “tamper-resistant biometric credentials.” Workers swipe them through machines for access to “secure areas” – or would if they could: “the Coast Guard has not yet set up readers for the … cards, which essentially have been reduced to regular identification cards….” So the TSA, which oversees this nonsense, has robbed longshoremen of a fortune for ID that duplicates their driver’s licenses.
Known as TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential), the program exaggerates the infinitesimally tiny risk of terrorists’ smuggling explosives or other hazards through an American port into a likely event. Then it compels taxpayers and employees to squander money on measures that do not counter the alleged peril. Or, in the words of “Lindsay McLaughlin, legislative director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union”: “It is difficult to comprehend what particular access longshore workers have that warrants the TWIC program’s extreme degree of scrutiny and public expense … In a modern container facility, the longshore worker has no access to the cargo because it is sealed or locked in a container. Nor does a longshore worker know what any particular container holds.”
As infuriating as the senselessness and the waste is the irony: recall that it is governments, not terrorists, shuttling bombs and armaments around the planet to kill people. If Our Rulers seriously hope to protect us, let them end their wars of empire rather than quaking at exceedingly remote terrorism.
Unfortunately, peace isn’t profitable: it doesn’t award multi-billion dollar contracts to the “defense industry,” which returns some of that bonanza to politicians in bribes—sorry, “campaign contributions.” So Congress passed MTSA instead. Not only did that keep the war-contractors happily humming, it also deposited another $270,000,000 straight to a crony’s coffers (“Checks [from workers for TWIC cards] should be made payable to Lockheed Martin,” the TSA’s website orders.)
Just as the TSA’s gate-rape at the airports takes a human toll, so does TWIC. First, the TSA compels victims to travel hundreds of miles to an “enrollment center” in this age of computers and Fed Ex. There they submit to fingerprinting, interrogation, and other indignities. Laborers must visit the centers multiple times, too: no showing up and leaving with your TWIC in one visit.
And what happens when the TSA, famous for its jaw-dropping stupidity and ineptitude, errs while processing TWIC’s applications? Ms. McLaughlin of the longshoremen’s union tells us: “She said background checks required to obtain TWIC cards … have cost some workers, through no fault of their own, their life savings … In 2009, … ILWU member William Ericson was unable to obtain [clearance through security]; a background check wrongly showed that there was a pending case of forgery against him,’ McLaughlin said. ‘Mr. Ericson had worked at the Port of Seattle for 12 years. Mr. Ericson was out of work for 6 months, had exhausted his savings, and came very close to having his house foreclosed upon even though he had done nothing wrong.’ Another case saw a longshoreman born on a military base overseas drain his life earnings waiting for military documentation of his birth to satisfy immigration requirements in the law, McLaughlin said. ‘The income losses and emotional suffering that TWIC caused these workers and others like them and their families cannot be remedied,’ she said.”
What is Congress’ solution to TWIC’s dictatorial boondoggle? Hearings, of course! And what peeves these legislators? The misery their unconstitutional TWIC heaped on Mr. Ericson and the soldier’s son? No. The waste of our taxes? A bit: “…the cost to the taxpayers in financing this entire fiasco is just totally unacceptable,” said Rep. John Mica (R-FL) while reciting a laundry-list of TWIC’s problems.
But what angered him to incoherence was the TSA’s disrespect for Congress: rather than the “senior Transportation Security Administration official …invited” to testify, a couple of lesser bureaucrats appeared. “It’s appalling that TSA would thumb their nose at [us],” Mica thundered. “That they would send a witness who’s so unprepared and then have the nerve to sit there and say, ‘Well, TSA has the answer to that,’ but they won’t show them up [sic].”
There you have Our Rulers’ priorities. Inconveniencing, tyrannizing and molesting us don’t matter. Snubbing an “invitation” from Congress – now that’s criminal.
Becky Akers (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) is a free-lance writer and historian. Her novel on the American Revolution will be published this summer.
Copyright © 2012 by Americans for Travel Freedom. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.