The former head of Transportation Security Administration has said that the country’s airport security system is a broken mess making travelling ‘an unending nightmare’ for passengers.
Kip Hawley, who was head of the TSA from 2005-2009, has argued that the system would be more effective if it embraced more risk including allowing passengers to bring almost anything on board including knives, liquids and lighters.
Hawley criticises the current procedure for reducing airport security into an ‘Easter-egg hunt’ where TSA officers look out for low-risk prohibited items, such as lighters, rather than focusing on disrupting terror plots.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Hawley argued that the problems stem from the TSA trying to eliminate all risk for every single passenger travelling rather than concentrating on preventing a catastrophic attack.
He suggests that there should be no more banned items aside from weapons capable of fast, multiple killings such as guns, toxins and explosives.
‘It is time to end the TSA’s use of well-trained security officers as kindergarten teachers to millions of passengers a day’ he writes in the Wall Street Journal.
‘Worse, banning certain items gives terrorists a complete list of what not to use in their next attack. Lighters are banned? The next attack will use an electric trigger,’ he continues.
Airport security, with its lengthy queues and well-known irritations, has to change as the relationship between the public and the TSA is ‘too poisonous to be sustained’, Hawley argued.
In the newspaper, he lists five ideas for reforming the airport security system which he described as a ‘national embarrassment’ because of its bureaucratic nature and its disconnect from the people it is meant to protect.
As well as reducing the ‘banned items’, Hawley suggests a solution to allow passengers to take liquids on board.
He proposes two queues at the checkpoint – one for people with no liquids and another for passengers who want to bring all their liquids on board and don’t mind queuing for longer.
He also believes that airlines should eliminate baggage fees for faster and safer security.
The introduction of fees has led to passengers over-stuffing their carry-on luggage, making it more difficult for TSA officials to determine what is in the bags when they go through the scanners and slowing the whole process down, he writes.
‘Predictability is deadly’, Hawley continues – arguing that security needs to be randomized so that terrorists do not know what to expect making it much harder for them to learn how to evade protocols.
His fifth recommendation is that TSA officers need more flexibility and more discretion to interact with passengers.
‘The public wants the airport experience to be predictable, hassle-free and airtight and for it to keep us 100% safe. But 100% safety is unattainable. Embracing a bit of risk could reduce the hassle of today’s airport experience while making us safer at the same time,’ Hawley argues.