One aspect of the TSA debate I find hilarious as a libertarian is that we get to see yet another example of partisans switching sides on an issues based on whose team is in the White House. Since when have Republicans had this deeply held concern about liberty and privacy vs. security against terrorism. And now leftie Kevin Drum steps up to say that all the extract screening makes sense (to my college roommate Brink Lindsey: Sorry, but the whole liberaltarian thing is a myth. When in power, they seem to act just as authoritarian on social and civil rights issues as Conservatives).
Anyway, Drum is certainly not full-bore backing the TSA, but he does write
I hate the TSA screening process. Everyone hates the TSA screening process. You'd be crazy not to. It's intrusive, annoying, and time-wasting. It treats us all like common criminals even though most of us are just ordinary schlubs trying to get on a plane and go somewhere.
But guess what? The fact that you personally are annoyed "” you! an educated white-collar professional! "” doesn't mean that the process is idiotic. I've heard it called "security theater" so many times I'd be rich if I had a nickel for each time it popped up in my browser, but although the anti-TSA rants are often cathartic and amusing, they've never made much sense to me. All the crap that TSA goes through actually seems pretty clearly directed at improving the security of air travel.
The point is not, as implied by Drum, that current TSA screening isn't protection against certain types of threats. Let's be generous and assume that the TSA's screening, generally concocted in a barn-door approach after someone tries a particular approach, is effective at catching the threats it is designed to catch.
The point is that nearly anyone with a room temperature IQ can think of 20 ways to attack an airplane that is not covered by the screening. If there are, say, a hundred imaginable threats, how much privacy do you want to give up to protect yourself from 35 of them?
For example, you know what is in the cargo hold below your seat? The US Mail. You know how much screening is performed on the US Mail? Zero. How hard would it be to wire up a package with a bomb and an altimeter, or perhaps just a noise sensor, and send it off airmail. They screen the crap out of your bags and body and then throw them on the plane right next to a bunch of anonymous, unscrutinized cargo. And that is just one example.