TSA reform long overdue

The important local “takeaway” from the USA Today cover story on Wednesday was right there in the sixth paragraph.

Traveler frustration at the indignities and stop-and-go logjams at airport security checkpoints have been building for years, the newspaper reports. “The bubble may have burst last year when the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) introduced body-scan machines and aggressive pat-downs, irking travelers” with privacy concerns.

But then comes the punch line: “The travel industry argues that a prevalent public perception that you’re assumed guilty until found innocent at air checkpoints discourages foreign visitors, dampening an already gloomy outlook amid a sluggish economy.”

Gosh. Would anyone in Las Vegas know anything about that, do you suppose?

Southern Nevada’s economy is enormously tourist-driven. And raw visitor numbers don’t tell the whole story, if honeymooners from Hackensack with $300 in their pockets have replaced older and better established foreign visitors who can drop thousands without wiring home for bus fare.

“People are saying enough is enough,” says Bob Poole, director of transportation policy for the Reason Foundation. “Body-scans and pat-downs should be only for secondary screening” of travelers who have somehow triggered increased suspicion.

Pressure is building on the TSA to allow frequent fliers to submit to pre-screening in order to qualify as “trusted travelers” and avoid the group gropes.

No matter what changes are eventually adopted, change must come — and here’s hoping that as the process grows more streamlined (as it has to), the federal government won’t decide to featherbed the “Thousands Standing Around,” but will instead lay off a lot of that expensive, surplus labor.

“The policy of only reacting and adding more stuff is a losing game,” Mr. Poole concludes.

Yes it is. Especially for markets that count heavily on international tourists, travelers, and conventioneers, who have had about enough.

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