- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It was only a matter of time before the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) campaign of groping and intimately photographing frequent flyers would come back and bite the agency. That time has come. House leaders have put a frequent traveler in charge of the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Rep. Jason Chaffetz vowed to use the chairmanship to encourage the agency to adopt a new outlook. “TSA has a credibility problem from my vantage point,” the Utah Republican explained. “They have said things repeatedly to the public that just aren’t true.”

As a freshman in the last Congress, Mr. Chaffetz secured 310 votes for an amendment that only would have allowed use of the pornographic scanners after a metal detector provided probable cause for additional investigation. The measure died when the Senate denied a vote on the underlying bill. While Senate Democrats may once again succeed in shielding the agency from legislative scolding, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole will be forced to answer tough questions about his policy choices. “We’re going to have some hearings and try to understand why they’re so enamored with pieces of technology that also happen to have very high-priced lobbyists associated with them,” said Mr. Chaffetz.

Political concerns often seem more important to the TSA than keeping terrorists off airplanes. Instead of focusing on real threats, the agency has gone after harmless cranks who highlight the downsides of the TSA’s security theater. Phil Mocek faces trial for refusing to show his identification papers before boarding a flight in Albuquerque. Mr. Mocek argues that we lose an important freedom ceding to the government an ability to make arbitrary decisions about who can and cannot travel. A Charlottesville man was arrested Dec. 30 for stripping down to his running shorts at the Richmond airport, exposing a message written across his chest: “The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.” Although charges were dropped last week, it’s obvious the TSA hasn’t dropped its contempt for the Fourth Amendment.

Since Thanksgiving’s uproar over invasive procedures erupted online - primarily through attention from the Drudge Report - the TSA has quietly backed off its use of scanners. It’s obvious bureaucrats know they’re in trouble and hope the attention will blow over. Upcoming House hearings could be what’s needed to ensure Mr. Pistole’s plan is grounded.

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