” The TSA was created to replace the patchwork of private security companies that handled airport security in the pre-9/11 era. Its budget quickly ballooned: Since 2002 the number of TSA agents has risen from 16,000 to more than 50,000. Still, to a traumatized public, any amount of overreaction in the name of preventing another terrorist attack seemed acceptable.
More than a decade later, it’s time to move on. For one thing, the attention paid to terrorism in the U.S. is out of proportion to the relative threat it presents. Since 2000 the chance that the death of a U.S. resident resulted from a terrorist attack was 1 in 3.5 million, according to John Mueller and Mark Stewart of Ohio State and the University of Newcastle, respectively. Out of the 150,000 murders in the U.S. between 9/11 and the end of 2010, Islamic extremism accounted for fewer than three dozen. In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 annual deaths worldwide, outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq—the same number, notes Mueller, that occur in bathtubs in the U.S. each year.
Yet the TSA still commands a budget of nearly $8 billion—leaving the agency with too many officers and not enough to do. The TSA’s “Top Good Catches of 2011,” reported on its blog, did include 1,200 firearms and—their top find—a single batch of C4 explosives (though that payload was discovered only on the return flight). A longer list of the TSA’s confiscations would include a G.I. Joe action doll’s 4-inch plastic rifle (“it’s a replica”) and a light saber toy. For all the face cream, breast milk, and live fish that vigilant screeners collected in airport security lines last year, the TSA didn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airline in the U.S. “
Illustration By Glenn McCoy