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TSA Again

Transportation Security Administration notice

Image by timbrauhn via Flickr

Another way to look at the new security procedures at airports since 2001 is in how much time it wastes. This I know from experience. The new procedures take longer. You have to get to the airport earlier. About an hour per flight. So here’s an easy calculation. One hour, times 750 million domestic air passengers per year (taken from the BTO website) times nine years since 9-11.

That’s six billion, seven hundred fifty thousand man hours destroyed.

Put in human terms, that’s 10,274 human lives (assuming a person lives 75 years). You can probably increase that number by 30%, as you don’t get to sleep through a TSA screening.

Imagine a company that employs over 856,000* workers (full time). Or, more accurately, enslaves these people. That company does nothing. It pays nothing. I just takes 856,000 people out of the world who could be doing something else: working, gardening, building, sleeping, reading, learning, leading; and prevents them from doing anything productive. Anything fun. Anything they want to do. Away from work. Away from their families.

And while wasting their time, they also force them to be touched on their genitals by strangers. Or, they can let strangers see their naked bodies. They are forced to put on or take off their shoes. Belts. Whatever. Just mindless nonsense.

Would we put up with the existence of such an entity without positive results of any kind?

Now tell me, how many terrorists have TSA caught?

*Made an error in my calculations, this number should be 375,000. Still, even this number would represent the fourth largest “employer” in the US, with more “employees” than Target or Sears.


TSA=Terrorist Win

Seal of the Transportation Security Administra...

Image via Wikipedia

Regardless of the question of civil liberties and constitutional rights, there’s another problem with the TSA.

The terrorists are still killing people, indirectly, thanks to their 9-11attack. They are doing this by changing American habits in regards to transportation.

And the executor of their success is the TSA.

First, an assumption: The expanded TSA security procedures discourages people from flying.

If people avoid flying, they either stay home or travel by car. How many people? We can’t be too sure. I went looking for a graph, and here’s one from BTS:

It’s hard to see exactly what’s going on in the graph, so I amateurishly added some trend lines to the above graph in MSPaint:

Right after 9-11, there was a huge drop in travel. There was a decent recovery, then a plateau until about 2006-2007. Since then, there has been a severe downtrend in travel passengers. We can’t be sure exactly why. The recession plays a big role, increasing fuel prices could be another culprit. We can’t be too sure. But people aren’t flying like they used to.

[No matter what, that beautiful linear trendline before 9-11 is gone and gone for good.]

We also need to remember that added security adds time. Suddenly a 45 minute flight from Minneapolis to Milwaukee absorbs three to four hours. For someone living in Woodbury, it makes more sense just to drive to Milwaukee. I think it’s obvious that more people will drive medium-length (500-1000 miles) trips instead of fly because of the hassle flying has become.

As just a rough guess, let’s say that all this hassle has reduced the total number of air travelers by just 2%. If most of these people drive to their destination instead of staying home, that means about a million people a month who would have flown are driving.

For ease of calculation, let’s say these people each drive 1,000 miles. This is a billion extra car miles. According to the NHTSA, there are 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles driven. So there are an additional 11.3 deaths per month because of the TSA hassle. This is an extra 135.6 deaths per year, which is equivalent to a major aviation disaster.

[I know this from experience, long distance travel is dangerous. You drive tired, lost, frustrated, at night, on unfamiliar roads and in whatever weather conditions are handed to you. So this might be an underestimation of the danger.]

This ain’t good.

There is more evidence supporting my hypothesis. I found a poll on pollingreport.com (21 November, ABC News/Wash. Post) that shows 20% of people say these new security procedures make them less likely to fly, in comparison to the 10% who say more likely, and 70+% who say it doesn’t matter. So these security procedures drive away twice as many people as it attracts (bad business model).

[This is ignoring the fact TSA may be encouraging the spread of communicable diseases by not changing their groping gloves.]

Play with the numbers. Find your own estimate. No matter what, you can’t help ignoring the conclusion that the terrorists are still killing people without even trying, a decade after their last successful terrorist attack on US soil.