TSA Looking At Expanding Beyond Airports To, Well, Everywhere

gty_tsa_agent_jef_120727_wgRemember when traveling by air was an adventure? Sure, we had to walk through the metal detectors as far back as the early 1970s. But back then, private security firms who had been hired by the airlines did the screening. So there was an interest in customer service and satisfaction as well as security. September 11, 2001 changed all of that. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act required that all passenger screening must be conducted by Federal employees. These employees, who became the Transportation Security Administration, were under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. And we all know what this has done to what used to be an exciting and pleasant activity. I have some truly horrible stories as I’m sure we all do.

What if this security were to be expanded to… oh, let’s say subways? Or trains? Or even that toll bridge you have to cross to get to work? That may be in the works. In the November 30, 2012 Federal Register, the TSA applied for funding to “… establish the current state of security gaps and implemented countermeasures throughout the highway mode of transportation…” This examination of data is allegedly to help the TSA to provide resources to the “… surface transportation community.” Surface transportation? That would mean trains, buses, trucks and cars. The TSA calls this study BASE –  Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement.

Last December’s issue of Government Security News elucidated:

TSA is seeking permission from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct security-related assessments during site visits to approximately 750 owners and operators of highway transportation assets (such as long-haul trucks) as well as 140 public transportation agencies. (SOURCE)

The TSA also plans on conducting on-site assessments of public agencies that run this ground transportation. From rail and buses to such odd and minor transports as cable cars and funiculars. So even the San Francisco treasures and the Prospect Park Incline at Niagara Falls would fall under this new category. Last May’s issue of Security Magazine pointed out just how wide this definition is of assets being used in the wording of the BASE program:


“Highway BASE program will continue to be a voluntary, instructive, and interactive review used by TSA to assess the adequacy of security measures related to highway transportation – such as trucking, school bus, and motorcoach industries, privately owned highway assets that may include bridges and tunnels, and other related systems and assets owned and operated by state departments of education and transportation.” (SOURCE)


At this point, BASE is only an assessment. But, as we have often seen, these can lead to more money and power gained by the agency performing the assessment because of the self-perpetuating tendencies of bureaucracy. The TSA already has a death-grip on airports and even has expanded to Amtrack. Because they have direct say over who can receive government funding in the area of transportation, those entities are inclined to cooperate with the agency. The TSA can also step up scrutiny of passengers who use those transports, all the way up to actual harassment. Those that play ball with the TSA get a “Gold Standard Award” for compliance. Any doubt as to which will be at the head of the list for federal subsidies?

Of course I am not suggesting that these transit authorities don’t care about their passengers. Nor am I impugning the entire TSA and all of its employees. What I am questioning is this quietly intrusive restricting of our lives. I’m a liberal but I do have some libertarian tendencies and this is one place where they shine out. We don’t have a right to travel – it’s not laid out in the Constitution and the Supreme Court has rejected such a basis for free travel. Security is a real problem in this new century, I’m not denying that. But there is a way to be secure without instituting a police state mentality. As our Founding Father Benjamin Franklin rightly said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Photobucket      T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…