The TSA ranks right down there with the IRS among the government’s least popular acronyms, just a hair above FEMA, according to a recent AP-Ipsos poll.
I always feel bad about the TSA getting bashed because I believe the agency has an extraordinarily difficult job. As soon as somebody is done trashing the agents for being too intrusive, somebody else is reporting that they’re too lax and that they let some fake bombs through in a test run.
According to the poll, the more often people fly, the less they like the TSA. I’m not surprised. I read a lot of message boards frequented by frequent f liers, and the scorn heaped on TSA agents is just scathing. It bothers me, too, that it’s often condescending and elitist. How dare a $30,000-a-year "rent-a-cop" inconvenience an important businessman?
I’m sure that there are lots of people who can answer that with a horror story about mistreatment at the security gate, and I’m certain there are some bad TSA agents. I also believe that the agency has often failed to adequately train and inform its agents, resulting in confusion and annoyance over inconsistent enforcement.
But I also believe from my own experience in Connecticut, at Bradley International, that the TSA is better than the private companies that preceded it. I’ve said this before.
Back before the TSA took over, the Bradley security gates were staffed by rude, loud and disrespectful private security guards. They were disorganized. They shouted at passengers and answered questions with sarcasm.
After the 9/11 attacks but before the TSA was deployed, those same agents were empowered to be more intrusive than ever. There were so many reports of young women being groped that my husband and I would always make our daughter pass through security in between the two of us, so that one of us would always be with her on one side of the gate or the other.
In contrast, the TSA agents at Bradley now are polite, organized and reasonably efficient. They’ve held me up for wanding, pat-downs and extra bag searches, but they have never failed to be professional.
Maybe other airports are different. But I think, too, that maybe some travelers are blaming the wrong people. If we disagree with the TSA’s mission and its methods, shouldn’t we address the people who run the agency and the politicians who set the agenda? What’s the point of abusing the agents who are just trying to do their jobs?