The job of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with its $7.3 billion budget and 45,000 screeners, is to prevent another 9/11 attack, to spot and stop guys like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, usually in their 20s.
More commonly known as the "underwear bomber," Abdulmutallab, at age 22, attempted to ignite plastic explosives hidden in his briefs while onboard a Northwest flight en route to Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas day, 2009.
True to the terrorists' mode of operation, dropping dead Americans and their prettily wrapped holiday presents into Detroit on Christmas day from 30,000 feet would definitely deliver some dramatic pictures, not unlike people diving out of windows to their deaths from the top of the red-hot World Trade Center.
Nevertheless, instead of maintaining an efficient lookout for suicidal anti-American fanatics like Abdulmutallab or Mohammed Atta, two TSA screeners were fired in April after developing and implementing a scheme to grope attractive men at Denver International Airport.
Here's how the scheme operated, according to the Denver police. When the male TSA officer involved spotted a man he found particularly eye-catching, he would alert a co-conspiring female TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the person arriving at the walk-through screening was female, not male.
This false gender identity would trigger the screening machine to register an anomaly in the genital area, a glitch in the groin region, as they say, thereby allowing the male TSA officer to conduct his desired pat-down search of the targeted passenger's front groin and buttocks areas.
Similarly, but more widespread, recent and repeated mishaps with the Secret Service have revealed an embarrassing and dangerous pattern of incompetence in an agency that describes itself as "the very best of our federal government."
At President Obama's first state dinner, in 2009, Tareq and Michaele Salahi easily crashed the party and got a photo of themselves shaking hands with the president. The Secret Service later acknowledged that they failed to check if the Salahis were on the guest list.
In 2011, a man with a semiautomatic rifle, parked in front of the White House, fired at the building. Mistaking the shots for a car backfiring, a Secret Service supervisor ordered officers to stand down. Four days later, the Secret Service acknowledged the White House had been hit, only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass.
In 2012, several U.S. military people and eight Secret Service agents assigned to secure a hotel and do other advance work in Columbia for President Obama's trip to a summit brought as many as 21 prostitutes back to the hotel, with several U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents arranging some of the encounters, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
In May 2013, reported The Washington Post, a Secret Service supervisor left a bullet in a women's room at the Hay-Adams hotel, which overlooks the White house.
In Atlanta in September 2014, a security contractor with a gun and an assault record got onto an elevator with President Obama. The Secret Service only learned that the man had a gun when he was fired on the spot and voluntarily turned over the weapon, reported The Washington Post.
Also in September 2014, an Iraq war veteran armed with a knife climbed the White House fence, ran cross the North Lawn and made it deep inside the White House before he is tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent.
A Secret Service officer assigned to the area, who was in charge of an attack dog, was talking on a personal call on his cell phone in a van at the time and not listening to his Secret Service two-way radio, reported the Department of Homeland Security, thereby missing the fence climbing, the dash to the White House, the forced incursion into the executive mansion and the other clues to release the dog.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland