Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Is TSA Vandalism Deliberate Policy?

My previous post described a case of TSA vandalism that I recently encountered and raised the question of why the note informing me that my luggage had been searched did not identify the particular TSA employee who searched it—that being an obvious and inexpensive way of discouraging both pilfering and vandalism. One commenter on the post described his own repeated experience, along lines similar to mine, and offered an interesting explanation. 
The TSA agent is telling you not to bring stuff like that in your luggage anymore. Jars within jars containing some weird material need to be investigated by TSA agents. That means work and they don't like it. They are trying to teach you a lesson. The lesson is stop bringing that type of stuff on the plane with you.
Seen from this standpoint, the vandalism is not merely tolerated by TSA it is, at least tacitly, approved of. Which explains why TSA does not take obvious and inexpensive steps to prevent it.

It strikes me as a plausible conjecture but, short of getting a TSA inspector to confess, I cannot think of any easy way of testing it.


Anonymous said...

Do cops beat people as deliberate policy?

I suppose it matters what you mean by either "deliberate", or "policy".

Gary said...

If they damage things deliberately, I think it's one of those things that's done due to annoyance rather than being willful. That is, they're tired of searching through Russian Doll-type packaging.

It's unlikely that an individual agent would think he has enough influence to discourage a certain mode of packing. I also can't imagine anybody is instructing them to do this.

Simon said...

"...short of getting a TSA inspector to confess..."

Why did I come to think of a previous blog post, "The Visigothic solution?"

Anonymous said...

It does strike one as plausible. Certainly there is a lot of documented high-handed and tyrannical behavior by TSA agents. I have personally experienced some of this myself. Fortunately not on every occasion, but often enough to give me a negative impression of the agency as a whole.

Gary, I don't think agents have been instructed to do this. Rather, they do it and have not been stopped or instructed not to. It's more of a tacit approval than explicit, documented policy.

And why is it so unlikely that an agent would think he can discourage the use of certain kinds of packaging? I would be discouraged from doing the same thing that caused me so much trouble the first time. Moreover, regardless of whether or not it has a discouraging effect, the agent may simply be acting out of anger, spite, or, to use your term, annoyance. In any case, I can't see how the average person would approve of this behavior.

That Damn Libertarian said...

Perhaps this is in the realm of passive aggression ??

Douglas Knight said...

Yes, it's probably tacitly approved, but tacit conspiracies are weak. Often explicit arguments, like defense against theft, can win against them.

James Wilson said...

This incident inspired a post from DownsizeDC.org: http://www.downsizedc.org/blog/do-you-want-to-replace-the-tsa-with-competitive-alternatives

Anonymous said...

you are all fools for falling for the bullshit story that you need to have your luggage searched at all...you deserve the thefts for putting up with the searches and falling for the lies!
you desecrate ancient civilizations and then expect repercussions...you are deluded ...it is mossad and the israelis who run TSA and amerika...get wise and wake up!

Unknown said...

Not that this is the same thing, but it made me think of your experience:
I doubt this "prank" would have happened had the agent who inspected it had to identify themselves.