John Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, recently told The Atlantic in an interview that 'we'll never eliminate risk' of terrorist attacks on aviation.
He's right, which is why the TSA's policy of treating everyone as an equal risk is so misguided. It has led to the outrages of the past few weeks and the public backlash against the TSA. We need to scuttle the TSA's equal-risk policy in favor of one that concentrates on genuine potential risks.
Reading the interview, one is struck by how reasonable Pistole sounds, presenting the TSA's current policies as the best we can do in trying circumstances.
The trouble is in the policy's application. The individual performance of TSA officers is highly variable. They possess extreme discretionary powers, but there is little to no recourse for passengers who have bad experiences. Even worse, TSA officers essentially have power without responsibility.