The TSA: What’s True and What’s Not

The recent shooting at the LAX airport caused quite a controversy regarding the power wielded by the officers of the Transportation Security Administration (or TSOs). TSOs screen people and their property before they can control planes as well as control entry and exit points in airports.

The TSA was created after the September 11 attacks as a preventive measure against terrorism, their main concern surrounding aircraft hijacking. Initially signed into law under the Bush administration, the TSA has grown to accommodate more than 45,000 screening officers across the entire United States. Their jobs include screening passengers and luggage, both carry-on and checked, for dangerous items such as knives, lighters or explosive chemicals.

The TSA has garnered a lot of negative attention in the past due to various complaints ranging from theft of personal items and abuse of power to sexual misconduct, and many misconceptions about the agency have arisen as a result. “I’ve heard they take useless things from you,” said freshman Michael Nelson. The items they confiscate may seem useless to some, but they’ve been identified as potential weapons that can be used to take control of a plane.

Some are also unclear on whether or not they carry weapons. TSOs are not, despite popular belief, armed. They also do not possess the power to make an arrest or use force against civilians if they do not comply with orders. Usually in such a situation, they must call the airport police and wait for help to come.

On Nov. 1, a 23-year-old man named Paul Anthony Cianca opened fire at the LAX International Airport, shooting and killing one TSO and wounding several other people. This is the first time in the organization’s 12-year history that an agent was killed on duty. The shooting made some flyers concerned, and many suggested that the administration should begin arming officers.

How do passengers feel about armed TSOs? “Guns? No, they’d use them for inappropriate purposes,” said Cassidy Merlo.

Others believed that only some officers should be armed.  “There should be a first line of defense carrying weapons to prevent this kind of stuff. The screening officers should remain unarmed,” said Cliff Stapleton, a campus monitor at Vista.

Tragic events like this shooting continue to make the Department of Homeland Security question the effectiveness of airport security as it stands currently. Since the September 11 attacks, airports have been enforcing more security measures than ever. Their efforts have certainly been effective — since the inception of the TSA, there have been no terrorist attacks, and all attempts have been thwarted before too much damage could be done.