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May 3 / Jonathan

If the TSA Were Running New York

James Fallows.

If the TSA Were Running New York

How would it respond to this weekend’s Times Square bomb threat? Well, by extrapolation from its response to the 9/11 attacks and subsequent threats, the policy would be:

  • All vans or SUVs headed into midtown Manhattan would have to stop and have their contents inspected. If any vehicle seemed for any reason to have escaped inspection, Midtown Manhattan in its entirety would be evacuated;
  • A whole new uniformed force — the Times Square Security Administration, or TsSA – would be formed for this purpose;
  • The restrictions would never be lifted and the TsSA would have permanent life, because the political incentives here work only one way. A politician who supports more permanent, more thorough, more expensive inspections can never be proven “wrong.” The absence of attacks shows that his measures have “worked”; and a new attack shows that inspections must go further still. A politician who wants to limit the inspections can never be proven “right.” An absence of attacks means that nothing has gone wrong — yet. Any future attack would always and forever be that politician’s “fault.” Given that asymmetry of risks, what public figure will ever be able to talk about paring back the TSA

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