People dislike the TSA, says Institute for the Study of Obvious Things

A new AP survey shows that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in charge of security at US airports, ranks just behind FEMA, and ties with the IRS, in a list of the most unpopular federal agencies. Since its creation under the Department of Homeland Security as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the TSA has been at the center of a number of controversies and the target of frequent complaints. Many of the nearly 9,000 complaints that the TSA received between January and October of 2007 were for long wait times going through security, seemingly arbitrary rules, and employee rudeness. In addition, screeners have drawn criticism for failing to detect fake bombs in government tests– as many as 75% passed through unnoticed in one airport.

On the other hand, the article notes that “53 percent of air travelers think TSA does a “very” or “somewhat” good job,” and it’s unlikely that many people write in to the TSA to compliment the job performance of their personnel, even when they do a good job. TSA’s spokeswoman Ellen Howe said that the travelers should realize that TSA employees are “good people motivated by the mission.” She added: “Our officers take a lot of disrespect from the public… These people are on the front lines and they deserve our respect.”

Personally, I’ve never had a complaint about a TSA employee, but some of the agency’s policies do strike me as rather arbitrary. For instance, a three-ounce bottle of liquid can’t blow up an airplane, but a four-ounce bottle can?

For a closer look at airport security personnel, check out Barbara Peterson’s March 2007 investigative piece in Conde Nast Traveler, “Inside Job: My Life as an Airport Screener.”