The bomb sniffing dogs of the future are a distraction from the agency's body scans and intrusive pat-downs
What's the surest sign that the Transportation Security Administration has an image problem? On its Web site, TSA.gov, one of the featured news items describes the agency's "puppy program." It's the fuzziest, most cuddly homeland security initiative ever undertaken. Staffers have so far helped breed and birth 500 adorable little dogs, who'll eventually be used to detect bombs and other explosives. Did I mention that each puppy is named for a 9/11 victim? Or that the widow of Captain Robert Edward Doland Jr., killed in the attack on the Pentagon, was invited on the "Today Show" a few months back to meet the namesake puppy of her late husband?
Thankfully, Mrs. Doland is a dog lover and seemed honored, rather than creeped out, upon her introduction to the little chocolate lab. Well played, TSA public relations. In one media blitz, you've helped show America the agency's best side, comforted a 9/11 widow, and introduced us to hundreds of agents who'll be permitted to paw at our crotches without provoking ire.
But the behavior of TSA's human employees remains problematic. Hence sign number two that it has an image problem: Rep. Ron Paul wants to abolish the agency, and the criticism he offered in a message to the public is too accurate for comfort. "95-year-old women humiliated, children molested, disabled people abused. Men and women subjected to unwarranted groping and touching of their most private areas, and involuntary radiation exposure," he said. "If the perpetrators were a gang of criminals, their headquarters would be raided by SWAT teams and armed federal agents. Unfortunately in this case, the perpetrators are armed federal agents."