Why is it that we all -- myself included -- believe these stories? Why are we so quick to assume that the TSA is a bunch of jack-booted thugs, officious and arbitrary and drunk with power?Yes, why is that?
— TSA and the Sippy Cup Incident, Bruce Schneier, Schneier on Security, 18 June 2007
The answer is obvious:
It's because everything seems so arbitrary, because there's no accountability or transparency in the DHS. Rules and regulations change all the time, without any explanation or justification. Of course this kind of thing induces paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you read about in history books about East Germany and other police states. It's not what we expect out of 21st century America. It's interesting that TSA has learned to control reputation damage somewhat by getting their version out on the Internet; they posted their own security camera video of the incident, which shows that the mother's story apparently wasn't entirely true; she seems to have deliberately spilled the water.
But that doesn't fix the underlying problem of ever-changing rules and general lack of rationale for much of anything other than apparently (who knows the real reasons?) reacting to the latest news story: shoes are or aren't worn, scissors are or aren't permitted, etc.
It would behoove a nation that advocates nation-building for others to get on with rebuilding it's own nation:
It was smart public relations on the TSA's part to get the video of the incident on the Internet quickly, but it would be even smarter for the government to restore basic constitutional liberties to our nation's counterterrorism policy. Accountability and transparency are basic building blocks of any democracy; and the more we lose sight of them, the more we lose our way as a nation.Transparency in government is part of liberty, and Liberty is security.