So here’s a brighter idea: The government could recognize that it’s impossible to screen passengers (and cargo) for every type of banned material. If a terrorist plot has gone undiscovered by the world’s intelligence agencies, by the U.S. military, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by local law enforcement, the chance is high that the plotters are also more sophisticated than the TSA. It’s better to accept some level of risk, minimize the TSA’s ever more intrusive disruptions to American life, and redirect some of its enormous budget to agencies that can eliminate terrorist plots before they mature to the point that conspirators are boarding planes.
YES, YES, a hundred times YES.
The TSA and its antics would be hilariously funny, in a hollywood sitcom — assuming you could get an audience to believe that an agency so institutionally incompetent could continue to exist. (Then again, we are talking about government agencies. In that context, I suppose it's not really such a stretch.)
In the real world, where they inconvenience, humiliate, and violate the rights of real people while doing nothing productive except give Congress a false sense of security and swell the coffers of companies that manufacture airport security systems that either don't work in the first place, or which terrorists can figure out how to defeat or circumvent faster than they can be developed and put into service, the TSA is ... somewhere between bewildering, pathetic, and appalling. It has the trainwreck-nature. It strains belief in the limits of stupidity and incompetence. And as if this wasn't enough, the TSA recently announced that it is taking its program of incompetence, exceeded authority, civil rights violations, and sexual assault on the road. (I don't have a link handy right now, I haven't hit the right search keywords. Maybe one of you can provide one.)
The TSA needs to be defunded and dismantled, and sooner rather than later. It is worse¹ than useless as an anti-terrorism agency, wasteful of money that's in short supply, destructive to individual civil rights, and dangerous to the Constitution.
The inestimable hugh_mannity came through with a reference to what the TSA calls its VIPR program, which currently conducts 8,000 unannounced random security screenings a year, completely devoid of any actual legal authority and in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.
 Yes, I meant it — worse than useless. Partly because it uselessly diverts vital resources from where they can do more good, and partly because the TSA actively tried to prevent implementation of one of the few actual sound anti-hijacking measures put in place in the US, the Federal Flight Deck Officer armed-aircrew program. Then, after it failed to kill the FFDO program, the TSA instead set about a program of actively sabotaging² it by measures such as imposing burdensome application procedures that discouraged most pilots from even applying; restricting FFDO training to a single small, remote facility; summarily disqualifying pilots who fly significant numbers of international flights; and deliberately failing many of the best-qualified trainees in the program. Then they mandated a stupid locking holster that serves no useful purpose whatsoever and has already been the cause of at least one accidental discharge in the cockpit. (And this doesn't even get into the fact that of the first thousand sidearms issued to FFDO program graduates, almost a third were lost, mislaid or misdirected while in TSA hands within the first year of the program, 275 of them in one single three-month period. At least one sidearm was permanently "lost" — or perhaps stolen — and has never been found.)