In 2012, I flew to Montpellier, France, going through the usual TSA-type harassment. A few days later, I took the high-speed train (TGV) to Paris - no controls whatsoever. I 've been on that train a number of times now, never any controls. Nothing. Zilch. Thank God. A very comfortable ride at around 330 km/h (205 mph) for most of the trip.
By contrast, this is what an insider of the flier harrassment scheme has to say:
The job was demoralizing: “It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show. I confiscated jars of homemade apple butter on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security. I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots—the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying.”
Privately, TSA workers knew the agency’s full-body scanning technology didn’t work: “We knew the full-body scanners didn’t work before they were even installed. Not long after the Underwear Bomber incident, all TSA officers at O’Hare were informed that training for the Rapiscan Systems full-body scanners would soon begin. The machines cost about $150,000 a pop. Our instructor was a balding middle-aged man who shrugged his shoulders after everything he said, as though in apology. At the conclusion of our crash course, one of the officers in our class asked him to tell us, off the record, what he really thought about the machines. ‘They’re shit,’ he said, shrugging. He said we wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket.”
The body scanning machines may not have been able to catch terrorists. But they provided TSA agents with plenty of fodder for jokes about the passengers they were scanning ...
I think a large part of the problem is that - despite pretense to the contrary - security isn't the prime concern. If it were, we'd see responsibility shifted to competent handlers on the right level of subsidiarity, which would leave aircraft carriers and other private providers with a much larger role to play. The problem is that from the very beginning the matter has been instrumentalised as a tool of political and state posturing. It's vitiated by the one-size-fits-all syndrome and other heavy handed measures engendered by politicisation and centralisation.