Transportation Security Administration
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, created in the wake of 9/11 in order to protect air travel and airports in the United States. The TSA is also responsible for security for America’s highways, railroads, buses, and ports, but most of its work takes place in airport security. Currently TSA agents work at over 450 American airports.
The TSA includes several different types of employees. Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are the most visible, encountered by travelers in airports across the country. These employees are referred to as “screeners,” searching baggage and operating metal detectors. TSA officers wear blue-grey uniform shirts and black pants and wear badges similar to those worn by police. Because TSA officers do not carry weapons and do not have the power to arrest anyone, many police agencies object to their use of badges.
Federal Air Marshalls are also employees of the TSA. Air Marshalls work undercover on US flights in order to protect against terrorist attacks in-flight. The Federal Air Marshall program was originally created in 1961 following the first hijacking of a US airliner.
Some studies have suggested that increased TSA security at American airports has led to a rise in traffic deaths in the United States, as many would-be travelers choose to drive rather than undergo the invasive and complicated screening procedures. Other criticisms leveled against the TSA include charges of employees sleeping on the job, sexual harassment of travelers, and wasting money.