Vanity Fair is not exactly where one would look for articles on homeland security. The article below does raise some of the same questions I've asked. Are we really safer for the amount of money we are spending? The author, Charles C. Mann, follows around the chief security officer for British Telecom (BT) as he points out many of the flaws associated with our airport security measures.
Even after teaching TSA personnel, I have some of the same concerns. Looking for what happened previously prevents a more fluid approach to looking for the unusual. Case in point, removing shoes. One moron tried it, didn't work, but we still look for shoes. This lead another moron to stuff liquid explosives in his underwear. It didn't work either but not because of our screening process but because of vigilant passengers.
The article also points out the greatest flaw, we are focusing our efforts almost exclusively on passengers. Support personnel and vendors, who work daily at the airport, can easily by-pass procedures or smuggle weapons on-board for other operatives to use.
I also believe if we want to down an airliner, there are multiple ways to do it that don't require the terrorist to ever set foot on an airport.
Do we still need TSA? Yes but not for any reasons the author wrote about. TSA provides a tremendous psychological deterrent to would-be terrorists. Much like the greeter at Wal-mart, TSA lets people know someone is watching. It also makes other travelers feel that something is being done to make them safer. You can't prove a negative, we really can't prove how many terrorists were stopped by TSA. But TSA doesn't just stop terrorists. They seize weapons, drugs and larges sums of cash daily. Most of these seizures result in arrests and convictions by law enforcement agencies.