The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a counterterrorism unit that grew from the national emergency of September 11, 2001 (9/11). It was part of the restructuring of homeland security responsibilities of the federal government. While the public commonly associates the TSA with airline protection, the TSA is responsible for maintaining security of all U.S. transportation systems, including highways, rail lines, mass transit systems, and pipelines.

The TSA’s self-stated mission is to “protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.” The agency’s vision statement calls for it to “provide the most effective transportation security in the most efficient way as a high performing counterterrorism organization.”

The TSA, however, has attracted almost unending controversy. Airline passengers tend to revile its preboarding search ...

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