Despite these harsh criticisms, Vincent says most of the things the TSA is doing to ensure the safety of air travel they’re "doing well." His top two recommendations for improving airport security further would be to restrict all passengers to one, laptop-size carry-on bag and to implement the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) II program. The program was initially proposed by the TSA in 2003, but was later terminated after watchdog groups raised privacy and safety concerns. "Congress injected themselves into it and said, 'you cannot do that with ethnicity, race and so on,'" says Vincent. "Race I would agree with, ethnicity I would not. Ethnicity ought to be a part of the profile to non-citizens and green card holders, but non-U.S. citizens. After all, our adversaries are radical and militant jihadists. We know where they come from and usually what countries. What we don’t know is the difficulty in applying that profile in the U.S."
In many ways, it seems the TSA is always in the midst of a Catch 22 situation. No matter what the agency comes up with to improve airport security – full-body scanners, passengers screening programs or enhanced pat-down searches – people are going to say they have either gone too far or not far enough. The one thing that everyone can agree on, however, is that airplanes remain a prime target for terrorists. Just this week, fears were raised that al-Qaida affiliated militants may have gotten their hands on surface-to air missiles after an instruction manual for the weapon was found in a building occupied by the terror group in Mali. Security experts have long expressed concerns that a shoulder-fired rocket could be used to bring down a commercial aircraft. While this threat is markedly different from the potential of an IED being slipped past airport security, the goal remains the same – to bring down an airplane and instill fear in the hearts of the flying public. That threat isn’t going away anytime soon.