US: Admiring the TSA
Blogs and government aren’t a natural fit. The open, bi-directional flow of information in blogs contrasts with the carefully controlled, uni-directional flow of information that governments are typically associated with.
The US Air Force case is the norm. According to Wired, “The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word “blog” in its web address.” Ironically, according to online audits conducted by the US Army, official Defense Department websites post material far more potentially harmful than anything found on soldiers’ blogs.
That’s where the Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) comes in. TSA is commonly associated with passenger and baggage screening at US airports, a role that is hardly going to endear them to most people. There has been any number of criticisms over their operations, not the least of which is indulging in security theatre.
It’s probably the last organisation that you’d think of running a blog. Not only do they have a blog, they have a great, open blog. The stated purpose is “to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.”
For TSA it is reasonable to have a moderated blog and certainly their Comment Policy is both sensible and fair. Still, it would be justified for people to be a bit cynical about just how open the TSA’s blog would be to comments.
Yet, they are. Take the case of their latest post The Truth Behind the Title: Behavior Detection Officer. It has attracted 90 comments so far, most of which are far from complimentary. A typical pithy one is, “This program is a complete waste of time and money. I can’t believe we’re paying for this.”
Others provide more measured criticism (“TSA, what’s the false hit rate for this program?”) and a few are supportive.
Despite a lot of justified criticism against the TSA, I’ve got to, reluctantly, praise them for their willingness to engage with people openly. In my book, that’s admirable.