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Permanent Emergency

Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security

Since 2001 the TSA has accepted responsibility for protecting over two million people a day at U.S. airports and managing transportation operations around the world. But how effective is this beleaguered agency, and is it really keeping us safe from terrorism? In this riveting expose, former TSA administrator Kip Hawley reveals the secrets behind the agency's ongoing battle to outthink and outmaneuver terrorists, illuminating the flawed, broken system that struggles to stay one step ahead of catastrophe. Citing numerous thwarted plots and government actions that have never before been revealed publicly, Hawley suggests that the fundamental mistake in America's approach to national security is requiring a protocol for every contingency. Instead, he claims, we must learn to live with reasonable risk so that we can focus our efforts on long-term, big-picture strategy, rather than expensive and ineffective regulations that only slow us down.

Publisher's Weekly Review


From the cataclysm and chaos of 9/11, to the mundane ordeal of passengers being "herded, pushed, poked, prodded, and grilled by airport security,"this brisk and engaging narrative reveals the machinations behind the X-Ray machines and pat-downs in the nation's defense against airborne terrorist activity. Weaving together stories of characters ranging from the president down to the lowliest airport employees, Hawley and Means make the tension palpable as the action flashes back and forth between American efforts at self-defense and the plotting of terrorists around the world. Hawley, who served as administrator of the Transportation Security Administration from 2005 to 2009, presents an insider's look at the institution, and though he doesn't entirely abstain from rah-rah tributes to his former colleagues,the result is by no means unalloyed praise for what he acknowledges is one of the least popular bureaucracies in all of government. Officially createdin November 2001, the TSA was confronted by "a billion details and no precedent." Four hundred and fifty airports had to be secured, two million travelers had to be screened each day, and an army of 60,000 personnel had to be acquired and trained. The success with which the administrators managed these problems--a story of "misadventure and occasional, often-unsung moments of heroism"--forms the dramatic, emotional core of this exciting book. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/19/2012

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