But critics say that without a clear threat, the TSA checkpoints are merely political theater. Privacy advocates worry that the agency is stretching legal limits on the government's right to search U.S. citizens without probable cause — and with no proof that the scattershot checkpoints help prevent attacks.
"It's a great way to make the public think you are doing something," said Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who writes on privacy and security. "It's a little like saying, 'If we start throwing things up in the air, will they hit terrorists?' ''
After admitting that the intrusions had never stopped anything, one TSA official gave as an alternative justification that it helped boost public confidence. Let me translate that for you: it's great for Obama's re-election because the public, at our expense, is reminded of what a great job his administration is doing to protect us while at the same time scaring them which has historically boosted re-election chances.