The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in late 2001 as part of the United States' response to September 11. Although initially an agency within the Department of Transportation, TSA was quickly incorporated under the umbrella of the newly-minted Department of Homeland Security.
TSA has been tasked with making travel safer, particularly air travel. With a steadily-increasing budget that has reached over eight billion dollars in 2011, it is supposed to be the last line of defense against terrorists seeking to hijack planes. To achieve that goal, the TSA makes use of ample restrictions and bans on carry-on items, metal detectors, x-ray machines, full-body scanners and most recently enhanced pat-downs.
Of course, there are questions over whether TSA's methods actually do make us safer. For instance, the controversial full-body scanners have been shown ineffective at detecting certain types of weapons and explosives hidden on the body. But apart from the utility of specific methods, some security experts maintain that, in general, TSA has the wrong approach: rather than preventing against novel means of attack, it seeks to simply foil plots terrorists have already tried or succeeded at in the past; and rather than profiling for terror suspects, it attempts to screen everyone.
Most crucially, there is the moral issue of whether TSA's measures are unconstitutional because they violate a person's Fourth Amendment rights. If it brings only the mere "illusion of safety," as some commentators have argued, such infringement would be an unacceptable trade-off--especially since for Westerners (e.g., U.S., Canada, Great Britain) the risk of dying at the hands of terrorists is so extremely low.
It was one of Franklin's famous dictums that "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." At the heart of this topic lies its applicability to TSA.