Is it safer to fly today than it was before 9/11? The short answer, according to a new documentary, is no.
Despite spending billions of dollars, creating a new government agency and creating numerous new security procedures, the makers of "Please Remove Your Shoes" argue that the flying public today is no safer from a terrorist attack than it was before Sept. 11, 2001.
"What we've got now is nothing but security theater, meaning all these bells and whistles that you see are only meant to make you feel safe," former federal air marshal P. Jeffrey Black says in the documentary. "I honestly think we were safer before 9/11 than we are now."
The central theme of "Please Remove Your Shoes" is that the Transportation Security Administration has grown into a massive government bureaucracy with too much money. The filmmakers argue it hasn't taken enough preemptive measures in fighting terrorists and that instead of addressing real security concerns, the TSA focuses on herding people through checkpoints as fast as possible and hires poorly-trained workers who dress up in uniforms and play cop.
"Our real security at the airport, while admittedly immeasurable, appears to be even worse than ever," Fred Gevalt, the film's executive producer, told ABC News. "Clearly something has to be fixed. We have given TSA sufficient time since their creation to establish their merit and they haven't. It's time to call for a rethink of the whole security system, and now is as good a time as any. We certainly shouldn't allow this farce to continue."
The 94-minute documentary is being released straight to DVD on July 1. There is no studio is behind it, with Gevalt personally funding it.
Gevalt and director Rob DelGaudio use six current and former federal security officials to tell the story of airline security before 9/11, the creation of the TSA and some of the problems they see now with the agency. Most of the arguments in the film have been made before and the accusations come from whistleblowers whose contempt for the agencies they say did not listen to them comes across clearly and harshly.
Gevalt says the TSA and other government agencies are filled with "laziness, waste, disregard for employees, citizens and above all nepotism."
In response to the movie and the whistleblower accusations, the TSA said it has "significantly improved aviation security following the tragic events of 9/11."
"We have full confidence in our highly trained workforce to use the latest intelligence, state of the art technology and other layers of security to keep the traveling public safe," said TSA spokesman Greg Soule. "The agency will continue to implement enhanced security measures to stay ahead of ever evolving threats."
The Federal Aviation Administration, which was also criticized in the movie, declined to comment, directing questions to the TSA.
Gevalt is a Vietnam veteran who founded the Air Charter Guide, a listing of all the charter operators around the globe. He once successfully sued the FAA, arguing that the lack of regulations for fractional aircraft ownership programs gave them an unfair advantage against the commercial charter business.
Now retired, he initially began making a movie that suggested Americans have become too afraid of terrorism. But that quickly changed into a critique of the TSA.