November 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm #115091NOTE: Please see the TSA Blog for valuable information and ongoing updates about the situation.
Wow – I do not envy our colleagues over at TSA! You?Looks like lots of folks are in an uproar over the naked body scans and intrusive pat downs.Some questions:1 – Have you experienced the scans or pat-downs?2 – How would you improve the process?3 – How can they better educate travelers about the importance of these scans without tipping their hand to those who seek to do us harm?4 – Is there something they can do from a marketing standpoint or have they already lost this story?
Eager to get your insights…maybe someone from TSA will take notice of our solutions and we can have an impact.Help our gov’t colleagues out!!!UPDATE: I also want to add a couple more questions:5 – Who will the public blame should we experience another attack via air transportation?6 – Which is worse: inconvenience at the airport now or hundreds or thousands of our neighbors perishing?TSA has an impossible task…complete Catch 22.
November 14, 2010 at 3:14 am #115325
This whole thing is a mess and I don’t know if there is a way out. First, they don’t seem to be making much of a difference, but of course, that is often the case with public servants.
I am waiting for our next disaster since our TSA fix seems to have created another security problem. Those big long lines waiting to get through the TSA screening…doesn’t that make a nice target for a bomber. He doesn’t even have to get on a plane now.
Recommendation- START PROFILING!! Do they really have to wand my 83 year-old-mother with a titanium knee. When I was in the Army and travelling quite a bit, I got the full Monty all the time, simply because I was a single travelling male. I would show them my military ID card and government travel orders and it still wouldn’t make a difference.
It’s been a long day, and this letter probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I did want to get the profiling issue to the front of things
November 14, 2010 at 4:42 am #115323
The fact that many of us now live in fear and accept these indignities in the name of “security” is just one more clue that the terrorists have indeed won. They have destroyed our society by changing the way we live.
The thing the process currently lacks is common sense, like that story in the news last year about the 6 year old who kissed a classmate and was expelled for sexual harassment. We arm our military personnel with automatic weapons on the battlefield and trust them not to annihilate their own platoon. Can’t we trust them to take a plane ride?
Andrew, I know you are trying to conjure some empathy for our fellow govies in TSA, but that’s a hard sell. We were in Memphis a while ago under federal travel orders and found TSA to be not only totally ignorant of their own rules, but rude and arrogant as well. I spoke with a TSA supervisor at BWI later who just shook her head and admitted that the Memphis TSA were way out of line, but things like this happen every day. And I was wise not to have lost my temper as they would have had the authority to detain us. Hard to feel sorry for these folks. Yeah, it’s a hard job, but one doesn’t have to be a total jerk doing it. If given a choice between dignity and security, I’d choose to live dangerously. I think I have earned some respect and civil treatment. I think all citizens have.
TSA should send all their staff on the line to take a course in customer relations at Disney, if anything, it will teach them not to glower. Then they should hire some top flight security folks, like the ones that design security at the Las Vegas casinos. I know a lot of the same folks who are screaming for better security are the same ones wanting to cut taxes and government spending, but hey, you get what you pay for.
Lots of stuff here, but this hit a nerve. Sorry.
November 14, 2010 at 12:57 pm #115321
From a PR perspective, the problem here for TSA is partly tone and attitude.
As an occasional traveler who has not yet experienced full-body scans, I am viewing this situation based on media coverage and a bit of time spent on the TSA website and blog. But the message from TSA seems to be this: We have decided there will be full body scans. Period. You have no choice. And we do not intend to explain why we are moving to this system beyond vague generalities. Yes, you have an alternative – an intrusive frisking as if you were a criminal.
This is also being implemented at the exact moment of maximum anger and distrust with government at all levels. I think TSA deserves a lot of credit for having the courage to have a blog that lets people really vent and criticize the agency.
What we need to hear is something more like this: “Yes, we understand you don’t like this. Thats a reasonable reaction. But this new technology will deal with a specific threat such as xxx and xxx and is based upon xxxx.” I imagine that TSA may claim that they don’t want to disclose “methods” or “tip off terrorists” but you simply cannot expect people to trust federal “experts” in this current climate.
TSA also needs to give us a bigger picture and some reassurance that common sense is still employed. I personally felt that we already have too much check-in security. Because one person had a shoe bomb 10 years ago, we now have millions of people taking off their shoes for scanning. Sometimes I have to take off my belt. Then the metal detectors. Then we had the limits on toothpaste ect. What is going to happen when a terrorist brings a bomb hidden in a “body cavity” – will the answer be to pull out the rubber gloves and similarly inspect everybody’s private parts?
November 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm #115319
Completely agree, Michael. There needs to be more of a sense that TSA shares a “Pact of Protection” with Americans – to do only what is absolutely necessary to ensure our safety….and to explain to some degree the “why” behind protective measures, especially new tactics.
November 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm #115317
“What is going to happen when a terrorist brings a bomb hidden in a “body cavity” – will the answer be to pull out the rubber gloves and similarly inspect everybody’s private parts?”
Please do not give TSA any more ideas! I am sure they would love to implement this policy and they already wear rubber gloves.
November 14, 2010 at 5:14 pm #115315
I’ve experienced the scans for over 2 years now. No biggie in my opinion. But I also used to work at DHS and audited TSA so I know a little more info that can’t share.
-It does take more time so there needs to be a selfish pay-off. There needs explanation that this process is better and making you more secure. This is a range of PR to good literature
-Better PR – I think they need to get out more in front of the story. It’s tough now but it’s a clear priority
-They do have some literature about it but maybe they could make it even more useful or catchy
November 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm #115313
I’m afraid I don’t have any solutions for this.
All of my experience with TSA employees has been very professional and sometimes even pleasant; remind me not to go to Memphis. (The worst was when I was flying back from London immediately after an Incident, but even then they were tight-lipped-stressed, not rude or angry.) I have no axe to grind on this count.
But I do think that this is a step too far. Irradiated or groped – what kind of choice is that? And calling that into question at the checkpoint automatically makes you into a likely terrorist, because wouldn’t a terrorist protest? The lack of explanation as to why this is needed leaves me suspicious. See for instance this article from The Washington Post, Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners This suggests that objectives other than public safety were being pursued.
TSA is in an awkward position. They are held responsible for absolute security in a world where that is never possible. At some point human dignity has to outweigh statistically minuscule threats. I think we are at that point now, and somebody should give TSA permission to not have to do everything they can.
November 15, 2010 at 3:22 am #115311
Samuel A. LuksParticipant
Working for TSA, I can say this: Some take their job to the extreme, and unfortunately, the traveling public gets the brunt of it.
When I travel, I do not make mention that I am part of the Screening workforce. I go along with every thing that every one else does.
I have seen some of my colleagues be completely out of line, and at that point I ask to speak to a manager and let them know what is going on. At other airports, the staff is a polite and as professional as can be.
To be honest, I think that the saying is true in the case of TSA: You WILL remember the bad experiences, and forget the good ones.
I work at an airport that does not have the AIT or Backscatter, so unfortunately I am no help there. As another poster stated, due to the job I do, not much can be said other than, for every bad experience you see / hear about / read about, there are good ones that will NEVER see the light of day.
We do have a tough job. We try to do as we are asked. We do it for the most part the way WE would want to be treated if we were the passenger about to receive the dreaded ‘Pat down’.
We try to be through and complete. We try to explain the procedure before we start touching and we answer the questions as best we can. Just remember, we don’t have ALL of the answers. At some point the information gets cut off, but the policy keeps coming down. If you are curious, just keep asking ‘Up the chain’.
All the best,
November 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm #115309
Leave it to the Europeans to come up with the best protest.
November 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm #115307
The TSA folks at National and Dulles in the DC area have always been professional and polite. In fact one guy in Austin was extremely helpful as well. The bad experience in Memphis just drives the good experiences from my mind – but you are right, I should be fair. Thanks for reminding me.
November 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm #115305
The naked body scans don’t work. The Europeans have rejected them and the Israelis think they’re ridiculous. Israel, who faces much greater threats than we do, don’t use anything like this – instead they look for suspicious behavior (not people). They’re not going to take naked pictures of grandma or feel-up six year olds.
Agents of the government demand to either see you nude or grope you – we fought a revolution for less than this.
And, really, does anyone with a passing knowledge of computers believe that the photos from the scanners aren’t being stored? And do you trust government not to lose these pictures or let them get hacked?
This is “security theater” not real security. Which is why I’m driving this holiday season!
November 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm #115303
It’s time to end the TSA and return to reasonable private security.
November 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm #115301
If TSA or the Inspectors General will publish a cost/benefit study that lays out what this whole efforts has cost in time, money, intrusion, credibility, lost travel, international and domestic esteem, and many other factors vs. the benefit it has yielded, much would be served in taking this whole effort from a “police state-big brother” posture to one of well-considered (not posturing, knee-jerk) security.
In other words, lack of candid transparency is reducing this scanner/patdown to a baseline of no confidence.
If there is a way to jettison these scanners and the pat-down (I don’t believe this is a binary solution, either), hire a platoon of Labrador retrievers. More accurate, less offensive. For people who are offended by dogs, come up with some other mechanism (scanners, maybe).
November 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm #115299
I’m with you! It was stood as a reactive posture to create the appearance of doing something rather than doing the right thing.
November 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm #115297
Agree, but they have brought much of this on themselves. It reaches a state of severe detachment or arrogance to think that people are perfectly willing to have strangers touching their genitals on a regular basis, or that the alternative is a high-radiation device which will capture an image of you naked and that image will be tagged with your identity and stored indefinitely and shared without your permission or knowledge. Severe detachment, or arrogance.
The Israelis and others have come to realize that the best deterrence is a process which screens and researches prospective travellers well before they arrive at the airport. TSA needs to catch up.
Thanks for providing a forum to discuss this. Hopefully there will be a postitive outcome as a result.
All the best,
November 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm #115295
“Professional and polite” as they touch your genitals? Let’s define terms.
November 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm #115293
You have hit my pet peeve!!! I know amtrak gets a lot more of my business. Before TSA: Yes I have been pat down – by Isreali’s- they even went into my lipstick enroute and upon arrival. And I was part of an audit on Federal funds received by their government 2 years earlier. ( so I was feeling mite the injustice of it all then -but toughed it out relieved it was over) When working abroad for the Feds overseas, I was groped in Paris by airport security – a female- as I went from one section to another. Full disclosure, I was in the WTC for the 1st bombing.
Post 9/11-As a single Mom with a child, TSA needs more skills- I endured morbid fear that I would get arrested over a sippy cup. Last year, I had an awful experience in Charlotte. They chose to change trays going between my three year old and I- the one second he squirmed away and I was about to regrip- Twice! – boarding and departing. Did I look like a sucker or something? And the little one is wandering away all chirpy poking his hand in the conveyer belt and I am fighting to maintain a sunny disposition separated by a column of trays trying to get closer to him. Oh yeah patting down the 3 year old through the metal detector and the shoe removal process with cloth booties when he was 2 that required a stiff upper lip.
However, the power trip of some- the only element of authority they may ever have reveling in discomfort irks me. I recognize it from when I worked in a developing country with the questionably democratic incumbent government’s security who enjoyed the ego stroke of holding folks back because they cld. It is demoralizing.
I am so sympatheric about my colleagues ‘s blue haired friends way past 65 years old who were getting pulled over as that one example of not being profiled over and over again- consistently. When they took cheaper puddle jumper to their destination and return they were statistically off the charts for selection in all their legs ( flown). They felt like the targeted exception to the rule. It has generated a lot more dynamism in their travelling expectations and was not a welcomed one.
I would like procedures in place that respect my child and I as a unit, I want consistency, and improved customer service. DC has a line for families that pregister. Hey if I submit to background check, its on file with my information- even finger prints, let me go through a speed line. Be fair and reasonable.
Moreover, if I have to democratically abide by the rules, I am not sympathetic about folks throwing out their faith to allow them special treatment- Christian , Buddhist, Muslim. Meanwhile, I am beginning to love that auto train to Florida. I highly recommend it.
November 16, 2010 at 4:07 pm #115291
At some point, we have to admit we can’t protect everyone. Wouldn’t we be better advised to move the extraordinary investment in TSA activities to those that are predictable, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, droughts, floods, chemical spills, and other hazards? These see much greater loss of life and property and *can* be averted or mitigated.
November 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm #115289
It’s not about inconvenience. It’s about privacy and freedom. Just because its a done by machine doesn’t make it less of a strip search. The idea that I can just “not travel” if I don’t want to waive my fourth amendment rights is just absurd. I have no choice in that and neither to a lot of other people.
The TSA needs to identity threats long before they arrive at the airport rather than focusing all of this wasted energy at the final perimeter.
November 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm #115287
another attack is inevitable is not a question of if but when?… I did work for TSA and did some pat-downs myself that are very ineffective… even if we do a real Police style pat-down the danger is planes coming from overseas or smart split bomb parts then reassemble them… it takes about 5 people to carry different parts. In my opinion the danger is overseas planes coming to the U.S. with cockpit doors open and very corrupt governments… OK… this is the scenario, you hire a mule tell him he is caring drugs to the U.S. on that secret briefcase he is paid well, the airport security is paid well… who can stop this??? …have something like this happen before?
google Avianca Flight 203 for this reason profile never works
TSA PR team needs to read on “smart weapons” conventional weapons kills many innocents but that was OK smart weapons kills one innocent and chaos… if they had called it “massacre weapons” then the “perception” will be OK… if we are good and smart citizens we need to understand why us? why attack americans? what have we done? why can’t they attack China or Brazil? answering that question is the only assurance of peace and harmony
TSA jobs is keep the (illusion) that we are safe… so STOP confrontation… manage security threats at local airport levels… this is looking more like Gov vs people when in fact is people vs people… NEVER take responsability for an imposible task…
November 16, 2010 at 4:31 pm #115285
My family and I were sitting in the terminal of Detroit Metro Airport, waiting for an outgoing flight, when the underwear bomber landed there last Christmas, so the security issues are pretty real to me.
Unfortunately, I also have a new understanding of the other side of the debate.
I underwent the aggressive patdown last month at another Michigan airport. In the course of it, the screener’s vigorous “patting” inadvertantly caused my pants to fall almost to my knees – my belt was off, but this would not have happened by gravity alone. Had I not quickly dropped my outstretched arms to catch my pants, they would have gone to the floor. The screener made no attempt to slow or halt their free-fall.
I can’t say they were rude during this encounter, but neither were they at all empathetic to a really embarassing scene they created. Maybe that’s not part of their job description, but I don’t think it would have compromised his authority to say, “sorry about that – it was an accident.” We might even have shared a laugh about it. Trust me, though, that standing in a wide-open airport terminal with your pants around your knees gives you a new perspective on this question.
November 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm #115283
Rollin E. OwensParticipant
This is not the problem people like to make it out to be. There are solutions to screening for safety that have been employed for YEARS by a group that seems to have keyed in to the basics of problem solving. First, what is the problem? and second, what are the possible solutions and is there a model or benchmark out there that already works? Might I suggest the TSA head shed stop trying to use “new and exciting” methods and start using the techniques Israel is and has used with great success. That’s right, Israel According to the latest information, TSA attrits a good number of employees within two years of hiring. Why not try hiring people that know how to screen and identify true threats vs. pat down? Let me ask everyone a simple question. If a mechanic is asked to identify a problem with a vehicle’s breaks, do you think he would start with the same troubleshooting checklist as he would use for a problem with an engine running rough?. I don’t think he’d be in business long. You all know the answers to this man made crisis, why do we allow an entire agency to stymie another entire agency because of some PC notion of “group grope” is better than common sense
November 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm #115281
Joe I have heard that Israel has a superior approach to this type of security. Maybe its time for the US to import that method. A few years ago the scanners that identify faces were used at a superbowl. Why can’t this method be used at airport entrances? Then a bomber or suspected bomber can be pulled aside before ticketing
November 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm #115279
Miguel de Dárrah y OrtegaParticipant
I suppose TSA has done its job. They’ve discouraged me from traveling by air unless there are absolutely NO other options. I’d rather take a week to ride a bus or train across the country than submit to the degrading indignities of “security procedures.” If I’m blown out of the sky by a terrorist, that’s a one in a million probability. I’m more worried about being killed in a crash on the way to the airport. Moreover, dying in an air disaster is faster and cheaper than most ways of dying. Plus if I buy flight insurance, my survivors will be well cared for.
For me, the indignity of being treated as though I might be guilty of premeditating mass murder – even briefly – feels like too high a price to pay for the time savings and convenience of air travel.
November 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm #115277
Michael A. MillerParticipant
Jason, profiling doesn’t really work. Richard Reid wasn’t Arab. Neither was Timothy McVeigh. Neither was Germaine Lindsay. Believe me, if terror organizations knew profiling was in effect, they’d find an elderly woman with a titanium knee to carry out their attack. Tim McVeigh himself was a former military man.
November 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm #115275
I agree, along with the VA, Customs, and the Post Office.
November 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm #115273
November 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm #115271
I’ll be the first to say that there are areas where we (TSA) can do much better — including using Israeli methods for detection and prevention.
Having said that, you should know that there are only three international airports in Israel. TSA has a presence in over 460 U.S. airports. Also, we don’t own the airports — they were built and configured by local and/or private ventures. I would be nice if the inital baggage screening areas were bomb-proof like they are in Israel. Unfortunately, we are playing the hand we are dealt with right now.
(Full disclosure: I’m a TSA HQ employee.)
November 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm #115269
I travel frequently and I have an artificial hip, which means I always get extra wanding and pat downs. I have never been bothered by this. Last week I flew and no longer was wanded but had the new extreme pat down. Because I follow the news I was aware that this would happen so I wasn’t shocked. Also, the TSA folks were very careful to explain what they were going to do. Nor did I feel that the pat down was intrusive. But I can imagine that someone who wasn’t used to be examined more carefully could be shocked. Having the examiner explain what they were going to do was a very good idea. I was taking a cat on the plane with me last week and I was more perturbed by having to take the cat out of the carrier, carry the cat through the metal detector, and then hold the cat while an TSA person patted down the cat. I was grateful it was a mellow cat who was not agitated by this. I’m sure the TSA personnel are not happy about having to physically examine cats who are notorious for scratching and hissing. I could have used with an explanation about why they had to frisk my cat.
November 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm #115267
“Brazil”? Did they arbitrarily and recklessly invade and destroy a country in the mid-east also?
November 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm #115265
Michael A. MillerParticipant
I believe I have the solution to TSA’s woes. Passengers should be required to fly naked. I’ll do so on my next flight in order to make TSA’s job that much easier … or more difficult if the sight of a pasty Caucasian doesn’t make their day.
Seriously though, it’s amazing the lengths to which we go to prevent acts of terrorism, rather than the root causes of terrorism (poverty, distrust, religious extremism, civilian casualties in conflicts, mental illness). It’s eerily similar to our healthcare system.
November 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm #115263
If they’ve got to do it…how would you rather have it being performed?
November 16, 2010 at 5:58 pm #115261
Interesting idea, Susan…the transparency would be helpful.
Not sure about the dogs. Images of civil rights movement flash in my brain.
November 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm #115259
Thanks, Patrick. The best recommendation coming out of this forum so far seems to be a review and adaptation of Israeli security. I hope TSA is listening…
November 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm #115257
Great response, Neil. Thank you for responding from a TSA perspective.
November 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm #115255
Like this idea – should be for everybody:
DC has a line for families that pregister. Hey if I submit to background check, its on file with my information- even finger prints, let me go through a speed line. Be fair and reasonable.
TSA had a great accelerated process…why did they end that program?
November 16, 2010 at 6:07 pm #115253
We have become even more of a reactive legislative bend. And these draconian solutions may be divisive but they are simple enough for people to rally around one side or the other. The root causes you mention are problems that we’ve not been able to solve and have taken on a mantle of unsolvable so we stop trying. Pity.
November 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm #115251
Margaret Schneider RossParticipant
Tell me how TSA has used the means at its disposal to correctly idenitfy and prevent a threat from getting on a plane. Show me that the power we’ve given them so far has had ANY impact on my actual security. Make me believe that they deserve the power they already have before asking for more.
It does seem like theater to me. Bombs, and people carrying bombs, still get on airplanes, but lucky for us, they don’t seem to try very frequently and they don’t seem to be too skilled at detonation (yet). People with knives, razors, box cutters, still get on airplanes, but lucky for us, it’s usually because they just forgot to move it into their checked bag. People who wish for the destruction of the US government still get on planes, but lucky for us, even people who hate our government don’t necessarily want to kill people.
TSA’s job seems to be to create a situation where they can say “We did everything they could.” It’s basic CYA. But you can’t be 100% secure, and you can’t prevent the blame and outrage that would follow an attack, no matter what kinds of wacky measures you take. Why not get better at explaining to the people that while the government can and should adopt the most effective known methods for working to prevent attacks, that it can’t insulate everyone all the time. Our job is to say that there are limits to our patience, and not to allow the free-floating anxiety that accompanies air travel in our post 9/11 world to cow us into treatment we’d never otherwise accept.
But honestly? My family lives 3000 miles away. I’m still gonna fly. And I’m a working wife and mother. I’m not going to spend time on this issue beyond my kvetches on this blog, unless someone presents me with a constructive way to DO something. (hint, hint)
November 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm #115249
TSA concluded a two-year Registered Traveler (RT) pilot at 19 airports in July 2008 at which time the program became a market-driven venture offered by the private sector in partnership with airports and airlines.
Information submitted to TSA during the RT pilot program has been destroyed in accordance with the record retention period approved by the National Archives and Records Administration. No customer data was submitted to TSA after July 30, 2008.
November 16, 2010 at 7:31 pm #115247
We have a large and growing Behavior Detection Officer (BDO) program. We use the same techniques and methods that the Israeli’s use to profile behavior. We currently have BDOs and 161 airports nationwide.
See: http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/layers/bdo/index.shtm for more info.
November 16, 2010 at 7:44 pm #115245
In times of rapid change, information is the oil that greases the skids of progress. I have some suggestions for TSA. First , TSA should spend some time and money on a Public Relations campaign to explain to the American Air Traveler why the scanners are needed, the risks involved in using them, etc. Second, the Agency should revise their customer service training for all employees, emphasizing that the way you say things can be just important as what you say. Third, train all TSA staff members in dispute resolution and crisis de-escalation. If TSA staff resort to the practice of offering “my way or the highway” as the only two options, people are going to continue to rebel and a percentage of them will quit flying altogether. I personally wouldn’t mind a little more space on airplanes, but the airlines won’t like that.
November 16, 2010 at 8:41 pm #115243
November 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm #115241
With all due respect to those in the PR biz, this won’t be solved by PR. People (myself included) are fundamentally disturbed by what is being done, not how it’s being done or why it should or shouldn’t be done. I completely agree with Michael Miller, and believe we should ask our government why we even need the aviation security we have now. On a more practical note, lean management would greatly improve the service levels and customer satisfaction of the screening process. My suggestion to TSA would be to hire someone with a proven record of lean process improvement, pay whatever is asked, and do whatever is instructed!
November 17, 2010 at 2:05 am #115239
I think we all support the #1 mission of the TSA and DHS overall, which is to keep our nation safe from terrorism. I work for a component of DHS (note: I am speaking only as a private citizen here) and have observed firsthand the officers’ incredible dedication to the mission as well as their fear of making a terrible mistake that costs millions, possibly hundreds of millions, of lives.
That said, when routine security measures are so invasive as to be experienced as a sexual assault, people of conscience have to speak up against them. I am therefore speaking up to express my objection, even though they are not intended that way.
I know that “we don’t know what we don’t know,” but things have gone too far.
As Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I would welcome the opportunity to help come up with a better approach than is currently being used, if I could.
Also, I trust in our leadership and the democratic process and believe that good judgment and common sense will prevail in the end.
November 17, 2010 at 4:11 am #115237
Samuel A. LuksParticipant
Ms. Publicker: As to patting down your cat: The Officer needed to make sure that you were not concealing anything on your cat and using your hip as the reason for the ‘joint’ alarm (you and your pet).
I would hope that once your pet was cleared the Officer allowed you to place your traveling companion back in to his/her carrier.
I hope that help to answer your question?
November 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm #115235
1. Yes, while boarding a flight returning to DC from Chicago. I chose to be scanned, realized I had forgotten to remove my watch and my arm was patted down. TSA agents were neither rude nor polite, they appeared weary of the entire process.
2. Restrict Scans and pat downs to only those passangers flaged as risks based on rigerous preflight profiling including: when and how they purchased the ticket, one way or roundtrip, SSN background check (it can be done easily when tickets are purchased) etc. Frankly, if the ATF can turnaround a background check to purcase a firearm in a matter of 5-20 minutes, TSA can do the same for airline passangers as they purchase tickets. More enhanced review of phot id to ensure the individual boarding the plane is the same person who bought the ticket. This would reduce the number of individuals subjet to scans and pat downs to only those whose background check justifies getting a search warrent. The federal courts could assign a judge in each TSA area to review and approve requests for warrents in a timely manner and individuals selcted for screening could be notified by email to arrive at the airport early to avoid additional delays.
3. There is no way to educate travellers about the importance of these scans since recent GAO reports as well as experiance in Europe and Israeli airlines clearly indicate they have very limited effectiveness and a growing body of ancedotal evidaence leads me to believe they are primarily a windfall profit boondoggle for profiteers in the security business.
4. They have been losing this story for nearly 10 years. At a certain point, no amount of marketing will overcome the sour taste of poor performance.
5. The public should blame future attacks (as well as all previous attacks) on the individuals who perpetrate them as well as the communities and cultures which shelter these attackers, hide them from law enforcement, provide them money, pray for their success, honor them when they kill and hold terrorists up as models for their children to emulate. Neither the public nor law enforcement should punish unrealted individuals by humiliating them in public, deny them fundamental 4th amedment protections or treating them as guilty until proven innocent. Leave that treatment to the families, friends and and coreligionists of the terrorists.
6. We are not talking inconvenience. We are talking abrogation of fundamental 4th amendment rights and the reduction of our society to a thinly vieled police state. The most shameful aspect of the entire situation is that we allow TSA and other law enforcement agencies to slowly and steadliy chip away at our freedoms because we are too scared or compliant to resist. I fly about 2-4 times a year, usually for vacations and will continue to do so. I have and will continue to stand in the machine and allow TSA work their will because I am more interested in getting on with my trip than in standing up for my rights. I am ashamed of this fact and bitterly resent TSA for forcing me to realize that in at least one sense, I am a moral coward. I strongly suspect that a large part of the backlash currently directed at TSA comes from people who share my views, share my moral cowardice, are equally ashamed of it and are looking for ways to resist without ending up on a no fly list.
In all likelyhood TSA will “win” this fight. Our rights will degrade a little more each year and few if any of us will ever offer any meaningful resistance. It is a sad commentary on our nation and our culture that we have allowed and will continue to allow law enforcement (not just TSA) do erode our basic values and do more harm to our nation than any terrorist could hope to accomplish in their wildest dreams.
November 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm #115233
“Don’t grope me, bro!”
November 17, 2010 at 4:50 pm #115231
Perhaps behavior profiling could play a greater part in airport security. The process could be more like crossing a US/Canadian border, where border patrol agents look at you and directly ask you a series of questions – looking for nervousness, unsure or vague answers or aversion to eye contact. With proper training, the strategy may be effective in airports as well. Although I have never heard anyone use the term “israelification” when discussing anything, perhaps we could learn something from their techniques mentioned in the article above.
November 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm #115229
Your additional questions.
Who will the public blame? Who does the public ALWAYS blame? The President. George W. Bush got a pass on the blame for 9/11 because since this had never happened before, the country was in shock. Whoever is in office if this happens again will get blamed though.
Inconvenience or thousands perishing. Really? Not a fair question.
You always have to consider the odds. Why aren’t we bankrupting all nations to build a gigantic titanium umbrella to shield our planet from comets? A dead on strike from any one of them will destroy Earth.
Because the odds are very long on this happening.
Folks fly everyday. 9/11 only happened once. Do the math.
All the added airport “security” is just an over reaction. Furthermore it is locking a barn after the horse ran off.
If the safety procedures we all ready had in place had been executed, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened anyway. Like where was that squadron of jets that were supposed to scramble whenever a plane veers off course over a city? Were they having coffee or at a meeting?
And are all these “screenings” actually going to detect anything? A suicide bomber can have all his body cavities filled with C4 and set it off on the plane with a cell phone. But taking off my shoes is going to make me feel safer?
A little common sense can prevent disasters. Making us all use 2 ounce bottles and carry them all in a see-through bag? Soon we’ll be flying naked. I don’t know about you, but I want a towel!
November 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm #115227
Good points Ed –
I also liked the column in the Washington Examiner on this. If TSA wants find a PR response to resistence from the flying public, nothing beats getting the man at the top involved
Examiner OPED —
Since the TSA molested my family, why doesn’t Obama volunteer to subject his family to the same security procedures?
By: Mark Hemingway
Commentary Staff Writer
11/16/10 3:05 PM EST
Two weeks ago, my wife flew alone out to Colorado with our two young children. Unaware that the TSA had instituted new and incredibly invasive new security procedures, my wife called me distressed after getting frisked by the TSA. Or as my wife put it, “in some cultures I would be married to my screener by now.” She was joking, but make no mistake — my wife was incredibly disturbed by how intimate a security pat down she received.
So here’s my not-so-modest proposal: If the President’s Homeland Security department is so adamant that this is the absolute best way to prevent terrorism, I think the President and his family should voluntarily submit to one of the new invasive pat down procedures. I know the Obamas don’t fly commercial at all these days, so they should probably get a pretty good idea what the rest of us are putting up with.
The President and his family — preferably with DHS Secretary Janet “The system worked” Napolitano — should show up at Dulles or Reagan airport on a weekday with a camera crew in tow, as airport pat downs are typically done in full view of hundreds of travelers. All of America will to see the TSA handling the President’s crown jewels. Then a rubber-gloved federal agent will run his hands all over his wife and daughter’s privates while he watches. Then I want him to turn to the camera and tell all of America that this is no big deal and we should all be good citizens and comply with the necessary security procedures.
It only seems fair.
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/since-the-tsa-molested-my-family-why-doesnt-obama-volunteer-to-subject-his-family-to-the-same-security-procedures-108480699.html#ixzz15Yp15XXw
November 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm #115225
Federal government out of my travel.
November 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm #115223
Wow, this is an incredibly thoughtful response.
Point #2 especially resonates with me as a viable solution.
Points #5 and #6 definitely give me cause for pause as well. You’ve certainly stated your argument in a compelling manner.
November 17, 2010 at 6:52 pm #115221
As an Arab American Muslim who also happend to focus their studies on terrorism in college, I disagree with some of the ideas suggested here.
1. Israeli style profiling is not the way to go-There are several sides we are not looking at here, 1. Israel is tiny and segmented off from a lot of the world. By implementing a difficult process to obtain visas and entrance into Israel you have already weeded out many of those people who would wish harm. On the other side, those who already have their papers in order, can still be subject to hours of interogation and pat downs etc. The “Israeli Model” does not apply to a country where business travellers jet from coast to coast multiple times a week, or one in which a business traveller would not tolerate being detained for several hours because they do not fit a profile. Let’s also not forget that many flights in Israel have armed agents publically standing guard, something a little different.
2. Background checks only go so far-The instacheck program that the ATF uses is pretty cool stuff, not only does it help stop people from getting guns, it also allows police to be notified where someone with an outstanding warrant is at that moment. The problem is in the US felons are allowed to fly, and there is no correlation that I have read between criminal history and terrorism. Let’s not forget http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_McVeigh or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nidal_Malik_Hasan
I think the problem is the emotions involved with flying have been so heightened that travellers are waiting for a fight (whether it be with a terrorist or a TSA agent trying to do their job) by the time they get to security.
Lets recap a typical airport experience people wait in long lines, get fined to death by the airlines, get inconvenienced at screening, and now have something else to contend with. In my view, ever since the national guard was stationed at screening with weapons, travellers have taken screening to be an act of intimidation and not protection. The Israeli’s have proven that intimidation is not the way to go.
On the flip side, let’s look at Disney, which tends to always be a great model, Disney parks do not allow any firearms, have metal detectors and wands and long lines and high fees. But people like Disney. I go the other way on the PR approach for TSA, TSA needs to continue to do their professional and demanding jobs but also make flying encouraging. The new screening methods heighten anxiety, get a dose of radiation or be taken to a time out box where they go through a pat down in which the standards require the screener to feel genitalia.
I will say the incidents that have been highlighted recently all seem to have been handled pretty well by TSA, while some level of intimidation has been clear, if you compare it to the security forces in Israel frankly it is minor league stuff.
Just my thoughts
November 17, 2010 at 7:37 pm #115219
With all due respect I think it is inappropriate to start injecting inflammatory stuff into the discussion. This is not about profiling by religion. Nor is it about your feelings toward Israel. It is about how Americans, as a diverse society, are going to balance security with liberty in the face of a determined and extremely adaptive and intelligent terrorist threat.
Your point is well taken that what works in one place doesn’t necessarily work in another. I think the reason are holding up Israel as an example is that this tiny little country (note I am Jewish) has managed to survive despite being outnumbered and surrounded by hostile enemies. Yet they have not resorted to the same policies as the TSA.
Let’s keep it constructive as we all search for a solution that we can live with.
November 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm #115217
I am not sure what part you find inflammatory from my above comments? What portion are you reacting to?
November 17, 2010 at 8:30 pm #115215
You introduced your religious background, and then connected that to alleged racial profiling by the Israelis. “Racial profiling” is an inflammatory accusation.
Also, the first and last paragraph state that Israel is excessively intimidating for no reason, and doesn’t offer any evidence for the point of view presented.
November 17, 2010 at 8:41 pm #115213
I did not introduce any ideas of racial profiling or religious profiling. Please take another look and see if that was an assumption or something I maybe did not make very clear. I was responding to the profiling method that others have brought up in this thread. In actuality racial profiling, in the standard term that we use, is not the method that Israel employs to profile, I am not sure where in my remarks you are reading that?
I am sorry you did not appreciate my mentioning my social, religious and educational background, but I believe it adds to the conversation rather than detracting from it. I have afterall gotten to see both sides of the proverbial coin. I can’t imagine mentioning I am an Arab American Muslim that has studied terror is inflammatory.
I can certainly provide more references to how the intimidation factor in the Israeli Model is part of the psychological profile layered into their security policy, and I DID mention that armed guards in full view on flights is one of those layers. But even then I cannot understand how that is an inflammatory remark, especially in regards to what else has been said in this thread. In fact I think i have been less inflammatory in comparing policies than other posters have been in referring to the US policy.
November 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm #115211
I think this exchange highlights how high emotions are running around this situation.
I know both Dannielle and Bandar personally – both of you are thoughtful and I can vouch that neither of you would intend offense with your comments…and seek to approach this issue with respect and constructive feedback.
November 17, 2010 at 8:55 pm #115209
I know I’m a bit late to the party but I have a few things to say about TSA/Security at airports.
Theory has been rapidly overtaken by the reality of the situation. TSA in enacting these processes reached a critical mass where the public found and started expressing discontent. TSA has at this point two choices. They can put on their boots and treat the public as cattle, or they can back of the position of the scanners and evaluate their security mechanisms. The former position of authoritarian oppression will result in a larger backlash. In the past we’ve seen corporations and governments do this resulting in dismantling of the entire political system that allowed it to exist. That is why I’m not surprised to see political grand standing blaming the Obama administration for the scanners, even though they have been part of the FAA security strategy since the OST discussed in 1992.
The principle of fixing the TSA is simple if not speedy. Currently the TSA as an entity has forgotten many of the basics of strategy and counter terrorism. The gathering of people in long lines and bunched up is a horrible strategy. As in any law enforcement action if you harden a specific target or increase patrolling the bad guys move to the softer targets. That is now the security check point. Worse, counter terrorism looks at CBRN and the long lines have a huge risk of biological contamination across a larger population. So we’ve now moved the risk off the airliner (a 1 in 25 million risk) to a larger more diffuse population. There is reason overseas suicide bombings occur in market squares and police stations. it is where the people are.
There is a better way.
Hierarchical security mechanisms are inherently flawed when they are distributed in time or distance over a large area. Exactly the topography of the airport system. Any fundamental flaw in such a system can easily be exploited and determined (bad guys do intelligence analysis too). The use of distributed mechanisms are much safer and resilient to disturbances due to systemic decay. This added to zero risk culture actually increases the inherent risk (due to flaws) of the system.
As yourself the questions. Why do we allow bad guys to get to the airport? Why do we allow them to get in security lines? Why are most bad guys coming from foreign lands (9/11 excepted)?
We should be doing credit and agency checks when somebody buys a ticket. Hold the ticket for four hours (instant checks are technically near impossible with some airline systems so don’t expect it). I know the credit card companies don’t like the roll backs, and I know the Airlines are incentivized to allow the passenger to show up and then take the airline fare no refunds allowed. I can’t believe though for the cost of a few tickets free profit we’d not use a system that stops the bad guy before the airport.
Kiosk systems are great. Wandering agents doing behavioral analysis is another interlocking web that is fairly easy to implement. Kiosks distribute the passengers over multiple systems and allow for updated checks that could include third party identification. We allow bad guys to get on airplanes when their identification, and boarding pass are controlled by possible bad actors at all times. Drivers license and passport checks from state systems allow the identification to be checked. I can get a ticket in any state but somebody has to build a huge billion dollar system to figure out my picture at the airport? I don’t think so.
Dogs are excellent methods of detecting real time explosives and even fear in individuals. Fuzzy beagles, Labradors, and Hounds are not the German Shepherds of the civil rights era protester. Roving, in any lines, walking around, these are better detectors than any scanner.
The principle is not to use what has become one failure prone hardened point, that even remains more form than substance, but to create an interwoven set of sticky segments that slow and expel only those who have given you reason to be cautious.
The principle you give up rights to fly is an onerous obscenity that only the less than innovative thug would consider. The experience of flying is an expensive lesson in punitive thuggery. It should be a wonderful commerce centered experience that families look forward to when engaging in the safest form of travel.
Consider the experience of arriving at the airport, whisking through at each step being, escorted, assisted, and not seeing the security mechanisms. The security that is not perceived has the deepest effect and this is not through obscurity. Security that is not seen is also not seen by the bad guy. What we have now is a new set of transitional risk waiting for another incremental step instead of systemic solution. TSA has really smart people, but the printer cartridges were picked up by intelligence. There are many better ways that various agencies and organizations have suggested over the last 30 years for airline safety. What we have now is becoming a political liability and we know what happens to agencies when they become liabilities.
November 17, 2010 at 9:00 pm #115207
@ Bandar – OK. I get it. Thanks for clarifying. It is not always clear from the post exactly what is meant. Have a good day.
@ Andrew – thanks. I had a feeling the remarks werent meant that way, but it was just how they came out.
November 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm #115205
And I know Andrew and Dannielle as well, they are both smart and passionate, one of them happens to be a trouble maker….hint its the one with the rocking gotee
November 17, 2010 at 9:33 pm #115203
As others have said here and on the TSA Blog (http://blog.tsa.gov) Israel does a good job with airport security.
However, I want to point out that there are only a handful of airports in Israel and only 2 or 3 with regular international flights. From what I can gather from open sources (Wikipedia), Israel has approximately 15 million passengers per year. Contrast that to the USA where we have nearly 2 million passengers per day in 460+ airports. TSA has to screen nearly 50 times more passengers than Israel in many more airports.
The U.S. (TSA) challenge is several orders of magnitude more complex than Israel’s.
November 17, 2010 at 10:20 pm #115201
I think there should be more focus on the underlying issues and less on the surface ones. Like–
1. There are a lot of people out there who hate us
2. A portion of them spend all their time plotting to bring us down
3. Destructive technology is getting harder to detect and more powerful too
4. Most people don’t want to think about this stuff, its too scary
5. The situation is ripe for many kinds of exploitation/abuse
6. We can’t afford to make a mistake
7. The civil liberties we enjoy also create opportunities for terrorists
8. Many are furious with the policies being implemented
9. Many can’t think of anything better to do to fix things
10. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
November 17, 2010 at 10:38 pm #115199
In all the discussion I haven’t heard exactly why the new pat downs were put into place. Was a threat picked up?
November 17, 2010 at 10:47 pm #115197
Spot on observations Peter! I left a similar comment on the TSA Blog and either they have an extremely long approval process or they deleted my comment.
November 18, 2010 at 12:50 am #115195
I think Adriel in his short statements is making a good point. While I believe the increasing loss of our freedoms is a problem, the main reason I think people are upset by all this is that the TSA at times (depending on the individual) treats us like we are criminals instead of customers. But because we have paid for a service, we go to the airport expecting to be treated like a customer so when that doesn’t happen we get upset and rightly so.
I do believe TSA is providing us a service that we pay for as tax payers – they are protecting us from harm. But they certainly don’t always approach us in this manner. So perhaps they need to decide if we are criminals or customers. This is a very basic idea but determines the foundation of everything they do, and the problem is they act like they haven’t made this decision.
My personal take on all this is much different from most although I fully support everyone’s ideas and views on here. If someone is upset by this, TSA needs to address it. It’s sad to realize our government is doing something that causes people to feel assaulted, and if they want to fly, they have no other alternative but to put up with it.
On the last few flights I took, I went through the body scanners. I am not sure what they can see but as it relates to me, I don’t care what they can see. The part that bothers me is I keep reading it is medically harmful. So, I would like to know the truth about the potential health effects. As for the groping part, I was patted down once years ago when the TSA person told me I didn’t have to remove my shoes because it was a free country and as soon as I got through, I got pulled aside for the pat down. I do not remember it being a negative experience (other than the bad person who misled me) and the woman was nice about the pat down. But it was an inconvenience so now of course I take off my shoes. What really upset me was flying out of DC this year and I got pulled aside so they could take my shoes from the belt and test them. They told me they were just doing random test of shoes to try to catch terrorists. Wow, how effective can that really be? Meanwhile all my stuff – computer and money – was lying out of my sight unattended while I was locked in a glass cage. For me that was completely unacceptable and terrible treatment for no good reason.
November 18, 2010 at 4:04 am #115193
TSA performs internal testing everyday. I think it is reasonable to infer that internal testing showed a weakness in ‘patdown’ testing. The logical conclusion would be to enhance an area that has proven to be deficient. Thus the current state of affairs.
November 18, 2010 at 6:03 am #115191
Samuel, yours is the best commentary I’ve seen yet. I like hounds
November 18, 2010 at 12:01 pm #115189
Please. We are not quite that dim. Given GAO’s reports on the ineffectivness of backscanner technology along with its obvious inability to detect items hidden in body cavities, I think it is reasonable to infer the agency could not justify giving such a major acquisition contract to favored vendors staffed with former TSA officials unless they were able to demonstrate public acceptance. The logical conclusion would be to make the alternative so disgustingly unacceeptable the majority of the flying public would quickly choose to stand infront of the machine rather than be gropped by a stranger. Thus the current state of affairs.
November 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm #115187
I decided not to get mad, I am just going to send a message to the Rapiscan operator: http://jstogdill.posterous.com/send-the-tsa-a-message-it-will-be-fun
November 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm #115185
Citizens of the U.S., we are being conditioned to accept our rights and freedoms taken away. Until more of us stand up to it and question it, this type of invasion of our privacy in the name of security will become the new normal.
Think about how the TSA agents seem to small children, excited about traveling and going on vacation. And at the age of three, they’re going to be scanned and patted down? What perception will they have about the freedoms we are supposed to enjoy in the United States of America? It’s like punishing the entire class when one kid misbehaves. It’s unfair. And it doesn’t work.
In this powerful scene from the film Casablanca, the voices of the Nazis at Rick’s Café Americain are drowned out by the French as they stand up and sing La Marseillaise, their national anthem. At Rick’s the people are desperately trying to get to the freedom of the United States, and they are taken advantage of and preyed upon by people offering to help them. On an emotional level, when we watch this scene, do we really want our young children growing up in the United States and viewing TSA agents of our government as part of a new normal police state?
And not to make light of the situation, but men seem to be more up in arms about this than women. Maybe men in our culture aren’t used to full frontal viewing of their privates.
November 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm #115183
I got the scan on Monday and then a pat down because… get this. I’m too tall! That’s right, the scanner did not get my shoulders and arms, which were held up according to the diagram. I guess a $100k does not buy much for a scanner. My suggestion would be to have a computer program review the scan, rather than a person. Computers can read hand writing, why can’t they recognize a threat on a body scan? In my opinion, that would be better than a TSA peep show.
November 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm #115181
I like the humor. It also raises another question. What happens if a person stands in the scanner wearing a plastic protective sports cup (or female equivilant) to protect their privacy? Would such items now become banned? Would it be illegal? Would TSA require a strip search?
November 18, 2010 at 3:46 pm #115179
The items would not be “banned” or prohibited. But you will be forced to reveal them. Which means that you’re dropping your pants or taking off your blouse. Of course you have the option of revealing the items in a private area away from the other passengers.
November 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm #115177
Interesting, Gwynne…so all of the extra security is unnecessary?
If it’s unnecessary, then you’re right – we shouldn’t be using any techniques, and especially not these intrusive ones.
But if it is necessary to do something, then where do the respective techniques fall on a spectrum of acceptability to citizens – keeping in mind the relative effectiveness of these potential techniques as well?
November 18, 2010 at 4:50 pm #115175
Richard E MalloryParticipant
We need to exempt as many persons as possible from ANY security checks by doing background checks in advance for all that request them, and grant “security clearnance” to those who qualify. This would save long lines, save huge amounts of money, and allow TSA to focus on real threats.
November 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm #115173
True, the terrorists won years ago. I don’t think there’s any danger so immediate as to require someone to grope me or look at me naked! Most of the precautions we’ve had to take for the past 9 years constitute “security theatre,” not actual security. Sometimes human beings just have to play the odds. Life is dangerous.
November 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm #115171
Richard, in my earlier post I made this point: Background checks only go so far- The problem is in the US felons are allowed to fly, and there is no correlation that I have read between criminal history and terrorism. Let’s not forget http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_McVeigh or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nidal_Malik_Hasan
No one has gotten back to me about it, but I cant imagine exempting people based on security clearances (with the exception of LEOs and Crew)
November 18, 2010 at 8:24 pm #115169
This entire conversation is absolutely fascinating. It is an example of GL at its best – this is what the network was born to do IMO.
If only we could expand this model of dialogue so that it would become the norm across the board, a lot of good decisions would be made and a lot of bad ideas would never see daylight.
I look forward to the day when there is absolutely nothing revolutionary about the way this conversation is taking place.
That said – anybody want to predict the outcome on this and the timeframe? How about a poll?
November 18, 2010 at 10:53 pm #115167
Thank you for this, Michelle. This is precisely why this issue is so hard for me. Not just upsetting or annoying, but personally painful. It feels like a flagrant betrayal of civil liberties, and, as much as I try to not be cynical, I can’t help thinking that we’re dealing with this because of the scanner vendors’ persuasive sales team.
November 19, 2010 at 12:50 am #115165
You mean the media hype cycle? Through Christmas…then we’re on to the next sensation.
November 19, 2010 at 1:21 am #115163
Seriously. Bravo, Peter!
November 19, 2010 at 1:26 am #115161
5 years from now or less we’ll be having this discussion about security X-ray machines in front of sports stadiums and movie theaters.
November 19, 2010 at 1:49 am #115159
Something like this:
November 19, 2010 at 1:52 am #115157
If Federal law enforcement agencies have any say in the matter, 5 years from now we will all be locked in secure supermax facilities fed by HSPD-12 compliant robots and communicating via NIST certified networks. Everyone will be completely safe from any form of external attack with only minor infringements on personal freedom such as a blanket prohibition on leaving our living quarters.
November 19, 2010 at 2:01 am #115155
Calling it now — scanners will stick around, pat downs will disappear after thanskgiving and christmas trips:
November 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm #115153
It appears to me that if have two lines, one for male TSAers to check males, and female TSAers to check females there is little room to complain. Of course children will get in the female line with their moms so I will get in the males’ line to speed through. If seeing a “naked” scan of my chubby body gives the one pervert that snuck through the screening process a thrill…so be it. I’m used to being scanned and frisked from conducting prison ministry. Frisking is conducted by professionals, is not embarrassing, and even tickles a little when they touch you sides.
I seriously doubt that number of rude TSAers is that populous. Unfortunately they have a (probably unmerited) reputation for being rude, probably because people don’t want to be inconvenienced and they believe that complaining will make it stop. It would be an excellent idea to film the President being scanned in a Public Service announcement, and ensure that TSAers receives outstanding training in how to handle customers who are angry because they must undergo this process. As for the few whose rude behavior has been validated by customers three times or more, send them to me in DC and I will train them for free on my own time.
November 19, 2010 at 4:08 pm #115151
Blogger Bob has told us there are no rude TSA agents and he never lies.
November 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm #115149
November 20, 2010 at 5:12 am #115147
Good info, Neil.
November 20, 2010 at 10:04 pm #115145
There used to be a Company called “Clear.”
You paid $100. And I believe you gave them a passport number.
They did a complete background check and gave you a card with an embeed eyeball and fingerprint scan.
You still had to run your luggage through TSA but they checked the eyeball/fingerprint scan with every trip.
…and you had a “special line” meaning you went right through.
It was great and well worth $100.
Because it was a private company, there were no issues about “political correctness.” Because it’s “private profiling.”
November 21, 2010 at 4:13 am #115143
November 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm #115141
Couldn’t say it MUCH better than this article from the Houston Chronicle
BOLDING is my way of highlighting IMO the REAL problem
TSA has met the enemy — and they are us
How did an agency created to protect the public become the target of so much public scorn?
After nine years of funneling travelers into ever longer lines with orders to have shoes off, sippy cups empty and laptops out for inspection, the most surprising thing about increasingly heated frustration with the federal Transportation Security Administration may be that it took so long to boil over.
But in episode after episode since then, the TSA has demonstrated a knack for ignoring the basics of customer relations, while struggling with what experts say is an all but impossible task. It must stand as the last line against unknown terror, yet somehow do so without treating everyone from frequent business travelers to the family heading home to visit grandma as a potential terrorist.
The TSA “is not a flier-centered system. It’s a terrorist-centered system and the travelers get caught in it,” said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who has tracked the agency’s effectiveness since it’s creation.
November 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm #115139
This morning I sent the following questions to my elected officials. One thing the public should keep in mind is that political action should come first. Public protests, even non violent ones should be a last resort and the moron who hit a TSA agent as a “joke” deserves the jail time I am sure will be handed to him. For that reason I will definitely keep the heat on my elected representatives but will not opt out of the scanner when I fly nor argue about pat down procedures while at the checkpoint.
Nevertheless, everyone should ask their representatives the following questions —
1. Will you support Ron Paul’s legislation to restrict TSA pat downs?
2. Will you set the example for your constituents by submitting to a public, on camera pat down by a TSA agent?
3. Will you call on all other federal elected or politically appointed officials to do the same?
4. Will you introduce legislation establishing an external panel including average citizens to review and certify federal law enforcement policies and procedures for contact with the general public?
November 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm #115137
1 – Have I experienced security pat downs when flying? Yes, at least once a month, in Romania from1977 to 1978, when I was a Fulbright lecturer at the University in Iasi, Romania. I flew between Iasi in the northeast of the country to Bucharest, the capital at least once a month and the woman who was responsible for conducting their “control” inspections examined every single item I had in my purse.I had to remove every piece of clothing if anything underneath caused the metal detector to beep. Think zippers, metal buttons on jeans, and underwire bras.
At the time I thought it was outrageous and I complained to the consular section of the Embassy in Bucharest. And I never dreamed I might have to go through the same treatment in my own country.
2 – How would you improve the process?
Give the people who go through the scanners something for the effort — a lapel button, a lollipop, anything that provides comic relief for both the screeners and the passengers.
Have TSA work with the airlines to eliminate the checked baggage fee. Part of the problem is that people are carrying what they shouldn’t onto a plane because they aren’t checking bags. There is greater incentive for people not to check anything than there is to put everything into bags and check them.
Charge passengers for items they bring through the screening process. If it cost more to have them screened than to check them, people might check their bags and bring less through the screening area.
3 – How can they better educate travelers about the importance of these scans without tipping their hand to those who seek to do us harm?
Here are tips based on how I resolved my dilemma in Romania: I put two items, and only two items, into my purse — the keys to my suitcase and enough cash for a cab ride to my friend’s apartment. And I wore a dress that I could lift up to allow the screener to see only my clean and in good condition underwear. With nothing in my purse, there was nothing for her to inspect. And once she got down to the underwear, there was nothing else for her to look for.
For that message to be effective, however, there must be incentive to check everything that isn’t absolutely essential.
4 – Is there something they can do from a marketing standpoint or have they already lost this story?
In San Francisco during the 1973 gasoline crisis, several gas station managers allowed chamber music ensembles to perform on the boulevards near their stations. That made waiting in line less tedious. Also in San Francisco, when the line to enter the museum to see the Van Gogh exhibit was estimated to be at least an hour long, a group of street performers entertained us while we waited.
Give the customers something to enjoy while they have to wait.
5 – Who will the public blame should we experience another attack via air transportation?
6 – Which is worse: inconvenience at the airport now or hundreds or thousands of our neighbors perishing?
It isn’t inconvenience that I object to. It’s the intrusiveness of the screening process. I put up with it in Romania because I had to. But I was smug in my certainty that I had to go through the indignity there because the government was corrupt, lacking in dignity or respect for anyone. I consoled myself with the confidence that I would never have to go through such indignity in my own country.
November 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm #115135
Neil, I appreciate that an actual TSA employee has taken some time to respond on this thread.
I’m in agreement with those who feel that this step is just one too far. I was willing to suffer the extra travel time, the long lines at the airport, the swabbing and x-rays of my luggage, the removal of shoes. But there really is no amount of justification that will make me feel comfortable with these new procedures, and I am sorry, but I don’t believe they are necessary. This is security theater, not actual security, and is an abrogation of the 4th amendment of the Constitution.
The underwear bomber and the shoe bomber were both subdued by a passenger, not by the TSA. As the flying public, we are alert to suspicious activity, and I’d rather not cross this line of personal liberty just so a few people in our government can say they tried to do everything needed when the next bad thing goes wrong.
Forcing anyone to choose between exposure to radiation or a pat-down that previously only criminal suspects had to deal with is beyond the pale, and not the United States of America that I want to live in. They tell us the machines are safe, but I would not let my child be exposed to that radiation. 10 years from now when the studies start to emerge that yes, the mild levels of radiation do in fact affect the brains and reproductive health of pre-adolescents, are we going to feel better that this security measure existed?
So now I am looking for any way possible to avoid flying. And I am going to do what I can to pressure my government to change this policy back to something more reasonable.
All this extra airport security has done has created extreme lines which are now a perfect terrorist target. You are fighting the previous war, and rather than reassuring me, all you are doing is heightening fear and unease. I hope that is not the TSA’s goal.
I want to see a security regime like @Samuel_Liles described where you don’t actually see any security, where people aren’t clustered into a long line at one section of the airport. The TSA has gone too far on this one. Let’s backpedal and move into a regime like Samuel described. I for one would love to be able to fly again.
We don’t have a National Sports Security Agency to pat down anyone going into a stadium. We don’t have a Mall Security Agency to pat us down before we go shopping. We don’t do these things on buses or trains or subways. We don’t need them in our airports.
November 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm #115133
Wow – great, thorough response, Sandra.
I’m not sure lollipops or chamber music would ease tensions at this point…and might even make the situation worse…would people feel mocked?
November 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm #115131
November 23, 2010 at 5:12 am #115129
I heard on the news tonight that the TSA may soon be targeting bus stations and trains. This makes me, a citizen, feel like a member of the underground for planning to drive if this becomes a reality. Maybe like-minded people, the freedom fighters of our time, can organize our own private bus services so citizens can travel without harassment.
You know, I got off a ship in St. John, New Bruswick a couple of years ago and I could tell right away that I wasn’t in the US of A. The Canadians met us at the port giving roses to the women and little New Bruswick pins to the men. They smiled at us, shook our hands and gave us a local newspaper. Why, no one accused us of being terrorists at all! What a difference…
November 23, 2010 at 1:45 pm #115127
At the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, there is a grand piano and a harp in the middle of the central area that connects to all the gate corridors. Musicians play, but most people just walk on by. They are not located where people have to sit or stand and wait. But they are already in the airport. TSA just needs to ask the airport to move them closer to a screening point.
Anything TSA does at this point is likely to be mocked by someone. And some people are going to be insulted by anything TSA does. TSA doesn’t have to provide the music — they just have to allow musicians to play. I don’t think the San Francisco gas station managers contracted with musicians to entertain drivers who had to wait in line. The musical groups seized the opportunity and the station managers allowed them. Perhaps we should reach out to musical groups or schools to suggest they offer to play near the screening points. A small group with a sign on a stand to indicate they are from “Local High School Concerto Club” wouldn’t even look like it is a TSA initiative.
On a different note, I was pleased this morning to hear that TSA is advising women to wear slacks, not skirts, to the airport as the inspectors cannot do the enhanced pat downs if women wear tight skirts. Instead, they have to be brought into a private area where they must remove their skirts. I for one will never wear my Romania-safe dresses now that I know this. It will be slacks from now on.
November 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm #115125
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
November 23, 2010 at 6:11 pm #115123
Someone beat me to the punch–given the extent of this, can’t software be developed to evaluate the scan as well–or better than a human? Then the scan would be no more invasive than the metal detector!
As for PR, I agree the president needs to go through the machine–and announce the aforementioned software development project.
November 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm #115121
1. I went through a scanner. It was embarrassing because I had to stand there with my arms in the air and my legs spread, just what people are told to do when they get arrested.
3. People understand the importance is safety, but they don’t understand the processes because the processes lack strategy and sense.
4. They need a true success story to be able to market anything positive.
November 24, 2010 at 1:05 am #115119
1 – Have you experienced the scans or pat-downs?
No, I don’t understand why people allow thier privacy right to be VILOATED.
My father was in a concentration Camp duriing WW2.
I am glad he is not alive to see a nation commit such horrible actions.
Can you image the evil that a government can do when they save your xray for at least 6.2 yrs.
I know TSA are not supoose to be saving the files. But, 1500 news radio has already reported that either DODand or HLS are.
I say every body should opt out take a camara and start taking pictures of all the TSO Officers and post rating of how good a massage they get from each officer.
Maybe, we can post it on craigslist as adult security services.
2 – How would you improve the process.
abolish either TSA or the policy, normal metal dectors work just fine.
3 – How can they better educate travelers about the importance of these scans without tipping their hand to those who seek to do us harm?
Protests, call your congressmen and women tell them this is just wrong. Hold music concerts.
4 – Is there something they can do from a marketing standpoint or have they already lost this story?
The government is going to do what it can to seize power. Protest, this policy is just wrong.
November 24, 2010 at 3:37 am #115117
Hold off on trying to take pictures. It is illegal for you to take photos of the TSA screening area. That’s what a TSA guy in Memphis yelled at some guy behind me in Memphis.
Maybe the TSA ought to adopt a jingoistic slogan like “It’s not a grope. It’s a Freedom Pat”.
November 24, 2010 at 4:37 am #115115
My closest and most familiar international airport is KCI. and I love how KCI does things. Admittedly I haven’t experienced the new procedures, but KCI screens at the gate. which means, even at the busiest times, you have maybe a 20-30 minute wait. (one screening point for every 3-4 gates) which are then cordoned off with high glass walls with nothing inside them but a tiny snack stand, rest room and chairs.
What I like about this….pick an airport, any airport. They are less a transportation hub and more a giant shopping center. TONS of merchandise and food and clothing…and I am honestly supposed to believe that every single box is screened and searched and cleared? Really? No one working in those shops has a box cutter or no fast food restaurant has a knife for cutting up lemons or tomatoes.
I”m honestly supposed to believe, when only a fraction of the cargo gets screened, that every single item in every single box of every single shop is thoroughly searched?
So you screen me at the front door and i’m clean….but my accomplice at the cinnabon slips me a box cutter and whatta ya know, i’m now armed.
It can be that easy.
And all the patdowns in the world won’t stop them because of a potential flaw introduced by marketing and keeping people fed and busy while they wait.
There isn’t a single security procedure that’s fool proof. We build a better mouse trap, the terrorists find another way.
Profiling might help, then again out of the tens of thousands of people that fly every day, you can’t pull up the dossier on them all. Granny in her wheel chair might be clean, but how do you know if granny’s nephew didn’t fill the tubing of her wheelchair with bad stuff rigged to go boom? How do you know that nutjob mama didn’t rig her baby’s stuffed toy to go boom?
All they can do is try. and it’s an endless escalating battle.
I think, given the choice between a pat down and the ‘x-ray vision’ scanner, i’ll go with the scanner, cause really, i’m supposed to be worried that the poor person in the room staring at my chubby body is enjoying it and likes it so much they’re making a 8×10 glossy of my cellulite ridden thighs? You think they like looking at scans of fat people? (and hey, with what 50% of this country obese, that’s most of what they’re looking at)
I think i worry more about the fatal flaw of screening at the front door instead of after the shopping mall than I do someone posting a pinup of my scanned body.
You take your life in your hands every time you get behind the wheel of a car, it’s no different on a plane. all you can do is minimize the risks, they can’t ever be totally eliminated. the scans will work for a while, but eventually the bad guys will find a way around them, and yeah, likely by bodypacking the explosives, just like drug mules to. Then what? we’re supposed to submit to chest x-rays too?
IMHO, the scanners are just a stopgap measure.
November 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm #115113
I had the ‘fun’ of flying the week after 911. On one of the hijacked airlines no less. And it was an odd experience. It was really one of my best flight experiences ever because, out of the total 4 legs of my trip (one stop each way) only 1 of them was crowded. On my flight out we took off early, i navigated an empty o’hare and had 3 whole seats to myself with my back against the side of the plane because they were so empty.
but as i was served breakfast (a hot breakfast no less..them was the days ), the flight attendant handed me a plastic knife (that was pretty sharp since it was serrated) and a nice durable metal fork and spoon.
And i remember sitting there, at 40,000 feet thinking ‘you know, if I was intent upon harming someone, i can do a lot more damage with this nice sturdy fork than i could have the dull butter knife they woulda given me’
But that’s how things were then, and still are in some ways, knee jerk reactions that make sense in one way…but not really in others. Like a person not being allowed to take their 2 inch penknife, but there being no restrictions on knittng needles, which can be just as much of a weapon.
If we, as a country and world, ever want to get ahead of the bad guys…well we can either go on our own jihad adn either kill them all or ship them all off to some place like Alcatraz, and make our own ‘leper colony’ and lock them up where they can’t kill us…course once you start down that path it’s just a dead end. Literally maybe. Brings up the Wargames, where the only way to win is not to play.
But I think the key to slowing these folks down…learn to think like them. A man in a suit that’s never planned a crime can’t sufficiently stop one. To catch a crook you gotta think like a crook. To catch a terrorist, you need to think like one.
Most of our security measures have been reactionary. They come after an event or threat. We gotta get ahead of the event and threat. And to do that we need to stop thinking like the ‘rich superpower that throws money at the problem’, we need to think like the ‘dedicated/passionate/obsessed person intent upon a goal’
That’s how the TSA needs to think. If they want to stop a terrorist, they need to think like one.
November 24, 2010 at 7:12 pm #115111
I’ll take a full body pat down any day over a possible terrorist on the plane. @Jason – I agree…start profiling. I think TSA employees should be commended for their public service and daily efforts to keep all of us safe.
In general, education is a big necessity. While TSA can’t tell us why they pull out certain individuals for the full body scan or pat down, some element of education would be beneficial for those of us who feel like we are always singled out.
It never fails, every time I fly, I am singled out for the full body scan and to have my luggage gone through. I don’t mind, but a little education on whats behind the rationale may keep me from thinking that somebody just wanted an 8×10 glossy of me in my skibbies…
But…back to my first point…I don’t mind the increased security and commend TSA for helping to keep us all safe.
November 24, 2010 at 9:18 pm #115109
Being pulled out might be something as simple as having a name similar to a known troublemaker. I remember an actor once talking about how his name was the same as someone on the nofly list, so everytime he had to travel for a gig, he went through holy heck boarding and going through customs (the actor traveled between Vancouver and LA)
Once he knew what the issue was, that they were basically confusing him with the other ‘John Smith’, he then pushed through the paperwork to legally change his name, adding an initial or two, to differentiate him from the ‘bad’ person. (IIRC, his wife was so tired of him being stopped that she added like 3-4 initials/names to his legal name, just to make it very clear that he was ‘him’ and not the nofly person)
Of course, I doubt the nofly list is available anywhere, but that might be why a person gets singled out.
December 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm #115107
IMO Interesting commentary about the future of scanners
From The Atlantic:
Why the TSA Can’t Back Down
Author: Bruce Schneier
Organizers of National Opt Out Day, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when air travelers were urged to opt out of the full-body scanners at security checkpoints and instead submit to full-body patdowns — were outfoxed by the TSA. The government pre-empted the protest by turning off the machines in most airports during the Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone went through the metal detectors, just as before.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, the machines are back on and the “enhanced” pat-downs have resumed. I suspect that more people would prefer to have naked images of themselves seen by TSA agents in another room, than have themselves intimately touched by a TSA agent right in front of them.
But now, the TSA is in a bind. Regardless of whatever lobbying came before, or whatever former DHS officials had a financial interest in these scanners, the TSA has spent billions on those scanners, claiming they’re essential. But because people can opt out, the alternate manual method must be equally effective; otherwise, the terrorists could just opt out. If they make the pat-downs less invasive, it would be the same as admitting the scanners aren’t essential. Senior officials would get fired over that.
December 6, 2010 at 4:37 pm #115105
Ask the TSA agent if you can touch their genitals also: it’s the 4th amendment equivalent of asking the telemarketer for their home phone #
December 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm #115103
Amanda D. BartonParticipant
Anyone else having an issue with this screening process as a federal employee? Part of my job is to travel -and out of DC there are those machines at each of the airports. I am going to take Amtrak as much as possible.
I declined the machines twice last year, but this was before the invasive patdowns were happening. I don’t mind the government in my financial business or even doing my security clearance, but I have to say I am seriously unnerved by this technology and these pat downs.
Has anyone talked with their agencies? Are you able to still travel without dealing with this invasion of privacy? I haven’t figured out who I should even approach with my serious issues about this. And I don’t want my career to suffer because of this.
I heard a woman walked through in a bathing suit – does she still have to go through those machines or a patdown? Something to consider.
December 29, 2010 at 6:06 am #115101
And right now the snow blizzards don’t make it easier.
December 29, 2010 at 11:01 am #115099
January 22, 2011 at 2:36 am #115097
I like what El Al is trying. Questions are changed up to foil prepared answers.
Guards look for “micro experssions”. These quick facial movements give away true feelings.
I would like to use voice stress analyzers when asking people “Will you make a return flight” , “Are you planning to hurt anyone” , “Have you seen a bomb” , “Do you carry a knife”, etc.
I really do not like the pat downs nor new “high detail” x-ray. That I can not bring a soda or water with me.
What would I like to see? More private companies flying a smaller group of people with FAA but not TSA regulations.
I’m not mad at the TSA folks – its the implimentation.
February 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm #115095
I travel frequently and have never had issues with the employees, I do however think the policies are ridiculous.
The best things that have been done since 9-11 are the locks on the cabin doors and thorough screening of all checked bags. All the additional stuff, like no nail trimmers, no liquids, etc. seem to be measures enacted to give the appearance of increased safety without any real reasoning.
The TSA needs to be forthright and honest about there reasoning. If people can make a bomb with liquids that can do more damage than my laptop battery them by all means let’s ban liquids otherwise forget it. If we’re going to ban knives and scissors then we ought to be banning 10 inch titanium knitting needles.
For me it is the seeming capricious nature of the policies that make them so galling.
February 9, 2012 at 11:59 am #115093
R J ParryParticipant
Since I have a prosthesis in my left knee, I always “self-identify” and get sent through the scanner. Never a delay and I am more times than not thanked for letting TSA know.
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