TSA Watch: How good could this agency really be?

On this Independence Day weekend, with a week’s worth of truly outrageous TSA news behind us, I think it’s time to ask a simple “What if?” question: How good could this agency be? And what would it take to get it there?

Some have suggested the entire TSA should be eliminated (I have a time or two) but let’s say, for argument’s sake, that instead of defunding this dysfunctional federal agency and sending its 58,401 employees packing, it’s reformed under the next administration.

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Here’s how the events of the last week might have gone down.

The adult diaper incident.
TSA allegedly pats down a cancer-stricken, 95-year-old mother and forces her to remove her adult diaper while going through security at Northwest Florida Regional Airport. The agency says she was properly screened but denies it would ask anyone to remove an adult diaper. Regardless of what actually happened, it seems the TSA identified a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair as a potential security threat.

What should have happened: Common sense tells you that grannies in wheelchairs don’t pack explosives. You don’t even need a profiling system to know this — just think. Maybe a reformed TSA would allow its agents to do that.

The cancer clusters.
Turns out those full-body scanners may not be as safe as the TSA claimed. New documents released last week raise new questions about the radiation risks posed by the machines. They suggest the government misled the public about the safety of scanners and that the devices could exceed the general safety limits. TSA denies the scanners are dangerous.

What should have happened: TSA never should have used full-body scanners in the first place. They were improperly tested and acted primarily as a psychological deterrent to potential terrorists. (I’ve repeatedly asked TSA for a list of terrorist incidents the machines have stopped, and have received no answer.) If the most effective airport security screeners in the world can do security without the scanners, then so can we. A reformed TSA would eliminate these devices — immediately.

The boarding pass incident.
Oluwaseun Noibi, 24, reportedly boarded a flight in New York last week using an expired boarding pass with someone else’s name on it. The flight crew didn’t even realize there was a stowaway on the plane until halfway through the flight, when they realized they had an extra passenger in a premium seat. TSA insists Noibi was screened properly but that it didn’t “properly authenticate the passenger’s documentation.”

What should have happened: Come on. Even before the TSA existed, this kind of thing would have made the news. The agency’s explanation (“We screened him but didn’t authenticate his documentation”) smacks of agency double-speak. A reformed TSA would take responsibility for its shortcomings and not rely on machines to do the job of screeners.

We can probably all agree that the TSA needs to be reformed. But at whose expense? Last week, the US Travel Association released a survey that suggests a significant majority of frequent business and leisure travelers would pay up to $150 to enroll in a “trusted traveler” program that would allow them to skip the invasive pat-downs and body scanners.

I think US Travel is asking the wrong question. We’ve already paid for any trusted traveler program, through taxes and 9/11 security fees. Will I shell out another $750 a year for my family of five to avoid having its dignity violated? Hell, no. My government trusts me to pay taxes and obey the laws of the land. Maybe it can see itself clear to also figure out that I won’t blow up my next flight without forcing me to pay extra.

There can be no meaningful reform with the current administration and its appointees in place. Maybe the first step to fixing the TSA is to elect a new administration in 2012.

I’m not sure if I like any of the current choices.

Photo: Anthony Citrano/Flickr Creative Commons

77 thoughts on “TSA Watch: How good could this agency really be?

  1. The so-called “Trusted Traveler” program is ethically indefensible.  It would penalize anyone who isn’t or can’t afford to be a frequent flyer by singling them out for extra scrutiny.  It also requires you to submit personal biometric data (yeah, that’ll never be compromised!).  And you’ll still be subject to invasive screening and groping if our overlords find an “anomaly” — their magic trigger word — or for any other “random” reason that strikes their fancy.  

    And good grief, they can’t keep their frigging No-Fly List accurate now — if you’re on it by mistake, you’re screwed.  Good luck getting them to fix a data entry error or any kind of mistake once they have your biometric data.  You might find yourself in jail, pleading that you are who you know you are, while the TSA tells you that no, you’re not, because of course they have the data and they’re always right!

    As for the diaper thing — not the first time this has happened — someone needs to throw one in their faces.  Their continued CYA statements are obnoxious, and Orwellian to a degree the man could barely have imagined.  No, they didn’t “require” her to remove her diaper; they just told her she couldn’t fly with it on.  That’s called blackmail.

    The scanners were always about lining the pockets of Rapiscan, et. al.  That’s it.  With the added benefit of conditioning a credulous populace, which has turned out to be easy to do.  I was against the scanners from the beginning, before we knew anything about radiation, millimeter waves, cancer clusters.  They represent acquiescence.  They veritably scream, “You are a criminal, and you will stand there like a criminal, while we have you completely in our power and we examine you.”

    $8.1 Billion for the TSA in Fiscal 2012.  $8.1 Billion we are paying, our money, to allow ourselves to be abused.

  2. I vote independent and I would vote for any candidate who has a solid plan for disbanding the TSA and replacing it with a sensible system.

    1. One, so far: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-ron-paul-tsa-20110706,0,4042573.story?track=rss

      “As reports surface that U.S. officials are concerned about terrorists smuggling explosives into the U.S. within their bodies, one presidential candidate would do away completely with the government agency charged with screening passengers.

      “Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian, would instead privatize airline security. In his weekly ‘Straight Talk’ telephone address last weekend Paul said the agency infringed on privacy rights of passengers while doing little to keep the nation safe.”

      1. I, too, am an independent voter and find a lot of sense in much of what Ron Paul says, in his interviews and in his six or seven books.  I don’t know if he has a chance, but maybe if everyone opposed to the current structure and practices of the TSA gets behind him, he may have a better shot.  As a Libertarian, his strongest suit is that he is heavily pro freedom of choice…..

  3. I would reorganize the TSA as follows: (1) Hire QUALIFIED personnel – yes this will cost more. We must pay for QUALITY. The TSA is similiar to the military and therefore CANNOT have a union; (2) If a citizen request a background check then they can have one and have a chip inserted in their body that will verify person with photos etc on the TSA personnel computer screen. No pat down if metal knees, hips etc are indicated. The arguement about big brother is foolish as you are cyberspace now; (3) If you buy a ticket less than 14 days before a flight, then you receive a full security check at the airport. The 14 day window allows a background review; (4) PROFILE – that bad word. But don’t we all do this in the real word. I am so tired of politically correct by some some group that screams about this. This is the tail wagging the dog. and (5) Increase the penalty for screeners that steal from passengers baggage and carry-ons to an automatic 10 years at high labor.

    I can hear the screams now. I am a white, 75 years young, retired naval officer (26 years), professor of mathematics with two metal knees and a metal hip plus some shapnel. I have seen blood shed in Viet Nam and do not desire to see it here.

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff 

  4. I have much more sympathy for the TSA on Mr Noibi than I do for the other two incidents. If he and his luggage have been scanned properly, the fact that he’s on the wrong plane is the airline’s fault (specifically, the airline staff at the gate, who should be scanning boarding passes in order to stop cleared passengers getting on the wrong plane Home Alone 2 style), not the TSA’s fault.

    1. The TSA made it their fault by demanding “Papers, please” at the entrance to Checkpoint Charlie. And they failed, at least twice.

      It is trivially easy to circumvent the entire inSecureFlight and document checking procedures. They add nothing of value to the “security” process, and in fact detract from it considerably. 

      The TSA couldn’t find a stockpile of peanuts using an elephant.

      1. I agree with you on the lackwit nonsense of demanding papers at the security gate. 

        Australia’s (domestic – meanwhile, international is crazy largely because we fly to the US and meet TSA demands) airline security demands that the passenger and their hand luggage go through X-rays, explosive detectors and metal detectors as relevant, but doesn’t demand papers.

        It also allows friends and family to go through security – which is nice at smaller airports with only a few flights a day: they can have the only bar/restaurant in the security area on the secure side to ensure nobody misses their flight, but as long as your dad/mate/wife leaves their penknife in the car you can have a beer together while you wait for the plane to leave, then they can leave the secure area with no problems.Papers are demanded at the gate, so that you don’t get on the wrong plane. To me, this seems completely adequate as far as security goes – one filter against people with bombs/guns/knives, and one filter against people with bombs/guns/knives in their hold luggage and get on a different flight.

    2. Ummm, he WASN’T simply on the wrong plane.  He got on that plane KNOWING he didn’t have a valid ticket.  They found a dozen other bogus boarding passes in his luggage.  And to top it all off, he tried the same scam a few days later.  Was he a terror threat?  Probably not.  This was a scam to get a free flight, plain and simple.  Not very surprising that he’s originally from Nigeria.  Fraud is the second biggest industry in Nigeria, second only to the oil industry.

      1. So he was trying to scam the airline, and wasn’t trying to hijack or blow up the plane? In which case, who cares? If he threatens your safety, it’s the TSA’s job to stop him. If he manages to defraud United or Delta, then so what?

        1. I have to agree with this.  It’s not a security risk not to have ID or an incorrect boarding pass as long as he’s “properly screened.”  I used”” because the TSA screeners couldn’t properly screen a chimpanzee.  However, why didn’t the airline catch this before boarding?  Were the BP scanners not in use that day?  Did the GA not have his/her reading glasses on?  Why didn’t a frequent flier get upgraded to that seat?   I am VERY surprised that the Boarding Pass Incident got more votes that the 95 year old and her diaper or the cancer cluster.

  5. Having traveled through out Europe I have come to the conclusion that profiling makes the most sense. As a 70 year old semi retired lawyer currently being treated for cancer, I am almost always stopped by TSA to examine my carry on case which is filled with cancer medications. After they spend 5 to 10 minutes with me they wish me a safe flight. Of course, while they are fooling with me, dozens of passengers are being waived through.
    Also I find that some TSA employees do not know the rules for medications.
    I have a printout from the TSA web site and a letter from them when I asked for clarification about certain liquids that I take with me. What is most interesting to me is that I only get stopped on one end of my flight when I am stopped at all.Sometimes when I leave I will be stopped and sometimes when I return. Never have I been stopped on both ends of my flight.
    Frankly, I have come to the conclusion that its political BS. It supposed to make us feel good.

    1. The fact that you have to carry around a printout of TSA’s own web site, and have to educate TSA’s personnel how to do their job and what the rules are — this right there damns this entire circus more than anything else possibly could.

      1. Except that this tactic often doesn’t work.

        Showing a printout of the website often elicits such responses as, “the website is out of date”, “you have NO IDEA what we see, so you need to do as your told,” and my personal favorite, “someone at headquarters made that up. We follow our own rules here.”

    2. It’s all feel-good bs.  Re profiling, see Sylvia’s response further up-thread.  Criminals aren’t all idiots.  They’re well aware that many Americans would love to profile based on crude prejudices — “Muslim-looking” (whatever that means), “Arab-looking” (whatever that means — and you do realize that lots of Arabs are Christians, right?), or just swarthy young men.  How about yanking turbans off heads, as one woman on another blog kept suggesting?  Men who wear turbans are usually Sikh, not Muslim, not Arab.

      Did Richard Reid fit the “profile”?  How about blonde-haired, blue-eyed Colleen LaRose, aka ‘Jihad Jane’?  It’s too easy to circumvent this kind of ham-fisted approach.

      And if you think the TSA isn’t doing its own brand of ethnic, racist, sexist, and woke-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed profiling anyway, you’re dreaming.  Case in point:


      These people have absolute power.  They can wield it and abuse it with impunity.

      How about we just accept that there’s risk in life like there is with everything else we do?  And live our lives like dignified human beings instead of like worms?

      1. Lisa

        You make a good point.  That’s why profiling needs to be done with far more sophistication than one’s physical appearance.

    3. Even if you print out the TSA policies and rules and carry that with you, you may still wind up being detained and worse.  Case in point: the young mother, who is an attorney, traveling with stored breast milk.  She anticipated the issue the TSA might have with small bottles of milk (just typing that ridiculous statement makes me shake my head in disbelief, but anyway); she researched their policies and printed them out to carry with her just in case; the TSA officers *still* harassed her, detained her, placed her in a glass “prison” while other passengers sailed by without pause and the minutes ticked away while they looked for a “supervisor” or something.  If I remember correctly, she missed her flight.

      I cannot imagine what I’d do if I were traveling with life-saving medications, some of which happened to be liquid, and they told me I had to dispose of them before getting on a plane.

      And tangential to all this: how many zillions of hours of productivity do Americans waste, thanks to Security Theatre?  How many countless dollars worth of personal belongings, toiletries, medicines, and innocent bottles of milk and juice for babies have we been bullied into throwing into the garbage?  And for what?  As Chris and most of the readers here have said over and over, the TSA has never, ever stopped a terrorist incident.  The naked-scanners haven’t, either.

      The agency is a disgrace to the very concept of Land of the Free; the widespread tolerance of its abuses by Americans themselves–in exchange for the risible promise that they’ll be kept safe from the Scary Terrorists–is a disgrace to the appellation “Home of the Brave”.

  6. As much as I’m looking forward to a new administration next year, I would not hold my breath. Both political parties, overall, believe that the TSA is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Only a relatively small subset of the GOP in the south are opposing the goons through the legislative process, by supposedly legislating that assault by TSA’s officers is a crime. Just the fact that they have to actually make it illegal for the TSA to assault someone, is sad enough. Even sadder is that, by opposing the law, the Obama administration logically admits that it must be legal for the TSA to sexually assault someone. If TSA’s procedures do not constitute sexual assault under the law, then there would be no logical reason for the Obama administration to fight Texas on this matter. But by doing so, they’re admitting it.

    It’s just too bad that the rest of the GOP have lost their spine. The TSA is not going away, folks, no matter what happens to the polls in November 6, 2012.

    I’ve lost count how many times I said this. The TSA and the rest of the nonsense in the aviation industry will not go away until a non-trivial percentage of people stops flying. The great unwashed can protest as loudly as they want, but nothing is going to happen.

    Only if people stop flying, and tell the airlines why they stopped flying; nothing else will make any difference. I think that even if 5% of the flying public stops flying, and it’s well publicized that their primary reason is because they no longer wish to be humiliated and treated like a criminal until they’re proven innocent, only then will any real change happen. The great unwashed have no clout. But the airlines do. When this affects their bottom line, the aviation industry pulls far more weight in DC than we do, and change will happen. But not until the aviation industry believes that this would be in their interest to do so. And the only way they will believe that, is if the message from the public is clear: we won’t fly until the TSA goes.

      1. Never happen – the business community accounts for most of the revenue from the travel industry and they have no choice; they fly where the boss says to fly.

        1. I understand — business travelers are forced to fly for work and forced to endure the abuse of the TSA.  I sympathize with them.  But they’re only part of the picture.  There are millions upon millions of us who don’t have to fly for work.  If those millions would do as I have done, and stop flying, the airlines would feel it.  

          I used to fly a lot for pleasure.  I don’t fly at all anymore.  There are millions like me.  With the profit margins of the airlines being so narrow, it would have an effect.

          That’s how the bus boycotts in the south worked during the civil rights movement.  Everyone said it couldn’t work.  But it did.  Yeah, it took a long time — over a year — but it worked.  It wouldn’t take half that long with the airlines.

          But most people, even those who see the TSA’s abuse for what it is, aren’t willing to put their money where their mouths are.  For all the posturing this country likes to do about its national myths, including “sacrifice,” there are few who are actually willing to go through with it.

          That’s the problem.  Which is why this abuse will not only continue, but get worse.

    1. That bill in Texas didn’t even get the votes to pass and make it to the governor’s desk.

      As I said last weekend: Texans are apparently all bark and no bite.

    2. I don’t want to turn it into a Dem/GOP debate, but all these procedures were implemented under a GOP administration. As a liberal (in the John Stuart Mill sense of defending people’s rights, and very much not a fascist/communist sense), I hoped the Obama administration would make the TSA a less disgraceful organisation than it was under the previous government. Instead, it’s left it in exactly the same position. A plague on both their houses…

    3. The reason why they won’t boycott is because most of us don’t actually feel like criminals when we go through TSA.  On my last trip from SFO to LAX I had great experiences with TSA both ways.

  7. Good post.  Makes so much sense.  What’s scary, is those who represent American citizens don’t have any.  I was so hopeful with this new administration but not anymore.

    1. I regret my vote for Obama. I never could have imagined that a Constitutional scholar would shred it so badly.

      1. None of the TSA’s current appalling behaviour is different from practice under GWB, and if you think that McCain/Palin would’ve been better, I’ve a bridge you can buy.

        1. johnb78, Agreed.  Both parties are at fault here, both are full of gutless wonders and Constitution-shredders, and no candidate, not now, not tomorrow, not in 2012, is going to rein in the TSA.  Sad but true.

          1. Well, I believe that Ron Paul is running again. And he did introduce HR 6416, which died. You can look up what it was.

            Having said that, Paul will never get the GOP nomination. If, between now and then, some fundamental shift in the laws of this universe happens, and he does get it, I’ll of course vote for him. But that’s only because I’ll be voting for whoever the GOP nominates, if I’ll be voting at all.

          2. If there’s going to be a fundamental shift in the laws of this universe, why not participate in it 😉

            Certainly in Illinois when voting for President, the only way the votes of mine and the closest 500,000 friends whom I influence can have any significance whatsoever will be at the primary. (Unfortunately, no caucus here.) 

            Unless you live in a truly close swing state, by the time you get to the general, the outcome is pre-ordained.

            BTW, Ron Paul will this week reintroduce the bill you mentioned, the American Traveler Dignity Act: http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2011/07/ron-paul-slams-actions-tsa

  8. I have no issue with providing biometric data to prove that I am not a threat – I think any clearance I have should also be taken into account, as well as the data received from background checks that I gave gone through as part of my job.  My religion should also be taken into account – i.e. the threat that I pose, statistically, based on my religion.

    1. Barry, see reply to Ron41520 further down-thread.

      As for religion, as long as they take into account Timothy McVeigh, The Oath Keepers, the MinuteMen, and various other Christianist militias that advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

    2. Great idea – but how can you tell one dark-skinned man from another? Ask him his religion – yeah, that’ll work just fine! Oh, it won’t? Then maybe we should just assume all dark-skinned men are terrorists! Now I feel much safer.  Idiot…

  9. As with the poor guy with the urostomy, this diaper pat down clearly indicates that the process and people in the TSA system are deeply flawed.  I don’t believe profiling is the answer as that can be averted with a clever terrorist recruitment and training program using “unusual” suspects…and terrorists do come in all shapes and forms. With all the “intelligence” in this country, I find it hard to believe we can’t come up a sensible solution to terror in the skies.

  10. Here’s a thought…can’t “diplomats” and current members of Congress skip TSA screening with a secret handshake?

    What’s to stop a “diplomat” or a member of Congress from taking a bribe from a terrorist to blow up a plane? Hell, Congressmen get bribes every day from lobbyists. Tell me how this would be any different, especially if it was a checked luggage bomb and a flight the Congressman “mysteriously” missed. Just remember, just because they claim to love our country doesn’t mean they do!

    1. It’s not even that complicated.

      Literally 10’s, and possibly 100’s, of thousands of people access the “sterile” areas of airports every day and are NEVER screened. Ever.

      Heck, CLT has proven a 16 year old kid can get into the wheel well of a major airliner. Why, then, couldn’t a terrorist gain the same access with a bomb?

  11. Since airports are actually PORTS….why not have the Coast Guard run some sort of screening.  This way we could do away w/ the TSA which is not doing a proper job?  

    Would the Coast Guard be any better…..who knows….but with out trying something new…we will never find the “something new” that WILL work. 

  12. Excellent post. As a former member of airline middle management who worked with our corporate security group in the years after 9/11 I can tell you that disdain for TSA and its policies is widespread. Unfortunately the airlines can’t publicly chastise TSA. There are too many people in the populace who love to feel safe. Let’s face it: TSA is ineffective, inefficient, and has never stopped a single terrorist from boarding an aircraft in the US. TSA is an organization intended to make stupid people feel safe.

    Someone needs to remind this out-of-control Hydra of an agency that to support the ideals of Freedom, all people are created equal, and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As Lisa so eloquently puts it, this nonsense of “stand here while we examine your body” procedure is ludicrous, immoral, and unAmerican.

    The drumbeat against TSA is growing louder. Hopefully soon it will be loud enough to disband it entirely (hey, I can have my dreams!).

  13. Of those three, I’d actually have to say the boarding pass incident troubles me the most. THAT is the kind of thing that a terrorist could try and use, seeing as if other agencies are doing their job, they just might be on the No-Fly list.

    And, TSA, don’t give me the BS that checking documentation isn’t your job. You check everybody’s boarding pass and ID to make sure they match. How freaking difficult could it be to see that the date was wrong, and that the boarding pass the guy carried had EXPIRED!?

    There is no reforming TSA.

    There is only tearing it down and starting over from scratch, and hopefully injecting a large dose of common sense and real security measures.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree that the TSA needs to be disbanded.  It was a knee jerk reaction to even create the agency.  Since their implementation, they continue to be reactive to events vs being proactive.  That is why they haven’t caught any terrorists since their inception.  Because of their reactiveness, we have to take off our shoes and we can’t have liquids more then 3.4 oz.  Meanwhile, 1000s of lbs of unscreened items go through the screening points for sell on the secured side of the airport.  Add to that, the new scanners.  I have never been through one nor do I plan to.  They are a total waste of taxpayers’ dollars.  Incidently those machines came in into use after heavy lobbying by a former DHS chief (Chertoff who works for the company that produces the machines).  Add to the TSA fiasco the employees themselves.  They do seem to be the most power tripping group of people on the public payroll.  While there are fine employees, they are far outshadowed by the 100s of screeners caught stealing from passengers, groping little kids and old grandmothers, and yelling at passengers with “do you want to fly today?”.  I do hope the next administration (be it Democrat or Republican) seriously downsizes the TSA or abolishes it all together.  I know, wishfull thinking on my part.

  15. “Common sense tells you that grannies in wheelchairs don’t pack explosives.”

    These religious bastards wire up kids and women, so why not?

    1. Oh, come on, Guest. You’ve been watching too many episodes of “24.”

      Again, again, the question that none of the security cheerleaders will answer: can’t someone detonate a bomb in the arrivals/departures concourse (Moscow’s Domodedovo, hello?)?  Or in the sitting-duck security line itself?  In an airport cafe?  Airport parking garage?  What are you gonna do — strip and grope everybody every time they leave the house?

      No bombs were brought on board on 9/11.

      The last time a bomb was smuggled aboard an airplane in the USA was December 11, 1967. The plane landed safely; no fatalities, no injuries.  Aviation Safety Network: 

      The last time a bomb was smuggled aboard an aircraft in the US from which there were fatalities was May 22, 1962.  Aviation Safety Network: 

      Almost 50 years.  And for all that time, the TSA reign of molestation and rank stupidity didn’t exist. Gee, how is it possible we all haven’t been blown out of the sky by now??  After all, The Terrorists Are Everywhere!

      As for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Crotch Bomber, he is a mentally disturbed man who never had a chance in hell of detonating a bomb.
 The scanners and punitive gropefests — not the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced patdown” — were conveniently instituted after he was allowed onto a plane due to the incompetence of our intelligence agencies. They couldn’t keep track of him, even with all the warnings his father gave, his lack of a passport or any ID, his questionable ticket. But we’re going to trust them with our biometric data. Yeah.

      1. Additionally, none of the present security theater would’ve stopped 9/11. That’s what nobody really wants to talk about.

        All the 9/11 hijackers had valid passports, valid tickets, valid travel documents.

        And all the nonsense about all the stuff that’s now prohibited? Well, I had nothing to do the other day, so I was browsing wikipedia. I read an article about certain kinds of a certain item that you can’t bring with you, any more. And how it can’t be picked up on an X-ray scanner, but the manufacturers are adding some stuff to it, supposedly so it should be seen. I’m reading this, reading this again, and it looks to me like it won’t be too difficult to take the extra stuff out. So, what do we do now?

        So, how exactly would TSA’s current screening procedures stop someone whose papers are all in order, and who reads Wikipedia?

        1. Agreed, Sam.

          Secured cockpit doors – an actual security measure – were instituted in response to 9/11. But they were first suggested in the 70’s to prevent plane hijackings.

          That, and we had a complete failure of intelligence on the part of our government. The pieces were there, and they failed to see the puzzle, or outright ignored it.

          Instead, 10 years later, we’re left with an even greater joke, in terms of actual security measures, than we had before 9/11. All due to the huge amounts knee-jerking since then.

  16. Yaaaaaaaaaaaawn.  Nothing changes. 

    Wait until the next election – 90+ percentage of House members will return.  They take this as approval of their jobs.

  17. I tried writing to my congress people, saying that the TSA is violating our constitutional rights and not keeping us any safer. Got back a form letters saying that they have full confidence in the agency and that some compromise is necessary to keep us safe. Huh? What ever happened to “uphold and protect”? I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, but all of a sudden the libertarians are starting to make a bit more sense to me.

  18. I disagree that we need a new administration to fix TSA. TSA (aka, Thousands Standing Around, Thinking Stupid Again, etc.) was brought in a Republican administration. It’s not who is in the White House, or who’s in control on Congress.  The flying public, especially those of us who fly a lot, are subjected to the whim of TSA who say they are making it safer for us to fly — yet they won’t tell us what “travel risks” they’ve eliminated — “Oh, that’s sensitive information. It’s sensitive all right because they haven’t stopped any. The only good thing the TSA has done is lowered the unemployment rate a small fraction, and sold more water inside the Security lines.

  19. Well if Obama does what he says, we’ll have 10’s of thousands of people already on the government payroll coming home soon from Afghanistan. Let’s disband the TSA and use soldiers who are already trained, already know how to be respectful, and let them do airport security. Let some of these men and women who’ve spent years over there spend some time at home doing some good here.

    1. Oh my god, so many of these people are so damaged — physically and psychologically — thanks to the criminal actions of the Bush and Obama administrations.  That’s all we need — these people pointing guns at us.

      1. While I don’t necessary believe the guns are necessary, at least our service members, like police, have had some real training in a variety of areas.

        TSA has not.

      2. I didn’t say arm them. But being military respect is ingrained in them. They’re already trained, they know what to look for in behaviours from being in the war zone. I’d rather have a real security agent or member of the military doing security than McDonald’s reject high school drop outs.

  20. Sorry, Chris, but much as I despise Obama and his administration, putting in a new one isn’t going to solve the mess that is the TSA.  For one, it was his Republican predecessor that created the agency.  Second, I challenge you to find ONE Republican candidate that advocates even reforming the TSA in his or her platform, much less disbanding it.  There are many reasons to send Obama packing in 2012, but the hope of TSA reform isn’t one of them.

    Your best chance, actually, is for someone to convince their Congressman to slip in a rider either banning the patdowns or cutting off all funding for the full body scanners in whatever budget compromise ends up getting crafted to deal with the debt ceiling.  It’s bound to be a thousand or so pages thick, so someone could probably slip it in there and nobody would notice.

  21. The Diaper incident was unnecessary and could have been handled differently. The safety of the scanners is a technical problem that can be resolved in time, not that I am endorsing their use.
    However, the boarding card incident is incompetence and someone not paying attention. The fact that it slipped through the TSA does not absolve airlines from the responsibility of making sure who is flying on board their aircraft. Some airlines still do it either at the gate by the ground staff and very few at the aircraft door by the cabin crew. Air Arabia (an LCC) policy is for the Senior cabin Crew Member to have a final look at the boarding pass against the passport. It is not only the name but more important the flight number and date and then a quick passengers count to make sure it tallies with the manifest. Airlines stopped doing this because they want to board passengers fast. It does not take that long to do it, Air Arabia turns around a flight in 45 minutes including disembarking passengers, cleaning the aircraft and boarding passengers and they have a good on time performance, I know that because I was there. 
    The TSA procedures are indirectly allowing airlines not to fulfil their responsibilities. This is not a security problem, a passenger can get on the wrong flight and that has nothing to do with TSA. 
    Trusted traveller program, how can you automate security, countries automate immigration procedures a few countries in the Middle East use e-gates which allow a passenger to bypass immigration lines but never security. 

  22. I’m a former TSO for a CAT X airport on the West Coast. I spent 13 months as a TSO and quit because I felt I was accomplishing nothing. The job, in my opinion, is a joke, and no real security is provided.

    The only real solution to prevent any sort of security threat is unfortunately a solution that nobody will implement and that is the security model of the Israelis. Military trained personnel with armed automatic weapons is the only way to go. However, our litigious system will prevent this.

    Any mentally stable TSO will tell you that if a terror threat wishes to bypass security then they will. While in briefings before work Id always talk theories with other TSO’s and one of the reoccurring themes was the intelligence level of the people who pull off these heinous acts. We are dealing with people who are smarter than you and I. Crazy they may be but smarter definitely. We always discussed how the next act of terrorism will occur beyond the check point. Either circumvent air security all together or the terror threat will embed itself into an airline employment position for years prior to carrying out a mission. These people aren’t stupid enough to bring a bomb or weapon again through a check point or through check baggage regardless of what John Pistole would like to think.

    I truly feel we are on borrowed time until the next act of terrorism occurs. Sadly, I don’t think the TSA will have the ability to stop it.

    1. No, the best way to minimize – they can never be wholly eliminated – terrorist attacks is to end the perception that the US is under Israel’s thumb and is making war on the entire Arab world. Adopting an Israeli security model would feed this (legitimate) perception and result in a frenzy of attacks on other targets.

  23. Possibly the thoughest vote yet!

    One thing you missed is that agents shoud be wearing docimeters (appologies for the spelling) to monitor radiation levels.  The only reason not to is you’re afraid of the results.

  24. Think about how differently these two situations are treated by the TSA.

    1 – Someone buys a ticket but there’s a small discrepancy in the name on the ticket vs the ID shown. 

    TSA – You aren’t flying today my friend. 
    Airline – REQUEST DENIED please pay us for a whole new, full-fare, walkup ticket.

    HOW IT’S SPUN TO THE MEDIA –  We couldn’t POSSIBLY allow anyone to fly without a perfect match between ID and boarding pass!!!! It’s a security issue.

    2- Guy walks up with someone ELSE’S EXPIRED boarding pass. 

    TSA: Go right on through, Sir. 
    Airline – Oh, well. If the TSA passed him…have a seat.

    HOW IT’S SPUN TO THE MEDIA –  It doesn’t matter if we allow someone to fly without a perfect match between ID and boarding pass!!!! It’s NOT a security issue.

  25. Boarding pass incident has already caused what I consider an over reaction indeed, one incident out of millions At Long Island MacArthur airport on July 3, four TSA agents “re checked” boarding passes as passengers lined up to board Southwest flight, sometimes requiring passengers to produce identification, despite (of course) already having done so at security checkpoint.

  26. Pardon me, but wasn’t it the last administration that created this abomination and all its unchecked rule making authority?

    1.  Yes, but the current administration has shown no inclination whatsoever to reigning them in. Indeed, this administration has allowed things to get far, far worse.

  27. Wouldn’t it be nice if sites like this would just stick to travel commentary and avoid politics?  The idea that a new administration will be a magic wand is just plain naive. The idea that we need even more political commentary is just plain stupid.

  28. Ethically indefensible.
    How is it different from my local supermarket chain in which I give over my personal information in return for discounts off the merchandise.  You could say (and my former office mate said that people who don’t give out their personal info to the supermarket are being punished.
    I call B.S on both.

    1. An important difference is that the federal government hasn’t entirely taken over food pricing and cashiering. If you don’t like pricing scheme at one chain, you can go to another or a smaller store and still get food. 

  29. I refuse to continue to put up with poor service from the airlines and from the theater of the absurd that is the TSA.  If I cannot get there by car, train or boat, I don’t go.

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