A silent majority sounds off about airport security

Wang Song/Shutterstock
Wang Song/Shutterstock

Intrusive airport searches are just fine with a majority of air travelers. They also think the TSA has singlehandedly prevented a 9/11 repeat, and that critics of the agency’s current practices are nothing more than “anxious advocates.”

At least that’s the impression you might be left with if you read a recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune and other surprisingly favorable mentions in the mainstream media. Even amid the sequestration slowdowns, we’re big fans of the TSA.

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Connect the dots, and the conclusion is inescapable: There’s a silent majority of Americans who really do believe the TSA is the “gold standard” in aviation security, as the TSA’s John Pistole recently proclaimed. We’re safer today because of the TSA, and out in flyover country we feel nothing but gratitude toward America’s airport sentries, who are the last line of defense against terrorism.

But if you’re a regular reader of this feature, which tries to hold the TSA accountable to the taxpayers who fund it, you might find those revelations troubling. Because if they are true, then most criticism of the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems is undeserved, unfair — even unpatriotic.

The complaints about the scans, the pat-downs and the alleged civil rights violations are nothing more than whining by a small group of protesters. After all, hasn’t the TSA protected us?

Can America really feel this way?

But a closer reading of the editorial and a review of a few often forgotten facts suggests otherwise.

Complaining about an “inconvenience”

The Tribune commentary starts with the premise that the “inconvenience” of intrusive searches is “an infinitesimal price to pay for the relentlessly safe flights they enjoy.” But that’s a false premise, say critics.

If you’ve just been given an aggressive pat-down because of a titanium screw in your leg or because you prefer not to undergo a full-body scan, you might beg to differ. It’s more than “inconvenient” when a TSA agent repeatedly knocks your genitals, as the screener at Washington’s Reagan Airport recently did to me. The blueshirt just seemed to be in a hurry, and he clearly didn’t hold an “opt-out” passenger like me in high regard. But the pat-down hurt all the same. I’m not alone.

Also, to credit airport security for the airline industry’s safety record is something of a stretch.

Planes aren’t falling out of the sky because airlines, under the close supervision of the FAA, are sticklers about safety.

The story also labels critics as “complainers” for having the impertinence to take the TSA to task for deploying technology that hasn’t been adequately tested and that shoots x-rays at passengers in order to see through their clothes. It’s a funny way to describe agency-watchers who, as it turned out, had a perfectly legitimate point, since the government agreed with them when it decommissioned the backscatter scanners.

The Tribune then quotes a TSA spokesman saying something the agency has claimed for a while now, which is that it’s moving away from a “one size fits all” model.

“That said,” the commentary adds, “we can’t stress too much that the whole point of airport security is to enhance the flying experience not by pampering travelers, but by keeping flights safe from saboteurs.”

That’s an interesting thing to say, actually. Because there’s a whole list of special exceptions to the TSA’s regular screening, including dignitaries, members of congress, active duty military, pilots, families with young kids, and frequent fliers. If these groups aren’t “pampered,” then you can at least forgive us for feeling that way.

“So the next time you hear someone carp about TSA procedures, ask him or her how many times the agency, formed 70 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has failed at that mission,” the editorial concludes.

That, too, is an odd thing to say. Because the TSA hasn’t apprehended a single terrorist with its famous 20 layers of security.

And the logic of claiming that because there’s been no 9/11 rerun, the TSA has been successful, is a 21st century version of Russell’s Teapot. Or, as my colleague Lisa Simeone would put it, it’s like saying you’ve applied giraffe repellent to your front lawn and then claiming it worked because it’s prevented a giraffe infestation.

Yes, terrorists have been stopped, but neither the underwear bomber nor the shoe bomber were apprehended by the TSA. They were stopped by alert passengers.

For members of the loyal opposition, being tarred as complainers and whiners may be discouraging. But the dissidents who will continue to criticize the TSA are used to it. They have thick skins.

Is opposing the TSA unpatriotic?

More problematic is that the Tribune’s editorial, and others like it, suggests that since mainstream America agrees the TSA is more or less fine just the way it is, then the complainers are … well, complainers.

Two recent surveys underscore that conclusion. One finds that a majority of Americans think the TSA is doing a good job (never mind that half of those polled admitted never having flown). Another says a majority of travelers would support prison-style cavity searches at the airport, if necessary. (Note: Here’s a link to the document with those Harris Poll survey results.)

Opponents of the TSA’s current screening practices shouldn’t be angry at the Tribune, which is just carrying a message from mainstream America. Instead, maybe they should start worrying about the hearts and minds of the average travelers, who, for reasons they can’t comprehend, are fans of the TSA.

If they only knew the TSA the way the rest of us do.

Do you support the TSA's current screening practices?

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123 thoughts on “A silent majority sounds off about airport security

  1. Well, if TSA is the gold standard, then how do you rate airline security in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world that do not have scanners and do not pat down passengers?
    It’s hard to believe that Japan’s airline security is inferior to ours. They are thorough but very respectful. When they asked me to take my boots off, they gave me black slippers to wear through the magnetometer. They placed my boots on a special tray. Also Japan allows food and drinks on domestic flights. They pass your water bottles on some machine. All done very fast and with a smile. Agents are wearing dark suits instead of fake police uniforms.
    During my previous flight last December, the TSA did not spot my extra camera batteries on my checked luggage. But when I rechecked the same bag in Japan, they saw the tiny camera batteries and pulled my bag off the xray line. Then they politely asked me if I had camera batteries. They opened my checked luggage, took the batteries off and handed them to me and told me to put them on my hand carry. Then they xrayed the bag again. I did not have to lift my bag at all. They did all the work.
    I learned my lesson, so this current trip to Japan, I placed the batteries on my hand carry. I noticed that there are more signs, notices, and questions now about Li-on batteries. So if TSA does not spot them and Japan does, how can we call the TSA gold standard? Who is doing the rating or judging? Blogger Bob?

    1. Blame American rah-rah-ism. To way too many in this country, it’s American chest-thumping, no matter what. We’re America, therefore we’re automatically the best at it, and don’t let reality get in the way of blind (and often ignorant) patriotism.

    2. Sigh— the weekly catering to the TSA-loonies. Some of Chris’ comments are unfair and disingenuous. Such as, ” the TSA hasn’t apprehended a single terrorist with its famous 20 layers of security.”

      Well, the TSA apprehend somebody with two loaded firearms attempting to board an aircraft last week. Chris says isn’t a terrorist because he was detained before anything happened. So… only somebody who gets through and causes problems is a terrorist and if they got through Chris would point out the TSA’s failure to stop them. But if they get stopped then, by definition, they weren’t able to commit a terrorist act. And thus they’re not terrorists.

      Come on – we’re smarter than the old, “Heads I win, tails you lose” gambit.

      I don’t really give a toss about the TSA one way or the other, but please quit trying to BS us with this pseudo-logic of TSA failure. Reasonable observations about an imperfect agency should be welcomed by everyone. But when the TSA-loonies refer to everything as ‘groping’ and ‘rape’ and ‘violating civil rights’ it just paints them as a bunch of jackwagons. Maybe ‘mainstream America’ just has more important things on their minds than the resident TSA-loonies, so they just don’t care that much.

      1. Was this person who tried to get through security with 2 loaded firearms charged with terrorism, charged under the “Patriot” Act?

        Were those the guns that were found in a box of detergent in the person’s checked bags?

        Please enlighten us.

      2. According to the reprimands against personal attacks that have been issued over the last couple of weeks, this qualifies as an attack. The use of “TSA-loonies” and ” a bunch of jackwagons” is consistent with previous reprimands issued by the moderators.

        John Baker posted last week that all “attacks” are coming only from the anti-TSA side. Proof positive that his statement is incorrect and misleading.

        Will the moderators be reprimanding David Young?

        1. Sorry if you see that as a ‘personal attack’ but since it’s not directed at any person, it’s not personal. No person is being singled out, just an opinion as to an anonymous generalized group of people who seem to let their hated of the TSA dominate their waking hours.

          With reference to jackwagon, it’s neither vulgar nor offensive. in fact, the actor F. Lee Emery used the term in a recent Geico Insurance television commercial to mean whiner / crybaby. Geico isn’t likely to use profanity in their broadcast TV commercials. And again, it was directed at a generalized group, not a specific post or person. Oh, and ‘Loonie’ is used as the Canadian dollar and a 2002 children’s movie – neither considered highly offensive (unless you don’t like children or Canadians.)

          So you’re goal is to ‘reprimand’ people who post things you don’t like? Jeez, lighten up and don’t be such a jackwagon (kidding, don’t reprimand me 🙂

          1. Mr. Young,

            I am not the one who sets the rules here on this blog. If you have an objection to the moratorium being placed on personal attacks or the definition of what constitutes a personal attack, you should take that up with the moderators.

            Af far as I’m concerned, I have no problem with anything short of racist or sexually demeaning language. So as far as I’m concerned, you’re free to attack away.

            I do have a problem with people who make attacks and then claim other people are making attacks while proclaiming their own innocence.

            But again, this is not my blog, and I am not the one making the rules here. I am happy to see the moderators are enforcing their rules evenhandedly without preference to either side.

          2. “Seem to let their hatred of the TSA dominate their waking hours?” Exaggerate much? This is a discussion of the TSA, not of how we all spend our time. Please stick to the topic.

      3. Mr. Young,
        Note: We have a great team of volunteer moderators who make sure the comments don’t get out of hand. Please make their jobs easier by sticking to the topic and refraining from personal attacks.

      4. mainstream america are not the frequent fliers complaining about the issues with the TSA. IMO, the majority of those who oppose the TSA are frequent travelers. ‘Most of America’ are not frequent travelers.

      5. Just because someone owns a gun it does not make them a terrorist or a potential terrorist.BTW the gun was found by technology that’s been around long before TSA

        1. Oh Poley. Don’t cloud the subject with meaningless facts. It only causes the pro-TSA-loonies to go crazy. 😉

  2. I’ve said it a couple of times already, but I don’t think the “silent majority” approves of TSA methods. Yes, they are “silent”, but I’d venture to bet a good percentage maintain their silence because of the bludgeon the agency has at its disposal – the ability to humiliate and cause to miss flights any passenger that fails to meekly submit to its whims. I don’t consider TSA protestors unpatriotic; in fact, the whole notion that people who protest the government, one of the bedrock founding principles of our republic, are mocked as unpatriotic in the mainstream press scares me FAR more than any real or perceived abuses of the TSA. But, faced with the threat of missing their flight (or even getting arrested) by fighting back, I can understand why the majority just decide to remain silent.

    It’s sad that it’s come to this, but it is what it is.

    1. 1) I do agree more than 50% of people FAVOR an agency designed to protect the airline industry from “terrorists”.
      2) However, HOW they do it is never surveyed. I believe about 25% of Americans support nude image scanners (AIT) even though we are at ATR now.
      3) THE SURVEY we need: It asks one question only, and doesn’t mention TSA or airports. QUESTION:”Do you agree that government workers should be able to touch your genitals or breasts and your teeneagers’ genitals and breasts through one’s clothing, without any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity?”
      This question gets to the heart of the matter. Security? Yeah, I’m for that. Criminal and unconstitutional acts? No.
      4) Although you CAN’T measure the TSA’s effectiveness in preventing security events, you CAN compare it to pre-911 time period, post-911 pre-scanner time period, and post-scanner period. In all instances, the INCREASE in security…as MEASURED by REDUCED INCIDENTS to prior time periods…is 0.000000000000000% . Specifically, scanners are supposed to be a way to “:find” non-metallic bombs, so that is the reason for their introduction. Comparing passenger deaths by suicidal airline passengers with working non-metallic bombs show no reduction from the ZERO fatalities since 1962.
      5) FINALLY: If 100% of passengers are NOT subjected to scanners and pat downs, then this is an obvious flaw in the scanner security layer. I can’t imagine people would agree that not having 100% metal detectors in the early 1970s would have been a brilliant plan to stop hijackers with guns.
      The TSA plans to NOT have scanners at 100% deployment, according to a Congressional Research Services report. Therefore, by default, the scanners are not needed and are not going to be effective against the supposed threat they are targeted for.

      1. The Harris Poll mentioned above addressed that issue:

        In some cases, the TSA’s more invasive pat down procedures now include agents touching travelers’ genital area through their
        clothing. How acceptable, if at all, do you feel this is, considering the
        potential major threat posed by terrorists?

        Completely/Somewhat 1346 348 445 419

        Unacceptable (Net) 65% 65% 64% 69%

        1. I want a “non-airport” question as they falsely assert some threat. Right now, the threat is unmeasurable, as your chances of dying while driving to the airport are MUCH higher.

          When people feel their life is threatened, they have an emotional response (i.e biology does that). Let’s put it into a context without the alleged and unmeasurable threat.

  3. So I guess everyone will see the news today that TSA now allows passengers to take small pocket knives through security. Maybe a small crack in the idiocy. We will have to see how this goes since the flight attendant unions have already started complaining about how pocket knives on planes just aren’t safe.

    But to comment on a couple points in Mr. Elliott’s article:

    The underwear and shoe bombers could not have ever been stopped by the TSA since both boarded at airports outside the USA. The TSA only checks passengers boarding planes within the US.

    The TSA has never “caught” a terrorist because that has never been their job. The job of the TSA is to prevent items from getting on board a plane that a terrorist could use. Nothing else. The fact that they often fail at even this seemingly simple task is not creating a high degree of confidence.

      1. Not part of the TSA. The no-fly list is maintained by a different government agency.

        When you go through security, have you ever seen the TSA person look up your name on any list? No, they simply match your name on your boarding pass to the ID you supply.

        1. Actually, the FBI devises and maintains the list; the TSA “administers” it. (Yeah, I know, whatever that means.) I’ll look up the link and post it here. I remember researching this a while back.

          Edited to add: Okay, here it is: The No-Fly list is maintained not by the TSA, but by the Terrorist Screening Center, which is under the aegis of the FBI. The TSC maintains the list; the TSA “administers” it.



    1. We should note the only 2 non-metallic bombing attempts on EVERY FLIGHT, in the ENTIRE WORLD, since 1997 were miserable failures, despite 5+ years to plan/test/refine a working non-metallic bomb. The 1997 non-metallic bomb on a Phillipines flight killed 1 person, plane landed safely. And, not a US flight of course……..

    2. So, the Association of Flight Attendants is calling this relaxing of the rules to allow small knives “outrageous”.

      If they would’ve ever gotten upset about the amount of dangerous stuff that TSA was allowing to get through in the first place, then maybe we’d have a reason to listen to them now.

    3. The list of those items is arbitrary and ridiculous. I can take 12-inch knitting needles on a plane. The prohibition on liquids by volume is pointless and easily circumvented, and is actually in response to a liquid-explosives plan that would never have worked. We all know that the list is meaningless, but by god don’t carry a bottle of water on board!

  4. Enough about the cavity search poll. If you are going to keep bringing up this poll at least link to so-called origin on the infowars site where people can see who is claiming this.

    This is shoddy journalism Even if you believe that this poll exists and is valid, the claim is that almost one-third support this not a majority.

    There is no mention of this poll on the Harris Interactive site that I could find.

      1. I must apologize. I did not mean to say that the entire story was shoddy, only the part where you write “Another says a majority of travelers would support prison-style cavity searches at the airport, if necessary.” Even if the survey is valid the results do not support that statement.

        Originally you provided a link to a blog which linked to another blog that mentioned that a survey had been carried out on behalf of Infowars. This statement alone is enough to set up my BS detector.

        There is no mention at all about this survey on the Harris Interactive site. That is not to say that is doesn’t exist only that combined with the source of the information I am very doubtful.

      1. Ms. Tornello, in case you missed it…

        Note: We have a great team of volunteer moderators who make sure the comments don’t get out of hand. Please make their jobs easier by sticking to the topic and refraining from personal attacks.

        1. The topic at hand was a link to the study, as requested. I provided that. The rest was a direct calling-out of the poster’s tone: “Enough about the cavity search poll. If you are going to keep bringing up this poll at least link to so-called origin on the infowars site where people can see who is claiming this.

          This is shoddy journalism Even if you believe that this poll exists and is valid, the claim is that almost one-third support this not a majority.

          There is no mention of this poll on the Harris Interactive site that I could find.”

          He accused people of bringing up a poll that he felt did not exist and was not valid; he accused Chris of shoddy journalism.

          So it’s okay to do that–make a personal attack on the writer and other readers–but not to call someone out for it?

          Nice. And no, I didn’t miss Chris’s note, you sarcastic pedant. (That, too, was calling you out for your tone.)

          1. Again, Ms. Tornello…

            Note: We have a great team of volunteer moderators who make sure the comments don’t get out of hand. Please make their jobs easier by sticking to the topic and refraining from personal attacks.

        2. I believe it is time for the moderators to spell out specifically what is and is not acceptable. What is unacceptable must be explained exactly so that everyone can understand the rules.

          At the moment, it seems pretty arbitrary. Nobody can say anything without fear of reprimand or being blacklisted. And the reprimands are coming across as being biased against one side. I’m sure that is not what is intended, but it looks that way anyway.

          Once the rules are spelled out exactly, it is necessary to be even handed with reprimands and enforce the rules for all. Even for moderators.

          There is at least one moderator (I’m not saying who he is) who makes some pretty nasty attacks of his own on this site. I used to marvel at his aggressive, nasty comments. When I learned he was a moderator, I was stunned.

          In addition to being evenhanded with the reprimands, it would be helpful if reprimands cite the specific rule that is violated and explain how the post in question violates that rule. That way, the moderators will be viewed as fair and unbiased, and reprimands will not be viewed as arbitrary.

          1. Daisiemae, I think Chris spelled it out fairly clearly…

            Note: We have a great team of volunteer moderators who make sure the comments don’t get out of hand. Please make their jobs easier by sticking to the topic and refraining from personal attacks.

          2. I am not trying to be a wiseacre, but I really don’t think this is clear at all. All I can see here is that comments should not “get out of hand” and posters should “refrain from making personal attacks.”

            That is fairly nebulous. It’s open to a wide range of interpretations. “Out of hand” could mean almost anything and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion about what constitutes “personal attacks.”

            I think it’s causing a lot of chaos and confusion as well as aggravation both for you and for your bloggers.

            A very specific list of do’s and don’ts would be very helpful both for you in administering them and for the bloggers in adhering to them. It would make everything clear and fair. It would take a lot of pressure off of you. If someone violated the rules, it gives you strong ground to stand upon regardless of whether the poster is pro or anti-TSA.

            By the same token, clear, specific rules will allow the bloggers free range to argue their positions within the established parameters with all the passion and ingenuity they possess without fear of arbitrary reprimands.

    1. Ira, are you implying that in order to travel about their country, American citizens should face the possibility of an interrogation about the most intimate aspects of their lives before being allowed on the plane?

      Because that is a possibility for anyone transiting Israeli airports.

    2. “Mr. Rosen what is the purpose of your visit to Omaha?”

      “Who are you visiting?”, “How long will you be there?”, “Where are you staying?”, “Why so much luggage?” (or “Why so little luggage”?) “What is the purpose of your visit again?” “why are you so nervous?, this is for your own good.”

      These are the easy questions….now if you have an Arab name or appear to be Arab…well…..

      1. FWIW, this kind of questioning wasn’t much different than what I received last year from a Canadian border guard when going by bus between Seattle and Vancouver. And I certainly don’t fit the ‘profile’ of being from anywhere near the Middle East.

        It caught me off guard, because I’d never been questioned so much or in such a manner when previously entering/leaving other countries, including the US.

        1. cjr001, unfortunately, the border — and, now, 100 miles within any U.S. border — is a Constitution-free zone and has been for years. Certainly all the years of my life, although yes, it has gotten worse since the post-9/11 hysteria. You have no rights — none — when you’re crossing the border. CBP can do anything they want to you, and I do mean anything. I always treat those guys with the utmost respect; “yes, sir,” “yes, ma’am,” etc. Because they have actual law enforcement power, unlike the buffoons of the TSA.

          And before somebody objects to “Constitution-free zone,” read what the law says:


          1. I recently saw a video about the 100 mile zone where drivers challenged the authority of the officers at the inland checkpoint.

            They refused to answer the simple question “Are you a US Citizen?” and then refused to submit to a secondary inspection when asked. The simply asked “Am I being detained?” to which no answer was given by the agent. They finally were allowed to go without answering any questions or allowing an inspection without a warrant.

          2. Mike, yes, I saw that one, too. A compilation video of others that have been making the rounds. I don’t have the link now, but there are a lot of those videos out there.

        2. Border guards have a different mission than the TSA. The TSA “wishes” they had the power Customs and Border Patrol Officers have.

          I shudder to think of the day when I’m questioned by a blue shirt about the purpose and details of my visit to Schenectady.

  5. TSA could learn a great deal about security from Israel. The security in Tel Aviv (or any Israeli airport) is not only more thorough, but more respectful.

    1. Dymaio, it’s more respectful if you’re the “right” type, not if you’re the “wrong” type, as thousands of people can attest, including peace activist and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who’s written publicly about her experience (strip-searched in a back room). Israel has eliminated terrorism on planes only, not everywhere else in the country. Cafes, buses, marketplaces — bombs still go off there.

      There is no such thing as 100% security, anywhere. It’s a fantasy. Life entails risk. And the risk of being killed by a terrorist attack in this country is so vanishingly small it can barely be quantified (though mathematician Sommer Gentry has quantified it and posted it here countless times).

      1. And, by the same logic, the chance of being blown up In the sky by a terrorist is just as infinitesimal. I’m sorry so many people lost their lives on 9/11 and, yes, I do know someone who lost a loved one, but I’d rather risk being on said plane with a terrorist than face the certain terrorist scanner I face every time I take a flight.

  6. Still, I’m wondering exactly when the media thought it would be a great idea to become a shill for TSA? Because spitting out pro-TSA propaganda is pretty much all they’ve done for the last decade.

    And if you support prison-style cavity searches “if necessary”, then by all means, you should be getting them as often as possible. Why wait to fly, especially when so many who support them never fly? You should get one before you leave your house, just so you can be shown how ridiculous you are.

  7. I would say i fly and visit the bank an equal number oftimes each year. I think I would have a better chance being in a bank roberry than a terrorist attack, should we ask the TSA is they do bank security too?

      1. Ha.
        I am a US Citizen. I am Certified Flight Instructor and Commercial Pilot. I got raped by the TSA at LAS on 31 May 2012. I have not been back to the USA since. Greetings from Russia.

  8. Privatize security, the airport can charge a security fee. At checkin in there is a $5 security fee. it’s not waived for anyone (except employees and airline crew). However passenger must clear the same security. No exceptions.

  9. I don’t know if it is intentional or not, but the delay and annoyance from the TSA shows “the terrorists” that they have effectively gummed up the works with very little effort on their part. If the TSA screening were fast, effective, and easy, “the terrorists” would have to find another way to interfere with free travel, and that method may very well be more effective at killing people than underwear incendiaries and hotfoot shoes.
    Yes, the TSA is security theater, but we are not the audience. Heaven help us if true security were needed, as true 100% security is incompatible with mass air transportation.

      1. Exactly. The terrorists have won because our way of life has been fundamentally altered by our giving up our rights to unreasonable searches and seizure. Give the government an inch and it takes a mile. I was taught, as a child, that one person can make a difference. One terrorist did make just such a difference. One underwear bomber has made millions take their shores off at the airport so that the shoes can be screened. ONE!

        1. I thought it was the shoe bomber responsible for us taking off our shoes.

          The underwear bomber brought us the radiation dosing scanners (that can miss things if you carry them at a certain angle on your body).

          I still say why not just let us go through the airport naked so we can’t hide anything — but wait, then they will want to do body cavity searches because you never know what might be stuck up where.

  10. I wonder how much the TSA is spending on public relations to get this kind of coverage. Surely that can be cut out of their budget.

  11. I do not have the same contact with the TSA as those who fly, that is because I travel mainly via Amtrak which has less invasive security measures. At least for now.

    1. Yes, for now. I don’t have access to practical travel options on Amtrak, but when I did a US train trip back in 2003, it was great.

  12. As I commented in another post, people won’t see the full extent of someone being/feeling violated unless it happens to them or someone they love.

  13. The TSA will endear even more as it continues it’s slowdown. I flew thru ORD on Monday and they are taking even more time doing their “job” than normal as a silent protest to govt cutbacks. I met with a vendor from Germany this week and he thought our TSA was a joke. Europe did not have the xray machines and has systems better equiped – not to mentioned more trained screeners.

  14. The Today Show had a segment wherein a reporter walked along a table with a TSA agent showing the many hundreds of items confiscated by the TSA , including lots of knives, a pitchfork, many guns and grenades, toy guns and grenades, etc. The segment reeked of a PR plant. I wonder about polls — are some of those manufactured by the PR staff of the TSA?

    1. Of course what you saw was a PR plant. Polls don’t mean squat if the right questions are not asked of the right people and I would imagine that the TSA probably has some input into many of them.

    2. I love when they do those junkets and bring out bins and bins of shampoo and water bottles. No joke. They are so proud of themselves. Shameless.

    3. What’s really sad is the number of things they found is just a tiny fraction of things that went through checkpoints, which means most of them made it through.

  15. I actually prefer the body scanners to any of the other procedures. What I object to are: “punitive” manual searches for those not going through the body scanners; arbitrary confiscations of items; and still having to take my shoes off when the scanners should reveal all.

    1. Mr. Gore, going through the scanner is no guarantee that you won’t also be groped. The scanners have a 54% false positive rate. And you’re correct that the “pat-downs” are meant to be punitive, as TSA screeners themselves have admitted. Jeffrey Rosenberg wrote about this in The Atlantic over 2 years ago, Forbes Magazine has written about it, a lot of people have written about it.

    2. I understand, Alan. That was TSA’s plan all along. Make the body searches so horrible and invasive that people would “gladly” accept the naked scanners.

  16. there are too many silent majority -leftwingers that feel anything the government does is the gold standard..brain dead…drank the Koolaide…. esp the press and even better the really left wing press in liberal land Chicago what else would u expect.. i have heard it while waiting in line watching the TSA take apart little old ladies….., the masses think this is great……………….

    1. cahdot, inasmuch as the false left/right dichotomy even means anything, I identify as far left. And I’ve been agitating for years about the TSA and the civil liberties violations of the entire National Security State. So I wouldn’t be so quick to assume you know where people’s political priorities lie.

      This isn’t a left/right issue. We’re all in this together. Civil liberties are for all of us.

    2. The TSA is abhorred by people across the political spectrum. The TSA is also beloved by people across the political spectrum. This is a non-partisan issue.

  17. I DO NOT support the plan to let people carry knives and hockey sticks on board beginning in one month.. This is BS.

    1. Mr. Kardoff, how can a knife or hockey stick bring down a plane? The cockpit doors have been secured, so no one can take over a plane; and passengers will no longer silently submit to any would-be attacker. Also, as you surely know, knives get onto planes all the time. It’s impossible to keep 100% of them off. Yet nobody’s been blown out of the sky because of it.

      1. If anything, a knife of any kind is more dangerous than a hockey stick (or baseball bat or lacrosse stick) on a plane. For one, while you can butt-end somebody with each of those, there’s certainly not enough room in a plane to make a full swing with them where it would really hurt somebody. A small knife, on the other hand…

        But then, none of these things are going to bring down a plane. Nor should a handgun, if the cockpit is secured.

    2. Why is it “BS?” People have been carrying knives on board the entire history of commercial flight, including the past 12 years. Hockey sticks aren’t any more of a threat (and a lot more obvious) than a laptop or hardback book.

  18. TSA violates the Constitution every day and commits felony crimes every day. That’s the”gold standard?”

  19. Excuse me – I live in “flyover” land and I loathe TSA, both for their lack of effective screening and for their seemingly thinking they don’t have to bow to Congressional oversight and Constitutional law.

    However, my father – who lives in DC, is from NYC and frequently goes back there – thinks people are crazy to be upset about TSA.

      1. He flies on a pretty regular basis, and from your general part of the world. Not quite a road-warrior, but I’d say he flies at least 2-3 times per calendar quarter.

        He actually likes AIT as he has pieces of medical metal in his body, and has for years. He feels it saves him from the usual metal wanding he used to get. He is, though, very much a dittohead. Annoys me beyond reason – I’m pretty centrist, but I’ve never bought into the necessity of pat-downs (as you know – we both hate TSA, just have disagreements on what to do about them).

  20. When Napolitano lied about the delays at ORD and LAX this week, nearly all of the comments in the stories were anti-TSA. The typical sentiment was that TSA
    needed to go away and that we didn’t need to spend money for TSA to grope little
    kids and steal our property.

    Of course, there are still pantywaist cowards who are so afraid to fly that they
    would submit to a cavity search if TSA told them it made them safer.

    1. I have a feeling they’d submit to one regardless of the reason.

      “TSA said so! Just go along and don’t make trouble!”

  21. let’s face it the USA is in dire straights. Your economy is stuffed & your standard of living is dropping fast.
    Soon the Chinese will demand you drive only their cars & you’re not in a position to say no.
    Your rich are getting richer & poor r getting poorer, so more guns are being sold.
    (at least when you shoot each other, that will reduce your population)
    You need every single international tourist you can get.
    All a clever marketing person for another country/continent like Canada or Europe needs to say issomething to the effect ….
    Going to USA ? R u sure u won’t 2 go there ?
    Don’t forget the TSA (we just call them Nazis) & don’t forget to bend over.
    At least you won’t need another prostate check.
    Have a nice day, with your pants down ?

    1. You’re getting awfully cocky, Oz. DON’T make us have to come down there and sort you out. We’ll GIVE you a prostate check! 🙂

  22. I fly about every week. I WISH they had a FF quick security bypass at my airport. I think I may switch to the pat-downs just to avoid all of the scanning. I could care less about being “felt up” if I can get through the line faster for it. They should be forgetting about being policitically correct and just PROFILE people in the security lines. Now that they are letting knives through, it’s all a joke. Before 9/11, no one seemed to think you could do any damage with a box cutter. A joke.

    1. sickofchaos, we’ve already addressed this, several times. No boxcutters or knives took down any planes on 9/11. The planes themselves were commandeered, something that won’t happen again because the cockpit doors have been secured and because passengers will no longer silently submit to any would-be attacker.

      Profiling, of the crude sort usually touted by people as a panacea, has also been handily debunked, by Bruce Schneier and other security experts. Not going to repeat it all again.

      1. We will have to “agree to disagree” on the issue of profiling. I do not want to travel in a cabin where weapons are present, period. Small knives, box cutters, sharp objects, potential explosive– whatever else may inflict damage to another human being when it is wielded by an unruly passenger should not be allowed on an aircraft, in my opinion. And as any frequent flier knows, there are plenty of unruly passengers out there that don’t make the news. I would be interested to know what more fliers thought of the TSA decision to allow small knives onto aircraft.

        1. sickofchaos, well, surely you know you’ve been traveling with knives, knitting needles, razors, corkscrews (oh, the horror!), etc. for years, since the TSA misses stuff all the time. Have any planes dropped out of the sky because of it?

          And as many people have pointed out at this blog over the years, anything can be turned into a weapon. A string/rope could be a garrote. Somebody’s hands could be a weapon. Should we handcuff everyone just to be on the safe side?

  23. I, to my chagrin, went like a sheeple through the naked scanner on my way to NYC a few weeks ago. I was wearing a sweater dress, leggings and boots. Obviously, the boots were off in the scanner, but I still had to have a pat-down because the scanner couldn’t see through the hem of my Old Navy sweater dress. What? The machines don’t work and the TSA is a joke.

  24. Sorry to go against the grain. I don’t have any problems with the TSA practises. I have travelled extensively over the last 10 years including on average at least 5 trips to the US per year and regularly across Europe and the Far East. The best security I’ve experienced was in Shanghai. Efficent, polite and quick. Worst was Paris. Talk about invasive but it was 6am I was half asleep.
    The problems with screenings are to do with two things, staff politeness and equipment.
    I have no problem with the pat down. Despite being a regular traveller, I also seem to go off. If they are polite and friendly and you are as well, it’s fine. I don’t think it’s much fun for them either. Imagine in the Summer? However when they are rude and unpleasant, it makes the process even more uncomfortable.
    I have no problems with the body scanners.My local airport was one of the first to adopt them and make the compulsory. (If you don’t go through, you don’t fly). Plus it’s not like they are watching in the same room. However the staff are generally friendly, patient and the process has been thought through to make it as quick as possible. There are multiple lanes of security and extra large trays. Most importantly you don’t have to take your shoes off. They have now stopped using the body scanners due to the new European laws but it is still pretty quick. It is by no means perfect but a lot better than the Orlando TSA process I’ll be going through soon.
    It’s just as well I like the US and Americans so much since getting in to the country and leaving is such a hassle!

    1. Geesh. Disqus is really messing up. I only now got notice of this post some 4 months after it was made. (Either that or Disqus has really messed up the time on Suzy’s reply as I see she just made some other recent replies)

      “I don’t have any problems with the TSA practises.”

      No problem with their practice of theft or not even following their own procedures? Making up rules as they go? Confiscating legal items items claiming they are illegal?

      Do you also not have problems with people breaking into your house or car? Robbing banks? Abuse by the police under color of authority? If you don’t have problems with the first, why should you have any problems with the later?

  25. Personally I just don’t care. I want to get from the airport door to my plane. I do t care if they want to bombard me with radiation, massage my privates, probe body cavities, or make me strip. I just want to get to the plane, that’s why I go to the airport, it’s where they keep the planes. Since I wouldn’t complain I have no sympathy for those who cry about being rough handled, having their wheelchairs, medical devices, diapers, formula, their kids searched and checked. I would rather have a trivial amount of increased security that benefits me, then care about someone else’s conveniences, or discomfort, which does not improve my security.

    I do believe that MANY other countries do security better. One factor however is that, the screeners in many other countries as actually police or other law enforcment., and you don’t see people mouthing off to airport security and screeners in China, or Singapore. You do what they say and keep your mouth shut, or you end up in a very bad place, and maybe no one ever sees you again.

    I really wish they would give TSA agents firearms, handcuffs, tasers, batons and full arrest powers. I’ve been through plenty of towns where I know I was pulled over Ina. Speed trap, but I’m going to be nice and polite to the deputy or officer pullin me over, because I don’t want to get shot or tased for having a big mouth, even if it is unfair. It would take a couple days for some irrational passenger to be tasks inline and then arrested, and everyone would then just shut and do what their told and go through security, as quickly as possible.

      1. That’s one problem, Lisa. A group of selfish individuals who just want to get to where they are going and don’t give a darn about other people, especially those that are abused by the TSA each and every time they fly.

      2. Note: We have a great team of volunteer moderators who make sure the comments don’t get out of hand. Please make their jobs easier by sticking to the topic and refraining from personal attacks.

      3. Note: We have a great team of volunteer moderators who make sure the comments don’t get out of hand. Please make their jobs easier by sticking to the topic and refraining from personal attacks.

        1. I agree with Daisimae’s posts on this: you guys need to spell out what is and is not acceptable.

          Since mere sarcasm — a venerable tradition that goes from Aristophanes to Molière to Mark Twain — apparently isn’t acceptable and, moreover, gets falsely labeled as an “attack,” then it’s up to the moderators to tell us what you will allow us to say and what you won’t.

          But don’t be surprised if people gradually drift away. Speech includes cracking jokes, being (gasp!) snarky, ribbing each other, pointing out inconsistencies and logical fallacies in people’s arguments. I’m not a hothouse flower who’s going to wilt when somebody calls me a naughty name. I would never flag someone for that (or anything else). I consider such flagging and running to the moderators to be incredibly immature.

          But clearly I’m in the minority. So if you guys want this blog to be a certain way, perhaps it would be helpful if you would spell it out instead of chiding us as if we’re in kindergarten.

          1. No one is being forced to read Christopher’s blogs or to comment on them.

            If what others write offends, then don’t read it!

        2. I really can’t see the attack here. It’s simply a paraphrase of what the OP said himself.

          Again, specific rules will help you clarify your position and avoid the appearance of arbitrary reprimands.

          I’m actually wondering why the moderators here are so severe on the TSA threads but allow all kinds of nasty ugly remarks on all the other threads. Maybe you could clarify that? Are there separate rules for the TSA thread and all the other threads? It makes it appear that the moderators have a personal vendetta. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it’s coming across that way.

    1. “I would rather have a trivial amount of increased security that benefits me, then care about someone else’s conveniences, or discomfort, which does not improve my security.” Of course you would. After all, it’s all about you, isn’t it? And is one of you favorite phrases “Enough about you… let’s talk about me!!”

    2. Lovely bit of stealth parody trolling, PsyGuy, even if the lessons therein will zoom right over the pointy little heads of the TSA apologists meandering hereabouts. (For those unfamiliar with the term:

      Stealth Parodies are often created by people with completely opposite views that the alleged parody contains, and the parody has been created to discredit the group that holds the opposing views.

      Organizations such as Conservapedia and the Flat Earth Society are examples.”

    3. Actually, apologies, PsyGuy. Methinks you’re actually a brilliant Stealth Parody Troll, and I fell for it. I admit it. Sorry.

      You have to understand that because people do, in fact, say things very close to what you wrote in all earnestness, not in parody, I bought it. It’s getting impossible to recognize parody or sarcasm anymore because people profess the most outrageous things and actually believe them (not to mention sarcasm is a big no-no at this blog and likely to get you flagged, chastised like a 2nd grader, and banned).

      Edited to add: As you’ll see, if this comment and this little exchange are allowed to stay up, I’ve already been flagged and chastised.

      Edited again to add: Uh-oh, turns out PsyGuy isn’t stealth trolling. He actually means what he says. He’d actually be okay with strip searches, etc. to get on a plane. Oh, well. This is why this country is on the skids.

    4. You have just perfectly described living in a police state. And ironically, you don’t get the benefit of increased security–you only get the oppression!
      [Edited to add: Ooh, I hope this is sarcasm! But since no one on the thread seems to be supporting the TSA, I don’t know who your audience would be.]

  26. At the end of the day, everyone should question the unnecessary delays and invasions of privacy. To be honest, as an Australian, it’s a bit weird that the TSA previously allowed box-cutters on planes. Box cutters? Puuuuulease!

    So, due to their inability to prevent 9/11, the Feds do this. My assumption is that the manufacturers of security equipment are behind most of it (look at which companies funded which representatives…).

    In Australia, we generally have only “random searches”. As a professional engineer that often travels with no checked baggage, I should have an easy time, but wait – I have longer hair than some do i.e. a ponytail. This means that wherever I go, am the one person singled out for bomb and explosives checks.

    When in China though, the service is very good. I have been asked to open a bag one time, as it was full of electronic samples. No less than 3 employees helped me to unpack and then re-pack the bag. I was accidentally ‘touched’ by a customs officer, and they wanted to do a full report on it, but I just smiled and said it was an honest mistake (the poor girl barely came up to my shoulder).

    9/11 won’t happen again, because the terrorists have realised that they cannot change people’s minds by killing their relatives.

  27. I am 58 and have flown a lot. In my youth, it was to visit family in England as well as separated family in the U.S. After college, I began traveling in 1982 for work and have continued that pattern since so I have seen the enormous changes that have occurred over the years.

    People assume that bombing and terrorist threats started around 9/11, but they did not. There have been bombings on passenger planes since at least the 1950s. Indeed, more passengers were killed in airliner bombings before 9/11 than were killed aboard the hijacked airliners on 9/11. An epidemic of hijacking in the late 1960s and the 1970s, led to metal detectors and scanning of carry-on luggage and even to sky marshals for a time. The hijacking epidemic declined but at least two jumbo jets were brought down by luggage bombs after that (Air India flying out of Montreal and Pan Am flight 103). Both of these incidents were horrible and led to changes in security both in the U.S. and other countries but without additional passenger-facing changes.

    9/11 brought birthed the behemoth Department of Homeland Security which took over airport security in the U.S. with the formation of the Transportation Security Administration. I was dubious from day one. The security checks implemented immediately after 9/11 would not have prevented 9/11. The T.S.A. points to the lack of a repeat as a sign of its success, but the truth is, I don’t think T.S.A. has prevented anything other than simple hijackings and luggage bombs, both of which were already largely under control before then. It has reacted to attempts after the fact, but there is no evidence anything has been prevented that would not have been prevented before it existed. There has been no other attack since 9/11 because it took years to plan and execute that attack and because we have been far more aggressive with law enforcement efforts to break up these conspiracies before they can harvest the fruit of those conspiracies.

    MeanMeosh is really onto something when he claims the “silent majority” does not so much approve of TSA methods as fear the repercussions of challenging them at the airport. I realise the jobs are largely boring, but I have witnessed so many instances of needless rudeness and outright intimidation. When I travel with my wife, I always allow at least an additional hour for the simple reason that I know she will be searched above and beyond the typical empty-your-pockets-take-off-jewelry-and-shoes. First of all, her purse is a catch-all and is she always misses something that raises an eyebrow. Second of all, she is a sweet person who gets tough when confronted by the pressure of flight schedules and intrusion into her personal space. It would be amusing to watch the TSA try to confront my late-fifties spouse and expect her to be meek.

    I’m a simpler traveler. I don’t carry a purse that often has enough coins in the bottom to make a mortgage payment. This brings me to my other point.

    Knives, box cutters, shampoo bottles, etc. are not the threat. Have any of you ever swung a laptop bag. It’s heavy and would be more than adequate to cause grievous bodily harm. Three ounce bottles can contain all sort of liquids that separately would not be detectable as threats, but when mixed can cause a lethal problem from poisonous vapours flowing through the airplane’s air system including the cockpit to corrosive liquids that could be strategically applied to damage critical airliner systems such as electronic cables. TSA will not prevent this from happening until it has happened at least once.

    In the meantime, air travel has become inconvenient, uncomfortable, and increasingly expensive. Simply removing luggage check fees or some sort of penalty to oversized carry-on luggage would improve the experience, but TSA has added to the discomfort without any evidence of providing real value for its enormous cost.

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