It’s time to tell the TSA what you really think of it — and for it to listen

Travelers love to complain about the TSA, and even though the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems claims to listen, most of us know better.

Don’t believe me? Try sending the agency an email, complaining about your last pat-down. Do you hear the sound of crickets? Me too.

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But now a court has ordered the TSA to listen, and to pay attention — and maybe, if we’re lucky, to do something about it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the TSA to engage in something known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its screening procedures, and specifically its use of full-body scanners. You can leave your comment at the Federal Register website until June 24th.

The TSA hopes the public it’s assigned to protect will approve of the scanners and the way they’re used. But it promises to “review and analyze” the comments to develop a final rule related to the use of airport scanners.

What could they do? That isn’t entirely clear. The lengthy document seems to suggest that four options are on the table:

1. Metal detectors and pat-downs. Under this scenario, the passenger screening environment “remains the same as it was prior to 2008.” Which is to say, metal detectors, not scanners, are used as the primary passenger screening technology. Any alarms are “resolved” with a pat-down.

What if it were adopted? That system worked before 2008, and it could work again. But it wouldn’t address the problems many passengers have with “enhanced” pat-downs as a method of “resolving” an alarm. Those pat-downs are sometimes said to be abusive and punitive.

2. Metal detectors and random pat-downs. Under this alternative, TSA continues to use metal detectors as the primary passenger screening technology, but it “supplements” the screening with random pat-downs.

What if it were adopted? Chaos, probably. Those selected for a pat-down would complain, there would be allegations that the randomness wasn’t so random, and at the end of the day, the airport wouldn’t be any safer.

3. Metal detectors and explosive trace detection screening. This option would see the TSA return to metal detectors but conduct explosive trace detection screening on random passengers. ETD screening is fairly non-invasive, and usually involves swabbing luggage.

What if it were adopted? This would eliminate the difficult choice passengers are often asked to make between a scan and pat-down, and would replace it with proven technologies that could identify most threats. It’s the alternative preferred by TSA-watchers and privacy advocates.

4. Full-body scans or pat-downs. The final option would be to leave things exactly as they are: Using the scanners, which have already cost American taxpayers roughly $1 billion, and resolving any alarms with an “enhanced” pat-down.

What if it were adopted? This would be an unfortunate choice, because it would mean the TSA didn’t bother reading any of the public comments and doesn’t care what the American public thinks about the way it screens them. The current system costs too much, both financially and in terms of the constitutional rights we surrender at the airport, say critics. We can do better.

So what do travelers have to say about the TSA’s rulemaking so far? Plenty.

• From Matthew Richard Glucksberg: “Please remove the charade of security provided by full body microwave and backscatter X-ray facilities.”

• Sabina Gasper writes: “Nothing is going to make flying risk-free, but the TSA is arbitrary, rude and unprofessional in how it deals with the public — scanners or no scanners.”

• Patrick Pascal comments: “My visits to the airport bring back a childhood memory of the ordeal of crossing the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. After earning the respect of my community, my industry and my church, I deeply resent the unwarranted suspicion and lack of respect I regularly receive from the TSA.”

To be fair, there are a few comments supporting the body scanners and the way they’re being used. They fall into two general categories: The “if you don’t like it don’t fly” contingent and the “I work for the TSA and am commenting anonymously” crowd. Both deserve to be heard, of course, but they represent a very small minority.

What will happen?

After June 24, will anything change? Not immediately, and maybe not for a long time. The Department of Homeland Security will consider the comments in final rule, which could be months or years in the future.

Given that the life cycle of the scanners, from deployment to disposal, is eight years, it’s possible the TSA may decide to decommission its scanner program at about the same time the scanners have become obsolete. One way or the other, it seems the scanners are going to go away at some point in the future.

You can help make the policy change happen faster by leaving a comment on the Federal Register site now and urging the TSA to embrace option three immediately. It is the only reasonable choice.

But the entire scan-versus-pat-down era, which historians will surely come to recognize as one of the darkest moments in our democracy, begs a bigger question: At what point is it acceptable to shortcut the regulatory process and not be forthcoming with the public when it comes to keeping America safe? Is it ever acceptable?

I would like to say “no.” You probably do, too. But no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

Which rulemaking option do you prefer?

View Results

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Note: Effective June 1, I’m moving my TSA coverage to TSA News, a blog I co-edit. I’m returning to this site’s main mission every Wednesday, with more consumer advocacy coverage.

92 thoughts on “It’s time to tell the TSA what you really think of it — and for it to listen

  1. Metal detectors and pat-downs (pre-2008). AND the ability to hold them to the same standards as law enforcement.

    i have had to endure many many pat downs (don’t wear loose clothing when going through security) and they were always respectful, and quick. BUT like in all careers there are good people and bad people.

    I do not doubt that people have been penetrated during pat downs, or otherwise groped in ways that are sexual and demeaning. THOSE AGENTS need to be fired. everyone else can continue doing their job.

    as for scanners. they take longer then the normal Metal detectors/pat-downs system. so they are a horrible waste of time and resources. (in addition to the fact that they might be as bad as an x-ray.)

    1. Unfortunately, the standard operating procedures on pat-downs is to perform coercive, unwanted touching of penises, testicles, vulva (female crotch area), female breasts, and buttocks – a crime in all 50 states.

      FACT 1: In the Jon Corbett lawsuit, around page 68 of page 95 or so (via Adobe .PDF count) of a TSA brief filed with the court, the TSO wrote in their report that they told Jon the pat down included , and I quote, “…the screening process consists of patting down the entire body, as well as the groin and buttocks area…”. This is from TSA submitted documents, not made-up stuff. Just the facts.

      FACT 2: Agents in Newark Airport were disciplined for NOT performing sexually demeaning (the standard pat down, see Fact 1) pat downs. Any unwanted touching of sexual organs is sexually demeaning.

      In short, the TSA is sickening, the acceptance of these acts by the minority of people who are too scared of a dead, rotting corpse in the bottom of the ocean is sad for Americans who love our country, and the continued refusal by many politicians not to shut it down shows a failure of our political democracy.

      1. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why otherwise intelligent people cannot understand this most basic concept: “any unwanted touching of sexual organs is sexually demeaning”.

        Say that again, folks. Out loud. Why is that so hard to grasp?

        Another one that I cannot fathom: “None of my patdowns have been a problem. So you all are just exaggerating.” Yeah, so because it hasn’t happened to them, it hasn’t happened. Thousands upon thousands of people are just making it up. Because, well, we make stuff up. Oooookay.

        And the third mind-boggling one: “They can do anything they want to me if it’s gonna keep a terrorist from blowing up my plane.” Will you still say that when they’re running their grubby hands over your teenage daughter’s breasts and labia, while ten guys stand around with their hands in their pockets watching salaciously? Will you say that when your elderly mother is strip-searched and has her diaper removed? Will you say that when a 300 lb brute rams her hand up into your crotch so hard her thumb penetrates your vagina through your thin leggings? Oh…wait…yeah, you will. Sheeple mentality.

        Not to mention that sexually humiliating teenage girls and grandmothers does nothing to make your plane any safer. But I guess that concept is too hard to grasp as well.

        1. WOW! So well said! I wish I could like a million times! I also don’t see how anyone could possibly down vote you. Though I am sure I will get down voted now for saying that, so I will add fuel to the fire. Down-voting LeeAnne’s post is just like stating you support government sanctioned rape.

          In regards to your second point I could not agree more. As someone who opts-out and got patted down about 50+ times last year (Flying R/T every week 50 weeks a year and could usually get a detector only line in DEN), yes, most of them were not a problem. However, several of them were a problem, including a TSA agent giving me a testicular cancer screening (Not really, but it hurt worse than when the doctor did it and the doctor did it with my permission). So I can see how people who fly once or twice a year think it doesn’t happen, but I and many others assure those infrequent flyers it does. And how is squeezing someones individual testicles keeping us safe? How I ask? How?

          1. You never know when you’re gonna run into the guy with the EXPLODING BALLS!! ;-D

            It’s sexual assault dressed up as security theater. None of it is particularly effective – it just checks for things that have been previously detected. A terrorist won’t seriously do anything that’s been known to fail or use a method the security people already are aware of. That’d be stupid.

  2. I’ve said this before: I prefer the full body scanners to having to take multiple trips through the metal detectors because something on me is beeping, and they don’t know what it is. Here in Arizona, I get more radiation from that big fusion reactor in the sky walking to the grocery store than from the body scanners.

    What I want from the TSA is an end to the stealing from baggage. If this is a surveillance society, can we have cameras on your personnel at all times during the screening process and the scanning of checked bags, with the names of the personnel involved logged at each step? And let it be the rule that “Oops, we lost the tape” would mean an automatic Guilty for your personnel involved in a court case.

    1. Full body scanners is going to have to be the default, like it or not.

      Some idiot thought it would be a good idea to use a 3D printer to make a fully functional firearm with virtually zero metal (the only metal is in the firing pin.) Then, in the ultimate act of being an a**hole, posted the exact design (including a downloadable file that goes right to the printer and the exact material specifications) on the internet.

      So let me explain simply: Buy a 3D printer and the exact plastic composition as on the internet, download the print file to your printer, and in less than 24-hours you have a fully-functional, successfully tested, plastic firearm. No metal detector will find it strapped to your leg.

      The person who took away your freedom from the Naked Scanners is named Cody Wilson from Austin Texas. If you see him, let him know how you feel about that.

      1. When they invent plastic ammo for the plastic guns, then I will start worrying. As it is now, there are still plenty of metal guns and ammo making it through for me to worry about than the plastic ones.

      2. I applaud the 3D printing guns, and although the Fed govt is examining if they violate ITAR regulations, it appears to me the plans are legal to distribute within the United States.

        PETN was used in the early 1900s, yet we have no epidemic today of suicidal airline passengers with working non-metallic bombs. There really is no threat that the scanners and patdowns stop.

        It has been 51 years now for safe US domestic flights. Passengers are a very, very, very , very low risk. The TSA agents routinely smuggle stuff so that threat overwhelms anything from passengers.

        The plastic guns still require a metal firing pin, FYI. I doubt metal detectors will detect that small amount of metal. But, I don’t worry about these low risk things.

    2. So because you’re okay with the current state of affairs over at TSA then we ALL should be okay with it?

      Pre-2008, for someone who repeatedly set off the metal detector, in spite of them standing there pretty much nude, they had a wand to run over you after you’d stepped aside.

      Yes, TSA seems to have a theft problem but, frankly, I’ll take having my shampoo stolen (once all my underwear disappeared) over being sexually assaulted, any day of the week.

    3. I no longer have to worry about theft of valuables from the TSA. I attach all my valuables to a metal cable with a lock (basically a bicycle lock), which is also attached to the inside of my bag. They would have to use a bolt cutter to cut through the cable to remove my stuff…not so easy, either at the checkpoint, or in the back rooms for checked luggage.

      If they want to swipe my panties (which has also happened to me) let ’em. But they won’t be getting any of my important stuff anymore.

      As for getting more radiation from the sun…you might want to ask an actual expert about that. The radiation from the scanners is a completely different type, with far worse ramifications. If you’re believing what the TSA clerks are telling you at the checkpoint (“you get more radiation from a cellphone! Durrrr”) you might want to check your gullibility level. Remember, these TSA clerks were recruited off pizza boxes. Not someone I would trust to have accurate information about radiation.

  3. Why do we have to have ” random” pat owns and explosive detection? That is stupid, as it ignores intelligence. The reason LE use profiling is because it works and is effective. My white, Caucasian, souther 67 year old grandmother is not binging explosives on the plane, he middle eastern Islamic extremist is more likely to be a terrorist, yes that’s racist, but more importntly its statistics. Race happens to be a strong predictor, why ignore that.

    1. Yes, intelligent profiling is proven. But there’s a whole lot more to profiling than race; your comment is not helpful.

      1. Thank you. It’s not race or religion that’s important…it’s behavior. Most communication is non-verbal. When trained properly, behavioral profilers can pick nervous people out of a crowd. And, for the record, a nervous flyer will present differently than a nervous potential terrorist.

        PsyGuy: If you want statistics, try this. Roughly 22% of the world population is Muslim. If one-thousand of one percent (0.01%) of Muslims are terrorists, there would be 154,000 of them. If every terrorist was charged with committing an act of terror once very five years, there would about 84 terrorist attacks every day of every year.

          1. Because he is disputing PsyGuy’s position that Muslims should all be regarded as terrorists.

      2. And, sorry, jpp42, but your political correctness is showing. If I’m robbed at gunpoint by someone I’m not going to tell the police they had brown skin if they, in fact, were white. I’m not going to tell the police they had red hair if they, in fact, had blonde hair. I’m not going to tell the police they had on a blue dress shirt if they, in fact, had on a green hoodie.

        If you want to catch the bad guys, you have to be willing to look for the right person, which in the case of terrorists who have an axe to grind against the US, statistically, they are (sadly) of the muslim faith, are from or have a connection to the Middle East and they ARE extremists. Much like Christianity has the Westboro Baptist Church, the muslim faith has their own form of extremism.

        However, the landscape is changing on the front of terrorists being from the Middle East. The bad guys have changed how they do things (as do most vermin. In order to survive, you have to adapt to present conditions) and they are now recruiting people from other countries and right here in the USA.

        1. JPP42 isn’t being political correct, he’s being factual. We assume, incorrectly, that there is a significant correlation between race and religion. We make that assumption because we assume that everyone from a region looks the same.

          Not all middle easterners are brown skinned. At my company we currently have four first generation middle eastern workers, all of whom are American citizens. Three could easily pass for Caucasian Americans, one of whom has has blue eyes. They’re actually Iraqi, Iranian, and Turkish. The darkest of the four, the one who looks the most “stereotypically” Middle-Eastern, is actually Coptic, Greek Orthodox, and has been a Silicon Valley engineer since the 70s and is the CEO.

          The point being is that its our lack of knowledge that permits us to make these broad stereotypes.

          Having said that, profiling works well in law enforcement, when its done correctly. Law enforcement (theoretically) never uses race alone. Race may be one of the factors, but never the sole factor.

          The law school example: young white college kid, with a fancy car, is seen driving hesitantly around a sketchy urban neighborhood, at night, in an area known for drug dealings. The police may stop him as the totality of the circumstances suggests that he is looking for drugs.

          Rather than singling out Muslims or brown skinned people, profiling would be better served by questioning folks, of all religion or race, who have ties to countries that sponsor terrorism.

    2. You appear to be a very petty frightened bigot. Please, keep yourself safley locked in your basement, only venture out when it is absolutely necessary. You will be doing the rest of us a big favor. Finally keep your dumb comments to yourself as they are not in any helpful.

    3. Profiling would likely not be effective as there is basically no measurable threat by suicidal airline passengers with working non-metallic bombs (the only reason for unconstitutional scanners and criminal pat downs).

      No passenger on a US-originating flight has caused one fatality for over 51 years in the US.
      There is no mathematical justification based on risk analysis for scanners and pat-downs.

      The current ETD testing has never found one passenger with an explosive, to your point. There is no need for current ETD testing. I could support the machines that actually work to detect PETN explosives and related types. But, the need for them is not really justified.

      I would profile – at a minimum – ALL US CITIZENS to not be subject to any additional scrutiny during primary screening, other than standard metal detectors and bag checks. Keep shoes on, bring liquids….in short, the way it used to work. Use metal wands for metal detector positives. Worked fine for decades and still does. There is no measurable threat at airports for any other primary screening.

      1. “The current ETD testing has never found one passenger with an explosive, to your point. There is no need for current ETD testing. I could support the machines that actually work to detect PETN explosives and related types. But, the need for them is not really justified.”

        Do you also support the private hut full-on grope that happens after one tests positive for “explosives” with the current system?

        It’s my belief that that private room grope exceeds the standard for an administrative search as it is not being done in public. Further, the “positive” reading then makes any further search a probable cause search which the TSA is not allowed to do as they are not law enforcement.

    1. Mine too. I know how you feel. It’s just so wrong. “Not warranted” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m sorry that your mother went through that. We should be respecting our senior citizens and treating them with dignity, not like common criminals.

  4. A note on ETD: The current tests are useless, as there has never been one explosive found from any positive test. Essentially, the only realistic test would require expensive machines – not the cheap stuff used now – and it would specifically identify PETN or other plastic explosive molecules. Nitrates and glycerin results are useless.

    Of course, there have been only 3 passenger bombing attempts globally since 1997 (2 were suicidal, 1 left a bomb on a plane), so even having tests is not statistically significant.

    1. They have also never found a single prohibited item in the folds of a woman’s labia. And yet they keep checking there, don’t they?

        1. Now, now…you know there is a lot of explosive potential in those scrotums. Why, they have the potential to end mankind!

          Oh, wait…I think maybe I have that backwards. OMG, They could cause a population explosion. For God’s sake, check those scrotums now!

  5. Just had another positive experience with TSA here at JFK in New York in spite of my metal knee and hip. Nice chat with the guy in charge and I told him what I think … TSA people have been overwhelmingly professional and polite in all my travels. Unlike the lady at Heathrow yesterday who stuck her hands inside my pants … THAT was a new one.

  6. TSA has done a far better job at ignoring the public, the courts, and Congress than finding real threats. I expect that trend to continue.

  7. …with a metal hip and a pacemaker, I guess I’m in a “lose-lose” situation, doomed to be treated as a pariah for (whatever is left of) the rest of my life…except on Amtrak(which is still the best and most comfortable way to travel)!

    1. Think back to pre-scanners and when they used metal wands. There is a way to treat medically disabled commensurate with risk profile.

      If they can do PreCheck – without any justification for why that makes these people less of a terrorist than any other US citizen (hint: The risk is the same) – then they should be able to do “PreMedical” program and stop assaulting those with medical issues.

  8. Just a note to those of you who are offended by any mention of human reproductive organs: Today is not the day to be reading this site. The references are a legitimate part of the discussion, and will be allowed to stay.

    As I already mentioned, I’m moving the TSA coverage to the TSA News blog June 1. While I am deeply concerned about travel security, I believe the coverage and resulting discussion is more appropriate to that site.

    Thanks for understanding, and for all the helpful comments.

    1. And here’s something else I cannot fathom: who would be offended by using accurate anatomical terms to describe body parts?

      I can only assume it’s TSA employees, as they seem to have a bizarre aversion to hearing accurate anatomical terminology (although they apparently have no qualms about touching those parts – only in saying the names of what they’re touching). I say this because one time, during a pat-down, I had to repeatedly say to the screener “Stop touching my vagina.” Every time I said it she’d scream at me for saying “vulgarities”, and threaten to walk me out of the airport. Not sure what word she wanted me to use to describe the sexual organ she kept touching…would she have been happier if I used childish euphemisms like “vajayjay”?

      As for any readers being offended by the use of correct anatomical terms – when the TSA stops touching our sexual organs, we’ll stop talking about what they’re touching.

      1. I don’t know what it says about a person who is more offended by the use of the words vagina and labia than he/she is by what TSA does to those body parts.

        1. I would say that it says the person is probably a TSA employee. Remember, these are the people who use terms like “resistance” or “the place where your leg meets your torso” to describe labia or testicles. I would guess that it’s because somewhere, buried deep inside them, is a tiny kernel of humanity that actually recognizes how disgusting and offensive it is to touch strangers’ genitals against their will, so they have to use denial techniques such as never using the actual names of the genitals in order to pretend they are not touching them.

          It must be way easier to sleep at night if you convince yourself that you are only touching some nebulous body part called “resistance” on all those innocent people, rather than actual sex organs.

          Hey, I too would have to use bizarre mental gymnastics to be able look at myself in the mirror if my job demanded that I mistreat innocent people so egregiously. (Of course I wouldn’t take such a job to begin with, but then my humanity is not buried under layers of denial, or missing altogether as it appears to be in some of the TSA screeners I’ve encountered.)

          This is a phenomenon that was also seen in Nazi concentration camp guards: they would have to convince themselves that Jews weren’t actually human, so they could do the horrific things they did to them and still be able to sleep at night.

          (And right there I win the trophy for the first Godwin’s Law entry in this thread!) 😉

      2. I travelled last week by air; the LAX side decided to give me a search, and the gentleman in question became annoyed at me for saying “I would appreciate it if you would please use minimal force on my genitals” and telling me to not use obscene terms.

        He looked even less happy when I asked when ‘please’ became an obscene word.

        Then they tried to figure out if having two pair of glasses (sunglasses in my carryon, regular worn) was a risk, and finally they let me go.

    2. We can show people getting mutilated all day in the news, movies, and TV but heaven forbid we show a breast or discuss sexuality. And you think the TSA is as screwed up as it gets??? LOL

      1. I saw/heard something funny the other day on TV. I have close captioning turned on and in the program, the bleeped the word penis but printed it in the close captioning. 🙂

        1. When my father was alive, he used to watch TV with the remote in his hand primed for action. Whenever somebody said d**n or h**l, he grunted and changed the channel.

          My mother asked him, “What good does it do to change the channel after you’ve already heard it?” He never had an answer for that.

          It’s a good thing he has passed away. He’d have a stoke if he watched TV now.

    3. I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. I’m not a prude (nor am I a TSA agent), but seriously, what’s wrong with “genitalia”, “private parts”, or other such terms? I’ll concede that my last TSA experience (a couple of weeks ago) was much too gropy. But some of these comments make me feel equally violated. Ewww.

      1. At least you have the option of not reading these comments. Unlike at the TSA checkpoint, where we do NOT have the option of avoiding having our genitals groped.

        As for your feeling “violated,” (a rather strong word for a completely voluntary activity such as reading comments in a blog), I’d sure love to know what words in here made you feel violated. There’s not a single obscenity or vulgar term to be found. Do you really have such a problem with anatomically correct terms? I certainly hope you are not in any kind of medical field. Can you imagine a doctor, nurse or paramedic who felt “violated” by using the correct names for body parts?

        Using vague words does not convey the reality of what actually happens at the checkpoint. Saying “a stranger “touched my private parts” does not exactly express the horror, compared to saying “a stranger rammed her thumb up into my crotch so hard that it went between my labia and penetrated my vagina through my leggings”. If that’s too graphic for you…well, sorry…that’s what happened. And that’s what continues to happen at airports across the nation.

        Of course, we’re all aware that there are many people who simply don’t want to know the reality, and would rather continue to be in denial. If you are one of them, you are reading the wrong blog. We speak the truth in here.

      2. Well, I guess you never watch TV, do you? Or movies…just too offensive and violating. Or the Internet, that’s just chock full of offensive things that will make you feel violated…Oh, wait… are on the Internet now, aren’t you?

        Hmmmmm…..methinks the lady doth protest too much.

      3. I just don’t understand how using the anatomically correct term to describe their anatomy could be equally as violating as someone physically molesting your labia or scrotum? Have you gone to Web MD? It does not use terms like “Private Parts” neither does my Dr. and neither do my children. We use the correct and proper name.

    1. Plastic guns are just one of the many weapons that are able to slip past the TSA checkpoint. It has already been proven that all manner of dangerous items are brought onto planes on a regular basis. Guns, knives, boxcutters, active hand grenades…heck, the TSA fails its OWN tests 75% of the time, including letting regular guns pass right through the x-rays! The useless TSA screening system is already so porous that any determined terrorist could get onboard with a weapon pretty much any time he wanted to.

      And yet, planes are not falling out of the sky. Not one plastic gun has been used to attack an aircraft.

      Why? Because terrorists are simply not targeting US air transportation anymore. How do we know? Because it hasn’t happened. There are so many easier, more effective targets. There are any number of public venues where a murder-minded terrorist can kill people. Why do we assume terrorists are obsessed with airplanes?

      The simple fact is, whether we want to believe this or not, we are all at risk of violent death at any time. Murderous criminals are out there. And not all of them are so-called terrorists. They don’t need to buy a 3D printer and make a plastic gun. They can buy an automatic weapon at any gun show (no background check), and waltz into any public spot and start offing people.

      Life is full of risk. Want to avoid all risk? Lock yourself in your bedroom. But I for one refuse to allow government goons to rub my genitalia in a false attempt to make people feel safe.

  9. Don’t blame the TSA employees. Its the organization itself that sucks. My cousin started working for the TSA at Newark and he hates it, but it was the best paying job he could find that would hire him with a criminal record (No felonies) and no GED. He just had to pass a drug test, and not owe child support or back taxes. Also its not minimum wage like some people say, he gets $15 a hour, it pays very well for people with no education. He hates it because he always get yelled at by the supervisors, he said the supervisors yell at all the employees, make fun of them, call them derogatory terms, and treat them like dirt. He said he is treated so poorly all the time and forced to do pat downs that he doesn’t want to do and it makes him miserable all the time, but TSA was the only alternative to minimum wage. So while many of the TSA people may be bad people, they aren’t all bad people, and they don’t all like doing the pat downs. For some people, its just a way to pay their bills. Perhaps they are always in a bad mood because of the way they are treated by management.

    1. A criminal record and no GED? These are the “well-trained security experts,” the “gold standard” professionals who are being trusted with our safety, our valuables, and our bodies?

      The fact that uneducated criminals are being paid $15 an hour of our hard earned tax dollars to abuse, assault, and rob us while doing nothing to increase our security does not make me sympathetic.

  10. What about liquid explosives? Those are a much bigger threat these days than someone with a knife. A simple x-ray won’t catch those.

    1. Nor does anything else we have right now in general use. One of the two most likely components for one of those has such a low vapor pressure that it doesn’t appear on the pornscanners, nor easily testable be the most common swab tests, nor picked up by bomb-sniffing dogs. In addition, that compound is used medically as a vasodilator to treat heart conditions.

      The other compound is so susceptable to detonation by shaking, sparks or simple friction that it may not be worth the trouble to use it – if you explode before getting to the airport, that limits the statement.

    2. It is EXTREMELY difficult to make a liquid bomb. The only one used was left by a passengers (the subsequent mastermind behind the 1993 WTC attack) on a Philipine airliner in 1994. The bomb exploded, killed 1 passenger…..the plane landed safely.

      So, in the one known instance over the past couple of decades, liquid bombs have proved ineffective.

      There is one very easy way to bring a non-metallic bomb on a flight today, but I won’t mention it here.

      The fact these events have not happened on a US flight for over 51 years shows why you shouldn’t worry too much.

  11. My husband and I travel often. My BIGGEST pet peeve is when we fly Southwest, and pay for “early bird check in.” While we are waiting, even before we get in the “A” line, several TSA agents are standing around (scratching themselves, probably) doing nothing. As soon as you are in line getting ready to board, they start pulling you out of that line and searching through your belongings. My husband gets a pat down while being screened, almost every time. We both go for the full body scan and it’s not a problem. Wouldn’t you think that this is enough? Pat downs and carry on baggage check again before boarding? Don’t they have anything else to do?

    1. I agree with you on this. Once you have gone through the screening before entering the secure area, any further screen should be as a result of probable clause or because of a security breach. In the later case, everyone should be getting re-screened. I remember a time when my son was flying, unaccompanied minor, and I was with him at the gate (this was within a year or so of 9/11). TSA came up and started doing random searches. What got me about it was out of the 20 people they pulled out to search, 17 of them were elderly couples. The other 3 were probably in their mid to late 50’s. Really didn’t make any sense to me.

  12. I haven’t read any of the comments yet but I feel sure there will those who are like me – I hate the metal detectors almost as much as I hate the pat-downs so choice three doesn’t answer my issue either. My husband has one metal knee and is about to get another. He travels by plane at least 40 weeks out of 52 and is thrilled to not have to endure a pat down every time he enters an airport. He prefers the X-ray machine because of the invasive pat-downs that he had been subjected to before the X-ray machines. The problem is that you are treated like a criminal if you set the metal detector off regardless of the reason. Or if you dont want to go through the xray machine. My daughter is quite obviously pregnant and would like to visit her grandmother before giving birth but she refuses to fly because of a pat down she received when she wasn’t so visibly pregnant and had refused to go through the X-ray machine. I’m not sure what the answer is but I do know that I trust my fellow passengers to keep me safer than any X-ray machine or metal detector which I believe has already been born out in numerous instances.

    1. What was it like for you flying pre-xray scanner? Back when it was still basically the metal detector and wand? Before the pat downs started. Wouldn’t that be much better than what is going on now for you?

    2. They should treat you as they did before with metal wands and on your way.

      NOTE: People with medical metal are PROFILED and it is probably contrary to the Americans with Disability Act. A class-action lawsuit of sympathetic people like your husband – or Army amputees – might change this…..maybe.

  13. I have travelled by air several times in the past two years, I have always been treated with respect and dignity by the TSA people what I have come in contact with. Maybe its because I treat them the way I want to be treated, and it works. Some of the people traveling by air today should take a look at themselves, and then get a change of clothes. They are ready for the beach, and their attitude matches their attire.

    1. That sounds a lot like you are trying to blame the victims of TSA abuse for what happens to them. I’m sure a vast majority of people who were abused did nothing to be rude to the agent. And I’m sure some have. But anyone put in authority like the TSA who uses their power for retaliation needs to be removed from the job.

    2. So I guess the next person who encounters a rapist should treat the rapist the way they want to be treated and it will work?

      The next person who encounters a murderer should treat them the way they want to be treated and it will work?

      The next person who encounters a thief should treat them the way they want to be treated and it will work?

      The next person who encounters a bully should treat them the way they want to be treated and it will work?

      I guess we can close all the jails and prisons right now….just treat criminals the way we want to be treated and it will work.

      1. You could treat them the way you would hope you would be treated if you were guilty of doing what they’re doing. I dunno about you but I’d hope that if it were me, I would be prevented from doing the crime & pulled up by a group of my fellows who would work with me to fix the attitudes that led to me deciding on such a destructive course, and help me find some way to make restitution to anyone I had hurt. It’s called transformative justice, & it’s (so far, where it’s been implemented) worked way, way better than prison in terms of preventing recidivism.

        1. It’s pretty hard to do all that with a knife to your throat or a gun to your head. But hey! Anyone who can’t talk a rapist or a murderer down has a moral flaw, right? If only those victims would perform some simple transformative justice, they wouldn’t get raped or murdered, would they?

          So going back to the original topic using this same analogy, the next time a TSA clerk shoves his hands down your pants, whacks you in the testicles, or snatches your dress down and exposes your breasts to the entire airport, it’s your own fault for not being able to perform transformative justice.

          One last question: When are you going to begin teaching classes on how we can perform transformative justice when we are confronted by a rapist, murderer, thief, or bully? I’d like to learn that quick so I can be prepared if it happens to me.

          Maybe you can get other people qualified to teach as well, so we can spread this technique to the world and stop all the raping, murdering, robbing, and bullying. Then you’d win the Nobel prize. I’ll be happy to assist with the effort, and I’ll let you have all the credit.

    3. Translation:

      I traveled one time, maybe two, in the last two years by commercial air and I wasn’t molested, so no body else possibly could have been unless they did it to themselves. And I hate being surrounded by all these normal people, eww. I am better than all of them and hate that they are on a plane with me wearing the cheap clothing they got at Good Will and almost touching my $10,000 suit.

      Elitist much?

  14. cannot wait to see the long term effects of the tsa being constantly exposed to the radiation scanners sounds like workers comp disaster esp for the taxpayers the future will tell

  15. The feeling I get when I go through the TSA is that something is going to get stolen from me…not that the flight has been made safe. This sentence pretty much sums it up.

    I think that the people who review the TSA should be required to go through security at a couple of airports in Canada and a couple of airports in the UK – as well as maybe Rome or Munich and then Israeli security.
    They could get some good insights.
    They should also have to go through security at LAX, New Orleans, etc.
    I’m sure the differences will be quite obvious.
    I’m not sure if it is the TSA agents who act as if they have the mentality of a 6 year old, or the passengers who act like it – but in these other countries, it is an adult style experience without people chanting things over and over again and acting like you’re a child. Instead, they do a realistic scan, checking things that need additional checking.

  16. I want to go back to the days when the airport security was privatized and the airport was held accountable for issues with security. I want to go back to the times when a kid or spouse could go to the terminal and wait with their special someone to board the plane and then watch it taxi out to the runway. Then wait at the terminal for their return.

    I still remember the days of waiting with my dad in the terminal for his departure. I wish it was something I could share with my children.

    1. I miss those days. I used to love to pick people up at the airport. I would get there an hour or two early. Get something to eat and find a window where I could just sit and watch the planes.

    2. That was mainly an American thing, that, while convenient, dramatically increased the number of people in the departure/arrivals area. Many modern airports are structured so the arrivals people come straight through a separate path and there isn’t a “gate area” to congregate in. Admittedly, I liked it too, but I got over it.

  17. Option 5 – Tel Aviv airport style security. Use people who are experts at body language & facial tells, to make pleasant conversation with travellers. Nervous travellers to be taken into a blast-shielded room & given the current treatment (though politely – maybe they’re just a nervous flier or terrified of authority figures), everyone else, i.e. everyone who looks ok, can just go on with their journey.

    1. Sciamachy, we’ve addressed this countless times at this blog. Isreali security is also abusive — unless you’re the “right” type. If you’re the “wrong” type, you’ll be harassed, even roughed up. And if you’re a peace activist, forget it — you’ll be cavity-searched in a back room. Just ask Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who has written publicly about her experience.

      There is no such thing as 100% security, anywhere. Life entails risk. You’re still more likely — far, far more likely — to be killed in a car accident than in a terrorist attack. Or to be killed by choking on a sandwich, or struck by lightning. These are facts.

      But as we already know, facts don’t matter. People will cling to their fear-fueled fantasies no matter what. Sigh.

      1. Indeed – more Americans got crushed by over-sized TVs than killed by terrorists according to one infographic I read recently – and you’re way, way more likely to meet a violent end at the hands of a cop than any terrorist, which is probably a good reason not to have routinely armed cops. In the UK there have been 1433 people killed while in police custody or following police contact since 1990, and we’re a pretty small country as they go.

  18. Agree with Alan, dont see any problems with screening, even double if it would prevent any violence.

    1. How does committing violent acts prevent violence?

      Forced touching of breasts, buttocks, and genitals is a violent act. Ramming a thumb or a wand into a woman’s vagina is a violent act. Whacking a man in the testicles is a violent act. Ripping a girl’s dress off and exposing her breasts in public is a violent act. Forcing a dying 95 year old woman to remove her adult diaper is a violent act. Strip searching elderly women is a violent act.

      Sexual violence is a particularly heinous form of violence. It has been employed by criminal dictator regimes and invading armies throughout history. It is extremely effective at terrorizing and controlling the populace.

      I abhor ALL violence, even when it is committed by a government employee with a fake badge pinned to his/her shirt. ESPECIALLY when it is committed by a government employee with a fake badge pinned to his/her shirt.

        1. Over exaggerating what? That it happened? Or that forcing a dying 95 year old woman to remove her adult diaper is a violent act?

          Hopefully, you are expressing disbelief that it happened. I don’t want to believe there is any decent human being on the planet who would say forcing an elderly woman to remove her adult diaper is not a violent act.

          So, giving you the benefit of the doubt….Meet Jean Webber’s mother…a 95 year old woman, dying of leukemia, on her way to spend her final days with family. Jean’s mother was forced to remove her Depends so that TSA could perform “a more thorough examination” in a private room from which Jean was excluded.

          At first TSA denied that Jean’s mother was forced to remove her Depends (see above article).

          Later, TSA back pedaled and defended their actions in forcing Jean’s mother to remove her Depends. TSA said they did indeed force Jean’s mother to remove her Depends, and there is nothing wrong with doing that.

          Yes, I agree with you. Forcing a dying 95 year old woman to remove her adult diaper is overly exaggerated…overly exaggerated security theatre…overly exaggerated abuse of an innocent American citizen by an out of control government agency.

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