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Both United and American Airlines opened automated security lines at Chicago’s O’Hare airport recently and they’re pretty cool.

O'Hare TSA Screening
From United’s press release:

The new lanes enable up to five customers to fill their individual bins simultaneously and move through the screening process quicker, even if TSA agents need to perform additional screening on a customer further up the queue. The lanes also utilize a parallel conveyor system that automatically returns empty bins to the front of the queue.

Both airlines claim that the new automated lanes will speed up the security process while still allowing a thorough search of bags.

The lanes themselves remind me a lot of the security lanes you see in Europe, where bins are provided and then moved through the line automatically, keeping people moving and filling the next available bin. Will be interesting to see how this goes at O’Hare and maybe we’ll see expansion to other airports soon.

According to U.S. Representative Walden’s website, the House has unanimously approved the Treating Small Airports with Fairness Act. The act name is kind of cheesy but essentially it would bring back TSA screening to small airports that lost service at the beginning of 2013 and has a commitment from an airline for service.

The TSA Fairness Act would require the TSA to restore screening services to any airport that lost service after January 1, 2013 and that has a guarantee from a commercial airline to resume service within one year. There are currently at least six airports nationwide that have commercial airlines seeking to resume flights after undergoing a temporary gap in service, but are being denied TSA security screening and personnel. Instead, the agency directed the airports to allow passengers to fly unscreened to their next destination, and undergo screening there.

Klamath Falls is one of the closest airports to Crater Lake so this change will make it easier for tourists to make it to that lovely attraction, not to mention the rest of southern Oregon. If the act passes in the Senate the airline that has already been tapped to operate the Portland-Klamath Falls service would be PenAir, who has already started a number of routes out of Portland and is partners with Alaska Airlines.

There is no date for when the Senate would vote on the legislation, but I will definitely be on the look out for its passing.

I Flew on a Plane Without Going Through Security and No One Died (Washington Post)

Imagine if catching an 11 a.m. flight out of D.C. was a matter of hopping on the Metro at Petworth at 10:20, getting off at Reagan/National Airport at 10:43, and boarding the plane at 10:50.

That world is possible. I’ve lived it, and it is amazing. All we have to do is abolish the TSA. Entirely. Just let people walk off the street and onto a plane.

Would this increase hijacking? Probably. But there’s no reason to believe it would increase casualties from terrorist attacks overall. That’s because increasing airport security just leads terrorists to direct their assaults elsewhere.

It is an interesting idea and fun to think about, but it isn’t going to happen. We will see the expansion of PreCheck availability, but as a whole, airport security in its current form is staying where it is. The TSA has firmly embedded itself as part of the traveling way of life.

TSA Chief Grilled by House Subcommittee →

The committee chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., opened the hearing by suggesting the agency’s staffing is bloated and could be reduced by 30% to 40%. Referring to the Fort Myers, he asked what it takes to get fired from TSA.

“I believe you are too bogged down in managing an oversized workforce to mitigate the next potential threat,” Rogers said.

Nail on the head.

The TSA is a little closer to raising the security fee on airline tickets →

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday moved forward with legislation to increase airline passenger security fees, beating back a GOP attempt to keep them at current levels.

The 2013 Homeland Security appropriations bill would increase one-way fees for passengers from $2.50 to $5 in order to close a budget shortfall at the Transportation Security Administration.

Yet the TSA has security items going unused and sitting in storage. This is the perfect opportunity to reduce the reach of the TSA by forcing them to come up with a smaller budget and operate within that budget.

Reason.com takes a look at a bunch of TSA stats, including a heavily redacted document regarding security breaches →

The article pulls out some interesting data from a report compiled by the Republican staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Here are a few highlights:

  • 85 percent of the approximately 5,700 items of major transportation security equipment currently warehoused had been stored for longer than six months; 35 percent of the equipment had been stored for more than one year. One piece of equipment had been in storage more than six years—60 percent of its useful life.
  • TSA had 472 carry-on baggage screening machines warehoused, more than 99 percent of which have remained in storage for more than nine months; 34 percent of the machines have been stored for longer than one year.
  • TSA possessed 1,462 explosive trace detectors in storage, each purchased at a cost of $30,000. Of those devices, 492 had been in storage for longer than one year.

We should be utterly dumbfounded by these numbers. Not because we want the technology implemented, but because the equipment was bought in the first place. It equates to the TSA being given a blank check to shop in the billionaire’s version of SkyMall, all while not being completely honest about security breaches.

Even more disturbing is that even though these numbers and a series of “groping” incidents have made the news, the TSA continues to expand their reach. There are reports of TSA pat downs and bag searches taking place at McCormick Station in Chicago during the NATO summit.

I am not sure any of this is going to stop until a number of people in office put their foot down. The TSA seems less concerned with traveler safety and more concerned about the newest, fanciest equipment and which order to put people through the nude-o-scope. The goal is to make travel safer. If the TSA has lost sight of that goal, then it’s time for us to move on, shutter the TSA, and figure out a better way of performing the single task at hand.

A TSA checkpoint was left unattended in Sacramento

Officials told KCRA 3 that four of the individuals were ticketed passengers and one was an airport employee. According to TSA officials, “a walk-through metal detector was left unattended for less than one minute.”

And if that story was not enough, here’s a great write-up on why the TSA should go away, written by a former FBI agent.

I ran across this article the other day and I can’t help but feel sorry for the woman involved. Lori Dorn is a breast cancer patient who had a bilateral mastectomy in April and, as a result, had tissue expanders inserted to make way for a later breast implant. During a TSA body scanner inspection at JFK these tissue expanders caused Lori Dorn to be pulled aside for “secondary” screening. She explained her situation and asked to retrieve the cards with the expander information. She was refused this courtesy and was told that unless she underwent the secondary screening of her breast area she would not be flying that day.

The TSA agents have a job to do, I understand that, but they should treat their jobs with the same dignity and respect that they would want to receive. It is ridiculous that this woman was not able to retrieve the card explaining the expanders, even though not being able to see your bags is a violation of the TSA’s own suggestions. There has to come a point where we say “enough” and rectify this situation.

My last few trips have shown me that more and more people are becoming comfortable with these TSA procedures, making it harder to ever change them.

 

[disclaimer] The article website contains language that is not suitable for young people and is fairly strong. [/disclaimer]