Info ~ travel musings for the masses

Posts tagged tsa

There is no soft spot in my heart for the TSA, in fact, I have posted a lot about my disdain for their methods. After reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest piece on The Atlantic, I can’t say I’m holding out hope that things are going to get better any time soon.

Here’s a small excerpt from the article, though the whole thing deserves a read.

The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, “Get new gloves, man, you’re going to need them where you’re going.”

The take-away from this single paragraph and really the whole article, is that the new pat-downs have little to do with security and a lot to do with intimidating people into using the backscatter machines. When a traveler opts-out of going through the x-ray machines, they will be subjected to a verbal demoralization as well as a pat-down that can be best described as borderline fondling.

Does any of this really increase security? After last week’s events in which explosive materials were found in ink cartridges being shipped to the United States, I would say it is all show and little substance. From what has been reported, the bomb plot was foiled thanks to information from a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner. That’s right, it wasn’t some TSA agent taking away your bottle of water while you got the frisking of a lifetime, it was information. Imagine that.

It may feel like there is not much we can do but I plan on making the TSA agents as uncomfortable as they make me in these situations. Maybe if their own employees complain enough, we’ll see some changes in these new pat-down procedures. Me, I’ll be opting-out of the backscatter every time I am at an airport that uses one. When they ask me why I opted out (had this happen the last couple of times) I am thinking about replying with an overtly sexual remark. Is that wrong? Probably. What’s worse is being groped so much that you finally submit to the backscatter machine.

In all seriousness, the TSA has the upper hand. You and I have destinations to get to and they are the gatekeepers. I have no problem taking out my laptop or taking off my shoes, but this is bordering on the ridiculous. Wait, it is ridiculous. I am sure we could do a much better job of making air travel safe by actually asking questions when people go through security and analyzing facial expressions, demeanor, etc. rather than taking naked pictures of everyone or worse, shaming them in front of others.

Let’s start sending notes to the men and women who work for us in government and ask that a serious look be taken at the procedures used at airports and oversight of the TSA. If someone in either House wants to make this their pet project, I’ll back them 100%.

For those of you who fly out of IAH, you can technically clear security at any checkpoint so long as your airline does not require you to go through a certain one (some international flights do). A number of the checkpoints do not have the backscatter machines, feel free to use those.

This news from Gothamist is bothersome. The TSA has partnered with NYPD to provide the New York transit system with “random and unpredictable security measures, like mobile screening in rail environments and at mass transit stations across the country”. The last few words are the most interesting, “across the country” implies that the TSA will be rolling this out across the U.S.

Yes, this is the same TSA who had an agent leave their post unattended, resulting in Newark-Liberty Airport being shut down for six hours. Can we imagine for a minute, what would happen to any of the transit systems across the country if the TSA had such a breach at one of them? It would be pandemonium, people looking for ways to get home and finding no options.

The big question I have is whether or not the TSA actually has the authority to conduct such searches. If they don’t, then hopefully someone stands up against this on a legal base. If they do, then I’d like to know who granted them such authority.

I apologize for my many posts on the TSA and the current security issues at airports but the situation has deteriorated so quickly that it is hard to keep up.

Over the past couple of days a couple of bloggers and news reporters have been served subpoenas because they published TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06. Both Steven Frischling and Chris Elliott were served subpoenas by the DHS to learn the identity of the source who had provided the TSA directive. Mr. Frischling believes that the TSA is taking security seriously and that is why they want the name of the source. I agree with him, but the methods that the DHS and TSA have used seem extreme. Most of the directive is just procedural stuff and would have come out as people flew, so why all the fuss?

The TSA wants to make sure they close as many holes in their organization as possible to insure functional security. If people are leaking things that will eventually become public what is to keep them from leaking confidential information? In that regard I understand the need to know the identity of the leak. However, coming down full force on these reporters is not the way I would go about it.

Hopefully the hassles from the TSA will stop and this administration will realize that making “Top Secret” documents public is not as much of a priority as having safety cover the different methods of travel. Mr. President, fire the TSA.

The New York Daily News is reporting that Amsterdam-Schipol International Airport will start putting full body image scanners in place in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. On top of that, the Dutch are pushing for the full body scanners to be deployed in airports across the 27 countries that make up the European Union.

While the average traveler sees these machines as a necessity to prevent terrorism, and yes, in this case they may have worked, I see them as a nuisance. Even more annoying than the machines are the people who want them in place but do not want profiling of any kind to be used at airports. So, it’s alright to look at someone nude on a computer screen but picking people out of a line because they fit a profile is horrible?

Where do we stop though? If a terrorist is able to carry out an attack after passing through the machines, what’s the next step? Does everyone have to have every article of luggage and every part of their body searched before the get on a plane? What about airport workers? At some point, the searches and nuisances will get so bad that people will just stop flying… Then what?

It appears I clicked the “publish” button just a little too quickly on my post about the new TSA rules. A few minutes after I posted that, a new post appeared on KLM’s blog documenting the changes. The biggest change? No more 1-hour before landing rule. From the looks of it, the TSA decided that requiring passengers to stay seated with no entertainment during the last hour of flight was just stupid.

Bags will still be physically checked at random gates and passengers may be patted down before the flight. This too is kind of dumb but I would rather go through the pat down than be stuck in my seat during the last hour of the flight.

What does this move really mean though? It means the TSA is playing a guessing game on how to prevent attacks and that they really have no idea what to do. Ignorance is bliss when it is someone else undergoing the treatment I guess.

After Christmas Day’s failed attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 the TSA has announced new security procedures both at airports and in-flight. The procedures are supposed to make us safer while we travel but they seem to be heavy handed and overkill.

The domestic changes include more security personnel and screening of passengers at gates. While neither of these things seem like a big deal on the surface, the screening of passengers at the gate is a time intensive undertaking. This means that flights may be later and people may miss their flights due to the increased screenings.

Where the real restrictions come into play is international flights entering the United States. The rules now state that for the last hour of flight all passengers must remain seated with nothing in their laps, including blankets, pillows, magazines, and computers. Also, no electronics are allowed during that last hour flight. There have been confirmed rumors that airlines are turning off the in-flight entertainment for the entire flight because of the map feature. Another rumor, though I am not sure it has been confirmed, is that passengers will not be allowed to access their luggage in the overhead bin.

Maybe I am a rarity but I think these international rules are complete “theater” for the sake of us as an audience. No in-flight entertainment because of the map? If people know how long a flight is, they can kind of guess where they are, plus there are tools that map the most efficient routes for planes to travel.

The last hour of the flight is when people are most restless, they need to use the restroom and they are just ready to get off the plane. Keeping people in their seats for that last hour may seem like a good idea but what’s to keep a terrorist from doing their bad deed four hours before landing? Does no one else see the uselessness of this rule?

I am fine with not being able to use electronic devices that last hour, but not being able to read a magazine or cover myself with a blanket is not security, it’s paranoia mixed with the notion that we can keep people from doing bad things at all times.

What this boils down to is you, as a passenger, getting closer and closer to just becoming a body on a transport plane. When they announce that they are blindfolding everyone before boarding, I’m done flying.

[UPDATE] – Scott McCartney has a great write-up on this lunacy at The Wall Street Journal.

A few weekends ago I took a trip to Quito, Ecuador and was subjected to the displeasure of the newest addition to the TSA’s anti-terrorism toolbox; The full body scanner.


The full body scanners do exactly that, they scan the entire body, through the clothing to produce a near naked image for a TSA employee to ponder over before letting the traveler go about their business.

There is only one such scanner currently at IAH and it is in Terminal E.

On the day that I was flying, the traffic through Terminal E was light so everyone was being subjected to the full body scan. There was no signage anywhere explaining what the scanner was, people were just being directed into the device and told to “raise your hands in the air”.

Knowing what the machine was and what job it performed, I let the agent know that I would “opt-out” and preferred the personal screening. I assumed that this would be done like it has always been done, behind a screen out of the public eye. Nope, not this time. The pat-down was more thorough than a doctor during a physical and was performed right out in the open in front of everyone walking by.

This is unacceptable, plain and simple. It was quite obvious that they were trying to test the machine during a lull in the crowd and were using the pat down as an embarrassment tool to persuade me into going through the machine next time.

We are sacrificing our freedoms in the name of security and it’s irresponsible.

Next time, I’ll just go through Terminal C and avoid the unwanted feel-up by the TSA.

  • The dark side of Dubai – A fantastic look at the “true” Dubai and what most outsiders do not witness. From sewage problems to what amounts to slave labor, Johann Hari writes a compelling article on the Disneyland of the Desert.
  • Mileage Deals Spur Runs for Elite Status – I admit it, I am taking advantage of these deals. I am flying to Frankfurt, Germany the first week of May to earn 21,000 miles on Continental Airlines. There are a lot of benefits for me to have the status, so for $300, it is worth it.
  • Spokane to detonate squirrels tearing up parks – It sounds like a scene from Caddyshack.
  • Plane-side TSA searches aren’t worth the trouble – More proof that the Masterpiece Theater known as the TSA and airport security is a joke. They cannot test the liquids quickly, so they have limited the amount that you can bring on board, but now, without any evidence of a greater threat, they are searching passengers again before getting on the plane. The TSA says it cannot test liquids of vendors inside of the airport, making the plane-side searches necessary. Huh? So, they’re suggesting that terrorists have infiltrated my airport’s Starbucks and Au Bon Pain and are plotting to kill us? Maybe with calories.

Let me know what you think, leave a comment!