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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two million travelers come in contact with the Transportation Security Administration every day. It is an intense experience all around -- extremely personal in some senses but also impersonal at the same time.

There is no time to talk, to listen, to engage with each other. There isn’t much opportunity for our Security Officers to explain the ‘why,’ of what we ask you to do at the checkpoint, just the ‘what’ needs to be done to clear security. The result is that the feedback and venting ends up circulating among passengers with no real opportunity for us to learn from you or vice versa. We get feedback verbally and non-verbally at the checkpoint and see a lot in the blogs, again without a real dialogue.

Our ambition is to provide here a forum for a lively, open discussion of TSA issues. While I and senior leadership of TSA will participate in the discussion, we are turning the keyboard over to several hosts who represent what’s best about TSA (its people). Our hosts aren’t responsible for TSA’s policies, nor will they have to defend them -- their job is to engage with you straight-up and take it from there. Our hosts will have access to senior leadership but will have very few editorial constraints. Our postings from the public will be reviewed to remove the destructive but not touch the critical or cranky.

Please be patient and good-humored as we get underway. The opportunity is that we will incorporate what we learn in this forum in our checkpoint process evolution. We will not only give you straight answers to your questions but we will challenge you with new ideas and involve you in upcoming changes.

One of my major goals of 2008 is to get TSA and passengers back on the same side, working together. We need your help to get the checkpoint to be a better environment for us to do our security job and for you to get through quickly and onto your flight. Seems like the way to get that going is for us to open up and hear your feedback...

Thanks for joining us,

Kip Hawley



Submitted by Imf16 on

As a TSA Screening Manager I would just like to say that I think this blog will be informative for both the public and the screening force at large! Maybe it will bridge the gap that seems to have formed between the public and the TSA.

Submitted by Imf16 on

As a TSA SCreening Manager I want to welcome all those who are viisting this site! I believe it will be a positive force for bridging the gap between the public (which for the most part seems to have forgotten about 9/11) and the TSA which is reminded of it every day.

Submitted by Kbfree on

Great Job Kip!

As a TSA Supervisor in Seattle since September 2002. I think the public's feedback is going to be tremendously invaluable to the job TSA does daily.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a person that flights kind of frequently, I think this will help us to get more info since there is not much info about security on the airports. Making this blog public/out there will be good.

Submitted by Park on

Speaking as one who has just been approved for the Ready Pool, Thank you! I look forward to the commentaries on this site from both a personal, and hopefully, professional level.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have been with TSA since Sept 2002. I think this is a fantastic idea and I welcome all the passengers to join in and help foster a community where we are all working towards the same goal - keeping people safe when they travel.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As always, I expect TSA's detractors to take the most negative information away from this blog. Or even to question why TSA is "blogging". But I look forward to reading it, because there is a great deal of public misconceptions about who TSA is, what TSA does, and why the public still needs TSA to fulfill its mission.

Be prepared, Mr. Hawley, for comments both praising and scathing, but which will help you and TSA reconnect with the traveling public in a fruitful relationship.

Submitted by Habberstad on

The following is a email to TSA. Maybe you can help...
I am a traveler, and a US citizen.

At LAX, NEXUS photo ID, which takes elevated security to obtain, and is government issued, is not recognized by TSA as "valid government photo ID."

LAX Customer Service Manager, Pamela Cooper is very helpful, but cannot solve this problem. She suggested I contact Ombudsman for help...

TSA requirements for security screenings at airports is, as copied from the TSA website:

"What You Need...his/her airline boarding pass and government-issued photo ID..."

The NEXUS pass is photo ID, issued by Homeland Security as noted in their website...

Can you please help to educate TSA at LAX as to the validity of the NEXUS pass as valid, government issued photo ID? Or educate we as to why this photo ID is not accepted?

Submitted by PRPD2002 on

As a STSO I am happy to see that we are trying to help our fellow Americans and better understand this process. It can be very stressful going through the checkpoint, I am hoping that more passengers and customers find this Blog and better understand us when we ask for their cooperation in screening.

Submitted by Lanz on

Excellent idea, providing you actually make use of this blog as something other than a propaganda organ. Since this is a government site, moderating comments is almost certainly necessary, if unfortunate. Please allow as many comments as possible to go thru, barring the to-be-expected nuts, spambots, and abusive anti-government types.
Number one rule of blogging: be honest. Don't gladhand thorny issues, speak openly and clearly about them. The more honest and transparent this blog is, the more successful it will be.
The whole thing is a great move!

Submitted by Bob on

Why do pilots with guns and air marshalls have to be so public with the walking in through the out?? Read about this in USA Today and loads of people know about it!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I frequently fly to different airports around the country, and I find that some metal detectors are much more sensitive than others. I have a hip replacement, and why, for example, will one scanner let me through and another will not? Aren't these scanners standardized with a similar test items. Sometimes, I doubt if a BB could get past the scanner at some airports. Anyone in TSA care to comment on this?

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a TSO in Wisconsin I believe it is imperative that we all remember that we are people outside of our jobs. This is a good way to make it easier for our passengers to relate to us. We do what we do because WE believe in it and because we want anyone who travels through the U.S. to have less to worry about as they move through their daily/weekly/yearly routine of travel and life.

I certainly believe that this blog can be a good source of information and a bridge to close the gap between the0 misconception and the reality of what airport security is for.

Thanks to ALL who serve @ Airports anywhere TSA serves.

Submitted by Christopher on

That’s a great question and it’s questions like these why we launched this blog. We’re currently working on several posts to answer this and other common questions like IDs, technology and why we do what we do at the checkpoint. Come back on Friday to check out our post on the top three questions security officers get from passengers.

Meanwhile, if you have an immediate need for answers to travel related questions, you can email them to:

Evolution Blog Team Member

Submitted by Tom on

As a Transportation Security Officer (TSO), I welcome this forum and believe that it will be informative to not only the traveling public but to the employees and leadership of our agency as well. I would also like to say that the majority of the people I see on a daily basis are cooperative and relieved that we are doing what we're doing. Some of them still don't understand the 3-1-1 policy but they cooperate just the same. Our biggest obstacle is the media. They only portray the negative about airport security and rarely do we hear of the positive side of our job. This is an issue that should be addressed so that the media is on the same track as us, and are delivering the most useful information to the public.

Submitted by Tiphani on

As a Transportation Security Officer since 2005, I think this is a great idea. Making public site where passengers and employees can ask each other WHY. I have read some really nasty blogs about us here at TSA, and a lot of them are because people just don't understand, or that they didn't have the time to ask a TSO why, and vice versa. This is going to be a substqantial benefit to making the organization more passenger friendly.

Submitted by I_guess_I'm_on_... on

DHS and TSA are fundamentally broken. Disband both immediately and return our civil liberties. Thank goodness Richard Reid did not conceal something in his underpants or these people would be strip-searching every poor grandma from here to Branson. Would someone please explain to these people that putting shoes through an x-ray does not mean they don't contain an explosive? And honestly-- Refusing a valid ID because it is "expired"? Confiscating deodorant and sun block? Does anyone believe that this kabuki security theater really makes us safer? If you guys are serious about your responsibility to protect the country I suggest you start by (1) not cutting off "TSA approved" locks anymore (2) learning and sticking to your own rules and regs especially those pertaining to passengers with medical problems (3) not trying to intimidate anyone who asks for a complaint form and (4) immediately crack down on the threatening screeners who shout "do you want to fly today?" anytime their crazy made-up-on-the-spot orders are questioned by passengers--who in my opinion often know the rules better than the screeners themselves. Oh and by the way your first amendment rights to free speech don't stop when you enter an airport screening area, even at MKE.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How do you expect anyone with more than a 3rd grade education to buy the liquird policy? We all knwo it is scientifically unsound. When can we quit this charade and begin to carry our water and toothpaste with us again?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let's start with some questions regarding ID:

1. Does an ID have to have an expiration date to be "valid"? My US-Government ID is frequently refused because it doesn't have an expiration date, although it is a "valid, government issued ID". If no expiration date is required, what is my recourse when my ID is refused on said grounds? What rule/procedure/etc. can I ask the TSO to refer to?

2. When using a US passport as ID, is it now required that the TSO look at and review every page and read every visa? A TSO supervisor told me that is the new rule. Was he telling the truth?

3. What is the security benefit of checking ID in the first place? Since ID is NOT required to pass through the checkpoint (if you have no ID, you simply must go through a secondary screening), what, then, is the security benefit of checking ID in the first place? A bad guy will simply claim he/she has no ID.
Certainly the airlines like it for revenue protection, but what makes it a government function? If the answer is to look for 'fraudulent documents', again, what is the SECURITY aspect/benefit as related to keeping bad things off of airplanes? Isn't this just mission creep?

4. In general, what is our recourse as air travelers when a TSO violates SOP regarding acceptable ID, and refuses us access to the secure area?

Submitted by Arthur on

Another step forward in the evalution of the Agency and improved customer service and security.

Submitted by Seth on

I applaud the idea of getting everyone back on the same side. Here's a suggestion for starters: transparency. The implication that the passengers need to remain in the dark and that and TSA policy must remain secret in order to fool the "bad guys" is a naive way to approach security. Share legitimate reasons for the policies and maybe people will agree that they aren't so onerous.

If the idea of getting everyone back on the same side is for the travelling public to bow to the whim of the TSA/DHS without questioning policies then you're asking citizens to forego one of their primary responsibilities in society - to ensure that the government does not abuse its power at the expense of the people.

I look forward to true dialog, not typical rhetoric. I hope it comes to pass.

Submitted by Robert Krex on

I have a question, but first some background.

I live in a US territory that has not ratified RealID (Puerto Rico). Soon, my license won't be sufficient to get me on a plane without additional scrutiny.

I have a passport, but I try to avoid flying domestically with it due to the difficulty and length of time required to fly with it.

My question is:
Will the Passport Card being issued by the US State Department be an acceptable identification to board a domestic flight?



Submitted by Christopher on

Very interesting post. As I posted earlier, come back on Friday and see how we answer the liquids questions and two others we get every single day at checkpoints across the country.

Also, commenting on this blog will NOT get you on any list TSA keeps.

TSA Evolution Blog Team

Submitted by Shii Org on

I hope you will use this blog to maintain an open dialogue with serious critics of TSA such as Chris Soghoian. Don't let anonymous comments detract from the possibility of letting government officials speak openly and helpfully to the citizens they serve.

Submitted by Doctor Anonymous on

The TSA liquid policy is ludicrous and indefensible. It suggests that 6 oz of liquid can blow up a plane but two 3-oz containers can't. In addition, it was instituted in the wake of an impossible plot--the London bombing plot in 2006 supposedly entailed the manufacture of TATP aboard an aircraft with precursors brought aboard. But, of course, this is impossible. Synthesis of TATP is difficult--as I learned long ago in Chemistry class in a pre-9/11 world--enough in a laboratory, requiring careful control of temperature, and many hours of drying time. It couldn't be done in an airplane lav.

Furthermore, the rule does nothing to prevent collusion. Let's suppose that there's a liquid explosive I can make on board from precursors (there isn't, but we'll pretend). I can carry on a collapsible, nonreactive, watertight container that would hold several gallons. Then, I need a number of collaborators on the same flight, and we can now combine all our 3-oz bottles into the larger container to make an arbitrarily large amount of explosive.

The liquid restrictions are nothing more than a classic CYA move that perpetuates the "security theater" nature of TSA. It does nothing but inconvenience travelers. It serves only to sow fear--essentially doing the terrorists' work for them. It is a way for the government to be seen to "do something" but it accomplishes no useful purpose. It fails to protect against a phantom threat.

Kip has responded to these criticisms before by deflecting them--essentially saying, "There's magic liquid explosives out there, but we can't tell you what they are. Trust us." Trust me. Nobody believes you.

And finally, and most damning of the military, the TSA is preparing to fight the previous war. Terrorists WILL NOT attempt another 9/11. Look at what's happened over the past few years. Every time someone acts up on a plane, passengers gang up and beat the tar out of them. It would be impossible for terrorists to take over a plane for nefarious purposes. 9/11 didn't occur because the terrorists had boxcutters. It occurred because the CONOPS of the time were for the crew to comply with hijackers' demands. The error of this was seen before the attacks had even finished--one of the four hijacked flights figured this out during the attacks.

The liquid restrictions need to be removed. They are pointless, and are a major reason that TSA is the least respected, most hated government agency.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work for DHS.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why do we have to take our shoes off? Does anyone really believe this is preventing a terrorist act?

Submitted by Carrot-top on

I see some really good questions here - especially the "real id" one but dr. anonymous just sounds very angry AND misinformed. Since (s)he works for DHS you'd think they might have access to some decent information.

i_guess_im_on_the_list_now_eh - Jeebus! I'm sitting on my couch right now and I'd like prevent you from getting on an airplane too. You must be PO'd all the time. I'm surprised you even fit in the cabin with the GIANT CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER!!!! Give those folks a break! You think they like being told hundreds of times a day how stupid they are, or how unneccesary their jobs are? Don't use the first amendment as an excuse for a lack of manners!!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Shoes on or off?? Seems to be different rules at airports.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is not a product or service promotion. I support everything the TSA is doing and hope to help.
Walking on bare floors without shoes is a source of fungus, bacteria and staph infection. I have invented a machine that will dispense surgical booties directly to passenger feet without bending down to put them on.
This will improve the TSA image to the public, speed up the lines and allow passengers to walk through security without anger and disdain.

Submitted by Rush on

Please change your font color to a higher contrast. It is difficult to read text that is very light gray on a white background.
Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous on

shoes off for sure. This rule is fine. The only problem is can we get some foot booties to help protect us from fungus.

Submitted by Doctor Anonymous on

Carrot Top, would you please inform me how I'm misinformed? I will gladly retract anything that's wrong. But everything I've said is correct. TATP cannot be produced on an airplane. The 3-1-1 rule has no effect on the amount of liquid I can accumulate on an airplane. It is nothing more than a way to perpetuate fear in the populace over a terrorist threat (hijacking a plane) that doesn't exist. Please explain what I got wrong.

And yes, I admit I am angry. I'm angry at a system that values making sure I can't have a six-ounce shampoo bottle or a leatherman tool or have to take my shoes off before I board a plane over ensuring that all the cargo in the plane is scanned properly. I'm mad about a system that will actually stop, question, and search a five-year-old just because his name is on the no-fly list (like they couldn't add another column to the list that's "age"?). I'm angry at losing my liberty and the expense of gaining illusory security. You should too.

Submitted by Spacetech on

This Blog will be a challenge; for Kip's voice to be heard through the chatter, for truth to be heard through the questions, and civility to help TSA to change many of it's veiled activities that are called "Security" processes.
TSA cannot and will not provide rationale for shoes and zip-loc bags. It would make more sense to ban 100% of all carry-on material over 24 ounces....

Submitted by Anonymous on

As the wife of a pilot, I thank you for all that you do to keep our planes safe. However, recently my bag was searched, which is fine, but they unzipped a bag that had all my medical supplies in it and did not re-zip it causing everything to fall out all through my suitcase. These items were to remain sterile, and now I have to throw them away. Supplies for diabetes are extremely expensive (if you are not over 65 and on medicare) and I really cannot affford to waste anything. Thanks for relaying my story so that more "checkers" take care in protecting passengers things.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear fear mongering air gestapo,
While I appreciate your attempt to tell people that your agency is staffed by human beings with a difficult job, that doesn't mean their job is worthy of respect.

TSA: Preventing implausible threats while unable to cope with tests for real ones, all the while saying "papers please" and destroying America.

Submitted by Anonymous on

as a passenger (and particularly one who flies over 100,000 miles a year, i have some questions directed to the "shoes off policy". i wear (and have to wear) orthopedic shoes and custom fitted orthotics as a result of ankle surgery and my question is simple....

why do the tsa's own policies differ from airport to airport? there are tsa procedures in place as to how to deal with pax who cannot take off their shoes but repeatedly they are ignored, misconstrued, or made up by the tsa employees on duty with the addition that more than 50% of the screeners i come in contact with do not know the definition of the word "orthotics". i have been threatened with "do i want to fly today" to "do you want me to call a cop"(both at JFK UA) yet to also go to other extreme, the screeners at my home airport (SFO-United terminal) have it down pat.

simply put, you need to have ALL airports follow THE SAME rules (including the ADA and FRPA and HIPPA) and screener s and supes need to know what they can and cannot ask. if you want to see record clearance times (and trust me, i know what i'm talking about as operational efficiency has been my career for 30 years, the whole key to line mgmnt is to have it done the SAME ACROSS THE BOARD with all TSA employees not only having a complete understanding of privacy laws but also a basic grasp of customer service techniques and the english language (case in point: lax t-7 ua terminal footbridge on sunday, january 20, 2007 approx 9pm. i told the screener i was wearing orthopedic shoes and orthotics and i was presented with "what?, your shoes have to come off". this was followed by my repeating that i was wearing orthopedic shoes and orthotics which was met with the response of" "supervisor, he be wearing ortho something or others and don't want to take his shoes off". as you can see, this is not a grammatically correct comment and n.b. i wne thru the very same terminal and checkpoint just over 36 hours before and did not have a problem.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In its current form, this blog is beyond useless.

It's just a huge pile of random comments, only some of whose questions or comments are half-addressed many, many posts later.

It really should be a proper forum with separate sections with individual topics so people can actually find useful information. You could never find anything if you tried.

Did you people spend more than ten minutes planning this?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think the liquid ban should end. It totally seems to be window dressing and frustrates travelers.

So should the shoe removal requirement. Alot of elderly people have trouble taking shoes on and off. Why does the TSA feel explosives are only hidden in shoes?

Submitted by Myob1776 on

I think it was Bruce Schneier who pointed out the three things that have been done since 9/11 to make air travel safer: (1) reinforced cockpit doors; (2)passengers who will now fight back; and (maybe)(3) sky marshals.

Checking IDs does not make travel safer. In fact, it is often possible to fly without an ID -- witness John Gilmore's no-ID Airport Challenge. But just try to get a TSA official to admit this. In fact, those without ID CAN fly -- if more extensively searched. Fair enough. But don't tell me that a valid ID is a substitute for a thorough search. That just doesn't make any sense.

That is part of the problem. The rules under which travelers are required to give up their privacy to government officials are kept secret. This puts way too much power in the hands of the screeners, with inconsistent application. Those that are made apparent -- the liquids ban, shoe removal -- are silly, don't make any sense, and certainly don't materially increase the safety of the millions who are forced to endure that nonsense every day.

So while I am interested to see how this blog develops, given the knee-jerk reaction of the TSA every time some new threat is perceived, I'm not optimistic that it will result in any real change. Remember the London bomb plot that resulted in the liquid ban? That was known to authorities for months before the August 2006 arrests, but it was not until the arrests that the liquid bans were put in place. If explosive liquids were truly a danger, why not begin the ban earlier? Because it was the PERCEPTION of the threat that the TSA reacted to, not the threat itself.

Submitted by Bek on

I'd love to see some consistency between airports. I'm an engineer who often has to fly with Allen keys and wrenches. Now that security lines have become so ridiculously long and slow, I avoid checking bags whenever possible to save time. I can depart with my allens no prob, but then on the way home suddenly they're not okay. Each one was held up to a ruler and it was determined that the largest one could be a deadly weapon, but not the second largest.

On another training note, it says right on the renewal form for drivers licenses that the form plus the expired license is acceptable ID for air travel, but I almost missed a flight as the TSA agent refused to accept that ID and refused to get a supervisor and threatened to have me arrested when I disagreed with him. It will be a great day when defending oneself doesn't automatically make one a terrorist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a frequent flyer who started living in the US and flying from US airports a couple of years ago, there are a few things I don't understand:

1. Why does one have to remove their shoes at TSA airport security screening? Do screening machines at foreign airports work better?

2. Why is it that at almost every screening, I see TSA employees hanging around doing nothing while there are security lanes cordoned off and queues building up? A little bit of operations management seems to be needed.

3. Why do TSA employees have to loudly yell to no one in particular exactly what is posted on several signs around the screening area and announced on the airport PA system regarding security rules? A little bit of politeness and respect for travelers seems to be needed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a LTSO I have very proud to work for TSA. I understand that some of the passengers do not like taking off their shoes or surrendering their toothpaste, however, there are many passengers that thank us for what we do. We must all remember that 9/11 happened and we are just trying to make the air safe for everyone. Flying is not a right granted under the Bill of Rights and due to the state of the world today, we must all make smart decisions. I am proud of what we do and what we represent. Thank you Mr. Hawley!!

Submitted by Sam on

I don't know why the TSA makes the "official" liquid policy so ambiguous. Seasoned travellers know that you can have up to 3.4 oz (100ml), not just 3.0 oz. however, no where on the TSA website or anywhere else in publications is it noted. Why cant you be consistent and write 3.4 oz (100 ml). We do all know how to read labels, and can apply this rule better if we know for sure what it is.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why do airline crew need to go through security? It is pointless and takes up time.

Submitted by Addwaita on

blah, blah, blah, blah
what a waste of fricken
money. We don't need you
people to stop another 911,
americans won't sit by next
time. But the extreme you
people took it to is so
fricken stupid. Really, what good have you done?

Submitted by WABASHMED on


There is free technology available to protect passengers from virus and disease when going through the security screening. You currently use rubbermaid tubs that crack and are filthy. People that are sick or have blood from on them are using these tubs daily. There are silver based bio-inert liners available at relatively no cost or free if advertising is printed on them. Why doesn't the agency test them out. This technology has been available for a while.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The TSA has been reactionary from the start. The shoe thing, the liquid thing, what's next? We are being checked by very low paid employees and I personally don't feel any safer knowing the TSA screeners are pawing through my underware. We are being told that they are looking out for issues that so secret that they can't even tell us. That is not true. I've been in the air transport industry for many years and go through the same training. This is smoke and mirrors. If we want results, ask the Israelis. They know how to do it.

Submitted by Maf on

I lived in NYC on 9/11. I always thank my TSA screeners -- even when they take away the moisturizer my dermatologist said I needed, which doesn't come in 3-oz containers -- because I appreciate their efforts to do their jobs and keep us safe. And I thank all the National Guard folks patrolling the airports. Y'all have a tough and generally thankless job. We don't hear much about your successes -- if security had prevented the 9/11 hijackers from boarding their planes, we wouldn't have had huge page-1 articles saying, "The World Trade Center didn't fall down today, thanks to the work of security agents in Boston and New York." You can't see the tragedies that were prevented. Thank you for what you do.

Submitted by Jasonrhode on

I've been wary of the TSA since the Ryan Bird incident. $4.7 billion, and this is the best you can do?

Whenever most of us encounter the TSA, we're in a position of weakness; we need to make flights or make connections. I personally have had good encounters with the security personnel. People have been professional and courteous. But my experience is small, and the country is wide.

But surely I'm not alone in feeling that the latitude granted to security agencies after 9/11 was overbroad. Everyone knows that you're never going to remove these limitations. Why would the TSA allow for its own obsolescence? Security theater is too good of a business.

I still can't accompany people to the gate at my hometown airport. The liquid rule. If I write "Kip Hawley is an Idiot" on my luggage, will I be detained and questioned? I'm banned from bringing a knife on board -- but I can buy a bottle of Jack Daniels and smash it on the floor, and I've got a good weapon, haven't I?

Why do your people sleep on the job? Why do you search down grandmothers? Why is it that the Bill of Rights no longer applies to us? Why do you sell what you confiscate from us?

Finally, why are you hiring thieves to go through our personal possessions? You can't dismiss all of the critiques of your agency as media distortion. Everyone has a story.

I doubt this'll make your blog. Knowing your reputation, I'm wary of even attaching my name. But someone has to speak up about this stuff.

I'm a citizen of this country. If I follow its laws, so should the government. You've got nobody but yourselves to blame for your image problems.

I appreciate an open forum, but you have a long way to go.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Glad to see our friend “I_guess_I'm_on_the_List_now_eh” has graced this blog with the talking points memo he so mindlesly chants like the "sheeple" he supposedly rails against. Well, at least we all know who he is so we can all move past his meaningless rabble and self proclaimed expert opinions based upon his 5-10 minutes of waiting at the checkpoint for his $39 southwest fun fare.