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Wow! What a Response (Commenting Disabled)

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wow! The number of comments on our blog has been amazing. Many of the posts during the last 24 hours are exactly the types of questions we hope to answer and the conversations we hope to begin with the traveling public. Some have been downright mean and cranky but that’s okay too. For most people, this is the first chance to reach out directly to TSA and tell us about your experiences and we very much want to hear from you.

Frankly we’ve been overwhelmed with the number of response we’ve received, more than 700 comments at last count, and comments are still pouring in. Several of you have suggested a format change to go from a laundry list of: shoes, cranky officers, idiotic rules, you guys sure try hard…, stream of consciousness diatribes to a more logical way of collecting and hopefully shedding light on many of the things that passengers want to know.

Well we’ve heard the comments and we’re making the move. Later this afternoon you will find several common questions or topic areas that have been raised and are on the front of all our minds like shoes, ID requirements, liquids an others. This list will evolve as this blog does and we’ll be posting answers, thoughts and comments on each of these topics on these pages.

Because of the software we’re using to run this blog, it’s up to you to post your comment on the right page, in the correct topic. Today we don’t have any way to move posts from one place to another so we’re relying on you to post in the right place. If it’s not posted under the right topic we will not be able to move the post. Because we have more than 700 comments on the Welcome post, we are closing the comment feature there. Even though that post is not longer accepting comments, we still welcome your feedback and thoughts here.

In the spirit of transparency, we plan to note how many comments we've rejected and tell you why. Mostly the rejected comments include profane language, political rants or abusive posts that we just can't print, and some are completely off topic. Other than these, every post will go up as written and we will continue to operate this way.

Thanks again for the great range of insightful, sad, humorous, outrageous comments. Keep them coming and we’ll do our best to try to keep up.

Evolution Blog Team


electronics in flight said...
electronics in flight said...can someone please explain to me all the fuss about having all of your electronics OFF before we leave the gate?

A good question. Actually it was found that cell phone signals, specifically those in the 800-900 MHz range, did interfere with unshielded cockpit instrumentation. Because older aircraft with unshielded wiring can be affected, because of the possible problems that may arise by having many airborne cell phones "seeing" multiple cell phone towers, and because of all the electronic systems in a modern airplane that would have to undergo lengthy and expensive certification, the FCC (via enforcement through the FAA) still deems it best to stay on the safe side and prohibit the use of cell phones while airborne. It should be noted, though, that such a prohibition is being lifted in Europe.And while I'd like to take credit for that rant...all credit goes to The Mythbusters (with a little help from Wikipedia ).

Jay


How about Booties?
In response to anonymous who would like booties for their feet…
I understand your concern on the hygiene issue. While part of TSA’s mission is to promote great customer service the reality is that customer service in aviation is a partnership between the airport authority, the TSA, and the airlines. While I speak only for my airports most of them do in fact provide some type of ‘booty’ to passengers as a customer service enhancement. Those who don’t provide footwear ensure the cleaning crew cleans those floors regularly.
My recommendation is to start with your airport and explain your concern to them…the same could be said about having plastic baggies at the checkpoint for folks who forget to bring them to the airport. The airports also care about customer service and sometimes a gentle reminder goes a long way…

Jay

Tags: 

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

If someone wanted to construct an improvised destructive/offensive weapon device, it's quite simple using common items.

For example, I can use a ballpoint pen to devastating effect (stabbed into someone's jugular, it will be deadly). How about using Lithium Ion batteries as an incendiary trigger ? Short one of those puppies out with some heavy jewelry and just see how hot they'll get. Or how about using a common CD or DVD, crack one in two, and you have a nice jagged weapon for cutting purposes.

The point here is, all TSA does is inconvenience law abiding travelers. The REAL threats will know how to work around any minor speedbumps presented along the way. It's like gun control. Only law abiding people are the ones who are affected the most.

What's the purpose of having the CAPTAIN of the aircraft run thru security?
He's the one at the controls! You think he's going to smuggle in a gun to hijack himself ???

Sort of like having a Marine (who honorably served his country) coming from deployment being forced thru security as well.

If you present valid DOD ID, or other "vetted" credentials (some of us have active security clearances already investigated over and over by the FBI), we should be allowed to bypass security altogether.

The improvised weapons list is only a starter. Some of us can think of dozens (if not hundreds of more methods).

Security is an ILLUSION for the masses. REAL "bad guys" will do their deed no matter what.

Submitted by Dogfish83 on

Please generate new ideas for general security screening that allows "documented" non-risk passengers to move through the process faster. Frequent travelers are only able to use the fast track process at a few airports. Searching for the nail clippers I failed to remove from my bag or the 4 ounces of soap/make-up or whatever that I have in my bag is a waste of your time. Inconvience to me is a part of travel. Searching and scanning is fine for me, but I wonder whether it is worth the cost to you or me.

I'll pay for a fast track permit with rules. You would still have the right to spot check or quality control fast track travelers.

Get a better more available process! You have lots of data on bags and travelers. There must be common denominators.

Submitted by Pelted on

I want to echo a few things. Reinforced cockpit doors solve the problem of highjacking. Done. It's over. Thus, various TSA policies over last few years (ie, at times confiscating people's scissors) seem totally ridiculous. TSA should focus on making sure pilots and stewardesses keep those doors closed from the moment passengers are admitted on the plane. I have seen instances where the door is left open while the plane is loading, where stewardesses open it to give the pilots food, etc. I realize pilots are human, but THAT seems like the weak-point. Other than that, as everybody knows, the threats are: 1) bombs on board, 2) guns on board, mainly because they could shoot out windows, 3) and bombs in the hold. Given threat number three, combined with the fact that the exact threat we saw on 9/11 has been neutralized by reinforced cockpit doors, why are cost and inconvenience concerns over-ridden to check all passengers, but not to check all packages and luggage shipped in the holds of planes?

Concerns like that one lead to the perception that the TSA is only interested in the appearance of security, not in real security. Nobody buys it, and consequently your public perception is abominable. If you can intelligently address concerns like these, without political spin, you will do a long way towards improving public perception of your agency. You'll also make us safer....

Submitted by Pelted on

Just realized I used the term "stewardesses," rather than flight attendants, implying that they are all female, and being rather un-PC. My apologies!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I fly as little as possible because of the haste and long waits for security. Last year I flew and my checked baggage was opened and inspected both ways. I don't like to take a lot of clothes, instead I opted to do laundry where we stayed. The place we stayed was small and advertised washing machines but said they did not provide supplies on-site so I packed one of those single use detergents. On the way there my bag was inspected. The detergent box was opened and inspected and that's fine. Next time please put it in a Ziploc bag or something. When I got to the hotel everything was coated in soap. The clothes all had to be washed and it took about 10 rinses in the tub to get it out of my suitcase, which ruined it. I had to buy another for the return flight.
On the flight home my bags were again opened and inspected. This time the after shave bottle was not tightly re-capped.

I can understand your wanting to increase security at times, but what's with the increase in laundry?

Submitted by Jim on

I hope you will post a periodic summary to this blog, or start new topics that are specific to shoes, liquids, etc.

I would like to know why an ID that involves a security clearance or other background check (certain military IDs, the ID you need to get on the ramp to your personal airplane, a Frequent Traveler ID, or similar) isn't already an automatic pass and exemption from screening?

I may be carrying a Leatherman or pocket knife, but I'm already proven by my background to be no risk to anyone else. No more risk than the Air Marshall with his firearm.

Why should the pilot have his luggage screened? Do we not trust him after granting him the license and the ramp pass? Or do we think he's an imposter? He doesn't have to carry anything, just drive the plane into a building. Don't bother checking his luggage.

Some TSA clearance should be persistant, based on a TSA-recognized photo ID or biometric ID. This would cut lines tremendously as all frequent flyers will quickly sign up.

But, if my Frequent Traveler ID is only good at one airport (as they seem to be today), it's not worth the bother and expense to get one.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I know the majority of folks believe that there is a serious, continuing threat by semi-organized bad people, but I'm not one who believes that. Private aircraft take off every day without the extensive, labor intensive, and downright redundant and humiliating 'security' screening and absurd regulations.

I know your Agency's intent is good, and your screeners are mostly very competent and try to be respectful and upbeat, so do not think this is meant to blame anyone.

Having said that, here is my suggestion and question:

Suggestion: Since the majority of 'selections' for enhanced frisking and snifferpad wipedowns come from airline reservation automation, could you please investigate why airlines always automatically target tickets booked through competing web agencies. It's obvious, having booked online through travelocity and other online agents that some airlines always 'punish' travelers who don't book through their system directly.

Question: Can we please stop forcing people to go through this absurd screening process every time they fly, and, as a previous blogger said, just have a 'known frequent traveller' and therefore exempt line. You still scan checked baggage, but you simply quick scan their carry ons with a wand.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have a question about photographic equipment which I can't find answered anywhere on your web site. Are tripods and monopods permitted to be carried on to the plane in your carry-on or personal item?

I've seen both of these pieces of photographic gear permitted and rejected at security.

Submitted by Jay Maynard on

I truly don't believe that the TSA cares what the hoi polloi think. Their job isn't to make the traveling public secure so much as it is to make the traveling public feel secure so they'll continue to travel. Nevertheless, I'm posting in an attempt to get an answer on an issue that really scares me: Airport screening managers can act in a totally arbitrary and capricious manner and deny people the ability to travel by air, with no recourse whatsoever.

I make my living as a computer consultant. My customers are nationwide, and I have to be able to get there quickly. If I don't fly, I don't work. I have no choice in the matter, despite the standard TSA response of "you have a choice not to fly, so this screening is voluntary".

I got so tired of getting groped by TSA screeners with no explanation of what they were doing - they'd just pull me aside and start running their hands over my body - that I started going through the security checkpoints wearing nothing but spandex. Most of the time, I got chuckles or nods, but the checkpoint managers at Greensboro, NC and Columbus, OH both told me they'd refuse to allow me through the checkpoint if I did it again - and the guy at Columbus went so far as to call the cops, just because he was offended! (They told him I was doing absolutely nothing illegal.)

When I sent a letter to Kip Hawley about the guy in Greensboro, I got a reply from a middle manager saying that I shouldn't do that any more, and completely failing to address my larger concerns.

I didn't even bother complaining about the guy in Columbus. What's the point? After his arbitrary, capricious action, I stopped doing it, because I was scared of losing my job by not being able to travel any more.

Not once did anyone bother to try to explain just why they thought my clothing was a problem. There was certainly no justification offered as to how I was doing anything to impede the security process; I contend that I was making the screeners' jobs easier, by making it obvious to them that I was carrying nothing on my person.

The TSA behaves as though they're above the law and the Constitution, and are totally unaccountable to the average traveler. I don't expect to get an explanation, but it would be nice...

Submitted by Taeheel on

I have a titanium total knee replacement and a card given to me by the physician who did the surgery to carry with me to show that I do, indeed, have the joint replacement...but airport security will not honor it. I get held up in security EVERY TIME I FLY and it gets old. The TSA workers at the security check points are quite nice and courteous but frequent flyers should not have to be delayed at the checkpoints indefinitely. I was returning home after the holidays with my 8 year old grandson; as usual, I was stopped at the security checkpoint because of my knee, I am used to that. However, my grandson was told, "you stay right there and don't move," he was not allowed inside the clear walled cubicle where I was told to go. For the next 45+ minutes, I was scanned by 4 TSA workers before they called a supervisor. Had someone really wanted to kidnap my grandson, they could have done so quite easily AND THIS CAUSES ME GREAT CONCERN for, not only him at that time, but for any child in the same situation. We were in a strange place and were separated unnecessarily--in my opinion. I also had a bandage on my left hand (I accidentally lacerated it while attempting to get fresh coconut out of the shell) and they took forever scanning it with those little white patches several times.

The supervisor finally said what ever it was dressed with contained an oxide which was causing their machine to alarm. My grandson was frightened and I was concerned due to the manner in which he was treated. I won't have a bandaged hand next time I fly but I will always have a titanium total knee replacement. The last time I took a trip with my husband, he dropped me off at the terminal, returned the rental car, went thru security and still got to the departure gate well ahead of me.

Is it possible for the TSA to come up with some way of identifing those of us who do have joint replacements and fly frequently, to allow us to get thru security at a faster rate?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'd be interested in hearing more about 'trusted traveller' programs, like FlyClear. I'm not sure if there are other similar programs, or if there will be one program that is the standard. It's not very widespread at this point and thus doesn't really seem like much of a value unless you frequently fly between two of the 16 or so airports that currently have those lanes.

Just a thought. Thanks for providing a forum to address such questions.

Submitted by Madeline on

My biggest concern with the TSA's policies has to do with liquids. Entirely aside from questions about whether or not banning liquids makes us safer, it's just not clear what constitutes a "liquid."

I do not use many commercial beauty products, which saves me a lot of headaches regarding liquids, but I like to bring my own shea butter with me when I travel. I usually carry it in a 12 oz package, since that's the package it came in. Shea butter, in case you don't know, is solid at room temperature. Nonetheless, I have been stopped and asked to put my shea butter in a checked bag - though not at every airport.

While TSA officials have always been polite to me, I wonder why I am not allowed to carry some solids through the screening. I also wonder why a person would be allowed to carry cheese through the screening - since cheese is about the same consistency which shea butter is.

I wish that these rules made any kind of sense to me. I try to be polite and friendly to TSA officers, who I know only want to keep me safe, but it really boggles my mind that I'm required to do so many nonsensical things.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No system is perfect, but our family appreciates your efforts. Thank you for treating everyone equally and ensuring our safety.

Submitted by Anonymous on

One of your drones left this.. We cannot be biased and assume that an elderly person is not carrying something on them just because they are older. Every person receives the same amount of screening, no matter what race, ethnicity, age or gender.

Screw the PC crap. Grandma ain't packin' heat, the infant isn't carrying anything except perhaps in their diaper (chemical/biological). For Gods sake how about using some common sense? I've heard first hand reports of your drones throwing away a $1000 worth of Insulin.

Johnny Jihad is the problem. Give us all clubs and I can guarantee that any problems will be taken care of in an expedient manner. Or would that be against their civil liberties?

For Gods sake how about using some common sense? I've heard first hand reports of your drones throwing away a $1000 worth of Insulin.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why does the Orlando International airport (MCO) not allow unformed crewmembers with proper id to carry liquids through the TSA checkpoints, when in fact it is allowed by TSA procedure? Lack of standards frustrates passengers and crewmembers and not allowing crewmembers in uniform to carry coffee does NOTHING to aid security. Please tell the emperor at MCO to get in line with rest of the TSA.

Submitted by Nebraska Traveler on

I saw on Fox News today about this blog and thought I’d share some of my experiences and suggestions. A little background info, I am a frequent business traveler (2-3 trips a month) and have come to conform easily to TSA requirements over time since 9/11. I guess it’s easy for me since I know what to expect even before I walk into an airport (arrive 1-2 hrs. before departure, take off shoes, take out laptop, take off suit coat, etc.), but I can see the frustration that new travelers and people who don’t fly often can experience. A few suggestions to TSA that might ease frustrations and tense feelings of those “ripe” travelers would be: 1) Maybe change the TSA attire. I mean come on, you guys look like one step below the FBI or CIA. Get rid of the formal uniforms and wear business casual with your credentials around a lanyard. No need for the fancy shoulder insignia and badges. People are uneasy around law enforcement and it doesn’t make sense to appear that way in the travel industry. 2) Be a little more personable. I’m not saying every TSA person needs to change, but have a standard where you would ask how a person is doing that day, take a moment to strike up a conversation with someone waiting in line. Make it more of a causal setting rather than a cattle drive through lines and gates in order to get to the other side. 3) Try to find out who are the less frequent travelers and help them out. I see families all the time with a confused stare on their faces of what to do, and they are scared to ask questions and face ridicule or punishment. It seems like those people fear TSA and don’t want to do anything to prevent their trip from happening. I know TSA announces what to do while standing in line, but maybe have a specific line for less frequent or new travelers or ask “Does anyone have any questions for us?” or “let me know if I can help with anything.”. Now, after my suggestions I though I’d share some experiences. Last week I flew through LAX and my flight was to board at 5:30 AM. I got to the airport at 4:00 AM and was the first in line for security. However, TSA did arrive and start working until a little after 4:30 AM, and by that time the line for security was well over 100 people long. Not that it effected me, but if I was toward the end of that line and I had a flight departing around 5:30 AM, I would be a little scared knowing if I was able to get through security in time with over 100 people ahead of me. My suggestion is that TSA be ready 1.5-2 hours before the first flight is to depart from the airport. The other experience I have is with liquids. My trips are usually a week long so I need to have more than just travel size bath amenities. I also have contacts which require contact solution. So, for these trips which I usually don’t like checking in my main bag, I check in a small duffle bag with only my liquids. It never fails, I always open up the duffle after I arrive and find a TSA note saying it was checked. As well it should be! If I’m doing it, how many other people are clogging the baggage system with these duffle bags only for liquids. I think TSA needs to lift the ban on liquids or have a better detection system so that passengers can carry-on normal sized bottles and not have to pay more for a small travel size. With that said, I will see you in the airports of America. I’ll be through O’Hare and Memphis on Monday! Safe travels.

Submitted by John on

Below is an email I sent to you and your response. This is why you have a bad reputation. I asked a very legitimate question and made a helpful suggestion and received canned responses that didn't have anything to do with my commetns:

--- Original Message ---
From: "John"
Received: 1/31/2008 10:12:24 AM Eastern Standard Time (GMT - 5:00 )
To: "TSA Contact Center"
Subject: Question and Suggestion

First, the question: Why isn't expired identification
acceptible for air travel? I just read a news story
about a traveler who had a problem getting on a flight
because their drivers license had expired and also I
noticed when traveling this last weekend that the
screener also checked the expiration date in addition
to making sure I was the person named on my boarding
pass.

Second the suggestion: I have luggage with built in
combination locks purchased before the new screening
proceedures. The locks really don't keep anyone out
but keep the bag from coming open by itself. I don't
lock the bags by spinning the combination before
checking them, however worry that it could lock
inadvertantly. It would be great if you had an TSA
approved combination (since the combinations are
usually settable by the owner), such as "0-0-0" so
that TSA could easily open locks if there was a
problem.

Looking forward to your response,

John

--------

Thank you for your e-mail concerning TSA Approved Locks.

Under this system, TSA screeners are able to unlock and then relock luggage without damage through the use of passkey sets that are available to TSA screeners. These locks are accepted and recognized by the TSA for use at all airports where TSA screening is performed. However, TSA does not approve or endorse this particular product and we expect additional vendors to provide different versions of these "Dual Custody" padlocks to the retail market. While we cannot guarantee that the TSA accepted locks will not be broken during security screening, we do request that you report such incidents to the TSA Contact Center (TCC) so that we can take appropriate action.

Additional information on these products can be found on the Travel Sentry web site at www.travelsentry.org and on the Safe Skies web site at www.safeskieslocks.com.

Please visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. We continue to add new information and encourage you to check the website frequently for updated information.

TSA Contact Center
Thank you for your request for information regarding the presentation of identification.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires air carriers to request a valid form of identification from commercial airline ticket holders over the age of 18.

Part of TSA's requirements are that air carriers request a valid form of identification from ticket holders. While an air carrier is required to request identification, the actual presentation of identification by the passenger is not absolutely required, and there is currently no prohibition against allowing someone on an aircraft without such identification. However, the absence of identification may result in having additional security measures taken against that person, in order to provide an adequate level of security protection.

Security requirements issued by the TSA establish a security minimum for adoption by air carriers and airports. Air carriers and airports may exceed those minimum standards by implementing more stringent security requirements. Refusal to allow a passenger without photo identification to board the aircraft is an example of such differences and is at the discretion of an individual air carrier.

The TSA currently does not require air carriers to request a valid form of identification from commercial airline ticket holders under the age of 18 and we have no plans to require this in the foreseeable future.

ID checks are part of the security measures TSA imposes to ensure that passengers will not endanger the flight. They are not intended to carry out other law enforcement functions, which are the purview of other agencies.

We encourage you to visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. All travelers, and particularly those who travel infrequently, are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. The website has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations that may assist in preparing for air travel.

We hope this information is helpful.

TSA Contact Center

Submitted by Am I On The List Now on

I can't stand to see my civil liberties stripped so cleanly and violently in Airports now. You enter an airport and you are no longer a trusted citizen, but a suspected 'terrorist'.
You are now suspected to be a possible enemy of the state. A suspicion lacking any realistic merit, but only conjured to give more power to those doing the suspecting.

I take this power back by avoiding airports and airplanes at all costs. As someone who lives across the country from my loved ones, this is a big sacrifice. Instead of one day of travel to see them, I now have to spend 3 or 4 travelling across the US.

A sacrifice I am willing to make to take keep my liberties close to my heart.

Who Watches the Watchers?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thank you for interacting with the public via your website. It's admirable and very cool -- especially for a government agency.

The "sippy cup" video that you posted online a while back was good to see, in the sense that it showed how much of an overly bad rap TSA tends to get from the public. Prior to the video, most everyone (including myself) automatically believed the woman's story due to TSA's less-than-stellar reputation -- but the video proved her a liar.

So it's good to see TSA going out of their way to interact with "the people", ask for suggestions, answer questions, and even set the record straight every now and then. Keep it up!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I would like to say that although it is slightly inconvenient to go through all the security checkpoints and have to practically strip down naked to get through. I think we still have a laxed system. On a return trip from Europe I had to endure many security checkpoints that required me taking my shoes off 3 times. I had to first be checked before I even got to the check in counter. Then checked when I got to the beginning of security. I had to stand and chat with a lady so they could take a picture of me. Then My bags were xrayed along with my shoes. Then my bags were searched and my shoes were checked again. Finally I was allowed to walk to my gate. However before I could get to the gate (it was surrounded by plexi-glass). I had to have my bags searched again, my shoes were taken off again, and I was patted down again. So for those of you who complain about our security, get over it. It could be worse.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I fly as seldom as possible. If the trip can be managed as a pleasant drive, so much the better. Curtailment of air travel for pleasure is not terrific for the airlines, as recent news stories mention.

I'm not happy with TSA policy, but am also reluctant to go into detail, even anonymously. Even if more comfortable with talking specifics on this forum, I would not likely be able to elaborate absent any kind of at least peripheral political context any more than I can swim without water. There's your catch-22: this forum's rules will prevent any truly open and honest exchange with those who believe -- and again, I must self-censor, lest I speak politically. Get the picture?

Submitted by Anonymous on

People want actual security, not security theatre.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It's this simple:
NOTHING TSA has done since 2001 does anything to protect us whatsoever. All it has done is created a new class of handlers to abuse us in the airport and keep us paranoid.

The current TSA policies are unAmerican. I do not live in fear.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How is this site's comments/suggestions etc. being presented to the TSA? Is there a timeline (On March 31rst we will take your concerns to...???).. or is it an ongoing process? What department of the TSA is "in charge" of this website? What's the accountability factor here (if any)?

P.S. When I go thru the line before I hit the Scanning machines, someone checks my ID against my ticket stub and with a ball point pen either puts their initials or a simple circle to indicate the ID has been verified. Usually (@SeaTac anyways) the lines backup ad they bring additional people to check the IDs... they are placed a few (say a dozen) people back from the final ID checker, they also make the little circles and initials... It's easy (seen it done twice) to make your own circle and proceed to show no one your ID. You still have to go thru the detectors, and have a ticket so it's not a big flaw, but one I've seen personally done.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sounds like you guys hired a great PR firm to handle your blogging.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I was an airline pilot for 30 years and I always carried my tiny Swiss Army knife with the scissors,tweezers and toothpick---until 9/11 when it was confiscated at a checkpoint while I was in uniform.I still miss having it with me when I travel. Can't your highly trained and motivated screeners, some of whom are American citizens, be taught and trusted to discriminate between a Bowie knife and a gentleman"s accessory? I think one could do much more harm with the permitted sharp scissors, screwdrivers and knitting needles.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I understand security and agree with the majority of it but to have elderly seniors go through special searches because of joint replacement is beyond the pale. The sooner you stop being PC and use the profiling techniques at your disposal to better identify potential terrorists the safer we all will be. Then our seniors can lower their arms to the existing rediculous and demeaning searches.

Submitted by Mithrandirself on

Hello, I would like to suggest you not use a blog format as it is a horrible way of garnishing and responding to public opinion. Generally blog's are used to report On an issue, not discuss it. Blog comments are so varied and unorganized its difficult to sort through them all for relevance.

Furthermore, why are you outsourcing your blog to www.blogger.com when there is secure blog software systems out there that you could install directly to the .gov site. Why would you want people to feel like they are voicing their opinion to government officials on a commercial (.com) intermediary website?

An alternative would be to use a forum format like www.phpBB.com (which is free and can be installed on your .gov site directly, which would allow you direct access to everything instead of having to work through an intermediary) and there are many other forum programs that you could obtain via a few minutes of online searches.

A forum would allow you to set up structure and ways for people to respond to certain types of issues. Like for instance, there was a guy complaining about 3 dollars in change falling into a machine by mistake, perhaps that shouldn't be grouped with people complaining they are being harassed by agents.

Also with forums you could set up a FAQ "stickie" at the top of the forum with all the questions that have previously been answered based in that forum.

If the end goal of this website is discussion and education, I think you will find yourself responding to the same thing over and over again in a blog, as new people joining will most likely not search through every previous blog ever made.

Although it is good you are attempting to engage the online community, I feel you would be better served with a different online organization.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why does the TSA score worse in bomb tests than private security in the few airports in the U.S. that still employ them? If the private companies are doing better than the TSA than something has to change (Going back to private ones since it is clear government is incompetent in such big levels).

Submitted by Anonymous on

I just don't fly anymore. It is not worth it to me. I was in the Air Force and Vietnam and have never been afraid to fly and wouldn't be now except for the absurd bureaucracy that is TSA. Secure the cockpit, keep guns and explosives out of the cabin AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE and that is ALL that needs to be done. There is no such thing as PERFECT security and there is no point in pretending there is. Read "Beyond Fear" by Bruce Schneier and you will know what I am talking about.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How does an arbitrary expiration date change the information provided on a government issued ID? My family was traveling with me and on the outbound trip no one noticed that my wife's driver's license had expired, but on the return trip she was almost not allowed to pass. It was still her picture and the information is all correct.

My brother works for a government agency. He has a picture ID issued by that government agency. However, he cannot use it for travel because it does not have an expiration date. It hasn't expired, but it still can't be used.

Finally, just because the date on the ID is current, it doesn't mean the rest of the data is. After I moved I renewed my driver's license online so I still had my old one. Since it still has a few years on it I use it for my traveling ID so I don't have to risk dropping anything out of my wallet. The picture is the same, the date is valid, but that's about it. Please explain how this policy makes us safer.

Submitted by Keyser Soze on

The first time I checked in electronically I uttered the unforgivable LOUDLY.

"This electronic check-in thing
is THE BOMB!"

At which point I clapped my hand over my mouth looking HORRIFIED at what I had said IN THE AIRPORT.

Heads snapped around and I thought I was about to get the rubber glove treatment but the security guard looked me up and down, saw my horrified look, glared at me, looked skyward, shook his head, pointed at the gate and said "Go!"

Maybe I'm in the minority but so far I don't think it's been too aggressive or inconvenient and I've yet to miss a flight over it.

If anything sometimes I think things are TOO lax. Make 'em fly in hospital pajamas! No luggage!
Hey, you want REAL security or what?

Submitted by Anonymous on

To the guy with the total knee replacement. so all you're saying is that a terrorist or someone else intending to do harm to america (yes, americans do this as well. remember timothy mcveigh?) all they have to do is get a knee replacement and a card and they can be clear to walk through security without having it checked? clear to carry that gun through or whatever else they intend on doing harm with? get real! doctors should not be repsonsible for avaiation security. as a frequent traveler, im glad i get checked and i could care less if you are "inconvenienced". Thats the world we live in.

Submitted by Avoid Flying on

My first post never appeared and I assume it was censored because I focused on that very point, Censoring of Posts You Don't Like".

I also criticized the TSA Union and apparently that too is subject to censorship. Oh! Right! That would be Political.

The fact is, the airports with problem TSA officers will find it almost impossible to get rid of them making improvements unlikely.

My thought is rather than censoring the messages, place them in a section clearly marked, "Censored for Cause - Enter at Own Risk". Also a section marked "TSA Union".

The number one action that could improve the situation is "Independent Oversight" and "Instant Removal of Problem TSA Officers".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why are you using a blog for this? Wouldn't a messageboard be a more appropriate format for the type of discussions you're trying to encourage in the previous few posts?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have a question regarding stopping of passengers on "the list". Every time my family flies, we are stopped because my 10 month old son shares a name with someone on the list. TEN MONTHS OLD. I also have a 3 year old, so traveling is quite an ordeal. Yet every time, we are stopped and pulled aside, forced to wait (with a 3 year old and 10 month old) so someone can figure out that my son is allowed to fly. How can I resolve this permanently? Every form is written as the person on the list is requesting clearance, not a guardian.

Submitted by Moses on

Yeah, I am very curious to see why you're not posting some comments. I posted a comment to the original post, well before closure (at about 9:50AM CST), that was topical (luggage locks, luggage matching, 3-1-1, and more), non-profane, non-abusive, and non-political. It didn't show up. Perhaps my pseudonym of "moses" put you off?

Submitted by Endroren on

OK, I'll admit that I'm skeptical about whether posting here will do any good at all. Sorry for my doubt but I figure I will be honest.

Frankly, most of the stuff we're being checked for is pointless. From where I'm sitting it is a lot of effort and unhappiness with no appreciably safety gain.

ID? My friends made fake IDs in their dorm room in college. In Michigan non-citizens have gotten real IDs very easily through bad practices at the department of motor vehicles.

Nail clippers? Pocket Knives? Moustache scissors? I can buy a nice set of non-metal cooking knives for under $100 and stick it in my pants. Furthermore, any person who pulls any weapon on a plane with US passengers is in for a butt-kicking. No need to check for something that every terrorist knows won't work.

Liquids? Plenty of explosives come as solids and yet I never have to turn over my sandwich or snacks.

No relatives at boarding/departure? This stinks. I used to wait with my kids for the plane and it was wonderful. Now I say goodbye and sit by myself for an hour. Sure, the security makes this time-impossible but (see above) what is the point of all the security?

There's more but I'll leave it at that. And I'm afraid that now that so many people's jobs depend on this system, that we're stuck with it.

Submitted by Whitewater on

I retired as a Navy Captain after 30 years service. I had and still hold have very high clearances. Why can't TSA take advantage of the Background checks and service commitment to develop an acceptable risk list, instead of just a "no Fly List". In many cases the glass is half full not half empty!!

Submitted by Robert Krex on

Still waiting to hear on whether or not the US Passport Card will be accepted for domestic flights for those of us in states that rejected RealID (or for travelers who prefer an ID with less personally identifiable information, but don't want to risk losing their passport book.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

I gave up and stopped flying altogether, thanks to TSA. I'm walking disabled and, of all the things I have to deal with in my life now, airport security was the worst of the avoidable ones.

I walk with a cane, but standing in line for an hour puts me in nearly intolerable pain. I've seriously considered switching to a wheelchair or scooter just to deal with this one issue.

Once I finally reach the checkpoint, fully half the time I have to spend a couple of minutes arguing about my need to be hand-scanned. It seems these noble government workers resent taking the extra time to hand-scan those who need it. The last two flights they tried to make me take my shoes off BEFORE I could be hand-scanned.

"Ma'am, as I said I'm a heart patient. If I bend over long enough to get my shoes off, I'm either going to pass out or throw up. Do you really want to deal with that?"

Then the scan itself takes several minutes. I've had it take as long as ten before I get my shoes back. Ten minutes, out of sight and reach from my valuables. I wasn't flying alone, so my family was able to protect them, but if they weren't with me, what are the odds my stuff would still be lying at the end of the conveyor?

Congratulations, you win.

Submitted by Pair-a-Docs on

First off, let me say KUDOS to the team for instituting this blog. It is wonderful to have a place for people to air their frustrations, and conversely, their appreciations.

After reading the majority of posts thus far, I would like to offer some basic answers to a few of the concerns I hear repeated over and over. I can't address them all, but here are a few of my offerings:

As in any workplace, there will be varying skill levels among employees. New hires will not have the same abilities as 5-year employees. While I might easily recognize an article in the X-Ray picture, and assess it as no threat, another Officer may have no idea what it is. The first times I saw tape measures, micrometers and yes, even a sextant, I had to call for a bag check. Now, I don't.

Please don't assume it's always TSA who is destroying the locks and zipper tabs on your luggage. Have you ever been inside the cargo hold on a passenger aircraft? It is littered with zipper tabs and locks - not the doing of TSA, and not the deliberate doing of the baggage handlers. It simply is the nature of the beast, with stacking, moving, shifting in flight, causing the things that flop around on the outside of the bag to be torn off.

Many of you have wondered why we have to dispose of the liquids, gels and aerosols collected at the checkpoints around the country. I would like nothing more than to see the unopened items donated to our troops, to food banks, to women’s shelters, or to the homeless. Sadly, however, we live in a culture of litigation. How long would it be before someone figured out how to make a quick buck by claiming he/she was poisoned or otherwise harmed by some article donated in good faith by TSA? This is one reason for the waste – liability. The other reason is – if you didn’t bring it in the first place, it wouldn’t be being disposed of by us. Think about it.

I've traveled through or worked in a total of 33 different airports around the country. Each airport has signage posted to inform the traveler of the expectations for screening. Many has been the time I've interacted with a passenger regarding the requirement to remove their laptop for separate screening, with them telling me "I didn't know" while they were standing within 18" of the sign showing the requirement. The signs are there, but they're not being read. The videos that play in some of the airports are very specific, but they're also not being watched. The information is there for your convenience, if only you would utilize it. At the same time, I understand that airports are centers of information overload, and the average citizen tends to not be overly observant in such an environment. Still – the information is there, so please look around and take it in before assuming we’re not telling you ahead of time what the requirements are.

I personally regret the necessity to give additional screening to individuals with metal implants - knees, hips, etc. But if you stop to think a moment, I'm sure you'll see why it has to be done. If you come through the metal detector and it alarms, and you show me the card from your doctor, yes, I do believe you have that implant. But if I let you go without additional screening, you also could have a gun in your waistband, or strapped to your leg, and you would be cleared to board the aircraft. I'm positive that you would not feel safe knowing that anyone with a metal implant could carry on as many guns or knives as he/she wanted just by showing a card for a prosthetic knee or hip. Right?

I will never attempt to excuse away rude behavior by my peers. There is never a reason to be rude, even if we're being treated poorly by someone. Among the plethora of classes we're required to take, I believe it would be very worthwhile to both us and to you if we could get some good training regarding the differences between assertiveness and aggression. Sometimes it IS necessary for us to be assertive - but it's never permissible for any of us at any time to be aggressive. At the same time… we’re not the only ones being rude sometimes, and as the old adage goes, “It takes two to tango.”

I understand your frustrations regarding the watch list and the SSSS on your boarding passes. It really does no good, however, to take these frustrations out on the screening crew. We have nothing to do with that aspect of the process. We are expected to follow the procedures – nothing more, nothing less.

Security lines take longer to get through if we have to coach each passenger when he/she arrives at the X-Ray and metal detector. “We need your coat and shoes… yes, shoes, and is that a laptop in the case? It needs to be taken out and put in a tray by itself. Do you have any metal in your pockets? Keys, coins, cell phones, gum packages? I’m sorry, but your bottle of water won’t be allowed through.” Then this passenger walks through the metal detector, alarms, and is sent back out to divest. “Do you have a cell phone? Anything else in your pockets? Ahhh… yup, that’s it, here, put your change and cell phone into this bowl and try again.” See how long it took you to read this? It takes longer in real life. This is part of the reason you’ll sometimes hear an Officer yelling out to the crowd – it’s to help remind you of the things you need to do in order to get through the process as quickly as possible, because despite the signage posted, many people arrive at the divesting point completely unprepared. I don’t personally like the ways I’ve heard some Officers yell out to the crowd, and I won’t do it myself, but that’s the reason it’s done. Not to harm or insult you, but to help the line keep moving.

I’ve read some real horror stories here, situations that you have dealt with and how you’ve been treated in your various travels, and I don’t blame you one bit for being angry. Let me offer this to you: When you feel you’ve been mistreated by an Officer, get his/her name. Write a letter very specifically stating who it was (clear physical description if you can’t get the name), the location (which checkpoint, which lane), the exact time, exactly what was said or done by both you and the Officer, and send it to the FSD at that airport. If you don’t know who that is, send it to the head of the airport’s Port Authority, which you can find online, and I can guarantee they’ll forward it to the FSD. Your Epi-pen should NEVER have been taken. Your computer should NEVER have had a screwdriver inserted into the USB port. Metal leg braces should NEVER be required to be removed. These are egregious breaches of our procedures, and deserve to be addressed. Security camera video can be pulled, and the situation addressed with the individuals at fault. But – someone took your toothpaste? I’m sorry, that one’s on you, because the rules and expectations are posted, and have been since September of 2006. You had to surrender your pocketknife? Again, that one’s on you. If you’re following the rules and are mistreated, however, report it. Actions can’t be taken if nobody but you knows something bad happened, right?

Some of you have written about personal items going missing from your checked baggage. I won’t deny that there are thieves, and they are everywhere. They’re in your office. They’re at the mall. They are at the airport. Some of them have worked for TSA, some of them still do. What you may not realize, however, is that the screening of your baggage takes place under the watchful eye of security cameras. Once the baggage is screened, it leaves our hands and goes to the airline baggage handlers, whose job is not conducted under the watchful eye of security cameras. We have your bag for a matter of moments before our job with it is done. It can be a matter of hours, however, before your bag is loaded onto the airplane. Think about it.

PLEASE don’t put gift-wrapped items into your checked baggage!! There’s a good chance they’ll have to be unwrapped, depending on factors that I’m not at liberty to discuss, and they won’t be re-wrapped. We simply don’t have the time to rewrap presents. Put your tape and wrapping paper in along with the unwrapped gifts instead.

Many of you have questioned why some people get singled out for additional screening and other don’t. This video may help to enlighten you as to why at least some people are selected: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzedFoji9qg Is this selection consistent? No. Should it be? Yes, it should.

In closing, let me say Thank You to all of you who help pay my salary. In return for my wages, I am committed to doing the best job possible to keep each of you safe so that you may have the full and long life you deserve. And, thank you for the occasional smiles you give me, the friendly conversation, and your cooperation in a process that in a perfect world would never need to happen. Keep your comments coming, both good and bad, because with your help I believe the world can become a better place for all of us.

Submitted by Fed Up on

Everyone seems to have an issue with TSA regarding searches, long lines,etc. Same is true with the hastles involved in securing a passport now. Instead of venting against the employees of TSA or those processing passports, you should aim your ire at the core problem which brought these situations about: RADICAL ISLAM. Airport and passport hassles basically did not exist prior to the rise of this "disease".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Maybe from now on every flight can have a 'sister' flight that takes off at the same time to the same destination. On one plane we can put all of the peole who think airport security is a waste of time (without being screened) and on the other plane we can put the passengers who think screening is acceptable. I would be curious which plane would have more people on it.

Submitted by Joe on

I frequently travel internationally, and have dealt with security in many different countries. I can categorically say that I am treated worse in the U.S. by TSA employees than in any other country I've travelled to. Even when I travelled to Malaysia, expecting, perhaps, icy treatment (Muslim country--and we're not doing very well with Muslim countries lately), the security staff were polite and professional.

There's one single thing TSA could improve upon--it's politeness and professional demeanor. Good security does not mean staff need to be cold, jerks, condescending, or contemptuous. I've experienced, unfortunately, all of these. In fact, I suspect that a friendly TSA agent who's able to engage a passenger in a short conversation may get more information to truly help security than being a jerk--thus precipitating jerk-like behavior from the passenger in response.

It's a hard, thankless job, no doubt. And most of us passengers HATE the screening process. But other countries make it far more pleasant and equally secure. Try that here and start hiring TSA personnel based upon their personality and ability to interact favorably with the public. Oh, and really emphasize that as a management priority.

One final thought, I was told in Switzerland when I related a U.S. experience with TSA, that if that had happened in Switzerland the agent would be disciplined or fired. Unfortunately, here in the U.S., it's always the passenger's fault. Until TSA agents are held accountable for better demeanor, us patriotic U.S. citizens will still hate TSA and hate traveling through your checkpoints.

Submitted by Anonymous Indus... on

I'm an industrial engineer that recently started a job that requires a lot of travel around the country. For the most part, security lines have been managable, but there are times when things seem to be very disorganized and/or there are bottlenecks in the process.

How do you develop the processes/layouts of the security checkpoints? Do you have industrial engineers working with you to balance the flow of each step in the process?

If not, you might want to look into it.

(ps- I love my current job, so no, I'm not asking this to try and get you to hire me!)

Submitted by Pojikt on

Tell me this: why do I have to show ID to fly? Surely if I'm willing to smuggle a weapon onto a plane, I could do as hundreds of thousands of college students and get a fake driver's license. And most terrorists are well funded enough to get legitimate ID. There are even plenty of illegal immigrants who can get fake or legitimate ID.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So let me get this straight. You guys are taking my bottle of water, my dad's toothpaste, and my mom's shampoo, but we've got undercover agents getting bomb making parts and even models of plastic explosives getting through security without a hitch.

What are they teaching you guys in Security School? Oh wait, that's confidential, right?

Submitted by Adam on

Security is useful, but in order to implement security that solves the problem it means to, you have to understand what the problem is. Put another way, what's the threat model? Who is threatening air travel?

Richard Reid was a bungler, sure, but as others have said, merely looking at shoes through an X-Ray doesn't tell you whether they're explosive or not.

Threat model: explosive shoes; threat detection: examine shoes for metal weapons; conclusion? Ineffective security.

Threat model: explosive liquids; threat detection: limits on volume of liquids allowed per passenger; conclusion? Ineffective security (even assuming that it's possible to make liquid explosives, just send 100 travelers each with the maximum amount of liquid allowed and have them meet up and give all the liquid to one terrorist).

Threat model: knives, edged weapons, etc; threat detection: metal detection, x-ray machines; conclusion? Ineffective screening (but safe), ceramic edged weapons are readily available, etc. But we're safe because cockpit doors are reinforced and the public wouldn't let anyone with a knife do anything harmful post-9/11 anyhow).

And on and on. What's the TSA done to make us safer? Nothing. What's the point? Apparently, what Schneier calls "Security Theater" is the goal. (www.schneier.com).

I fly 150,000+ miles/year (and have since the late 80s). Flying has gotten more and more hassle-borne since then, and post-9/11 it's become nearly unbearable due to the complete insanity and inane TSA security procedures.

Perhaps, Kip, you can do something useful with TSA. Frankly, I doubt it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Kudos to this communication effort.

Some comments made me think that perhaps you should also have a "kudos section" so people can post praise or thanks to TSA employees (or airport security check point) who did a good job, were courteous, efficient, etc. Better if the comments could also include the day and the time range because apparently this can be varied depends on the employees on any given time slot.

I also agree with the comments that this kind of communication is better done through a discussion forum software. This allows you to have a better subject categorization and manageable communication.

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