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A Few Thoughts on Consistency and Where We're Going...by Kip Hawley

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thanks for participating in the Evolution of Security blog. In the coming weeks we will ask for your opinions about some issues we have now in discussion -- balancing intrusions into personal space (pat-downs, imaging) with better detection, devoting dedicated lanes to 'speedsters' frequent flyers and how to manage who goes to that lane -- are two examples. We will also continue to go where you take us with the issues you raise. I would like to address one of those issues now: 'why do I get different results at different airports?'

There are two main issues: a) process consistency, where we want to have the same result everywhere; and, b) purposeful variation so as not to offer a static target.

Let me say up front that we have sometimes confused the issue ourselves, seemingly excusing unwanted results with 'well we do it differently on purpose' answers. While I understand the frustration of not having a completely identical process every time, I cannot say that you will ever be able to go through completely on autopilot. Here's my perspective...

Let's take process consistency first. Imagine we were a manufacturing business and that we wanted to crank out identical, high quality widgets. That's hard to do even when you use precision equipment and consistent materials. If TSA were a manufacturer, we would be processing over 700 million unique transactions a year, using over 40,000 different people, at over 400 locations. And, rather than combating maintenance woes (although we do) and the standard banes of manufacturing quality, our enemy is active, intelligent, malicious, patient, and adaptive.

Because TSA started from scratch, we used very defined 'standard operating procedures' in order to get the new organization up and running. Over time, that detailed process control started to work against us. It had the effect of making the job checklist-oriented. ('If I follow the SOP, then I am doing my job.') The tighter we squeezed to demand tighter adherence to the SOP, the more we squeezed individual initiative and thinking out of it.

While we had great people as TSO's, we were putting them in situations where they had to do things 'because it's SOP' whether or not it made sense. It was not helpful for public credibility or for keeping our people sharp.

Since nobody would care that we followed the SOP precisely if there was a successful attack, and since our enemy can observe our SOP and plan ways to beat it -- we needed something more.

This is the purposeful variation part. The idea is to have a menu of different security measures that TSOs add randomly to the standard process.

Everybody goes through the magnetometer and puts carry-ons through the x-ray and if there is an alarm, it is resolved. However, given the limits of technology and simple human fallibility, vulnerabilities inevitably exist. We are covering those vulnerabilities by adding, truly at random, additional measures. For example, in the last couple of months, I have had two versions of a quick pat-down. My computer was swabbed for an explosives check, as were my shoes even though I didn't alarm going through (Yes, I go through security just like everyone else). We also have new handheld liquid and solid explosives detection devices deployed as well as a variety of other measures. You may, and should, see what I mean in an upcoming trip.

I should also add that we have recently added other layers of security to address the same vulnerabilities that I have been discussing -- behavior detection, document checking, K-9 teams, undercover air marshals, etc.

So, our theory of how to achieve process consistency from a quality control perspective is to train well and set outcome goals that encourage individual initiative and judgment. We think that for a distributed workforce that sees endless variety in passenger situations and faces an adaptive enemy -- that is the way to go. This means that, yes, you will see some differences trip to trip on some judgment things that are not on purpose. That is the price for a thinking, switched-on front-line -- if you want people thinking, then you have to let them make decisions based on their training and experience.

You will also see some different measures applied trip to trip that are purposeful, put there to prevent someone from exploiting a vulnerability.

Thanks for working with us, Kip

Tags: 

Comments

Submitted by Mark Edward Mar... on

Simple question: how many "terrists" have you guys/gals captured to date?

Submitted by Anonymous on

A Govt agency that encourages thinking and initiative. That seems too good to be true. Good luck and God Speed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

My Friends:

I have no problem with your protocols and I fly about two times a week. I am a retired US Army colonel. Safety is paramount. Stay as you are.

God bless,

Bill Parnell

Submitted by Anonymous on

To be honest, all the security and I don't feel any safer. If anything I'm now scared that someone will be so fed up with security that it will motivate them to go "postal." Let the airlines/airports deal with security and get the government out of the picture. Corporations are extremely good at pleasing customers, keeping costs low, and doing what is necessary to keep their name out of the press. Which all boils down into them using the bare minimum security needed to keep people safe and happy.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

When you say "behavior detection", does that include singling out for extra scrutiny anyone who dares complain about you?

Submitted by Dave on

Is purposeful variation the reason why at some [but not all] airports, when you need to go for secondary screening, the TSO's leave your bags at the X-ray machine where they can be stolen?

Submitted by Randolph Carter on

I assert that since 9/11, security measures for flying have become far more (I would argue needlessly so) restrictive: Knives and some tools are no longer allowed aboard, the amount of liquids is restricted, shoes must be removed. I think you will all agree that this is true, yes?

Now, I object to all of those things that I listed above. So let me ask this: Why do we have those policies? Are they in place to (a) stop terrorists from hijacking a plane and using it to inflict a great deal of damage, as in 9/11, or (b) to stop someone from destroying the aircraft in flight?

If the answer is (a), then you're foolish. Nobody is ever again going to gain control of an airline. Airecrews have changed their SOPs, passengers have proven they will attack anyone who gets the least bit uppity, and cockpit doors lock. If the answer is (b), then let me ask this: There's plenty of ways for one person to kill many more people than are on an airline, in venues with zero security. I won't list them here, but a reasonably intelligent person should be able to come up with lots of ways to relatively easily commit mass murder of soft targets on a large scale.

So if the answer is (b), then it seems that you're unreasonably singling out air travel as the one place to plus up security, while ignoring all the other places a terrorist could do much more damage.

Either way, I assert that much of what TSA does is pointless. I urge you to consider allowing knives aboard (it's killing me to travel without my trusty Leatherman), do away with the liquid ban (I don't want to pay $3 for a drink past security, I want to bring my own), the shoes-off silliness (plantars warts and athlete's foot, here I come).

Submitted by Mark Edward Mar... on

Ahhhhhhh, Bill Parnell is a retired US army colonel, someone who actually believes the government is sovereign over the citizen. On top of that, safety is, in his own words, "paramount." That's government doublespeak for "your rights take a back seat." NO, Bill, I'd rather not "stay as you are, I want real change."

Submitted by Cynthia on

I fly at least four legs a week. I have no problems with the procedures and the people enforcing them. It's the best we can do in a violent world. If terrorists can build bombs out of liquids, I don't mind having my liquids segregated and scrutinized to guard against that threat. If terrorists make "shoe bombs", I'm happy to have mine x-rayed so long as it helps dissuade or even catch bad guys.

TSOs and security employees generally are doing the best they can. Like in any other line of work, some people distinguish themselves with the excellence of their work while a small number of others abuse patience or authority. I'm glad there's a way for me to express my support for TSA and the largely thankless job it does!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Kip-

I think you need to better distinguish between what is "on purpose" and what is "not on purpose". Is yelling at passengers at some airports but not others done on purpose? How about the availability of comment cards? Seems to me like the main difference that's done on purpose is how a secondary screening is conducted. That excludes 99% of the complaints we've seen here.

Submitted by Anonymous on

While I can understand a certain level of unpredictability in thwarting the bad guys (I'm a Navy veteran, who also did a tour with the Marines, so I understand these things), I think the TSA needs to work harder at avoiding the appearance that the screeners get to make up their own rules. For example, if a tube of lipstick has to be in your ziploc bag at one airport but not another, this suggests that the screeners are interpreting the rules differently. It doesn't help that the screeners react so harshly if the passenger asks a question in these situations.

Speaking of screener behavior and ziploc bags, the TSA needs to put a LOT of effort into getting the screeners to be civil and helpful. Before the 3-1-1 rule, the screeners were businesslike, but generally good natured. Now, the screeners come across as being on a power trip. Instead of giving instructions in a firm but calm manner, screeners bark orders like drill instructors and yell unnecessarily. They have adopted a hostile and generally angry demeanor. (This observation is based on flying out of four different airports since last summer.)

The whole process would go a lot more smoothly if the TSA screeners would stop alienating the law abiding citizens with their hostile manner. The typical reaction to a question about the rules does not create an air of rational law enforcement, but instead creates one of "little people on a power trip."

The overwhelming majority of flyers just want to get through security and be about their journey. I seriously doubt that the TSA would tolerate a passenger treating its screeners the way they treat a passenger whose only "crime" is trying to travel by air and not understanding how the bureaucratic hairs get split about "liquids, aerosols and gels". The inconsistent application of the rules only makes this situation worse.

Submitted by SkyWayManAz on

First off I would like to thank your organization for establishing a blog. I have felt from previous experience in contacting your customer service line that my concerns were not being handled. With a blog well maybe they still are not being handled but others can chime in on them. People may see that your organization has a legitimate concern that trumps whatever perceived inconvienence I feel I've gone through. On the other hand it puts a mirror up to you to see whether or not your organizations actions trump common sense.

I remember well the first experience I ever had with a TSA screener in Columbus Ohio. He became quite angry with what he perceived as my unwillingness to cooperate with him. He asked me repeatedly to empty all my pockets and became verbally confrontational when I insisted I had. Only after I finally raised my voice to his level and stated "I have taken EVERYTHING out of my pockets!" did he let me know I was lying because he could feel something in my left back pocket. I told him as calmly as I could that it was button. He still maintained his anger with me stating, "How am I supposed to know that's a button!" I stated men's slacks usually have a button on the back pockets. He was still quite disgusted with me and passed me on. An employee of the airport authority who witnessed the event asked me to repeat what had happened but unfortunately I had to go as they were calling my flight and had to politely decline. That upset me for a long long time that I didn't report it right then and there but sadly I didn't want to miss my flight. I can only hope one your supervisors noted his behavior and corrected him immediately afterward.

One ongoing concern I've had is that if an airline has to cancel your flight or reaccomodate you the new boarding passes are marked for extra screening. This defies common sense and frankly is creating make busy work for your employees. Shortly after the 4th of July in 2004 I was flying on a Delta flight out of Kansas City. Due to a computer glitch affecting the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport Delta and American were cancelling numerous flights. Delta reaccomodated me on an America West flight which required me to leave the secured area and change terminals. Upon arrival at America West's screening area I was denied entry by the TSA approved contract screeners because I did not have an America West boarding pass. OK fair enough I suppose but I was amused that they kept giving me directions to Delta and did not seem to understand Delta couldn't issue me an America West boarding pass. Even if they could I'm quite confident it would say Delta on it and I'd still be denied entry. I, and the six other passengers Delta sent over, all got America West boarding passes marked for extra screening. Initially we were again denied entry because we had Delta ticket jackets and it was a huge effort to get them to notice the America West boarding passes, or even recall we were just there. The gate there is close to the screening area and the gate agents were quite distressed that they felt we were taking our time. Their faces just screamed they were angry with us for holding up their flight. Then it didn't help that a screener had failed to return my boarding pass after it was confiscated during the extra screening. He initially denied he had it but then the other 6 also realized they were missing their boarding passes and they quickly turned up.

I had heard of your customer service line around this time and contacted them advising them of this situation. That yes I understood as far as the computer was concerened it looked suspicious that 7 people suddenly decided to take a flight one way at the last minute. However some common sense would immediately suggest there be a way to handle an airline reaccomadation better. Most passengers would never experience this because most airports you can reach all the gates once past a central screening area. There are exceptions and unfortunately Kansas City International has separate screening for each airline. I felt my concern was largely ignored becuase of the uniqueness of it. I know the practice continues to tag reaccomadate passengers for extra security though as it happened to a friend of mine this past Christmas. He was bumped off a Northwest flight in Bangor and reaccomadated on Delta for the next day. He initially was amused they "randomly" selected him for extra screening but when I told him what to look for on his boarding pass he quickly realized there was nothing random about it. The computer decided he suddenly purchased a one way ticket across the country and was therefore suspicious.

Submitted by Mark on

Has anyone posting on here pointed out how much passenger searches endanger us and make us less safe?

Submitted by CDR 17 on

Please add a TOPIC for Travelers with Disabilities. We often face extra and sometimes embarrasing scrutiny and it would be worthwhile to have a TOPIC section to collect both issues and kudoes.
Thank you,
LW President
Californians for Disability Rights, Inc

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am from Australia. I hold dual Australian/American citizenship.

Sadly, trying to explain to the TSA or Customs why they have no record of me leaving America/using a foreign credit card for my ticket/carrying a pilots licence and headset/GPS/SCUBA gear/Laptop/video camera is a personal nightmare.

To give you an example of why its a nightmare, I would have to explain how I happen to hold a U.S. Passport, but have no other identifying U.S. documentation or records, my laptop certainly contains disturbing material (I'm trying to write a novel about Arab terrorism) among other things, and I have former military background. My $1500 Bose Aviation headset, aviation GPS and pilots licence would also be in there as well, which again would raise questions in the minds of screeners.

I will never, ever, visit the USA or any of its territories ever again to avoid having to submit to this embarrassing farce.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Robert Jackon had represented the United States at the Nuremberg Trials; four years later, when deciding Brinegar v. United States (338 U.S. 160, 180 [1949]), he extolled the Fourth Amendment: "These rights, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indipensable [sic] freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government."

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a flight attendant for a major airline, I thank you for what you are doing!

I may not know everything that the TSA knows about security but I will say that what I do know as a crew member really gives you a new perspective.

It's not only about terrorist threats folks, not everyone who flies today has every one's best interest at heart.

You would not believe some of the things that have happened on board my aircrafts. Some of these instance's make me glad knives are not allowed on board.

Folks, things are different today and I don't think you want you or any of your family member's to be a victim of anything that may happen if we don't stay vigilant.

Submitted by Anonymous on

A 500 billion dollar defense budget couldn't prevent what a $40 handgun in the cockpit could. I want my money, and my 2nd amendment, back.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think its gotten alot better and the vast majority of agents I interact with are friendly and professional and the procedures are getting pretty uniform.

If I would improve anything It would be to add more agents (and lanes)so there is NEVER a backup :) Don't make us take the baggie out of the carry on, that slows things down...I can dig the required 3-1-1 but your x-rays I would think are pretty good. Finally allow any person through to the gates as long as they pass through the required security...Bring back the joy of seeing the kids when you first step off the plane...

Thanks for all you do

Submitted by Anonymous on

If you are trying to be more consistent as a TSA organization, I suggest you take a look at the Kahului airport in Maui first. The way they operate that is completely inconsistent with every other airport and CAUSES delays due to whoever runs the TSA operation there. I fly Delta airlines and the way they have it set up is you have to get your bags checked by TSA BEFORE (not after like everywhere else) you check in for your flight. The multiple kiosks remained unused as the line grows longer and longer and longer. I've questioned the TSA's there why they are the only airport to do it that way and they look at me like I have 2 heads. Their system is completely inefficient and a waste of traveler's time. Please tell them to "be consistent" with how things are operated at every other airport in the United States. Let people check in their bags and use the kiosks to check in AND THEN take them to be dropped off at the TSA's. I'm sure you could cut the staff from 15 people working the Delta area to just 5 at a time.
Thank you. I've been wanting someone to fix this for the past 3 years since I started traveling there.

Submitted by Lardra on

tsa has only responded to techniques.

shoe-bomber never should have been allowed on a plane.

liquids and semi-solids in a quart "baggie".

what if a woman rigged/falsely rigged a bra? - would system grind to a halt?

how does faa loose battery reg get implemented? - if not by tsa - otherwise what's the purpose of promulgating such a rule.

Submitted by Anonymous on

tpa evening tsa crew observed playing cards - with few passengers coming into terminal at night.

at look busy - clean equipment - calibrate equipment - pretend there's a traing lecture.

playing cards!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear Kip,

Did the people behind the UK "liquid explosive" plot have a working binary liquid explosive? Please answer yes or no. Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So let me get this straight. You vary things so the bad guys won't be able to figure out what you're doing.

Okey dokey, then. So if the bad guy's got a shoe bomb he now knows he'll get the shoes scanned in some airports -- kind of randomly and not in others.

Kind of increases his chances of being successful, doesn't it?

You're following the speed trap logic. In this case, state troopers can't be everywhere all the time, so they place cruisers at random places to trap speeders who are unsuspecting. If cops could detect speeders everywhere at all times, believe me, they certainly would.

But you ARE at every entry point to the air concourse. So take advantage of it and screen for everything you think is dangerous and screen every time. If shoes are dangerous, screen for them every time and every place. If there is something to be gained from swabbing computers, swab them every time at every airport.

Your logic is totally flawed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So let me get this straight. You vary things so the bad guys won't be able to figure out what you're doing.

Okey dokey, then. So if the bad guy's got a shoe bomb he now knows he'll get the shoes scanned in some airports -- kind of randomly and not in others.

Kind of increases his chances of being successful, doesn't it?

You're following the speed trap logic. In this case, state troopers can't be everywhere all the time, so they place cruisers at random places to trap speeders who are unsuspecting. If cops could detect speeders everywhere at all times, believe me, they certainly would.

But you ARE at every entry point to the air concourse. So take advantage of it and screen for everything you think is dangerous and screen every time. If shoes are dangerous, screen for them every time and every place. If there is something to be gained from swabbing computers, swab them every time at every airport.

Your logic is totally flawed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why does the TSA even exist? It has been shown that private security firms have more than double the rate of success as you do, and are able to employ a high quality staff that gets higher pay than TSA employees. It would seem then that the TSA is just another over-bloated ineffective government agency, and this website seems to show that you are hearing about some of your many problems for the first time. A private firm would be much more in tune with the public because if they had as many problems as the TSA did, the Airport would just cancel their contract and hire a better firm. If the TSA messes up, they just get more money from us taxpayers, and then don't fix the problem only to receive more money when they mess up again. The problem isn't the TSA's policies, it is TSA, because the more you mess up, the more power you are given, to mess up more.

Submitted by Bill on

This is remarkable. I thought this blog was a bogus idea. I was wrong. This is a valiant effort, and I applaud you for it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am quite used to being ordered around by TSA personnel, but I do not appreciate and won't stand for being separated from my valuables. A while back at ATL I was going through 'security' and I was pulled aside beyond sight of my valuables. Subsequent to having been 'wanded' and apparently having passed, I made my way to the plastic bin in which I expected to find my possessions. Imagine my surprise when I discoverec that my electronic recorder was missing. When I complained, I was told, "You should have kept an eye on it". How was I supposed to "keep an eye on it" when I was directed to an alcove beyond sight? I was told I could leave the secure area and proceed to the administrative office and file a report (and thereby almost certainly miss my flight) I declined, and lost that item, which contained several dozens of names, addresses, phone numbers and various other information of value to me. Practically every time I go through security I am directed to assume a position which causes it to be awkward for me to maintain direct view of my valuables. I will not knowingly lose any other objects in order to accomodate 'security' and if that is not agreeable we're likely to take this further. I am downright peeved about this treatment, and this sheeple isn't going to be accomodating.

I know there will be no follow up on this as TSA just doesn't care. This loss was not an error, nor was it a mistake. While I was distracted someone made the conscious decision to help themself to my peoperty, and the TSA facilitated the larceny.

Submitted by Anonymous on

To the above comment, I am a frequent flyer who gets extremely annoyed at all the rules TSA has implemented. However, these are just one element of the myriad of hoops we now need to jump through to ensure safety in the air. The first time standards are relaxed is when something will go wrong. Why do you think we have the ridiculous 3oz liquid rule? There was an incident.

I'm sure within a year, we will have another restriction to contend with because we do not have the creativity of some people. Also, why is it necessary for you to carry a knife on board? Stow it! Your attitude is exactly the reason why I take a situation that I normally would scream uncontrollably in (because of ineptitude or inpatience) and endure it longer.

Do I think it could be better? Yes. Does it unnerve me? Yes. Do I feel intimidated? Yes. But, remember, we're all in this together.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

To the flight attendant.

It is true that flight attendants are happy with the new arrangement, because your customers are no longer customers but subjects. If, for example, a mother doesn't want to give baby benedril to a babbling (not even crying) toddler, that's grounds for turning the plane around because the mom is being disruptive.

That particular stewardess got a slap on the wrist for going overboard, but she also appreciates the extra power given to her by the new arrangement.

Submitted by Screener Joe on

On Feb 10 anonymous said: " if the bad guy's got a shoe bomb he now knows he'll get the shoes scanned in some airports -- kind of randomly and not in others" and so on.

To be perfectly honest, there is no impermeable security system in the world. Can't be done. Someone could rob the Fort Knox gold reserve if they were willing to commit the cost and resourses. But the price would be so high that they could not profit by it. Security exists to raise the difficulty level to a point where it is impractical to try.

Terrorists my be suicidal in many cases, but we cannot assume they are stupid. They will not try something on the off chance that they will pick the airport where they can get away with it. They will try something that gives them a reasonable chance of accomplishing thier goal. Varying the screening routine, and using different techniques, make it more difficult for the bad guy to know what will work; and that makes it harder for him to try.

Submitted by Kip Hawley on

Appreciate the comments - good suggestion on the comment cards, we'll make it easier to provide feedback at the checkpoint. They are available now, but I get the point that they're not easily accessible.

Working on calming things down, including quieter at checkpoints. You should see more TSOs walking the line and talking with passengers and more use of radios.

thanks - Kip

Submitted by Randolph Carter on

To anonymous 7:31 pm....Why do I need a knife onboard? Because I can't put it in checked luggage: I don't check my luggage; I pack light. You want me to check luggage, it adds a half hour on to the trip to wait and retrieve it. Then there's the question of whether or not it will arrive with me, and whether stuff gets stolen out of it.

Also, there was no incident that precipitated the 3-oz rule. There was a rumor about some guys in London who had a plot that wouldn't work (you can't make TATP on an airplane).

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think the whole thing is a total waste of time and money. We're not any safer than before because of this security nonsense. I haven't flown since 9/11 because of this idiotic, knee-jerk farce. On any given trip, I might consider flying but I can never know what will be expected of me on my return trip. Even if I can accept the rules that exist on the day leave, my return flight may have completely different rules because the TSA is reacting stupidly to another news item. Someone, somewhere is unsuccessful at an attack so all the rules for passengers suddenly change and I cannot have any liquids or must check my laptop to go home. It's unacceptable to me. I wish TSA would allow one airline to bypass all this "security" crap and let the market decide. I know I'm perfectly willing to accept that life has some risks, a overall, terrorism is just not that likely. I'd fly on an airline that could continue doing thing as they were prior to 9/11 and I suspect many others would, too. Let the paranoid people fly with TSA checks and let them bear the costs of those checks instead of ramming it down the throats of "free" Americans. The point of terrorism is to make people feel scared of a small minority of people. I guess we've given them exactly what they wanted.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The point is, people are complaining loud and clear via this blog that the TSA and its employees treat them rudely, put their property and health at risk, are inconsistent in application of rules, do not explain the rules, and, in general act unprofessionally in all aspects of their operation.

You respond by saying, "Well, we do that on purpose to stop the terrorists."

I'm not buying it.

Please tell me one terrorist you've stopped. And I don't believe the blue balloons in a pair of shoes is proof of a terrorist.

p.s. Please send me back my tiny nail scissors the TSO at MKE grabbed from me in 2002. I really miss them. I see these are no longer considered a threat.

Submitted by Rick Jones on

I must say that much of what randolph carter has said resonated with me. One might think of a terrorist act as akin to an engineering disaster - there are so many links which must line up for it to be a "success" and if any of them don't line-up - such as say being able to breach the cockpit at the climax, or recruiting the terrorist during the prologue - the thing will fizzle.

I always wonder why people are willing to submit to the sorts of screenings they do with air travel. Perhaps it has something to do with already being inately concerned if not subconsciously afraid about undertaking something alien to a human being - flying five miles up at 500 miles per hour. So, to feel a little safer, we put up with all manner of intrusion.

Today, we dread the prospect of even one airliner dropping from the sky each year, even though not all that many years ago they did so just as a matter of routine. Yet we don't seem all that concerned about the orders of magnitude more people who die each year on our roads or from avoidable disease. Perhaps we think we have more "control" over those situations and so don't think it could happen to us - but we don't have control while being herded through the sky at 500 miles per hour.

How many planes would have to fall from the sky for the death toll to be anything close to statistically significant compared to all the other ways we die. Are we really better off as a whole following a philosophy of "If it saves a single aircraft?"

Submitted by Anonymous on

You know, I think that if the following two things were accomplished, there would be a lot less animosity toward the TSA.

1. TSA personnel should be courteous to the citizens they serve and recognize that by being polite and helpful they will gain the respect of the citizenry.

2. We, the traveling public, want our "stuff" to be safe from pilferage as it goes through the security checkpoints or through the baggage inspection process. It's fairly obvious from anecdotal evidence and the results of police investigations that theft by TSA personnel and airline baggage handlers does occur. We just want to get from here to there with the same "stuff" we started with.

If you can accomplish those two things, I, personally, will be extremely happy.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Protocol? How about clueless computers.....

Now, I understand that you have a rule about last minute one-way flights and throwing the SSSS on those boarding passes.

Now, when returning from Singapore at the end of 18 hours of flight, find your flight canceled because of bad weather and that the airline has done the decent thing and booked you on another flight, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Then you get your boarding pass, see those SSSS and think, man, are we unlucky or what (because the whole family was tagged).

We get to security, and woah, there's almost a hundred people in the "super secure line".

Great. I see what happened. It only took a few minutes to realize that all those canceled planes had all their forwarded passengers screened, because, well they just were suspicious due to weather reasons.

Fine, I could take that, if the TSA officials at that site would have a clue and shift resources to process the 300+ people (from six canceled flights) effected. But no, we have to wait, and wait, and wait, like four and a half hours while watching them staff up for crowds of "normal security" and then take breaks when not.

So either learn to adapt the workforce or better just change the database rule to not be so myoptic.

That was in SFO this last January.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please comment on TSA's apparent lack of compliance with the Privacy Act when TSOs collect info from passengers in illegal systems of records.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I would like to say that if someone tried to take over an airplane 10 friends and plastic box cutters much like on 9/11 it would pretty much end with the same result.
Metal detectors... okay!
Taking my laptop out of its case everytime.... not okay. You can blow up your laptop battery, whether or not it's scanned in the bag or out of it.
These precautions do nothing except cause headaches, and make you miss your already delayed connection.
Furuther I agree with what one person said. I feel much less safe now then ever before. You now have the right to hold us as terrorists if we get act a little upset with the late-flight/missed-connection/unplesant-security-officer/lost-luggage.
The only reason I can see for the policies enacted is to let the public "feel" safer, but it has really done anything but.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The fourth amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Submitted by Anonymous on

I agree with standardized and sensible safety measures. I can't think why anyone would disagree with keeping real threats off of planes, but I'm a US Navy veteran and I'm no threat.

After the TSA was formed, I flew twice, and then stopped. Ever since that last flight, which lasted only 2 hours, and the 6 hours on the ground dealing with TSA checking shoes and other nonsense best summarized by Lewis Black: "If you have to scan me, scan me, but if you have to waive the wand afterwards, well that didn't work then did it? So wand everyone if you have to. What, then you have to search me? Well that didn't work either, did it?"

Why are we put through processes which are not only NOT proved to work, and would not have prevented 9/11, but are actually shown to be worse than doing nothing in media tests of the system? Why are our rights so easily obliterated by a congress that doesn't even read the laws that they sign?

What about the right to Freedom of Movement for a lawful citizen?

I haven't flown since I was last put through 6 hours of stupidity at an airport, and I will continue to rent cars to travel until I retire - outside the USA.

When you decide that you want to abide by the Constitution, and actually put into place measures which are scientifically sound and useful, then I will fly again. Until then, TSA has cost United Airlines [once my favored line] over 10,000.00 in tickets since 2001.

I will not fly. With a 6 hour delay, and the added civil rights being "waived" on airlines, I'd prefer to drive. I may not always get there faster, but I get there with more ease.

A cold war vet.

Submitted by Hawthorn on

Kip, I appreciate your theories on process consistency, but I think you need to realize the psychological effect that inconsistency has on the passenger base. Inconsistency breeds uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds fear. I understand that you need the flexibility to introduce additional screening from time to time and place to place, so that the bad guys do not become complacent and game the system. But much of the reported inconsistency is actually one of two types: (a) TSA policy says that XYZ is prohibited, but airports A, B and C allow it anyway; or (b) TSA policy says that XYZ is safe to carry on board, but airports D, E and F make their own rules and ban it anyway. These things are a slap in the face of TSA authority. And the public concludes that TSA doesn't really know what it's doing and can't control its people.

As for the shouting TSO's, what you really need is a local announcement system similar to what the airlines use in gate areas. Those repeated speeches about laptops, shoes etc, should not have to be yelled in mid-room by designated barkers; they should emanate pleasantly from speakers overhead, freeing up TSO's to scrutinize bags and so forth.

Submitted by Henry on

Congratulations on a good start on a thankless task!

Submitted by Anonymous on

To Randolph Carter:

It was not a rumor about the liquids. It was an actual plan to blow up several planes heading from the U.K. to the U.S. If you choose not to believe it that is up to you.
Also, I understand not wanting to check a bag. It does add time and there is always the chance that it will not arrive at the same time as you. However, if you NEED (and I stress NEED)a prohibited carry-on item with you on your trip, you should check the bag.

Submitted by Henrique on

Hello TSA,

My father had a TSA-approved lock broken for a bag search on a recent trip to the US. Why does this kind of thing happen, and do I have any guaranties that I won't be throwing away money if I buy luggage with TSA-approved locks?

Submitted by DHS Curmudgeon on

@anonymous 8:22 am

You are incorrect. The "London bomb plot" of 2006, as stated by authorities, was based on terrorists smuggling aboard the makings of TATP and creating it on the plane. This is impossible. Google recipes for TATP if you don't believe me. Making TATP requires a great deal of time, temperature control (both to heat up and cool down), and a fume hood. And then some filtering and a whole lot of drying time. It CANNOT be accomplished in an airline lavatory. The plot, as stated by the authorities, was not workable.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Another TSO here:
I have worked at many different airports.. Yes things are different at most of them.. but the basic things are being dong. screening passengers and their bags. If we get an alarm then we resolve that alarm. If something looks suspicious then its investigated. Listen, TSO's are people, not androids, sometimes an alarm is a feeling that something is not right and that feeling should be checked out.
Bottom line is every WILL be checked.. I know that some of you would like to just walk through and get on the plane with whatever you have, knife, gun, liquids whatever, but let me ask you this, what about the terrorist? Do you want the terrorist to get past with his gun, IED’s, do you want us to check his shoes, his laptop? YOU DO? What about a guy that just lost his job or his wife, with a death wish and a gun and is going to get on your plane or better yet the plane that you just put your unaccompanied minor on. Think about it.
on the plane with his gun?

Submitted by Donnie on

A first step at consistency would be better identifying rules and regulations for what has to be screened seperately and what does not. An example - on a recent trip through DCA, I observed the sign indicating that laptops, large electronics including full sized DVD players would need to be removed from bags. I was carrying a 6 inch mini DVD player. I was immediately stopped and chastised for not following the posted rules. When I tried to politely point out the sign so that it could be corrected, I was asked to step aside and be further screened.

When returning through the ATL airport, I took the mini-DVD player out and placed it on the conveyer belt. The TSA employee informed me I was taking too much space on the belt and slowing down the line, that I should leave anythging other than a laptop inside my bag.

You can see where inconsistencies like this would frustrate any routine traveler.

Submitted by Madison on

i've never understood why my liquids or cigarette lighters etc were such an issue, but i am allowed on board with my cell phone and ipod, which if turned on during take off or landing apparently will cause the plane to fall to the earth. if these devices are so dangerous, why screen for knives, when a "terrorist" could just bring ten cell phones on the plane and turn them all on at once!

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