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Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

Leave your shoes on?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Wouldn’t it be great to show up at a checkpoint and just when you were reaching down to untie your shoes, you heard an officer say “You can leave your shoes on.”

The TSA is well aware that the removal of shoes is not our most popular policy. In fact, it probably ranks up there with root canals and doing your taxes.

What you’ve seen up until now has been our officers enforcing an unpopular policy that is based on the unfortunate truth that intelligence tells us that terrorists are still very interested in hiding items in their shoes.


Today, the X-ray is simply the quickest, most effective way to ensure nothing is hidden inside. What you haven’t seen is all the hard work that’s been going on behind the scenes trying to find an alternative. Our experts and the private sector have been looking for ways to screen footwear while allowing passengers to keep their shoes on for quite some time.

Last year, TSA tested a shoe scanner from General Electric in Orlando. Today, we’re testing shoe scanning technology at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from L3 Communications. If all goes well, these tests could lead the way to quelling of one of our most unpopular policies.

LAX received two units from L3 Communications last week. Since this is a test to collect data, passengers will still need to remove their shoes prior to walking through the magnetometer. Hey, don’t kill the messenger. I’m just giving you a heads up! :)

DHS Science and Technology, a sister agency of TSA, is also testing this shoe scanner and will collaborate with us on their findings.

Programs like the shoe scanner , the checkpoint friendly laptop bag and diamond lanes are not only good for passenger convenience but they help to reduce the chaos and frustration at checkpoints. This is good for security because it allows more than 2,000 Behavior Detection Officers to better focus on passengers with harmful intent.

And yes, we are going to answer your top 10 questions . :)
Bob
EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Phil on
Why so much focus on this one particular that someone could use to hide something small on himself while walking through the magnetometer when so many others exist? Does TSA believe that one person's attempt to bring an explosive device onto a flight in his shoe indicates that the shoe is the most likely hiding spot for contraband?

Did TSA not consider this shoe threat until Richard Reid brought it to their attention? Will TSA ignore similar threats until someone forces them into the attention of the public?

What would U.S. Government checkpoints in airports be like today if Richard Reid had carried his explosive under his arm, taped to the small of his back, tucked in his crotch, in his mouth, or in another body cavity?
Submitted by HomeSick on

My this sure would be nice...

Submitted by Wintermute on

Bob said...
And yes, we are going to answer your top 10 questions. :)

While we wait, can you at least tell us what they were, according to your tally?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I don't normally offer kudos to you guys, but I'll make an exception today. This is a step in the right direction that makes going through security less of a hassle. I welcome the opportunity to keep my shoes on, even if I do have to show you my ID.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is this another exposure to radiation just so I am not mildly inconvenienced? Please focus on something more effective and stop blowing money on more pointless technology.

Submitted by TSO Tom on

This would certainly lesson the load of the TSO's at the mag!

Submitted by Phil on

Bob asks us to imagine how great it would be "to show up at a checkpoint and just when you were reaching down to untie your shoes, you heard an officer say `You can leave your shoes on.'"

It wouldn't really be that great. Am I to trust that guy to tell me what the rules are? Odds are he was hired last month, and he's not the authority, anyway. TSA has repeatedly told us that things like shoes, knives, and 3.5 oz bottles of liquids are a great danger. Surely no one who wants to fly today is going go walking through a government checkpoint with dangerous items in flagrant violation of yesterday's rules just because some guy standing there tells him it's okay today. We've seen the overreactions. We know about the blacklists. We may not like this, but we're not fools.

When I need to travel within my country and I have no time to walk, drive, or ride a horse, I need to know what the rules are so that I can be sure to follow them and be allowed to go about my business.

Bob, how would I, my attorney, a judge, or anyone else know what the current regulation on what can be worn through the magnetometer at a U.S. Government airport checkpoint is? Surely you don't think we should all get our legal advice from a low-level security guard at an airport. I want to be sure I'm in compliance with the law, and I want to be sure I'm following any rules that my government requires me to follow in order to travel from one state to another via commercial air.

Where has TSA published a list of all the rules and regulations that TSA will subject someone to if that person wishes to cross a U.S. Government checkpoint at an airport en route to the gate from which his domestic flight will depart? Please provide a URL or name of the government publication.

Surely there's a simple answer to this. We require every air traveler to follow certain rules in addition to normal law that people are required to abide by at all times. Where have we published those rules so that travelers can make themselves familiar with them in order to comply?

Submitted by Bob Eucher on

What will the cost be of these single use machines? Phil brought up a good point, why did it take a "shoe-bomber" to bring TSA to even consider someone using their shoe as a hiding spot?

When you come to realize that you cannot 100% prevent every bad thing from happening, and focus on REAL issues, maybe the entire process will become more pleasant and simplified.

You state "passengers will still need to remove their shoes prior to walking through the magnetometer." So exactly where is the shoe x-ray machine in relation to the magnetometer? Won't this cause more confusion trying to get your shoes off/on during this entire procedure?

Oh, and how many "unscreened shoes" get into the sterile area everyday? (vendors, cleaners, maintenance, etc). Are they NOT a threat?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Nice to see some activity. Could you tell us why the lapse of posting comments happened.

Are you the only Blogger left Bob?

Seems that way.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Wintermute said...

Bob said...
And yes, we are going to answer your top 10 questions. :)

While we wait, can you at least tell us what they were, according to your tally?

I have to agree with Wintermute on this. By now you should know what the top ten questions are. How about at least telling us which ones your working on? Or is that SSI?
Submitted by Anonymous on

Yes - but to save money, why not just stop checking people's shoes? It's pointless anyway.

Submitted by Sporkboy on

I'm pretty sure that I've been through one of these. I think it was Portland Oregon. I know they have some big machine that uses puffs of air (GE made?)but I vaguely recall this machine as well.

It could have been a couple years ago in the UK but I think that was a puffing machine as well.

At any rate it's a step in the right direction, how long does it take to register? Do you just walk over it?

Submitted by TSO Rachel on

"Why so much focus on this one particular that someone could use to hide something small on himself while walking through the magnetometer when so many others exist? TSA believe that one person's attempt to bring an explosive device onto a flight in his shoe indicates that the shoe is the most likely hiding spot for contraband?
"

So with your logic, if we can't search 100% of where people can hide things, why bother screening the others? Even if the shoe isn't the most common place to hide something, it is still an easy place to conceal any parts of an IED, or other prohibited items.


I sure hope every airport gets these machines. I know it would help the passengers out.

Submitted by Tomas on

Perhaps while we are waiting for the new shoe scanners, TSA could spend a few bucks at IKEA for their cheap, rugged, plastic, easily cleaned chairs so there would be someplace to SIT for those who need to to REMOVE their shoes, and someplace to SIT, that is kept clear, for those who need it to put their shoes back on.

Just a thought.

====

Bob, I hope the constant nagging from the roiling masses here aren't getting to you with the catcalls and snide remarks.

My feeling is that you are putting serious effort into getting answers to the Top Ten and getting them vetted so that they can be published.

I'm not even going to push on that - it will happen when the answers are ready. (Though putting up which questions you will be answering would be nice, I'm not sure you can really do that, Bob. Until you know which questions you actually CAN answer, putting up your list prematurely and including a question you might be blocked from answering could just cause more difficulties.)

Something to consider: Once the Top Ten are adequately answered, would it be possible to move to the next ten and so on until as many as possible are covered?

That's one of the main reasons, I think, that some of us out here get so insistent, and keep repeating ourselves: Many of the questions have not been addressed at all, and some that HAVE been addressed were not answered directly, brushed off, or deflected with non-answers. We really can recognize contentless replies to questions. :o)

Looking forward to the Top Ten.

Submitted by Celestial Fundie on

Removing shoes at airport security is so fun!

Please don't abandon this policy!

Life would suddently become so much more serious if people no longer had to queue at airports in their stocking feet.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I couldn't possibly care less if I have to take off my shoes. I understand why you want me to take off my shoes, and it makes sense. This is among the most harmless, and least offensive, of your policies. It's not even worth worrying about, compared to almost anything else the TSA does.

Submitted by Ike1954 on

Guess there just is no satisfying the masses.

Submitted by Tomas on

I really don't see any place to post questions or comments here about things not yet brought up by the blog team, so I must apologize for going off-topic for THIS thread because I find no other that is current and a better match.

Sorry,
Tom

====

I couldn't say this better myself, so I'll just refer folks, ESPECIALLY THE TSA FOLKS, to two web pages.

First, an official TSA page crowing with pride about "intercepting" an "explosive-like" device at a government checkpoint:

TSA Press Release

Second, a more balanced view (IMHO) of the event from an independent site:

MAKE: blog post

MAKE: got wind of this sad event (suspicious looking item fully determined to be perfectly safe, but confiscated anyway "just because") from Bruce Schneier's Schneier on Security blog.

Maybe the next person who builds up a cost-effective home-brew extended battery pack (I have several myself, and yes, I'm an engineer, too) instead of spending much more for the same thing in some sort of commercial package will put their home-built unit in a nice-looking plastic box and slap a label on it to assuage the fears of... of... uh... whoever.

There is NO reason on Earth for TSA to put out a press release saying how proud they are to have confiscated this persons private property AFTER determining it was perfectly safe and broke no rules.

None.

Submitted by Phil on

I wrote:

"Why so much focus on this one particular [place] that someone could use to hide something small on himself while walking through the magnetometer when so many others exist? Does TSA believe that one person's attempt to bring an explosive device onto a flight in his shoe indicates that the shoe is the most likely hiding spot for contraband?"

TSO Rachel responded:

"So with your logic, if we can't search 100% of where people can hide things, why bother screening the others?"

That's quite a jump. I asked why there is so much focus -- inconveniencing millions of travelers and now spending enormous amounts of our tax dollars building and installing shoe-scanning machines -- on this one particular threat when so many similar ones are ignored. The best you can possibly hope for in this case is to foil the person who intended to carry contraband through your checkpoint hidden in his shoe but cannot think of any alternative place to smuggle it. Where's the cost-benefit analysis?

You're not now doing anything about, for instance, belts or pant cuffs. If some fool is caught trying to light his belt or pant cuff on fire on an airplane, will belts and cuffs suddenly be considered such a risk that you'll require us all to remove them and you'll force us all to pony up for development, construction, deployment, and use of belt- and pant-cuff-scanning machines? Sandra, would you defend such a new policy by saying that even if the belt and pant cuff are not the most common places to hide something, they are still easy places to conceal things?

TSO Rachel continued:

"Even if the shoe isn't the most common place to hide something, it is still an easy place to conceal any parts of an IED, or other prohibited items."

Sure. But so, too, is the space between someone's butt cheeks. Neither of these facts makes developing and deploying a special scanning machine any more reasonable.

We simply cannot prevent people from carrying small prohibited items onto airplanes unless we subject people to a strip searches and body cavity searches.

To have our federal employees focus on things like shoes and flip-flops when there are numerous other places one could hide a similar amount of arbitrary substance on one's person when walking through the magnetometer is a waste of tax dollars, an inconvenience to millions of people, and a convenient way to condition those people to going along with ridiculous practices in the name of national security.

But this ridiculous practice is not a bit surprising. TSA has never been focused on transportation security and safety. Their focus is on 1) making foolish, uninformed, or oblivious people feel safer when flying via commercial airline and 2) creating an infrastructure to facilitate the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's restriction of the movement of people using its blacklists. I suspect that everyone who is paying attention knows that the majority of what TSA does supports those two goals alone.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
I couldn't possibly care less if I have to take off my shoes. I understand why you want me to take off my shoes, and it makes sense. This is among the most harmless, and least offensive, of your policies. It's not even worth worrying about, compared to almost anything else the TSA does.

July 30, 2008 4:07 PM

And here we go again. No matter how hard the TSA tries to help relieve some of the burdens placed on us travelers some people will continue to complain. Please give it a rest can't you see that the are at the bare minimum trying to make our lives a little less hasseled. I would much rather stand in this new gizmo for a few seconds that do the TSA shuffle stocking foot. First the laptop bag (soon, I hope) now the shoe scanner, maybe next will be a liquid scanner and life will be that much sweeter. Please give all the negativity a break and try this instead, Thank You! There, that didn't hurt one bit.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You know, it is really funny how the TSA seems to believe that the European nations that actually have had to deal with terrorrism for decades have no idea what they are doing.

How much budgetary wastage by the TSA's floundering around could have been saved by just asking questions in the international community?

How many useless procedures would have never been started without the pervading 'Not Invented Here' mentality?

Submitted by Phil on

Apropos to discussion of the new shoe scanning machines, security expert Bruce Schneier recently referenced a paper by Ohio State political science professor John Mueller. Titled "The Quixotic Quest for Invulnerability: Assessing the Costs, Benefits, and Probabilities of Protecting the Homeland" which lays out some common sense premises and policy implications.

The premises:

1. The number of potential terrorist targets is essentially infinite.
2. The probability that any individual target will be attacked is essentially zero.
3. If one potential target happens to enjoy a degree of protection, the agile terrorist usually can readily move on to another one.
4. Most targets are "vulnerable" in that it is not very difficult to damage them, but invulnerable in that they can be rebuilt in fairly short order and at tolerable expense.
5. It is essentially impossible to make a very wide variety of potential terrorist targets invulnerable except by completely closing them down.

The policy implications:

1. Any protective policy should be compared to a "null case": do nothing, and use the money saved to rebuild and to compensate any victims.
2. Abandon any effort to imagine a terrorist target list.
3. Consider negative effects of protection measures: not only direct cost, but inconvenience, enhancement of fear, negative economic impacts, reduction of liberties.
4. Consider the opportunity costs, the tradeoffs, of protection measures.

The abstract:

This paper attempts to set out some general parameters for coming to grips with a central homeland security concern: the effort to make potential targets invulnerable, or at least notably less vulnerable, to terrorist attack. It argues that protection makes sense only when protection is feasible for an entire class of potential targets and when the destruction of something in that target set would have quite large physical, economic, psychological, and/or political consequences. There are a very large number of potential targets where protection is essentially a waste of resources and a much more limited one where it may be effective.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
Yes - but to save money, why not just stop checking people's shoes? It's pointless anyway.

July 30, 2008 3:33 PM

***********************************
Yet another logic filled comment. You say its pointless, have you seen the xray images at the start of this thread? I've seen hundreds of images just like them. Here's a thought for all you braniacs who think that the shoes are a harmless entity that should not be screened at all.
1. The insole of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something under.
2. The heel of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something within.
3. If we stopped screening shoes altogeter, we would open a door for MORE stuff to be hidden inside them than has been to date.
So you say abandon the policy, we say shoes must be screened. We're trying to reach a happy medium here folks, work with us please.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Phil said:
Surely you don't think we should all get our legal advice from a low-level security guard at an airport.
***********************************
Low level security guard, wow Phil your level of intelligence shows in that comment for sure! All insults aside Phil, regulations may seem like they are constantly in flux, but you can be assured that as a "low level security guard" who has been working the checkpoint for 3 and half years, I know the rules day to day, even if they were changed that morning! You know I once had a passenger tell me she didn't know what to expect when she showed up at the aiport, and my response surprised her, if we can keep you guessing we can surely keep the bad guys guessing. Phil our job is not to harass you or inconvenience you, as I'm sure whatever your job is it is not intended to harass or inconvenience anybody either. But my job is to make sure that when you get on your plane and get up in the air, that you will land safely on the other end of your flight. So, if all you can think of as an insult is "low level security guard" then I guess I'm doing okay.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Wouldn’t it be great to show up at a checkpoint and just when you were reaching down to untie your shoes, you heard an officer say “You can leave your shoes on.”

Yes, just like it was before you guys brought the security theater to town.

So now we are going to have a series of machines we need to insert ourselves into? One for shoes, one for explosives, one for metals. What are you going to think of next?
Submitted by Phil on

ike1954 wrote:

"Guess there just is no satisfying the masses."

Someone anonymously wrote:

"No matter how hard the TSA tries to help relieve some of the burdens placed on us travelers some people will continue to complain. Please give it a rest can't you see that the are at the bare minimum trying to make our lives a little less hasseled"

Both of these people seem to miss the point. TSA are placing the burden on us in the first place, then looking for us to thank them for burdening us less than the previously were -- and making us pay for the special machine to reduce the hassle associated with their ridiculous shoe searches.

Tongue-in-cheek prediction: Years from now, people will be on this blog 1) thanking TSA for formulating and providing a special lubricant to make body cavity searches more comfortable and 2) complaining about those of us who think the searches are unjustified in the first place and have the temerity to say so.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is rather like the rabbi and the goat story (if you don't know it, google it). First you make everyone miserable by making shoe removal mandatory. Then you present this new technology that avoids the previously imposed misery as a fantastic improvement. Except, to make it worse, it isn't even an improvement, because it isn't there, and we don't know when and if it will ever be!

When will the madness end????

Submitted by Phil on

Someone anonymously wrote:

"Here's a thought for all you braniacs who think that the shoes are a harmless entity that should not be screened at all.

"1. The insole of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something under.
"2. The heel of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something within.
"3. If we stopped screening shoes altogeter, we would open a door for MORE stuff
to be hidden inside them than has been to date."

Sir or madam, we could say the same of numerous other things which we do not presently search at our government checkpoints. Those doors are wide open now. Do you think we should close them? How do you propose we do so? Shall we strip-search and perform body cavity searches on all passengers?

Please consider this hypothetical situation: If we were already performing such searches and someone like me said that the policy was unreasonably expensive, intrusive, and ineffective, would you come here to complain about the possibility of "opening a door for more stuff to be hidden inside"?

Submitted by TSO Tom on

Anonymous said...
Anonymous said...
I couldn't possibly care less if I have to take off my shoes. I understand why you want me to take off my shoes, and it makes sense. This is among the most harmless, and least offensive, of your policies. It's not even worth worrying about, compared to almost anything else the TSA does.

July 30, 2008 4:07 PM

And here we go again. No matter how hard the TSA tries to help relieve some of the burdens placed on us travelers some people will continue to complain. Please give it a rest can't you see that the are at the bare minimum trying to make our lives a little less hasseled. I would much rather stand in this new gizmo for a few seconds that do the TSA shuffle stocking foot. First the laptop bag (soon, I hope) now the shoe scanner, maybe next will be a liquid scanner and life will be that much sweeter. Please give all the negativity a break and try this instead, Thank You! There, that didn't hurt one bit.

July 30, 2008 4:44 PM
***********************************
Thank YOU anon for your input and understanding. This technology along with others will make MY job that much easier at the checkpoint, so if my job is easier, then your transit through my checkpoint is easier. Imagine this, someone shows up who for some reason can not take his/her shoes off. Right now that person has to be sent for a shoe swab, but this technology will eliminate that and that passenger will be cleared much quicker than current procedures. So I welcome this technology and hope that it is rolled out quickly!

Submitted by Anonymous on

"No matter how hard the TSA tries to help relieve some of the burdens placed on us travelers some people will continue to complain."

Of course we complain. TSA is the one that imposed the pointless burden in the first place.

"So you say abandon the policy, we say shoes must be screened. We're trying to reach a happy medium here folks, work with us please."

Why should we work with the people who are terrorizing us in airports?

Submitted by Bob Eucher on

Anonymous (July 30, 2008 5:00 PM) said...

Concerning screening of shoes:

"have you seen the xray images at the start of this thread? I've seen hundreds of images just like them"

My question to you is, what happened to the "terrorists" that concealed the items in the hundreds of incidents?

Since in the USA, people that are arrested is public knowledge, you would think with all these "terrorists" arrested that we would at least hear about some of them.

I would think a "terrorist" on trial would be worthy of some news coverage.

Please provide names, cities, and trials of the people involved in these hundreds of obvious terroristic actions.

I am not trying to be difficult, but the TSA, and employees keep fueling the belief that there is much to be feared. Please just give me the name of ONE terrorist that has been caught using all your theatrics?

Submitted by Ellen on

I don't really mind taking off my shoes. It's the people in front of me that simply can't comprehend "please remove your shoes" and hold up the rest of the line. Anything that will help insure our safety is fine with me.

Submitted by Sandra on

Regarding point #4 of policy implications in John Mueller's paper The Quixotic Quest for Invulnerability: Assessing the Costs, Benefits, and Probabilities of Protecting the Homeland":

"4. Consider the opportunity costs, the tradeoffs, of protection measures."

Mueller wrote:

"Any sensible policy analysis must include a consideration of what else could have been done with the effort and money being expended on the policy proposed.

The Department of Homeland Security may not know,..."a whole lot about the overall costs and benefits of homeland security", but one study has attempted to shed some light on the issues. It assesses increased post-2001 federal homeland security expenditures, much of them devoted to protective measures. It then compared that to expected lives saved as a result of these increased expenditures and concludes that the annual cost ranges of $64 million to $600 million (or even more) per life saved, great in excess of the regulatory safety goal of $1-$10 million per life saved. Not only do these expenditures clearly and dramatically fail a cost-benefit analysis, but their opportunity cost, amounting to $32 billion per year, is considerable. It is highly likely that far more lives would have been saved if the money (or even a portion of it) had been invested instead in a wide range of more cost-effective risk mitigation programs. For example, an investment of $200,000 per year in smoke alarms will save one life and similar examples can be found in other risk reduction measures or regulations (Stewart and Mueller 2008).

Any analysis that leaves out such considerations is profoundly faulty, even immoral."

Stop wasting money on useless machines and screening, TSA. The money being spent is not worth it and could be much better used in other areas.

Submitted by Chris Boyce on

What's in the blue balloons inside those running shoes? Drugs?

Another drug bust courtesy of an unconstitutional warrantless search.

Wow, you people must be proud.

I'm no fan of life-destroying drugs, but, I grieve for our country.

Submitted by Robert Johnson on
Quote from Anonymous: "Yet another logic filled comment. You say its pointless, have you seen the xray images at the start of this thread? I've seen hundreds of images just like them. Here's a thought for all you braniacs who think that the shoes are a harmless entity that should not be screened at all."

I find it funny that TSA keeps trotting out the same 3 or 4 images every time if there are literally hundreds of them out there. Surely
there must be more, right?

I also find it interesting that as late as August 2006, there hadn't been a single shoe incident even DETECTED TSA. TSA and the FBI both readily admitted this then.

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/apr/08/business/fi-biztravel8

The funny thing is, outside of a false alarm here or there, there's been no evidence that shoes have even been hinted at as an attack. Kippie's "just trust us" doesn't cut it. And I find it hard to believe there are hundreds of shoe incidents out there.

Quote: "1. The insole of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something under."

Anything can easily be hidden anywhere. A woman can kind something in her bra. Stuff can be hidden in any orifice of the body.

Quote: 2. The heel of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something within."

See above.

What it comes down to is if the entire shoe is modified, there is no way for a TSO to really tell.

Quote: 3. If we stopped screening shoes altogeter, we would open a door for MORE stuff to be hidden inside them than has been to date.

Evidence I've seen indicates this is a very, very, very rare problem at best. If we believe what the FBI and TSA tell us, with an average of 700 million travelers a year, that's 1.4 billion shoes screened every year. Over 4 years in which the article was covered, we have nearly 6 billion shoes screened. This negates all the years previously we had an incident. We had exactly 1 incident. We found 1 pair of shoes that had a bomb in it ... Reid's. Statistically, we're investing all this time in money on a threat that was shown to happen .000000000333% of the time. Incidentally, I have a .00000000684425% of winning this week's Powerball. The chance of hitting Powerball is 20 TIMES GREATER.

I think everyone would rightly argue that spending tons of money trying to win Powerball is foolish at best. And yet we're more likely to win that then find a shoe bomb.

There are much bigger and viable threats to address. And given TSA's propensity to trumpet it's Big Catches®, the silence on this issue is rather deafening.

Quote: "So you say abandon the policy, we say shoes must be screened. We're trying to reach a happy medium here folks, work with us please."

The problem is that TSA doesn't listen when people try to work with them. "Do it our way, we know best" is what comes back.

I've suggested time and time again a good measure that uses existing technology and would eliminate the shoe carnival. It would mitigate the threat without spending all the resources and wasting everyone's time.

It's pretty simple. Use puffers/ETD swabs and the metal detectors. If a person alarms on either of them, send them to secondary. Swab the shoes and use the hand wand on the shoes. If the wand alarms, THEN x-ray the shoes. Reswab the shoes if those alarm the ETD to ensure it's not a false positive. If it alarms again, do your thing.

The current means of removing shoes BEFORE going thru the puffer is ridiculous as it trades one screening method that WILL detect explosives (puffers) for one that won't (x-rays).

I know you guys understand this because you USED to do it right before you instituted the mandatory shoe carnival with the liquid carnival in August 2006. I remember going thru SLC before then and being specifically told by the TSO NOT to remove our shoes because the puffer would detect any explosives. So TSA effectively REDUCED security by changing their methods.

This frees up resources in multiple ways. One, TSO's are needlessly wasting their time examining shoes that aren't a threat. Two, passengers aren't inconvenienced and won't slow the line by having to deshoe and reshoe after a screening. Three, the shoes are adequately screened to the point to mitigate the risk on the VERY off possibility a shoe contains something. The whole process frees resources for TSO's to look for real threats like guns and explosives in places where they're MUCH more likely to be found while speeding passengers through the checkpoint. Wait times decrease, resources are better allocated, and screening is adequate to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

Of course, this won't catch every possible thing. Nothing is 100% ... even TSA's current methods. The current mechanisms smack of CYA and show that the TSA practices risk avoidance. This will never work as Dr. Mueller shows in his paper that I and others ahve linked to. However, it will place screening in line with the actual threat. It's called risk management. This is what TSA needs to do.

Robert
Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob Eucher said...
Anonymous (July 30, 2008 5:00 PM) said...

Concerning screening of shoes:
Bob eucher said:
"have you seen the xray images at the start of this thread? I've seen hundreds of images just like them"

My question to you is, what happened to the "terrorists" that concealed the items in the hundreds of incidents?
***********************************
Funny Bob, I don't recall saying anything about incidents, I merely referenced x-ray images that I had seen. Maybe I wasn't clear about it, xray images as in training briefs that had come down. Some of them may have been from actual incidents, and others may have been merely training images from our Bomb Appraisal Officers. In any event, my point is the same, shoes can be used to conceal threat items, be it IEDs/components, blades, or otherwise. The fact remains that shoes must be screened some how, either by taking them off and sending them through the xray (current procedure), or through the use of the new technology, which hopefully will be available at checkpoints soon.

Another poster asks "why should we work with those who terrorize us at the airport?" To which I answer, I'm sorry you feel that way.

Submitted by Bob Kim on
Quote from Ellen: "I don't really mind taking off my shoes. It's the people in front of me that simply can't comprehend "please remove your shoes" and hold up the rest of the line. Anything that will help insure our safety is fine with me."

Ellen, if TSA demanded strip searches and body cavities to keep you safe, would you be ok with that?

Bob
Submitted by Anonymous on

Phil said...
Someone anonymously wrote:

"Here's a thought for all you braniacs who think that the shoes are a harmless entity that should not be screened at all.

"1. The insole of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something under.
"2. The heel of any shoe can easily be removed to hide something within.
"3. If we stopped screening shoes altogeter, we would open a door for MORE stuff
to be hidden inside them than has been to date."

Sir or madam, we could say the same of numerous other things which we do not presently search at our government checkpoints. Those doors are wide open now. Do you think we should close them? How do you propose we do so? Shall we strip-search and perform body cavity searches on all passengers?

Please consider this hypothetical situation: If we were already performing such searches and someone like me said that the policy was unreasonably expensive, intrusive, and ineffective, would you come here to complain about the possibility of "opening a door for more stuff to be hidden inside"?
***********************************
Phil, I would like to sit here and debate with you all of the possibilities that exist. Fact of the matter is that I have witnessed incidents of "artful concealment" in manners which you would never expect. Passengers have hidden knives in the seam closures of their bags, they've hidden razor blades in the insole of their.....oh my....oh dear shall I say it....THEIR SHOES. Yes that's right Phil, have we actually found bombs or bomb components in shoes? We may have, we don't tell everything that we find for obvious reasons. But if we did reveal everything that was found at the check point, you'd be surprised. For instance, are you aware that 80 some year old Jerry Lewis brought a gun to the airport? Bet you didn't read that in the paper did ya Phil? It was such a small clip in today's paper that I barely noticed it myself, but there it was and it did indeed happen. Although, Jerry's publicist says its a "prop" and can not be fired. So, no we don't tell you everything, and there are some things you probably will never hear about, fact remains that right now, shoes must be xrayed screened.

Submitted by Phil on

I asked:

"Bob, how would I, my attorney, a judge, or anyone else know what the current regulation on what can be worn through the magnetometer at a U.S. Government airport checkpoint is? Surely you don't think we should all get our legal advice from a low-level security guard at an airport."

(Note that neither Bob nor anyone at TSA has answered this simple question, though I have asked it again and again and again.)

Someone took such offense at my use of the phrase "low-level security guard" that he or she assumed that I meant to use it as an insult. That would be childish of me, and it was definitely not my intent. I was just making it clear that apparently the only way we have of determining what rules we are required by the TSA to abide by in order to travel within the country via commercial air is the word of people at the very lowest rungs of the TSA hierarchy.

If the position of TSA airport security guard is not considered low-level, I apologize to anyone who feels I mischaracterized the position in my previous comment.

I still want to know where TSA has published a list of all the rules and regulations that TSA will subject someone to if that person wishes to cross a U.S. Government checkpoint at an airport en route to the gate from which his domestic flight will depart. Can anyone answer this? Please provide a URL or name of the government publication.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Steel toed shoes? Probably still have to remove them. Did that before 9/11.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
But my job is to make sure that when you get on your plane and get up in the air, that you will land safely on the other end of your flight.

So you're a pilot, or an aircraft mechanic?

No, your job is preventing weapons, explosives, and incendiaries from entering the "sterile area."

The people responsible for aircraft safety, the FAA, took over a decade to implement the center-wing fuel tank changes after TWA 800. We are well aware of how important our safety is to the government.

Submitted by HSVTSO Dean on

Off-topic, but sue me, Tomas put up something I wanted to try to address!

Tomas wrote:
There is NO reason on Earth for TSA to put out a press release saying how proud they are to have confiscated this persons private property AFTER determining it was perfectly safe and broke no rules.

Oh, you're not gonna like me for this one.

Strictly speaking... it did break a rule. Not only are actual explosives and such prohibited items, obviously, but anything that looks realistically like an explosive (or firearm, for that matter) is prohibited as well. The supervisor made the determination that it was a "realistic replica" (which is what it's categorized under on our prohibited items list). But, because it was not an actual explosive, apparently he was given options on what to do with it. The passenger in question chose to surrender it (according to the press release). An actual explosive would have been confiscated. There is a legal, albeit small, difference.

Another great example of a realistic replica that would be prohibited through checkpoints, even after having determined that it was just ducky and nothing dangerous otherwise about it, would be this.

And, maybe it doesn't look like it to you because you're an engineer, man, but just seeing the image of that thing, it looks like nothing else but an improvised explosive device. With a whole crapload lot more battery power than would actually be needed to set it off.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said... No matter how hard the TSA tries to help relieve some of the burdens placed on us travelers some people will continue to complain.

Wow, just wow. So well said.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I would prefer to leave my shoes on. As a diabetic any foot injury can lead to severe problems.

On my last trip through a checkpoint I am doing the routine when I notice a cart load of beverages being transported through the checkpoint. A TSA type looked at the cart and waived the cart and worker pushing the cart right through the checkpoint. No inspection of any kind for either.

If I'm a bad guy I would note just how easy it is to get contraband into the secure area and use that method to introduce said contraband and pass off any number of things to a partner and BOOM goes an airplane. Wonder if TSA would have a Press Release patting themselves on back for that one?

So you guys keep checking my shoes while all manner of stuff moves into the secure area, baggage is left unattented and subject to having something added to the bag after inspection and cargo is not inspected at all. Oh, and don't forget all of the people and vehicles entering the tarmac, when are they inspected? Oh thats right they have a badge so can do no wrong.

You call it security, I call it theater, and poor quality theater at that!

Submitted by NoClu on

HSVTSO said "The supervisor made the determination that it was a "realistic replica" (which is what it's categorized under on our prohibited items list)."

Except that it wasn't a "replica" of anything. It was a battery the guy had made to power some gizmo of his. Asked and aswered, determined and still the guy was forced to surrender it.

This is as bad as the guy who was hastled because he'd made a fizzy drink by pouring a powder into his bottle of water. (I don't feel like taking time to look up a link.)

People have been so conditioned by this administration, the TSA and DHS that they jump at quiver in terror at anything that they don't like, agree with or approve of.

I want my country back.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oh for God's sake, like people have said in the past, just shut this blog down, even great news is attacked.

You guys can never never never be pleased!

You guys wouldn't be happy until we have a pray the terrorists just try not to attack system.

Submitted by Tomas on

Hi, Dean.

In response to one of my posts you said...

Strictly speaking... it did break a rule. Not only are actual explosives and such prohibited items, obviously, but anything that looks realistically like an explosive (or firearm, for that matter) is prohibited as well.

Well, I'm sorry, but a bundle of rechargeable batteries still only looks like a bundle of rechargeable batteries to me. :o)

Home made extended life battery pack image.

(Sorry for the poor quality image, but that's the best one the TSA has released.)

In the image pushed by TSA they included the DVD player and the standard aluminum water bottle (I have three), with the water bottle sitting on the wire from the battery pack, making it appear the two were somehow connected.

Now, if that battery pack looks like a bomb, someone has seen too many blow-'em-up movies.

The easiest fix would have been to put the batteries in an empty TSA rubber-glove box or something similar so the easily frightened Luddites wouldn't panic.

...because it was not an actual explosive, apparently he was given options on what to do with it. The passenger in question chose to surrender it (according to the press release).

I assume the choice was to surrender the batteries or not to fly, Dean. Big choice.

A friend of mine is a sculptor - I suppose the Nervous Nellies would get all upset with the blocks of beige plastic modeling clay she usually packs along so she can work in ideas, and make little people instead of getting bored. That stuff sure looks like a "realistic replica" of Semtex or C-4...

Now please keep in mind, the empty water bottle and the battery pack were in no way associate or connected: do you REALLY believe that a dozen or so "C" cells glued together look like a bomb?

Maybe if he used Duracells so they looked more like batteries to those not yet accustomed to this century instead of using the basic unlabeled cells commonly used in battery packs.

Really, Dean, I have a number of rechargeable packs that I used to take camping that look just like that (except most of my batteries were plain green).

An external battery pack is not a "replica" of an "explosive device" it is simply a group of batteries looking exactly like, uh, "a group of batteries."

I still feel, very strongly, that if forcing that traveler to "surrender" his battery pack that was not doctored in any way to look like explosives rated so high in the pantheon of important TSA events to rate a press release from TSA congratulating themselves for making the skies safer, then TSA is just loudly proclaiming that they really don't have anything better to report.

C'mon, if TSA had actually caught someone trying to get a block of Semtex or a stick of dynamite, or maybe a grenade on board an aircraft, yes, that might warrant a press release, but a dozen or so C batteries?

No.

On this one we disagree, Dean. :o)

Submitted by Robert Johnson on

Well, with L3's logo slapped prominently on the shoe scanner, at least we know who's making a fat profit off this nonsense.

Robert

Submitted by MacGuyver on

HSVTSO Dean @ "The supervisor made the determination that it was a "realistic replica"

A realistic replica of what exactly? A stack of batteries? A water bottle? A wire?

No, I don't like you (actually, Supervisory TSO Raiford Patterson and the TSA) for this one. It is an explanation for what they did, but it still is stupid. The TSA article seems to confuse the "bundle of explosives" with something that is clearly recognisable by you as a "crapload lot [of] battery power". The "realistic replica" of an explosive device is the empty metal bottle which, from the article, seems like it might have flown on to Hawaii after they took his silicone-adhesive-wrapped battery pack.

A commercial laptop battery, a set of headphones, and a empty thermos is a functional replica of the items the TSA took out of the "passenger's carry-on bag" and staged in the bin for the picture.

Now that TSA is touting this (clearly staged) image of a replica IED, are all thermoses and commercial laptop batteries at risk of confiscation? Those components are functionally equivalent to this "replica" of a improvised explosive device. If you think it is a stupid question and that TSOs would not make that determination, it is just as stupid for TSA to think that the commercial items are any safer than the homebrewed ones.

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