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Answers to Your Top 10 Questions

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Monday, August 04, 2008
Q&A

Here are the top ten questions we received from our recent request. We tallied the number of times we received each question or a similar version of it and noted the total for each question below. Thanks to the Office of Chief Counsel, Privacy Office and Kip for helping us provide you with the answers.

10) What immediate measures can a person take when encountering a less than friendly TSA agent? 12 of our readers asked this question.

First, you can request a lead or supervisor. If you're not satisfied after speaking with a lead or supervisor, you can request a manager. If you're in a hurry and don't have time to talk, or if you are not comfortable making your complaint in person, you can visit our new Got Feedback? web page. "Got Feedback?" is a new program that allows passengers to contact us via e-mail with very specific questions, comments, complaints, etc. Rather than your e-mail being sent to a single mail box where it sits in the queue waiting for a response, it is actually sent directly to the TSA Customer Support Manager at the airport your feedback concerns. Upon request, the Customer Service manager will contact you. Click here to read more about the "Got Feedback?" program.

Our officers have a tough job, and they are there to protect you and your family. Everyone at TSA appreciates the support of the traveling public, including those who express their support with their courteous behavior and words of support.

9) Do any members of the Blog team actively perform screening functions? 12 of our readers asked this question.

Not currently. When Bob joined the blog team, he was a Behavior Detection Officer based out of Cincinnati and a former Transportation Security Officer who performed screening duties. Bob eventually came to headquarters as a full-time blog team member. So, while Bob has 5 ½ years experience in various screening functions, he is no longer a TSO/BDO.

While not in a screening function, Jay is a Federal Security Director for an airport in the Midwest. He oversees screening operations at about 10 airports of varying sizes. Also, we had a TSO contribute as a guest blogger and write an article on Checkpoint Evolution.

There are currently many TSOs and other field employees actively involved commenting on the blog, and we appreciate their participation.

We will continue to invite members of the workforce to weigh in on the blog to keep it relevant to what is happening in airports. The blog will improve as we add new folks with various areas of expertise.

8) Why do you have access to my political affiliation? 13 of our readers asked this question.

"It's unequivocally not our policy to use political, religious, or other sensitive personal topics as identity validation. If it happened, it was wrong and will not be repeated." Administrator Kip Hawley

Perhaps you're asking this question because of a recent story about a person who said that their identity was verified at a checkpoint by asking their political affiliation. Early on, there was a case where the operations call center ran a passenger's information through their database (which includes commercial data) for a passenger without ID, and found no significant information to verify their identity. One thing that did come up was political donations for a person with the same name. Political donations are a matter of public record and accessible to anyone with basic Internet search skills. As a last ditch effort to help the passenger, a decision was made to ask them about their political affiliation. It was a mistake.

7) Why has TSA restarted the pointless gate screening? If the sterile area is in fact sterile, there's no need to screen those who have already been screened. 13 of our readers asked this question.

In reality, we do very little screening of bags at gates. We do, however, conduct a great deal of additional security in the sterile area. For instance, we have Behavior Detection Officers and K-9 teams on regular patrols as well as undercover Federal Air Marshals throughout the sterile area. Not to mention video coverage. We want to pick up on people who may be doing surveillance or attempting to prepare for a later attack. We are interested in activity around gates, but also restaurants, Duty Free shops, and other common areas.

As to gate screening itself, we have special purpose checks for specific items and behaviors. We may also have a particular interest in different flights. We layer in some random activities so as not to raise attention when we do have a specific interest. You may see our inspectors with new portable explosives detection devices that go onboard an aircraft ahead of boarding and check employees with access to the aircraft, including catering.

TSA’s overall strategy is to incorporate mobile, unpredictable, intelligence-driven security measures in ways that frustrate a terrorist planner seeking to engineer attacks against an easier, stationary target. We do not, as the question suggests, do gate screening of bags merely to re-do what we already did at the checkpoint.

Click here to watch a short video on gate screening.

6) I had a TSA agent tell me that each airport is free to implement security standards beyond those listed on the TSA site -- meaning that they could restrict items from being allowed in carry-on baggage that are explicitly allowed according to the TSA site. 14 of our readers asked this question.

There is a standard list of prohibited items that is available on our Web site to anybody with an internet connection, including terrorists. Clearly we have to pay attention to those items, since they are obvious tools of would-be attackers.

We cannot, however, fixate on those items and think that if we stop them, we're safe. Terrorists know TSA's standard operating procedures and work on how to engineer around them. Look no further than the August '06 London bomb plot with liquid sports drinks. If those terrorists had made it to the checkpoint, many of the items they were bringing would have been extremely hard to identify.

TSA is moving the focus of our officers from a checklist mentality to an empowered environment where officers use their experience and training -- and trust their instincts. The TSA workforce has screened more than 3 billion people, about half the population of the earth. We have a good handle on what "normal" looks like. Anything out of the "normal" range may get additional scrutiny, whether or not it is on the prohibited items list. That could mean a variety of things from a more thorough physical search to a seemingly casual conversation. It depends on what the anomaly might be. We know that with many layers of security the thinking, engaged and experienced TSO will be the one to stop an attack.

TSA is committed to using the judgment and experience of our officers to keep the security advantage. TSA is embarking on a two-day training for all officers that will tie together the latest intelligence analysis, more advanced explosives detection skills, and ways to engage with passengers in a way that promotes a calmer environment and better security result. It uses the physical checkpoint to our advantage to improve security.

5) Why doesn't TSA consider items being stolen from checked bags a security threat? Dangerous items could just as easily be ADDED to luggage. 15 of our readers asked this question.

We do! We consider every opportunity for someone to get a weapon or a bomb onto a plane and use a variety of methods to ensure there's something in place to mitigate that threat.

Specifically, there are video monitoring systems in places where individuals have access to checked bags, both airline baggage handling areas and TSA inspection stations.
Beyond that, we have a multi-layered approach to security, because if one layer gets breached, another layer or layers can step in to fill the gap. Let's focus on layers that directly affect your question.

TSA does background checks on and issues credentials to all employees who work in the secure area of the airport – which includes people handling baggage. TSA also conducts random employee screening every day in airports to ensure only people with proper and valid credentials get into the secure area.

TSA initiates internal investigations or ‘stings’ if we have a concern. When caught, arrests are made and serious federal charges are brought. Also, behavior detection officers are trained to spot suspicious behavior anywhere in the airport.

It's also important to note that employees who work in the airport often see the same people day in and day out, and know when something doesn't seem right. While they don't always work for TSA, they are another set of eyes and ears keeping watch for your safety.

4) Where is the Privacy Impact Assessment for the form that TSA provides to people who claim to be unable to present credentials at TSA airport checkpoints? 15 of our readers asked this question.

The Privacy Impact Assessment, or PIA, that covers the information collection and handling associated with identity verification is the Operations Center Information Management System PIA. Identity verification is one of several types of information associated with airport security efforts that fall within the coverage of this PIA.

For bonus points, we'll answer another question that some have asked: whether the form itself requires an OMB control number. Since the form entails no burden beyond identifying the individual and home address, it is exempt from Paperwork Reduction Act requirements pursuant to 5 CFR 1320.3(h)(1).

3) Given that it's trivially easy to forge a boarding pass, how does presentation of validated IDs do anything to ensure that people on selectee/no-fly lists don't enter the sterile area? 16 of our readers asked this question.

An excellent question. TSA's document checkers are looking at IDs and boarding passes. They are aware of the techniques that forgers use and are looking out for them. We are working with the airlines both in the U.S. and world-wide on this issue. There are encryption and other methods of validating a boarding pass. Some are sophisticated, some are very low-tech and simple. Some airlines are now using encrypted electronic boarding passes that appear on a passenger's cell phone or PDA. The International Air Transport Association , which secures international cooperation and uniformity in aviation regulations and standards, is moving all of its members to use this technology by the end of 2010.

Even so, it is important to remember that the different layers of security work together. We're not only checking IDs and boarding passes at the checkpoint, we have measures throughout the airport, at the gate, and on the aircraft, that identify someone who may be dangerous.

Lastly, one of the other Top Ten questions dealt with random gate screening, which is another way of closing the loophole. The random check can also be used to ensure additional security measures when our information suggests it is warranted.

2) In the context of ensuring air travel safety, what is the difference between two people, both of whom are willing to cooperate with TSA's invasive interrogations, one of whom politely declines to show ID, the other of whom claims he lost or misplaced his ID? 20 of our readers asked this question.


Bottom line is identity matters. We need to verify who is getting on the plane.
The best and quickest way for us to assure identity is with a photo ID issued by a federal or state government. We work with passengers who have something less than that, including no ID. Most passengers in that situation help us quickly resolve the matter by sharing whatever information they have, sometimes verified through our Ops Center in Virginia. Someone declining to show an ID that they have on them endures a lot of hassle for not much of a point since it is far more intrusive for us to resolve it through the Ops Center than showing a legitimate ID up front. It is only when someone refuses to identify themselves or attempts to use fake ID that we would deny entry to the sterile area based on ID.

Ever since airport security started decades ago, it was based on "things" – making sure a bad thing like a gun or a bomb didn't get on a plane. Problem is, terrorists kept finding new ways to disguise their tools to be almost identical to ordinary objects; most recently, bottles of sports drinks and batteries with explosives inside. They will continue to find more novel threats. That is why the additional layer of identity verification matters more now than ever. Watch lists are a valuable tool in keeping people with known ties to terror plotting off planes.

1) TSA cites 49 C.F.R. § 1540.107 and 1540.105(a)(2) as the law giving them authority to demand identification as a condition of granting access to a sterile area of an airport. 49 C.F.R § 1540.5 appears to limit such passenger screenings to searches for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries as the only requirement for granting access to the sterile area. How does TSA reconcile this conflict? 27 of our readers asked this question.

There is no conflict to reconcile. It is true that 49 C.F.R Section 1540.5 describes screening functions and screening locations in terms of the inspection of individuals and property for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries. However, 49 C.F.R. Section 1540.105(a)(2) doesn't use the word 'screening' at all. Section 1540.105(a)(2) simply states that persons may not enter the sterile area without complying with the systems, measures, or procedures being applied to control access to that area. TSA's identification requirement is one such system, measure or procedure that is used to determine who is permitted to access the sterile area.

By citing 49 C.F.R. § 1540.107 in our original post, we were trying to illustrate one of the ways (and indeed, the most visible way) in which TSA has used its statutory authority to establish security procedures at airports. But, it's important to note that TSA's responsibility for aviation security is not just limited to checkpoint screening. TSA has broad authority to develop policies, strategies, and plans for dealing with the changing threats to aviation security. See, for example, 49 U.S.C. §§ 114(d) and (f) (addressing TSA functions, duties, and powers); id. § 114(h) (addressing notification procedures concerning persons who may pose risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to the airline or passenger safety). This authority is in addition to TSA's responsibility for the screening of passengers and property. See, for example, 49 U.S.C. §§ 114(e) (addressing screening operations), 44901(a) (addressing screening of passengers and property).

Thanks,
Bob
EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by TechSlice on

How many airports would you say go over and above the TSA guidelines?

Submitted by TSO # 3 on

Great questions everybody, cannot wait to hear more from both TSA & Passengers.

Submitted by Marshall's SO on

Is anyone surprised with these "answers"? I'm just wondering why it took so long.

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Thank you Blogger Bob for posting that official answers to the top ten questions. I have only scanned them so far but I wanted to get my thank yous in before you headed home.

Now I am off to read the other laws you cited for question number one.
< evil laugh > ;-)

Submitted by Abelard on

I am going to focus on your response to Question #2.

Someone declining to show an ID that they have on them endures a lot of hassle for not much of a point since it is far more intrusive for us to resolve it through the Ops Center than showing a legitimate ID up front.

And this is where I think the government (in this case, the people speaking on behalf of the TSA) and me and others differ. I don't consider it "not much of a point" to have to show our papers to get on a private airliner and go from point A to point B.

Your response was completely dismissive of those of us who believe that fighting for what we believe in (i.e. our rights under the U.S. Constitution) is really "not much of a point."

There we have it in black and white for all the world to see. You simply won't give any credence to the fact that some of us genuinely and sincerely care a lot about our Constitution and about how the current administration would just rather not be bothered by quaint notions like law and rights and the like all in the name of safety.

Finally, you still haven't answered the question directly: what is the difference between someone who lost and ID and someone who refuses to show ID? Attitude? Making your job a little less pleasant? Someone being a jerk? Last time I checked, you didn't have to be a model citizen or humanitarian to invoke your Constitutional rights.

But then again, the TSA is an arm of the current executive branch which has so little respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, so I can't say I am entirely surprised by your non-answer to the question.

Submitted by DoogieSD on

Before you get the standard, "you're a bunch of fascists" posts...

Thanks for doing what you do, I never have a problem going through security and can only imagine the structure that you have to support to make sure I am safe traveling...

Keep up the good work! And as I have always said, maybe one day you will not be needed... in the best way!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Re: the question about some TSA stations making their own arbitrary additions to the prohibited items list.

Why can't you just come out and say that doing so is wrong, is theft of private property, and will not be tolerated?

You and I both know the question wasn't about "empowered environment" and "judgement," it was about power-tripping screeners stealing non-prohibited items from passengers and frequently using intimidation to do so. (i.e., the recent battery case at JAN)

TSOs should not be empowered to confiscate (or in your PR terms "voluntarily" surrender) items that are not either on the prohibited items list or an actual weapon, explosive, or incendiary.

As to the ID thing, I've finally concluded you guys just don't get it. You really believe it is OK to have a secret blacklist of people who are denied air travel with no due process without remotely enough evidence to convict them in a court of law. The "papers please" mentality and loss of Constitutionally protected anonymity is scary, but what it really comes down to is that you think the blacklist is OK. If or when we escape the current climate of fear-mongering and paranoia, history will judge you for these beliefs.

Submitted by Jdogg on

Besides the issues I have regarding the extent or severity of security checks, I have a larger problem with the general attitude of the personnel I've encountered at the checkpoints.

I understand that they are supposed to be keeping us safe, but I see no reason why they can't do this with good customer service guidelines. If the TSA wants to place these checkpoints at airports, they need to realize that they will always be an extremely visible part of the airline experience. As such, I feel that job requirement #1 should be good service skills.

For examples, I feel no need to be yelled at because I inadvertently did something they don't agree with. Stay calm, and explain what you'd like me to do rather than barking orders, and so much of the pain would be alleviated. Please treat us as paying customers (which we are), and not as enemies or cattle.

Submitted by HSVTSO Dean on
Trollkiller:

I told you it'd be a technicality. :D
Submitted by Tomas on

Thanks for the answers, Blogger Bob, I know folks are going to take you to task for some of them, just remember it is the answer, not you they are attacking. :o)

I'll take a little simple shot at two that bug me, and leave most of the rest to others:

To Question 5 you answered in part...
"...there are video monitoring systems in places where individuals have access to checked bags, both airline baggage handling areas and TSA inspection stations."

If that is the case, and if anyone actually bothers to monitor what those video cameras see, how it is possible that passenger property is stolen on a regular basis.

It sounds like a non-answer because so long as items are stolen from checked baggage, items could be added to checked baggage, and security is compromised by the failure to detect the thefts.

(In addition, TSA and the airlines tacitly agree that anything checked is less than secure but repeatedly instructing passengers to carry on-board with them anything of value - unless it is on the prohibited list.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Bottom line is identity matters. We need to verify who is getting on the plane."

You keep saying this, and then you utterly fail even to attempt to justify this statement. Why does identity matter? The truth is it doesn't, and you know it, and as a citizen who pays your salary, I'd really like you to stop lying about it.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Everyone at TSA appreciates the support of the traveling public, including those who express their support with their courteous behavior and words of support.

As a member of the traveling public, I do not and will never support a rogue government agency that refuses to be accountable to the citizens it terrorizes rather than serves.
Submitted by Anonymous on

"As a last ditch effort to help the passenger, a decision was made to ask them about their political affiliation. It was a mistake."

What disciplinary actions were taken against the TSA employees who made this "mistake"? What measures have you taken to apologize to the citizen who was abused by this TSA employee?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Our officers have a tough job, and they are there to protect you and your family.

First, very little your "officers" do protects anyone, and much of what they do harms my family and others.

Second, their job would be less tough if you didn't waste their time on nonsense like 3.4-1-1 and mandatory shoe removal.
Submitted by Anonymous on

"TSA’s overall strategy is to incorporate mobile, unpredictable, intelligence-driven security measures in ways that frustrate a terrorist planner seeking to engineer attacks against an easier, stationary target."

What cost-benefit analyses have you conducted in relation to these "unpredictable" measures?

How many terrorists have these measures caught, and how many of these terrorists have been prosecuted and convicted of crimes?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Look no further than the August '06 London bomb plot with liquid sports drinks. If those terrorists had made it to the checkpoint, many of the items they were bringing would have been extremely hard to identify."

That would have been something, considering that none of them had airline tickets or even passports. Oh, and their plot wouldn't have worked, because the only "liquid explosives" are too volatile to make it to the cab to the airport, let alone onto a plane in the first place.

Submitted by Anonymous on
We do! We consider every opportunity for someone to get a weapon or a bomb onto a plane and use a variety of methods to ensure there's something in place to mitigate that threat.

This is an utter lie, considering that all airplane cargo is still not screened.
Submitted by Anonymous on
Is anyone surprised with these "answers"? I'm just wondering why it took so long.

It's hard work betraying your country!
Submitted by Anonymous on
And as I have always said, maybe one day you will not be needed.

They're not needed now. Hardened cockpit doors and noncompliance with hijackers are the only things that have made air travel more secure since 9/11. Everything else TSA does is sound and fury signifying, and securing, nothing.
Submitted by Trollkiller on

Umm your links are pooched, they take you to a email logon screen.

Submitted by Anonymous on

And you guys wonder why they don't answer your questions more often.

Submitted by Bob on

Thanks Trollkiller. Fixed...

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Tomas on

Hrmmmm...

I goofed on my last post and only included one of the two items I wrote about. :o(

Here's the other:

To Question 6 you answered in part...
"The TSA workforce has screened more than 3 billion people, about half the population of the earth."

The is not the first time that claim has been made, and likewise this is not the first time I have responded that TSA has NOT screened more than 3 billion passengers, but some much smaller number of passengers over 3 billion times. May seem a minor quibble, but TSA's claim is just plain false and places into question anything else they say.

To quote one of my favorite authors...

"What are the facts? Again and again and again - what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars fortell", avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" - what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!" --Robert Anson Heinlein

Submitted by RB on

Is it time for a new batch of questions now?

Does TSA have any obligation to comply with the United States Constitution?

Does TSA senior leadership think that air safety efforts may set aside provisions of the United States Constituion?

Submitted by TSO Jason on

Anonymous said,
"That would have been something, considering that none of them had airline tickets or even passports. Oh, and their plot wouldn't have worked, because the only "liquid explosives" are too volatile to make it to the cab to the airport, let alone onto a plane in the first place."

I don't want to argue over whether or not the "London Liquid Bombers" planned Liquid bombs would have been successful or not; but I would like to point out that liquid explosives have been used in the past aboard aircraft. Look into the Bojinka Plot; Liquid Nitroglycerin was used in an aircraft bombing. There is a basis for screening based upon liquid explosives being used aboard aircraft. Now if your argument is that liquids are vigorously screened while other methods of bomb smuggling are not, then we have an entirely different discussion.

Submitted by Anonymous on
TSA is committed to using the judgment and experience of our officers to keep the security advantage. TSA is embarking on a two-day training for all officers that will tie together the latest intelligence analysis, more advanced explosives detection skills, and ways to engage with passengers in a way that promotes a calmer environment and better security result. It uses the physical checkpoint to our advantage to improve security.

So when are you going to start confiscating flier's clothing, laptops, watches, shoes, etc? You have the 'right' to do so. What are our recourses do we have when dealing with an out of control agent who just wants to make a traveler's life even more miserable?
Submitted by Trollkiller on
HSVTSO Dean said...
Trollkiller:

I told you it'd be a technicality. :D


Dean the technicality you brought up was well thought out and had the possibility of being legal.

I am working on a corrective post as we speak.

I would like to know who supplied that answer. Bet it was Kip, poor Kip, bless his heart.
Submitted by Trollkiller on
Bob said...
Thanks Trollkiller. Fixed...

Bob

I am here to help. BTW, do not take any of my posts to this thread as an attack on you. I know you are just the messenger.
Submitted by Tomas on

Anonymous wrote...
So when are you going to start confiscating flier's clothing, laptops, watches, shoes, etc? You have the 'right' to do so. What are our recourses do we have when dealing with an out of control agent who just wants to make a traveler's life even more miserable

Well... you can see the tongue-in-cheek answer over here...

Abuses of Authority :o)

Submitted by HSVTSO Dean on
Trollkiller wrote:
I would like to know who supplied that answer. Bet it was Kip, poor Kip, bless his heart.

Haha~!

To be honest, though, I think the question might've been a bit beyond Kip. With all due respect to the Administrator of the TSA, it's just not his job to understand and spout legalese.

Given the nature of the question to be answered, and the fact that Bob gave kudos to the Office of Chief Counsel, I'm gonna guess it was either Francine or one of her people that pulled this one up.

For those that are new to the Blog or just don't know, Francine is, of course, Chief Counsel for the TSA, and the author of the old thread "And Now, a Word from our Lawyers..." from back in February.

I like my technicality, too. At least it's something a little more tangible than "it didn't use that specific word," though as with many things that Gilmore v. Gonzalez has shown us, little details like that matter in the legal limelight.

Though, just to bring up Gilmore again, I still think they could've had a more compelling decision on the due process complaint other than throwing it out on grounds that it's not their jurisdiction.

Granted, it worked in terms of the government's defense case, but it's not a very inspiring and debate-ending answer like how they addressed the freedom of travel complaint.

Anonymous wrote:
So when are you going to start confiscating flier's clothing, laptops, watches, shoes, etc? You have the 'right' to do so.

We have the authority to do a great many things. We just choose not to. Having the authority does not, in itself, mean that the authority is going to be utilized.
Submitted by Ayn R Key on

It would have been nice had you answered question 2. The one thing you didn't tell us is how one of them is more of a threat than the other.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
HSVTSO Dean said...

To be honest, though, I think the question might've been a bit beyond Kip. With all due respect to the Administrator of the TSA, it's just not his job to understand and spout legalese.

It may not be Kip's job but he did graduate a JD so the legelese should not be foreign to him.

I hope that was not from the Chief Counsel's Office because that was some pretty lame lawyering.

The only way I can see that they came up with that answer, after my very specific questions, is if the Blog Team was prevented from showing the original question.

The rabbit trail of laws they cited did nothing to strengthen their case and the fact that they completely omitted any reference to the definition of the sterile area, the KEY to my argument, leads me to believe they were fed a very sanitized version of the question.

Blogger Bob can rest easy for a while, I am heading to bed.
Submitted by Anonymous on
Posted by HSVTSO Dean:
We have the authority to do a great many things. We just choose not to. Having the authority does not, in itself, mean that the authority is going to be utilized.


And therein lies the problem. The Constitution and government were structured to protect the citizens from individual government actors that might abuse their authority.

If you truly think TSOs have the authority to confiscate laptops, shoes, watches, etc., and just choose not do do it, then we have a major problem. Because someday, someone will decide to exercise that authority. And then where will the innocent traveler be? Answer: screwed with no hope of redress or due process, just like the no-fly victims. This agency is truly out of control.

That even good TSOs like yourself seem to believe you have the authority to confiscate non-prohibited, non-weapon, non-explosive, non-incendiary items like laptops, shoes, and watches is exactly why I feel there is only one solution to TSA's problems: Disband it; bar the leadership from the assistant-FSD level up from public service and especially security work for life (and charge them with treason and other crimes where appropriate, e.g., the no-fly list architects); and reconstitute it under private contractors with government supervision closely monitored by Congress.

I've posted that part before, but because of your comment regarding authority to confiscate permitted items, I'm adding this: Terminate every single TSO, but give them the option to be re-hired as screeners after they have passed a written and oral exam on Constitutional rights, private-property rights, the limits of their authority as screeners, and customer service.
Submitted by Anonymous on

@TSO Jason:

Uhhhh, I guess you don't realize that the "bojinka plot" involved nitroglycerine that had been put into a contact lens solution bottle.

Contact lens solution bottles > 3.4 oz are still allowed on airplanes.

The 3.4-1-1 rule IS pointless. That small an amount of liquid nitrogen could even be secreted in a body cavity.

Please TSA, stop harboring fear and perpetuating security theater with your absurd 3.4-1-1 rule. It's been conclusively proven again and again and again that it's pointless. I know it helps keep your TSOs gainfully employed, but you're hurting America with it. You're needlessly inconveniencing people, and perpetuating fear. Please, just stop it. We can all see through your nonsense.

Submitted by Anonymous on

These are all non-answers again. After work I'll try to go through them and post rebuttals, but you specifically sidestep the questions ask, for example regarding validating boarding passes. There is NO encryption/authentication process possible of an html boarding pass. As long as the forger is not stupid and gets the date/flight right there is absolutely nothing you can do to spot a fake boarding pass and you know it.

Submitted by HSVTSO Dean on
[post-script: Okay. I was a little upset when I wrote this, so I'll go ahead and apologize. To everyone else, I mean - not to Mr. Anonymous.]

Anonymous wrote:
That even good TSOs like yourself seem to believe you have the authority to confiscate non-prohibited, non-weapon, non-explosive, non-incendiary items like laptops, shoes, and watches is exactly why I feel there is only one solution to TSA's problems...

Funny, and y'all get onto the Blogger's cases for cherry-picking things.

Let me spell it out for you.

HSVTSO Dean wrote:
We have the authority to do a great many things. We just choose not to. Having the authority does not, in itself, mean that the authority is going to be utilized.

Now, where in that did you pick up any shred of the 'fact' that I supposedly believe, according to you, that TSOs have the authority to confiscate laptops, watches, or... anything, really, for that matter, since we do not, as a rule, confiscate anything.

Where in what I wrote do you see me saying that we can take laptops, watches, shoes, et al, just because we feel like it?

Hm?

Let me help you.

You didn't. Because I didn't say anything of that nature in any way, shape, or form.

I said we have the authority to do a great many things. And we do.

Enter the overboard examples: If the Administrator decided to issue a SD saying we would give each and every single passenger that came through the checkpoint a full-body pat-down and cursory cavity search, we'd have the authority to do it. If the Administrator decided to ban laptop computers from going through the checkpoints, or even in checked baggage, we'd have the authority to enforce it. If the Administrator decided to ban carry-on items altogether, we'd have the authority to enforce it. The law that governs what the TSA does is extraordinarily broad and sweeping, and while this has it's intrinsic dangers, there would be nothing technically illegal about either of those two measures provided some form of justification was given in camera to stand up in the face of whatever legal challenge someone gave it, and it'd be considered common law. After all, it's already common law that you do not have the Constitutional Right to travel by any specific means.

The end result would be that people, being screwed with no form of redress, would refuse to fly, choosing instead to take far longer trips with other methods, be it rail or bus or boat or car, or even just buying a horse and getting there on the canter. The system of American commerce would start to slow and drag, given that that it relies so heavily upon the aviation system, and likely would for some time (though I can see a side-effect of this being that telecommuting and internet conferencing gets a lot more popular with businesses).

In order to avoid this kind of end-result, our Administrator has chosen, rightfully so, not to implement overtly-extraordinary, time-consuming, or 100% through screening procedures. It's a balance between security and customer service and good old fashioned common sense (for example, anyone who thinks the full security system of Israel would be awesome in American airports needs a reality check cut to their name).

Ergo, just because we (the TSA) have the authority to do a great many things (in terms of mandating extraordinarily limiting security procedures), does not mean that we will utilize that authority.

Does that clear things up for you a little bit, now, or do I have to use smaller words?
Submitted by Wintermute on
Someone declining to show an ID that they have on them endures a lot of hassle for not much of a point since it is far more intrusive for us to resolve it through the Ops Center than showing a legitimate ID up front. It is only when someone refuses to identify themselves or attempts to use fake ID that we would deny entry to the sterile area based on ID.

I only quoted part of the answer to question 2, as I specifically want to address it, but the entire answer was, yet again, a non sequitur. The question was "what's the difference?" and the answer was, yet again, "ID is important" with nothing to back that statement up.

What I specifically wanted to address is quoted above, as it is unclear. Either you're saying that Dean was wrong, and the two situations are, in fact, handled differently. Or you're saying that there's no difference, other than the TSA fails to understand why someone would put themselves through the more intrusive process. In lieu of an answer to the actual question, I'd be happy with a little clarity in this part of the non-answer at this point.

BTW, thank you for the answers in general. I maybe shoulda said that up front ;)
Submitted by Abelard on
We have the authority to do a great many things. We just choose not to. Having the authority does not, in itself, mean that the authority is going to be utilized.

That may be true, but so is this little chestnut:

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Submitted by Anonymous on
"...and reconstitute it under private contractors with government supervision closely monitored by Congress. "

If you think that will be better, you are misguided.


It is very easy to poke shots at TSA, they certainly open themselves up for a lot.

But I hope more people post what they DO want TSA to do, rather than criticizing. Should there be NO airport security? Should there be NO screening? Just let anyone on carrying anything they want?

If your answer is that there should be security then you have to devise systems and methods to deter and prevent, without inhibiting free travel.

Posters here are throwing around the Constitution saying it has been trashed, but I don't see it. The Constitution and the government exist for more than just the individual rights, they also exist to protect our country. If you don't like how
that is being done, then vote in a new administration.

I respect that TSA has put up this blog and promotes some good debate. I don't agree with everything they say or do, but they are engaging the citizens. That's better than most federal agencies by a long shot.
Submitted by Anonymous on

@"If you truly think TSOs have the authority to confiscate laptops, shoes, watches, etc., and just choose not do do it, then we have a major problem."

I agree with you that TSA is idiotic and out of control, but not on this particular point.

This is where the "voluntarily surrender" versus "confiscate" distinction becomes important. Their power to not let you fly with the item as carryon ends up depriving you of your property for cheap items (less than 20-100$) that aren't worth the trouble of going back and checking the item with an extra bag fee and spending the extra hour re-queueing.

If TSA does try to confiscate something more valuable, like a laptop, the passenger will take the time to save their property.

Submitted by Anonymous on

@"As a last ditch effort to help the passenger, a decision was made to ask them about their political affiliation. It was a mistake."

Nice passive voice there....

Is it still possible for other TSwhatevers to make a mistake like this? Who exactly is it that has access to the political affiliation?

Does the operations center maintain its own database, or are they using a commercial database? In other words: to whom do I direct a FOIA request to verify the information associated with my name?

Submitted by Anonymous on

@ "There are encryption and other methods of validating a boarding pass. Some are sophisticated, some are very low-tech and simple."

So what if high tech methods exist or are used by the airlines? Your TSA ID screener can only be using a "very low-tech and simple" validation method at that point in the process where they compare it to the ID.

Security theatre, pure and simple: you pretend like you are doing these high tech identity verification procedures when in reality you do not.

Submitted by Maya on

I am very surprised with these awswers its very interesting
cheers

Submitted by Anonymous on
@TSO Jason:
Uhhhh, I guess you don't realize that the "bojinka plot" involved nitroglycerine that had been put into a contact lens solution bottle.

You also left out the part about Bojinka how occured in the Phillipines and in 1995.
Submitted by Ayn R Key on
Someone declining to show an ID that they have on them endures a lot of hassle for not much of a point since it is far more intrusive for us to resolve it through the Ops Center than showing a legitimate ID up front. It is only when someone refuses to identify themselves or attempts to use fake ID that we would deny entry to the sterile area based on ID.

That is part of the answer to question two. What I want to know, based upon various ways to interpret the sentences contained therein is whether "refuses to identify themselves" covers those who are willing to go through the more intensive screening and simply are politely refusing to show ID, or whether willingness to go through a more intensive screening but politely refusing to show ID is considered a refusal to identify as a whole.

Where are you placing the line on "refused to identify"? Because someone who is willing to go through all the verification steps except ID could be interpreted on the one hand as willing to identify and on the other hand as unwilling to identify.

Moreover I think, based upon your full answer, that you're substituting one legal challenge for another. You're saying "it isn't because you're making a political point that we're refusing to let you in when you refuse to show ID. It's because it makes a lot of work for us."

Yes, of course refusing to show ID makes more work, but as long as the work is within the scope of your duties should the fact that it makes more work be sufficient to refuse the person entry? It's nice that you've shifted away from the highly constitutionally problematic position of considering such a person a threat, but you've shifted to even shakier legal grounds with the "it's extra work for us" defense of the policy.

In my time in the military, I learned something important: my job is to do my job, and that is my job. It doesn't matter if I was programming communications equipment or digging a hole, it was my job. The breaks from routine are also part of the job. The difficult cases are also part of the job.

So, what this boils down to is how that sentence of your answer is interpreted - do you interpret someone willing to do everything except show ID as refusing to identify?
Submitted by Anonymous on

Question #8 was:

"Why do you have access to my political affiliation?"

You did not answer that question in your response.

Just sayin'.

,>)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob 1 TK 0. GJ BOB

Submitted by Anonymous on

"But I hope more people post what they DO want TSA to do, rather than criticizing. Should there be NO airport security? Should there be NO screening? Just let anyone on carrying anything they want?"

Roll screenings back to where we were before 9/11 -- you walk through a metal detector, your bag gets X-rayed, you get on your plane. No shoe removal, no 3.4-1-1 nonsense, no secondary screenings without cause. No loaded firearms allowed on board (unless you're a FAM), no knives above a certain length. We would be just as safe as we are now, since none of the additional nonsense TSA indulges in makes us safer anyway.

"If your answer is that there should be security then you have to devise systems and methods to deter and prevent, without inhibiting free travel."

TSA is already inhibiting free travel. They've made the flying experience so ridiculous and unpleasant that fewer and fewer people fly every year, and Americans hate TSA almost as much as they do the IRS.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The system of American commerce would start to slow and drag, given that that it relies so heavily upon the aviation system, and likely would for some time"

This is, in fact, what is happening now: TSA's nonsense drives people to fly only as a last resort, resulting in fewer flights and a hit on an economy that doesn't need it. Thanks for screwing up the economy, TSA!

Submitted by Anonymous on

re: It's a balance between security and customer service and good old fashioned common sense (for example, anyone who thinks the full security system of Israel would be awesome in American airports needs a reality check cut to their name).

...................................
I don't recall anyone accusing your Administator of using common sense.

Given the shoe show, water drill and not securing the tarmacs of airports perhaps he should give it a try.

Naw, that would be to forward thinking!

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