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TSA’s Take on the Atlantic Article

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008
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Bruce Schneier and others have raised a number of good issues about TSA’s role in aviation security but veer off course when our work is described as ‘security theater.’ Some examples from a recent article in the Atlantic magazine are worth examining and I would put them in three categories as they represent three different layers of security: 1) items carried through checkpoints on the body; 2) watch-lists and boarding passes; and 3) behavior detection. The comments about TSA not hassling the reporter for carrying a Hezbollah flag or AQ T-shirt are more in the entertainment category along with the thought of splashing water on your face to simulate sweating as a demonstration that behavior detection doesn’t work.

Items carried on the person, be they a ‘beer belly’ or concealed objects in very private areas, are why we are buying over 100 whole body imagers in upcoming months and will deploy more over time. In the meantime, we use hand-held devices that detect hydrogen peroxide and other explosives compounds as well as targeted pat-downs that require private screening.

Watch-lists and identity checks are important and effective security measures. We identify dozens of terrorist-related individuals a week and stop No-Flys regularly with our watch-list process. Dozens more people with security concerns are identified through finding altered or forged documents, including boarding passes. Using stolen credit cards and false documents as a way to get around watch-lists makes the point that forcing terrorists to use increasingly risky tactics has its own security value. Boarding pass scanners and encryption are being tested in eight airports now and more will be coming.

Behavior detection works and we have 2,000 trained officers at airports today. They alert us to people who may pose a threat but who may also have items that could elude other layers of physical security.

The bigger point is that there are vulnerabilities everywhere and we use multiple layers of different security measures to protect us all from instances where one vulnerability can be exploited. The standard for TSA is not perfection, but material reduction of risk.

Clever terrorists can use innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities. But don’t forget that most bombers are not, in fact, clever. Living bomb-makers are usually clever, but the person agreeing to carry it may not be super smart. Even if “all” we do is stop dumb terrorists, we are reducing risk.

Stopping the ‘James Bond’ terrorist is truly a team effort and I whole-heartedly agree that the best way to stop those attacks is with intelligence and law enforcement working together. Anyone who knows would tell you that TSA is, in fact, an intelligence-driven operation, working daily with our colleagues throughout the counter-terrorism community in that common effort.

Kip Hawley

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Posted by Kip Hawley:
Watch-lists and identity checks are important and effective security measures. We identify dozens of terrorist-related individuals a week and stop No-Flys regularly with our watch-list process. Dozens more people with security concerns are identified through finding altered or forged documents, including boarding passes. Using stolen credit cards and false documents as a way to get around watch-lists makes the point that forcing terrorists to use increasingly risky tactics has its own security value.


Please name one true "No-Fly" that has been stopped on a domestic USA flight by the NFL in the past 6 months. Or 12 months. Then please explain to me why this person isn't under arrest and charged with a crime to be tried in the judicial system. If someone is too dangerous to be allowed to fly, then they surely are guilty of some crime and don't belong on the street. If someone is not wanted for a crime, then I don't see what business TSA has blocking them from travel. And please leave law-enforcement and arrest to the police and FBI; they are better trained, more experienced, and more competent at it than your average TSO.

Looking for fake IDs, fake boarding passes, and fake credit cards has nothing to do with TSA's mission to keep weapons, explosives, and incendiaries off of aircraft. Fake IDs and boarding passes are an airline revenue concern. Fake credit cards are a financial crime and identity theft concern that should be left to the FBI and other experienced financial-crime law enforcement agencies, not to power-tripping BDOs and TDCs looking for the Big Catch(TM).

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of innocent Americans have been harassed, delayed, and denied their right of free movement by your (that's you Hawley) No-Fly list with no effective means of redress or due process. You have created a papers-please society modeled quite well after the East German Stasi. When airlines tell the truth about why their customers are delayed, detained, and harassed, you threaten the airlines with fines. Instead of apologizing to the innocent victims and making immediate amends, you propose a massive government power grab called Secure Flight with a gigantic database that can store our travel habits, store our personal information, make that information vulnerable to identity theives, and be used and misused to draw incorrect conclusions about innocent Americans and deny them free movement and travel. What you never admit about Secure Flight is that it may result in SSSSelectee SSSScreening for any passenger who books or changes their flight within 48 hours of departure, and that because Secure Flight will be presumed correct in its watchlist matches, it will be even harder for the inevitable innocent victims to seek redress.

How do you justify the use of un-American secret blacklists to deny basic rights to schoolchildren? How do you justify the use of un-American secret blacklists to WWII vets who fought to protect the freedoms you are taking away every day? History will judge you, and that judgment will be written on the same pages as that of Erich Mielke and Wolfgang Schwanitz.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Wait a minute, does this mean I can bring normal-sized contact lens solution onto the plane then? In reading the Atlantic article I'm now more confused as to what is acceptable and what is not. If contact solution is allowed in larger than 3 oz sizes, why not dandruff shampoo, or special toothpaste?? The response to the article only goes further to show me that it IS all security theater. I've got an idea, how about CLEAR rules that are enforced the same way in EVERY airport. That would be helpful...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Kip, how exactly are watch lists useful when a trivially forged boarding pass and fake id can get you past the checkpoint? I'm not impressed by claims of "encryption"... that didn't work out so well with DVDs. ID verification cannot be made perfect and it doesn't equal security anyway. I'm sure I don't need to mention the huge number of false positives your lists generate or the lack of any way to get OFF the list if you're mistakenly identified as a security threat or share the name of one.

I think the criticisms of BD are quite valid. You say "BD works" yet fail to give any supporting evidence. The Atlantic article offers empirical evidence that behaviour detection is, at best, a guessing game played by your undertrained (1 week of training? Please.) minions. Where is your evidence to the contrary?

The beer belly got through security. End of story. If your staff are already this lazy, is buying them expensive technological toys with our tax money really going to help anything? I can't wait for medical pins and forgotten jewelry (or another LED sweatshirt) to shut down airports. As for your fancy handheld explosives detection devices, remind me again why you prohibit liquids instead of, oh, I dunno, using the devices on carry-on luggage.

If all you do is stop dumb terrorists, you are not doing your job. Your job is to create an environment hostile to troublemakers that is simultaneously pleasant to regular travelers. Guess what? You fail on both. The atlantic article addresses areas of real concern, and here you are playing "spin the news story" I'd be impressed if you made changes in response to this article. I'm not surprised at all that all you've got to offer is excuses.

There's no such thing as perfect security, we don't expect TSA to be perfect. We expect it to be resourceful, adaptable, and human. You fail on ALL THREE. Your goons on the ground don't know left from right. They over-react to everything. They make up stupid additions to the already stupid rules. They're puzzled by basic electronic circuits and by solid state hard drives. Air travel in the U.S is more unpleasant than it's ever been and it is your fault.

The liquids rules: dumb

The prohibited items list: useless as a guideline

The lack of any passenger bill of rights document: unforgivable

Your undertrained wannabe cop TSOs: Need to be replaced en masse with thinking feeling individuals. With at least a college degree.


And Bob, would you remind us why TSA thinks it's safe to line up next to a trash can full of "potential liquid explosives" ? I've been waiting months for a REAL answer on that one.

Submitted by Txrus on

Kip said...
Watch-lists and identity checks are important and effective security measures. We identify dozens of terrorist-related individuals a week and stop No-Flys regularly with our watch-list process. Dozens more people with security concerns are identified through finding altered or forged documents, including boarding passes. Using stolen credit cards and false documents as a way to get around watch-lists makes the point that forcing terrorists to use increasingly risky tactics has its own security value. Boarding pass scanners and encryption are being tested in eight airports now and more will be coming.
*****************************
And of those referenced above, in all categories, how many have been tried & convicted of aviation-related security crimes? How many have even been arrested?

Submitted by Anonymous on
"Your undertrained wannabe cop TSOs: Need to be replaced en masse with thinking feeling individuals. With at least a college degree."

So you wanna be treated like crap by college grads instead. A college degree would not help the checkpoint. Doesn't make any sense. You can become a police officer, a soldier, but not a TSO with a high school diploma.

I'm a IT guy and everyone I work with has a college degree. YOU would not want 90 percent of those people working at your local checkpoint.

Please... whoever you are, rethink this part of your laundry list.
Submitted by BlognDog on

Once again, Kip, why can't you answer why you are unable to respond to formal complaints that are 2, 3, 4 years old and older?

The NFL? This no recourse, no responsibility, no due process form of harassment by a federal agency? This is one of the things you are braggin about? Keeping Cat Stevens and Ted Kennedy off a plane? I'd rather see either of them than you in the seat next to me.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Stopping the ‘James Bond’ terrorist is truly a team effort and I whole-heartedly agree that the best way to stop those attacks is with intelligence and law enforcement working together. Anyone who knows would tell you that TSA is, in fact, an intelligence-driven operation, working daily with our colleagues throughout the counter-terrorism community in that common effort.

So if this is correct you use fictional characters as your target for security? I suggest that you turn off the television and stop going to action/adventure movies for at least one year and instead read up on real terrorism from reports written by the CIA, NSA, FBI, and military. Since DHS doesn't have its own intelligence agency working for it that the other, professional organizations might have a better idea where the next threats are coming from.

So stop using Hollywood as your primary source of intelligence. I also am aware of how little regard the other alphabet agencies regard DHS and TSA. Got to improve your image if you want to be taken seriously.

Talk to the American people when a TSO stops a previously unidentified terrorist from engaging in airborne terrorism.

We heap scorn and hoots of derision in the direction of senior DHS management.
Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm scared that by posting here I'll be put on some mysterious government list and be harassed every time I fly. That's not the hallmark of a free society. If only there was any kind of accountability for your agency.

Kip, you didn't respond to the claims in the article about how the reporter was able to bypass any security checks by printing out a fake boarding pass. That's a HUGE loophole that the No Fly List doesn't stop. Either fix that or stop trying to make us believe you're only engaging in security theater.

Submitted by Anonymous on
You have created a papers-please society modeled quite well after the East German Stasi.

Even the Stasi had to answer to the party. DHS and TSA answer to no one.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said: "Your undertrained wannabe cop TSOs: Need to be replaced en masse with thinking feeling individuals. With at least a college degree."


TSOs deal with constant training. Initial training, on-the-job training, daily training and testing EVERYDAY.

Some of the most brilliant people I've ever met do not have college degrees. Just because you have a degree does not mean you possess common sense, or that you are qualified.

I am a TSO. I am also a human being....a THINKING, FEELING human being. Please do not stereotype me to fit your needs.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow, lots of material here, Thanks Kip.

"we are buying over 100 whole body imagers"

Since these imagers do not see into body cavities (and we don't want them too), what is their use. Why not buy puffers and sniffers instead. Much less invasive AND more effective.
And since we are on the subject, when are you bringing the persons analysing the full body images out into the open, where the person scanned can see them?

What are "targeted pat-downs that require private screening"? Are you touching or looking at private parts? Under no circumstance is that justifiable.

"We identify dozens of terrorist-related individuals a week and stop No-Flys regularly with our watch-list process."

Could you tell us the actual numbers, and explain what was the problem in each case? Let us know how many were arrested, how many were sent back to other countries, etc.

"Behavior detection works"

Could you show us a scientific reference for that affirmation? All I have seen are studies indicating it is not well-established that it works.

"don’t forget that most bombers are not, in fact, clever"

While I agree that most persons on Earth are not, in fact, clever, I actually think you are underestimating the people you should be targeting.

"Anyone who knows would tell you that TSA is, in fact, an intelligence-driven operation"

Sincerely, it does not look like it from where I stand.

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

Kip said: "Items carried on the person, be they a ‘beer belly’ or concealed objects in very private areas, are why we are buying over 100 whole body imagers in upcoming months and will deploy more over time. In the meantime, we use hand-held devices that detect hydrogen peroxide and other explosives compounds as well as targeted pat-downs that require private screening."

So your response to such "threats" is to eviscerate the 4th amendment even more by requiring MORE strip searches and touching I'd expect only from my wife (or how I'd touch her)? I hope you enjoy that when you finally go thru a checkpoint after you're out of a job. It's pretty clear you don't go thru your own checkpoints.

Less than 3 months, less than 3 months ...

Earl

Submitted by George on

Anonymous (2:25pm) raises some thought-provoking questions that, in the truest tradition of this blog, will never get answered. We're just seeing the typical TSA reaction whenever they receive unflattering media attention: rehash the well-worn official platitudes, then insist that the TSA is Highly Effective so the criticism should be ignored. But the questions about how many "No Flys" have been arrested and convicted are interesting ones that bring up something I hadn't considered before.

The watchlists are indeed "effective" in their own peculiar way. The usual approach to arresting and trying criminals requires a lot of effort and expense, and (assuming the case isn't plea bargained) evidence sufficient to convince a jury that that the defendant is guilty of all elements of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. That's apparently too difficult when you're dealing with terrorism, which by definition demands shortcuts around the burdensome Constitution.

But what if you could set up a much simpler scheme that metes out administrative punishment (either being barred from flying or receiving "SSSSpecial" treatment each time they fly) to large numbers of individuals, with little effort or fuss on the government's part? There's no need for careful investigation or gathering solid evidence. Just some "intelligence" (whether or not reliable), or even a "suspicion" on the part of one of the thousands of agents with the authority to add names to the continually-growing watchlists.

Since the watchlists are classified and owned by various organizations, there's no expensive burden of verification. As long as the lists keep growing at a sufficient rate, the owners can put together spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides with incontrovertible quantitative proof that the lists are "effective." And because the TSA defines a false positive as a success, the mere fact that they interrogate and search large numbers of passengers based on watchlist hits is sufficient proof that the watchlists are "effective."

It doesn't matter one little bit that those "hits" may not be terrorists and may not threaten aviation in any way; and that there may not be any valid reason for their names to be on the watchlist. The fact that the TSA has done its job of hassling that person in response to the "hit" is sufficient proof that the TSA is effective in doing its job! There may not be grounds for arresting, trying or incarcerating those individuals; but the fact that someone (who we can't know) for whatever reason (that we can't know) believed that individual needed to be on the list is clearly grounds for administering the lesser form of administrative punishment. And by God, the TSA proudly and effectively Protects the Homeland by administering that punishment thousands of times a month! That's truly something for Kip to crow about!

Of course, there's the little problem of all those people who don't understand why they're on the watchlist and why they deserve administrative punishment. For that we have to turn to Kip's boss, Michael Chertoff. There's nothing wrong with the lists, so they'll just keep on growing. The fault is with the airlines, who don't collect enough private identifying information to use the lists effectively. If we'd just give up a little more privacy, all will be well. Thank you Secretary Chertoff. You're doing a heck of a job!

Finally, I hope Kip realizes that people like Bruce Schneier aren't just "liberals who hate America" and want to make the TSA (and Kip) look bad to aid the enemy. They (and many of us who write comments here) merely want the government to do an effective job of protecting the Homeland. It's increasingly clear that the TSA's intrusive and costly Security Theater, and the watchlists that put quantity before quality, aren't doing that. I think our only hope is that the next administration will do a thorough review of the Homeland Security bureaucracy with an eye toward effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Kip: Even if "all" we do is stop dumb terrorists, we are reducing risk.

And if all you do is hassle large numbers of people who aren't terrorists at all, are you still reducing risk?
Submitted by Winstonsmith on

So far Kip, in all the years the TSA has been in operation I have yet to hear of a single instance where an actual terrorist has been apprehended by checkpoint screeners. Surely had such an event taken place it would have been front page news from coast to coast. What I have seen, on the other hand, is a gradual erosion of my civil liberties at the checkpoint -- I have to show id where I did not have to show it before; I have to display my property in ways I never had to before; my property is subject to confiscation (oh I'm sorry, "voluntary forfeiture") at the whim of an undereducated security guard (I refuse to grant them the title of an officer); my first, fourth, fifth, ninth, tenth, and fourteenth amendment rights are routinely violated, all in the name of security. This while gaping holes in security are left unaddressed. We still fly on top of uninspected cargo. People still walk in and out of the "sterile area" of the airport without inspection. The Atlantic article shows that your boarding pass inspection is little more than a joke.

Kip, I'm not impressed. I'm not buying it. You have not proven either your bona fides or TSA's value add to our security. I'm just biding my time until January 20 when you are out of a job. Meanwhile I continue to go through the airport twice a week because my job demands it and I play nice with your hired minions because I need to get where I'm going.

Both candidates for the presidency have sworn to cut wasteful government spending. No matter who wins, I can only think that TSA's bloated budget ought to be the first thing to be cut.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous at October 21, 2008 4:57 PM said:
I am a TSO. I am also a human being....a THINKING, FEELING human being. Please do not stereotype me to fit your needs.

I am not a customer. I am not self-loading freight. I am an American citizen. I vote in EVERY election that occurs in my local voting area and I have a long memory. Until the TSA stops stereotyping me as potential criminal because I just happen to give business to the airline industry, I will continue stereotyping every member of the TSA as of being questionable quality and ethics until proven differently.

How can the TSA improve?
- Screen the cargo.
- Secure the bags.
- Secure the tarmac.
- Eliminate DYWTFT?
- Prosecute TSOs guilty of illegal acts.

Until the TSA proves to me that they have their own house in order, everything they do is simply over-reactive window-dressing to make people think they are safe.

When the entire American populus realizes that they are actually American citizens, instead of consumers, it will be a good day.

Submitted by Adrian McCarthy on
Watch-lists and identity checks are important and effective security measures.

This is unprovable. The problem is that it's impossible to measure the effectiveness.

We identify dozens of terrorist-related individuals a week and stop No-Flys regularly with our watch-list process.

Just because you've stopped people who were on the list from flying does not mean that you've made a flight safer. You don't know if those people actually belonged on the list. And you don't know if you've helped their plans by letting them know they're on the list. It also doesn't tell you how many dangerous people slipped through the screening.

There's little to no oversight of the list. Just recently a police department added 58 members of a peaceful, anti-war activist group to a government terrorist watch list. (It's not clear if this list is tied to the ones used for restricting flying rights.) Even so, how many cases like this do we not hear about? How many people on the lists are there without good cause? How many "bad guys" don't make it on the list? How many people on the list make it through security?

We don't know any of those numbers. I doubt we can even make good estimates. So it's impossible to claim that it's an effective measure.

What we do know, is that innocent people have been blocking from flying, at a minimum forfeiting the cost of their airplane tickets.

We do know that trusted pilots have lost their jobs because they got on the list.

We do know that circumventing security if you're on the list is trivial.

We do know that there is little transparency or oversight on the management of the lists (determining who goes on and who comes off).

We do know that--without oversight--the list could be used as a political weapon.

We do know that the process discriminates against the 20 million Americans who don't have a government-issued photo identification.

We do know that Clear Card has put travelers at risk of identity fraud by losing track of unencrypted data on laptops.

We do know that terrorists can figure out if they're on the list by applying for a Clear Card.

I find these facts far more compelling than Kip's gut feeling that the scheme is effective.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow... It's mind boggling to me how difficult it is to make you people happy. It's almost as if you like being irrate about something. Here you have the Administrator of TSA telling you guys whats going on in airport security and all you do is ask moronic questions like "Wait a minute, does this mean I can bring normal-sized contact lens solution onto the plane then?"
You could ALWAYS bring your eye solution through the checkpoint no matter what size. If its a medical item then u can bring it on the plane. NEXT!
Someone else who was asking for proof that the BDO program works. They were shown a site that showed that it was effective against preventing threats and he goes on about how it wasnt a "terrorist" and that it was some looney tune clown. I guess it doesnt count then. Get a grip sir. I'm glad Kips running the show and not you.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Kip,

Sounds like you're just being defensive here. How does the document checkers' scribble scratch on the boarding pass improve security? Many times when I board the plane, my boarding pass doesn't even have TSA's marking on it, because once passing security I'll go to one of the kiosks airside and change my seat assignment or flight (which prints out a new boarding pass). Or even if I "lost" my boarding pass, I could use one of those kiosks to print a replacement without speaking to anyone. Do you want to know how much the gate agent cares about whether or not my boarding pass indicates I've been cleared by TSA?; well, they don't.

If you've identified as many terrorist-related individuals trying to fly as you claim, what happens to these people? If they're terrorist related, shouldn't they be sent to jail? I haven't heard about a single terrorist-related arrest made as a result of TSA security measures or as a result of a BDO. Do you even know what you're really looking for? I'm not convinced; TSI's climbing on aircraft as if they were jungle gyms does not instill confidence in the traveling public.

Finally, explain why (in the article) someone was able to make up the bogus story they did to get passed security without ID or a legitimate boarding pass? Why is it that I could slip by just by sounding cooperative or even apologetic for 'forgetting' by ID while wearing a Osama bin Laden shirt, while if on the other hand I simply told you the truth that I believe in the U.S. Constitution and my right to travel without justification to the government then I'd be denied entry?

And yes, I'd love a three-once glass of water. Thanks Kip.



Rather than getting defensive toward the article, why don't you explain

Submitted by Anonymous on

What a joke.... Taking our shoes off is still ridiculous, but otherwise we'll be 'detained' and miss our flight if we don't comply.

The psuedo-cops that are in the TSA are stealing our stuff, too. I guess we're not out of our minds when our stolen equipment is showing up on eBay.

I'm all for reasonable security but having people who took a couple day-long classes in behavioral psychology won't help anyone to accurately tell who a terrorist is vs someone who has been in meetings for the last 48 hours working on brokering a deal. What a waste of time and money.

Submitted by Gunner on

Nice puff piece. What you do is absolutely security theatre, no matter how loud you protest.

Thank goodness that you will be gone in January. You have singlehandedly destroyed air travel in the United States.

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Hey Kip I am surprised to see you making a post. I figured you would be too busy packing to address this blog.

I hope you plan on taking a vacation before jumping back into private life. I suggest a trip to Florida for a bit of fishing. If you do come down give a holler.

Ok now that the pleasantries are out of the way, Kip do you get dizzy spinning so much? Face it the TSA and by your position, you got pwned by this reporter. Such is life.

I will agree that the Hezbollah flag or a Bin Laden shirt falls to the entertainment category. I am pleased that the reporter was not stopped for those items. It is not the TSA's business what I carry, as long as it is not dangerous.

BUT, the fact he was able to slip by with a beer belly and a host of other prohibited items is pretty scary.

Quit screwing around with boarding passes and statutorily illegal ID verifications and stick to what you were mandated to do by 49 C.F.R. § 1540, screening for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries.

If the TSA could just do that one little thing you won't have to worry about who is on the plane because they will be impotent.

You said “There are vulnerabilities where you have limited ways to address it directly. So you have to put other layers around it, other things that will catch them when that vulnerability is breached. This is a universal problem. Somebody will identify a very small thing and drill down and say, ‘I found a vulnerability.’”

I have a simple rule about security, if I can break it, hack it, bypass it or thwart it in any manner, it is NOT secure.

Keeping weapons, explosives, and incendiaries from the plane is not something you have "limited ways of addressing". I can think of a half a dozen ways off the top of my head to increase the contraband catch at the checkpoints without violating the law or the Constitution.

Kip I know you have one foot out the door but now is not the time to just pass whatever half baked idea Chertoff on down the line.

Kip it is still your job to lead the TSA. Now is the time to roll back the stupidity of play security and push REAL security.

Kip I have never thought you an idiot and frankly I find the KHIAI merchandise to be distasteful but as long as you keep saying yes to the stupidity from above this is how you will be perceived by the masses.

Now is the time to act Kip, they can't fire you, and they can't screw up your private sector job. Man up and do the right thing.

Submitted by Bob Hanssen on

Assistant Secretary Hawley, might I ask what is "your take" on this example of professionalism?

"Woman Claims Pasco Airport Security Agent Hurt Her Foot"

http://tinyurl.com/5d54uk

Please don't make excuses or have one of your public affairs people cut & paste from your previous speeches. Surely, with three months left before you're out of a job, you must be thinking "legacy". If we remember you at all, do you want us to remember you as someone who was embarrassed by a simple reporter or teeshirt wearer? How about Nat Heatwole? How about the 500 caught thieves who violated the public trust? How about all the chest-thumping when you catch a party-animal college student with a fake ID? How about 3 uniform changes and zero changes to checkpoint x-ray machines? How about harassing rail and bus commuters?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous @ October 21, 2008 5:36 PM said..."The guy wasn't a terrorist. He was a nut burger. Nice try though."

Definition of terrorism: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

The guy tried to board an airplane with a pipe bomb, a 7-inch folding knife, fireworks, nail-gun rounds and a one-way boarding pass. According to you though he was just a "nut burger". Sounds like he had violent intentions to me.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Behavior detection works"

How long before TSA rolls out "Extispicy Officers"?

As good a method as Behavior Detection.

Submitted by Mr Gel-pack on

Kip @"Even if “all” we do is stop dumb terrorists, we are reducing risk."

At what cost?

If the cost of partially reducing the 1-in-a-billion risk of "dumb bombers" is 2,800,000 person-hours per day, the terrorists win each day they make us pay that cost.

There's always a cost when you tradeoff risk versus resources, and TSA does an absolutely terrible job of showing that its costs are worth the benefits.

Of course Kip, TSA, and the TSOs can laugh all the way to the bank as they spend the billions the US gives TSA.

Submitted by Mr Gel-pack on

Also, if your take on the Atlantic article is that Jeffrey Goldberg is some James Bond-like super-terrorist, I think you've missed the entire point of the article: None of your boarding pass checking, behavior detection, or screening layers worked to detect someone using non-innovative ways to exploit long-exposed vulnerabilities.

Your "take" on the article is that is an opportunity to spout the same old PR fluff.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Watch-lists and identity checks are important and effective security measures."

You keep repeating this but never back it up. You can't even explain why you think this is true. Please stop using my tax dollars to lie to me.

"We identify dozens of terrorist-related individuals a week and stop No-Flys regularly with our watch-list process."

Name them. Arrests are public records and there are no privacy concerns with releasing the names of these "terrorist-related individuals."

Oh, wait. You can't name them, because you're lying.

And you do realize that the reference to a "James Bond terrorist" is that there's no such animal, yes? And that as a result most of what TSA does is an unconscionable waste of time and money? And that it's all pointless since you don't bother to screen 100% of cargo?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I whole-heartedly agree that the best way to stop those attacks is with intelligence and law enforcement working together."

What does that have to do with TSA, which is neither a law-enforcement agency (phony badges and uniforms notwithstanding) nor an intelligence agency?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Even the Stasi had to answer to the party. DHS and TSA answer to no one."
Ever hear of Congress? That's who DHS and TSA answer to.

Submitted by Rmogull on

Kip,

I'm a security expert/analyst with experience in both physical and IT security (and have spoken at many of the same conferences as Bruce). I have yet to encounter another security professional that isn't confident they could bypass security with dangerous items and circumvent all your layers of controls (especially if mroe than one work together). In our analysis, many of the layers lock up resources that could be better deployed elsewhere.

Look, I'm a realist, and any intelligent and determined attacker will always succeed when one side is only playing defense. That's not a criticism of your dedication or intensions, it's just the reality of the security equation.

The issue myself and many other security professionals have is that many of your control layers are ineffective, inconvenient, and those resources could be better utilized in more effective locations.

You are being asked to solve an impossible problem- balancing convenience with security. But the opinion of many outsiders with expertise is that you, at times, reduce convenience without adding security. That's called "security theater", and we have yet to see a point by point response to the many public criticisms.

Submitted by Bob Howard on

Explain the watch list to me. If I am Obama Bin Terrorist, I am not going to show up at the airport using that name.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hey TSA--How about trying to go just one week without lying to the public!

As recently as today, your page at http://tinyurl.com/6lfcj4 which was updated 10/22 and included a link to the Final Rule said providing date-of-birth was optional for passengers. (Of course, the link is now broken as of a few minutes ago.)

Yet page 13 of your final rules clearly indicates passengers will be required to provide this very personal information which will make them infinitely more vulnerable to identity theft. How long before the press release that an airline, TSA, or a TSA-hired private contractor has "misplaced" a list of passenger names and dates-of-birth, just like TSA's contractor did with the original CAPPS-II test data?

And your spin that Secure-Flight-Passenger-Data is not PNRs is an outright lie since all the key info from the PNR (including flight itinerary) is being transmitted to TSA by the airline. There is nothing to prevent you from changing the data-retention rules (or interpreting them differently) and creating massive travel dossiers on millions of innocent Americans that will be used and misused to draw incorrect conclusions and deny us basic rights.

Your papers please? Absolutely disgusting. I visited East Germany before the Wall came down, and am ashamed to see the USA moving in that direction.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"If its a medical item then u can bring it on the plane. NEXT!"

Unless a TSO decides not to let you bring it on the plane. The passenger has absolutely no recourse against a TSO who decides to make up his own rules. Kip Hawley thinks this makes us safer. Kip Hawley is lying.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Kip Hawley stated:

The bigger point is that there are vulnerabilities everywhere and we use multiple layers of different security measures to protect us all from instances where one vulnerability can be exploited. The standard for TSA is not perfection, but material reduction of risk.


It is obvious from the statement above that Kip Hawley's dictionary is poorly written.

If a security layer has a vulnerability that can be exploited, it is not a security layer but a security flaw that needs to be fixed.

Obviously, nobody at the TSA knows the 99% reliability rule. If you have N systems with 99% reliability chained end to end, the resulting system is .99^N percent reliable. 2 = 98%. 3 = 97%. 100 = 36%.

The flying public is not seeing evidence of security flaws being fixed, but just more layers of exploitable flaws being wrapped around the existing system in order to protect the pre-existing flaws. This is where the whole 'Security Theater' issue comes from.


Has anyone heard when the TSA will actually comply with the 9/11 Commission's cargo screening requirements?

The reason NASA's Space Shuttle has such a complex launch sequence is because of the massive number of systems that must be operating properly before launch.

Submitted by Anonymous on

To Anonymous at October 21, 2008 8:12 PM:

Regarding: Anonymous post: "I am a TSO. I am also a human being....a THINKING, FEELING human being. Please do not stereotype me to fit your needs."

In which your response was: "I am not a customer. I am not self-loading freight. I am an American citizen. I vote in EVERY election that occurs in my local voting area and I have a long memory. Until the TSA stops stereotyping me as potential criminal because I just happen to give business to the airline industry, I will continue stereotyping every member of the TSA as of being questionable quality and ethics until proven differently."

We are all American citizens! We all need to practice civility and humility, not some of the time but all of the time, and that alone would make such a difference. You can't honestly say that every TSO you've encountered has done something to warrant the abuse they receive and ditto for passengers. This is a vicious cycle that seems to have no end.

Submitted by Anonymous on
"Even the Stasi had to answer to the party. DHS and TSA answer to no one."
Ever hear of Congress? That's who DHS and TSA answer to.

DHS has gone before Congress. Congress has instructed DHS to make certain things happen on or before a certain date. DHS has conveniently ignored Congress and hasn't complied. So, DHS and TSA answer to no one and are accountable to no one. Try again.
Submitted by Anonymous on
The guy tried to board an airplane with a pipe bomb, a 7-inch folding knife, fireworks, nail-gun rounds and a one-way boarding pass. According to you though he was just a "nut burger". Sounds like he had violent intentions to me.

So will this guy see any terrorism charges? I think not. Read the article and see how the press portrays him. Come back when they catch a real terrorist.
Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA has done a great job keeping us safe from all those tweezers they confiscated! Oh wait, they decided a few years later that they weren't a threat (duh).

No wait, TSA has done a great job keeping us safe from all those lighters they confiscated!! Oh wait, you can carry those aboard now too.

Wait, TSA has done a great job apologizing for it clear mis-steps and ineptitude, acknowledged its focus on hassling travelers without any resulting increase in security, and evaded discussion of its arbitrary policies by cloaking itself in flag-waving pseudo-patriotism!

Hmm, TSA, maybe "security theater" is on target, eh?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, I see where you're going to try to jam SecureFlight down our throats now. I don't appreciate that at all.

Submitted by Anonymous on
DHS has gone before Congress. Congress has instructed DHS to make certain things happen on or before a certain date. DHS has conveniently ignored Congress and hasn't complied. So, DHS and TSA answer to no one and are accountable to no one. Try again.

Proof please!!!
Submitted by Anonymous on
We are all American citizens!

Except for those who are not.

We all need to practice civility and humility, not some of the time but all of the time, and that alone would make such a difference.

So who is in control? The passengers or TSA? Clue, it isn't the passengers.


You can't honestly say that every TSO you've encountered has done something to warrant the abuse they receive and ditto for passengers.

Call a waaabulance. TSA began abusing passengers first. Now the passengers have about had their fill of the abuse from the position of authority, aka TSA. They reap what they sowed and don't like it the least bit.

This is a vicious cycle that seems to have no end.

Yep, new TSA abuses/thefts/damages do result in the flying public becoming even more skeptical about the ability of TSA to function as a viable governmental organization.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"If its a medical item then u can bring it on the plane. NEXT!"

Unless a TSO decides not to let you bring it on the plane. The passenger has absolutely no recourse against a TSO who decides to make up his own rules. Kip Hawley thinks this makes us safer. Kip Hawley is lying.

October 22, 2008 2:42 PM

My suggestion to you is to speak up and call for a supervisor. Instead of throwing a fit just explain why you need the item and unless the supervisor feels like getting sued then you will have your liquid medicine.
I think most of you folks are just finding ways to belittle the tsa when in the big scheme of things they are really trying to protect tax payers. Kip has a job to do and I'd like to see anyone else try and do a better job. TROLLKILLER (sry just wanted to make sure he saw this), can i ask what you would do differently at the checkpoints to make a safer, friendlier experience? You can even do away with the ID checks since you're so passionate about it. ;)

Submitted by Anonymous on

DHS has gone before Congress. Congress has instructed DHS to make certain things happen on or before a certain date. DHS has conveniently ignored Congress and hasn't complied. So, DHS and TSA answer to no one and are accountable to no one. Try again.

October 22, 2008 5:13 PM

Are you making this up? Provide examples please. try again

Submitted by Anonymous on

"How can the TSA improve?
- Screen the cargo."

This is the biggest load (no pun intended), and yet I see it repeated endlessly. Cargo doesn't need 100% screening, 0r even 75% for that matter. You know why? Because there is no threat there. Name the last terror plot or arrest that involved air cargo - Ramzi Yusef 14 years ago? And even that plot was quickly rejected by the architects, read the 9/11 commission report (and please don't mention Pam Am 103, that was checked baggage, not cargo).

But why wouldn't terrorists want to use air cargo as a way to attack a plane you ask? Because the supply chain is so complex for one thing. Unless you have an insider working for you, you can never be certain if your bomb or jack in the box terrorist cargo will go on a passenger craft or an all-cargo craft, and if you'll kill your target. If you use an altimeter trigger, you might have your package sent in a pressurized cargo bay (used if certain types of cargo are present), so it won't work and you'll be discovered. If you use a GPS trigger, what happens if your package is shielded by the other cargo and container walls? Either no detonation or premature detonation.

But what if a terrorist mails himself? You know, to hijack a cargo plane? For one, how do you get out of your box, especially when you are surrounded by a few tons of other cargo, under a net, and/or in a cargo container? If you're a really unlucky terrorist, your "air cargo" is shipped in the back of a 18 wheeler. And just in case you are transported in a passenger plane, getting from the hold to the passenger compartment isn't as easy as Hollywood makes it look.

But, what if there is an insider helping the terrorists you ask? Then screening becomes a moot point anyway, as a cargo operator can just bypass the security protocols anyway.

So, instead of wasting our time and money on 100% screening, we need to be doing better background checks and employee screenings.

-Cargo Insider

Submitted by Anonymous on

"DHS has gone before Congress. Congress has instructed DHS to make certain things happen on or before a certain date. DHS has conveniently ignored Congress and hasn't complied. So, DHS and TSA answer to no one and are accountable to no one. Try again."

Care to back that up with a credible source? Try again.

Submitted by Anonymous on
"If someone is too dangerous to be allowed to fly, then they surely are guilty of some crime and don't belong on the street.

You're assuming the majority of the people on the no fly are walking around in the U.S. in the first place. Ever consider that the majority are overseas where we can't just arrest them?

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