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Monday, December 22, 2008
60 min phtoos

TSA and aviation security was featured in a 60 Minutes segment with Lesley Stahl last night. Transportation Security Officers LaDonta Edwards (BWI airport) and Gary Wilkes (DCA airport) were interviewed along with TSA Administrator Kip Hawley.

We gave CBS an inside look at TSA’s new training for all officers designed to calm the checkpoint, better identify threats and improve security by changes in how officers engage passengers. Our officers appreciated the time spent talking with Ms. Stahl, and she was certainly surprised to learn that one of the strangest things officers had seen come through the X-ray machine was a baby in an infant carrier. (Seems some people take the “Never wake a sleeping baby” mantra a little too seriously.)

Ms. Stahl had access to the TSA Operations Center, also known as the Freedom Center. This is our main information center, where analysts monitor the entire transportation network and connect TSA with the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration, FBI, and other law enforcement and security agencies. It is the kind of place you would hope exists in the post 9/11 world.

During an airport visit, Ms. Stahl and Kip Hawley operated the multi-view X-ray machines at BWI and saw how the improved technology helps officers find suspect items by highlighting areas of concern on the screen. While in the remote viewing location for the whole body imager, Ms. Stahl was surprised to see that it was not the “pornographic” image she thought it would be.

The piece also includes Bruce Schneier, security expert (and blogger ) who calls some of TSA’s measures “security theater.” We agree with Bruce’s comments in the piece about terrorists being able to change their tactics every time something is banned or receives added scrutiny (guns, box cutters, liquids, shoes, etc.). That’s why we’re using new officer training and technology to be more proactive and going after hostile intent through the use of Behavior Detection Officers. These officers are trained to look for involuntary behaviors people trying to evade security display and can distinguish them from the behaviors of the average frazzled passenger late for a flight.

We understand that some checkpoint security measures annoy many Americans, but because of the intelligence information gathered from around the world, TSA deems these measures are necessary. We appreciate any opportunity to highlight our officers, enhance public understanding about why we do what we do, and show what motivates us every day in order to keep air travel safe.

To see the 60 Minutes segment, click here .

Ellen Howe
Guest EoS Blogger

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

We understand that some checkpoint security measures annoy many Americans, but because of the intelligence information gathered from around the world, TSA deems these measures are necessary. We appreciate any opportunity to highlight our officers, enhance public understanding about why we do what we do, and show what motivates us every day in order to keep air travel safe.

To see the 60 Minutes segment, click here.

Ellen Howe
Guest EoS Blogger
...................................

Ellen, most people know that some form of security is required in today's world. However, when a significant part of the traveling public protest certain procedures then that means that the need for the procedure is not well understood, has not been communicated to the public well or is like many of us believe, nothing more than "smoke and mirrors".

Not helping the situation is the continued actions of TSO's who treat people poorly as noted in the news report on Dallas NBC 5 recently and theft from checked baggage by any source when traveling.

Continuing the problem is the uneven enforcement of policies by TSA at the nations airports.

Finally, dissatisfaction is further increased by TSA putting its collective nose in places it does not belong.

The 60 Minutes report did not help TSA's lack of acceptance by the public but did highlight a growing distrust of an out of control public agency that will be forced to listen to the citizens of this country or forced to disband from its present form.

Perhaps new leadership at TSA will address these issues, lord knows the current leaders are deaf!

Submitted by Stephen on

Embarassed again....

"They are trying to kill us"... what? Who? When the TSA goes on about the FAKE terrorist boogeyman threat, you lose ALL credibility.

"They will do it as many times as they can".... yes they will, except for the fact that they are dead. All 19 of them... every single one of them.

There just isn't a real threat. This is a waste of my tax dollars fighting fake threats.

Shameful.

-Steve

Submitted by Stephen on

So....

Are any of the TSA people here actually going to respond to Bruce Schnieir's comments? He is, in my mind, DEAD ON AGAIN. Absolutely right he is.

You can spend money and resources on this imagined threat, and that imagined threat. You can spend just infinite amounts of money on it.

The proof is in the pudding, and I have yet to see the TSA produce an ounce of pudding for all of the money we have thrown at it.

I mean seriously.... if 0 planes are attacked every year, and we prevent all 0 of them.... how do we prove that what we did actually prevented the attacks as opposed to well... there just being no attacks?

-Steve

Submitted by Txrus on

Can you please elaborate on Kip's comment re: 2 suspicious fliers in the air at the time of the taping? How did they get in the air in the first place if the TSA had 'interest' in them? Did one of Kip's layers fail? Given that they were clearly in the air, what was the viewer supposed to take away as the TSA's response to this 'threat'?

Submitted by Anonymous on
That’s why we’re using new officer training and technology to be more proactive and going after hostile intent through the use of Behavior Detection Officers. These officers are trained to look for involuntary behaviors people trying to evade security display and can distinguish them from the behaviors of the average frazzled passenger late for a flight.

So how many false positives do you have? Angry or upset passengers are a pretty common occurrence and just because a passenger looks suspicious doesn't mean a thing. You're trampling on Constitutional rights again. How about probable cause? Too difficult a concept?

We understand that some checkpoint security measures annoy many Americans, but because of the intelligence information gathered from around the world, TSA deems these measures are necessary. We appreciate any opportunity to highlight our officers, enhance public understanding about why we do what we do, and show what motivates us every day in order to keep air travel safe.

Must be doing a good job against mule/donkey borne IEDs. Haven't heard of one of those going off here in the US. Ever heard of the kid standing on a street corner and waving his arms? When asked why he was waving his arms the kid responded with "I'm keeping tigers away." The questioner said "kid, there aren't any tigers around here." Kid said "doing a good job aren't I?" Security theater coming to a neighborhood near you.
Submitted by Anonymous on
We appreciate any opportunity to highlight our officers, enhance public understanding about why we do what we do, and show what motivates us every day in order to keep air travel safe.

There are many unanswered (with REAL answers) questions right here on this blog. Care to answer these questions when asked repeatedly by several posters.
We keep asking, and either we never get an answer, or it's a non-answer with diversions from what was really asked.

BTW, isn't calling the TSA Operations Center the "Freedom Center" a bit overboard? I would think almost 100% of all flights are quite safe with or without your center. What do you do from there? Launch missiles? Kip said that they were tracking flights that had "suspects" onboard as he spoke. Exactly how does watching a flight path of those planes make it any safer?
Submitted by Anonymous on

Kip Hawley walks around with a badge on?

...


Really?

Submitted by Tomas on

I would hope that both the "parent" and the TSO(s) who allowed a sleeping infant into a high-powered x-ray machine at a TSA chokepoint were both brought to the attention of law enforcement for endangering the infant...

If not, why not?

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Submitted by Patrick (BOS TSO) on

At least you guys are giving some notice to Schiener. That should make some of the crowd happy.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Interesting post. My respect for "60 Minutes" as a news show (if it ever was such) is now diminished greatly. The incident with a baby going through the X-ray machine was widely reported. Any decent reporter would have known about that during research for this piece. And while I know there are some who are concerned about how much of a person would be visible with the whole body imager, based on what I have heard and read, that was not a real issue, assuming TSA uses the device as they claim they will.

As for the "Freedom Center", giving something a nice, friendly sounding name does not change what it is. While you may hope such a place exists, I most certainly do not. Every step we take towards your so-called security I see as another loss of freedom. How long before we are totally safe from any threat and at what cost to our liberties? It is a slippery slope that we have started down and I certainly hope someone is able to arrest our momentum before we find ourselves living with Mr. Orwell.

Though a MP in Britain was heard to quote (and I am paraphrasing here) that any security measures, no matter how invasive, are worthwhile since being alive is the greatest civil liberty there is, I would have to differ. My civil liberties are worth a great deal to me. If that means our society is a bit less secure then that is a risk I am willing to live (and die) with.

Submitted by Txrus on

While we're waiting for an answer to my first question re: the layer failure that apparently allowed 2 fliers of 'interest' to get into the air during the taping of this segment, could you please explain how Kip could claim to not know about the Red Team Test Failure rate when Ms. Stahl asked him about it? And now that he's had time, hopefully, to review this data, what is his response to her original question? And, finally, since Kip brought it up, could you please describe 1 action implemented by the TSA that, had it been in place on 9/10/01, would have prevented the hijacking's of 9/11? (Banning box cutters doesn't count since there are so many perfectly legal alternatives allowed). Nor, btw, does hardening the cockpit doors since the airlines did that themselves (as was pointed out during the segment).

Submitted by Dave Chang on

Kudos to all TSO's. I'm quite impressed with the amount of BS that they have to do with and how professional and calm they remain. I travel for business 50-75% of the year. I carry a CPap and a laptop. I don't check luggage. I never get annoyed at TSO's asking to test my Cpap, open my luggage, or otherwise do their jobs. Last night, however, in the RSW airport (Ft. Myers), I lost my cool. My understanding was that the TSO's are mainly responsible for our safety as passangers. You see, as I have learned, to get through the checkpoint quicker, I have my Cpap (in a case) clipped to the outside of my luggage and my computer, outside of my briefcase in it's own case, slung over my shoulder. As I was about to enter the "maze", a TSO at the entrance stopped me and stated, per airline regulation, she could not let me through becuase I had 4 bags. Clearly frustrated, I asked her to clarify since this has NEVER happened to me before at any airport. She stated that my briefcase, the cpap, laptop, and my rollerboard all constituted "carry on" luggage since they were in their own seperate cases. In order for me to proceed, I had to repack them into my bags, walk the 30 feet and then remove them again from the bags to be scanned in the x-ray machine. My frustration is two fold. Number one: since when are TSO's charged with enforcing airline baggage limit policy? Isn't that what the airline employees are for? I figure TSO's have enough to do searching for threats. Number 2: aren't TSO's entrusted with some sort of ability to make a judgement call? I would sincerely hope that someone who is charged with my protection, can use enough judgement to see that these are "cases" that came out of the larger bags I was carrying. Considering I removed them from the luggage within view of the TSO, I was extremely shocked at the officer's lack of discernment. I'm apologizing here for losing my cool, my reponse to this TSO was less then professional. I commend her on her calm and professional demeanor. More importantly, however, these 2 issues do concern me.

Submitted by Sandra on

"Freedom Center" and "Department of Homeland Security", both terms frightening and nauseating.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can you explain the images of the woman in the MMW (strip-search) machine? How can it be that it cannot see through a bra? So what good is the machine if all she has to do is hide something in her bra?

Something is just not right here. Other articles claim, and show that the strip-search machine is just that.

So in your desire to enhance public understanding, please tell us the truth.

We have seen the REAL images from the MMW machine, and know that it shows everything under one's clothing.

How can you justify putting children in that machine? I think it is a felony to view children under those circumstances.

I will await your full response.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dave Chang posted in part the following.........

Number 2: aren't TSO's entrusted with some sort of ability to make a judgement call? I would sincerely hope that someone who is charged with my protection, can use enough judgement to see that these are "cases" that came out of the larger bags I was carrying. Considering I removed them from the luggage within view of the TSO, I was extremely shocked at the officer's lack of discernment.

...............................
Dave you jut witnessed TSO's judgement at work. The are highly trained (just ask them) and know all the rules about everything.

You should be comforted that your safety is in their hands!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Many average travelers attempt to defeat some TSA rules when flying. The ridiculus liquid rule comes to mind.

How much better off would we be if TSA had sensible rules that were supported by the general public?

As it stands now you have the general public thumbing its noses at you as well as potential bad actors trying to test your defenses.

Seems like a complete failure of TSA management to me.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I for one have to say that the 60 minute piece was poorly executed. Stahl clearly didn’t do her homework in preparation for the piece. She continuously made errors (whether meaning to be condescending toward the TSO workforce or not, I don’t feel it fair for me to judge) in calling TSO's 'screeners' (that job title was the old name that was done away with in 2004) and referring to the ENGAGE! Class as 'screener school' and as 'anger management' neither of which are accurate.

Bruce Schnier also seemed to lack credibility, his closing argument was to increase resources in the intelligence community, which I feel everyone would agree on is a wise course of action, however he did not give one single suggestion for improvement other then doing away with certain procedures. These same procedures will be done away with as soon as technology can evolve to meet the threat, something he does not acknowledge. Certainly a man of his claimed credentials should understand.

In response to those above 1) The MMW portal is voluntary, always has always will (same as the walkthrough metal detector) TSA will always maintain a process where people can be inspected without the use of technology, it is called a pat down. Putting children in it is definitely not a crime, the images do not come even close to any description of 'pornography' and the consent is implied (by the legal guardian). Check your local penal code if you want to make claims such as that, you will be unsupported.

The analogy of the child waiving his/her hands to ward off tigers is a poor analogy. Have attempts been made on civil aviation since 09/11/2001, yes, do all make the news, no, but to lax security because you do not perceive a threat is a fault on the public's part. The threat is real and until procedure and technology is up to meeting the evolving threat the TSA must do everything it can to keep civil aviation safe.

You all must also remember the TSA was only founded 6 years ago; its development like many governmental entities in the past is still in its infancy. Give the TSA time to develop and things will get better. For those of you who traveled back in '02 and '03 can definitely notice an improvement in the system today.

Respectfully,
A. Lipson

Submitted by Anonymous on

"They will do it as many times as they can".... yes they will, except for the fact that they are dead. All 19 of them... every single one of them.
There just isn't a real threat. This is a waste of my tax dollars fighting fake threats.
__________________________________
Who is all dead? All of the terrorits, every single one of them? You think that there are 19 total terrorists in the world.
Steven, shameful.

Really smart people post here!

Submitted by Anonymous on

So how many false positives do you have? Angry or upset passengers are a pretty common occurrence and just because a passenger looks suspicious doesn't mean a thing. You're trampling on Constitutional rights again. How about probable cause? Too difficult a concept?
___________________________________
Oh my constitutional rights, blah blah blah! What constitutional rights are being trampled. Because I see none, and if people did their homework they would not make these dumb assumptions! Probable cause, what is that? To difficult a concept? Obviously for you. What does TSA need probable cause for?! When a person submits their belongings and themselves for screening they are giving TSA permission to search them as well as their things. Did you know, that with permission there is no probable cause needed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I would hope that both the "parent" and the TSO(s) who allowed a sleeping infant into a high-powered x-ray machine at a TSA chokepoint were both brought to the attention of law enforcement for endangering the infant...

If not, why not?

Tom (1 of 5-6)
___________________________________
Once again a very smart question from the peanut gallery.
Are you kidding me?! Yeah the parent must not be the smartest person in the world.
If any TSO saw this incident about to occur, it would not have happened. TSA does not allow living animals or children in our xray machines.
Funny you people on this blog just blame blame blame!
That was no fault of the TSO!
So why doesn't the person behind them in line face legal action for not saying anything and the person behind them and the person behind them. Sound dumb?! Of course. think before you talk(write).

Submitted by Anonymous on

It was interesting and instructive to see Kip himself in the (virtual) flesh. He showed us that he is indeed an impeccably loyal Bush appointee who dutifully parrots the Official Party Line at every opportunity. As expected, he deftly brushed aside all the criticism by repeating yet again that all the hassles and visible stupidity are completely justified and 100% necessary because We're At War. Then he invoked 9/11 and reminded us to Be Afraid. So we're not supposed to ask the obvious question about how the two people he was so carefully tracking at the TSA's Freedom Center got through all those hermetic layers of TSA security and onto those planes. I'm sure if Leslie had actually asked that question, Kips answer would be Remember 9/11 and We're At War!.

We're also supposed to have great sympathy for all those poor unfortunate TSOs who need anger management classes to cope with all the unjust abuse they suffer from all those ignorant ungrateful passengers who just don't appreciate all the wonderful, highly effective work the TSA does to protect the Homeland. If we'd only think about 9/11 more often and be very afraid, we would then give the TSA the respect it so clearly deserves and all the problems would be solved.

I can't be sure how effective the 60 Minutes segment was for improving the TSA's image. Those who already believe the TSA is effective at protecting aviation will probably feel even more reassured. And those who think the TSA is a waste of money and an unwarranted intrusion will shake their heads at Bruce Schneier's remarks and feel even more convinced by Kip's shilling. So the net effect is probably zero.

Submitted by Anonymous on
These officers are trained to look for involuntary behaviors people trying to evade security display and can distinguish them from the behaviors of the average frazzled passenger late for a flight.

When Leslie Stahl expressed her disbelief that BDOs can actually do that, the answer was simply that they could. She should have pressed that further, but for some reason she did not. Presumably we're supposed to accept that assertion on faith just because Kip said so. I still have trouble believing it, but as the actual success vs. false positive rate is almost certainly SSI there's no way to objectively evaluate the claim. So I have to remain skeptical.

Bruce Schneier did note that there may be a security benefit to al-Qaeda believing that the TSA might actually possess some kind of "magic" that can reliably distinguish between the "micro-facial expressions" of an anxious passenger and those of a terrorist. But I really have trouble believing that we can either rely on the (possible) gullibility of (some) terrorists, or that such a belief is worth what surely must be a high cumulative cost in all the false-positive passengers who are needlessly hassled (and probably subjected to farm more stress than what triggered the BDO "magic").

Overall, the TSA is asking us to accept quite a lot on blind faith. Under some circumstances that might be possible. But when that demand for blind faith comes from an administration that has such a consistent history of untrustworthiness, it's nearly impossible to have any kind of faith in anything the TSA says or does.
Submitted by Anonymous on

"Freedom Center"?!? Oh, gag me with a spoon.

Just how much TSA koolaid do you headquarters types drink, anyway?

Submitted by Anonymous on

re: A Lipson's post.

Drinking plenty of that Koolaide, eh!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Quote: " Anonymous said...
Can you explain the images of the woman in the MMW (strip-search) machine? How can it be that it cannot see through a bra? So what good is the machine if all she has to do is hide something in her bra?

Something is just not right here. Other articles claim, and show that the strip-search machine is just that.

So in your desire to enhance public understanding, please tell us the truth.

We have seen the REAL images from the MMW machine, and know that it shows everything under one's clothing.

How can you justify putting children in that machine? I think it is a felony to view children under those circumstances.

I will await your full response.

December 23, 2008 11:22 AM"

Keep waiting.

Submitted by Sandra on

Another brave but anonymous alleged screener wrote, in response to the issue of the baby being sent through the x-ray in its car seat:

"If any TSO saw this incident about to occur, it would not have happened."

Do you realize that you have just conceded that the screeners at this particular check point were NOT watching what was about to happen? IOW, they were not doing their job.

Submitted by Anonymous on

A. Lipson wrote:
You all must also remember the TSA was only founded 6 years ago; its development like many governmental entities in the past is still in its infancy. Give the TSA time to develop and things will get better.

No excuse.
It does not take 6 years to know how to treat fellow humans. If for some reason the TSA needs more than 6 years to begin to get things right, can you give us an idea at what point they will acquire such skills? 10 years, 20 years, never?

I like how excuses come easy for government agencies. Why can't you just tell the truth instead of making excuses?
Can we make the same claims? "Hey it's been only 6 years of this TSA stuff, so I need more time to figure out how to go through the checkpoint."
How good would that go over?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Do you realize that you have just conceded that the screeners at this particular check point were NOT watching what was about to happen? IOW, they were not doing their job.

They may well have been doing their job, at least as their bosses had specifically defined that job. It's entirely conceivable that the TSOs at that checkpoint were so preoccupied with liquids, shoes, and whichever of yesterday's threats were on that day's checklist that they failed to notice the baby until it appeared on the x-ray screen.

That's an inherent problem with the TSA's reactive approach to security at airports. When TSOs are myopically focused on interdicting a continually-growing list of specific items in belated reaction to past threats, they're going to miss today's threats (and today's stupidity). They'd be doing their job, but that that job would always be a useless waste of money, time, and liberty. Presumably that's why we have BDOs, whose full week of training enables them to distinguish terrorists from ordinary anxious frustrated passengers (at least some necessarily-classified percent of the time), leaving the TSOs free to make sure no lip gloss gets on an airplane unless it's in a Freedom Baggie.

To be sure, CBS News failed to do its job as well. There are many questions Leslie Stahl should have asked, especially when Kip answered her properly skeptical question about the BDOs' ability to distinguish between terrorism and normal anxiety by saying "they can." Aside from showing Bruce Schneier's token opposition, they accepted TSA claims on faith just as we're all supposed to do. Perhaps Viacom's executives don't want to risk antagonizing the Bush administration even in its final days.
Submitted by Donnie on

Babysitting passengers is not what TSOs are supposed to be doing, although it quite often times comes down to that (because giant flashing signs with rules clearly stated obviously aren't working). It reminds me of the people who put their dogs into microwaves and were surprised that they died and then wanted to sue the microwave companies.

A little common sense goes a long way. Heck, just putting my child on a moving conveyor belt into ANY machine is not going to happen so long as I'm still breathing.

As far as the 60 minutes show, it didn't really solve anything for either side. The TSA side pretty much offered nothing new. And the anti-TSA side just came with the same complaints with no solutions as to how they can be made better (Bruce Schneier). It's very easy to complain in life, but much more difficult to solve difficult issues.

I personally feel all baggage should be screened specifically for explosives, whether that means manually or through more advanced x-ray technology similar to what is used in TSA's checked baggage. Kip stated that TSOs have no problems identifying guns and knives, so to me the next logical step is to focus our efforts on technology that detects explosives.

Once you secure a plane from all knives, guns, and IEDs, I think you can ease off of some of the more "silly" restrictions, such as lacross sticks, liquids (since they're been tested for explosives), etc. With secured cockpit doors, the main threat to a plane is explosives. You're not getting into the cockpit or taking down a plane without it, so let's focus our attention there.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Quote:
" Sandra said...
Another brave but anonymous alleged screener wrote, in response to the issue of the baby being sent through the x-ray in its car seat:

"If any TSO saw this incident about to occur, it would not have happened."

Do you realize that you have just conceded that the screeners at this particular check point were NOT watching what was about to happen? IOW, they were not doing their job.

December 24, 2008 10:56 AM"

Man do you people twist things! The TSOs did not see the woman put the baby into the x-ray because IT'S NOT THIER JOB!! TSOs working the x-ray position pay attention to what is on the screen. The PASSENGERS load the x-ray belt with their own items, TSOs don't. For an x-ray operator to be watching what is being put into the tunnel would mean they weren't watching the screen as the bags in front of that one were passing through.
Once the items come out of x-ray they are dealt with by the rest of the checkpoint TSOs (bag search, ETD, etc.).
A while ago, TSA did away with the so called "loader" position where TSOs would help the passengers load their belongings into x-ray. We complained that this was not a good thing as now people jam all kinds of stuff into the x-ray all at the same time, including, in this case, a baby.

Submitted by HSVTSO Dean on
Sandra wrote:
Do you realize that you have just conceded that the screeners at this particular check point were NOT watching what was about to happen? IOW, they were not doing their job.

In this case, I think it was the literal truth. I heard about this a couple days after it happened, though it was... golly, a long time ago, now. A couple of years, at least, but my memory can't lock down a specific time.

Without a 'loader' position, up in the front beyond the x-ray operator (as was the case during this specific event) it can get mightily tricky to see everything the passengers put into the x-ray. The closest person, at that point, is the WTMD operator, and they're several feet away with the WTMD itself and the x-ray feed-in cage in the way. Plus they have to talk and interact with the passengers as they're coming through the WTMD, eye their boarding pass, sometimes conduct pat-downs.

From what I understand about the situation, as soon as the x-ray operator saw the start of the infant on the x-ray screen, they slammed down the emergency shut-off button.

Personally, I think TSA made a bad decision when they removed the 'loader' from one of the official positions. There's never been any question here among my STSOs or fellow TSOs on whether or not it vastly improves the overall efficiency of the screening process.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Merry Christmas All

Submitted by Anonymous on

To the poster about the enforcement of the number of carry-on:

It is the airlines authority to enforce this rule as it is an FAA regulation NOT a TSA regulation. That officer was incorrect in what she did and should be corrected. Also sounds like she was on a "power trip" to make you go back and repack your bags into your larger carry-on. The only thing that I know we as TSA can do in enforcement of the carry-on is to document the particular scenario and send it to our regulatory which will be able to fine the airlines for not enforcing a federal regulation. Nothing we can really do to passengers. I even think your CPAP machine would count as some kind of exemption to this rule. We as TSA do not know about carry-on enforcement. I suggest you write up your post into the Got Feedback? section so this situation can be investigated further. Sorry for your "bad apple" encounter.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I will say one thing that I whole heartedly agree with Bruce Schneier on. It completely makes no sense that you give items back to passengers and they can keep trying to go through security to smuggle the item through. Eventually your officers will miss the item because the screening is not 100%. What a loop hole!? The passesnger can just keep going through different lanes and such and it will be easy to forget a face when that many people are interacting with your TSA officers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Do you realize that you have just conceded that the screeners at this particular check point were NOT watching what was about to happen? IOW, they were not doing their job."

That is why there are multiple layers of security- the one TSO who has to help all of the passengers at the belt may have missed seeing it, but the XRay operator sure didn't. This is in now way the fault of the TSO. The baby was certainly seen right away, ON the xray screen, but it was the irresonsible parent who put that child through there!

Submitted by Gunner on

This post is yet another in a disturbing trend: form over substance.

The minute there is a national media story about you, the public relations wheel get to spinning, and a huge puff piece blog posting appears to highlight your collective wonderfulness, and to downplay any criticisms. Yes, when you are given specific criticism in this blog, they are generally ignored or dismissed. Usually ignored.

you have done a wonderful job of destroying any credibility you once had with the majority of the line community (not including the TS-whatevers who attack your critics while posting anonymously. Have to wonder if Kip spends all day on line posting to this forum.

Any, while on teh subject of credibility and spin control, do you really want us to believe that only 800 or so posts have been killed since you started the blog. I bet some of the regulars here have had 800 posts individually killed.

Sure glad we Arizonans are sending you our soooooon-to-be-ex-Governor. You guys deserve each other.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I hope she does a good job as secretary.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Donnie writes:

It's very easy to complain in life, but much more difficult to solve difficult issues.

Sorry, that doesn't cut it ... at least as far as this blog is concerned.

This blog is full of posts containing suggestions on ways to improve the screening experience --- some serious, some not. The silly ideas are (justifiably) ridiculed by the TSA. The serious ideas are (at best) dismissed out of hand. (At worst, they're ignored entirely.)

I'd love to be contradicted; can anyone point to a suggestion made on this blog that lead to an improvement in the security process?

If TSA wants the help of the public in making things better, then it actually needs to participate in the process. You can't claim that TSA's critics are only complaining when they are, in fact, offering suggestions.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Make Your Trip Better Using 3-1-1
3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3 ounce bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3 oz. container size is a security measure
......................
I see that TSA is still providing false information to the travelers of this nation.

It's sad that a slogan is more important than the truth at TSA.

Of course TSA has a long history of being less than truthful.

Par for the course.

Submitted by Frank W on

Perhaps most importantly, how come TSA/GAO studies on the effectiveness of airport security that involve government employees secretly attempting to pass security with bombs, guns, knives, and whatnot, are kept confidential? It seems that the only reason you are keeping these "real world tests" of TSA infrastructure (that is, the ones where the people weren't tipped off about the "secret" test beforehand) classified is because they are embarrassing.

For example: "[T]wo GAO investigators demonstrated that it is possible to bring the components for several IEDs and one IID through TSA checkpoints and onto airline flights without being challenged by transportation security officers. (...) TSA determined that specific details regarding these weaknesses are sensitive security information and are therefore not discussed in this testimony." (GAO Report, 15 Nov 2007). How convenient for you guys! Admitting incompetence is "sensitive." I'll bet!

First of all, the idea of "Behavior Detection Officers" is so ridiculous I'm hoping it was a joke. (Like that one time TSA people yelled "Surprise!" after faking an arrest, scaring a woman so much she went into an asthma attack. Real funny stuff, guys.)

The human mind is so complex we can't even fathom its depths. Many have tried, but there's a reason lie detectors are inadmissible in court: they don't work. Now we're supposed to believe a teenager earning $9 an hour can do the job that the world's top psychologists cannot? They can't do anything more than harass people who fit certain stereotypes, and, lo and behold, 99% of serious terrorists aren't going to walk around rubbing their hands in anticipation. You're living in a comic book if you believe that.

Also, how does TSA protect airplanes from people shooting at the planes with semi-automatic weapons, homemade rocket launchers, or any of the sundry weaponry available to enormous amounts of people? Jet airplanes are very sensitive to debris. A bird being "ingested" by a jet engine can cause catastrophic engine failure... what do you think bullets would do? GOD FORBID something horrible like that happening, but it certainly could happen, and I think you need to look into securing every square inch of this country that has any contact with flight paths.

How come the "housekeeping" staff who clean out the planes are not searched? Yes, the pilots with their shiny epaulets are paraded through, but that is just a theatrical move by the TSA to say "Hey, look, Americans! We're so tough on security that we can't even trust the guy who will shortly be controlling a few hundred thousand pounds of steel and gasoline to not have more than 3 ounces of Gatorade."

Don't think I'm exaggerating the risk of disgruntled airline employees. If you do, look up what happened to PSA Flight 1771 in 1987.

TSA people may have good intentions. But good intentions alone are proof of nothing.

Speaking of proof, how can the TSA with a straight face say "everything is working great -- haven't you seen, there haven't been any attacks?!" That's a logical fallacy. You can't say "Terrorists haven't attacked an airplane lately, therefore the terrorists must have been stopped by TSA's procedures." You'd be laughed right out of any middle-school rhetoric class in the country.

By and large the public ignorantly has an association between "greater inconvenience" with "greater quality." (Basically, "no pain, no gain.") For example, it's an inconvenience for a student to spend over a decade learning to be a doctor, therefore anyone who walks out with a diploma must be an expert, right? Wrong.

The TSA's ever-tightening ridiculous rules, which are apparently based on "secret intelligence" — another "gotcha," because independent sources cannot confirm nor deny the existence of such intelligence or its contents, or its specifics, so you guys kind of "win by default" — trick people into feeling safer. I don't want a pacifier in my mouth.

I love how your "implied consent" thing works: unless we object (resulting in us walking, not flying to our destination) to waiving our Constitutional rights, it is assumed that we agree to be treated like a prisoner, and our belongings to be rifled through, and even stolen from. This "legal technicality" is built like a house of cards. By the same token, do you think if I took a rock and wrote on it "By your accepting this rock through your window, you hereby agree to give me $1 million dollars. This is a legally binding document." -- Do you think that would work?

Are Congressmen and other politicians subjected to the same procedures that Joe Blow would be? I doubt the President gets wanded before getting on Air Force One. Perhaps if these politicians actually stood in a three-hour security line, they might realize that the system isn't working.

Schneier sums it up perfectly: "The point of terrorism is to cause terror. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act. And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Guys, it's not wise to take credit for attacks "not happening" unless you want to take the blame for when they do happen. That's just foolish.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jim Huggins said: "can anyone point to a suggestion made on this blog that lead to an improvement in the security process?"

I cannot think of a single change in policy as a result of this blog. Our work trying to help has been completely ignored. This blog is useless, and that (and the lack of regular updates) is why most of us have given up.

Submitted by Anonymous on

A. Lipson wrote:
You all must also remember the TSA was only founded 6 years ago; its development like many governmental entities in the past is still in its infancy. Give the TSA time to develop and things will get better.

No excuse.
It does not take 6 years to know how to treat fellow humans. If for some reason the TSA needs more than 6 years to begin to get things right, can you give us an idea at what point they will acquire such skills? 10 years, 20 years, never?

I like how excuses come easy for government agencies. Why can't you just tell the truth instead of making excuses?
Can we make the same claims? "Hey it's been only 6 years of this TSA stuff, so I need more time to figure out how to go through the checkpoint."
How good would that go over?

-------------
You would be supprised how many people do not know what to do at the airport, and also how many people do not pay attention to the actions of the other passengers ahead of them (learn from their success navigating the system).

You've seemingly misunderstood my statement. I said nothing about "treating passengers like humans" I was merely discussing procedure and operational development in response to a threat, absolutely nothing about customer service was ever my intent to discuss.
When ever I go through TSA's checkpoints I have never been treated like anything other then a passenger going to my destination, nothing negative, typically courteous and expeditious, this might not be indicative of your larger airports like LGA or LAX, which I have heard have their own issues (Presumably from their local populations attitudes).

You cant please everyone (simple understanding of people), and from reading the responses on this board, many here are very close minded and no matter what will always look disfavorably at TSA. Ive attempted to look at TSA from an unbiased perspective and see much improvement (since inception) and also much more room to improve.

Respectfully,
A. Lipson

Submitted by CJ on

Anonymous said...

"This is in now way the fault of the TSO. The baby was certainly seen right away, ON the xray screen, but it was the irresonsible parent who put that child through there!"

If this is the case I'm thinking of, it wasn't so much an irresponsible parent as an incredibly intimidated non-english-speaking grandparent. She didn't know what the machine was, just knew that eveyone kept shouting at her to put everything through the machine, so she did!

Stupid thing to do, yes, but she was confused and bewildered and intimated.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I believe most of the suggestions on this blog is to change procedures like the footwear stuff. Sorry but that is not an improvement. Suggestions such as that are detrimental to security. We want to go forward not backward.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anon: "I believe most of the suggestions on this blog is to change procedures like the footwear stuff. Sorry but that is not an improvement. Suggestions such as that are detrimental to security. We want to go forward not backward."

There are very good suggestions here regarding footwear, which are improvements. Saying they are not does not make them so.

More than that: how about TK's strapping machine? Is that not a significant improvement?

How about the traceable TSA search cards in luggage?

How about the procedures for full body scans? We all agree the sceeners should not be hidden from the person being scanned, but this blog has totally ignored this point.

How about the idea that the type of liquid should be determined, not the volume?

How about our indications that the current ID policy is pointless?

How about our indication that SSSS marks on a boarding pass (followed by letting the alleged threatening person free to roam through the airport) are silly and useless?

How about our suggestions to use more technology to detect traces of explosives?

Are our suggestions really detrimental to security? Is it really possible that ALL our suggestions should be ignored?

Submitted by Anonymous on

A. Lipson wrote:
You would be surprised how many people do not know what to do at the airport

Yes, and the reasons are:
1. People really don't care.
2. There is nowhere to get ALL the rules that are enforced at the checkpoints. When they can change on a whim, then how is one to know what do do?

I was merely discussing procedure and operational development in response to a threat, absolutely nothing about customer service was ever my intent to discuss.

Ahh, but customer service is very much a part of the TSA checkpoint experience. Procedures involve humans. Do you think yelling at people somehow will make them obey all the more?
Do you think people like to be treated worse than criminals?
I can come up with so many ways to improve the checkpoint, and still have the required security in place.
The TSA has NO incentive to improve or care how they treat the public. They have a customer that has NO other choice but to go through their silly security theater. Why would the TSA care?

I do not buy your theory that it must take more than 6 years to put in place an effective and customer friendly checkpoint. When it comes to almost any government agency, customer service is the last consideration.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Interestingly enough, in spite of the stupid shoe carnival, the TSA recently allowed gunpowder through with a forged boarding pass as described in this story.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Come on, we all know the drill here already. Those of us who don't should be ashamed. The TSA blog puts up some puff piece telling us what they are doing to fix something that isn't broken, and that we should ignore the fact that they aren't doing their primary mission. We complain by telling them what is really important is doing there primary mission, and they ignore what we say so they can put up another puff piece. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. The cycle continues.

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