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What In the Heck Does That Person Do: TSA Bomb Appraisal Officer (BAO)

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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BAO is an acronym that has been appearing more and more in TSA related news stories and blog posts. So what does BAO stand for?

a) Branch Artery Occlusion
b) Best Atomic Orbital
c) Best Available Option
d) Bomb Appraisal Officer

While “c” is the best available option, if you chose “d” you are correct. A Bomb Appraisal Officer is another TSA position that you may or may not have heard of. Some of you may have even been fortunate enough to meet a BAO after your bag triggered the suspicion of one of our officers.

What does a BAO do and what experience must one have to become a BAO? To answer these questions and more, Richard, a BAO at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, (CVG) stepped out of the shadows to shed some light on his critical position.

Blogger Bob: So what is a BAO? Tell our readers a little about the day in the life of a BAO.

BAO Richard: BAO is an acronym for Bomb Appraisal Officer. All BAOS serve three primary roles.
1. Workforce Training. This is where we are expected to focus the majority of our efforts. BAOs are charged with finding effective ways to share their expertise and years of real-world experience with the workforce. We build simulated explosive devices and run them through the screening process to show the workforce what the terrorists are doing and what they are capable of. This is challenging in that no two airports or groups of TSOs are exactly the same. It is incumbent on the BAOs to find effective way to do this, regardless of the challenges.

2. Conduct Advanced Alarm Resolution (AAR). When the conventional alarm resolution process has been exhausted and the alarm has not been resolved, the BAO is to be called. At his point, the BAO is responsible for resolving the alarm, with zero margin for error.

3. Serve as the TSA subject matter expert liaison for law enforcement and bomb squad partners. BAOs speak both TSA and bomb squad languages. This is important during a critical response event. In addition, it is not uncommon for law enforcement and bombs squads to request technical assistance and advice from BAOs for incidents at the airport as well as those unrelated to airport operations.

Blogger Bob: Tell our readers a little about your experience prior to the TSA.

BAO Richard: My personal experience came from 21 years in the US Army with 19 of those years as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. I then spent 5 years as a contractor/instructor for the US Department of State Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program (ATAP) training and certifying Bomb Technicians for allied countries around the world. Essentially, I have been doing bomb disposal response or training for the last 29 years.

Blogger Bob: Do other Bomb Appraisal Officers share a similar background as yours? What kind of experience do you need to have under your belt to become a BAO?

BAO Richard: Typically all BAOs have a very similar background. We’re “Bomb Guys”. Either as a military EOD Technician or as an FBI certified Public Safety Hazardous Devices Technician. TSA has established as a minimum requirement that all BAO candidates have been a Certified Bomb Technician from either of these two programs and served a minimum of 3 years as a technician in a Bomb Disposal Unit. All BAOs are interviewed, tested and hired based upon their experience, background and understanding of the terrorist threat. Nationally, if you add it up and divide by our numbers you are looking at an average of 17.5 yrs experience, per BAO across the board. That is an incredible amount of expertise at TSA's fingertips.

Blogger Bob: Before BAOs, how did TSA handle situations with possible explosives? How have things changed since Bomb Appraisal Officers came on board?

BAO Richard: In the old days (2 years ago) the only safe procedure was for the TSOs to contact the local Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs), evacuate the terminal and wait until a Bomb Squad arrived and cleared the item. These evacuations cost the aviation industry millions of dollars annually. More importantly, the increased security risks inherent in evacuations are significant. The presence of BAOs available to TSOs prevents unnecessary evacuations and minimizes disruptions in service and risks to all. Adding BAOs to the resolution process allows a Bomb Technician trained individual the opportunity to look at the item, look at the X-Rays and make a “more knowledgeable” determination of whether the item is dangerous and whether the terminal should be evacuated or not. Since implementation of the BAO Program, BAOs working with the TSOs have responded to and safely resolved thousands of alarms at their airports over the past two years.

Blogger Bob: Have you ever had any experiences at the TSA where you thought you had a bomb on your hands?

BAO Richard: Thinking I actually had a bomb? No, but when BAOs respond, we all approach with the understanding that if the TSO has called us for assistance, then we assume a viable threat until we determine it is not. Safety first, then a methodical process for checking and determining whether a hazard is there. Understand though that if we still cannot make a positive determination the item is not a bomb, then passengers are evacuated and the Bomb Squad is notified.

Blogger Bob: With all of the shared experience of Bomb Appraisal Officers, it makes sense that they train Transportation Security Officers and share their knowledge. Can you touch more on the training side of your job?

BAO Richard: Training TSOs IS the BAO mission. Here at CVG our BAOs are on the floor, providing training approximately 6 hours of their 8 hour day. Each day, each BAO is required to build a new training device and use that device to provide a “new learning point” to the TSOs, and we provide 24-hr a day support. Our goal is to keep TSOs current on the products, procedures and practices of the bad guys, so they can better identify it when it is presented to them. Currently ongoing as we speak every TSA employee at CVG is receiving a 6 hr block of classroom instruction and demonstration from the BAOs on explosives, IEDs and terrorist methodology.
 



Read Transcript (txt, 1Kb)

 


Blogger Bob: Do BAOs go through any training even if they have extensive prior experience?

BAO Richard: Absolutely, all new BAOs are required to complete a 3 Phase training certification program. Phase-I all BAOs are required to complete Basic Screener Training (CP and CB). Phase-II is the BAO Certification and Instructor Presentation Skills Course. Since all BAOs will be spending most of their time conducting training, IPS certification is required. Then in Phase-III each new BAO is required to complete a minimum 40hr OJT course with a Senior BAO at an airport with an established and successful BAO-TSA Training program. Once all 3 phases are completed they are certified as operational BAOs.

Blogger Bob: To many travelers who don’t understand the liquid threat, they feel that prohibiting items over 3.4 oz such as toothpaste and mouthwash is insane. The baggie baffles many a passenger. How would you defend the legitimacy of the 3-1-1 program if confronted by a curious passenger?

BAO Richard: The last two liquid explosives threats have originated in Europe and targeted U.S. flagged airlines. This type of threat is not new, but our enemies are persistent and totally committed. They learn from their mistakes and then make adjustments all the time to try and stay ahead of security. Explosives come in ever changing shapes and materials to include a caulk like explosive that looks and feels just like toothpaste or Sunscreen. If we added personal hygiene products such as toothpaste to the “must be sampled” list, the lines would back up forever. It is just simpler, easier, and more logical to restrict those things in the sizes already established to minimize the risks to passenger aircraft.

Blogger Bob: Do you have any frequently asked questions you’d like to answer?

BAO Richard: The most common question we get is based upon the word Appraisal in our title….. “So, what does a Bomb cost?” :) To TSA, it would cost a lot if it makes it on a plane, but seriously, All BAOs are trained and certified explosives security specialists and what we provide is an expert assessment of the item or material of concern based on the totality of circumstances. After doing so, we determine what the appropriate course of action should be. Our focus is, training every day, and safety all the time.

I have to add that the BAOs are not stand alone security assets. While much is made of BAO expertise, we rely on the expertise of the TSO workforce in order to do our job. We are all partners with a common goal and we add an additional expert resource to the TSA’s many layers of security.

Blogger Bob: What does the future hold for the BAO program?

BAO Richard: The success of the program has driven an increasing need from the Federal Security Directors for more BAOs. Originally authorized to hire approximately 300 BAOs, TSA is now looking to add additional BAOs to expand the program significantly. Expansion provides the opportunity to train more people and nobody loves to talk about their job more than a “Bomb Guy”.

Thanks to Rick for taking the time to answer my questions. He and the other BAOs in the field are an extremely critical part of TSA’s mission and we are fortunate to be able to learn from all of their combined experience.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Carp on

The BAO kind of reminds me of the commercial of the Maytag repairman...sitting by the phone, just waiting, hoping for someone to actually give his life meaning for once.

It must be pretty boring sitting around waiting for all those bombs that nobody is trying to sneak into airports.

This is about what I expect, brought to me by the people who think hiring science fiction writters to write scarey movie theater plots somehow increases security as much as it increases funding for security theater.

Why do you need a dedicated bomb officer, when local police forces in most major cities have bomb squads?

Whats the ratio of false alarms to real bombs? like 1 million to 1? Or is it worst than that? I am guessing worst.

And I thought the Mafia/Union alliances that brought in the concept of no-show jobs was bad. Thanks for proving you don't need the help of organized crime to give away a cushy pointless paycheck.

-Steve

Submitted by Anonymous on

@ Steve If there is no BAO, then local bomb squads would need to be called out every time there is an incident. That is both inefficient and probably unsafe. I suppose the local squad could assign a bomb officer to the airport full time, but then why did you get rid of the BAO in the first place?

Submitted by Adrian on

I complain about a lot of things the TSA does, but this isn't one of them. Bringing in and spreading more expertise in order to reduce false positives is a good thing.

That being said, the BAO interviewed really didn't clarify much about the limitations on liquids.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Explosives come in ever changing shapes and materials"

Yeah, for example a lot of them come in the form of solids. Actually, that's not true. MOST of them come in the form of solids. Now that TSA have gotten the hang of The War on Moisture, and The War on Squishy Things under control, I fully expect The War on Solids to commence.

All solid items are limited to no more than 30 ounces each, and must fit into a five gallon trashbag.

Can't be too safe!!!

Submitted by Carp on

I guess if I accepted that there was a real risk of bombs, I would agree. However, "calling the bomb squad every time there is an incident" is silly too....

how about... call them when you have a bomb.

Believe me, I complain about the regular bomb squad too. We recently had an incident here in boston where someone saw a suitcase that someone had left behind... of course they call the bomb squad.

Frankly, I think they should call the mental hospital. If you see a package and think that "bomb" is a likely possibility, likely enough to call anyone other than the owner whose name is found on documents inside.... then you need your head examined and you need to stop wasting our tax funded resources.

And we need to stop patting people on the back and saying they "did the right thing" when the bomb squad is called in because someone absentmindedly forgot their bag somewhere.

They didn't do the right thing, the right thing is to look around for a possible owner, then take a look at the bag or in it and see if you can see who the owner is.... THEN call them or failing that turn it in to the police or nearby building security so the person can come pick their bag up.

The likelyhood of you encountering a bomb in your lifetime, even if you are a TSO, is so small as to not even be worth discussing.... much less funding.

we need to stop encouraging paranoia just because it is good for budgets.

-Steve

Submitted by TSORon on

Our local BAO’s are outstanding training tools for the TSO workforce. They have actually “been there and done that” in the field, either domestically or in the war zones around the world. They provide us training not just on what a bomb can look like, but also who uses them and how to limit their utility as much as possible.

They are also there, present, at the airport, able to respond to a call immediately. For the police bomb squads we would have to wait. Close the checkpoint, evacuate the concourse, and wait. Having that expertise available to the checkpoint is both a safety and a customer service issue for the passengers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Carp, how I would love to live in the dream land with you where there are no real threats and everyone loves us. Please, for your own sake; grow up. The terrorist are out there, do hate us and are still planning how to get their evil devices into some corner of America where they can cause the most damage and garner the most attention for their cause. Commercial aircraft are much harder targets than malls, buses, movie theatres, ball games, etc. but the attention and effect of getting a bomb onto a plane past the best security we can muster would be worth their efforts.

All that said, please note that the main job of the BAOs is obviously to train the officers on what to look for. I like the idea of TSA having certified expert bomb dudes train their officers. Thank you TSA for stepping up on this issue and getting some first rate preventative training going.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I note that Richard was completely and utterly unable to defend TSA's war on liquids, because there is no sensible defense for it. Pathetic as always.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, Richard, please post links to peer-reviewed academic research by independent scholars that supports TSA's contention that the 3.4-1-1 policy makes air travel safer.

Submitted by Andrew on

So TSA continues to cling to the totally discredited "liquid explosives plot" story? Sad.

You guys didn't hear that the British authorities concluded there was actually no threat at all?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anon said ---
"I note that Richard was completely and utterly unable to defend TSA's war on liquids, because there is no sensible defense for it. Pathetic as always."

Funny, I didn't read anywhere in the post that he was supposed to be defending the "war on liquids." Didn't realize that was his job. Maybe the post was to inform you of the role of the BAO, nothing more. TSA Blog comments from you ... pathetic as always.

Submitted by Ernie on

Right on the heels of TSA doing a great job propaganda is another news article about TSA guys ripping us off.

My sister got hundreds of dollars of electronics stolen from her luggage in the AC Airport - no redress by the TSA. The airport and the TSA never return her calls. And the cops? They say call the TSA.

You guys need more positive propaganda articles to outweigh all the bad press these days, otherwise nobody is going to fall for it. More puff pieces!

Submitted by Carp on

Dream land?

Well I look at it this way. If a "terrorist" fits the profile of real "credible threat" determined, educated, and rational terrorists (yes, there is rationality to attacking an enemy, anyone who isn't a total pacifist has to recognize that)

Then well, I hate to break it to you, but in "my childish little world" they are going to do it. End of story. No matter what "security" you put in place, they choose the time of attack, they choose the place, they choose the method.

The 3-1-1 rule, AT BEST, raises the bar to "less than gifted high school student". I certainly don't remember reading that terrorist profiles tended to include people with IQs less than 60, so I will assume they can figure out anything I can from my myopic little world.

The fact is simply that there is absolutely no reason to believe that a left behind bag, or even a strange looking device in a suitcase is a bomb. The vast overwhelming majority of bags left behind and with odd things in them proves that fact over and over and over again.

Quite simply, if the threat were credible, we would see planes dropping from the sky.

We don't. We also are not catching people trying at a rate that justifies the paranoia.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that all these "credible threats" are nothing more than a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

-Steve

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anon@1:34, Bob and Richard talk about, but do not defending with actual facts, the war on water in the post. Try harder next time.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm a retired commissioned officer serving over 22 yrs in Navy EOD , and am also retired from a law enforcement agency as the bomb squad commander. I have almost 40 years of experience, to include 2 tours of Vietnam and 2 tours in the Persian Gulf. I have had several friends and many acquaintances killed by bombs. The problem with airport security is not the TSA, it's the winey pinheads who have no clue of real security forcing an agency charged with providing security to known threats to compromise their procedures. Fly El-al and see what real security "should be". Try wining to them. Just because we haven't had a "real bomb" in an airport, we'd be fools to think it couldn't happen. We are, yes, this may be hard to believe, we are at war. I've fought these people on land and sea. I've been shot at, and have killed some. Stop complaining, face reality, grow up!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said: "Just because we haven't had a "real bomb" in an airport, we'd be fools to think it couldn't happen."

Then I'm sure that you would agree that just because we haven't had a real attack by syphillitic ferrets doesn't mean we shouldn't be on the lookout for that too...

Submitted by Anonymous on

carp said...

"The BAO kind of reminds me of the commercial of the Maytag repairman...sitting by the phone, just waiting, hoping for someone to actually give his life meaning for once.

It must be pretty boring sitting around waiting for all those bombs that nobody is trying to sneak into airports.

This is about what I expect, brought to me by the people who think hiring science fiction writters to write scarey movie theater plots somehow increases security as much as it increases funding for security theater.

Why do you need a dedicated bomb officer, when local police forces in most major cities have bomb squads?

Whats the ratio of false alarms to real bombs? like 1 million to 1? Or is it worst than that? I am guessing worst.

And I thought the Mafia/Union alliances that brought in the concept of no-show jobs was bad. Thanks for proving you don't need the help of organized crime to give away a cushy pointless paycheck."

------------------------------

Ok carp, it would really really help if you read what someone post instead of just planning on what you want to post next.

But first of all, really nice of you to disparage those who have served this country almost all of their adult life, either in the military, or the F.B.I. Good to know you have have respect for those men and women who have served our country.

You said it must be pretty boring for the BAOs sitting around waiting for something to happen. I guess you skipped over the part where BAO Richard said that one of their primary job is to train TSOs. Yeah, that part must not have interested you much to have skipped it.

Which brings me to a point many of you have been making. You are very critical of the training TSOs have gotten over the years, or lack of training, or whatever.

The BAO's in part are a direct response to that. As stated, one of their primary responsibilities of the BAO is to train TSO - not to find knives, guns, etc, but to help identify IEDs and their components. This is a very new program. It started around 2 years ago, and is still expanding across the nation.

If you can think of a better person to teach TSOs about IED, please state so.

It will be interesting to see over the next few years the difference in training the average TSO gets becasue of the BAOs.

You ask why TSA "needs a dedicated bomb officer, when local police forces in most major cities have bomb squads?"

Stupid question of you, and again you missed the answer by not reading what BAO Richard wrote.

Before BAOs you HAD to call in the local police. This could take up to 2 HOURS. Repeat: up to 2 HOURS. Sometimes 30 minutes, but either way, the checkpoint closed, and usually the entire terminal to the airport closed.

How many delayed or missed flights would that cause? If one airport has delayed or cancelled flights it has a ripple effect across the rest of the country. This, of course, is bad, and to a VERY great extent has been alleviated by the BAOs.

Why can't you figure this out, carp?

Of course, you might believe the movies where the local police force bomb squad arrives within minutes of being called. Yeah, right, like that happens.

In fact, the cost in delayed flights has dropped down exponentially since BAOs have spread to most of the airports.

So if I get what you are saying right, TSA in part is trying to improve training of TSOs (which soo many of you on this site have said needs to be done) by bringing in experts to train for a specific task, but you think that is bad.

TSA has lowered both money and time lost by having experts on site to determine whatever is found is nothing more than a false alarm, but that is bad too.

Huh, TSA can't win with you, can it?

You are foolish, and that becomes more apparent with each of your post.

It is apparent you do not like TSA, but when you attempt to strike down everything about TSA, without any consideration to what is good or bad about the agency, it becomes apparent TSA should never listen to anything you say.

Submitted by Anonymous on

2 questions:
1. What in the world is the BAO referring to when he says, "More importantly, the increased security risks inherent in evacuations are significant."
2. What's the deal with the horrid BAO logo. Did no one realize that the star looks positively Stalinist?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, for example a lot of them come in the form of solids. Actually, that's not true. MOST of them come in the form of solids."

Actually thats not true, and tells me you don't know much about explosives.

Submitted by Phil on

Anonymous retired commissioned officer: With whom are we presently at war? Criminals? A war on crimes against the United States? Anyone who uses terrorist tactics in an attempt to achieve his goals? A war on a tactic?

Seriously: you think we're at war? We're conducting several occupations and fighting off the criminals who want us to leave. Is that war?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said..


"Anonymous said: "Just because we haven't had a "real bomb" in an airport, we'd be fools to think it couldn't happen."

Then I'm sure that you would agree that just because we haven't had a real attack by syphillitic ferrets doesn't mean we shouldn't be on the lookout for that too..."

------------------------------


I have noticed on this site that we have the best and the brightest in the world gathered in one place. Of course, I'm talking about those who complain about TSA!

Why, they know everything!

Sir, you have over 40 years experience in EOD, but if a critic of TSA says so, they know better than you! Live with it.

Critics on this site are experts on electronics, law, war, security, government, etc.

Blogger Bob, it is now you task to bring these people together so that they can be tasked with saving the world by telling everyone what to do and how to do it!

However, all joking aside, I hope TSA never finds an IED, that terrorist never attempt to bring one on a U.S. plane, and that we as a society still expend all efforts to prevent such an act, even if it never happens. That would be sooooo much better than a group of people being blown up on a plane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Phil said...

"Anonymous retired commissioned officer: With whom are we presently at war? Criminals? A war on crimes against the United States? Anyone who uses terrorist tactics in an attempt to achieve his goals? A war on a tactic?

Seriously: you think we're at war? We're conducting several occupations and fighting off the criminals who want us to leave. Is that war?

--
Phil"


Yes, Phil, we are at war. Glad you just woke up.

Call them criminals if you want, but its not just that they want us to leave. You belive whatever you want, but if we were not "there" they will still come here. Your lack of understanding of our world is staggering. What is more frightening is you think you know what your talking about.

Submitted by Bob on

The star surrounded by the wreath on top of the badge indicates that person is a master. It has been in use with the military far longer than the TSA has been in existence. It is also used with aviator wings and jump wings.

Bob

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"2 questions:
1. What in the world is the BAO referring to when he says, "More importantly, the increased security risks inherent in evacuations are significant."
2. What's the deal with the horrid BAO logo. Did no one realize that the star looks positively Stalinist?"

--------------------------

1. One possible way to attack people, to spread fear, and what has actually happened at other parts of the world, is to watch where police evacuate people. Police will directe people to a specific area as they are leaving a building where there is a possible bomb.

So you, as a terrorist, send in a bomb or fake bomb into the airport, and then place bombs to where you know people will be sent by police, and once they are there, kill those people. This has happened in other nations.

2. dunno

Submitted by Anonymous on

BAO Richard: The last two liquid explosives threats have originated in Europe and targeted U.S. flagged airlines.

*********
Perhaps Richard could explain why in Europe they have no restrictions on liquids or shoes being scanned. You would think that since these threats all originated in Europe that they would have the same policies as the TSA. Perhaps the threat isn't as real as the TSA would liek it to be.

Submitted by Anonymous on

carp said...

"I guess if I accepted that there was a real risk of bombs, I would agree. However, "calling the bomb squad every time there is an incident" is silly too....

how about... call them when you have a bomb."


So tell me, how do you know if you have a bomb or not? Please explain your background to have this knowledge.

I hope others understand that what you are saying is, well, stupid...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"I note that Richard was completely and utterly unable to defend TSA's war on liquids, because there is no sensible defense for it. Pathetic as always."


I didn't think Richard needed to defend that, nor was that his purpose.

For you to say that because Richard didn't bring it up, therefor he can't defend it, is actually quiet pathetic on your part.

In the training TSOs have gotten on IEDs, our BAO's have defended it queit well.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"BAO Richard: The last two liquid explosives threats have originated in Europe and targeted U.S. flagged airlines.

*********
Perhaps Richard could explain why in Europe they have no restrictions on liquids or shoes being scanned. You would think that since these threats all originated in Europe that they would have the same policies as the TSA. Perhaps the threat isn't as real as the TSA would liek it to be."
---------------------

Yes they do. I had my shoes screen in 3 different nations in Europe, there was the liquid bad, I had to take my computer out at all checkpoints, my jacket off.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"However, all joking aside, I hope TSA never finds an IED, that terrorist never attempt to bring one on a U.S. plane, and that we as a society still expend all efforts to prevent such an act, even if it never happens. That would be sooooo much better than a group of people being blown up on a plane."

No, it wouldn't. You fail to understand the simple fact that resources are finite. Every dollar spent on airport "security" is a dollar that is no longer available for other purposes (infrastructure repair to name just one). So this notion that we should "expend all efforts" is not only foolish, it is downright harmful.

"One possible way to attack people, to spread fear, and what has actually happened at other parts of the world, is to watch where police evacuate people. Police will directe people to a specific area as they are leaving a building where there is a possible bomb."

All you are saying is that large crowds of people represent a potential terrorist target. Now explain why this should concern us when it happens at an airport but not when it happens at the virtually infinite range of public gatherings in this country.

Submitted by Anonymous on

carp said...


"The fact is simply that there is absolutely no reason to believe that a left behind bag, or even a strange looking device in a suitcase is a bomb."


------------------------------


When you post this, it becomes very very apparent that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Bags left behind do not involve TSA, unless it happens in a TSA checkpoint. So if a bag is found somewhere in an airport, the local police have to handle it. Not even the BAOs get invloved.

A strage looking device in a suitcase would ONLY be considered an IED if it repeatedly alarmed the ETD machine, and met other conditions.

Do not think we see something and immediately call for the BAO. That is not what happens. Many steps have to be taken before BAO involvement.

carp, please, please have an idea of what you are talking about before you comment.

Submitted by Phil on

Someone anonymously wrote:

"We are, yes, this may be hard to believe, we are at war."

I responded:

"With whom are we presently at war? Criminals? A war on crimes against the United States? Anyone who uses terrorist tactics in an attempt to achieve his goals? A war on a tactic?

"Seriously: you think we're at war? We're conducting several occupations and fighting off the criminals who want us to leave. Is that war?"

Someone anonymously responded:

"Yes, Phil, we are at war. Glad you just woke up.

"Call them criminals if you want, but its not just that they want us to leave. You belive whatever you want, but if we were not "there" they will still come here. Your lack of understanding of our world is staggering."

You didn't answer the question. Your lack of ability to explain your understanding of the world is staggering.

With whom are we at war? Anyone who actively opposes expansion of the American empire? Can a nation be "at war" with anyone and everyone who opposes its foreign policy? Are we at war with any dissidents who express their dissent through unlawful means?

We've recently learned that Dick Cheney hijacked the CIA and had them assassinating people in nations with which we're friendly. Assassination of the inhabitants of a country with the US claims to have a peaceful relationship is, in effect, an act of war against that country. Are we at war with those nations?

Are we at war with drugs? People toss the word war around very loosely these days.

Seriously: With whom do you think the United States is presently at war?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Submitted by Carp on

BAO Richard (or others):

There is one issue I would like a BAO to weigh in on. I am not a "bomb guy" but, my understanding as such is that bomb guys actually like explosives and tend to know a lot about them. It *IS* a niche field afterall.

I had a passing interest in explosives years ago (though there isn't much I haven't had a passing interest in, as told by the graveyard of projects of various vintages around my living space), but I am by no means an expert. I am however well versed in logic and systems.

So here is my question... you know bombs. You could probably design a bomb just as well as any terrorist if you wanted to. Hell, you probably have given your chosen interests.

Do you really think that the front line TSA has a chance in hell of stopping YOU from blowing a plane out of the sky if YOU wanted to do it?

Honest answer here, could you design a bomb, that would be (given todays procedures etc) passed by the screeners without a second look? Please, give it some thought.

Now, there is a second part. Assuming there is someone with your skill out there, and someone (maybe the same person, maybe not) willing to carry it onto the plane and die....

Assuming all that, what measures would need to be taken to actually stop you? Would those measures actually stop you, or just make you change your design?

Now, I think by now many can tell what my answers would be. Aside from not having the expertise, I see no technical reasons someone with that expertise couldn't do it...right now.

am I that far off here? because if my assumptions are correct, then the only conclusion that I can come to is... nobody is really trying that hard.

-Steve

Submitted by RB on

Bob said...
The star surrounded by the wreath on top of the badge indicates that person is a master. It has been in use with the military far longer than the TSA has been in existence. It is also used with aviator wings and jump wings.

Bob

TSA Blog Team

July 15, 2009 2:37 PM
...................
TSA is not a military or para-military organization.

Stop trying to play like one.

Submitted by Carp on

> So tell me, how do you know if you have
> a bomb or not? Please explain your
> background to have this knowledge.

Well anonymous... I start with experience. I once in my life was near a bomb (outside of visiting military installations). I was near one because, as teenagers, a friend of mine and I decided to fill a copper tube with some pyrodex and blow it up. Fun... but Unabomber I was not.

Many times, I have run into packages, bags etc, that were left behind, and many times run into devices I didn't understand. None of these has ever turned out to be a bomb in disguise.

So I start by assuming no malicious intent, and its not a bomb. That is, I make the absolutely most reasonable assumption that a person can make...and the default assumption that should be made everywhere except along military supply routes in war zones.

So far, I have never been wrong in that assumption. And i have heard of FAR more people being wrong by assuming otherwise than i have EVER heard about those bomb assumptions panning out.

Its a simple numbers game. I don't play the lotto either. Frankly I would start playing the lotto before I would start assuming their are bombs everywhere... the odds are better by my estimation.

Theres a few million people out there in my general vicinity that can forget packages and briefcases. Compare that to the number of people with motive and opportunity to leave a bomb somewhere.... and it becomes pretty clear pretty quick that calling the bomb squad for anything less than a direct "there is a bomb in the building" threat just doesn't make any sense.

-Steve

Submitted by EODDemo on

Morning Gents

-The BAO model was taken from an Austrailian program and the title was kept the same even though we have made some modifications to the program itself. The word appraisal has different meanings throughout the world and most commonly you'll find that the word appraisal.. doesnt have anything to do with monetary value. Often an object's "worth" isn't in cash monies but in important data that can be gained (or important data that can be handed out to TSOs).

-The "horrid" BAO logo
The image you see is the Explosive Ordnance Disposal(EOD) master badge with the letters BAO placed on top of it. This EOD badge (crab as its called in the community) is far from horrid. It's something many set out to get their hands on and few make it through to get it. That "stalinist" star is actually only given to a Master badge. Meaning the bomb tech wielding the star didn't just come fresh off the boat.

The Wreath Symbolic of the achievements and laurels gained minimizing accident potentials through the ingenuity and devotion to duty of its members. It is in memory of those EOD personnel who gave their lives while performing EOD duties.

The Bomb Copied from the design of the World War II Bomb Disposal Badge, the bomb represents the historic and major objective of the EOD attack, the unexploded bomb. The three fins represent the major areas of nuclear, conventional and chemical/biological interest.

Lightning Bolts Symbolize the potential destructive power of the bomb and the courage and professionalism of EOD personnel in their endeavors to reduce hazards as well as to render explosive ordnance harmless.

The Shield Represents the EOD mission - to protect personnel and property.


I know many men who have died for this horrid decal and I myself love it so much as to get it inked onto my skin for life. Carp, i don't hold your worldly ignorance against you.

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." George Orwell

Sleep tight carp :)

Submitted by Carp on

> So you, as a terrorist, send in a bomb
> or fake bomb into the airport, and then
> place bombs to where you know people
> will be sent by police, and once they
> are there, kill those people. This has
> happened in other nations.

SLow day heh. Anyway, presumably, if you can make a real bomb to hit that crowd, then you can make a second real one to make sure the evacuation reaction is exactly whats done and legit.

Other than that, I am not surprized that this has worked. Its a very clever hack. I have repeatedly asked what security measures will be enacted once the checkpoint line becomes the target.

I was off looking over this old article (I was btw caught in the traffic jam caused by this incident): http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/nonterrorist_em.html

and saw:
"It's almost too easy to be a terrorist these days," said Jennifer Mason, 26. "You stick a box on a corner and you can shut down a city."

THAT, more than anything, is my concern. The utter paranoia over these extremely rare events has reaches such levels that a couple of light brights can shut down a city for half the day. That fiasco of utter overreaction cost over a million dollars. One incident... caused by maybe $100 worth of equipment and no threat (other than being flipped the finger by mooninites)

(another BAO question... how many bombs are built with big arrays of LEDs all over the front?)

I am ALL FOR security. What bothers me is the culture of fear. The belief that security means covering your ass at the expense of everyone else.

Sadly, CYA accounts for a large portion of the measures that I see people enact and endorse.

A more to the point article:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/06/fixing_airport.html

-Steve
-Steve

Submitted by Carp on

EODDemo:

> Sleep tight carp :)

Since I got my CPAP machine, I sleep like a baby.... however.... I made no comment on how the badge looked. Sorry.

I also have no problem with people who deal with explosives disposal. Its a dangerous job and one which should be commended.

My problem is A) With the culture of Fear that has people assuming that everything around them is a bomb
B) The CYA lovers who expect me to be ok with spending however much money they feel they need to to protect their jobs from the next attack by spending whatever it takes to defend against "what the terrorists did last time" (see previously posted link on CYA security)

To address B a bit more... lets take the MBTA stats. They tested just under 3000 bags for explosives. 26 of them tested positive and required further search. 0 contained bombs.

Extend those numbers out from a couple of checkpoints at train stations to a set of airport terminals and, frankly, those are some grim numbers from an
"incidents per day" standpoint. Especially when you figure the number of bombs detonated on the train in the last at LEAST 15 years has been 0. (I assume I would have heard of it if it happened)

That is unless you count "snap pops" as bombs. However, you are more likely to get ticketed for littering with those than charged with an explosives related violation.

-Steve

Submitted by Anonymous on

Seems if a person wanted to blow an airplane out of the sky then all that would be needed is a TSO or other airport employee who has access to checked baggage.

Being unscreened most days they could carry in the device, insert it into the unsecure checked baggage, like the TSO thieves we hear about all the time taking stuff out, and job done.

Why try to challenge the checkpoint when TSA keeps the back door wide open?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous @2:25

No, I reassert: There are an order of magnitude more solid substances that are explosives than liquid substances. Most explosive substances are solids.

You, like the terrorists, may simply be confusing "combustion" with "explosion". (See for example the guys who thought lighting a fuel pipe on fire would blow up JFK airport.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I didn't think Richard needed to defend that, nor was that his purpose."

He was asked about it and failed to defend it.

"For you to say that because Richard didn't bring it up, therefor he can't defend it, is actually quiet pathetic on your part."

It was brought up in a question, and Richard failed to defend it, because it is indefensible.

Please read better.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"Seems if a person wanted to blow an airplane out of the sky then all that would be needed is a TSO or other airport employee who has access to checked baggage."

--------------------------

But isn't that true of ALL law enforcement and/or security? I ask that question knowing that basically it is.

I know for a fact that the Secret Service does not screen themselves when they arrive at work. This is true whether you'r talking plain clothes agenst, or the uniformed division.

Capital police does not screen themselves. They have over-lapping responsibility to provide protection to facilities in the capital, including members of congress.

When state and local police provide security for the governor or mayor, they do not screen themselves, even at state-wide conventions.

I know this because I have worked with all of these groups, some as a TSA employee, others from my previous life.

What you we are basically talking about is an industry wide practice. To some extent there has to be a level of trust you give people who perform these jobs.

Now you and I may disagree on what extent of trust we hand out, but it is a fact that most security does not screen itself.

Maybe that should change, I do not know. I am sure better people than me, such as the readers/posters of this blog, will tell us so.

However, if I were truly scarstic, I would use the argument so many people on this blog like to use against TSA. It hasn't happened yet, so arn't you over-reacting? Understand, I do not really consider this a valid argument.

Submitted by Anonymous on

carp said...

"I also have no problem with people who deal with explosives disposal. Its a dangerous job and one which should be commended.

My problem is A) With the culture of Fear that has people assuming that everything around them is a bomb."


Here is part of carps problem. He thinks the people at TSA think everything around us is an IED. We actually do not.

Most, if not almost all bags left unattended (I use this example because you have brought it up so often) never receive more than a glance after the police get there. I do not know if there are records of the times bags are left unattended and how often TSA or police think there is a bomb. However, if I were to guess, I would guess that just a fraction of 1% of bags left unattended are handled in such a way as to imply someone thinks there might be something dangerous inside. I guess this less than 1% makes carp think we are an agency clouded by FEAR.

I am positive other TSA employees can confirm this.

So, carp, TSA does not consider everything around them to be dangerous. That is just your mistaken impression.

As far as what else you post, I think we should spend money to attempt to stop terrorist, even if they never strike us again. Why? I do not care if it is only 1 life that is safe; that is a life worth saving. Beside that, terrorism is about fear, and that has terrible economic cost. If spending money to defend against terrorism is what it takes to ease that fear, then I support it. It is money well spent, and we most likely recover what might have been lost.

But what might be lost is something we really can not speculate. How bad was the economy after 9/11? How long did it last? I do know it took nearly 5 years for people to start flying at the same numbers than before. And that ripples out into our economy. Less people renting hotels, cars, eating at restaurants, etc.

You tell me, carp. How much is it worth to protect that? Personally, I hope we are never attacked again, and I still think it would be worth it to have security.

Submitted by Anonymous on

carp said...

edited...

"Other than that, I am not surprized that this has worked. Its a very clever hack. I have repeatedly asked what security measures will be enacted once the checkpoint line becomes the target.

I was off looking over this old article (I was btw caught in the traffic jam caused by this incident): http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/nonterrorist_em.html

and saw:
"It's almost too easy to be a terrorist these days," said Jennifer Mason, 26. "You stick a box on a corner and you can shut down a city."

THAT, more than anything, is my concern. The utter paranoia over these extremely rare events has reaches such levels that a couple of light brights can shut down a city for half the day. That fiasco of utter overreaction cost over a million dollars. One incident... caused by maybe $100 worth of equipment and no threat (other than being flipped the finger by mooninites)

(another BAO question... how many bombs are built with big arrays of LEDs all over the front?"

------------------------------


I am somewhat surprised of your concern of cost that a false alarm might cause, because that has been a major sucess of the BAO program. It has greatly reduced airport evacuations, flight delays and cancelations, and saved millions and millions of dollars. Yes, millions.

Yet you said its a waste in the very first post of this blog.

Why are you not consistant?

As far as what "security measures will be enacted once the checkpoint line becomes the target", TSA alreayd considers the checkpoint line a target. However, it is on the public side of the airport. TSA is attempting several things, such as a portable scanner, which has drawn alot of heat, even on this blog.

Sort of a catch-22 situation. TSA knows the public side is a target, but there is little legally that can be done about it. If TSA tries, people like you start to scream and yell foul.

As far as your traffic jam, that is not the same as a checkpoint. The item in question will have gone through an x-ray. Even if the item has already been ejected from the x-ray the BAO can pull up the image and look at it. The BAO can also ETD the item. As far as a case on the side of the road, none of that would be possible.

This is another reason why the BAO is a great program. It helps greatly to prevent unnecessary evacuations.

As to your question about LEDs, I can not answer that. However, I will ask one of our BAOs when I am at work, and post a reply soon, if your really interested.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

""However, all joking aside, I hope TSA never finds an IED, that terrorist never attempt to bring one on a U.S. plane, and that we as a society still expend all efforts to prevent such an act, even if it never happens. That would be sooooo much better than a group of people being blown up on a plane."

No, it wouldn't. You fail to understand the simple fact that resources are finite. Every dollar spent on airport "security" is a dollar that is no longer available for other purposes (infrastructure repair to name just one). So this notion that we should "expend all efforts" is not only foolish, it is downright harmful.

"One possible way to attack people, to spread fear, and what has actually happened at other parts of the world, is to watch where police evacuate people. Police will directe people to a specific area as they are leaving a building where there is a possible bomb."

All you are saying is that large crowds of people represent a potential terrorist target. Now explain why this should concern us when it happens at an airport but not when it happens at the virtually infinite range of public gatherings in this country."

-----------------

As to your first comment, I guess you and I just place life at a different value.

And I should explain, I do not mean we should spend all of our resources toward fighting and protecting ourselves from terrorism. I should not have implied that we should just blindly spend money fighting terrorism, and I am sorry if I gave that impression.

But I do believe the value of life is not finite, and that it would be unconscionable to not dedicate large, even vast, amounts of resources towards saving lives.

All this really amounts to is a difference you and I have regarding policy. I think it should be one way, you another. Fair enough.

But you mention that every dollar spent on security is not available for anything else. That is true. But I would look elsewhere to find money, or budgets to cut that might generally be considered wasteful. For example, the government spends money to study the effects of cow gas (methane) on the environment. Not kidding, look it up. There are so many other places in our budget that are truly wasteful.

Yes, large crowds are a target. You are not the first one that has pointed this out. And its also about resources. The Secret Service handles screening at major events like the Super Bowl. Local and state police handle things like state fairs.

TSA has been hired now to screen at major events too, which is a relatively new things.

But yes, those are a threat too, to a larger or smaller event. Good that you noticed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
Yes they do. I had my shoes screen in 3 different nations in Europe, there was the liquid bad, I had to take my computer out at all checkpoints, my jacket off.
*****
1. Which three countries were you in?

2. Were you flying from that country to the United States?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"I note that Richard was completely and utterly unable to defend TSA's war on liquids, because there is no sensible defense for it. Pathetic as always."


I didn't think Richard needed to defend that, nor was that his purpose.

For you to say that because Richard didn't bring it up, therefor he can't defend it, is actually quiet pathetic on your part.
******
Please reread the original post and look for the following question:

"Blogger Bob: To many travelers who don’t understand the liquid threat, they feel that prohibiting items over 3.4 oz such as toothpaste and mouthwash is insane. The baggie baffles many a passenger. How would you defend the legitimacy of the 3-1-1 program if confronted by a curious passenger?"

This was the question where he was asked to defend the current TSA liquids ban.

Submitted by Patrick (BOS TSO) on
RB said...
TSA is not a military or para-military organization.

Stop trying to play like one.

Did you take into fact that most of the BAOs are former military or police who have earned that badge?
Submitted by Craftmanor on

Yes, in Europe they do have a ban on liquids. A gentleman ended up in the hospital last year as a result of guzzling down a bottle of hard liquor when he realized he couldn't take it with his carry on. This happened in Germany, and I believe it was the Frankfurt Airport. AND, I was told by a very nice Istraelie Woman, that the gentleman who was in front of her, complaining, should have to fly out of Israel. She noted he would never make his flight for all the extra "interviewing" they would be doing, and he would be touched all over to make certain NOTHING was hiding on him. Get your facts straight about world situations before you comment. It truly makes you look completely uneducated!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Nice puppy post. Guess nobody bothered to think that YATSFP (Yet Another TSO Stealing From Passengers), this time at JFK, was worth mentioning.

So will the TSO fire or not fire the Brian Burton, caught on film stealing a 'bait' laptop and a phone from a test bag?

Quoting from the fine article "The thieves also switched the luggage tags, hoping to conceal their handiwork, officials said."

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2009/07/15/2009-07-15_sting_nab...

Submitted by Anonymous on

All this talk about there isn't any need for a BAO because incidents are so rare - I would like to direct you to this link http://www.atf.gov/aexis2/statistics.htm - There were over 500 criminal explosive incidents and bombs detected in 2007. If you include all cases where explosives were recovered, there were over 2000 incidents that year. If a TSA screener sees a suspicious device, it is entirely reasonable to call in a specialist.

And Steve, you said " how about... call them when you have a bomb." I volunteer you to be the one to check the device and ensure it isn't a bomb. Heck, if they are as rare as you claim, you should go into the field and make a lot of easy, safe money checking for people.

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