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Transportation Security Administration

ExpressJet Incident in Rochester

Monday, August 10, 2009

Due to thunderstorms, a flight bound for Minneapolis on Friday, August 7, was diverted to Rochester, Minnesota. Passengers were stuck inside the plane for several hours after ExpressJet made the decision not to deplane.

Earlier today, there were media reports that led some to believe TSA regulations prevented the passengers from deplaning.

TSA does not make decisions on whether or not passengers can deplane. We do however have the ability to recall our officers and open a checkpoint at the request of an airline or airport. No requests were made by ExpressJet on Friday or Saturday. The checkpoint resumed normal operations at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Also, passengers did not need to be screened or rescreened to deplane and re-board as long as they didn’t exit past the checkpoint and leave the non-screened sterile area of the airport.

Please note the airline has since publically apologized to the passengers .

Thanks,

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by RB on

I think TSA is in the clear on this one.

For once!

Submitted by YDP on

The story above implies that TSA was not present when this fight arrived. Is that the case? If so wouldn't the sterile area no longer be sterile due to overnight cleaning and maint?

Submitted by DCA TSO EM on

I remember a similar story but it happened in DC. If I recall correctly 2 women we're on the airplane that hadn't taken off yet when they started discussing where would be the safest place to sit on the airplane if there was a bomb. I'm not sure whether or not a FAM was invloved but I seem to recall that 1 or 2 passengers did tell flight crew.

The TSA Officers at that terminal dumped the pier & I think the women we're brought in for questioning. However, there was 1 passenger who wanted to sue DoT & AirTran for making them get off the plane.

Submitted by Deadpass on

I believe nine hours is a few more than several.

Submitted by Chrystal K on

I would hate to have been on that plane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

RB, do you think TSA should lead Health Care Reform? Also, Do you feel that TSA is responsible for the thunderstorms due to massive static charges created by Blogger Bob's wool socks while he was scooting around the office without shoes on during his friday dance off?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I agree that the TSA has no actual part in this, but it appears that the general sprawl that is the TSA's "Security Net", or whatever you want to call it, scared the airline into not doing something. TSA responsible? No. TSA policies responsible? Yes, albeit indirectly. If this had happened in 1950 or something, they'd have all been camping out under the beautiful starry minnesota skies on the tarmac, but evidently not in today's world.

If *I* had been on that plane, I would be calling 911 to report a kidnapping, and then my lawyer to start a wrongful imprisonment suit. Accepting travel vouchers is a ridiculous compensation.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have to admit, this was a new low in customer service. Express Jet even used TSA as an excuse. Pathetic.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I read this on MSNBC and in my view the airline screwed the pooch on this one. However, in the story the airport manager said that passengers could have deplaned as long as they didn't pass outside checkpoints since TSA was no longer there. My question is, who is there to keep them on the sterile side of checkpoints that are now unmanned? I think the so called "passenger bill of rights" will probably go through as a result of this fiasco.

Submitted by Dave Nelson on

Anyone who has flown and endured the security theater shows at America's airports knows that the TSA doesn't deserve the rap for this one.

But, I think you might think about the public perception your agency has earned that would cause such media speculation and your desire to go on record saying that it wasn't your fault.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT

Submitted by AngryMIller on

For once TSA gets a walk on this from me as being completely blameless.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear god, I think ExpressJet may be the only organization in this country more incompetent than the TSA!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm a huge critic of TSA, but IMO TSA is completely clear here.

The captain of the CO/ExpressJet flight, however, should be terminated for not fulfilling her obligation to look out for the well-being of the passengers. At any moment, she could have demanded a stairway or declared an emergency and ordered an orderly (but slow and deliberate so as to avoid injuries) evacuation of the aircraft.

It would be helpful if TSA would publish some statements as to their (non) role in these situations. It's not at all unusual for airlines to claim that they can't deplane pax during delays, diversions, etc., due to TSA rules. It has happened to me at least 3 times; after one such flight I (nicely) confronted the captain about making up non-existent rules and he insisted that it was a real security risk and TSA violation to let pax deplane during a long at-gate delay.

TSA could help out passengers by refuting that so that airline employees and pilots who make up rules on the spot for their benefit can be corrected, and when necessary, humiliated, disciplined, and terminated.

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
RB, do you think TSA should lead Health Care Reform? Also, Do you feel that TSA is responsible for the thunderstorms due to massive static charges created by Blogger Bob's wool socks while he was scooting around the office without shoes on during his friday dance off?

August 10, 2009 7:06 PM
.....................
Not sure what your point is, I clearly said that TSA was not responsible for this event.

However to answer your question, I don't think TSA should be in charge of anything.

Submitted by Anonymous on

For once the TSA is telling the truth. They were not responsible for or involved in this cascade of failures. They may indeed be the only entity at the Rochester airport who have the right to deny involvement.

However, the relevant point here is how the airline and the people supposedly in charge of airport management quickly blamed "security" as the reason for keeping those passengers imprisoned first in the plane and then in the airport corral. "Security" seems to be the all-purpose blanket excuse for justifying, evading, and covering up all manner of incompetence, failure, and abuse.

The TSA has taken the lead in employing this pernicious practice, and refined it into an exquisite institutional art. Many people are accepting and forgiving when the TSA sweeps something outrageous under the rug by claiming it's "necessary for security." So it's not surprising that airlines and airport officials would attempt to emulate what the TSA does so well. But I don't think that will work in this case.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous: "TSA could help out passengers by refuting that so that airline employees and pilots who make up rules on the spot for their benefit can be corrected, and when necessary, humiliated, disciplined, and terminated."

It's possible that pilots and the airport managers honestly believe that the TSA does not allow passengers to deplane in circumstances like this. I think it more likely that they just desperately use "security" as an excuse to avoid either responsibility or the difficulties of deplaning and reboarding. But the unfortunate reality is that the TSA's actual rules are so murky, so poorly publicized, and so inconsistently implemented and "interpreted" that such a belief is entirely plausible.

As has been repeated (and ignored) too many times here, the TSA could help out passengers in general by promulgating and publicizing clear rules and procedures, and then implementing them consistently. But that apparently would be contrary to the TSA's fundamental operating philosophy that some classified combination of secrecy, obscurity, confusion, and inconsistency (along with the incompetence and arrogance such a philosophy promotes) somehow adds up to effective protection against threats to aviation. The TSA may not have been directly involved in the failures that led to this incident, but they may be indirectly responsible for a lot of needless passenger misery that extends well beyond their checkpoints.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT"

So I have have to call my loan officer a loan screener?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Anonymous said...
Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT"



soo anon my court officer or my loan officer should be called screeners then?, just because one is not a law enforcement officer does not mean the cannot have the title "officer" what about security officer, they are not law enforcement soo should they be called security screener. Your comment is niave. I refer myself as a security officer not a LEO. any TSO who says they are law enforcement should be penalized. Wether you like it or not SOME TSO's take pride in their job and are here for a reason. Yes we have heard that TSA officers get 2 weeks of training and thats it. Yes you are right in the sense of Basic Training. Training continues every day/week. and National Training is done monthly.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"I read this on MSNBC and in my view the airline screwed the pooch on this one. However, in the story the airport manager said that passengers could have deplaned as long as they didn't pass outside checkpoints since TSA was no longer there. My question is, who is there to keep them on the sterile side of checkpoints that are now unmanned? I think the so called "passenger bill of rights" will probably go through as a result of this fiasco."

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

I can not speak for every airport, but I'm pretty sure its similiar to the one I work at. When TSA leaves the checkpoint is closed by a gate. The exit is open, manned by an airport police officer. The officer can easily let people out, and easily keep others from coming in.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT"

So I have have to call my loan officer a loan screener?"



Or better yet, what about those who work in courts, who are not "law enforcement", or those who work for other agencies, such as the Treasury Department just to name one agency, who are also not armed, not law enforcement - many of them are called "officers".

In fact, almost all government agencies have "officers" - those who are not armed and not law enforcement. TSA has done nothing unusual by calling screeners officers.

But nice that people single out TSA. Shows their bias, and lets us know they really don't know what they are talking about.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"I'm a huge critic of TSA, but IMO TSA is completely clear here.

The captain of the CO/ExpressJet flight, however, should be terminated for not fulfilling her obligation to look out for the well-being of the passengers. At any moment, she could have demanded a stairway or declared an emergency and ordered an orderly (but slow and deliberate so as to avoid injuries) evacuation of the aircraft.

It would be helpful if TSA would publish some statements as to their (non) role in these situations. It's not at all unusual for airlines to claim that they can't deplane pax during delays, diversions, etc., due to TSA rules. It has happened to me at least 3 times; after one such flight I (nicely) confronted the captain about making up non-existent rules and he insisted that it was a real security risk and TSA violation to let pax deplane during a long at-gate delay.

TSA could help out passengers by refuting that so that airline employees and pilots who make up rules on the spot for their benefit can be corrected, and when necessary, humiliated, disciplined, and terminated."


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

Airlines love TSA for one reason: they can blame TSA for everything.

I work for TSA, have flow alot over the last few years. I have been there when my baggage was screened by the people I work with, and everything was ok. When it got to where I was going, the luggage had damage. Airline blamed TSA. I was able to prove it was not TSA, but thats most likely because I work for TSA and was there when it was screened. I was able to get witness statements. Most passengers can not do so.

I have been on a plane delayed for nearly 3 hours on the runway. The captain said over the intercom that TSA had not authorized us to take off!! What they heck! TSA doesn't authorize anything like that one way or the other.


However, I do not think TSA will refute things the airline says becasue as a government agency TSA can take the false criticism the airlines give it better than private companies can take customer complaints. TSA is not there to make a profit.

I have been there when our FSD has said TSA serves many purposes. We serve the passengers who fly, we try to keep them safe. At the same time we have others we serve, the airlines.

The airline industry is in trouble. Eventually it will pull out. And if TSA can take some of the brunt of the public's displeasure, then thats ok. Without the airlines, there is no need for TSA.

TSA does not confront the airlines when they unfairly blame TSA because in part the airlines are the hand that feed it, and you don't bite that hand.

Should this change? I don't know. What is better, public opinion, or actual performace? Right now, TSA has taken the position that performance over opinion is what is important.

I sort of agree.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA could provide staff, union permitting, to allow the passengers to deplane. Any airline working with TSA could allow a bus or supply truck to the at least deliver supplies to the plane. This was unnecessary, period.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No wonder congress wants to spend $550 million for "VIP" jets. Marie Antoinette said "let them eat cake", but congress says "let them eat peanuts"!

Submitted by Anonymous on
Anonymous wrote:
I can not speak for every airport, but I'm pretty sure its similiar to the one I work at. When TSA leaves the checkpoint is closed by a gate. The exit is open, manned by an airport police officer. The officer can easily let people out, and easily keep others from coming in.


I'm quite sure you're correct. Thanks to a great number of delayed flights, I've had the "pleasure" of arriving at a number of airports (mostly small or medium ones) this year between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. The exit to the airside area is always attended, sometimes by a uniformed TSO, often by a LEO, and occasionally by some contractor-type in typical airport-employee clothing. Often only one exit is left open, but one of them is always manned.

I completely agree with the above statements that TSA's attitude condones the "security as an excuse" for the airlines and airports. So while I stand by claiming TSA is "completely clear" on this incident, that is aside from the attitude issues.
Submitted by TSO-Joe on

"TSA could provide staff, union permitting, to allow the passengers to deplane. Any airline working with TSA could allow a bus or supply truck to the at least deliver supplies to the plane. This was unnecessary, period."

Wow! You realize that TSA does not control when/how a plane deplanes, does not care if an airline uses a bus or supply truck (as long as it is screened before entering the AOA). Nice try to spin this into TSA's fault. And we're not unionized in MN yet, although we can join if we want to.

TSO-Joe

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The TSA may not have been directly involved in the failures that led to this incident, but they may be indirectly responsible for a lot of needless passenger misery that extends well beyond their checkpoints."

I nominate this entey for the "Best-attempt-to-blame-TSA-for-something-that-wasn't-TSA's-fault-to-begin-with" award for 2009.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous TSA employee: "Right now, TSA has taken the position that performance over opinion is what is important."

Given the TSA's mission, that would be a sensible position.... if the TSA actually demonstrated it was capable of "performance." Every report about undercover testing or audits I've seen suggests that the TSA consistently does a poor job of keeping explosives, bomb components, and hazardous materials off airplanes, despite its acknowledged zealous enforcement of the liquid and shoe "pain points." And that's the public reporting, which I suspect omits classified material that would embarrass the TSA and strengthen calls for reform.

Poor opinion might be inevitable and acceptable for a security agency that must unavoidably hassle millions of people in the performance of a vital mission. But it becomes completely unacceptable when that agency seems determined to earn its miserable reputation while turning in consistently dismal results in impartial assessments of its performance. Their inept attempts to bamboozle the public with glowing reports of false positive "successes" only makes the problem worse.

It's unfortunate that the TSA has become the convenient scapegoat for the failures of airlines that may actually be more incompetent and have more contempt for passengers than the TSA. But the TSA has earned that unenviable position through their "performance."

Since the TSA encourages its "officers" to make up rules on the spot, to compensate for their inconsistent training in vaguely-defined secret "guidelines," it shouldn't be surprising that airlines employ the same tactic to cover up their own incompetence. The TSA isn't solely responsible for what seems to be a systematic effort throughout the air transportation system to make flying as miserable as possible for passengers. But they are leading that effort by example.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous: "I nominate this entey for the "Best-attempt-to-blame-TSA-for-something-that-wasn't-TSA's-fault-to-begin-with" award for 2009."

Not quite. I was merely suggesting that the TSA's inconsistent ad-hoc approach to "security" may have led to instances where non-TSA employees of airports and airlines caused passengers needless difficulty by incorrectly assuming "security regulations" out of good-faith misunderstanding or ignorance.

I'm not saying that's what happened here. This incident sounds more like "security" was being invoked as a convenient fig leaf to cover severe incompetence. That probably happens more often than honest misunderstanding, though the result is the same.

But there is a lot of confusion about "TSA regulations," for which the TSA does deserve blame. Even their own "officers" don't always know the rules, which leads to a lot of inconsistency, confusion, and passengers falling afoul of rules that are made up (or "interpreted") by individual screeners. Many of us have personally experienced this unfortunate situation.

And some actual "TSA regulations" are intentionally kept secret. A notable example was the formerly-secret TSA regulation that passengers could only use the bathrooms for the class in which they are booked. That became public when a desperate passenger assaulted a flight attendant who was heroically enforcing the rule while dutifully protecting its secrecy.

The TSA seems to believe that keeping their rules and procedures secret is key to their effectiveness (or at least it's key to protecting themselves from any accountability when a failure occurs). The secrecy is bound to create confusion and misunderstanding for everyone, which is bound to cause passengers needless difficulty. Whether or not that was the case in this particular incident, it is appropriate to blame the TSA for the inevitable indirect effects of intentionally promoting confusion and misunderstanding in the name of "security."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"And some actual "TSA regulations" are intentionally kept secret. A notable example was the formerly-secret TSA regulation that passengers could only use the bathrooms for the class in which they are booked. That became public when a desperate passenger assaulted a flight attendant who was heroically enforcing the rule while dutifully protecting its secrecy. "


hmmm, ironic.

I wet myself laughing at this...

another example of the airlines blaming TSA for something it has no control over. and some people believe this.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"Since the TSA encourages its "officers" to make up rules on the spot..."

What? When did this happen? Why wasn't I told by my bosses at
TSA. I could have used this knowledge!

I feel so left out.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT"

The official designation at this time is Transportation Security Officer. We are not law enforcement, and have no detention or arrest powers, we are security officers tasked with the checkpoint and baggage security.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

The reality is that the airline did not use "common sense" in trying to exercise all available options. If there were not going to be able to leave in a short period of time, due to weather, crew requirements, or whatever, then they should have deplaned the passengers - sterile area or public area. If they were able to deplane to a secured sterile area, they should have done so. If not, I'm sure the passengers would have been happier to be in the terminal where they could move about freely until security staff arrived to re-screen them. They were probably quarantined at the gate because they had boarding passes from a previous day with a departure / destination that did not fit the airport where they had stopped. The airline could have given the flight a new flight number and reissued boarding passes to these passengers if necessary. Yes, it takes more work, but for a 7 hour delay and the safety, security, and comfort of your passengers, any airline should be able to do this.
In any event, the airline should have been in constant communication with its passengers and providing necessary services such as food, water, and lavatory facilities while the passengers were held on the aircraft.
Depending on the size of the airport, they may have been able to request that TSA send officers come back in to screen the passengers. They could have deplaned and cancelled the flight until the next day when flight crew were available. I'm guessing that for the first hour or two they were hoping to get clearance to take off and continue to their destination. When this clearly wasn't happening, the pilot needed to be more firm with dispatch / airline employees that they could not stay on board any longer. At least once they were off the plane, the passengers could have tried to find their own transportation or again, at the very least, had the freedom to walk around, use the restroom, etc.
Blaming TSA is not going to work on this one. This was laziness and negligence on the part of Continental / Express Jet.

Submitted by RB on

GSOLTSO said...
Anon sez - Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT"

The official designation at this time is Transportation Security Officer. We are not law enforcement, and have no detention or arrest powers, we are security officers tasked with the checkpoint and baggage security.

West
TSA Blog Team

August 13, 2009 4:33 AM
............................
TSA employees certainly have not earned the respect that the word "officer" brings to mind.

Baggage screener should be the correct term.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Anonymous wrote:

Since the TSA encourages its "officers" to make up rules on the spot...


Another anonymous replied:

What? When did this happen? Why wasn't I told by my bosses at
TSA. I could have used this knowledge! I feel so left out.


Well ... TSA phrases it a little more nicely, but the sentiment is there ...

"(TSOs) may determine that
an item not on the prohibited items chart is prohibited. In addition, the TSO may also
determine that an item on the permitted chart is dangerous and therefore may not be brought through the security checkpoint."

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - "TSA employees certainly have not earned the respect that the word "officer" brings to mind.

Baggage screener should be the correct term."

I took an oath when I took this office and do my best to live up to it every day at work, as well as away from work. When you disagree with policies and the parent organization it is easy to heap disparaging remarks on the front line personnel, easy and cheap. When a TSO fails to uphold the integrity of the organzation, then the organization must take steps to correct that (and contrary to a lot of what is posted here, they do). When you make a blanket statement like this one, you are showing a narrow view of things and an unwillingness to realize that the vast majority of the workforce come to work, do what they are supposed to do and do so well. Just because you have disagreements with HQ and policy, does not mean that the Officers at the checkpoints have not earned their position, it means you disagree with policy and specific actions by specific personnel.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

RB: you stated: TSA employees certainly have not earned the respect that the word "officer" brings to mind.

Baggage screener should be the correct term.

Well, I have seen Police "Officers" who have been convicted of incest, rape, murder, and child porn. Border Patrol "Officers" who have been convicted of bribery, smuggling, and various other charges. Correctional "Officers" who were convicted of bringing drugs and weapons into a prison. So does that mean that all of those "employees" who are in those proffesions have not "earned" the right to be called "Officers"? I don't think so, because for all the bad ones, I also know alot of very good Officers in all those proffesions and then some.

Maybe we should just get rid of the title of Officer for everyone. Strike it from the Engligh language. Would that make you feel better?

There are bad "employees" in every profession. There happen to be alot of "employees" in TSA who have EARNED the right to be called "Officer" regardless of what job they may work.

Submitted by RB on

GSOLTSO said...
RB sez - "TSA employees certainly have not earned the respect that the word "officer" brings to mind.

Baggage screener should be the correct term."

I took an oath when I took this office and do my best to live up to it every day at work, as well as away from work. When you disagree with policies and the parent organization it is easy to heap disparaging remarks on the front line personnel, easy and cheap. When a TSO fails to uphold the integrity of the organzation, then the organization must take steps to correct that (and contrary to a lot of what is posted here, they do). When you make a blanket statement like this one, you are showing a narrow view of things and an unwillingness to realize that the vast majority of the workforce come to work, do what they are supposed to do and do so well. Just because you have disagreements with HQ and policy, does not mean that the Officers at the checkpoints have not earned their position, it means you disagree with policy and specific actions by specific personnel.

West
TSA Blog Team

August 13, 2009 10:42 AM

....................
West you may disagree with what I think or say but my experiences with TSA employees have developed my beliefs.

Submitted by Anonymous on

That is fair enough RB. Your attitiude on this blog has led me to beleive that you have probably instigated any problems you have had with the TSA and made them worse/

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
That is fair enough RB. Your attitiude on this blog has led me to beleive that you have probably instigated any problems you have had with the TSA and made them worse/

August 13, 2009 11:58 AM
..................
You would be wrong West. I enter each checkpoint prepared based on the information that TSA provides.

Secret rules, checkpoints making up rules as they go and the inability to get TSA to admit that they are wrong on a point is what creates problems.

TSA is disfunctional in my opinion. TSO's are poorly trained and do not have the common sense to apply your secret procedures properly.

TSA waste time looking at ID's, making people remove shoes, confiscating water and other liquids when 100's of people enter the secure areas daily with no screening what so ever and cargo is loaded onto aircraft without being screened.

TSA needs to go back to square one about transportation safety because whats being done now is a complete waste of time and effort.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Your employees are NOT officers.

They are screeners. They have NO law enforcement powers and to use the term "officers" is misleading.

MS/FT

***********************************
Well then, according to that logic, I guess we better tell the banks to change the title of their "loan officers" as they don't have law enforcement powers either.

Submitted by Anonymous on
There are bad "employees" in every profession. There happen to be alot of "employees" in TSA who have EARNED the right to be called "Officer" regardless of what job they may work.

-------

Absolutely correct. Unfortunately, the TSA has enough bad employees to tarnish the majority of good ones. Once a passenger has had an encounter with one of the "bad apples," she will acquire a negative opinion of the TSA that will be difficult to change. She will have valid reason to expect future encounters to be negative. She will view even the good encounters through that lens, focusing on the inevitably unpleasant aspects of the "checkpoint experience" rather than the good officer's courtesy, professionalism, and dedication.

The failure of the TSA to eliminate the bad employees, along with the culture of secrecy and unaccountability that only encourages and promotes those bad employees, is an important reason so many people despise the TSA. The TSA's so-called leadership has had ample time to recognize and weed out the "bad employees," but the seem to have chosen not to do that. The risk of encountering an arrogant bully whose favorite words are "Do you want to fly today?," or an "officer" whose inadequate training causes unnecessary forfeiture of property (or worse), remains a fearsome and "unpredictable" part of the TSA "screening experience."

It also doesn't help that even the good employees are maddeningly inconsistent about knowing, implementing, and "interpreting" the TSA's vaguely-defined and secretive rules. And even when they are well-informed and doing their job professionally and courteously, TSOs are still stuck with imposing rules and restrictions that many passengers consider arbitrary, pointless, and even stupid.

I do have to admire the dedication of those officers who truly believe that what they impose on people is valuable, effective, and necessary to protect against horrible threat, and who enforce those rules fairly and consistently, with respect and courtesy even for passengers who clearly don't share that belief. I can also understand the stress those officers are under, dealing with so many people who despise the TSA and the hassles it imposes. But that doesn't excuse the behavior of some of them.
Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - "You would be wrong West. I enter each checkpoint prepared based on the information that TSA provides.

Secret rules, checkpoints making up rules as they go and the inability to get TSA to admit that they are wrong on a point is what creates problems.

TSA is disfunctional in my opinion. TSO's are poorly trained and do not have the common sense to apply your secret procedures properly.

TSA waste time looking at ID's, making people remove shoes, confiscating water and other liquids when 100's of people enter the secure areas daily with no screening what so ever and cargo is loaded onto aircraft without being screened.

TSA needs to go back to square one about transportation safety because whats being done now is a complete waste of time and effort."

Not my comment RB, I take credit for all of mine. I have mentioned several times that I disagree with the inconsistencies as they cause confusion and difficulty for the travelling public and TSOs. I agree that sometimes we as an organization do not do a good enough job of getting out in front of issues as they develop and it makes us look defensive instead of proactive. I disagree with you on the training, we train more than any other organization than I have ever been associated with EXCEPT for the military. I agree that there are tech advances that we could be using, BUT there are testing programs that have to be completed prior to deploying them into a checkpoint or baggage enviornment. There are always going to be areas that offer room for improvement, but I think that the organzation is moving the right direction and will improve steadily over the next few years. Shoes, and LAGs will continue to be screened as is until we can come up with a better method to clear them, because they are a viable threat source. I do not consider keeping threat items off of planes to be a waste of time, it keeps all people flying safer, even you RB! I agree that there is room for improvement and that we need to grow and learn as an organization. We need to devise more and better ways to screen people and their items, and apply them uniformly across the board.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by D Ramsey on

RB, have you ever been in a position were you had to disseminate information to thousands of employees in minutes? Can you imagine the mass confusion this can create? This is exactly what TSA HQ is faced with when they make an immediate change due to a credible threat assessment. No, TSA may not be perfect, show me one organization that is and I will concede to your point.

I don't understand your position of "secret" rules at the checkpoint. If you don't think you are being treated fairly ask for a supervisor, if that does not work than ask for a manager. You really do have that right. However do be prepared for a slight wait since in larger airports it may take a small amount of time for one of them to get to the checkpoint that you are at. If you don't ask for them when you feel you are being "mistreated" than nothing will ever be corrected at that particular airport. You know when I go to a fast food restaurant and they give me the wrong order (happens allot) I don't go online and complain I call the restaurant manager and let them know. If they don't know they can't fix it. It is all well and good to complain to HQ about thing but it is the supervisors and managers at the airports that are the ones who get things corrected at the airports. Not someone sitting at a desk in Washington.

I know that you may not like or understand having to take your shoes off to go through the checkpoint, or having the liquids limited. You know, I may not like having to drive 75mph on the interstate but it is the law and is designed to keep me safe. So think of the shoes and liquids the same way, it really is designed to keep you safe. If you want to take larger liquids put them in your checked bags. Want to take your knife, put it in your checked bag; just don't take it through the check point. No, we can't explain everything to you in the detail that you may want, we are not allowed just as police, detectives, and others are not always allowed to explain everything to you in as much detail as you would like. It is not because we would not like to, it is because we can't.

I know that there are "bad apples" in TSA. I wish there weren't but you always have some that are just rotten and they always seem to get all the press. However, there are allot of very good, very competent, very professional people who work for TSA in the screening workforce. They take pride in their honesty, integrity, and competence. They train hard every day they are at work and are recertified every year at their skills. It amazes me that the only time TSA makes the news is when it fails but when it successfully passes nobody hears about it. Why is that? Perhaps because nobody wants to hear about the successes?

So, you can go ahead and complain all you want, it is after all a free country. However, I just had to finally put in my two cents worth. Because even with all you have to say that is negative about TSA I have been with TSA for almost 8 years and I take great pride in my work. I take the time to talk to any passenger who has a question or complaint. I take the time to explain why we have to do what we do to the best of my ability, and to the best of my knowledge have never had a complaint at my checkpoint and I am a STSO (Supervisor Transportation Security Officer).

Submitted by RB on

We need to devise more and better ways to screen people and their items, and apply them uniformly across the board.

West
TSA Blog Team

August 14, 2009 4:36 AM

................
West I did not attribute my comments to your statements. I just explained where I was coming from.

I agree that keeping threats off of airplanes is a desirable goal.

Threats are WEI, not water, Pepsi and such.

Threats are not denying accomodations to people with disabilities, even if they are unseen.

Threats are not treating people poorly because they challenge some TSO's authority.

Threats can enter from areas of the airport that are not screened completely, yet TSA allows this practice daily.

Threats could enter from cargo that is not fully screened yet TSA does not screen all cargo.

Threats can be introduced by an airport worker who has access to checked baggage but TSA will not provide a means to ensure baggage is secure when it leaves the hands of the traveler.

A false ID or no ID is not a threat. Not knowing a persons name is not a threat if they are properly screened.

Now about training.

Having $4,700 dollars is not a threat. Was this the action of a well trained TSO?

TSO's prove on a regular basis that they don't know what are acceptable ID's. Passport cards, Military ID's and other supposedly accepted ID's have all been rejected at various airports.

TSO's questiont people about rental car contracts, credit card issuers and other none security related topics. (Bangor) Is this the actions of a well trained TSO?

FLL TSO's requied all Video cameras to be removed from cases reqardless of of media storage. (Only full size cassette types require removal)

Some airports require shoes on the belt even though Blogger Bob clearly said that is not a requirement. If a person place shoes in a bin then expect a retalitory secondary screening because you have just violated some secret unpublished rule.

TSO's require ID's to be removed from document holders yet again nowhere is there a law or United States code requiring that action. Or is this another secret rule that TSA expects people to just fall in line and comply with?

And do I have to mention the reports of TSO's playing with toys confiscated from child? Yeah, that's well trained TSO's!

No West, I do not accept your claim that TSA employees are well trained.

Every day TSA proves otherwise.

Submitted by RB on

D.Ramsey said...

Read your comments.

Supervisors are not at the checkpoints? How can they supervise what they do not observe?

Can you please show me where all of the rules that I must comply with are available in one place with no deletions? I am not asking for rules that apply away from a checkpoint, just those that I must comply with when moving through the checkpoint.

For example, what law requires me to remove my ID from an ID holder?

Where does it say that I must do so.

Thanks.

Submitted by Anonymous on
D.Ramsey said...

I don't understand your position of "secret" rules at the checkpoint. If you don't think you are being treated fairly ask for a supervisor, if that does not work than ask for a manager. You really do have that right. However do be prepared for a slight wait since in larger airports it may take a small amount of time for one of them to get to the checkpoint that you are at. If you don't ask for them when you feel you are being "mistreated" than nothing will ever be corrected at that particular airport.

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

These comments surely represent a well-intentioned supervisor who most likely is among the majority of TSA employees who are conscientious professionals. However, they (perhaps unintentionally?) illustrate a serious problem that the TSA has so far been unable to solve.

I have no doubt that somewhere in the TSA's documented regulations and procedures is a provision giving passengers the right to escalate complaints. There may even be a formal procedure for doing so. But how many passengers know about it? Is it published anywhere that's available to the public, or it it buried in some SSI document?

It's very nice that whoever writes your (SSI?) procedures has checked all the "due process" boxes that senior management requires. And it's even nicer that qualified TSA representative can cite this provision on a blog when it's necessary to neutralize a critic. But if I hadn't read this blog post, how would I possibly have known about it? A "right" nobody knows they have is not a right at all!

Along with the rules and SOPs that are secret for "valid national security reasons," the secrecy-obsessed TSA seems to have developed another category of "quasi-secret" rules that may be revealed selectively when the need to neutralize critics overrides the obsession with secrecy. The existence of a "right" to escalate complaints revealed here is one example. Another is the "right" to request a change of gloves before a bag check, along with (perhaps) the right to request that the TSO keep valuables in your sight during the virtual strip search.

If you happen to be among the few passengers who know about these "rights," TSOs are supposed to honor your request. But of course, we all know that just because a TSO is supposed to do something doesn't necessarily mean that he will. But most passengers will never know that they have the right to request these things, and thus will simply accept "Do you want to fly today?" or having their belongings pawed through with dirty gloves without uttering a peep. They may believe that complaining will only lead to retaliation, or that the "Got Feedback" form they fill in will just go into the recycle bin-- assuming they even know about "Got Feedback," and that they have time to fill in the card.

From a practical perspective, the TSA really would prefer that passengers remain ignorant of their "rights" and uncomplainingly accept whatever the TSO decides to do in the name of "security." Passengers knowing the rules and asserting their rights when they're violated would slow down screening and make the TSA's job much more difficult. So the TSA's valid interest in efficiency is best served by the "quasi-secret" approach of not publicizing "rights" that would cause too much inconvenience, except when revealing them serves the TSA's interest. It's easiest for the TSA if passengers act like docile sheep, so that's exactly what they seem intent on conditioning us to become.

As you note, there is a disconnect between the checkpoints and the rest of the TSA hierarchy. Things that aren't supposed to happen do happen with distressing regularity. But most of the public either don't know they can complain about it, fear the consequences of complaining about it, and/or have reason to believe that the bureaucracy has no interest in what the "enemy" has to say. And for the reasons I mentioned, I don't see the TSA leadership doing anything to change that.
Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - Part 1
"West I did not attribute my comments to your statements. I just explained where I was coming from."

The way you quoted someone else and then referred to me in the first sentence was confusing, so if you were not attributing the comments to me, I apologize for thinking that.

"I agree that keeping threats off of airplanes is a desirable goal."

Will wonders never cease! We agree on something out right!

"Threats are WEI, not water, Pepsi and such."

Water, sodas, baby formula, any LAG is a possible threat and has to be acted on. The current rule is over 3.4 ozs = not allowed.

"Threats are not denying accomodations to people with disabilities, even if they are unseen."

I have never condoned NOT giving any assistance to those that need it in any way shape or form. As a matter of fact, I have chastised those employees that I have heard of denying this type of assistance. This does not indicate that persons you give assistance to should not be screened properly.

"Threats are not treating people poorly because they challenge some TSO's authority."

If a person challenges authority for a valid reason (the person with authority is abusing their power) then there should be some recourse available - I have always stated this. People challenging the process because they dislike it is not a threat, but it is also not someone we should make an allowance for. I have always stated the rules have room for improvement, but they are there and must be enforced until better processes can be installed.

"Threats can enter from areas of the airport that are not screened completely, yet TSA allows this practice daily."

The persons entering those areas have undergone a background inspection, and according to the organization that allows them this access.

"Threats could enter from cargo that is not fully screened yet TSA does not screen all cargo."

We are lucky at our airport as all cargo here is screened. HQ states that the organization is still on schedule to meet the congressional mandate for 100% screening.

Continued -

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - Part 2

"Threats can be introduced by an airport worker who has access to checked baggage but TSA will not provide a means to ensure baggage is secure when it leaves the hands of the traveler."

True, and a fellow soldier can mow down a platoon if he organizes well and plots his actions efficiently. The fact is that ALL employees are human and are subject to the same weaknesses and temptations, to argue this fact is moot and senseless. The security protocols that make exceptions for those with access like you indicate are decided at a higher level than me.

"A false ID or no ID is not a threat. Not knowing a persons name is not a threat if they are properly screened."

A false ID could be a threat if the person that is in possession of it has ill intent and is using it to gain access for said ill intent.

"Now about training.

Having $4,700 dollars is not a threat. Was this the action of a well trained TSO?"

Having $4700 is not a threat, having large sums of cash and travelling to a foriegn destination without claiming it is against the law. If the cash "appears" to be $10k or more, then the TSO has a duty to report it up the chain if there is a foreign destination. The incident you are obviously referring to had a TSO that was wrong in the way he went about things and his language and was addressed by the organization.

"TSO's prove on a regular basis that they don't know what are acceptable ID's. Passport cards, Military ID's and other supposedly accepted ID's have all been rejected at various airports."

And on the other hand a much larger amount of TSOs get it right all day every day. People will make mistakes, ALL of us make mistakes. I messed up on my first passport from a country that still uses handwritten information - I then learned what I had done wrong and studied to make certain it didnt happen again.

"TSO's questiont people about rental car contracts, credit card issuers and other none security related topics. (Bangor) Is this the actions of a well trained TSO?"

These TSOs may have been looking for a solution to things that are not disclosed in the FT post.

"FLL TSO's requied all Video cameras to be removed from cases reqardless of of media storage. (Only full size cassette types require removal)"

That could have been a miscommunication or misunderstanding. I have no info on that particular incident so I will reserve comment until I am better informed.

Continued once more -

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - part 3!

"Some airports require shoes on the belt even though Blogger Bob clearly said that is not a requirement. If a person place shoes in a bin then expect a retalitory secondary screening because you have just violated some secret unpublished rule."

There is no retaliatory search for ANYTHING, it is not recognized by HQ, the SOP or the TSOs. If a retaliatory search is discovered the organization should take proper steps to address the situation and discipline all involved.

"TSO's require ID's to be removed from document holders yet again nowhere is there a law or United States code requiring that action. Or is this another secret rule that TSA expects people to just fall in line and comply with?"

I have always been instructed to have the passengers remove the ID from the document holder. I was unaware that some locations were not doing this.

"And do I have to mention the reports of TSO's playing with toys confiscated from child? Yeah, that's well trained TSO's!"

I have no further information on that incident other than the one person in a tv interview stating that she saw it happen. I have no other corroboration on that so I am inclined to let it go until we have some other verification as the person making the statement has a personal involvement.

"No West, I do not accept your claim that TSA employees are well trained."

It is a well documented fact that TSA has more training than most organizations. TSOs have receurrent training, new training, and practice training that is ongoing all year. I have done more training as a TSO than I did as an undercover CID agent in the military. So I will stand by the point that we are indeed well trained (despite my propensity to misspell words while typing fast).

"Every day TSA proves otherwise."

And every day TSA proves their worth by doing the job, doing it well and preventing threats from getting on planes. There are TSOs that help save peoples lives on a regular basis (CPR, First Aid, volunteering, etc). There are TSOs that give world class service to customers all day every day and obviously you fail to see them. Instead you focus on the 1% of bad apples, bad experiences, and bad customer service that occur and the agency addresses on a regular basis. Sorry you don't see it RB, but it is there if you care to look for it.

Whew....

West
TSA Blog Team

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