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Talk to TSA: I Want To Hear From You

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Friday, July 16, 2010
Talk to TSA Banner

What better way to start my first blog post than to let you know I am very interested in what the public has to say. My top priorities include improving TSA's counterterrorism focus through intelligence and cutting edge technology, supporting the workforce, and strengthening our relationships with stakeholders and the traveling public.

I've seen firsthand that strong counterterrorism efforts include an engaged and informed public and it’s imperative that we listen.

Talk to TSA Sticker

Because I think the public’s voice is so important, I am launching “Talk to TSA.” It works the same as “Got Feedback?” did. You go to the web page and you can leave detailed feedback for a specific airport’s Customer Support Manager. The new and improved part of this process is that I will also be regularly reviewing your input along with the comments that are made here on the blog.

I commit to you that I will utilize “Talk to TSA” to address some of the more commonly asked questions and themes. I’ll be addressing those concerns right here on the blog. So send us your ideas, suggestions, and feedback. I’m listening.

John S. Pistole
TSA Administrator

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Mr. Pistole,
Do you consider flying on commercial aviation a "right" or a "privilege"?

-US Citizen

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why does TSA refuse to publish sample images from its strip-search technology that are the same size and resolution as those seen by the operator of these machines?

Submitted by Anonymous on

How many countries require all air passengers to remove their footwear? Please answer with a number.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What is the name and contact information for Curtis "Blogger 'Bob'" Burns' direct supervisor?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What independent, peer-reviewed research supports TSA's 3.4-1-1 liquid policy?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What is the relationship between ID and security?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why can't you put the right numbers on the signs about the 3.4-1-1 rules? It's bad enough you have this pointless policy, do you have to lie to us about what the policy IS, too?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is TSA continuing its "Behavior Detection" program when that program has been eviscerated by leading science journal Nature as being unscientific hogwash?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Will you be covering TSA cargo topics here too?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why aren't TSA employees subject to the same level of screening as passengers? Every single TSA screener should get the full treatment each and every time they enter the screening area. I would feel better about the screenings you put us through if I knew that the same level of inconvenience was being visited on the screeners.

Submitted by Chris on

Thank you for this link, I think it will be useful. Beyond the local sites, I am concerned about international privacy--I understand TSA technology is harmonized with sites outside the U.S. Even if they take privacy seriously, do other countries have the laws to back their privacy policies?

Submitted by Arun Krishnamurthy on

Sorry for asking, but what's the difference between "Talk to TSA" and "Got Feedback"? Looks more like a name change? If so, why?

Just curious. :)

Thanks!

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

Administrator Pistole,

When you mentioned in your statement to Congress that you felt TSA needed to educate the public, what did you mean? I'm really hoping it wasn't the Soviet style of "education" on what TSA is about and how it's going to "protect" us.

I was under the impression that this blog's purpose was for the public to talk to TSA. In addition to the things that are brought up on the new website, do you intend to answer the questions that have been asked here repeatedly and TSA has refused to answer?

Earl

Submitted by Anonymous on

Body scanners might improve our odds from 1/16,000,000 to maybe 1/20,000,000, maybe not. Checkpoints will continue to miss things as they always have. Federal Red teams get 60% of their contraband through the checkpoints as it is. I think we are safe enough (2009 levels), that they need to concentrate on things like baggage screening (only 40-60% as of now). Like Rep Chaffitz (UT) said: Does strip-searching my mother or 8 year old daughter make flying safer?

It’s so important to keep reminding people that the government’s most important priority is to protect our freedoms, not Keep Us Safe(tm). Over the years many thousands of Americans have given their lives to secure those freedoms, and to simply hand them over now in exchange for a dubious promise to Keep Us Safe(tm) is a disgusting insult to their sacrifice.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will TSA employees be held accountable for their on the job actions that aren't covered under the SOP (i.e. screaming at passengers, threatening passengers with a 'do you want to fly today?', abusing the passengers)?

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will TSO's begin following the SOP and not make up fantasy rules and regulations on the spot?

Submitted by Bob Hanssen on

Mr. Administrator,

I am obligated to fill you in on a few hard facts that I have no doubt were omitted by your transition team during your preparations for your confirmation hearing and which Secretary Napolitano either intentionally omitted or was ignorant of during your interviews. If you had discussions with any of your predecessors, I am confident, based on their track records while in office, that were not discussed.

I invite you to review, in detail, the previous history here on the TSA Blog. You will find evidence of:

1. Your General Counsel who conducts legal research on Google.com (I suggest, within the next 120 days, you examine her conduct during the Zacarias Moussaoui. I submit you already may be familiar with her conduct in your previous job.);

2. TSA employees who have no concept of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, especially regarding the scope and limitations of Administrative Searches;

3. Refusal by the TSA employees responsible for this blog to address numerous legitimate questions about:

a. Credibility of threats leading to extraordinarily invasive searches of person and property;

b. Evidence of peer-reviewed research supporting the SPOT program;

c. Justification for intrusive identification examinations other than that given by one of your predecessors: "ID matters."

d. Numerous uninvestigated instances of screener abuse of passengers, threats directed at passengers such as, "Do you want to fly today?", retaliatory secondary searches, interrogations of passengers which violate attorney-client privilege and the HIPPA, screeners making medical judgments such as the amount of medicines which are needed for a flight; screeners forcing passengers to remove prostheses, screeners forcing passengers to remove or expose body piercings in genital areas;

e. The refusal to publish honest and "transparent" actual naked images of the exact quality as seen by screeners; and,

f. Justification for a screener in Denver, CO, who brought a firearm to work and who is still working as a TSA screener.

Beyond these few examples, I invite you to read through the Travel Safety and Security forum on Flyertalk.com, which is one of the oldest and most reputable internet sites pertaining to air travel. The examples are many, as related by some of the country's most experienced and frequent flyers. Policies and priorities of your agency frequently just don't pass the "giggle test."

Regretfully, your first post here sounds as if you simply repeated the posts of your predecessors, except for the sentences lifted verbatim from your oral testimony. That is very unfortunate. Everyone of your precedessors, with the exception of John McGaw, who, frankly, has little regard for the public he served, has said exactly what you have written and gone on to either ignore or insult the taxpayers they swore to serve. Everyone of them has promised to "listen" and then summarily blown us off or sent their public affairs directors out to insult us.

Your agency has no credibility nor respect with the public and the damage you agency has caused is irreversible. There is ample evidence to support my assertion.

We are expecting a lot out of you, Mr. Administrator. We demand you uphold, support, and defend the Constitution you swore to support and defend -- not rub our noses in it.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Arun sez - "Sorry for asking, but what's the difference between "Talk to TSA" and "Got Feedback"? Looks more like a name change? If so, why?

Just curious. :)

Thanks!"

Based on his statement in the post, I would venture that Administrator Pistole will be taking a more active part in this information process. Also, renaming and increasing the focus on the program can allow the specific airports to get more feedback on their individual workforce. By using "Talk to TSA", not only will it give local Customer Support Managers info about their workforce, it will give HQ a chance to see information about what is going right/wrong by identifying trends nationwide. I can't claim to speak for the Administrator, but that is kind of what I got out of this post.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - "How many countries require all air passengers to remove their footwear? Please answer with a number."

I know of at least two, but I don't have a list of all countries that do it.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Sandra on

Whenever there is an article regarding the TSA on the internet, you yourself need to read the comments accompanying that article. From those comments, you will learn that the TSA is much despised by travelers. You might want to think about what you can do as administrator to change the abysmal light in which TSA is seen.

Beyond that, my questions to you are:

How do you justify use of WBI when it is well-known that it would not have caught the underwear bomber and that there are many places on and in the human body where a dedicated terrorist could secret a prohibited item or items?

Does TSA profile potential and current employees for signs of sexual perversions? It is incumbent on the TSA to do so if it is planning, as I believe it is, to force all travelers through WBI.

Thank you and I truly hope that you will be more forthcoming than what we have seen so far on this blog.

Submitted by Hal Nicholson on

West,

I believe Anonymous was asking Administrator Pistole the question about countries that require shoe removal. It's in your best interests, if you desire a continued career in the TSA, to allow your boss to answer the question directed at him.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Really, West? Care to name them?

Submitted by Anonymous on

West, Mr. Pistole is a big boy and can answer questions for himself.

Submitted by RB on

GSOLTSO said...
Anon sez - "How many countries require all air passengers to remove their footwear? Please answer with a number."

I know of at least two, but I don't have a list of all countries that do it.

West
TSA Blog Team

July 16, 2010 9:02 PM
.................
Two, the United States plus one other out of every other country in the world. And amazingly not a single shoe bomb has been deployed yet TSA waste extradinary amounts of time screening shoes.

How about the math on this TSA, what is the threat of a shoe bomb expressed as a percentage of # of passengers:bombs found?

Bueller......Bueller.......

Submitted by RB on

Administrator Pistole, I would suggest to you that the "Got Feedback" or this renamed "Talk to TSA" will likely be worthless unless some accountability is brought down on TSA leadership.

I reported a suspected attempted theft at a TSA checkpoint at FLL. My concerns were met with indifference and basically the FLL FSD told me to just accept this as part of today's screening. I find this attitude of unaccountability to be unacceptable but that is how many see TSA.

Another minor incident, I reported to the DFW FSD about watching two TSA employees using an in terminal transport to have themselves chauffeured from check point to checkpoint. This electric transport was reserved for the handicapped and I can assure you that neither of these employees showed any form of impairment other than being very overweight. I find it extremely poor head work for TSA employees to deprive those people of transportation systems who really need such assistance.

The answer from the DFW FSD was that they had an agreement with the airport to use these transport systems intended for the disabled. Impressive TSA!

Also, why can't the public get a list of rules that must be complied with to transit a TSA checkpoint? How can one know what is required when such information is kept secret?

Additionally, why has TSA classified certain amounts of United States currency as contraband. When did our nations money become the same as illegal drugs and what concern of TSA's is it to even question why a person may have substantial funds on their person? TSA's mandate is to keep dangerous items such as WEI off of airplanes, currency is not one of the items that TSA has any responsibility to monitor.

Sir, you have taken on the most distrusted, non-functional agency ever created in this countries history. I see TSA as more of a danger to myself, not as a benefit that adds security to my travels.

I recognize that your time is valuable but I would hope you could find time to read through the discussions on this blog.

TSA needs help, I hope you are up to the task!

Submitted by Anonymous on

These questions were addressed to the TSA Administrator, not to you, West, nor any of the other mouthpieces here.

Submitted by Txrus on

I will tell you the same thing we all told Poster Boy when he turned up as a new member of the Blog team & said essentially the same thing-read the blog. Then go over to Flyertalk.com & read the Travel Safety & Security Forum. Then come back & provide some concrete answers to the many, many, many unanswered questions that have been raised over the years.

We, the traveling public, HAVE been trying to talk to the TSA for years-the problem is that the TSA refuses to listen.

I challenge you to prove me wrong.

Submitted by Anonymous on

West, thank you for trying to help.

But posts from TSA staff who are uninformed on the matter they are posting on, or that do not factually address the subject/questions at hand are far too common here.

Instead of your interpretation of "kind of what [you] got out of [the] post" maybe someone will provide some straight, honest facts to the questions:

"What's the difference between "Talk to TSA" and "Got Feedback"? Looks more like a name change? If so, why?"

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

It's probably too late for this ... but might I suggest that "Talk with TSA" might be a better name for this program than "Talk to TSA"?

Plenty of folks here at the blog have been talking to TSA for years now. Unfortunately, the general feeling here is that TSA doesn't respond. We don't merely want to talk to TSA; we want to know that TSA will respond substantively.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Hal sez - "West,

I believe Anonymous was asking Administrator Pistole the question about countries that require shoe removal. It's in your best interests, if you desire a continued career in the TSA, to allow your boss to answer the question directed at him."

I was not speaking for Administrator Pistole, only myself. I was unaware that I was not able to put my two cents worht in anymore... I am going to continue posting and giving my opinions on this page.

Anon sez - "Really, West? Care to name them?"

I was wrong Anon, I was under the mistaken impression that Canada required all flights, but I now have other information (that came to light after my last post). I can only say that several countries require passengers to remove their shoes for travel to the US. I apologize for being wrong.

Anon sez - "West, Mr. Pistole is a big boy and can answer questions for himself."

I am quite certain of that anon, I was only speaking for myself and will continue to do so.

RB sez - "Two, the United States plus one other out of every other country in the world. And amazingly not a single shoe bomb has been deployed yet TSA waste extradinary amounts of time screening shoes.

How about the math on this TSA, what is the threat of a shoe bomb expressed as a percentage of # of passengers:bombs found?

Bueller......Bueller......."

Nice Ferris reference! The fact that shoes haven't been used as a delivery device does not diminish the fact that they are a threat. It has been used before and is a fairly easy way to get things on the plane if the shoes are not screened.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - "These questions were addressed to the TSA Administrator, not to you, West, nor any of the other mouthpieces here."

I am not a mouthpiece, most of those that I have seen are made of rubber or polyurethane and are used to correct an orthodontic condition, or to protect the user from tooth damage dring sproting events.

But seriously, I am going to continue posting my opinions here, just like you will anon.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I am not a mouthpiece, most of those that I have seen are made of rubber or polyurethane..."

There are other mouthpieces besides those.

Mouthpiece:
Used figuratively and with negative connotations to indicate the role of a spokesperson or mass media venue that is used to perpetuate the views or agenda of another.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I am going to continue posting and giving my opinions on this page."

Good!

And people will continue to offer their opinion when responses do not offer factual information when it is requested.

I was surprised at the number of posts about your postings.

You could learn something from this.

It could help improve the quality of your posts and make them more meaningful and welcome. Or you can take an adversarial position and reinforce negative stereotypes.

Submitted by Annoyed Canadian on

Dear Mr. Pistole,

Welcome to the job, and thank you for the opportunity to provide you with direct questions.

As a Canadian, I am very concerned that the US is pressuring my government to provide full passenger manifests for all flights that traverse any US Airspace. This, oddly enough, would include some flights between two Canadian cities, as well as many international flights.

This seems entirely too invasive for the minimal payback. As I'm sure you are aware, the type of attacks perpetuated by the Saudi's during 2001 would have a ridiculously small chance of success now.

Far better, I think, for all nations to focus more on securing the craft on the ground by actually checking airport workers with the same vigour that we, the unfortunate flying public, have to endure. And please, teach your front-line staff some manners. Far too many of them seem to think they are prison guards.

Enjoy your thankless job,

Signed,
An annoyed Canadian

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - "Good!

And people will continue to offer their opinion when responses do not offer factual information when it is requested.

I was surprised at the number of posts about your postings.

You could learn something from this.

It could help improve the quality of your posts and make them more meaningful and welcome. Or you can take an adversarial position and reinforce negative stereotypes."

I agree 100%, I learn quite a bit from the folks that post here. I welcome other people to post their opinions, as a matter of fact I encourage it.

If I disagree with what someone is saying, and comment about it, I am (by definition) being adversarial. I post here because I want to further communication and learn. I am not certain what stereotypes I am perpetuating, but if you would do me a favor and post a omment in the "Off topic" thread located here at the blog, I will address them directly for you. Thank you for your input Anon!

West
TSA BLog Team

Submitted by Gunner on

Mr Pistole:

Can you describe the circumstances in which it is approprite in YOUR OPINION for TSA to require that a local airport hire a conficted felon and place them in a position of responsibility with regards to airport operations/security?

Thank you.

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

West, employees carrying guns on the job have caused problems at work and are a vector for violence. TSA has had at least one incident (Alvin Crabtree at DEN) brought a loaded weapon to work. Ironically, he faced no charges and continues to work at DEN.

When asked about this and why screeners themselves aren't screened every time they entered the sterile area, we were given (I believe by you) the answer is "that it's too hard to do" and "it's not worth the time." Yet when it comes to pax, TSA continues to foist hard things on us that aren't worth the time and we're expected to accept it "for our safety."

I want to know why there's a double standard. If shoes are a vector and you insist on screening every shoe that comes thru a checkpoint, I want to know WHY, given Alvin Crabtree, that screeners aren't screened EVERY TIME they enter the sterile area.

You can't have it both ways.

Earl

Submitted by Anonymous on

Annoyed Canadian I understand your concerns.

Beyond any other issues I am sure no Canadian, or any one of any other nationality, wants to be the next Maher Arar.

Submitted by RB on

Nice Ferris reference! The fact that shoes haven't been used as a delivery device does not diminish the fact that they are a threat. It has been used before and is a fairly easy way to get things on the plane if the shoes are not screened.

West
TSA Blog Team

July 17, 2010 9:57 AM

West, an anus bomb was used to get an explosive on an aircraft.

When will TSA start screening anuses for a "used before and fairly easy way to get things on an airplane?

Oh, the anus bomb actually exploded so it must be a far larger danger than the shoe bomb.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The blog recently has stated the intention of trying to keep threads more on topic.

Good.

However there are so many questions that arise again and again. ) Whether or not they have been answered is another subject.

But there is something called a FAQ.

Stick FAQ in google and hit the Feel Lucky button.

Maybe along with the other changes to the blog your administration brings it will get a FAQ.

Submitted by Stephen T McCarthy on

[*After attempting numerous times to Email the following to TSA and encountering nothing but system failures and a TSA personnel runaround, I've decided to just post my Email below.*]

To Whom It May Concern At The TSA:

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, at Sky Harbor Airport, the TSA has now installed full body scanners at Terminal 4.

I have taken the time to inform all of the airlines that operate out of Terminal 4 that I will no longer consider flying with them until TSA's scanners have been removed from their Terminal.

Yes, I understand that the full body scans are currently optional and are not involuntarily forced upon any customers. But at fifty years of age and having been around the block a few times, I am also fully aware that unless We The People oppose this invasion of our privacy, the full body scanning will become a requirement for flying in the not too distant future. Government, under the guise of promoting security and convenience, will always attempt to gather as much power over the people as possible, and only a "push back" from the citizens will clue the government in that it has finally gone too far. The most effective "push back" is usually one that hurts another's pocketbook - that's the sort of reaction that really gets one's attention.

For this reason, I am now boycotting all airlines that permit the TSA to utilize this new (and soon to be involuntary) form of personal invasion. The United States of America is being transformed into a virtual prison camp and I, for one, am voicing my disapproval.

With each passing year "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is becoming increasingly more cowardly and less free. If a protest of TSA's over-the-top (and through the clothing) invasion of privacy and assault on individual rights must begin with my own personal boycott, then so be it.

I will be encouraging everyone I know to join me in my boycott until the TSA has removed its full body scanners from every airport in this country and some sense of reason and restraint has been restored in our quest to find a balance between security and privacy.

Sincerely,
Stephen T. McCarthy
"D-FensDogg"

Submitted by TSO Tom on

Okay, yesterday when this forum went up, I posted what I perceived to be a legitimate comment, but it appears to have not been approved? So i will ask again, as I believe my orginal post was "on topic" and contained no sensitive security information.

Mr. Pistole, when(if at all) will we see the magshoe machine in US airports? This machine is being used in countries like Isreal with amazing results in finding weapons in shoes. Also, what is your take on the whole body imagers, and complaints by the traveling public of privacy concerns, as well as health issues, including the fact that many countries including Isreal have stated they will not use these machines because of health and privacy concerns?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Do you consider flying on commercial aviation a "right" or a "privilege"?"

Airlines are for-profit corporations despite whatever happens to their shareholders. They have the right to refuse service to anyone.

They grant us a temporary privilege to fly if we meet certain criteria. Paying for the trip, not doing certain things, or carrying prohibited items, or not having been a "bad actor" in the past. The TSA fulfills some of this requirement by their screening process.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - "West, an anus bomb was used to get an explosive on an aircraft.

When will TSA start screening anuses for a "used before and fairly easy way to get things on an airplane?

Oh, the anus bomb actually exploded so it must be a far larger danger than the shoe bomb."

RB I just can't recall anyone detonating an explosive secreted in this manner on a commercial airplane. If you have that info, could you please give me a link to it?

As for screening for something contained inside the body - we simply do not have the technological capability to screen for these items in a checkpoint setting. I would love for us to have a detection system that you step into, and the system tests for any and all threats and we only have to clear items that are identified as threat items - but that is not a realistic possibility at this time.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

West, since TSA gets many of their threat scenarios from Hollywood, why doesn't TSA employ the special effects designers to come up with a screening device that does everything? After all much of what TSA does is nothing but security theater.

Submitted by RB on

GSOLTSO said...

RB I just can't recall anyone detonating an explosive secreted in this manner on a commercial airplane. If you have that info, could you please give me a link to it?

West
TSA Blog Team

July 17, 2010 4:12 PM

Ok, West I thought it was on an airplane, and I thought it was a private jet, looks like that part was wrong but the device was detonated.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/09/28/eveningnews/main5347847.shtml

Body cavity scanners seem to be in the open market, so the only excuse left is that its to hard or TSA knows such action would be rejected like many have rejected the WBI Child Porn Machines TSA has deployed.


http://www.nationalterroralert.com/updates/2010/01/10/new-scanner-sees-e...

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - "Body cavity scanners seem to be in the open market, so the only excuse left is that its to hard or TSA knows such action would be rejected like many have rejected the WBI Child Porn Machines TSA has deployed."

It may have to do with the ability to scale up to acceptable performance levels. It may have to do with many other reasons, cost, size, timely process - I do not know enough about these to comment intelligently. That is the main reason I stay away from this issue. I still want the scanner from Total Recall -

Walk through and never stop - check
Keep shoes on - check
Detect threat items - check

Until we have something like that, the workforce will use the tools that HQ puts at their disposal.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by TSO Tom on

West, while most of us appreciate your input, when will our new administrator comment on some of the items in this forum?

Submitted by Anonymous on

In the 21st century, if you want to terrorize a society, you just have to make improbable

threats, press the anxiety buttons and watch them protect themselves to death.

Your adversary will spend billions to your hundreds - The best ROI ever!

Do it several times and the billions will amount to more than the GNP of many countries - How's that for effective?

Why does are government buy into this, when what they REALLY need is good old-fashion police work to find these bad actors before they get to the Plane or Bus or Subway or Public Building. They can't protect them all.

Why the PARANOID security at the airports? It hasn't worked in the past. Nobody has been caught before an event, and we've had a few slip by. What makes people think we will be able to catch serious bad actors now? Besides, chances are bad actors will just go somewhere else, equally dramatic.


It's impossible to discover a one in a several billion event by screening people!

What's it cost for all this nonsense in REAL TERMS?

My guess (last 9 years)

$50 Billion for the 55,000 gov't workers that keep unemployment under 15%
$200 Billion or more in lost productivity for millions of Americans.
This is real money even by government standards, but it has resulted in NOTHING!

We could colonize Mars for this kind of money, but TSA would probably put some of the Astronauts on the NFL.

TSA Needs a complete overhaul, starting first by lopping off the bottom. Privatization would be even better. This would restore our 4th amendment.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I can only say that several countries require passengers to remove their shoes for travel to the US. I apologize for being wrong."

Several? Okay, that's not the number which was requested, but anyway. If it is indeed several, will you please name two specific, individual countries besides the US with that requirement?

Please?

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