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Shoe Removal at TSA Checkpoints

Monday, January 07, 2013
Alex Jones arguing with police officer.

(Photo courtesy of Infowars)

I kept noticing a story circulating around the web involving Alex Jones, shoes, and TSA, so I checked it out. After reading, I felt a bit let down.

I would have expected that Alex knew all of TSA’s policies and procedures by heart. He talks about them fairly often. Well, today, he refused to remove his shoes at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport (AUS) while on his way to an interview with Piers Morgan in New York City. As you can see from the photo, (Conveniently taken by somebody from InfoWars), it was quite the scene.

Shoe removal has been mandatory for quite some time now. Even I have to take my shoes off when I travel. There are a lot of questions that could be asked about his motivation today, but what is clear, is that our officers followed standard operating procedures today.The only exceptions for shoe removal are:

All other passengers must undergo shoe screening and passengers with a disability or hindering medical condition who cannot remove their shoes can be screened using alternative methods.

TSA’s objective is to mitigate risk in a way that ensures security measures while both promoting the safe movement of people and commerce and guarding against a deliberate attack against our transportation systems.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

And just for the record, Curtis, how many countries require all passengers to remove their shoes?

And why didn't your screeners simply use the alternative methods you mention to screen Mr. Jones' shoes?

Submitted by SB on

Thank you, TSA.

If it were not for passenger shoe removal, we would have planes being bombed out of the skies from shoe bombs on a weekly basis, as happens in every other country where passengers can leave their shoes on.

I am glad that you are looking out for us.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, please provide the evidence that an 18-year-old's shoes or that of a 50-year-old are more likely to be hiding a bomb than those of a 12-year-old or 75-year-old.

Oh, that's right, there is none.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA procedures mitigate nothing. How many terrorists has TSA found with shoes are without?

TSA is a joke, a really expensive joke, but a joke none the less.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jones is using this to illustrate the folly of TSA’s prized Precheck program that allows elite fliers, 1 million of them out of 700 million passengers each yet, to skip the security lanes, keep their shoes and sweater on and spares them the gropes that the rest of us get.

Last month TSA in Dallas detained a sick 12 year old in a wheel chair, denied her mother access to her and traumatized her for an hour before suddenly letting he crying girl go.

Perhaps TSA can explain how any of this is keeping us safe when TSA screeners haven’t caught or even identified one terrorist after 11 years and over $80 billion in funding.

We would like to know how having 105 TSA workers arrested in the last 24 months including 15 arrested for child sex crimes, 30 for theft, 12 for smuggling and one for murder is acceptable.

Can TSA explain how having over a dozen screeners smuggling drugs and guns through our airports in the past 24 months is essential to airport security?

Maybe TSA can explain how keeping a known pedophile, Thomas Harkin, working at Philadelphia airport six months after he was exposed is keeping our skies safe.

Or how humiliating and exposing a dying woman’s feeding tube at the checkpoint despite her request for a private screening is preventing a terrorist attack.

Can TSA explain how pulling the dress off of a 17 year old on a church trip and exposing her breasts to her classmates and everyone at the checkpoint is protecting her?

Maybe TSA can explain how stealing our property is going to prevent another 9/11.

No planes were hijacked between October 2001 and November 2010 without groping children, strip searching women and stealing our property. No malls have been bombed or attacks made on sports events and TSA is nowhere near those venues so they can't be credited with protecting airports either These abusive procedures weren’t necessary then and aren’t necessary now.

This agency has become a national disgrace and is endangering more people than it protects. It is long past time for TSA to be replaced with a sensible system staffed by reputable workers, not criminals.

TSA has done more damage to our freedoms than Al Qaeda could have ever hoped to do.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, your copying and reposting of the InfoWars image, and subsequent cropping and contrast touch-up, is bordering on copyright infringement. (I am not a copyright lawyer and could not say for sure whether your usage qualifies as fair use.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thanks for sharing - although he probably did it for publicity (as if there isn't enough surrounding his silly petition). I mean who doesn't remove their shoes, come on dude, seriously.

Submitted by M Dub on

Just curious, but why exclude children and the elderly from the rule? Doesn't that present a security hole?

Submitted by Happy Norma on

Maybe Alex needed some publicity.
So far, he is not getting any.

Submitted by Randy on

Bob,

Please go back and reread Alex's story and address his points.

As usual you don't tell the whole story. Alex claims that no one else in the area had to remove his shoes, but since he was recognized, he did.

Peace,
Randy

Submitted by Anonymous on

Because no one under 12 or over 75 could possibly be a terrorist or their feet are insufficiently sized to be a hazard? It's a capricious nonsensical exemption. Shoes ARE a hazard or they are NOT a hazard. Simple.

Submitted by Russell on

"I felt a bit let down."

What a condescending and smug statement. Whether you disagree with this person or not, you represent the taxpayers and you should show some respect to those who pay your salary. You fail to win anyone over to your point of view when post elitest and haughty statements like that.

Mr. Burns, I invite you to grow up.

Submitted by Seth on

Why do you keep this theater up? One of the less than a dozen successful terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 was perpetrated by a man wearing his military uniform, Major Nidal Hassan. Not that I am anti-military but I am anti-stupidity. If shoes are unsafe, they are unsafe for everyone. The thing is, they are not unsafe. You don't have to take your shoes off in most other countries I have been to, including countries that have real terrorism problems. You have caused more suffering on the behalf of the flying public than lives you have saved. It is time for this crap to end.

Oh, and Alex Jones was clearly just doing a publicity stunt and was asking for worse than he got. It is time to stop pestering the TSA agents and go from the top.

Submitted by David on

Saw him on CNN tonight. What he was saying was right, but he came across as crazy. We need more people like Alex Jones out there, but toned down a bit.

I really don't like the reasoning behind using radiation to search people though. Paraphrasing here, but TSA had basically said, you're already exposed to radiation while flying, what's a little more?

People choose to fly, people choose to talk on a cell phone. People don't choose to be radiated going through airport security, although I did hear that you actually offer a choice now, which may be progress.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Your real name is not Bob Burns. haha ridiculous, why don't you post your picture "Bob."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob,

Why don't I have to take off my shoes when I go through security at EU airports? Could it be that shoe removal, like taking pictures of our genitals or agents sticking their hands in our pants, doesn't make us any safer?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I guess he had holes or mismatched socks that day....

Security checks help keep everyone safe. It's not a big deal to take off your shoes. Wear slip on, easy off shoes when travelling. Think of the time this person wasted arguing when he could have already been at the gate. Some people...

Submitted by Anonymous on

I never remove my shoes when I board a flight in Canada and leave in Latin America. These planes fly over the US, and don´t seem to fall out of the sky.

I never remove my shoes when flying in Europe. I never remove my shoes when flying in Asia. Many flights there, and none fall out of the sky.

Please explain why you make many (but not all, with technically unjustifiable exceptions) take off their shoes in the US.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Who doesn't take off their shoes? Air travelers in every single other country on the planet, that' s who.

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...

Security checks help keep everyone safe. It's not a big deal to take off your shoes. Wear slip on, easy off shoes when travelling. Think of the time this person wasted arguing when he could have already been at the gate. Some people...

January 8, 2013 3:31 AM

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Then everyone's shoes should be screened not just select groups.

Exempting some only displays how ridiculous TSA screening procedures are.

Submitted by Anonymous on

First and foremost, experts in intelligence and explosives make the rules for TSA. They know what needs to be done, who is the immenent threat and who isn't, etc... I cannot believe Americans who don't appreciate TSA think some power-tripping elitist or officer makes up the rules. There is a reason for every rule. It would be the height of conceit for me to think I know more than experts in their field. Also, there are so many more good things TSA employees do that nobody knows about. For example, TSA officers help FEMA in times of national crisis. PRE check is not for the elite. It's for those who agree to have a background check. Do you really think the government is going to tell the public exactly how many things they catch and who? No. And there are reasons why. Again, those who think they know more than experts would say TSA should be an open book. No government agency thwarting terrorism reveals all information. To do so would be a detriment to our country. The point of people being arrested at TSA is a good point. They are fired and no longer able to for TSA. What about congress and the senate? There are more criminals there than anywhere, and they run the country. Just plain tired of everyone talking about TSA in a negative way.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA is such a joke. This Blog is an even bigger joke... The whole age limit to having to remove your shoes is a big joke!

TSA YOU ARE A WASTE OF OUR MONEY AND ABSOLUTELY USELESS!

Alex is right in this case and he is right for displaying the Tyranny that TSA imposes on us all

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA forbids passengers to take pictures of screening operations. But you use such a photo in order to support your point. Quite confussing...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why do we still have to take off our shoes in this country? I can fly all over the world and never remove my shoes until I fly in the US. Since planes aren't getting blown up, I assume security is just as good around the world without shoe removal.

I still don't understand how a 12 or 75 year olds' shoes are safe and can remain on, while a 13 or 74 year olds' shoes are potentially dangerous and need to be removed.

One guy attempts to light his shoes on fire (on a flight originating in France) several years ago, and hundreds of millions of passengers are still required to remove shoes. However, the rest of the world has wised up and no longer requires this useless procedure.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Then everyone's shoes should be screened not just select groups.
Exempting some only displays how ridiculous TSA screening rocedures are."

In security terms, it's called "Threat Mitigation." Certain age groups are much less likely to be part of a terror operation, so they are less of a threat.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Does anyone think beyond their own tiny bubble? There must be reasons for the things that TSA does. And how do you know that TSA "hasn't caught one terrorist?" Were you there? Maybe they have and just can't tell you because of the massive panic that ensued the last time. Sure, screening is annoying, but a lot of people make blanket statements about what TSA is and is not doing like you know. If all you have to say is something inane that's been said before, then do yourself a favor and don't.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Seth said...
Why do you keep this theater up?

Because it pays their salaries and gives them a feeling of Power.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"Then everyone's shoes should be screened not just select groups.
Exempting some only displays how ridiculous TSA screening rocedures are."

In security terms, it's called "Threat Mitigation." Certain age groups are much less likely to be part of a terror operation, so they are less of a threat.

But...But.But... we're told profiling doesn't work.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
Does anyone think beyond their own tiny bubble? There must be reasons for the things that TSA does.

Oh, there are reasons. Not logical or reasonable reasons, though.

And how do you know that TSA "hasn't caught one terrorist?"

Because, considering what the public thinks of them, they are desperate for Good publicity. Look at the recent 'TSA agents volunteer' and 'We found a thief and fired him' posts. Finding and stopping a terrorist would be trumpeted from the roof tops- 'See, your 80 Billion dollars wasn't wasted!'

Yet nothing has been said.

Sure, screening is annoying, but

"But" nothing. It's annoying, a violation of our Rights, and doesn't even work. I could deal with Annoying, and some people would even be fine with the Rights violations, if it actually worked. But it doesn't.

a lot of people make blanket statements about what TSA is and is not doing like you know.

We DO know. There is ample evidence that the TSA is doing nothing to help security. Their own tests show they miss 70% of guns/bombs!! How much more evidence do you want?

If all you have to say is something inane that's been said before, then do yourself a favor and don't.

Same back at you- if all you have to say is mindless support for the TSA, then do yourself a favor and don't.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Shoe removal has been mandatory for quite some time now. Even I have to take my shoes off when I travel. There are a lot of questions that could be asked about his motivation today, but what is clear, is that our officers followed standard operating procedures today.

Seems to be another LIE:

http://www.infowars.com/alex-jones-detained-by-tsa/
"As soon as he approached security, Jones was addressed by a TSA screener who said, “Hello Mr. Jones,” indicating that she knew who he was, and immediately ordered him to remove his shoes.

When Jones refused, citing the fact that innumerable other people had not removed their shoes, the TSA screener claimed that only under 12′s and over 75′s were not mandated to remove footwear under TSA policy.

When Jones contested the point, arguing that numerous travelers in their 40′s had not removed their shoes, other TSA agents ordered him to take off his shoes, before Jones was approached by a police officer who immediately got in his face and started threatening him with arrest.

Despite Jones’ protests that he was clearly being discriminated against because he was a known critic of the TSA (the rest of the TSA screeners also knew him by name), the officer growled, “Take your damn shoes off or I’m gonna arrest you.”"

Lemme guess, the TSA video of the incident (and several minutes before) that might show these other people not being forced to remove their shoes is... 'not available', Right, Bob??
Submitted by Anonymous on

Please expand global entry enrollment center locations and TSA Pre at airports like San Diego.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA,

Thank you for all the marvelous work you do. If it weren't for your cancer causing scanner machines, I would never have the pleasure of opting-out of your scans and getting your famous (and free!) rub-down. Without you, I would never get any action!

God Bless America and God Bless the TSA.

Jon from SF, CA

Submitted by Anonymous on

Taking your shoes off for the TSA does not keep you safe....It does, however, remind you that the government is in charge. Don't do what they say and they take away your freedom. You are simply conditioning Americans to get used to this new reality.

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
First and foremost, experts in intelligence and explosives make the rules for TSA. They know what needs to be done, who is the immenent threat and who isn't, etc... I cannot believe Americans who don't appreciate TSA think some power-tripping elitist or officer makes up the rules. There is a reason for every rule. It would be the height of conceit for me to think I know more than experts in their field. Also, there are so many more good things TSA employees do that nobody knows about. For example, TSA officers help FEMA in times of national crisis. PRE check is not for the elite. It's for those who agree to have a background check. Do you really think the government is going to tell the public exactly how many things they catch and who? No. And there are reasons why. Again, those who think they know more than experts would say TSA should be an open book. No government agency thwarting terrorism reveals all information. To do so would be a detriment to our country. The point of people being arrested at TSA is a good point. They are fired and no longer able to for TSA. What about congress and the senate? There are more criminals there than anywhere, and they run the country. Just plain tired of everyone talking about TSA in a negative way.

January 8, 2013 7:57 AM

......................
Who are these experts you speak of? Are they the ones that thinks it is ok to use deadly radiation on untested devices to xray humans?

Do these experts you speak of think it ok to feel up children and call it a pat down?

Are perhaps these experts thinks it ok for TSA to employee an x priest who apparently had a thing for young girls?

Or it these same experts who think shoes should be removed but only for some people?

Could these experts be the same ones who are afraid of common water but are ok with TSA tossing harmless liquids in common trash right at the checkpoint?

I think TSA should get some new experts, the ones they have seem limited.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How do I know the TSA hasn't found a terrorist? It's really simple. The TSA would announce it so loudly and widely that everybody in the country knew about. If you don't believe me, just look at this blog.

This blog repeatedly announces how many guns they find. People have tried to bring guns onto planes for decades, whether they had bad intent or simply forgot it was in their bag.

The blog also likes to tout any body scanner discoveries, whether they are plastic knives, toothpaste, or pot. None of these are a threat to the plane. Once toothpaste is determined to be toothpaste, it should be allowed. The TSA has the ability to test liquids at the departure gates, so they should be able to do it at the checkpoint.

I know what some are going to say. A passenger with a knife could stab someone on the plane. Well, they could just as easily stab someone on the street too. Nobody is gaining access to the cockpit anymore with a knife. By the way, the boxcutters used on 9/11 were permitted that day. They probably still should be permitted. Nobody is gaining control of a plane with a boxcutter these days.

Submitted by Curtis on

"Wear slip on, easy off shoes when travelling. Think of the time this person wasted arguing when he could have already been at the gate. Some people..."
Yes. And just don't wear a belt. And no jacket. And just make sure your pants aren't too loose fitting. And just don't bring toothpaste. And just have your laptop out. And also maybe your Ipad. And be ready to assume the position. And also you may need to get rubbed down. And just don't bring anything you don't want stolen.
It's so easy to comply, isn't it? Look at the TSA's brief history, and you will see that as long as we don't fight them every step of the way, and let them know what we are and are not willing to accept in the name of security, they will keep pushing and pushing.
You need to understand this- the ONLY reason there are privacy filters on some scanners, and the ONLY reason kids and grandmas get to keep their shoes on and avoid most patdowns, and the ONLY reason news stations are doing investigations into rampant TSA theft (1 in every 200 screeners ALL-TIME have been fired for it) is because of "some people" who are willing to push back against Pistole and his fear mongering. We are not going to stop.

Submitted by Billy B on

The picture referenced is of a City of Austin police officer. The man was not yelling at the TSA but at a city patrol officer. This doesn't appear to be a scandal involving the TSA (Fed), this appears to be a man looking for sympathy or a story by blaming the feds for what a local city cop is doing...his job.

Submitted by Billy B on

The picture referenced is of a City of Austin police officer. The man was not yelling at the TSA but at a city patrol officer. This doesn't appear to be a scandal involving the TSA (Fed), this appears to be a man looking for sympathy or a story by blaming the feds for what a local city cop is doing...his job.

Submitted by Wintermute on

Anonymous said...
"Taking your shoes off for the TSA does not keep you safe....It does, however, remind you that the government is in charge. Don't do what they say and they take away your freedom. You are simply conditioning Americans to get used to this new reality."

And people wonder why I'm so anti-TSA...

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, just because someone knows something means they AREN'T allowed to protest it? Also, Jones wrote he is considering suing you guys...this little post helps reinforce the notion you were singling him out for his views.

Submitted by Anonymous on

He is always complaining that he is singled out !!! Remember one stand in line, ID check, put you personal items in the in your coat and the take the shoes and belt off and put them in a bin... There is a continuous line moving... There is no such thing as an "area" where people hang out with theis shoes off ..

Submitted by @SkyWayManAz on

I'd like to think that most of my criticisms I've posted here are reasonable sound and well thought out. Whether I agree with the shoes policy or not making a mountain of that molehill on a 10 year old policy that even critics mostly prefer to laugh at instead of legally challenge seems a little silly. Regardless of whether it keeps us safe or not this looks to me more like someone trying to drum up publicity to me.

That being said I find it very interesting that Bob dropped everything to promptly respond to this incident. Not only that but for the first time in a LONG time we have a picture of an incident posted on here. I’d have a lot more respect for this forum if Bob had promptly addressed several high profile incidents that have been ignored. The incident with the 12 year old in the wheelchair at DFW the silence is deafening. I’m not entirely sure what happened there and it’s hard to infer when only one side is talking what the truth is.

The appearance I’m left with after looking into the matter is that the nitrate test generates a high number of false positives. It may never have come up, or at least so publicly, that using this test to screen passengers could result in keeping a terrified disabled child apart from her mother for the better part of an hour. The story indicated a bomb expert needed to be called but after 45 minutes they were allowed to proceed with no further screening.

Maybe truth is vastly different but it has the appearance that TSA called airport police for a bomb expert. After some back and forth either PD refused to get involved based on nitrate trace alone or would not be able to have any one take care of additional testing for hours. It really comes off like TSA decided they were on thin ice. Perhaps someone used common sense here, which seems in violation of policy. Maybe they hoped to quietly drop the matter instead of blindly standing their ground refusing admittance. Whether this impression I have is in any way true or not the mother said afterward, “Someone needs to go back to drawing board on this one.” I don’t think any reasonable person would disagree.

I’d have a lot more faith in TSA if there was even a tiny admission here that this was an unintended consequence. That there would be a pledge to review this for how to better accommodate special needs passengers while keeping the flying public safe. In the meantime I expect Bob to continue to ignore it or insist all proper procedures were followed no matter how unreasonable, humiliating or even potentially illegal (custodial interference).

Submitted by RB on

Bob, the image you used for this posting is cropped so severely that it removed the TSA employee standing nearby doing nothing useful.

Why twist the truth by not providing the whole story?

Ashamed to show TSA employees as they actually do nothing?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I shudder to think of all the times in history the phrases: "Only following procedures." "Only doing my job." "Only following orders." have been used. All to cover up immense sin.

Submitted by Chris Boyce on

SkyWayManAz -- I'm sure you and everyone else noticed that the first comment praising the TSA for defending freedom was posted less than 30 minutes after Bob's original post, after duty hours no less.

You would think that he would be better than that.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will the TSA stop violating our constitutional rights? ANSWER THAT, BOB BURNS!!! If you're spineless, you won't.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How about *mandating* that every checkpoint line have chairs available so that those who are disabled, frail, elderly, or just plain clumsy, can take off their shoes without doing a dangerous balancing act? Even with "slip-off" shoes, it is challenging and downright dangerous for a joint replacement patient to try and take off their shoes while standing in line. A little compassion, please!!

Submitted by RB on

Bob, how many times has trying to cross a TSA checkpoint with a shoe bomb happened?

How about before there was a TSA?

TSA has screened about 6,375,820,000.00 travelers in the last 10 years and the answer to my questions above is not one shoe bomb has ever been detected at a US based checkpoint. So that means either there are no shoe bombs or TSA can't find them.

which is it Bob?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Anonymous said...

How about *mandating* that every checkpoint line have chairs available so that those who are disabled, frail, elderly, or just plain clumsy, can take off their shoes without doing a dangerous balancing act? Even with "slip-off" shoes, it is challenging and downright dangerous for a joint replacement patient to try and take off their shoes while standing in line. A little compassion, please!!
January 9, 2013 6:41 PM

Anonymous has a very good idea. It will cost nothing and will help everyone.

Pass this along to the decision-makers, Bob. Show us this blog can have a positive effect.
Submitted by SGT James Herre... on

how about a disabled Armed Forces Veteran with a valid Department of Defense Uniformed Service military I.D. and with good standards with the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration and is disabled Service-connected 100 percent and is over the age of 65

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