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Transportation Security Administration

Inside Look: TSA Layers of Security

Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Explosives Detection Canine

You may have read recently how TSA and DHS have been making an aggressive effort to raise the bar on aviation security worldwide. Have you ever wondered what’s being done here in the U.S.?

Well, the last time you travelled through a TSA checkpoint, did you know that checkpoint screening was just one part of the much larger overall aviation security picture?

TSA has 20 integrated components, that we call the Layers of Security, working together to keep you secure . The layers  are both seen and unseen and work like a very complex combination safe designed to keep our adversaries at bay and our transportation systems safe.

Please take a few minutes to learn more about what TSA is doing daily to keep you safe in the skies.

20 Layers of U.S. Aviation Security             

1. Intelligence

2. Customs and Border Protection

3. Joint Terrorism Task Force

4. No-Fly List and Passenger Pre-Screening

5. Crew VettingFederal Air Marshal Marksmanship Training


7. Canine

8. Behavior Detection

9. Travel Document Checker

10. Checkpoint/Transportation Security Officers

11. Checked Baggage

12. Transportation Security Inspectors

13. Random Employee Screening

14. Transportation Security Specialists-Explosives

15. Federal Air Marshal Service

16. Federal Flight Deck Officers

17. Trained Flight Crew

18. Law Enforcement Officers

19. Hardened Cockpit Door

20. Passengers



Submitted by Chip In Florida on

This will be fun...... lets do this!

20 Layers of U.S. Aviation Security as explained by the people who need to look like they are earning your eight billion tax dollars every year.

1. Intelligence. In this context it means the gathering and filtering of data about things. As in "We are gathering Intelligence on our enemies." Not sure why this is number one because this function is done by several other agencies and not the TSA.

2. Customs and Border Protection. Not sure why this is on the list at all since this is well outside the mission parameters of the TSA. The "T" in the division name says it all... Transporation. There are three other Government Alphabet Agencies that take care of Customs and four that take care of Border Protection.

3. Joint Terrorism Task Force, And you even admit that you aren't doing it but that you are joining forces with other agencies. The irony here is that if the Terrorist has made it past the Intelligence collection, crossed the border, and is now standing in the security line at the airport then all of you have failed. Doubly so because the terrorist is not going to be standing in line with the big round black ball that says bomb on the side with a sparkler fuse burning down slowly.

4. No-Fly List and Passenger Pre-Screening. This is Unconstitutional, Immoral, and in about seven other ways WRONG! The Government is not supposed to make secret laws nor keep secret lists as both are a gross violation of Due Process of Law. Or if you prefer, this is a gross violation of a Citizen's First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment Rights as guaranteed by the US Constitution. How is one put on this list? Who has the authority to add people to this list? How does one correct information about themselves on this list? How does one get off of this list?

5. Crew Vetting. And? Are you trying to say that the airlines aren't doing their own vetting of their crew? Are you trying to say that the Airlines are handing over control of very large and very expensive pieces of equipment without vetting the crew first?

OK, we've been through Five so far and not a single one has anything to do with the TSA and their purported mission. Lets see what the next five offer.....

6. VIPR. An acronym for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team. Or in other words, the TSA trying to justify their expense by them trying their shenanigans in places other than airports. This is the part of the TSA that was patting down passengers in Savanah (or was it in Atlanta) and doing this pat down AFTER the passengers had arrived at their destination.

7. Canine. Finally we get to one that might actually accomplish something. The Military has had amazing results from their bomb-sniffing teams. The DEA hasn't so when you borrow dogs you might want to keep that in mind.

8. Behavior Detection. Really? You included this on your list? The program that your own publicly available records demonstrate that even you don't think this program is in any way effective? The program that the President is in the process of defunding?

9. Travel Document Checker. And? How is identity in any way important to security in regards to the TSA? You are supposed to be looking for threats to aviation so how is the name on their ticket important?

10. Checkpoint/Transportation Security Officers. No, you are Agents. You can keep calling yourselves Officers but you aren't. It is becoming readily apparent that you are just listing things to get the list to be long enough to look important. Like you are just padding the list so it takes up more than one powerpoint slide.

OK, the first five were a bust as far as the TSA goes. The second five had one thing on it and then a couple more that were just fluff for the power-point deck. Lets see what's next...

11. Checked Baggage. Yes, one of the easiest things for you to check because you can hit it with the really heavy x-ray machines. And one of the most basic functions your Agency provides so why is it down here at number 11?

12. Transportation Security Inspectors. And these guys/gals are different than the Agents at the checkpoints how, exactly? Or are these the people who stand behind the Agents and defend the Agent's actions when a Passenger complains?

13. Random Employee Screening. Same response as provided to number 5 above. Just adding "Random" to something doesn't make it qualify as security.

14. Transportation Security Specialists-Explosives. I hear of these people a lot yet no one at any of my three local airports knows anything about them, who they are, or what they do. And three minutes on the search engines turn up links to this website and no others regarding what they do, where, or how.

I'm going to stop this run at 14 and you'll see why in a minute......

15. Federal Air Marshal Service. This one is actually helpful. Not sure HOW helpful, but the last time I was on a plane it was pretty easy to spot who he was so if I can spot him then the bad guy, if he happens to be on this same plane, can spot him.

16. Federal Flight Deck Officers. You might want to advertise this one a bit more because it would be the best deterrent to potential terrorists knowing that at least one person on the flight deck is armed and can shoot the bad guy. Or maybe you don't advertise this fact because you spend so much time and effort trying to convince us that a gun on airplane means certain doom because bullets can go through several people and then hit gas tanks or flight controls or let all the air out so suddenly everyone dies....

17. Trained Flight Crew. Trained is wonderfully vague.... trained in marshal arts? trained to de escalate a violent situation? Yes, I am glad they are there and are being trained not to comply with the terrorists, I am just making fun of your description.

18. Law Enforcement Officers. You know, the people you have to call when you find something in a bag. Proving the point that you are Agents, not Officers.

19. Hardened Cockpit Door. Second best defense against terrorists and really should be number 2 on your list.

20. Passengers. First best defense against terrorists and really should have been number 1 on your list.

So items 15 through 20 are the real and actual security in today's airports and airplanes. Which is exactly why they are at the end of your list because if more people started figuring out that we are each responsible for our own safety then more people would start to question why it takes a Government Agency that includes sixty-thousand people and costs just a tiny bit less than eight billion dollars. The real security in the air has nothing to do with the TSA, isn't provided by the TSA, and could be handled just as well without the TSA.

Submitted by Peter Padilla on

I apologize, I seem to remember that we change the name of "Layers of Security" to "Elements of Security". Is this not true?

Submitted by Dudley on

Bob, check your facts please. According to DHS, President Trump, GOA and TSA there is no behavior detection program. According to DHS "the BDO program was eliminated prior to the fiscal year". If the BDO program was eliminated and TSA lacks sufficient evidence to support the validity of behavoir detection, HOW can "behavior detection" be a layer of security?

Submitted by RB on

Hardened Cockpit doors and Passengers (19 & 20) should be first and second on the list. #'s 8 and 9, Behavior Detection and Travel Document Checker, should be removed as neither offer any security benefit. Random Employee Screening, #13' demonstrates TSA's complete disconnect from reality. Insiders present the largest Threat Vector yet TSA refuses to harden this weakness.

TSA is a complete joke, a very bad joke, with incompetent employees and ridiculous policies which focuses on the abuse of travelers. The world would be well advised o ignore TSA's efforts to impact other sovereign countries policies.

Submitted by Cheryl on

here we go again...everyone has an opinion about TSA but I'm a firm believer that they are a definite necessity. Most of the ones (usually men) who are complaining are not able to convince me otherwise. And to the belligerent travelers who want to pick a fight with TSA at security? Grow up, stay home, give the rest of us a nice surrounding for our own travels.

Submitted by Max Yost on

For Chip: To clarify the role of Transportation Security Inspectors (#12), their primary role is to climb on airplanes in hangers, damage them and then fine the airline whose airplanes they damaged. ( and

Also, Checked baggage (#11) is an important second source of income for TSA clerks as they sell their appropriations on eBay.

In this era of reducing the national debt and the size of the federal government, I would propose that the 20 layers be reduced to these:

1. Hardened cockpit doors

2. Canines

3. Trained Flight Crews

4. Passengers

5. Air marshalls, as long as they wore distinctive uniforms and sat in coach.

I think this would get the job done at considerable savings to the taxpayers. Heck, #3 and #4 ARE the taxpayers.

Submitted by RB on

"One dad who recently went through airport security with his wife and 9-month-old child has an important question for TSA after they discarded his wife's breast milk: "Wondering why mother's milk was tossed by TSA and why they considered it 'dangerous' when we had passed though security several times with milk and had no problem before.""

Guess all of these "layers of security" keep us safe from breast milk while TSA starves babies.


Submitted by Grope on

"give the rest of us a nice surrounding for our own travels."

Is it a "nice surrounding" when TSA is sexually assaulting people?

Submitted by A Passenger on

Can't you do all this with a little less arrogance? Personnel at JFK is the most unfriendly bunch of people I ever dealt with.

Submitted by Chip In Florida on

Submitted by Cheryl "...Most of the ones (usually men) who are complaining are not able to convince me otherwise."

What does the Men part of your statement have to do with convincing you? Because I will happily have my wife talk to you and she can be real convincing.

Submitted by Dean Johnson on

TSA's layers of security doesn't appear to be working so well in Minneapolis. In July TSA's Red Team conducted 18 tests and had 17 of them failed before TSA suspended the testing.So even with a 8 billion dollar multiple layer security operation it still doesn't work so well.

Submitted by Rich Roth on

TSA did a great job with this video, and it could prove a great detriment to bad guys watching it, and wondering how they can make it through. I know I will hear stories today on how TSA missed this or that, but most of the time it was a simple momentary hiccup either by staff or equipment. How any bad guy and or terrorist could plan on waiting around for one of those hiccups it just not good business. The Terrorist needs to find a weakness that they can exploit and plan for, and those are getting harder and harder to come by. Which is why the new Terrorist training material tends to look for soft spots, before many of these layers are engaged. Still the K-9's and the VIPR teams could at anytime find a bad guy and or terrorist trying to plan an attack in these areas, not to mention the Intelligence arm, and last but increasingly more important is you and I keeping a look out for the bad guys, we are the first and last layer of security, thanks for keeping me safer.

Submitted by My Name on

You people are clueless. First of all, the purpose of the TSA is not to inconvenience and annoy travelers. It's to protect the nations transportation systems. It's too much for me to type out all the reasons for these layers of security but the one I will explain that most people seem to think is irrelevant is Travel Document Checker. TDC is there to verify ID's of a person flying and making sure that the person holding the boarding pass actually is who he/she says she is. The reason this needs to be done is for vetting purposes. I can't say anymore about this but if you have just a little bit of common sense you can understand why.

Submitted by Chip In Florida on

My Name contributed to the conversation "....TDC is there to verify ID's of a person flying and making sure that the person holding the boarding pass actually is who he/she says she is."

First question... how is identity important to security when the goal is prevent WEI from getting onto the aircraft?

Second question.... TDC looks at the ID I hand them and compares it to the boarding pass. They don't look it up in any system, they don't verify it is, in fact, a real ID, they only verify that the provided boarding pass says Bob and the provided ID says Bob. That means that I could use a fake boarding pass with a real ID, or a real boarding pass with fake ID, and the TSA wouldn't know. So how does this provide any kind of security to anyone anywhere?

"...I can't say anymore about this...."

Because you are on the clock and your TSA Supervisor is watching? Seriously, you can't say more about this why, exactly? Because I have quite a bit of common sense and I still cant' pick up what you're putting down.

Submitted by Not My Name on

What does identify have to do with security? Here's a hint: it starts with not and end in hing. If TSA is keeping WEI off of commercial aviation, then who cares if the guy next to me is a scary terr'ist. If TSA is doing their jobs, he has no means with which to terrorise. Oh, that's right. TSA fails 96% of the time, so maybe I should be worried about the guy next to me.

Submitted by My Name on

Chip is obviously a very uneducated person judging by all of his comments I read on here. Anyway, just about everything you said in your last post is wrong not surprisingly. Like I said in my first post, verifying ID is part of security to make sure the proper person trying to get on the aircraft is who they say they are. A lot of the 9/11 terrorist had fake ID's. Really anybody who has some sort of common sense (which you obviously do not) would want this done. Tell me anywhere else in the world that you don't have to present an ID at minimum to access a secured area? Are you that lost? I would love to see you try and bring a fake ID with with a real boarding pass or a real ID with a fake boarding pass, you wouldn't get past the podium and promptly put in handcuffs by the police at the airport. What a ridiculous argument regarding a "fake boarding pass". Good luck making that up with a barcode that needs to come from our system. What kind of idiot thinks of this stuff? How old are you?
We are in fact checking to see if it's a real ID. That's one of the things the position is required to do genius. We have different ways of verifying it is a real ID which we do right there and other things that we are trained on. Also, every boarding pass is scanned and a bunch of information is given so obviously it is in some sort of system that we use which I can't go into detail about. I know you think you know it all and you got all the answers but you really don't and just make yourself look like an idiot. Sorry. Less typing on this site and just take bus from now on if you have such hatred for the TSA. Something tells me though that you've never even left Florida. I'm done wasting my time with you.

Submitted by Not My Name on

When did personal attacks become allowed? Calling someone "uneducated" is certainly a personal attack, is it not? However, the attacker may want to hold up a mirror, as they A) addressed the entirely wrong person, B) provided no valid reason for the practice of identifying travellers, and C) is greatly misinformed about how difficult it is to get a fake ID past a TSA ID checkers. (Hit, it's not)

Submitted by Not My Name on

I just re-read My Name's comments, and they claim to be a TSAgent. When did TSAgents get a pass on insulting other posters? Oh! That's right! Since the beginning, because TSAgents have a different set of rules than the rest of us.

However, My Name needs to learn proper nomenclature. The terminals of airports are not "secure" areas. If they were, the travelling public would have no way to board their flights. They are allegedly "sterile," but we all know about the TSA's failure rate.

Regardless, what was the purpose of conflating "secure" and "sterile?" My guess is to confuse the issue so the uneducated might be tricked into believing ID is important. What he fails to address is how, if he has done his job and the terrorist has no means with which to terrorise, it matters one iota of he is sitting in any given flight. Hint: it doesn't.

I'd also posit that he's a TSA document checker. Wonder if he's one of the ones who have had fake IDs and boarding passes slipped past?

Submitted by TimmyhoK on


Submitted by TimmyhoK on


Submitted by Robert Smith on

Combining the FFDO program with the ASO program would supplement each other nicely to increase flight deck security.

Submitted by Linda on

Do we know when this Layers were first implemented?

Submitted by Debunking Haters on

You do realize these layers have a chronological flow to them. The intelligence portion starts the process because when you book a flight, the TSA checks you to see if you are on the No-Fly lists. The passengers are last because they are the final step in the process of getting on a flight. If a terrorist is on a flight, it is the passenger's responsibility to recognize the threat; EVEN IF all the other layers failed to find him/her. I hope it makes sense now.

Submitted by Robert on

helpful, though we should create an awareness to the pax as to why we are doing what we are doing to avoid many questions from them and delay of services trying to explain why, thanks

Submitted by Mark on

Its rather amusing that you attempted to destroy these layers of security, but in the end, you just came off as an idiot. Bravo.

Submitted by Not Chips Friend on

@Chip - WOW!! You need to get a life bud.

Submitted by Bob on

I think you mom is calling you from upstairs, she wants to know what kind of hot pockets you want for your world of Warcraft raids this week.

Submitted by Anonymous on

There are some very angry people on here! Jeez, take a look in the mirror and figure out where that comes from. And Chip, find something better to do with your time!