Editor’s note: I’ve restructured my Q&A feature a little. The questions are now yours. I’ll be soliciting queries for my next interview on Facebook soon, so please stop by and “like” my page.
Bob Burns, a.k.a. “Blogger Bob” doesn’t need any introduction. I’ve been following his work at the TSA for years, and refer to it frequently on this site and in my weekly TSA Watch column.
A note about the format of this interview: These were reader questions, and I didn’t have an opportunity for a rebuttal. Your comments are always appreciated. I can be reached here.
I started our interview by asking him a question that’s been on my mind for a while: Could Burns cite one example of responsible TSA coverage, either in a mainstream media outlet or in a blog? He declined. “I’ve been around the PR pros long enough to learn at least one lesson,” he told me. “Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.”
Alright, then. Let’s get to your questions.
From Mary Ellen Adamson: Does the TSA believe it is making America safer? Can you name any specific, recent threats that TSA has stopped?
Of course we are. We act as a huge deterrent for anybody thinking about bringing something on to a plane. Our officers find two guns per day on a slow day. Just last week, 20 guns were found nationwide. We also find items that resemble IEDs or IED components.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that someone wrapped their cell phone around a block of cheese with a thick cord, or was it a probe checking to see if we’d find something that resembled an IED? Also, FAMs [Federal Air Marshals] have interceded on many flights to stop aggressive actions by passengers.
How many times you have gone through the full-body scanner, asks reader Karen Cummings. Also, have you ever personally received an “enhanced” pat-down, and what did you think of it?
I’ve gone through a scanner a few times at the Transportation Systems Integration Facility (TSIF).
I only fly about five times a year, so I haven’t had the opportunity to go through one yet while traveling at the airport, but I wouldn’t opt-out in case you were wondering. I don’t fault anybody for wanting to opt-out, by the way… It’s a choice we’ve given passengers and they’re welcome to make that choice, but we will need to conduct alternative screening that can detect both metallic and nonmetallic items.
As far as the enhanced pat-downs, I’ve received pat-downs and have had no issue with them. Also, TSA’s top leadership received the pat-down prior to approving it, and they’ve been through AIT screening numerous times when they travel.
Sommer Gentry wants to know if you can describe proper procedure for an enhanced pat-down. And if not, could you please explain why not?
Unfortunately, I can’t go into detail on security procedures such as the pat-down because we don’t want to provide a roadmap to terrorists. I know you can see and experience them for yourself at an airport, but we just don’t make a practice of openly advertising all the details of our procedures in a public forum.