New Year’s resolutions: 12 things the TSA shouldn’t do in 2012

I‘ve noticed that our friends at the TSA haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions yet, at least not publicly, so as I thought I’d help the federal agency charged with the challenging task of protecting our transportation systems.

You know, as a public service.

Here are 12 things the TSA should stop doing in 2012.

No more body scans.
The TSA’s pricey and controversial body scanners, which are being deployed across the country, are an invasion of privacy and an unacceptable health risk. Many American oppose their use. Isn’t it time for the TSA to admit they’re a failure and try something else?

Stay off our streets.
The TSA is here for one reason, and one reason alone: To stop another 9/11 from happening. Its expansion to subway stations and other public areas is a costly and unnecessary step that no one asked for. This is the year to end the ill-conceived VIPR program once and for all.

Quit pocketing our money.
Harassed air travelers left a lot of loose change at checkpoints — an estimated $376,480 in 2010. And guess who kept it? That’s right, the TSA. But it isn’t the agency’s money (one Congressman wants to funnel it to the USO, which isn’t a bad idea). It’s your money. The TSA has no business taking it.

Stop calling your screeners officers.
It’s a little known fact that TSA employees have zero law enforcement authority and technically shouldn’t be called officers. One Congresswoman wants to fix that. What a great idea.

Keep your hands off grandma.
It isn’t just Lenore Zimmerman, the 4-foot-11, 110-pound, grandmother who alleges she was strip-searched at JFK in late 2011. It’s a whole stack of similar cases that have stirred public outrage. Stop frisking the grannies, TSA. You’re better than that.

Enough with the special lines.
TSA’s new Pre-Check program, which selectively pre-screens certain passengers and lets them move through the security line faster, seems like a move in the right direction. But it isn’t. The elite-level frequent fliers join a growing list of others, including members of the military and airport employees, who get special screening privileges. Shouldn’t TSA be trying to find the bad guys instead of determining who the bad guys aren’t? This process-of-elimination screening is not only expensive, but puts ordinary, law-abiding air travelers at a disadvantage.

End the liquid and gel restrictions.
There’s no convincing evidence that our Starbucks lattes are going to blow up our early morning commuter flight. Let’s stop this nonsense, which has been going on for way too long and hasn’t prevented a single act of airborne terrorism. Let air travelers bring their harmless liquids on board.

Stop the shoe removals.
The TSA now allows kids 12 and under to leave their shoes on. Why not the rest of us? When’s the last time the agency caught a terrorist with explosives in his insoles? How about never?

Don’t prevent passengers from taking pictures.
Even though the TSA insists that taking snapshots of its screening areas is allowed, its “officers” apparently never got the memo. Here’s what happened to Carlos Miller last week when he tried to tape his screening. Puh-leeze!

Stop hiring criminals.
TSA’s hiring practices leave a lot to be desired. Its employees have gotten themselves into a whole lotta trouble in 2011, including some very disturbing crimes that leave you wondering: Where did they find these people? Come on.

Don’t ignore the public you’re trying to protect.
A recent White House website petition comes to mind. It only took about 30,000 verified signatures requesting the Obama administration eliminate the TSA, for Administrator John Pistole to offer a clueless rebuttal that suggests he has virtually no contact with real air travelers. How ’bout spending a little more time at the airport, John?

No more lies.
Time and again in 2011, the TSA has been caught telling lies and half-truths. They’re exhaustively documented by Bill Fisher on the TSA News Blog. The scope of the TSA’s misinformation is absolutely staggering. It’s really amazing that we believe anything the agency tells us anymore, given its record of bending facts to suit its agenda. That needs to end.

As we look ahead to 2012, the TSA is poised to become a part of how we travel, whether we fly, drive, cruise or take the train. But the agency will not make any of these common-sense reforms unless it hears from you.

So if you think this federal agency needs to make a few changes, this is a good time to let your elected representative know about it.

And if your congressional representative doesn’t do anything, well, you’re in luck — it’s an election year.

(Photo: Ludie Cochrane/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • cyclebiker

    I would like to vote for everything on the list!

  • Bernard Rappoport

    Where’s the option to vote for the removal of John Pistole as America’s most overpaid and underperforming political hack who daily abuses his authority?  

  • Raven_Altosk

    I wanted to vote for “all of the above.”

    Is there any way to question the presidential candidates on their plan for the ill-conceived TSA? I’d be interested in the answers from all sides of the aisle.

  • Kotch11

    I have a hunch Elliott has had problems with TSA that he doesn’t mention.  I really think everyone should be treated the same, amd if I am asked to special screen, I will accept it.  I am an old lady, but should not be above submitting to any request TSA makes just because I am old.
    I was out of the country on 9/11 and know we need somethng.

  • cjr001

    Here is the 1 thing the TSA should stop doing in 2012:


  • Sommer Gentry

    You will accept strangers forcibly ripping your underwear off your body against your clear verbal objections, as Lenore Zimmerman endured?  If this is what you truly believe, that you should accept strangers examining your naked body, forcing you to remove your underwear, or rubbing their hands all over your genitalia, I’m disgusted at your passivity and frightened for my country’s future.

  • cjr001

    In the mean time, while TSA continues to make this huge push for more groping and more scanning, the only way anything is getting caught is via good ol’ bag scanning.

    Scanning of bags was the case in the last couple of days where somebody tried to carry explosives with military-grade packaging through security. And even in this case, it was quickly stated that it likely wasn’t terrorism-related.

    Scanning of bags is responsible for finding firearms, knives, and now a stun gun.

    Notice what isn’t catching these things? The pornoscanners and gropes.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    Wish I could “Like” this a hundred times or more!

  • Nancy Dickinson

    This was a tough poll – TSA has done so many things wrong and need to change more than a poll can handle.

  • Tygar

    Those that forfeit liberty for security will soon have neither!(m/l)

  • Tygar

    The only correct answer is:  ALL THE ABOVE!

  • TouchyFeely

    Hell some of us pay for that!

  • y_p_w

    I’m just wondering how many times he’s come across the situation where he’s in a TSA line, he whips out his ID, and a screener recognizes his name from reading his rants against the TSA.

    That could get interesting.  I’m wondering if they’d give him extra scrutiny, or back off him so as to not tick him off.

  • jebaker

    I was recently in the Philly amtrak station and had to watch a recording from Pistole and the TSA about a million times while waiting for my train.  There was no place that had seating where you could avoid it.  UGH!

  • James Babb Ⓐ

    We might as well discuss grooming tips for a rabid rottweiler. Put it down for god’s sake.

  • Cybrsk8r

    And this is exactly why I refuse to go thru the body scanner.  If they’re lying about other things, they just might be lying about the radiation exposure from the machines.

  • MarkKelling

    They want to let military go through expedited screening.  Yet just a day ago at the Midland TX airport an active military person attempted to board a plane with explosives in his carry on bag.  While there is nothing saying he intended to do anything with the explosives, the fact that he had explosives with him makes me wonder.  Was it just a test of the TSA to see if they were awake?  Or did he really just “forget” he had it in his bag.  Or did he think that because he was active military they would let it through?  

    Oh, and this was caught by the good old bag x-ray.  Not by the body scanner, chat downs, pat downs, or any of the other ridiculousness the TSA keeps adding to the process.

  • Kotch11

    I’m sure you are probably correct.  I think some TSA agent didn’t give him preferential treatment

  • Kotch11

    I take it you don’t travel much.  Have you ever seen a TSA agent do this?

  • 1sunnyday4u

    TSA can keep us safe without the body scanner. Unless it’s wanted only people who have metal implants and don’t want to be singled out and groped because of a medical condition and opt to go through it.  Every passenger that can’t make it through the metal detector without alarming will be subjected to a hand held metal detector screening just to make sure they have no big knifes or guns.  To keep explosives off the planes test every bag that comes through the x-ray for explosives. Sure it will slow down the lines but it will allow you to keep your liquids because obviously they are not explosives and maybe there won’t be so many carry on’s.

  • cjr001

    You can post under your own name, Propaganda Bob.

  • Sommer Gentry

    Your dismissive comments are unfounded. 

    I have been an extremely frequent flier, flying both internationally and within the U.S.  I’ve flown about once a week over the last decade.  Now I go to extreme measures to try to limit my travel to driving trips and Amtrak, but I still fly when I can’t find alternatives. 

    I was sexually assaulted by a TSA agent at BWI, and what the TSA did to me meets the FBI’s updated definition of rape, penetrating my body with a foreign object.

    If you want to read Lenore Zimmerman’s story about having her underwear ripped off of her while she protested, you can find it here:

    Over one thousand people reported to the ACLU that they had been sexually violated by the TSA in the first month after their new “patdown” procedures started.

    But if you stick your fingers in your ears and yell lalalalalalala long enough, you can pretend it isn’t happening.

  • Jessica – Of Revolt

    This is an excellent list. The TSA has, time and again, dangerously stepped over the limits of public decency and the law itself. Thanks for posting this!

  • Josh S

    Chris, I’m confused. In one breath you say that grandmas should get special treatment (ie, they should not be subject to the invasive pat-downs because, after all, geriatrics are clearly not terrorists!). In the next breath you say that special treatment and special lines should be eliminated. Which is it? 

  • reynard

    I agree with the other commenters who say that we need an “All of the above” option. Desperately. Is it asking too much for the rule of law to apply to the TSA? Or even common decency? At this point, I guess so.

  • Daisiemae

    The point is that NOBODY should be subjected to these abusive and ineffective searches. It’s just that the abuse and absurdity of the searches is more extreme when performed on fragile elderly people. The callous inhumanity is more glaringly obvious when the victim is a frail 95-year-old dying of leukemia.

  • chevy4wd

    I vote for all of the above

  • RonBonner

    The number 1 item on the list that was missing was abolishing TSA. 

    Airport/airline security should be the responsibility of the property owners, not government.  Who expects or wants government to provide security at your local mega-mart?

  • Jenna Young

    I wish “eliminate the TSA, get back to the drawing board and come up with something that works this time” could be a resolution 

  • Daisiemae

    Your ID name does not sound like something an old lady would choose. It sounds very masculine to me.

    I don’t know any old lady who would say she should she should submit to any request made by TSA. That is not language that would be used by women of that generation. I’m 57. I know a vast number of women my age and older through several organizations. None of them would talk like that.

    In short, I think you’re a fraud.

    (I also noticed that your ID photo is male. But then, so is mine. I don’t know how these photos are chosen. I still don’t believe you are an old lady.)