Security

How to tell the TSA how to do its job – and how to get it to listen

If you’re afraid a TSA agent might bungle your screening when you fly somewhere this summer, maybe you should do what John Klapproth did when he was traveling from Seattle to Anchorage recently.

Like many air travelers, Klapproth declined to use the TSA’s full-body scanner, and was sent to a holding area for an “enhanced” pat-down.

“I told the TSA agent that was no problem,” he says. “I explained to him that I was a retired state corrections officer with 25 years experience doing pat-searches in a maximum security prison and knew what to expect. I also told him that I knew a proper pat-search could be performed without touching my genitals or anal areas and that I did not consent to be touched on either area.”
Continue reading…


Is anyone really listening to your TSA complaints?

Champion Studio/Shutterstock
Champion Studio/Shutterstock
With only a few weeks left to leave your comments about the TSA’s controversial passenger screening methods, here’s a question worth asking: Is anyone listening?

If you said, “not really,” then maybe you know Theresa Putkey, a consultant from Vancouver. She had a run-in with a TSA agent recently after trying to opt out of a full-body scan, and sent a complaint letter to the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.

Here’s the form response from the TSA:
Continue reading…


It’s time to tell the TSA what you really think of it — and for it to listen

Oleg/Shutterstock
Oleg/Shutterstock
Travelers love to complain about the TSA, and even though the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems claims to listen, most of us know better.

Don’t believe me? Try sending the agency an email, complaining about your last pat-down. Do you hear the sound of crickets? Me too.

But now a court has ordered the TSA to listen, and to pay attention — and maybe, if we’re lucky, to do something about it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the TSA to engage in something known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its screening procedures, and specifically its use of full-body scanners. You can leave your comment at the Federal Register website until June 24th.
Continue reading…


Summer road hazards your government won’t warn you about

Studioarz/Shutterstock
Studioarz/Shutterstock
With the frenetic summer travel season just around the corner, here’s a little warning about a road hazard you might not expect: a checkpoint staffed by Transportation Security Administration workers.

The so-called VIPR teams (shorthand for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) are special TSA units that search — and sometimes detain — travelers at bus terminals, railroad stations, subways, truck weigh stations and special events such as NFL games and political conventions.
Continue reading…


Who’s afraid of the TSA?

Eldan Carin/Shutterstock
Eldan Carin/Shutterstock
Today’s tale of TSA inefficiency comes from the Atlantic Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, NY.

“This station has at least six entrances,” says Jeff, one of my readers who witnessed the spectacle. “But the TSA was only set up at one of the two that I saw. If someone was up to no good they would just walk past the turnstile entrance where the TSA was and go to one of the other entrances. It is such a waste of time and money that they are allowed to do this.”

I asked Jeff if I could mention his observations in an upcoming story. But that’s when he clammed up.

“Do you have to use my name if you write about it?” he asked.

Yes, I told him. I normally use full names.
Continue reading…


Is my 15-year-old son a terrorist?

Yganko/Shutterstock
Yganko/Shutterstock
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area.

It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter.

“When we got to security, my son went first in line through the X-ray machine and TSA flagged him for the hand swab test,” she remembers. “While the rest of the family was stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine, my son was pulled aside for supposedly having a positive result for explosives.”

Bruce, who lives in Dallas and is a mathematician by training and a homemaker, is certain it was a misunderstanding. Her son is no terrorist, she says. He’s a clean-cut honor student.
Continue reading…


Random, unpredictable airport security that’s not always awful? Only in America

1-photo (1)The TSA screening area at Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s B gates isn’t much to look at. It’s a dark, cavernous processing area with well-worn linoleum floors that almost makes you feel like you’re visiting a relative in prison.

But looks can be deceiving. I just had the best TSA screening experience in Reno, and I’m not alone. On a recent Monday morning, my entire family transited through Terminal B, and they could scarcely believe they’d been checked by federal screeners.

The TSA checkpoint at Denver International Airport looks like it’s something straight out of a science fiction movie. It’s a gleaming hall with the newest technology, including an array of shiny new body scanners. It’s the kind of place where you’d expect to find a modern, friendly, and efficient screening.

Yet here, too, all is not as it seems: A few days ago, I had the single worst screening experience of my life. I still can’t believe what happened.
Continue reading…


The five kinds of people you meet at an airport screening area

Brian Jackson/Shutterstock
Brian Jackson/Shutterstock

Next time you fly, take a minute to look around at the airport screening area. You’ll see all kinds of interesting passengers, from the “get-alongs” to the dissidents to the folks who think the rules don’t apply to them.

Just last week at the crowded Orlando airport, I had a front-row ticket to a confrontation between a young woman and a TSA screener.

Young woman: “I don’t want to be X-rayed.”

Screener: “We don’t use X-rays.”

Young woman: “I don’t want to be scanned, either.”

Screener: “Then you’ll get a pat-down.”
Continue reading…


Why it’s time for airport screening to come full circle

hyxdil/Shutterstock
hyxdil/Shutterstock
Andy deLivron says he’s no threat to aviation security. But he flies with box cutters in his checked luggage — the same weapon used by the 9/11 terrorists. And he recently packed the sharp tools in the wrong suitcase.

By the time deLivron, a sales manager from Pottersville, NY, realized the box cutters had been misplaced in his carry-on bag, it was too late. He was already past the TSA screening area at Dallas Love Field and boarding his flight to Orlando, where he planned to catch a connecting flight to Albany, NY.

DeLivron missed his connection and had to spend the night in Orlando.

“But now I had a problem toss the knife or try to get it home in my carry-on bag,” he says. “I decided if I could place the knife on edge in my carryon it would be highly likely that security would miss it again. Sure, enough I was right. My carryon went right on through in Orlando.”
Continue reading…


Guess who’s shilling for the TSA

Land of Smile/Shutterstock
Land of Smile/Shutterstock

Wanna insult a reporter? There’s no easier way than accusing him or her of being a shill for the other side, of churning out propaganda instead of covering a subject.

And that’s especially true when it comes to the TSA.

But consider the following “exclusive” story from a local ABC affiliate, which aired a few weeks ago.

It was an earnest report about the imminent dangers of a terrorist weapon being detonated on a plane. Explosives “experts” at Camp Pendleton in California rigged shoes and laptop computers and blew them up in front of a group of TSA trainees. They even let a reporter incinerate one of the props from a safe distance.
Continue reading…


What’s wrong with the TSAs gun obsession?

Smit/Shutterstock
Smit/Shutterstock

Maybe the TSA hasn’t ever caught a single terrorist red-handed, but it’s given us something almost as good: guns. Lots of guns.

Guns are a hot topic today, and not just in Washington. The TSA confiscated them in record numbers last year, and most of them were loaded. They make news, even in small amounts.

No one is going to argue that having guns on planes is a good idea, even after the TSA’s surprise announcement that some knives would be allowed. But is it fair to connect aviation safety to the confiscation of firearms?
Continue reading…


Airport security can be better — and here’s how

1-IMG_0461It’s been more than a decade since the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.

Almost from the beginning, a small group of activists have kept a vigilant eye on the agency. When TSA agents pilfered your luggage, they spoke up. When the blueshirts forced us through inadequately tested scanners, they said something. When agents treated us like prison inmates, they fired up their laptop computers and they wrote.
Continue reading…


A silent majority sounds off about airport security

Wang Song/Shutterstock
Wang Song/Shutterstock

Intrusive airport searches are just fine with a majority of air travelers. They also think the TSA has singlehandedly prevented a 9/11 repeat, and that critics of the agency’s current practices are nothing more than “anxious advocates.”

At least that’s the impression you might be left with if you read a recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune and other surprisingly favorable mentions in the mainstream media. Even amid the sequestration slowdowns, we’re big fans of the TSA.

Connect the dots, and the conclusion is inescapable: There’s a silent majority of Americans who really do believe the TSA is the “gold standard” in aviation security, as the TSA’s John Pistole recently proclaimed. We’re safer today because of the TSA, and out in flyover country we feel nothing but gratitude toward America’s airport sentries, who are the last line of defense against terrorism.
Continue reading…


If you love the TSA, read this story

It happened again.

At a time when the federal agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems can least afford it, there was another dust-up involving a young passenger — this time to Lucy Forck, a three-year-old with spina bifida flying to Disney World with her family.

When the little girl in a wheelchair is pulled over for a pat-down, her mother starts taping the procedure on her phone, which is permitted.
Continue reading…


Is there a better way to screen airline passengers?

scannedIf you look enviously at the TSA Pre-Check line whenever you’re at the airport — where pre-cleared air travelers breeze through the checkpoint without having to be scanned, remove their shoes or face a humiliating “enhanced” pat-down — then join the club.

If you ask yourself: “What sets them apart from me?” and the answer is, “Nothing, really,” then you’re well on your way to answering a question that has haunted aviation security professionals since 2009.

Is there a better way to screen air travelers than scanning them?
Continue reading…