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?

Some say there isn’t, and they’ll insist that shooting X-rays or microwaves at your body is the only way to be absolutely sure you’re not packing a gun or carrying explosives. But many of these “experts” have ulterior motives, because they happen to also work for the manufacturers of X-ray and millimeter wave technology.

Of course they want more machines. Their livelihoods depend on it.

But a hard look at the facts says otherwise. The scanners haven’t foiled a single terrorist attack. In fact, their vulnerabilities are so well-known to the bad guys they would probably prefer a scan over a pat-down on their way to their terrorist mission, assuming they can’t secure Pre-Check clearances. The machines have an obvious, and unfortunate, blind spot.

Gold standards?

A few weeks ago, TSA Administrator John Pistole proclaimed that American aviation security was the gold standard. This didn’t sit well with the Israelis, who have long considered themselves to be the standard-bearer when it comes to aviation security. But the administrator can be forgiven for engaging in a little hyperbole; after all, he needs to raise employee morale at his $8 billion-a-year agency, which isn’t exactly known for its happy workforce.

But a look at the real gold standard in aviation security — yep, that would be Israel — suggests full-body scanners may be worthless. Israel doesn’t use them at all. A manager told Canadian officials in 2010 that the scanners were easily fooled, which is why Israel didn’t rely on them. Although some scanners have been tested in Israel since then, security officials continue to refuse to use the machines as a primary method of screening.
A look at what the real experts are doing seems to suggest that the answer to the question, “Is there a better way?” is: absolutely.

A different scanner

One solution is to switch scanners. For the last few weeks, the folks who are developing a new kind of technology have been sending me information about their product. Iscon’s Thermo-Conductive Mini-Portal Scanner promises a way to screen passengers without using radiation or creating a revealing image.

Instead of firing X-rays at passengers, this infrared body scanner detects hidden objects without penetrating clothing or making physical contact, according to the manufacturer. It recently completed tests at Bristol Airport in the U.K., where it “performed well,” according to the company.

Certainly, the thought of waving an infrared scanner in front of passengers instead of bombarding them with radiation is enough for the TSA’s critics to sit up and take notice. But the best scanner, they contend, is no scanner.

Time to remove the scanners?

The TSA is furiously backpedaling from its “one size fits all” solution to aviation security. It started by giving dignitaries and certain members of law enforcement a pass on the full-body scanners. Then came active-duty military and crewmembers. Next, it was elite-level frequent fliers and people who had undergone a background check. Now it’s testing a managed inclusion program that would open the scannerless Pre-Check lines to anyone who has been cleared by a bomb-sniffing dog.

If those tests are successful, then I wonder — who’s left?

We’re just a few short years, and perhaps months, away from admitting that the scanners and the punitive pat-downs that air travelers receive when they refuse to submit to a potentially dangerous scan, do not work.

Let’s get a move on.

Should the TSA abandon its body scanners?

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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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  • Lisa Simeone

    We’ve been down all these roads before:

    Pre-Check is a boondoggle. It doesn’t guarantee anything, as even the TSA itself says. It’s an extortion racket that doesn’t work. You’d get better results with the Mafia. And again, it’s ethically indefensible; it’s the embodiment of All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others. (And nah, no well-educated, well-traveled, savvy, determined person, like the 9/11 hijackers, could ever manage to get on the Pre-Check list. Not with all our crack security agencies on the job!)

    The new thermo-conductive mini-portal is another boondoggle. Another way to shovel money at the security industry.

    Bomb-sniffing dogs aren’t practical, especially when 99.99999999999999999% of passengers aren’t carrying bombs:

    I’m going to ask, again, the question I’ve been asking for years, that still no TSA apologist has ever answered: In all the years before 9/11, after 9/11, and even on 9/11 itself, planes weren’t being blown out of the sky left and right. If The Terrorists Are Everywhere™, then why weren’t planes dropping out of the sky in all the years when the TSA wasn’t scanning your body, sticking its fingers in your crotch, and confiscating your dangerous shampoo? Hello? Anyone?

  • Daisiemae

    Using any type of scanners at all is still based on the presumption that we are all criminals until proven innocent…that we must prove to a low level government clerk that we are innocent. That is in direct opposition to our American way of life.

    Scanning all passengers at the checkpoint is approaching security from the wrong end. It is focused on the millions of innocent people traveling through US airports rather than focusing on a minuscule percentage of criminals. It will NEVER be an effective means of preventing terrorism. No matter what type of scanner is used, there will always be a way to defeat it. And a smart terrorist WILL figure out a way to defeat it. Any system can be hacked by a determined hacker, right?

    And of course, any scanner is dependent upon its human operator. Glaring incidents of TSA’s incompetence abounds. It would be incredibly simple for a determined terrorist to defeat TSA no matter what scanners or technological gadgets they use. So why continue to throw good money after bad on new scanners?

    Instead of pumping billions of dollars into scanners and other technological gadgets to be used by incompetent clerks to terrorize innocent law abiding Americans, it would be much better to spend the money on proven security methods that are actually directed toward detecting criminals. Good old fashioned police work, investigation, detective work has a chance of preventing terroristic acts by uncovering plots BEFORE any terrorist ever reaches an airport or a bridge or a subway or an electrical plant or a hospital, etc, etc, etc.

    Putting money into investigation and improved communication between investigative agencies might actually be useful in preventing terroristic acts at any target terrorists might choose. Continuing to hemorrhage money on new and improved scanners to use on the millions of innocent people who travel through our airports daily will do nothing to prevent terroristic acts at the airport and doesn’t even begin to address preventing terroristic acts in the multitude of other possible targets.

  • doctork

    Let me be contrarian. Why have there been no incidents. Let us eliminate the machines. Would the US use Israel methods? Others? I suggest until there are better ways, leave the scanners in place.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Israeli methods are also abusive. Unless you’re the “right” type. If you’re the “wrong” type, watch out. You’ll be roughed up (I know people to whom this has happened). And if you’re a peace activist, forget it: you’ll be strip-searched in a back room. Just ask Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who’s written publicly about her experience.

    As for the scanners and gropes, I’m still waiting for an answer to my question.

  • SoBeSparky

    Are the body scanners a deterrent? Of course, one can reason, there might be clever ways to avoid detection. The question remains though, just how clever and omniscient are terrorists hell bent on destroying the USA?

    Aren’t body scanners another level of a threat to terrorists in their attempt on mayhem in airspace?

    Cannot the fact we know of no foiled attempt as a result of scanners be taken two ways? Is it not logical that these well-publicized body scanners in fact prevented attempts by deterring criminals?

    (Remember all the brouhaha over seeing “private body parts” in body scanners? It was a magnificent PR campaign warning terrorists than almost everything in underwear can be seen.)

    Ask law enforcement. Deterrents are always preferable to stopping a crime in progress.

  • jerryatric

    I am 1 of those who went through a background check & have the “special” pass.
    Big deal! You go to a machine that 1/2 the time does not work properly, if at all.
    Next, some areas are not well marked & try to get a TSA agent’s attention, HAH!
    Also not all airports use these retina or card readers, but generally the check through is more liberal.
    But when everything works it is a pleasure, by comparison

  • Lisa Simeone

    Still waiting for an answer to my question, posed hours ago. Scanners weren’t in use en masse before October 30, 2010. Where were all the terrorist attacks?

  • SoBeSparky

    This attempt at logic baffles me. The frequency of attacks is not the issue. Just one attack is too many. How much is a life worth? Or do we design systems with the thought we can stomach a 9-11 attack every so many years?

    There have been bombs on aircraft, in underwear and shoes, thankfully unsuccessful.

    Put another way, do you want to be on the aircraft which is the 0.00000000000000001% with a live bomb? (Of course, I see no factual basis for the 17 places after the decimal point.)

    Alternatively, why not issue a press release saying all bomb-sniffing dogs are being retired. We no longer consider bombs a threat. That will calm your nerves next time you board, right?

  • Lisa Simeone

    The logic baffles you? Then let’s try again: in all the years of commercial aviation — over 60 — when we weren’t getting scanned and groped, why weren’t planes being blown out of the sky left and right? We are being told, constantly since 9/11, that The Terrorists Are Everywhere. Okay. So if the terrorists are everywhere, why weren’t they bombing us when the oh-so-essential scanners weren’t in use?

    Furthermore, there is abundant evidence that the scanners are easily thwarted. And that they throw out false positives more than 50% of the time. This has been demonstrated over and over and over and over and over and over again. Does this evidence mean nothing?

    As for my “nerves,” they’re already calm. I know that I face more danger of being killed every time I get in a car than I do from a terrorist attack.

  • SoBeSparky

    You completely ignored the whole point–the deterrent issue.

    Also, all systems should strive to improve their reliability. It’s called “continuous improvement” or Kaizen. Perhaps you should investigate this concept which apparently is foreign to you.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Sorry, same question applies. Where’s your deterrent effect when there was no supposed deterrent — the scanners? Between September 11, 2001 and October 30, 2010, when we weren’t being scanned, where were all the supposed attackers?

    Edited to add: And I already answered the “continuous improvement” proposition earlier. When you have a technology that gives false positives 54% of the time, that’s not continuous improvement.

  • SoBeSparky

    There have been bombs. Ask the relatives of those on Pan Am 103 or Avianca 203 or UTA 772 or Korean Air 858. We do not need explosions “left and right” to take preventative measures. Your frequency of event argument is completely specious. Your argument is that the loss of several thousand lives is de minimis.

    I value human life, every one of them.

    You tell the relatives of the above flights that all bomb-sniffing dogs have been retired because bombs no longer are a threat.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Ah, yes, I don’t value life. I’m a meanie.

    You claim you value life, but apparently you don’t value what makes life worth living. You’re willing to hand over your rights, one by one, to any authority figure who tells you to, all for the illusion of safety.

    You wanna be safe 100% of the time always everywhere? Stay home cowering under the bed. Oops, no, on second thought, that’ll get you killed a lot faster than a terrorist attack will — more people are killed by household appliances in this country every year than are killed by terrorists.

    As for Lockerbie, etc. those were bombs in the hold. Not in people’s boobs and butts. And most of the cargo and checked luggage is still going into the hold unscreened. Fact.

    Though since we’re talking about the sanctity of life and keeping ourselves safe, perhaps you’re also in favor of body-cavity searches to get on a plane. After all, can’t take any chances!

  • Charlie Funk

    No one wants to use the “p” word but part of what makes the Israeli security system as effective as it is are the multiple levels of personal interaction with initially seemngly innocuous questions and evaluation of the passenger’s response and reaction followed by ever more focused questions and further evaluation of responses.
    Ethnic, racial, or other similar profiling criteria are almost universally criticized. Profiling to a known set of benchmarks based on how a malefactor behaves ought not be put in the same category.

  • SoBeSparky

    You assume everything is black or white. There were many deterrents between 9-11 and 10-30-10, including bomb sniffing dogs, metal detectors, passenger profiling and screening, etc. This is the same black and white argument you use on planes not blowing up “left and right,” therefore there is no bomb threat. Specious.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Nein, liebchen. I know there were deterrents between 9/11 and 10/30/10, and I’m arguing that we go back to them. They were sufficient.

    Afraid of terrorists? Don’t fly.

  • SoBeSparky

    Your facts are dead wrong. The Pan Am bomb was in checked luggage, not cargo. The luggage did not go through the 100% screening in effect now. The bombing was easily preventable. That makes the loss of life senseless. Or de minimis in your case.

  • Lisa Simeone

    There is no 100% screening now. Doesn’t exist.

    And I didn’t say Lockerbie was cargo; I said “in the hold.” Checked luggage goes in the hold.

    Edited to add: TSA screeners themselves admit that most of the luggage is still going into the hold unscreened:
    Click the links for their testimony.

  • TonyA_says

    I think that if we respect, engage and dialogue with all the other people of the World, there would be less reason for terrorists and less fear overall. I am currently traveling in Asia and people here do not have the same negative reaction to their own TSAs. They are strict, courteous and respectful. I even engaged in conversation with two HKG female agents when my belt set off the magnetometer even after the supervisor told me that it should be ok. So the female agents that took their wand and checked me all over. There’s no nudeoscopes in Hong Kong, Japan or any SE Asian country in my itinerary. I’m in hot and balmy (87 F) Manila right now and not missing JKF, LGA or Grand Central. They will quickly check your bag and waist line here at hotels, malls and airports for guns, but there’s no feeling around your junk. And as far as I know, this country has a Muslim separatist movement that has a history of terror events. The best move for our TSA is to simply go back to magnetomers and wands and dump all of those insulting scanners. The rest of the World has it right. We have it wrong but are too proud to change.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Isreali security: shibboleth. Already addressed this earlier in the thread. And bombs still go off in Israel, just not on planes. There’s no such thing as 100% security. It’s a fantasy.

  • john4868

    Gotta love people on here that want no security. The simple forgetting that small terrorist cells are hard to detect (just ask the folks in OKC).The ignorance that TSA is the last line of defense. The laughable stance that Israel style profiling would actually work here (you can’t just choose the pieces you want and there’s no way the American Media and ACLU stand for profiling).

    I used to do threat assessment and mitigation for a living. It has to be an ongoing process and what worked before doesn’t mean it works now (threats evolve). You have to look forward and understand future threats. Sometimes not getting tested means that you are effective not that you are wasting money.

    If anyone doesn’t believe that, ask how many pilots are going to turn their airplane over to a hijacker (past practice and the way we used to do things). My neighbor who is a commercial pilot laughs that her plane will dance before he ever gets to the door. I’ve told the story on here before about a local bank that installed a theft deterrent and hasn’t been robbed since then but almost every other bank in the area has at least been tested. Based on the logic posted here, the bank wasted their money. I personally think it was well spent.

  • Lisa Simeone

    No one here has ever argued “no security.” Straw man argument.

  • john4868

    I’m sorry but proposing that we return to metal detectors only is an argument for no security. Metal detectors don’t detect the most numerous current threats (Ceramic knives, plastic guns, explosive devices). Again, the threat has evolved. What worked before doesn’t work now.

  • Lisa Simeone

    And scanners don’t detect them either, which has been demonstrated time and time and time again.

    But why don’t we just make it easy and require everyone to undergo a body-cavity search? That’s what 1/3 of Americans polled say they’d be in favor of. Gotta love the Land of the Free.

    Edited to add: And how, pray tell, is a knife, ceramic or otherwise, going to bring down a plane?

  • Annapolis2

    Credit cards can be sharpened into razor blades. Shoelaces can be garrotes. Some people can kill with their bare hands. And a man set off a rather large explosion on German television with the objects he snuck through a body scanner.

    If you’re letting people onto the plane, then you’re letting weapons onto the plane. Now, can we start talking about security measures that aren’t pretend? Like using intelligence work and police investigation to find bad guys instead of obsessing about the shampoo and sex organs of innocent travelers?

  • y_p_w

    Just as an aside, infrared is radiation. So is visible light. So it wouldn’t be correct that these new machines don’t emit radiation. Infrared also has the potential to burn bare skin although it won’t penetrate like ultraviolet.

  • Annapolis2

    Except body scanners aren’t a deterrent, because it’s easy to be certain that you will board a plane without going through a body scanner. I use to make sure I’m not going to be forced into one of those offensive machines, and I fly about 30 times per year. I used to fly twice that, but I don’t pose naked for strangers so I started taking Amtrak. If you want to fly scanner-free, try the Southwest terminal at BWI, the Southwest terminal at FLL, the Virgin America terminal at BOS, or any of hundreds of other scanner-free gates.

  • frostysnowman

    Yes, this.

  • pauletteb

    I seem to remember that box cutters were sufficient on 9/11.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Oh, I was waiting for this. Let’s try again: boxcutters were permissible on planes then. And boxcutters didn’t bring down any planes. The aircraft themselves were commandeered, something that won’t happen again since cockpit doors have been secured and passengers will no longer silently submit (which is more than I can say for TSA apologists).

  • bodega3

    Did the deterrents back then help on 9/11? Your comment of being afraid of terriorts and not flying is pretty insensative considering the number of people NOT on a plane that were killed on 9/11. We have security in a number of public places and it isn’t going to change, but get stronger. Sad, yes!

  • Lisa Simeone

    bodega3, methinks you missed the irony in my statement. We who are opposed to the abuses of the National Security State are constantly being told, “Don’t like it? Don’t fly.” So I turned that around.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    Trained dogs and national guardsmen/women is still, I believe, the best security we can have.

    Dogs are able to be trained to sniff out a multitude of things: drugs, bombs, guns, etc. and they’re MUCH LESS invasive than the average TSA agent. Have them walk the line of a terminal, passengers have to slow down there anyway to have their ID and tickets checked so take advantage of that and have the dogs do their stuff. Most of these dogs are trained in a different language (it used to be German but I think once that became well-known, it was changed to something else and I can’t recall which one) so travelers won’t be able to divert them from their task. They can also walk around the checked baggage to look for anything untoward as it’s going along the conveyor belt.

    Also, if it’s a national guardsman/woman, they’ve already been trained FAR better than the average TSA agent, who, let’s just say it, is no better than a clown in a TSA uniform, and will be much more professional, respectful and courteous while doing it.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    Lisa, you’re usually so rational and I love your posts but…

    Of course, TSA is going to say dogs aren’t practical. They need to justify their jobs and bloated payroll! Dogs are the single most practical way to do it. They can be trained to sniff out bombs made out of different substances and would do it much more effectively than TSAs current method, which is a swab that detects the materials (and gets it wrong if regular hand lotion is in the proximity of “whatever”).

  • Lisa Simeone

    I’m not eager to hand over the already abusive screening methods to the military. In addition, as plenty of dog trainers have said, the notion that dogs are the answer is false:

    I wish it weren’t so, because I love dogs and for a long time, I, too, thought they were the answer.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Nancy, thank you. But it’s not the TSA saying dogs aren’t practical; on the contrary, they’re pushing them. It’s the dog trainers themselves who are saying dogs aren’t practical:

  • TonyA_says

    In JFK Terminal 7 go to the leftmost part of the building that is designated First Class only British Airways. The TSA has one inspection line in a tiny corridor that ends close to the BA FC lounge. But even us lower class passengers can use this TSA line that has no room for a scanner, just a magnetometer.

  • john4868

    If you want to eliminate security check points as theater, why not just come out and say that? At least be up front and honest about it. Here’s the fact: intelligence is never 100% and due to constitutional restrictions (which is a very good thing) on collecting intelligence, it may help mitigate but can’t prevent all attacks. A defense lacking depth is doomed to fail which is why the TSA has multiple layers of security in place currently.

  • Michael__K

    It doesn’t take much cleverness or omniscience to exploit the black-on-black problem, which has been pretty well publicized and documented.

    The scanners are indicative of a huge blind spot in our airport security which mostly ignores all attack scenarios that don’t involve a passenger (and only a passenger) smuggling deadly contraband on board an aircraft.

    If you are a terrorist who wants to kill lots of random air travellers, there’s no need to deal with TSA screening. Among other issues, there are plenty of sitting ducks waiting in line to be screened in the unsecure areas of the airport. The LAX shootings and the Domodedovo shootings demonstrated that this is a real vulnerability that terrorists can and do exploit.

    Yet only the Israeli’s (AFAIK) do airport perimeter security — and they’ve been cognisant of this vulnerability and actively addressing it for 30+ years. Meanwhile we continue to ignore this (and other loopholes) and focus our resources on the one aspect of security that already worked pretty well.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Mr. Baker, because we don’t. Again you’re presenting a straw man argument.

    As for the TSA’s “layers,” baklava is better.

  • Susan Richart

    Things have changed since then, Paulette – or didn’t you know that? Cockpit doors have been hardened, crews have been told not to cooperate with the bad guys and passengers will act.

  • Lisa Simeone

    “Anyone who wants to rule men first tries to humiliate them, to trick them out of their rights and their capacity for resistance, until they are as powerless before him as animals.” -Elias Canetti

  • Susan Richart

    Did you formerly work for DHS/TSA? I ask because current and former employees of those agencies are about the only people on the face of the earth who believe the scanners are worthwhile. Almost any other aviation security experts will tell you that “security” the TSA way doesn’t work and is a waste of resources.

  • bodega3

    There was no irony in your comment considering the planes on 9/11 were used as weapons. You can’t go back to pre 9/11 security. You can’t go back to 1950 when people on planes were nicely dressed and better mannered. You can’t go back to a Leave to a Beaver life. Sadly, security is a part of our lives. I want what security we have to live with to be thorough, yet safe and unharming.

  • Lisa Simeone

    “. . . thorough, yet safe and unharming.”

    Well, that horse is long out of the barn.

    People are being physically assaulted as a condition of getting on a plane. You’re okay with that? You call that “safe and unharming”?

  • john4868

    @Lisa_Simeone:disqus How can you complain that the TSA is nothing but security theater and then advocate eliminating the one tool that they have that actually has a chance at catching someone?

    Sorry but advocating for the elimination of scanners and the return to metal detectors only is advocating for eliminating security check points whether you want to acknowledge that or not.

  • Lisa Simeone

    God, we’ve answered this umpteen times already. The scanners are worthless. Countless actual security people with actual security experience have affirmed this. Multiple demonstrations have proved that the scanners are easily thwarted. And that they have a 54% false positive rate. Yet you insist on ignoring this evidence. I give up.

  • john4868

    Never have / Never will… I’m no fan of the TSA but I understand that they have an impossible job. They have to be right 100% of the time. The bad guys only have to be right once. The entire time that they are doing that people, who don’t have the ability to create a security plan or the access to the intelligence that the plan is based on, choose to make derogatory comments without providing a workable solution that addresses all of the known security threats. If someone can create a plan that will address all of the known threats without scanners or the TSA and work within the same constraints that DHS and TSA have, I’m all for it. I have yet to see anyone propose one. When they do, I’ll be the first in line to help them.

    Oh and those security “experts” you point to, always wish away constraints, like the constitution or the ACLU or funding levels, that the TSA is still bound by.

  • Lisa Simeone

    The TSA obviously isn’t bound by the Constitution, since they sh*t on it every day.

  • john4868

    Lisa Simeone I’m so glad you feel that way but interestingly they find things on people that wouldn’t have been caught in a metal detector. By definition, that means that they aren’t “worthless.”

    Oh and the “countless security people” you bring up, have yet to propose a workable solution that has any chance of catching known threats … like underwear bombs which in my recollection have actually been used (oh and the ATF recreated the bomb that fissiled and it should have gone off so don’t use that argument either)…. that the scanners have a small chance of catching. We have even started talking about technologically possible devices that we have seen used like completely polymer fire arms.

    In my book, a small chance beats no chance.

  • john4868

    Actually … as I’ve written time and again, they adhere to the constitutional limitations imposed on inspections. You may wish that checkpoints were not constitutionally protected inspections just like DUI checkpoints, border crossings etc but wishing it differently doesn’t make it so.

    Why do you think that the ACLU hasn’t been able to get a single case against the TSA to go through? If there ever was an organization that takes protecting individual rights to the extreme. It is the ACLU>

  • john4868

    And before you say it…. here’s the quote from the ACLU’s own website (

    We’re all familiar with searches at the airport. Courts have held that they are permissible under a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that a government officer have at least a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before she may detain an individual or search his belongings. That exception allows airport security officials to conduct suspicionless safety checks for the sole purpose of ensuring that a passenger is not carrying weapons or explosives.

  • DavidYoung2

    Ahhhh… the weekly post for TSA-snivelers to vent….. zzzzzzzz….

  • john4868

    And in the case above…I actually agree with the ACLU and I’m glad they are moving forward with it. Arresting a traveler solely based on flashcards he was carrying was an abuse.

  • BillCCC

    I am not sure if the body scanners have actually stopped any weapons from getting through since we cannot be sure if they actually deterred anyone or not.

    I do have a problem with the so-called ‘poll’ being mentioned in the last few days.

    This ‘poll’, if it was ever carried out(which I find hard to believe since I could only find references to the results but not the actual survey). There was no luck searching the Harris Interactive site either.

    Here is what I did find.
    “A new survey commissioned by Infowars and conducted by Harris
    Interactive has found that almost one third of American adults would
    accept a “TSA body cavity search” in order to fly, with a majority of
    Americans also feeling a law that would make disobeying a TSA agent in
    any public place illegal is reasonable.”

    “Abbreviated Methodology
    This survey was conducted online within the United States by
    Harris Interactive on behalf of Free Speech Systems from November 5-7
    among 2,059 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on
    a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling
    error can be calculated.”

    I could find no links to Harris Interactive that mention this survey and on the infowars website the link to results send you to a document on I did not click the link.

    Infowars is a large conspiracy website run by Alex Jones.

    According to Wikipedia

    “Mainstream sources have described Jones as a conservative,a right-wing, conspiracy theorist, and a libertarian. Jones describes himself as a libertarian and rejects being described as a right-winger. He has also called himself a paleoconservative and an “aggressive constitutionalist”. Jones has been the center of many controversies, such as the one surrounding his actions and statements about gun control after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and has accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and faking the Moon landings. He asserts that the US government is run by a global conspiracy of cultists who believe that by using the drug DMT they can contact interdimensional aliens called “clockwork elves”.”

    I think that the source should be considered. I am not implying that such a survey does not exist but before this survey becomes fact perhaps Chris can contact Harris Interactive to see if they are aware of this survey.

  • bodega3

    If you stop yelling all the time and pay attention you might understand what others feel about the subject you are so concerned about. I didn’t say what we have is perfect. But I have also said several times before, I don’t know how to improve it. We aren’t going back in time to having nothing.

  • bodega3

    This is just like the medical community. One group says mammograms are safe. Another says they aren’t. One group says one test is fine every other year, another says yearly testing is needed. We all have to decide on what side we feel is right and go with it.

  • Susan Richart

    “They have to be right 100% of the time. The bad guys only have to be right once.” You must be related to one of my senators because that’s the same line he uses. :-)

    All the known threats can never be addressed. If they were to be addressed, air travel as we know it would come to an end.

    And BTW, your bank analogy was flawed as it can’t be applied to airports.


    I still maintain it is who is getting on the plane and not what is getting on the plane. Of course security has to be alert in case a terriorist plants an object in an unsuspecting passengers carry-on, but unlikely he or she can plant it on the body of the person without their knowledge.

  • Zod

    Not only should they get rid of the scanners, they should get a refund from the companies they purchased them from!

  • john4868

    Actually @susanrichart:disqus if you had read the prior post on it, you’d see that it is directly related. The bank installed a bullet proof “airlock” with a metal detector in it. The inner door won’t open if the metal detector goes off unless its overridden by an employee. If they don’t know you, they don’t open it. The inner door also won’t open if the outer door is open (like wise the outer won’t open until the inner is closed).

    Its a little over the top but the bank hasn’t been robbed since it was installed. So the question much like airports, have they not been robbed because the airlock is there or just because banks aren’t robbed everyday? Since other banks in the area have been, I’d say it working. Just like our airport security hasn’t been openly tested since 9/11 but terrorist have continued to attempt actions on the US through weaker points (foreign security).

  • Susan Richart

    You’re trying to compare apples and oranges. If every single bank in the country were outfitted with “airlocks” and none were robbed, then it would be a valid comparison.

    BTW, “TSA has to get it right 100% of the time”, TSA didn’t get it right this time:

    “The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing to a Missouri family after agents at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport detained a three-year-old child confined to a wheelchair, took away her stuffed animal, and refused to allow her parents to film agents performing a body search.

    “TSA regrets inaccurate guidance was provided to this family during screening and offers its apology,” a TSA spokesman told Fox News in response to a story about the Forck family’s ordeal.”

    TSA makes so many mistakes every single day that any terrorist organizations wanting to do damage could just walk right on through the front door – if they were so inclined.

  • Susan Richart


    We’re sorry. The page you are looking for could not be found.”

  • john4868

    Disqus added the “)” on to the end of the link. Delete it and you can read the article.

  • Lisa Simeone
  • Lisa Simeone

    Whoa. How can you possibly read anything I’ve ever written and come to the conclusion that I “may wish that checkpoints were not constitutionally protected”? I’m always banging the drum for civil liberties, not against them. And constantly having to explain to those people who don’t give a damn about them why they’re important.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Mr. Baker, again, I will repeat what I and so many others on this blog have already said: the same procedures that were in place before the Reign of Molestation was implemented: walk-through metal detectors (which catch, ya know, metal) and occasional wanding. No scanning. No groping. No pawing. And all the usual, normal, non-civil-liberties-busting things that have always been used to deter crime: responsible police work, responsible intelligence.

    We’ve said this repeatedly — see Daisiemae’s comment as an example — yet you keep claiming we haven’t offered anything.

    And I’ll say it again: so afraid there’s a terrorist hiding around every corner? Don’t fly. Stay home cowering under the bed. The rest of us have lives to lead.

    And when one of these days, a bomb goes off someplace other than an airport, then you can come out in favor of scanning and groping every time we leave the house.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Okay, bodega, I’m whispering now. Can you hear it?

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    Actually, *your* attempt at logic–the most risibly weak attempt at it that I’ve seen in a long, long while, in fact–completely baffles me, SoBeSparky. But let’s use it anyway, plugging in some actual, solid statistical deaths–airborne ones at that. Perhaps it will help. Here goes:

    The frequency of plane crashes in America every year–and the number of Americans killed in said plane crashes–is not the issue. Just *one* plane crash–just one American life lost–is too many. How much is a life worth? Or do we design systems with the thought that we can stomach Americans’ deaths in plane crashes *every single year*.

    [Sidebar: The most recent statistics pertaining to Americans killed in plane crashes: 450 in 2010; 478 in 2009. Source: .

    As opposed to the numbers of Americans killed in airborne terrorist attacks since 9/11: Zero. In fact, the plane crash deaths in two years alone far exceed the total number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks of *any* kind since 9/11, and let’s be generous and define those very broadly so as to include deaths that were completely unrelated to Islamic extremists: 5 died from anthrax attacks (2001); 2 died in an attack on a Knoxville church (2008); 2 killed by members of the Minutemen American Defense group in Arizona; 1 abortion provider killed in Wichita, KS (2009); 1 guard stabbed to death at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. (2009); 2 deaths in Austin when a man crashed his light plane into a government building over a dispute with the IRS (2009); and a neo-Malthusian terrorist who was shot by police during a hostage incident in Silver Spring, MD (2009). Grand total of terrorism-related American deaths in the 8 years between 2001 and 2009, where “Terrorism” is defined as broadly as possible: 30. Again: Americans killed by airplane crash, over TWO years only: 928. Americans killed by terrorists of all kinds, not just Islamic extremists, over a period that is FOUR times that long: 30. Source: ]

    There have been incidents with aircraft–bits of the fuselage tearing away due to stress cracks; engines falling off–in which thankfully, due to the skill of the pilots and crew, no Americans died.

    Put another way, do you want to be on board one of the defective, poorly-maintained and infrequently-inspected aircraft which will kill, rounding things out, some 450 Americans per year?

    Of course you don’t. We can’t view those people as *de minimis*. So why don’t we have mandatory and thorough maintenance inspections of every aircraft, every age and type, at every airport, every time? You know, march a crew of blue-shirted people with important-looking badges out to the plane–never mind if they’re properly trained, never mind if they might damage said aircraft or behave inappropriately while checking it or steal something from it–which they will go over with a fine-toothed comb. They will photograph every plane’s wiring harness to ensure they don’t resemble “amateur rigs of wires and hardware bought at Radio Shack”, as was found in a number of Boeing 787’s, grounding the entire fleet. They will x-ray-scan the whole fuselage to check for the stress fractures that could cause depressurization and death. They will physically check the hydraulic systems, because even though they’re perfectly fine the vast majority of the time, these brave blue-shirted airplane-checkers have to be right ALL the time. And so on and so on.

    And if the flying public is inconvenienced by all of this, well, they can just choose to not fly, can’t they? It’s important to have these plane-checkers going through everything, just to be sure, to make everyone feel safe. To have them fly our friendly skies, comfortable in the knowledge that even as flocks of ducks might fly into a turbine, or lightening might strike the fuselage, or one of any number of forces majeure might occur that leads to Americans dying, at least they’ll be heading off to meet their Maker secure in the knowledge that their lovely, thoughtful government spent billions of dollars and countless hours (and weeks and years) of people’s time to put on such a wonderful show in order to make them feel safe.

    De omnibus dubitandum.

  • Susan Richart

    Oops, “intelligence is never 100%” but TSA has to be right 100% of the time. Doesn’t equate.

  • Lisa Simeone

    “for the sole purpose of ensuring that a passenger is not carrying weapons or explosives.”

    A narrow definition that the TSA violates every day. They paw people’s genitals. They force women to remove breast prostheses. They go through people’s personal documents, financial records, checkbooks, iphones. These actions have all been documented.

  • john4868

    Umm… Its called defense in depth… If the intel side misses a plot, the inspection side can catch it… In you world of no security and intel only, there’s no chance to catch it.

  • john4868

    Actually … if you read what I wrote, you’d understand that the TSA checkpoint ARE constitutional. Your wishing that they some how aren’t constitutional doesn’t change the fact that the ACLU even acknowledges the fact that they are.

  • john4868

    Simply pointing to your own blog (and using Chris’s site to promote it) doesn’t make it so.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Yeah, by all means, don’t click any of the links. Don’t check out the abundant evidence we provide.

  • john4868

    @Lisa_Simeone:disqus December 25, 2009 …. The threat evolved. Look the date up. New threats = new protection requirements.

  • Susan Richart

    Link now works with “)” removal. Thank you.

    The courts, however, have never ruled on the use of WBI or the humilating/degrading “enhanced” or “resolution” pat downs. DHS/TSA have made it virtually impossible to take such an action to the courts.

  • Carchar

    In Singapore, I didn’t realize I had dropped my jacket after going through security. A male agent literally ran after me with the jacket and handed it to me with a smile.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Yes, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a seriously mentally ill young man who never had a chance in hell of blowing up anything, whose own father repeatedly tried to warn the authorities, but our crack intelligence teams, which are supposed to be working together, ignored him.

    And right after that — presto! Michael Chertoff and Rapiscan just happened to be waiting in the wings with their super duper scanners. Quelle coincidence. Nah, there’s no money involved here. Nobody’s getting rich off these scanners, and then bribing the worthless wankers in Congress. Perish the thought!

    And anyway, who cares that they don’t work, that they’ve been proven, repeatedly, not to work, that the EU won’t use them because they’re pieces of sh*t, that the TSA is now pulling them from US airports and replacing them with the even worse MMW scanners (54% false positive rate)? Who cares about any of these pesky facts? The point is that they make people who think A Terrorist Is Hiding Around Every Corner feel better. So of course let’s use them. Because making those people feel better is more important than actually doing anything useful.

  • Lisa Simeone

    TSA executive admits not a single terrorist-related arrest has resulted from whole-body scanners
    by CHARLIE LEOCHA on MAY 17, 2012

  • Susan Richart

    NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE here is arguing for no security.

    However, if you want to talk about “defense in depth”, I think this makes good sense:

    as well:

    “Layered security. Security integration. Defense in depth. For years now, cybersecurity professionals and vendors have been preaching sermons on the merits of an enterprise security strategy that mixes a variety of tools and technologies to create a complex barrier that hackers can’t penetrate. “Layered security” has become as much a part of industry parlance as authentication or encryption.

    There’s just one problem: It isn’t working….

    “The industry has been approaching the cybersecurity problem like the TSA has been approaching the air-security problem,” Liu says. “First the bad guys brought guns on board, so they put in metal detectors. Then somebody put a bomb in his shoe, and now we all have to take our shoes off. Then they found liquid explosives, so now we can’t bring on any liquids. It’s one problem, one solution, with no real thought to the big picture.”

    If you can compare banks to airports, I can compare IT security to the TSA’s “security.”

  • Susan Richart

    What has been caught in a scanner that is of any threat to an airplane? Plastic daggers?

  • bodega3

    But to turn this around, could the security be keeping those who wish to sneak something onboard away? Come on Lisa……..

  • Susan Richart

    A sophisticated terrorist or terrorist organization is going to have no trouble defeating the TSA at checkpoints. Could it be keeping away the kind of “terrorists” that are being taken down by stings? The kinds of terrorists that would be taken down by passengers if they did get on a plane? Perhaps.

  • Guest

    I’m an old grandma and I’ve got stuff past the TSA. If I can do it, surely a terrorist can.

  • Susan Richart
  • SoBeSparky

    You are missing the point. Before 9-11, terrorism brought down quite a few planes. Since various security schemes have been implemented after that date, you are correct, deaths have dramatically decreased. What does this prove? Security measures put into place checking baggage, carry-ons and persons have worked pretty well. The fact they are improved over time is an effort at continuous improvement, a necessary force in all industry to produce better products and services, including travel. The health of any economic activity largely depends on continuous improvement. Tourism world-wide directly creates over $1 trillion of economic activity, without considering the multiplier effect. A decrease in tourism because of lack of confidence in safety would cause economic havoc, much like after 9-11.

    You are obviously unaware that many pilots still do a walk-around of their equipment. It is a habit they learned when obtaining their pilot license. They, and only they, are the ultimate decision-makers if a plane flies. Self-interest is a good motivator.

    You carried the pre-flight safety process to the absurd, proving nothing. There is in place a highly structured system of aircraft maintenance checks, approved by manufacturers and the FAA. They are proposed by the Maintenance Review Board as delineated by the Air Transport Assn. This includes the Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Program. Four levels of checks, A, B, C and D, the Heavy Maintenance Visit (HMV). This system has proven itself to the point there were no domestic deaths last year on commercial aircraft. Clearly this is a satisfactory result. The objective has been reached.

  • SoBeSparky

    Sorry, your source being an internet blog dedicated to discrediting the TSA creates no confidence in accuracy or fairness. I trust an internet blog as long as it appears in pixels on my screen. And that is the maximum length of time I trust them.

    Find some credible and factual named sources. At many airports, I personally must drop off my luggage to be sent through massive machinery in plain view. Luggage is screened. My bags have been opened numerous times with pocket-sized notices left behind by the TSA. Yes, there are exceptions when the TSA inspectors did not do their job and were fired, like in any business. The TSA is mandated by federal law to screen 100% of luggage going in the hold. I guess we can fantasize there is a world-wide conspiracy to fake luggage screening, based on the DaVinci drawings of flying machines, obscure circles of stones in Scotland, and, of course, the Vatican Bank. Some will believe that as absurd as it sounds, just like X-raying all aircraft before every takeoff.

    Remember too, that this is a system of multiple measures to improve security. Luggage inspection is one measure. So is body scanners. There are several more.

  • Lee

    Pre-Check is not scanner less. Bags are scanned with the exception of removing laptops from the bag. People still walk through the detectors. Coats and shoes sometimes stay on. So do you really travel or just make stuff up to keep people pissed at the TSA ?

  • TonyA_says

    Why, are you sure all the relatives of the Pan Am Lockerbee victims favor what the TSA is doing right now? And, with all due respect to spouses, kids, and lovers of 911 victims, some of which I and my family know from Southwest Connecticut, I do not understand why any of you have more right to influence what the TSA does or does not do compared to an actual passenger who is forced to undergo such humiliating treatment.
    Just a few days ago when I used the supposed First Class only BA section in JFK’s Terminal 7, I was in line between a Hassidic Jew couple and another Muslim couple. Note that I made my assumptions from their rather obvious wardrobes.The line was very slow because an old man on a wheelchair could not easily get through the magnetometer. They did not suspect his wheelchair to be an IED so they let it through. I had a hard time getting my laptop out of my bag so I asked the Muslim couple to please get ahead of me. Oh dear, the lady TSA agent commanded the vieled woman to show her palms and did a residue test while another agent went through her belongings again and again. They found nothing but the couple was humiliated. Everyone else just casually walked through the magnetometer. The British chap behind me was complaining that the special first class line was too slow. (Of course none of us were on FC because I saw the Jewish couple and the Brit inside the Business lounge.) I felt bad about the Muslim woman, so I asked the lady TSA agent if there was any food or cooking ingredient that would be mistaken by the machine as an explosive. She mumbled incomprehensive stuff to me so I just moved on. The point I was trying to make is what triggered her to select the Muslim woman over anybody else in the line to do the hand swab for explosives. I do not believe it is right to single out certain people because of their obvious beliefs. Even the 911 victims families we know would not agree with this kind of treatment. I agree we must value ALL human life EQUALLY as my good old grade school teachers have taught me that we are all equal in the eyes of god.

  • Annapolis2

    Then why do we still fly with unscreened cargo in the hold? Why are we buying machines that use carcinogenic radiation to create naked images of teenage girls while not bothering to close the cargo loophole? Here, please read all about it:

  • Susan Richart


  • MarkieA

    “Just one attack is too many.”

    Here’s one of the ways in which we disagree. I’m willing to risk the “one attack” in order to hold on to the rights guaranteed to me by the Constitution. It’s not worth the slide towards wherever we’re going – Big Brother, TSA at the Mall, whatever. As stated many times here before – and it’s something I wholeheartedly believe – the Government won’t take our rights from us all at once – no one would stand for that – they’ll slowly erode them over years and years. You wouldn’t recognize the country your great-grandchildren live in, if this keeps happening.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Again, you obviously can’t be bothered read the entry nor click the links to the evidence we present.

    And you’re wrong about the TSA screening 100% of the luggage in the hold. Yes, Congress mandated that, and the TSA still can’t do it, which if you bothered to research this stuff you’d know.

    Good grief, you people are pathetic.

  • Annapolis2

    Credible sources for the fact that dogs can not effectively screen for explosives in an airport environment: How about the Government Accountability Office, as reported by USA Today?

  • Annapolis2

    I want to eliminate security checkpoints because they are theater.

    I want to eliminate security checkpoints because they are theater.
    I want to eliminate security checkpoints because they are theater.

    I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I’ll happily sign on to that view. The airport Maginot line is pretend, it’s just magical thinking. Bombings outside the checkpoint, or, wonder of wonders, outside the airport, would leave people just as dead. Checkpoints serve no meaningful purpose, but they function as psychological reassurance, so I’m fine with going through a beeping doorway or some other pretend nonsense because it makes ignorant people feel safe. I’m just not willing to sacrifice my sexual autonomy and let a filthy loser rub my sex organs or take naked pictures of me.

    A few days ago a rah-rah security person wrote to me enthusiastically about how great it would be to have dogs sniff our crotches instead of these molesters rubbing our crotches at checkpoints, and my response to him was: “Well, then you’d have one half of your dog-and-pony show right there.”

  • Annapolis2

    But I don’t understand why you think body scanners would catch a bad guy – bad guys don’t need to go through body scanners. They can just choose flights from airports and terminals that don’t have body scanners installed, which is how I do it when I fly. Only innocent travelers have to go through body scanners, because travelers actually might not be able to find a scanner-free airport to get them where they need to go. But it’s a trivial thing to gain access to the passenger compartment of a commercial plane while guaranteeing you won’t go through a body scanner. So we can be absolutely, totally certain that the TSA’s body scanning program can never foil a plot.

  • MarkieA

    Interesting sidebar to this. Have you heard about the so-called “Constitution-Free Zone? Language is eerily familiar to what you quote. Anywhere within a 100 miles from the border, any federal agent can legally stop ANYONE (citizen or non-citizen) and conduct a suspicionless inspection of of their electronics (laptops, iPads, etc.). And guess what they define as The Border. The entire rim around the country! The border means border of the ocean as well. So, for instance, almost the entire state of Maryland is in this zone. It is estimated that 2/3 of the US population lives in this zone.

  • Annapolis2

    I would love for security to be safe and unharming too. So we have something in common! What’s odd, though, is that we are so incredibly safe from terrorist attacks that we are in more danger of being killed by our own furniture. That’s a fact. There are so many ways that our safety dollars could be spent that would save so many lives! We should be spending to shore up levees, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and improve roads. So why do you consider it impossible to educate and convince the American people to stop chasing after ghosts?

  • MarkieA

    Perhaps a bit off-topic, but maybe not. I submit that we’ve made the airplanes – not the airports – too difficult of a target for terrorists. Let’s be honest; most of these guys aren’t rocket scientists. They’re like any predator; they’ll go for the easy prey. Right now, planes are too hard. So, maybe they’ll try bus stops. Or shopping malls. Or schools. Or office buildings. There’s no doubt that terrorists think this way; the evidence is all over the Middle East. Depends upon your politics as to whether or not you believe that attacks like this are in our future. Point is, with the TSA “protecting us” from terrorists, I can easily see the situation wherein TSA – or the next anti-terrorist Government agency – inserts themselves into any of these venues “for our protection”.

  • BillCCC

    The link to the poll results is at the end of the article. As I stated in my post I did not click that link.

  • BillCCC

    He is referencing the exact same poll.

  • Lisa Simeone

    MarkieA, indeed, they already have. The TSA’s odious and aptly named VIPR teams have infested all modes of transportation, not just airports.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Yes, I know. What I’m saying is that Jonathan Turley is about as solid a legal scholar as you will ever find. He’s not a conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones (who still, despite his admittedly off-the-wall ideas and wacked-out rants, at least cares about civil liberties more than some of the people commenting in this thread). If Turley thinks the poll has some merit, it might be worth taking seriously. (Presumably he has clicked the link, which clicking seems to be necessary before anyone tries to discredit the poll).

  • SoBeSparky

    I never asserted survivors would approve everything TSA is doing. Why do people present conclusions never stated and then strike them down?

    My questions was: “You tell the relatives of the above flights that all bomb-sniffing dogs have been retired because bombs no longer are a threat.” This has nothing to do with undignified treatment or body scanners. Come on.

  • SoBeSparky

    The article does NOT say that at all. It cites the TSA for not following proper training protocols in some instances (which they vowed to correct) and other process issues, not effectiveness overall. I wish people would read the entire article rather than drawing assumed conclusions from a headline.

  • y_p_w

    Airplanes are dramatic. Certainly in the Middle East there are hit and run targets of convenience. However, I fully expect that someone will target a plane because it would be more dramatic and unsettling.

  • SoBeSparky

    Again, please read complete article including sentence in last paragraph: “Since the deadline has passed, TSA is now presumably enforcing the mandate, and all air cargo from abroad is being screened in full.”

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    Chris is a founding author of TSA News. In your haste to slam Lisa, you reveal your total ignorance.

  • Annapolis2

    No, you read the complete article! “On the international level, however, TSA didn’t even try to enforce the mandate, because they have no authority to do so. Short of putting TSA screeners in every world airport or denying entry to planes with unscreened cargo, there was no way TSA could do what Congress asked. … Domestic tactics have focused on physical inspection at some point in the supply chain, but achieving this level of scanning for international cargo is not possible.”

    So, to recap, international cargo is not being scanned. It is being “screened”, which TSA has redefined to mean, “uh, we think it’s pretty safe even though no one looked inside it, x-rayed it, searched it, sniffed it, or came anywhere near it.” You are flying on passenger planes with cargo that no one has physically examined.

    In other news, TSA continues to massacre the English language with their creative euphemisms. If “screened” means nobody checked it, then why not call our genitalia “resistance” and call a sexual assault an “enhanced patdown”. But not to worry, TSA assures us that screeners rub people’s sex organs “in a respectful manner”.

  • TonyA_says

    I must have misunderstood you. Sorry. BTW, bomb sniffing dogs have not been retired. They are vital to checking cargo, baggage, and vehicles in many airports.
    I think just because bombs are a threat does not mean we need scanners since they do not detect bombs. And just because there are terrorists means we have to treat our own citizens and other people like they are one. Yes we value all human life, so we should treat passengers with dignity. How can TSA leaders go to sleep at night knowing the pain they are causing to many innocent Americans? Is it really that hard to stop this nonsense at home?
    My next door neighbor’s son is with the special forces and he likes tracking down real terrorists. I agree with his mission because it eliminates real threats. It is not theatre that we see in airports.

  • SoBeSparky

    In English we have the present tense and the past tense. Check your tenses. Your quotes are in the past tense, referring, to prior activities. My quote from the same article is in the present tense. This refers to today, not yesterday.

    Admittedly, this article is hard to follow, but then again, I did not dredge it up.

  • bodega3

    Why? Because of events like 9/11. Because of events like 101 California Street, SF, CA. Because of events like Newtown. Because of Kansas City. Because of the Chille Largo tragedy. Not hard to understand at all.

  • SoBeSparky

    Correct, bomb dogs have not been retired, but another poster misread a USA Today article (seems common here nowadays) and concluded a GAO report said TSA bomb-sniffing dogs were ineffective. That person suggested we discontinue dogs as another TSA boondoggle and that bombs were not blowing up “left and right” therefore they no longer were a threat since 9-11.

    Hard to follow? Yes. So many people are quoting so much misinformation that the discussion becomes quite muddled. In some cases, the “authoritative source” is the poster’s own blog on the subject.

    Of course, bombs are still a threat, even if none have exploded in the past decade. Bomb sniffing dogs are both a visible deterrent to would-be bombers and also effective in detecting explosive traces on cargo, baggage and people.

  • BMG4ME

    On the other hand, as much as I love Israel, you also have to go through three layers of exit control when you leave the country.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Ha ha! What a riot! Even as an insufferable schoolmarm myself, I have never stooped to trying to derail a conversation by correcting other people’s grammar and spelling. Yet here is SoBeSparky not only doing just that, but doing it to a spectacularly accomplished and distinguished Naval Academy professor. Gotta love it! They can’t win on the merits, so they resort to absurdism.

  • Lisa Simeone

    “You carried the pre-flight safety process to the absurd, proving nothing. “

    And still he doesn’t get it! She deliberately mimicked your logic, to the letter, only she used actual, verifiable evidence, to show how absurd your argument was. Yet you still can’t see it.

  • Lisa Simeone

    BMG4ME, we addressed Israeli security earlier in this thread. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

  • SoBeSparky

    As I amply proved, there is nothing to see. Safety is a preeminent concern of the commercial airline industry, but to X-ray wings or whatever before every flight is absurd. Point proved. Move on please.

  • Daisiemae

    Yeah, in all the months of reading Sparky’s rants, I’ve laughed myself silly at bad writing, poorly constructed sentences, grammatical errors, and plain old misspelled words while he holds forth as if he is the compendium of all knowledge.

    Now he has the chutzpah to give grammar lessons to Sommer, a Naval Academy professor? How many hundreds of miles away can you hear me cackling? Sparky is better than the Comedy Channel.

  • Daisiemae

    And yet so many fools foam at the mouth about how Arab women are waved through the checkpoint with no screening. Your personal experience proves them wrong. No matter. Vast numbers of people never accept facts when it contradicts their rash and erratic belief system.

  • Daisiemae

    If only the government would put our hard earned tax dollars to work on efforts like your neighbor’s son and investigation and detection…proven methods that could actually prevent terrorism…rather than wasting billions of dollars on these useless scanners and these criminals and social misfits in Blue.

    Ah, well! We must enrich the politically connected and their corporate buddies. Follow the money and we can understand all.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Well, then, bodega3, because of Newtown, etc., then surely we must have the TSA or some kind of security types guarding us at every school, every intersection, every time we leave the house. Not hard to understand at all.

  • Daisiemae

    Yes, Deborah, as Sparky has told us, you are missing the point. The point is that you must acknowledge that Sparky is the fount of all knowledge and wisdom in the universe. Don’t you understand that? How many posts will it take for you to understand that Sparky will lead us to the Promised Land?

  • Daisiemae

    Too bad it’s not thorough, safe, or “unharming.”

  • Daisiemae

    Wow! Bodega has some amazing super power hearing. She/he could hear you yelling all the way across the Internet. Cool! Does Bodega have a cape? What color is it?

  • Drontil

    This is why the TSA and all it’s “layers of security” are a total waste:

    “But some airport employees say all of that scrutiny gives passengers a false sense of security because of what is going on beyond the security check point.


    “It is not just a local problem, it is definitely a national security problem,” said another employee.

  • Guest

    I don’t think the X-ray’s keep us safe enough, they should start doing full cavity searches in addition, and per their policy only change gloves upon request.

  • 1amwendy

    The problem, SoBeSparky, is that your underlying assumption is illogical, in that you appear to hold out that death by airplane-centered terrorist attack is significantly more important than any other type of attack – enough to warrant extreme prejudice against innocent citizens, especially those that require medical metal. In my mind, when you are dead, doesn’t matter very much how that happened. So, two thoughts: picture a wounded veteran now using prosthetics due to tangling with an IED. That would be difficult enough to manage psychologically, I would think, especially going from being fine one day to no-so-much the next. As an ancillary reward, this unfortunate soldier is forced to go through extremely invasive searches every remaining day of his/her life he/she decides to take a flight. Expand the TSA searches, and that person would be subjected to those extremely invasive searches more frequently. The TSA says it takes an extra 30 minutes for those searches. Are you okay with that? Is your feeling of safety so important that you wish that treatment on others, 100% of the time? Is the perceived risk worth that? Second thought: I would assume that death by e-coli is no picnic. Contaminated produce is the main culprit, and many, many more people die each year from that than any terrorist-related activity. On the assumption that their deaths are no less significant – on the assumption that you do not want to eat contaminated food 0.00000000000000001% of the time, do you wish for TSA-clones to be stationed outside of every grocery store, confiscating all of your fresh produce, eggs, meat – anything that MIGHT be contaminated, just to be safe? The problem is you have magnified the terrorist/airplane problem above all others and you do not comprehend the extreme burden it places on people that cannot navigate normal life without a medically assistive device. That you care not for those apparently less fortunate is not a favorable commentary on your appreciation and respect for others. There is another way to say that: it could be surmised from your statements that you basically are an irrational, selfish coward with little empathy or respect for others. Oops – did I offend you?

  • Daisiemae

    You go, Grandma!

    I’m guessing your contraband was not in your underwear/Depends since that is the first place TSA looks.

  • Daisiemae

    We tax payers should get a refund first!

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    Oh dear. I seem to have missed the moment when the Earth leapt off its axis and the simple act of stating “I HAVE AMPLY PROVED MY POINT”–foot-stomping optional–came to mean that someone actually did, indeed, prove something.

    In the Old Days, when Earth wobbled around the sun at some 23+ degrees off-plumb, we liked our proof to be prepared well-done, served on a bed of empirical evidence, and seasoned with crystal-clarity. But it seems that now, in this Hardly-Brave New World According to Sparky (how’s that for a mixed literary metaphor?), “proof” only requires that someone *declare something* to be proof. Oh look! There’s a little Proof scampering up the tree right now, annoying my dogs! Oh look! Here’s Proof driving down the road with his car stereo blaring. Hey, I say they’re Proof, and so it is thus. Quod erat demonstrandum!

    But I do humbly thank you, Sparky old chap, for this: “to X-ray wings [Ed.–or x-ray passengers’ nude bodies and grope their genitalia and mishandle their prostheses and humiliate their grandparents and terrify their children and steal their belongings] or whatever before every flight is absurd.”

    As the darling Cicero once said, “Res ipsa loquitur”. The thing itself speaks.

  • SoBeSparky

    The problem, 1amwendy, is that your arguments are always black and white. Either nothing or everything to the extreme. You cannot decipher various shades of gray.

    In other words, you fail to see the linkages between tourism, economic activity and public perception of commercial air travel safety. The millions of times the video tape has been played showing 9-11 reminds all air travelers that there are very real inherent dangers in air travel.

    A handful of deaths, however unfortunate, from spinach and its inadequate preparation, does not mandate a food poisoning police. Public perception does not demand it. Everyone realizes it was an aberration. People could have overcome the threat at their homes by either thorough washing with vegetable detergent and/or thorough cooking.

    Such is not the case with commercial air travel. You fail to see the differences, the individual circumstances, and prefer to blanket with the faulty reasoning if you try to prevent 150 deaths in an aircraft, you must try to prevent 150 deaths by any other cause, no matter causal factors, ability to avoid risk, cost and efficiency.

    Life is not so simple, so black and white, so absolutist. Good judgment demands situational considerations. You may not like the clear distinctions, but individual deaths in hospitals from food poisoning do not have the same impact on public perception as videos of two airliners slamming into the WTC towers. So, for a myriad of reasons, preventing disasters in the air has become a higher priority than insuring 100% safety in our food chain.

    Just because you undertake one activity in no way mandates you undertake a significantly different activity to achieve the same result. The human mind was given reasoning to sort these things out. Dogs and cats have reduced their “judgments” to the elemental. We can make much finer distinctions.

  • Lisa Simeone

    ” The millions of times the video tape has been played showing 9-11 reminds all air travelers that there are very real inherent dangers in air travel.”

    Agreed. So by all means let’s stoke those fears to within an inch of their lives and employ as much fear mongering as we can!

  • 1amwendy

    Dear Sir – you deflect, answer partially, and assume “society” shares your views.

  • SoBeSparky

    Once more, a poster is creating a straw dog and then setting it on fire. I have not been posting about body scanners in this thread. So set me up with something I NEVER said, [Ed.–or x-ray passengers’ nude bodies and grope their genitalia and mishandle their prostheses and humiliate their grandparents and terrify their children and steal their belongings].

  • SoBeSparky

    Another classic misstatement of facts: [Sidebar: The most recent statistics pertaining to Americans killed in plane crashes: 450 in 2010; 478 in 2009. Source:

    That includes “general aviation” where 96% of the fatalities occurred. At no time have we been discussing general aviation in this thread. If you had looked at FY 2012 FAA numbers, rather than going back a few years, you would have found there were exactly no fatalities on commercial air carriers. Zero.

    While establishing cause-and-effect relationships can be difficult with so many factors involved, the systematic approach to commercial air security played a part. It helps minimize one of the major factors responsible for commercial air fatalities. Another, of course, is the FAA’s increasing vigilance in aircraft maintenance. Even though another post suggests X-raying aircraft before takeoff as a safety measure (being allegedly comparable to scanning people and baggage), no marginal benefit can be established by any such absurd activity.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    BWAHAHAHAHA! Surrender, Dorothy/Sparky. You’re clearly incapable of understanding figurative concepts–not to mention simple logic–and your repeated efforts to get in the last word are only further revealing the shrivelled quality of your cognitive skills. They resemble a ten-week-old turnip. Yuck. Or, as my teenaged sons like to say, #EpicFail.

  • SoBeSparky

    I was not discussing scanners, but you created another straw dog in your attempts to discredit me.

  • SoBeSparky

    There is no effort to merely get in the last word. The effort is to knock down the straw dogs created.

    Lastly, you have now resorted to comparing my mind to an old turnip. I was always taught name calling is preferable when you cannot discuss the facts.

  • SoBeSparky

    Why do you assert this without doing an iota of research? Please see:

    And then see Flightglobal Ascend’s report on the subject. Flightglobal is a very highly regarded and authoritative source.,d.eWU

    I am assuming nothing. The experts around the world have stated this proposition. I reported the opinions of some of the best minds in the business.

  • 1amwendy

    Not going down your rabbit hole, Sir. I refuse to be deflected. Properly address my comments and then we can debate ancillary issues.

  • SoBeSparky

    Just an observation–that I make a perfectly lucid statement based on facts, not my opinions, and your response as always is not to the crux of the matter, but to be sarcastic about a known fact, the overplay of certain videos. That has nothing to do with the failure of absolutist reasoning.

  • Lisa Simeone

    SBS, I know. I’m a bad girl.

  • SoBeSparky

    I have not been discussing body scanners, indecent patdowns, invasive searches, bruised egos, indignities, ad nauseum. You assume I have been, creating the straw dog, and then insist I address your criticisms of same.

    If you would read my initial posts, you would see that I discuss a complete system to help provide safety, including background checks and profiling. I broke this down at times about current practices regarding luggage screening and bomb-sniffing dogs, to claims the former were not 100% screened, and the latter which were asserted by others to be worthless, which they certainly are not.

    Somehow anyone who questions or contradicts some of the inaccurate assertions by passionate anti-body scanner people in this thread is considered to be a cheering fan of body scanners, if not the manufacturer of same.

    I have made no such statement at all, or even implied it. The closest I come is to note the public relations campaign to decry the fact private parts could be delineated in body scanners created a deterrent to terrorists who would try to hide things in their underwear. It spread the word about the potential capability of the machines world-wide better than any news release could have. I noted this result of the brouhaha, but never said in this thread that body scanners were good, healthy and essential to the lives and safety of all air travelers.

    You will find no specific comments by me in this thread about body searches, either. But somehow, you and others set me up to be a vocal advocate of these machines and practices. Why cannot people just address my comments and not use me as a platform to jump off into a rant about young daughters being viewed nude in body scanning machines?

  • Annapolis2

    I hear what you’re saying here, I do. I hear you arguing that we must be prisoners of other people’s fear, that we must react irrationally because scary things shut off the rational parts of people’s brains. But what role has the government’s poor decision-making played in exaggerating that unfounded fear? What is being signaled to the public when the government puts a huge number of costumed actors and beeping zapping safe-o-meters into the airports? Doesn’t TSA’s theater compound the problem of the ignorant irrational fear that causes bad decision-making?

    We should all stand up and keep proclaiming that airline travel is extraordinarily safe, safer than any other method of long-distance travel, safer than many risks people unthinkingly take every day, and always has been over the past five decades. Therefore resources given to TSA are wasted resources, lost opportunities to save lives.

    I’m going to keep making that argument. I don’t see why you would concede this point to the knuckle-dragging ninnies cowering under their beds from fear of astronomically unlikely events.

  • Annapolis2

    The article said that TSA doesn’t track their performance and therefore we have no evidence that they are effective. That’s pretty damning. We have no evidence that bomb-sniffing dogs can effectively locate explosives in an airport environment. You can downplay the importance of that statement all you like, but it’s damning.

  • Annapolis2

    What you’ve offered is just a list of sensational and sensationally rare acts of violence. My point is that people need to be educated to think with their brains, not with their cowardice. This is similar to the “baby-snatching” paranoia that causes mothers to demand extraordinarily intense precautions to prevent strangers from grabbing a newborn baby and running out of the hospital – an event that has almost never happened out of all the hundreds of millions of babies born in hospitals.

  • Lisa Simeone

    The millimeter wave scanners are no better at detecting contraband than their radiation-emitting counterparts, the backscatter scanners. But then, we’ve only been saying that for years.

    As the UK discovered, the scanners missed almost half the test items in a three-month pilot program:

    The items missed included scissors, knives, and cell phone batteries. The searches were conducted on about 1,200 prisoners and staff in Northern Ireland.

    Jon Corbett already proved how easy it is to thwart the backscatter scanners. TSA agents have concurred. And the TSA is junking the backscatters, after having spent hundreds of millions of our dollars on them. But those scanners are getting replaced by MMW (millimeter wave) scanners that also don’t work, and that, as we’ve reported numerous times, have a high rate of false alarms. That means that even if you go through the scanner, you can still get hauled aside to the glassed-in gulag for a grope, as thousands of people can attest.

    Let’s say it again: the scanners are a billion-dollar boondoggle for the so-called security industry. They exist to line the pockets of their manufacturers, who then go on to line the pockets of our representatives in Congress.

    When you step into a scanner and raise your arms in a position of surrender, you’re not only signaling to the powers-that-be that you’ll do anything they ask, you’re also giving your approval to a technology that is demonstrably worthless and that props up an abusive system. Congratulations.

  • bodega3

    Have your child stolen and you wouldn’t think so. Societies take all sorts of measures to try and keep their citizens safe and they often come after a sad event and a loss of life. Acts of violence take place daily and finding ways to stop it is paramount for most of us.

  • bodega3

    We hear Lisa weekly screaming the same old, same old with nothing constructive added. My cape is a lovely striped pattern of black and grey (goes well at the Black Hole…if you are a native here you would know what that is) and is currently at the cleaners. Thanks for asking :-)

  • Daisiemae

    Don’t waste your breath, Wendy. Irrationality cannot be made rational by exposure to logic. All this claptrap is not worthy of reply.

  • Daisiemae

    Why oh why is anybody bothering to reply to this claptrap? It simply gives him a soapbox. I think it’s beneath your dignity to even notice him.

    If everyone stops engaging him, he’ll eventually seek other pastures where he can get attention.

  • bodega3

    Guess you don’t have kids or have been paying attention. Many, many schools have police on campus, many have metal detectors, other have special security officers.

    We also have surveillance camera on many street corners in our country. SF put in cameras in parking garages and just caught a crime group who targeted tourists at Pier 39.
    Sad that we need Big Brother, but if you are a victim, you get appreciative.

  • bodega3

    Our grandparents don’t recognize the world we live it. We are bad to the days of the wild, wild west. Where is Bat Masterson when we need him?

  • Lisa Simeone

    bodega3, you and Big Brother are a match made in heaven. (Too bad you missed the Stasi.)

  • Lisa Simeone

    Daisiemae, speaking for myself, we do it not to try to convince him. We already know that empirical evidence doesn’t work. Logic, risk assessment, statistical analysis, historical precedent, cold hard facts, even humor — none of it matters. We do it because there are thousands of people reading this blog who don’t comment and for whom it might matter.

    You never know who’s reading. You never know who’s going to be swayed by which argument or which style of argument. It’s for them that we do it.

    I know I’ve learned a lot about this issue not only from my own research but from the comments of other people, which comments I then went on to research further and incorporate into my own.

  • Lisa Simeone

    John, sorry, my bad. You’re correct that I didn’t read it properly.

    As for the ACLU, yes, they seem to be loath to go to bat on this issue because they’re afraid of losing; and if they lose, that makes bad precedent, which is apparently worse than no precedent at all. At least that’s what lawyers have told me; I’m not a lawyer.

    There are other cases s-l-o-w-l-y making their way through the courts that hinge on the 4th Amendment, including those of EPIC and Freedom to Travel USA (can’t remember if Jon Corbett’s also does). The fact is the Supreme Court hasn’t — yet — been asked to rule on whether the scanning and groping falls under the category of “administrative search.”

    I doubt the Justices know what’s really going on out here; I would put money on a bet that they sure as hell don’t know that TSA clerks are going through people’s personal financial documents or sticking fingers in their underwear, none of which has anything to do with a very narrowly defined allowable search for weapons and explosives.

    In fact, Steve Bierfeldt’s lawsuit against the TSA already settled that they AREN’T allowed to do this, yet of course they continue. He accepted a settlement rather than take his case to court, which I understand, but it’s a shame, because a big financial slap-down might’ve made a difference. Maybe Frank Hannibal’s case will do that.

    If all that evidence were presented to the SC . . . well, who knows? After all, this is the same court that decided last year that strip-searches for the most minor, petty, insignificant “offenses” was perfectly reasonable. So maybe they’ll rule that getting pawed by blue-gloved gropers is also reasonable. I guess only time will tell.

  • bodega3

    Interesting how you twist things, but in reading your rants, I shouldn’t. Let us know when you actually come up with something worthwhile in solutions.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I understand what you are saying, John, but the reason you were pointed to that blog is that links to the actual reports, statements, etc. are easily found. You don’t have to take the TSA News Blog as a credible source, but you can look at the links within the post and see if there’s anything there you can find credible.

    Or someone could do something like this – see if this helps you:

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Returning to metal detectors is not “no security.” It is just not the security you personally want, based upon your comments.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Or they could get a job working at the airport. TSA’s body scanning program couldn’t foil that plot.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I think the employees violating company policy should be reprimanded, etc., but think about this. Even with all of these “bad employees,” no planes have fell out of the sky.

    Yes, make sure employees are following the rules, because they are many, many times more likely to steal from the airport or passengers than be terrorists. So, keep the airports secure, but feel a teensy bit better that not one of those employees wanted to take down a plane.

  • Scott

    Please try to keep the discussion on point without name calling. And just to be clear, I’m not just asking that of Lisa, but of all actively engaged in this discussion.

  • Lisa Simeone

    “I wouldn’t want to be the one who put it out to the public that the emperor has no clothes,” the head of a large urban bomb squad told me. But “dogs do not function in the way everyone thinks.” It is, quite simply, “bullshit,” he says, to think that dogs can walk through subway cars, or sniff people entering turnstiles, and detect whether they’ve brought explosives along for the ride.
    -Head of urban bomb squad quoted in this Slate article (link to which I already posted earlier):

    From same article:

    ‘. . . For one thing, dogs work best in quiet places that have been cleared of people other than their handlers. In airports, they are best at sniffing luggage in secluded baggage areas. Canine performance has also been shown to “fall off exponentially,” the bomb expert said, because of distractions like gusts of air, noise, food, and people—all realities, of course, of mass transit. Bomb-sniffing is also exhausting work—a kind of sensory sprint—that dogs can’t sustain for more than 20 or 30 minutes out of every couple of hours. And as they move through an area, dogs need constant reassurance and reward; if they aren’t talked to, given an explosive to find now and then, and allowed to run back and forth, they may lose interest in the game.

    ‘One danger is that tired, cranky dogs will sound false alarms in crowded places. Canines are often trained to signal that they’ve found explosives by sitting down. But a dog that’s been pushed too hard and needs a break is apt to sit as well. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how a sitting dog at rush hour could cause a panic that would result in injuries.

    ‘In addition, dogs probably can’t be trained to detect the kind of explosives many experts increasingly worry about. Peroxide-based substances like TATP—used by shoe bomber Richard Reid and some recent terrorists in Israel—are unusually unstable—prone to blow up or otherwise react in air. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to train dogs to recognize their scent, because to do so requires repeated reinforcement and practice, and that would be dangerous for the canines and their handlers.

    If dogs are so fallible in loud, crowded places, why was the new TSA program conceived at all?’

  • Annapolis2

    I think it’s always productive to have a substantive conversation with people who disagree with you. And I find Sparky to have substantive arguments, even though I disagree with them. So I’m up for continuing to discuss things with Sparky.

  • Christopher Elliott

    There’s a parallel conversation happening with the moderators about this thread.

    We’re dismayed at the tone of the comments, and some feel I should stop covering this issue in order to restore civility to the comments section.

    We know this is a controversial topic, but it’s also an important one.

    Please remember the rules of engagement, which have been articulated in the FAQ section:

    1) No personal attacks.

    2) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    3) Be nice to your host.

  • Annapolis2

    Wow. Really? You’re a baby-snatching paranoiac too? You recognize, right, that these things you’ve fixated on are, oh, about as likely as your being struck on the head by a falling meteor? You’re still going to obsess about these movie-plot-fantasy-threats while ignoring the substantial risks to your life caused by poor road maintenance and lax food safety inspections and failure of the FDA to process new drug applications and so on that we could actually do something about? Your self-destructive failure to engage rational thought is even more severe than I realized.

  • Annapolis2

    I think it would help for everyone to focus the discussions on responding precisely to the facts and arguments made by other posters, rather than broadening issues and making assumptions about what the others posters think and believe. I will try to behave better in this sense myself.

  • Lisa Simeone

    Chris, you know you’re my buddy, but come on — we’re all adults here. Compare this thread to what was going on at TSA News the other day. Nobody here is even approaching that kind of invective. Not by a long shot. Nobody here is using words I won’t reproduce even with asterisks for some of the letters.

    I don’t see anything wrong with some good verbal tussling. I don’t think we should be clutching our pearls about it. If anyone is going to be posting comments on a blog, any blog, he/she needs a bit of a thick skin.

  • Daisiemae

    Rather than no longer covering the topic, why not delete or block those who don’t follow the rules or converse civilly? Why let those few who want to antagonize and disrupt everyone censor the flow of information and discourse for everyone else?

    Please do not cease covering TSA. Where else can we go for information or discourse? I was first attracted to your site by your TSA articles, and they continue to be the strongest attraction for me.

    At the moment, you are the voice crying in the wilderness. Please do not allow that voice to be silenced.

  • bodega3

    A person gets killed at an unmarked intersection, a stop sign or light goes up. A child gets stolen from a school or a hosptial and steps are put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen to another. That is how things work. Safety is of paramount concern for all of us and I would love to hear better ways to improve it at our airports, which is the subject of these weekly beratements of the TSA. Come up with some, we are waiting. But it appears it is easier to complain and call others names when they don’t agree with the constant rants.

  • Annapolis2

    But we have multi-story buildings, and falls from those kill thousands of people every year. We could choose to have zero deaths from this risk, but we find the value of building vertically, and building windows and balconies, outweighs our concern for this risk. Cars are another obvious example. Clearly, yes, there are acceptable levels of risk which we are willing to accept. I recommend the excellent book Terror, Security, and Money by John Mueller, Mark G. Stewart for an extensive discussion of unacceptable, tolerable, and acceptable risks. Across a wide swath of agencies and governments, risks lower than about 1 in 700,000 down to maybe 1 in 1,000,000 are generally considered to require no further action or regulation. Risk of death by terrorism in the U.S. is lower than 1 in 3.5 million. You are stating strenuously that even one death always constitutes unacceptable risk, but your own actions put the lie to that conclusion if you have ever walked down a sidewalk, owned household appliances, eaten food, or *driven a car*.

  • Annapolis2

    I think you are still misunderstanding what the article says. Verb tense is irrelevant. The article says that TSA, now, today, as in currently, does not physically inspect cargo coming from overseas. That the TSA has nonetheless deemed this cargo “screened” is just wordplay. The TSA lets you fly on airplanes, now, today, in the present tense, that also carry cargo that no one ever inspected. That’s the bottom line.

  • Lisa Simeone

    “Better ways to improve it at our airports” have been offered, repeatedly, in this thread, and repeatedly in other TSA threads at this blog.

  • Lisa Simeone

    P.S. Can we call ourselves names? I called myself a meanie, a bad girl, and an insufferable schoolmarm. Is that allowed?

  • Annapolis2

    I don’t think I called you any names. Maybe baby-snatching-paranoiac, but you advocated defenses against baby-snatching so I meant to be descriptive.

    But you argue as though there are never side-effects of security measures that actually put people at greater risk. In fact, self-defeating supposed security measures are quite common: gating communities to guard against crime has delayed first responders and caused medical / fire deaths, adding road signs increases cognitive load on drivers and can increase accident rates, bicycle helmet laws in Australia increased the fatal accident rate because the helmet requirement drastically decreased participation in cycling and thus the cyclists who were still there were more unexpected to motorists, and the TSA’s offensive procedures cause unnecessary road deaths when people switch to driving. Do I need to bring in the example of how the U.S. government decide to enhance our security defenses against the Soviet Union by arming and funding the young Osama bin Laden? All actions have consequences, and we must thoughtfully examine whether the impulse to just do something has actually put us at greater risk.

  • Susan Richart

    SoBeSparky, are you as concerned about the 26,000 people who die in this country annually because they are without health insurance or the 32,000 people who die in traffic accidents each year as you seem to be about the 300 or so who might die in a plane crash? You are far more likely to be one of those 32,000 automobile deaths than one of the 300+ who die as a result of a plane crash.

  • Susan Richart

    Hide under your bed, don’t have children and above all, don’t go out of your house. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll then be safe – unless, of course, you happen to slip in the shower.

    Oh, the paranoia. We are raising a generation of children who will grow up to be afraid of their own shadows.

  • Susan Richart

    “A person gets killed at an unmarked intersection, a stop sign or light goes up.”

    Until, of course, a drunk driver runs the stop sign or light and someone else gets killed at that intersection.

  • Susan Richart

    While those street corner surveillance cameras may help catch a criminal, they don’t always lead to a reduction in crime.

  • Christopher Elliott

    You may do that.

  • bodega3

    I hope all children can grow up and wish they all could be in a safe environment, but that is getting harder and harder to find.
    Interesting that mention slipping…I have spent the last two years recovering from slipping in the bathroom. Stuff happens and you take steps to see that it doesn’t happen again. Just what the TSA was put in place to do.
    Today’s column asks for ideas. Where is yours to make flying safer? I don’t have any, and it doesn’t appear that you do either. Just complaining. I would love to not walk through scanners but your little group isn’t changing anything with complaining. Come up with solid solutions.

  • bodega3

    They are trying to find ways to keep a drunk out of a car and laws are in place because of these idiots.

  • bodega3

    Not at all. Mostly complaining.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    I am dismayed that this important issue–and raising awareness of what the TSA does, and what it represents, and how it threatens us, most certainly *is* important–might be subsumed by childish tone arguments.

    I’ve been blogging for six years, and writing for an interactive audience for longer than that; if there is one thing I’ve learned about productive debate, it’s this: the fastest way to derail legitimate arguments about legitimate issues is to keep counteracting logic and facts with the same baseless arguments and data-free statements (as one nameless man, and I do mean nameless, keeps doing here), and then, when people grow frustrated–having had every bit of the evidence they’ve presented ignored, and every request for proof from the opposition danced-around and rebuffed–they quite understandably set the issue itself aside and begin to call people out for what their words and behaviors are: inauthentic (as so many refuse to post under their own names); disingenuous; cowed by authority and ideology alike; and demonstrably incapable of critical thinking skills. Thus scolded, the Nameless Combatants fling out the Tone Argument: (imagine Livia Soprano’s voice): “I don’t like THIS TALK!”

    And presto, other people on the sidelines, people who aren’t used to the rough-and-tumble of democracy or who can’t stomach dissent, are turned off. And thus another legitimate argument gets derailed and pushed over the cliff. Nice work, Nameless Combatants.

    Chris, your coverage of the TSA is important. Please don’t allow the dustups instigated by evidence-free Tone Trolls lead you to stop writing about it. Perhaps you could amend the FAQ to insert a few Rules of Debate into the matter–for example, if someone declares something as fact (i.e. a statistic) and someone else challenges it, it is incumbent on both the original commenter and the challenger to cite his or her sources. Simply going, “NaNaNa I can’t HEAR YOU”, or repeating the same illogical thing over and over without any evidence, should occasion a warning, and thereafter some sort of blocking action.

    We’re grownups. That said, clearly some people can enter into a bona fide debate armed with a measure of evidence to back up their arguments; others, however, are unaccustomed to being proven wrong in a public forum and don’t take well to it, reacting not by presenting evidence to the contrary or ceding the argument, but rather, by digging their heels in deeper, repeating that which has been disproven multiple times, and engaging in childish tactics like always trying to get the last word.

    My two cents’ worth!

  • Susan Richart

    Build a higher wall, they’ll bring a taller ladder. There is no way every contingency will ever be covered.

    I do feel sorry for you, however. It must be an terrible when one is so afraid of life and living.

  • MarkieA

    Looks like you got in the last word. Good one! Oops, or did I?

  • Annapolis2

    Intelligence and police work instead of pretend Maginot lines. Obsess about *who* is on the aircraft, not *what*. There you go, that’s my better way. It would save a hundred or more lives in car crashes that needn’t happen because people would be more likely to choose the safest form of long-distance travel if they didn’t have to be sexually humiliated, threatened, irradiated, and detained by poorly trained screeners at the airport.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    *APPLAUDS* This, a thousand times.

  • BMG4ME

    It certainly is. The biggest joke was flying from JFK to TLV. We went through real security c/o El Al and then you have to go through that joke called TSA security afterwards. What a waste of time. Then to make matters worse I couldn’t use my TSA Pre because it was an international flight yet one of the ways you qualify for TSA Pre is by belonging to Global Entry, a program that allows you to enter America without seeing a person, by being pre-screened.

  • bodega3

    You are right to feel sorry for yourself. With all your complaining it must be a sad life to be so angry. Good luck!

  • bodega3

    I never said anything about side effects. I said I understand why certain steps are taken. I may not like some of them, but I get why there were put in place.

  • bodega3

    If you don’t think intelligence and police work are not being used, you live under a rock. Now you did bring up one good point, better training for screeners.

  • bodega3

    Nothing is 100% guaranteed but it has been working in some places. It caught a crime group in SF at Pier 39. Lots of people are getting their stuff back. Ask them if it was worth it.

  • Annapolis2

    But you don’t get to shrug your shoulders and ignore the side effects. I don’t “get why there were put in place”. I don’t get why people want to create a more dangerous world by expending safety resources in back-asswards ways that hurt and kill innocent people, other than the fact that they refuse to face facts and feel that “doing something” is always better than doing nothing when that is patently false.

  • Daisiemae

    You are so right. No planes have fallen out of the sky. Even though vast numbers of airport employees (including illegal aliens) with little or no background checks and no screening are allowed free access to planes across America every day…even though most TSA employees (with total access to planes and luggage) receive little or no background checks and no daily screening…even though a significant number of those TSA employees are criminals…even though airport perimeters are easily penetrated by people who are not airport personnel…even though the majority of baggage loaded into the hold of the planes is not screened in any way…even though all these wide open avenues exist that could easily be exploited by terrorists…no planes have fallen out of the sky.

    Doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of interest in planes falling out of the sky. So tell me again why we are taking nude photographs of innocent passengers and why we are fondling the genitals of grandmothers and disabled three year olds while we are leaving the back door wide open for disinterested terrorists?

  • Daisiemae

    Who said we want no security? We want security that uses proven security methods that could actually make us more secure rather than exposing us to increased risk.

    We want security that produces measurable results rather than security that is bankrupting the nation while making millions for connected politicians and their corporate cronies without ever detecting a single terrorist in over ten years.

    We want security that is focused on detecting criminals; not security that is focused on punishing innocent Americans for the crime of purchasing a ticket.

    We want security that follows the law of our land and is responsible to the people of the United States; not security that is given a carte blanche to break any law it desires with impunity while robbing, assaulting, molesting, abusing, and degrading innocent American citizens.

    We want security that takes responsibility for its own actions rather than security that blames us for its own incompetence and illegal behavior.

    We want security that protects us from terrorists; not security that hires the terrorists to terrorize us.

    In short, what we want is security. What we currently have is anything but security. Your statement that we want no security is disingenuous, dismissive, and smug.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Sometimes it feels like the emperor has no clothes.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    And yet this incident proves 2 very important points, doesn’t it?

    1. The greatest threat always is, and always will be, the inside threat.
    2. Regardless of the measures in place, no matter how invasive, humiliating, and barbaric the “public” screening procedures, there is always a way around them. Always.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    Oh, please. It is so easy to get things past the TSA it isn’t even funny.

    With their vaunted 20 layers of security baklava, TSA has created a circus. And do you know what happens in a circus? Low level people are easily distracted.

    And voila! TSA has made air travel less safe by their very existence.

  • cahdot

    so who gets the lawsuits when the tsa workers and passengers get cancer from the so called safe scanners???

  • TSAisTerrorism

    Your English lesson is cute.

    I’ll take your “article written in the past tense, and we therefore must presume that it is being done because TSA didn’t say it wasn’t” and raise you a cold dose of reality.

    I’m in airline corporate middle management. My SO is, as well, in a different arena. We therefore actually KNOW what’s going on, in and around planes better than making assumptions on what is not said. You’d be shocked to learn, I’m certain, that you are wrong.

    How does it feel to learn that you are sitting on a plane, blissfully unaware of the potential cargo bombs under your feet and flying over your head having just had your testicles fondled for freedom?

  • TSAisTerrorism

    It’s not just DFW.

    At the world’s busiest airport, employees are never, ever screened. Ever.

    That’s how guns end up on planes.


  • TSAisTerrorism

    Yeah, so that dude? He connected through AMS where they use these awesome new scanners you love. He presumably went through one. And then boarded a plane and tried to ignite his bomb. That is a very effective deterrent, indeed. Pathetic.

  • SoBeSparky

    Once more, you want to rephrase an argument, put words in my mouth, create a straw dog and knock it down. Can’t you people demonstrate a grasp of facts rather than telling me you KNOW what is going on.

    If you KNOW that, I suggest you testify before Congress as your moral responsibility. If anyone should die after having their testicles fondled for freedom, their souls rest on your conscience.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    Have you not been paying attention?

    Congress isn’t all that interested, and TSA obfuscates the issue. Some of us have tried, but thank you for letting me know what my civic duty should be.

    And there was no “rephrasing an argument” or “put[ting] words in your mouth.” Here is your direct quote:

    “In English we have the present tense and the past tense. Check your tenses. Your quotes are in the past tense, referring, to prior activities. My quote from the same article is in the present tense. This refers to today, not yesterday.”

    Are you, or are you not, arguing that TSA is now screening cargo because they no longer say they don’t? Because that’s exactly what it sounds like here, when you write:

    “Again, please read complete article including sentence in last paragraph: ‘Since the deadline has passed, TSA is now presumably enforcing the mandate, and all air cargo from abroad is being screened in full.'”

    But alas, you’re cool with it because you’ve seen your own luggage get screened and received little notes about it later. Wonder of wonders.

    We aren’t talking about your luggage. We’re talking about the UNSCREENED CARGO under your feet.

    That isn’t a straw man, that’s a cold hard fact.

    In English we use simple words to describe the need to believe aviation security is working because we’ve seen our own luggage screened and have not read words that say it isn’t. It’s called ignorance. And ignorance, apparently, is bliss.

  • SoBeSparky

    I clearly differentiated between cargo and luggage in responses to various posts on each specific topic. You conflated the issues.

    Your civic responsibility, because you are in the KNOW, is to write and testify, not give reasons presumably absolving you of moral responsibility for KNOWing these aircraft are filled with unscreened cargo under the passengers’ feet.

    You are no better than a bystander watching a violent crime take place and then walking away, blaming the police for not caring. Stand up and be counted for what you KNOW.

    Just like all conspiracy theorists, you KNOW the information, which invariably is a state secret, and yet no one pays attention. “They” are all part of this cover-up. Sexual predators, oncologists, scan-machine manufacturers, universal-ID-card advocates and terrorists are combined to destroy America from within via the TSA, and no one will listen! Only you can save us, and yet you are silent!

  • Lisa Simeone

    I thought it might helpful to provide a definition for a couple of words in Deborah’s excellent comment: “tone” and “Tone Troll.” Here’s the definition from the Urban Dictionary:

    “A tone troll is an internet troll who will effectively disrupt an internet discussion, because they feel that some of the participants are being too harsh, condescending, or use foul language. They often complain loudly and target specific subjects, even though they may actually agree with their subjects’ point of view.
    Tone trolls often emerge in the comments sections of the Pharyngula blog by Prof. PZ Myers.”

    And here’s the definition from Pharyngula:

    “A tone troll is a serious-minded person who wants only to raise the level of discussion in the dire cesspits of the New Atheist web. Or, possibly, they’re a pompous blowhard who, lacking such frivolous accoutrements as an actual argument, attempts to distract attention from said deficit by complaining that their opposition uses dirty words and ought, really, to have some strict nanny figure—possibly Mary Poppins—to wash out their mouths with soap.

    Note that the presence of actual ‘dirty words’ in the traditional sense (notwithstanding that this is not uncommon on Pharyngula) isn’t particularly necessary for the use of this gambit. It is also acceptable to complain your opposition is being shrill.

    When people finally tell the tone troll to go away, it will sometimes accuse them of “kafkatrapping,” which means being so mean as not to bother explaining to an idiot why they’re an idiot in simple enough terms for the idiot to want to understand.”

  • Susan Richart

    Interesting info, Lisa. Thanks.

    To further enlighten myself, I looked for a definition of “tone argument” and found this at the link below:

    “The tone argument is where you object to someone else’s argument based on its tone: it is too angry, too hateful, not calm enough, not nice enough, etc.”

    The paragraph continues: “It is a logical fallacy because none of those things has anything to do with whether the truth was spoken. It is used to derail and silence.”

    I am not certain that one really has to be a troll to make a tone argument as I know several people who can’t deal with confrontation, even on the internet but they certainly are not trolls like the one we ran into the other day.

    BTW, I note that he is doing the same thing in another thread. :-)

  • Annapolis2

    Congress and the TSA are fully aware that cargo which no one has ever inspected is riding in the hold of passenger planes. Many of us have tried for years to sound the alarm – I’ve written to, called, and even visited the offices of dozens of Congressional representatives who sit on the relevant committees. No one wants to admit that the emperor has no clothes, because the scanner-sales and jobs-for-the-otherwise-unemployable lobbies need the cash flowing in from the TSA farce. But you need to know, as someone who flies and feels afraid of terrorism, that perimeter security is a joke, that the insider threat is being ignored, that airport employee background checks are being skipped, that YouTube is filled with evidence of shockingly easy exploits to sneak any metallic or non-metallic item through a body scanner, and that overseas cargo is not systematically searched or checked before it flies on your plane.

    The emperor has no clothes. TSA kabuki theater and the dance of the shoeless idiots might make you feel safe, but it’s obvious to even a casual observer that checkpoint searches can do nothing to actually increase security.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    I guess I hit a nerve, didn’t I?

    Look, Sparky, it’s painfully obvious that you have no idea what steps I’ve taken to mitigate this threat. Your shockingly inappropriate ad hominem personal attack was cute, but off base, and wrong.

    Like Annapolis2 I have the opportunity to have these conversations. People don’t want to hear them. You know why? Because people like you bleat out, “Everything’s OK! Anything to keep me safe! I don’t see it, so it must be OK! Why don’t YOU do something about it?”

    You see luggage screened and have made a clear distinction between that and cargo.

    Bravo! You still don’t get the point.

  • SoBeSparky

    “Look, Sparky, it’s painfully obvious that you have no idea what steps I’ve taken to mitigate this threat.” Am I to interpret this to mean you are a powerful executive who has taken steps to mitigate threats? In addition to you being in the KNOW?

    You claim to “KNOW what’s going on,” (your own words with your capital letters). You now claim I have no idea the steps you have taken to mitigate threats.

    Accept your moral responsibilities then, or face ridicule as another anonymous chicken-little type. In fact, if you have knowledge of specific threats and keep silent, you might be as liable as the terrorists involved.

    The internet has bred all these blogs and anonymous posters with absolutely certain, irrefutable “knowledge.” This “knowledge” is simply worthless without attributions by name and source. All other claims are mere passing pixels in the ether.

    That, Mr. TSAisTerrorism, is the point.

  • SoBeSparky

    There is a significant difference between the words “inspected” and “screened.” No one claims all cargo is physically inspected. No one claims overseas cargo is systematically searched.

    As for it being “checked,” the word itself is vague. What I might consider “checked” and what you might consider the same could be vastly different.

    Screening systems are in place for passengers, luggage and cargo. A system relies on several components, not just one step. A checkpoint is a step in a system, not the system itself.

    While many mock the anecdotal instances where one step of a system appears to fail, they fail to examine the many successes of that step. Most posters here try to discredit the entire system by citing anecdotal failures of a step. Humans are not omniscient and machines do not operate for infinite periods with no failures. Those are “givens” in any system analysis.

    Those who mock the system cannot fathom that it has made airplane terrorism far more difficult. They do not understand the deterrent and substitution effects. First, terrorists can recognize it is far more difficult to go undetected. Second, they find other methods of terrorism to substitute for air transport terrorism. The objective of this terrorism is not to create more business for airplane manufacturers by bring down aircraft. The objective is to create fear, demoralize, and damage economically. Cyber-terrorism, for example, might prove far more fruitful with less effort than trying to battle international air transport terrorism-prevention efforts.

    There is another way to evaluate the entire air security system. That is, what are the results? As no system is completely foolproof, there will be airplane terrorist attacks in the future. The question is whether or not that risk is being minimized.

    Insurance companies undertake risk management on behalf of clients. The companies never promise 100% success. But they can show before-and-after comparisons where the risk management efforts have substantially improved the outcomes. The TSA has a pretty good story in tell in outcomes.

    What we should demand is that a process of continuous improvement is in place to minimize risks through a systematic approach to air transport safety, and terrorism in particular.

  • Annapolis2

    But terrorist attacks are unfathomably rare events (Have you read The Black Swan?), and as such, there can be no scientific approach to answer “whether or not that risk is being minimized.” As just one example, take Behavior Detection Officers. Are these a good use of our resources? No one knows, because we can never, for obvious reasons, conduct a controlled experiment to see whether training can help people identify suicidal maniacs. However, we know that even the best performers at lie detection don’t do much better than chance (see,, so that, as with polygraphs, far more truthful people will be falsely incriminated than liars caught. Thus, the base rate fallacy will catch you out if you try to apply BDOs to an airport full of people ( It just can’t work, not even in theory. And of course, in practice we know that behavior detection officers failed to detect 16 known terrorists who passed through their airports on at least 23 separate occasions, according to a GAO report. (page 51 of It’s not just me saying the emperor has no clothes. Pay attention: it won’t work, it can’t work, it doesn’t work. TSA is fiction.

    Bruce Schneier is a security expert who points out that while the number of security steps we can take are finite and limited, the number of potential targets and potential plots is infinite. We can stop stupid terrorists, and we won’t succeed at stopping smart ones. His take (and mine) on the TSA and all of its nonsense is “This is a foolish game, and we should stop playing it.”

  • PsyGuy

    So where is our “School Safety Administration”? It’s been how long since Columbine, and Sandy Brook just happened, and nothing really changed between those two events

  • Andrew Phillips

    As someone with PreCheck access (it’s a perk of NEXUS) I admit, I do get a kick out of skipping the 20 minute+ lines and walking thru security onto a plane. It’s even better in Canada where I can clear customs and security in less than 5 minutes…

    The main difference between myself and most passengers, I paid $50 and had a basic screening interview/background check. Nothing extreme at all.

    Is it a matter of user pay for priority