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

Brian Jackson/Shutterstock
Brian Jackson/Shutterstock

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

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

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

Screener: “We don’t use X-rays.”

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

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

I briefly made eye contact with the passenger and saw that familiar look of terror. She was about to receive what the TSA refers to as an “enhanced” pat-down, and perhaps a little firmer than normal, despite the fact that it was abundantly clear she posed zero risk to the aircraft.

Her crime? Questioning a TSA screener about the safety of its allegedly invasive and harmful body scanner.

I know about these retaliatory pat-downs. I refuse to use the scanners, a decision the agents tend to take personally. During my last opt-out, a screener in Denver was so aggressive that he almost pulled my pants down in front of everyone.

Folks, this shouldn’t be happening in a free country.

I didn’t see what happened to the young woman, but I know how she must have felt.

She’s just one of five common passenger types you’ll encounter at a TSA checkpoint. Who else are you likely to meet?

The get-alongs. This is by far the largest group of passengers. They just want to pass through the screening process with a minimum of hassle. They have nothing to hide, they figure, so just do what the people in the blue uniforms order them to do. They comply, obediently stepping into the full-body scanner and agreeing to a pat-down, because they “know” the TSA is just trying to keep everyone safe — and despite the fact that even a small amount of research will reveal that almost nothing they’re asked to do makes the flying experience any safer. Critics call these passengers “sheeple.”

The elites. A smaller group of passengers and crewmembers are offered special screening privileges — a dedicated line where they often don’t have to remove their shoes or step through a poorly tested scanner. Pilots, flight attendants, and dignitaries fall into this category, but by far the largest subset belongs to those with TSA “pre-check” membership. These frequent fliers believe that because they’ve given an airline so much business, or have paid the federal government to run a background check, they deserve a less invasive screening. And they’re partially correct. Actually, everyone deserves to be screened in that way.

The dissidents. An even smaller group of passengers opts out of the full body scanners, which means they get an automatic, prison-style pat-down. These brave contrarians know that opting out takes up valuable screener time, and they understand that a pat-down can feel even more invasive than a quick scan. But that’s fine with them. For many reasons, they believe the government has no business asking them to submit to a scan, and they’re willing to make that point whenever they fly. Many opt-outs feel they have a lot in common with the civil rights activists of the 1960s. One day, when the scanners are decommissioned and the world recognizes how far the federal government overreached, maybe their protests will be more appreciated than they are today.

The victims. An even smaller group of passengers doesn’t realize it yet, but they’re about to become a headline, a viral video, or at the very least, a complaint letter to the TSA. Thanks to a misunderstanding, or a cruel TSA agent or a federal screener who has no values and steals from the passengers he’s assigned to protect, the screening will go terribly wrong. It may not happen often when compared to the millions of travelers who fly every week, but it ought to happen less than it does – a lot less.

The ignorant. The smallest group of passengers are the dummies who pack loaded revolvers, souvenir hand grenades, and machetes in their carry-on luggage and expect to get through security. Too many actually do. A vast majority of these “armed” passengers turn out to just be careless mistakes; a handful are done intentionally. One in a billion are done with the objective of bringing down a plane. No matter what, you can bet the TSA will tout the confiscation and inevitable arrest on its blog every week. Critics can do nothing but shake their heads at these incidents. The only thing they squabble over is the propaganda value of the confiscations. Taking away a gun, say agency-watchers, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve stopped another 9/11.

I’ve met most of these passengers either at the airport or after their flight. By and large, they all have one thing in common: They just want to get from point A to point B with a minimum of hassle. And the paramilitary blueshirts pushing them through scanners, prodding them, and in some cases stealing from them, are a hindrance, not a help, in that regard.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t our taxpayer-supported federal screeners be making the process easier instead of harder? At the very least, shouldn’t the TSA try to do a better job of telling one group apart from the other?

Is the TSA a help or a hassle?

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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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  • Phyllis Stoller

    What about the passenger who cannot find the last thing setting off the machine, coin? Key? Pen? Thumb drive? And they go back and forth thru the machine.

  • oregoncycle

    I read somewhere that the huge human traffic jam caused by
    the TSA and their screenings is the weakest point in the whole system. There
    had to be well over 500 people in the maze when I was just at LAX and it
    started just 100 feet from the street. I feel more at risk in the line from
    this needless bunching as anyone looking to do harm is still outside of the so
    called security area.

  • MarkieA

    Chris – Oh Man, are you gonna get a whole rash of sh*t for comparing TSA opt-outs to Civil Rights activists. Be prepared!

  • Raven_Altosk

    “Oh, honey, was it good for you?”
    What I’d say during a patdown if I wasn’t afraid of getting arrested.

  • Chasmosaur

    The ignoramus category is far too small, and jumps way up the scale. I consider “ignoramus” the people who rarely fly, and somehow have lived under a rock for the past decade and don’t realize they can’t just stroll through the TSA checkpoint. Here’s an example:

    Over Christmas, I got into a WTMD line at MSP, and was in line behind a pair of women who were wearing leather jackets with numerous studs and chains, as well as jewelry that looked like it was actual heavy metal chains. Chain wallets, natch. Not to mention they were wearing heavy motorcycle boots, also with decorative studs and chains. And they were drinking very large, still steaming hot Starbucks (whatever faux-Italian word they use for large); one had large bottles of juice sticking out of her shoulder bag.

    They were surprised they had to pull out their ID’s for the first TSA agent.
    They were stunned that they had to remove liquids from their carry-ons (a TSA rep was going up and down the line reminding people and handing out the bags TSA has on hand).
    They were bewildered and outraged they could take neither their coffee nor oversized juice bottles through the checkpoint. (Fair enough, but still.)
    They were shocked they had to remove their boots and put them through the X-ray machine. (With all the decorative metal, even without the stupid shoe rule, they probably would have set the machine off.)
    They were bewildered when they were told they had to put their coats through the X-ray machine.
    They were confused when the TSA agent recommended before they stepped through the WTMD, they remove their jewelry.
    They were baffled when the metal objects they had in their pockets set off the machine.

    I just considered myself lucky they ended up not needing a bag check – I’m sure they would have just gotten in everyone’s way.

    THAT, to me, is the “Ignoramus” at TSA, and is far more common than you give it credit for. Especially during major holidays and summer months.
    (I particularly love when going through the all-AIT Pier B of DCA around the 4th of July, people repeatedly ask the TSA agents “When you say I have to take everything out of my pockets, do you mean everything?” No, s/he’s just saying that once every minute until s/he’s hoarse to amuse themselves.)

  • ctporter


    I object to being classified as an “entitled elite” because of having been nominated by my airlines into TSA PreCheck. Lets take a look at who really is the alleged “entiteled elite”. These are working people that have flown enough miles (endured is a better term) and most often in coach, and in the middle seat more often than naught due to having to purchase the ticket so close to departure date due to jobs requiring our presence that have not been anticipated, which leads us to being eligible from our airline for TSA precheck. This is elite? The word just not describe most of the people I see in first class on any given flight as I march on down to my seat in coach unless I was lucky enough to be upgraded. We have been in the very long over burdened and incredibly slow TSA lines much more so than other travelers . We have been behind the 6 people in front of us that have no clue about 311 liquids, phones, wallets, belts, etc in their pockets and had to wait while they tried to go through the scanners 4-5 times. We have endured countless speeches from TSA agents about why we are being patted down when we choose to opt out (and for goodness sakes do NOT interrupt them to say I know, heard it before, or they will start from the beginning all over again). I guess i really DO feel entitled to some relief after having been through much more than the people around me, but honestly, why should I not? Have I not proven myself not guilty yet? What more does it take? (keeping in mind, with our current system we are all guilty until and unless we can prove we are innocent) You need a classification for those of us road warriors that have earned our status by being in the deep trenches, we do NOT always get upgraded into first. We are regular people whose job entails getting from point A to point B in the least amount of time which means our mass transit (aka air travel) is a flight on an airline. I think the days of the CEOs only in fc are long long long gone.

  • crash025

    I would be one of the dissidents. You’re not going to get very far by complaining about the scanner. They have more lobbyists than you have a voice. The more people that opt out the more attention you’ll give the issue. Besides, there are rare occasions where the metal detector is a “safe alternative.”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And rightfully so. As an African American I bristled when I read that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Calling some an ignoramus is pejorative, rude, and insulting. It’s not appropriate for people whose great sin is that they don’t travel and don’t keep up on travel news. By contrast, even little children know that you can’t carry a loaded gun on a plane

  • Bettina

    The worst issue is that people who come to the US on vacation often do not speak the language, or if they do, certainly not fluently. And then, on leaving, after spending a lot of their hard earned money in the US, they are treated like dirt. If it is their first trip ever to the US, they may be as “ignorant” of all the procedures as those who maybe do not fly often or fly for the first time. However, the moment someone opens their mouth to request clarification, one is often treated to rants, shouting and overall impolite and rude behaviour by the TSA agents. Has no one ever told them that they are the last impression they give someone leaving the US? No one says they should not do their job, but it can be done politely.

    Also, other countries often have very big taboos on touching people, so if they are not sure about that horrible machine and say no to a scan, they then get patted down. And often do not even know why they are being violated in such a way.

    I used to travel to the US between 3 and 5 times per year, on holiday for years prior and after 9/11. My last trip was in 2008. I had had two terrible experiences with TSA screeners and decided that it was time to stop giving the US my hard earned holiday funds. As you can see from my comment, I do not even have a language barrier and actually understood what they wanted, I just asked one question each time, since things had changed since my last trip and then was treated with such rudeness and the second time almost missed my plane since they had me wait in that box for asking a question for almost an hour. I was only glad my belongings were still there, since I was not able to have an eye on them and keep them with me either. When and if things should change, then I may come back. Until it does, definitely not.

  • Christopher Elliott

    You’re right — I’ve made a few adjustments to the story. Thanks for the comment.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Ignoramuses as a category is now simply called “the ignorant” to avoid offending the ignoramuses. Sigh.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Reworded to simply refer to the category as “the elites.” I don’t want to get sidetracked on the value or lack thereof of loyalty programs. We’ll save that for another day.

  • LadySiren

    Being very serious here – why? I can see why Chris would compare the two groups. I think a lot of people who opt out do so out of sense of defending their rights. I don’t think Chris threw that term in there facetiously; rather, I think he’s talking about those folks who feel it is their duty to object to the TSA’s assault on their civil rights.

  • Molly

    Ah, yes, the ignoramus syndrome, I know it well. I had the joy of going through security at Logan in the afternoon of the day of the Boston Marathon last year, for an international flight. One after another, the runners and their families were found to have large bottles of designer water. Despite the TSA making loud, pointed announcements that the only reason the lines were continually coming to dead stops was because of the big bottles of water in the bags, it kept happening. I heard one guy behind me actually say to the woman he was with that his didn’t count because it was unopened! And, before you talk possible language barriers, these people all sounded to me like they came from the US.

    Never again on a marathon day! (And I won’t even get into how many people then pass out on the planes because they haven’t taken the time to rehydrate…. but I did get to hear the announcement: “Is there a doctor on board?” Flight attendants tell me it happens every year, 3-4 per plane pass out) Truly ignoramuses!

  • Jeff Kolker

    I personally don’t think the “Get-Alongs” “know” that the TSA is just trying to keep them safe. I think they “get along” because all the main goal is to get to the other side of the screening area. Personally, I think it’s all a pain, and mostly a waste, but all I want (and most others too, I would think) is to get to where I’m going. “Sheeple”? Fine..whatever.

  • darksideblues42

    Wanted to share what was just one of many of my experiences with the TSA

    Recently, I was booked on a flight at 5:30PM, Got there a little before 4PM, checked in, dropped off my bag and walked over to the checkpoint

    Security was screwed up, around 200 people in line, only 2 TSA agents checking ID, Southwest Employee rolls up with a very elderly 4 foot nothing, very tiny woman in a wheelchair with a Mexican Passport and TSA will not let her through because her name on the ticket does not exactly match her passport, since it is very long with multiple hyphens. This is because the ticket only allows for something like 25 letters for a name. This argument goes on for almost 45 minutes until a supervisor FINALLY shows up, finishes his sandwich and tells the Southwest employee the same thing, he cannot allow her to pass because of “security concerns” Well, the Southwest employee starts to lose his mind saying he is the representative of the airline, in good standing, with escort credentials and he wants this woman on the plane. She cannot walk, clearly is no threat to anyone, and the fact that the computer system does not allow her full name has nothing to do with security. Fast forward another 30 minutes, until a second supervisor (in a suit this time) is called over, he agrees to let the woman pass, but admonishes the Southwest Agent to “Get the paperwork right next time”

    I barely made my flight and all for the simple to understand reason that airline computer systems have an upper limit on how long of a name can be printed on the ticket…

  • asurvivor

    Those “enhanced” pat-downs are REALLY fun for rape survivors. Trust me. It’s a real catch-22: allow a stranger to invade our privacy by looking at our bodies on the scanner without our real consent (blackmail does not constitute consent) or submit to a humiliating and often traumatic “pat-down” that can trigger horrific and humiliating memories? I’ve started taking an anti-anxiety pill an hour before I even get to the airport.

  • Mothballs

    I used to travel to the U.S almost every year to holiday and visit friends until 2005 when the U.S Government decided to profile me despite never breaking the law or overstaying my visa.Unfortunately I was doing multi city flights,New York,Washington DC,Memphis,Las Vegas,LA and Honolulu which was the only airport that didn’t treat me like a criminal.I kept my mouth shut and let the TSA go through my bags and feel me up like it was my wedding night but it still makes me wonder how I got on that list.

  • Saul B

    Chris, I usually agree with what you write, but I take exception to your observation, “… despite the fact that it was abundantly clear she posed zero risk to the aircraft.”

    The corollary of this statement is that you feel that there are passengers who, by dint of how they look, deserve extra scrutiny.

    Tell us then, Chris, what would make you think that a passenger *was* a risk?

  • cjr001

    Considering that TSA spends far more time trampling on our rights than protecting them, I fail to see why this comparison is a problem.

  • MarkKelling

    An interesting thing happened this last weekend to me. Going through security at IAH, there was a lady in front of me wearing a large bulky necklace with a large crystal pendant. The TSA person said “Turn it around so it hangs down your back and it won’t set off the scanner.” She did and went through the machine — and it didn’t go off. So, if we hang our knives and guns down the back of our shirts, does that mean we can get them through undetected??

    Oh, and when I went through the machine indicated there was something on my lower leg. All there is is a scar from a recent surgery (not there last time I flew). And even though I was wearing shorts, the TSA person ran his hands up and down my leg “just to make sure.”

  • Aaron

    good point. TSA creates a concentrated group of 500 vulnerable people outside security to protect a tube full of 100 people inside security. One of many examples of the irrationality of TSA

  • Saul B

    And it’s not as if airports themselves have never been bombed. Look at Moscow a few years ago and LaGuardia in 1975.

  • Saul B

    The false positive rate of the AIT body scanners has been well documented.

  • Lzy

    Have any of the terrorists that have attempted to bring down a plane been Caucasian women? No? Israel profiles, with great success.

  • Saul B

    So why didn’t the vaunted Israeli screeners catch this guy before boarding?

    Does this guy fit a profile?

    Or him?

    As far as I know, no women at all have attacked planes, so all women should be given a free pass, right?

    Sounds like you’re advocating a system where it is enshrined in law that persons of a certain race or skin color or ethnicity should be targeted for extra scrutiny. Am I misinterpreting you?

  • Susan Richart

    Please post your comment to the Federal Register’s comment page on the use of scanners.!submitComment;D=TSA-2013-0004-0001

    If you could also cite the percentage of individuals, men and women, who have been raped and sexually assaulted in this country, that would be great.

    I am sorry for what you have to endure in order to get on an airplane.

  • Susan Richart

    You shouldn’t have done that, Chris, as your first phrasing was correct. They are the “entitled elite.”

  • m11_9

    You know who poses near-zero risk? the non-religious.

    They can’t just ask for forgiveness like believers can. Believers can kill and injure but repent later under many belief systems.

    A religion screening would be helpful to find those who have the most to live for, those who don’t get a second chance in another life. They should get preference in screening methods.

  • Alan Gore

    That would be me, on a number of different occasions. Every time, the offending object is something different and unexpected – it’s basically a game they’re playing with the passengers. This is why I actually prefer the body scanners to the metal detectors.

  • Chasmosaur

    I understand where you’re coming from but…

    …the “3-1-1” rule has been in effect since September, 2006. So 6 1/2 years.

    …the removal of coats started in September, 2004. So that’s 9 1/2 years.

    …the removal of shoes dates back to Richard Reid’s aborted attempt around Christmas of 2001 and started in early 2002, so that’s been going on for over 11 years now.

    …and I can remember going through metal detectors at the airport when I was a child in the early-1970’s. Going through a metal detector is not out of the ordinary at all for an airport boarding experience for over 40 years.

    Ignoramus is defined as “an utterly ignorant person”. If you are not aware of TSA rules and procedures (especially as an English speaking American citizen in this highly Internet connected age – even for people like me who live in the middle of nowhere and Internet connectivity is not a given), then you are, in actuality, utterly ignorant. By definition. It is not necessarily a pejorative, rude or insulting term – it is merely descriptive. Especially since ignorant in this case simply means you are uninformed.

    Chris should not have to apologize for the correct usage of the word.

  • John Keahey

    Well said, Jeff. For Chris to characterize to the “Get-Alongs” as “sheeple” and the dissenters as “heroic” is misplaced. But he knows how to get web hits, which make his advertisers happy. Like you and the majority we are part of, I just want to get from point A to point B. Of course most of what the TSA requires is ridiculous. But Chris writing anti-TSA columns, and heroic dissenters demanding, then complaining about, pat downs instead of scans will not change a thing. If this attitude of mine makes me a sheeple, so be it.

  • 1amWendy

    Think of it this way: Handicapped While Flying: the new Driving While Black. Being searched for no other reason than needing medical equipment. All the time. ALL the time. If that’s not like the civil rights movement, I don’t know what is.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I believe I’m right too, but I didn’t want to let this important discussion get derailed.

  • marlee

    Yes, they are retaliatory pat-downs but also it was as if I was being punished for questioning and refusing the scanner.
    I was treated like a criminal with the yelling of orders from the TSA agent .
    and …then the aggressive silent pat-down.

    I know people want to get to their destinations without
    hassle….but, without any resistance to this abuse of our rights it
    will only continue.

    I will never fly again.

  • Daddydo

    Let’s just face it. TSA is “broken”!

  • Luke S.

    Someone carrying a toy light saber with tendencies to recline the seat maybe?

  • Wyndham Whynot

    Nonsense- must not be familiar with ideologues and political fanatics.

  • Daniepwils

    I am a dissident when I have to fly commercial! I can’t wait to receive my pilots license. My dad and a few of my uncles have had theirs for years. A small used plane is cheaper than most peoples vehicles. Although the upkeep is a little more. But it is worth it to not have to put up with this crap.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    “Like you and the majority we are part of, I just want to get from point A to point B. […] If this attitude of mine makes me a sheeple, so be it.”

    Fair enough: you’re a sheeple. Moreover, you’re actively assisting in the incremental erosion of all Americans’ civil liberties, one intrusive and unconstitutional search-and-seizure episode–one dose of radiation and/or one grope–at a time. For shame.

  • ridley

    agree — what an offensive categorization for people who don’t have a drum to bang.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    Same here, asurvivor. (My virtual hugs of solidarity.) I have refused to fly since 2007 (and have not taken a vacation since 2005), and this is but one reason why. The primary reason being my protest at these unconstitutional, warrantless search/seizure events. But yeah, I was abused by TSA–smacked hard on my arm, actually–before the so-called “enhance patdowns” were even instituted. It brought back horrible memories of sexual assault that took place decades ago. Thanks a lot, Mr. Pistole and Ms. Napolitano.

    I realize that not flying isn’t a practical option for some people, who fly for work, or for medical reasons, or to visit family who live on the opposite side of the country when they themselves have only been given a few days off from work (yet another delightful aspect of life in these United States as opposed to every other developed nation: no legally-mandated vacation days. But that’s an argument for another day.)

  • Jeff Kolker

    Imagine..flying on vacation with your family and destroying democracy all at the same time. “For Shame”? Seriously now.. your words are a bit extreme.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    I ask if his mother is proud. I usually get a bewildered look to which I respond, “Of your job thwarting terrorism by tapping my balls.” This is usually followed by a glazing of the eyes and a drop of the head and a half-hearted “Enjoy your flight.” “Oh, thanks, but thanks to you I’m already in a much better mood!” They hate it.

  • Brian

    And of course, upon entering the U.S. you’re dumped into a ginormous line of folks waiting to get their passports stamped. I’ve waited anywhere from 20 minutes to an outrageous 2 hours. That’s a wonderful welcome to America. Meanwhile I’ve breezed through immigration checkpoints in China, Canada, Poland and Germany.


    Thank you Jeff. I suppose I, too, am one of the “Get-Alongs” but I KNOW that it’s not because I think TSA is keeping me safe, I feel much the same as most of the people on this site do about TSA. I only fly once or twice in a year and my goal is to get where I’m going without a hassle and to hopefully not be assaulted by a TSA agent. I know the rules and I choose to obey them, even if I don’t agree with them.

  • Matty B.

    Replace “race, skin color, or ethnicity ” with ” “country of origin and/or citizenship” and it makes sense to me.

  • Saul B

    Well, Matty, Americans lately have a reputation of being a gun-happy people who shoot up schools and other venues, so surely you’d have no problems with all Americans being subject to intense interrogation and scrutiny and detention and delay if they dare travel to another country. Right?

    Or is painting an entire country’s citizenry as evildoers based on the actions of a very small group only acceptable for non-Americans?

  • Philoprof

    Like I told the screener at PHL when I went for the patdown, no one has a grasp on the hazards of the L3Com machine used. Yes you can say that flying has its hazards to include increased exposure to radiation, But having someone stand in a machine does not make me feel any safer.
    Besides, having worked in the industry that manufactures such machines, I would not trust them to build me a peanut butter sam’ich. But that is my opinion…

  • NoraG

    As one of the “sheeple”, I’d like to say that yes, I go along with it. Why? Because I’m flying to get some place, and I want to get there with a minimum hassle. If it’s my vacation, I don’t want to ruin my own happy attitude by starting a fight. And we can see by all of these posts that it does not do any good to raise a ruckus. My energy is far better spent by writing my Representative and Senators. And I do!

  • Susan Richart

    So in your selfishness, you don’t give a flyin’ fig about what the TSA does to others, the humiliation and degradation that is handed out on a daily basis at our airports. It’s all about you and getting to where you want to go, the heck with other people.

  • Phoenix Justice

    Thank you Jeff. I too am one of those who want as little hassle as possible so as I can make my flight and get to where I am going. That doesn’t mean I agree with all of the policies of the TSA, but it means that I take other more peaceable avenues to help end them.

  • Phoenix Justice

    The TSA has an impossible task, hamstrung by a Congress that believes in throwing money at unproven technology to the detriment of investing in the agents.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m hardly an ignoramus but only comparatively recently did I hear I needed to fully empty my pockets to go through the full body scanners. Previously, I had always made sure my metal objects were in my jacket pockets and put through the scanner. In essence, they want us to go through the scanner “naked” in terms of objects. But this doesn’t make a lot of sense since if they can see the harmless objects in the scanner (my cough drop in my pocket), why does it matter as compared to the X-ray scanner I put the other stuff into?

    Anyways, I quickly removed the cough drop and showed it to the guy and moved on. No biggie.

    In a rush, my wife and I had forgotten to remove our bags of small liquids and put it through separately from our carry ons. Nothing was said in either our departure or return flights.

  • Jeff Kolker

    And by your statement, the entire world should care about what happens to you, as if you rate higher than the rest? No.. you seem to be overreacting slightly (sarcasm). There are other ways to do things, other than causing a scene at the security line. Supporting candidates for political office that favor changes to the TSA. Donating to groups that work for and advocate change too. I even contribute to this site, and have for several years. What I’m not going to do is possibly ruin my family vacation just to satisfy your sense of outrage. There are smarter ways to do thing…

  • Drontil

    Those who wonder how the ignorant ignoramuses can be as they are have never worked with them. There are more people out there than you would ever believe who don’t read the newspapers or even watch what passes for new on the television. It’s truly frightening.

  • cjr001

    I’m forced to take off my belt half the time I go through a body scanner when I never have to take it off for a metal detector because it never sets off a metal detector.

    Not to mention the countless false positives with the scanners cause by things such as folds or decorative beads.

    How much further are we going to need to strip for a system that is a complete failure?

    You may enjoy the game. I do not, and I’m sick and tired of ‘playing’.

  • DavidYoung2

    Really, you feel “more at risk” standing around with 500 fellow travelers? This is just over the top in terms of irrationality. Your biggest ‘risk’ was probably the drive to the airport – that’s a fact. But then, with the TSA-loonies, ‘facts’ probably don’t matter much. Blaming the TSA for putting you at ‘risk’ by being in a long line really defies logic.

    Like Chris’s comment about opting out. Yeah, you KNOW when you opt out, you’ll get a pat down. You choose which one you want – it’s a free country. You’re free to choose your method of screening, but then people whine about being able choose because their ‘preferred’ choice isn’t on the list (not that they really say what their preferred screening method would be; they just whine about the ones the TSA uses. I’m not ‘defending’ the TSA because I really don’t care one way or the other. But I am defending discussions based on fact, logic and reason. And saying the TSA puts you ‘at risk’ because there’s a long line doesn’t pass the fact, logic and reason test.

  • cjr001

    Reports are that customs & immigration at airports is getting really bad right now due to the sequester, too. A USAToday article stated that international flights at LAX are being held for an hour just to prevent such lines.

  • cjr001

    But that doesn’t stop people from believing that they actually do anything useful.

  • Chasmosaur

    Yeah, that’s for the MMW machine. Since they have the “Gumby” outline now, it just notes “an anomaly” to the agents at the gate, hence the need for naked pockets.

    I’m not saying it’s cool, and I’m not saying TSA are cracker-jack, nor that they are consistent from airport to airport. (Like the 311 bags or removing items from your pockets for MMW – I’ve seen it vary from airport to airport, which makes the whole thing a pain). I hate the whole damn thing, top to bottom.

    I’ve been getting pat-downs since late 2001, and I have a physical deformity that is hidden when dressed but shows up as an anomaly the rare times I go through AIT. (Normally, I opt for a pat-down, but at DCA a few years ago, I was pretty much pulled away from the WTMD after I had been waved towards it and then and pushed into the MMW – targeted pat-down ensued. In the past year, I’ve been going through physical therapy and go through the MMW, because I can’t risk an aggressive enhanced pat-down – I’m unstable even without someone punitively putting their hands on my body. The targeted pat-downs are at least gentler, and they listen when I tell them I have hip and calf injuries. I await the day when I will be waiting for a female agent to become free for an enhanced pat-down ;) )

    But you and your wife did actually have your liquids bagged (if not removed). You knew you were going through security, with the possibility of AIT. That’s not the ignorant that’s a problem – that’s TSA’s problem in not being consistent in their policies. You, by definition, are not an ignoramus at all.

    It’s the people who seem utterly surprised that TSA and all its’ annoyances exist in the first place that are problematic. Even in my tiny little, circulation 500, ends up in your mailbox whether you subscribed to it or not community newspaper, they’ve covered TSA a couple of times over the past several years. (Not to mention – TSA did searches at a game at a Packers game at Lambeau Field earlier this year, so most people in Wisconsin are aware of their existence ;) ) I find it really difficult to believe a person can have heard nothing about them in the last several years since the pat-downs started and outrage rose. You may not be savvy enough to use or know that a particular CP has WTMD’s, but you should know of their existence and the basic policies. Or perhaps people are using the Internet solely to look at viral videos and LOL Cats.

  • Saul B

    Yes, the surrender position that passengers must assume when going through AIT scanners is quite apt.

  • BillCCC

    Be careful, this might pop up the next time we see a story about cruise passengers without passports or rental car customers who do not inspect the car prior to driving off. Using words like dummies and ignorant can come back to bite you.

  • m11_9

    Sorry, that was a half serious joke about the futility of profiling people. A near impossible task to get inside the head of passengers.

  • kmwcary

    It would be a free country, with respect for the Fourth Amendment, if there were neither scanners nor “enhanced” pat downs. A forced choice between the two is not a free choice.

    And it is not illogical to point out that a suicide bomber has a perfect target with the security lines at US airports. (At least in many airports in Asia they don’t let you into the airport building withouth a ticket.)

  • Saul B

    People care about their money. They don’t care so much about vague notions of rights and civil liberties.

    If every time they were told to step into a body scanner they were made to pay $10 on the spot, and if every time they were forced to have an additional patdown because the scanner found a false-positive “anomaly” they were made to pay an additional $5, and if every time TSA set up an ID checkpoint at the boarding gate they were made to pay an additional $7, maybe passengers would start caring how DHS and the TSA were fleecing them.

  • Diane D

    I’d have to say I’m in the get along group but only because I travel with so many products that I don’t want to cause a stir. I was only almost questioned about it once leaving Punta Cana but a lady with a blow dryer posed more of a risk. Eye roll.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Suicide bombers would love to drive a car bomb into a group of 500 people standing outside the airport.

  • Susan Richart

    No one is advocating for causing a scene at a checkpoint. What you don’t seem to care to understand is that here are individuals who are humiliated and degraded by the TSA EVERY.TIME.THEY.TRY.TO.BOARD.A.PLANE. We all need to stand up for these poor people.

    As for supporting organizations that advocate for change, other than EPIC, name me some. Organizations that “advocate” for the disabled, the elderly, and the chronically sick are all supported in part by government grants. They certainly aren’t going to come out and criticize the TSA for fear of losing their grant monies.

    Even the CDC, which tends to believe that TSA procedures have caused the spread of disease, won’t speak out.

    Candidates advocating for change? Ha! They might run on such a platform (didn’t the Republicans have some kind of anti-TSA plank in their platform in 2012?) but as soon as the election is over they just go with the flow.

    But, of course, you’re not going to allow your vacation to be ruined.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Apply for Global Entry – $100 for 5 years, background investigation and interview – and you will find yourself sailing through Immigration and Customs.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I am one of the “Get-Alongs” because I just want to make my flight.

  • Susan Richart

    So, DavidYoung2, please explain why terrorists bomb market places, buses, nightclubs, and on and on and on and on. Could it possibly be because that’s where people gather in great numbers? Just at at TSA checkpoints.

    You’re the one failing the “fact, logic and reason test.”

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Ironically, one of my problems is that I’m too cognizant of the policies. As a man, I like to focus on 2 things at a time. 3 max. So going through TSA, I have a lot on my mind. I want to keep my passport and boarding pass handy but not TOO handy. Some checkpoints want you to have it in your hand, some don’t. I have to remove the notebook from the bag and put it separate. Shoes need to come off. Belt too. Empty pockets into jacket (and be sure to remember to unempty them later lest I put my wallet and jacket in the overhead bin and possibly forget about it.) There’s my watch also but NOT my wedding ring which needs to go into my jacket. I then have to line up all my stuff on the scanner in order to go through the system (but not too quickly lest some thief snatch them ahead of me.) I also have to think about my glasses. Keep them on? If I take them off, I may miss a subtle facial gesture from the agent and they’ll take offense. I kept them on without an issue.

    And guess what? I forgot to take out the liquids bags and put them on a separate bin but with all that stuff on my mind above, it doesn’t seem unreasonable does it?

    I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the situation because it’s good to be forced to do a lot of multitasking from time to time. I organize my day deliberately in order to focus upon the stuff that needs to get done so I’m pushed out of my comfort zone each time I go through. Another fun thing I do on vacation is go to timeshare presentations. It helps give me skills to deal with my 1:1’s with my boss.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    I didn’t say “destroying all democracy”. I said “actively assisting in the incremental erosion of all Americans’ civil liberties,”. Which is accurate. If the majority of Americans said “NO” to these potentially dangerous and clearly intrusive electronic strip-searches of innocent passengers, opting out every time, TSA would be rendered overwhelmed and useless to the airlines, and the DHS would be forced to address the whole security theater issue, intrusive searches included. Similarly, if the majority of people stopped flying for a couple of weeks–tops–the airlines would be brought to their knees, and the searches would stop.

    Standing up for what is right–for what is the law, for what are (were?) our Constitutionally-guaranteed protections–is rarely if ever convenient. That’s the point. People have become far too comfortable and oblivious; meanwhile our civil liberties are being curtailed, little by little. Eventually, there will be few-to-none left. Perhaps then people will wake up. Hope springs eternal.

    My family and I stay home in the summers and at Christmas, and we have since 2005–we do drive to visit family. Lots of other people take the train (not that *that* is TSA-free, always) to take vacations. Lots of people forgo non-urgent, non-work-related flying altogether. As you can see, some of us care. If we are successful, what we are doing–the sacrifices we are making–will benefit not only our families, but you “convenience seekers” too.

  • Jeff Kolker

    “But, of course, you’re not going to allow your vacation to be ruined.”

    Nope..and why should I?

  • Lisa Simeone

    Jeff, you’re right: civil liberties are so yesterday.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Hahahaha! I certainly don’t watch TV news or the main newspapers since it’s the same dreck passed down from most of them. So-called journalists are just rewriters of talking points.

    I go to blogs to get links to stories of interest.

  • Jeff Kolker

    No, but I choose to exercise mine in ways that I see fit. Not according to how you feel or anyone else that I should… :)

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    “I take other more peaceable avenues to help end them.”

    Respectfully, (1) What is not peaceful about opting out of the electronic strip-search machines or boycotting flying altogether? No-one here is advocating violent activity. No-one. What I am doing, and what other civil libertarians are doing, is the epitome of nonviolent resistance. And (2) what “other more peaceful avenues” are YOU taking to end the TSA’s unconstitutional practices?

  • Jeff Kolker

    Much of my family (wife’s side) lives in Europe… which train would you suggest?

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I’m not sure where I fall in these categories. I am mostly a “get-along”, but it’s not because I believe TSA is here for ‘our own good’. No, sir, I “get along” because I realize were I to do anything else, I’d be spread-eagled being sexually assaulted by a federal rent-a-cop.

    Were I to do anything but comply with their futile demands and tasks, they’d make me pay for it by searching me and my carryon. They would also subject me to major embarrassment if not make me miss my plane entirely, causing me more stress.

    It’s just easier to let them think you’re playing along.


    Wow. Angry this morning.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    If I may ask, how much will you go along with in order to “get some place”? Perhaps you’ve never been abused or traumatized like countless people have. Lucky you! I have. Many family members and friends have, including (especially) those who have disabilities or recent surgeries, or who are cancer survivors. Again: given that you are already statistically likely to be very aggressively groped on private parts of your body–that’s standard TSA policy, at their whim, if you “alarm” for whatever reason–you are OK with that.

    So I’m asking, as TSA’s procedures have gradually been ramped-up this far–to nude imaging and intimate groping of genitalia–what further procedures will you go along with? At what point will you no longer “go along with it”? Or is anything and everything OK?


    So, I guess I AM selfish for not wanting ruin my vacation or miss my flight to attend a funeral on the other side of the country in order to stand up for the humiliation of others. I’m lucky, I suppose, because I’ve always been treated with the utmost respect by the TSA.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    Yes, your biggest risk is driving to the airport. But you should know that there has already been, in 2011, a terrorist attack inside a very crowded airport in Russia. Not on a plane, in the airport.

  • pauletteb

    “Many opt-outs feel they have a lot in common with the civil rights activists of the 1960s.” I know it’s Trash TSA Wednesday, but this comment made me want to heave.

  • Jeff Kolker

    Well, for starters, financially contributing to journalists that make it part of their mission to expose and report on the true conditions and actions of the TSA. :)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Do you think that the various Civil Rights Activities of the 60s who were beaten, lynched, and friends murdered would appreciate the comparison.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its a reasonable question and I appreciate you and Lady Siren for engaging in a potentially hot topic very respectfully. My substantive response is.: One flies for a relatively limited time. One’s race is 24/7

  • sunshipballoons

    I resent this categorization. I fit closest to the “get-alongs,” but I “‘know’ the TSA is just trying to keep everyone safe.” I think the whole thing is ridiculous, but I value my time and avoiding hassle more than the completely ineffective protest of demanding an “enhanced patdown.” I have made a conscious, rational decision to handle airport security the way I do. The implication that makes me “ignorant” or a “sheeple” is ridiculous.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t want to through Chris under the bus too far. Its well intentioned if somewhat ill-informed. I merely went “sigh”

  • Christopher Elliott

    Paulette, your comment has been flagged by another user as a possible violation of our comment guidelines. I’m letting your comment stand. For the record, we are not here to trash to TSA, but to make aviation security better. Thank you.

  • Lisa Simeone
  • Rose Arnold

    My sentiments exactly. The Commenter enamored with logic is anything but when he equates a forced choice with freedom.

  • 1amWendy

    Being handicapped is also 24/7. And race is independent upon how much one drives. The analogy holds, Sir.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    In that respect, sir, good for you. I am one such writer–I contribute to TSA News, which blog Chris founded. I can’t afford to contribute money, but I contribute my work.

  • Rose Arnold

    “By definition it is not necessarily a pejorative.” Perhaps, but in context of the comments, they were indeed “necessarily” and clearly meant to be just that. All too often there is little kindness and empathy by folks commenting on this site toward people who don’t live up to their standards of intellect, sophistication, and travel savvy.

  • Lisa Simeone

    asurvivor, I’m sorry for what you’ve had to go through. Amazing that, as of this writing, 2 people have downvoted your comment. Apparently it’s too much to ask that people decry sexual assault or have some sympathy for those who’ve suffered it.

  • Rose Arnold

    Thank you for this! I really enjoyed it and a little humor now hits the spot. I call it airport check-in anxiety. There is the added complication of not wanting to look like a fool who doesn’t know what to do or, in my case, a senile old lady.

  • Susan Richart

    And that is exactly why the TSA has and will most likely in the future, institute more and more invasive procedures. If all would have protested at the beginning, we would not be having this discussion today.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    Carver, I am not African-American, but I do all in my power to protest the violation of African Americans’ and Latinos’ civil liberties in New York and other major cities, where the police conduct “stop-and-frisk” searches. Said searches violate the same Fourth Amendment protections as the TSA does. What I’m saying is, ALL violations of civil liberties affect us all. The students at UC Davis, most of whom were white, were carrying out a peaceful protest (within university guidelines!) when each took a blast of pepperspray to the face, one which sickened them and burned their eyes and skin so as to require medical attention. All they were doing was sitting down, peacefully. Other peaceful protesters have been beaten, strip-searched–their civil liberties (i.e. the right to peaceably gather to seek redress of grievances) violated.

    It’s much too far-reaching to get into further here, but we should not be bickering with one another about which violations are worse. Clearly the violations perpetrated against our black brothers and sisters decades ago–which included maiming and killing some of them–were shocking in their violence. You should know that similar violations–beatings, killings, humiliation, torture–against Americans of *all* ethnicities take place in American prisons all over the country, as well as the “off-the-books” prisons here and abroad. ALL of it is wrong. That’s why we can’t accept any curtailment of our civil liberties, which were hard-won, and are under serious threat, as anyone paying attention can clearly see.

  • Susan Richart

    Not just this morning, but all the time when it comes to the DHS/TSA and what they have done to my country.

  • Susan Richart

    Because you are a citizen of the United States and you should be standing up for the rights of all other citizens.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    I don’t believe I said the train was the only mode (you really don’t read my posts, do you?) Most of my living family are in the UK. When I can afford to take a vacation, I will drive to Canada and fly out of one of their airports. That, or I will travel by sea. Or they will travel to Canada and we’ll meet there. I simply refuse to put up with the unconstitutional searches, no matter how inconvenient it may be to me personally.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    By your definition, blonde, blue-eyed, American-born terrorist Timothy McVeigh would be permitted to zoom through security because he didn’t fit the “profile”. What if he’d been a suicide bomber (which, in essence, he was when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma) and decided to carry a bomb in his “body cavity” to take down an airport line or a planeload of Americans? Profiling is pretty weak sauce. Police work and good intel work has to take place BEFORE a terrorist gets near an airport. Once he or she is at the airport, it’s too late. Every security expert agrees on this point. The billions we spend on TSA should go to good police work instead. THAT is what makes us safer.

  • 1amWendy

    Think of it this way, Carver. How would you feel if someone snickered at you…”Don’t want to get stopped? Then don’t drive.” What’s the difference? In your mind, is there a pecking order for discrimination? Does someone have to die before discrimination is decried?

  • Saul B

    How did you construe from my post that I favor profiling of any sort? Because I don’t.

  • Shukar

    I like to be a dissident, but sometimes I do just get along. However, not all TSA agents are into the whole power-trip thing. Last time I flew out of BWI, I opted out. The area was pretty empty, so the man who came up after me gestured for me to go ahead. I said, “Oh no, go ahead into the radiation machine. I’m waiting here to be groped.” Of course, I said it quite loudly (being a dissident at the time, after all), and the TSA agent on the line next to me distinctly snickered. So please don’t generalize to all of TSA; I’m sure the majority of THEM are just doing this job in order to earn a paycheck.

  • Saul B

    Ctporter, why should the amount of money you have spent with a private company (the airline) have any bearing on how “trusted” the government views you? Or are you implying that a 100,000-per-year road warrior is somehow more trustworthy than a mere peon who only takes four flights per year?

  • Jeff Kolker

    If you truly stood for the right of all others, wouldn’t you respect my right to do as I see fit? I do things my way, supporting various causes in ways with the talents I’m given. However, I am not a zealot and do respect the rights of others to see things differently…

  • Annapolis2

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but what a sad and pathetic statement that makes about your values. I feel sorry for you.
    Reading “Many opt-outs feel they have a lot in common with the civil rights activists of the 1960’s” made me want to stand up and cheer! May we never stop fighting to be treated fairly as human beings, to protect innocent men and women and children from being violently mistreated by our government, to demand our dignity and accept nothing less.

  • Extra mail

    I have to admit that I get pissed at all of the TSA agents who are standing around doing NOTHING. Nothing, that is, except reading a newspaper, chatting about the day, anything but actually working.

  • menley

    This is one reason the Istanbul airport requires two security screenings; one the moment you enter the airport, and a more enhanced one after check-in.

  • Jeff Kolker

    1) Yes, I read, but it was a “joke”. *Sigh*

    2) Seriously? you drive to Canada…wow, zealotry does have a cost I suppose. But now that I’ve read your blog posts… things make more sense….

  • Lisa Simeone

    I’ve flown through Istanbul. More than once. I wasn’t treated anywhere near the way the TSA treats people. Not saying it never happens — obviously there are abusive people everywhere — just offering an observation.

  • DavidYoung2

    Or a concert. Or football game. Or a high school graduation. Or into a restaurant. Or at Disney. Or…. the list is endless. But then, again, this doesn’t pass the ‘logic and reason’ test since well, nobody seems to have done that in the USA. But I guess in a ‘free’ country your solution is to pass laws to ban all gatherings of 500 people or more?

  • Lisa Simeone

    “Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
    — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, Aug. 4, 1857

  • 1amWendy

    I would suggest the Cunard Line. I’ve family in Scotland, and that’s the mode I’m considering. That, or driving to Canada to fly out of Windsor. When I refused a grope in Dallas (on business), my boss asked me over the phone why I was standing on principle 1200 miles away. I told him that to truly stand on principle one shouldn’t do it merely when it was convenient.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    Also, Dubai.

    And Paris.

    And Tokyo.

    But we’re the “gold standard”. USA!USA!USA! LMAO

  • TSAisTerrorism

    Are you not aware that you’ve just disproven your own point?

    None of those things are targets. None of them. Not one.

    Ergo, where are all of these crazy terrorists we should be looking for? Maybe the “threat” isn’t as grave as we’ve been led to believe, and all of the airport circus is ridiculously expensive nonsense.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    Two downvotes?

    Oh, well let me sum it up based on the other comments here:

    “Didn’t happen to me. Only relevant if you’re black. Get me to my plane on time! WEEEEEEEEEEEE Vacation! Don’t down my vacation vibe, dude.”

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    That’s how you refer to principles and patriotism, Jeff–zealotry? Nice. I suggest you revisit your civics and history textbooks. It’s not zealotry to speak out against the unconstitutional abuses of others–of people with disabilities, cancer survivors, or people of color–even if one is part of a privileged group, as I am: white, well, able-bodied. It’s not zealotry to engage in nonviolent and consistent protest against violations such as those committed by the TSA every single day. My protests, right now, are economic–I don’t fly out of the US. If an emergency were to call for it, though, I will opt out, in protest of the unsafe electronic strip-search machines.

    Orwell said, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” The TSA and what it does are in direct conflict with the Fourth Amendment. That’s indisputable, and it doesn’t require much of a struggle to see. Not unless one is so invested in one’s denial, it’s more palatable to resort to mocking and demonizing people who do see what’s in front of their noses–who actually have the principles and guts to protest this agency and its policies–than to confront facts.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Gee, I never said to ban all gatherings of 500 people or more.
    Just where did you get that?
    I think that Americans need to be mindful that any area outside the airport – or even the locations you mentioned – can be viewed a target to a suicide bomber.

  • Deborah Newell Tornello

    I’m so sorry, Saul B. I meant that as a reply to Lzy. Not sure how to alter my comment to reflect that!

  • Saul B

    No problem :)

  • Daisiemae

    Is Global Entry only for US customs or is that for all countries?

  • Daisiemae

    I always count on you to put everything in a proper perspective. Thanks for the laugh. Unfortunately, it’s only too true.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Wow, so sorry to be the primary reason behind all this angst being suffered by the rest of the world’s travelers as they go through the US. I didn’t know my actions had such a ripple effect, with such far reaching consequences.

  • cjr001

    And what is your ‘logic and reason’ with your endless defense of anything and everything TSA does?

    By your ‘logic’, we should subject anybody at any gathering of more than 500 people to a 4th Amendment violating pat down. After all, it’s good enough for airports, so why not all those other things you listed?

  • cjr001

    Apparently the $100+ I spent on a passport – which I’m sure included some level of background investigation – just isn’t good enough these days.

  • cjr001

    Well, you can’t have Thousand Standing Around without TSA.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Chris, I’m not sure which of the guidelines Paulette violated. Could you please explain?

    I normally don’t follow the Wednesday column below the actual article, but I was intrigued by @facebook-1284012132:disqus ‘s comment and got sucked into reading comments in response to his. @Annapolis2:disqus’s comment in response to @pauletteb:disqus sure seems to start with a “personal attack”, but *that* comment didn’t get flagged. I’d sure hate to see flagging used as a retaliatory measure.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    God bless you, you lucky soul.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    They can be viewed as a target.

    And yet they aren’t.

    Y so few terrorists?

  • Miami510

    Istanbul Hassle

    I had to laugh at the remarks about how wonderful Istanbul Security is. I was attending a medical meeting of a pan-European group and, while leaving Turkey, was asked by a security person the reason for my visit. When I mentioned that I had attended the medical meeting, he told me to wait and disappeared with my passport.
    He returned with another officer (with more braid on his uniform) and
    they took me into a private room. He introduced himself, told me he was the chief inspector for narcotics, and began to show me an American Customs loose-leaf book with pictures of various controlled narcotics.

    He told me they work closely with American narcotic police and he kept staring at me. After a long minute, he said for me to come with him into another room. He then held his lower ey lid down, showed me a perfect clinical case of conjunctivitis, and asked me what I would prescribe for that. I thought it was funny, but he was scary. I told him a common antibiotic and he asked if I could send him some. I agreed and he wrote his name and address. He invited me for coffee… which I declined, saying I was hoping to meet fellow congress attendees for the trip home.

    In retrospect, he knew very well that he was intimidating a traveler. I relaxed at wheels-up. I never send the medication. Is there a TSA story to top that?

  • Lisa Simeone

    “Is there a TSA story to top that?”


  • Annapolis2

    Or you could read the RAND report which concluded that the best security improvement LAX airport could make would be to reduce the concentration of passengers waiting in lines. You know, these are factual questions with factual answers. Of the time we spend in the airport, we *are* most at risk in high-density concentrations of people in unsecured areas of the airport. Press release here:

  • Annapolis2

    Thank you for writing to your Representative and Senators. I hope you mean that you are writing to advocate that these elected officials defund and disband the TSA immediately! Please also register your complaints at – it’s very important that we object in writing during the TSA’s court-mandated public comment period.

  • Annapolis2

    Many people fly for work every day. That’s not a limited time, that’s a daily dose of government oppression. I met a pilot who quit his job the day that he vomited in his driveway from fear of facing another TSA sexual assault on his way to work. Flying is only “a limited time” if you assume no one flies frequently, which is a patently false assumption.

  • Annapolis2

    I see where you are going with your comment. I have talked to countless people who truly object to the TSA’s nonsense, but feel that they can not do anything to meaningfully impact the situation. To you I say, there are still ways to register your opinion even if you don’t think protesting in the checkpoint is useful.

    Please don’t neglect to complain to your Congressional representatives, and please put in a one-sentence objection to the TSA’s nude body scanner program here:

  • Annapolis2

    A slight expansion of Chris’s categories: I am clearly in the category of dissident, but I don’t opt out of the millimeter wave scanners. Instead, I opt out of patdowns. Because the scanners give a huge rate of false positives, I stand my ground and refuse to allow any touching whatsoever after a false positive from the millimeter wave. I have been thrown out of the airport more than once for doing this. I asked the airport police as they were escorting me out of the checkpoint last week how often they have people refuse TSA checks. One officer told me he’s certainly done this a number of times before. Multiply this across all airports and there have certainly been thousands of refusals to cooperate that ended with a person not making their flight!

    I’d say anyone who draws their own line of what is unacceptable abuse to take from the TSA and sticks by that is a dissident. Rand Paul did the exact same thing: he entered a scanner and then solidly refused to allow any TSA clerk to touch him even though it meant that he missed his flight.

  • Traveling Mama

    Just last week, I accidentally got through with a bottle of water (forgot). Quality is not TSA’s strong suit. I’ve also been poked and prodded more than I’d like to admit. Finally, they stole from me, a very nice watch, in the screening process. When it came time for a manager to go back and watch the video, it was too late. Yea, right.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I have only seen Global Entry kiosks in the US. At Washington Dulles airport, there are a bank of kiosks to the far right as you enter the secure area upon arrival to the US. You place you passport in the kiosk, put your fingers on the glass to have your fingerprints read, look into the camera, answer a few questions, and you receive a receipt and off you go. The receipt is given to the Customs agent as you exit the secure area.
    I decided to get Global Entry after I had to wait 1 hour and 10 minutes in line. I have heard that the lines now are pretty slow because of no overtime/extra days for the Customs and Border Patrol agents.

  • Susan Richart

    For all those people who believe that ignorant ignoramuses don’t exist, read this from FlyerTalk:

    The above thread was generated by a comment from one of those who think they are on the last line of defense against terrorism.

  • Lzy

    Where did I say women should be given a free pass? I do think certain people should be given additional screening. Comprehension issues? You’re reading too much into what I said. Try again.

  • Saul B

    Okay, so which people should be given extra scrutiny? What criteria should be used?

    “Profiling” makes for a great buzzword but is meaningless without details.

    And you conveniently neglected to comment on the gross failure of Israeli screening I pointed out.

  • DavidYoung2

    We fly regularly through Schiphol in Amsterdam. Like the US, they have an expedited EU-passport line and an “other passport” line. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes to get through the non-EU line. Sometimes an hour or more. These issues aren’t confined to the USA.

  • oldft

    Don’t forget the most “at-risk” airport in the world…Ben Gurion…not a hand on ya!

  • Bettina

    Brian, while the wait sometimes is atrocious (thankfully except for once in my many travels to the US, I have never had to wait 2 hours, most about 15 to 20 minutes max), I have always been treated politely, with a smile and professionalism at immigration. I actually felt welcome. Unlike when I left in the last few years where it felt like the only thing that was missing was a boot in the rear on my way to leaving the country.

  • Lisa Simeone

    oldft, not quite.

    Not a hand on ya if you’re the “right” type. If you’re the “wrong” type, you’ll be harassed way worse than the TSA does, up to and including getting roughed up — I know people to whom this has happened. And if you’re a peace activist, forget it — you’ll be cavity-searched in a back room. Just ask Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who’s written publicly about her experience.

    No, thanks, I don’t want Israeli-style security. And don’t forget that bombs still go off in Israel, just not on planes. There’s no such thing as 100% security, anywhere. Life entails risk.

  • rwm

    You’ve been lucky. The wait can be as long as 3 hrs in some US airports.

  • rwm

    Precheck also requires a background check. So it’s not just money.

  • Saul B✓™/tsa-pre✓™-faqs

    “Participating airlines will permit some of their frequent flyers, based on TSA criteria, to opt-in through the airline’s system. Participating airlines have contacted eligible frequent travelers with an invitation to opt-in. Once the passenger opts in, the airline identifies the individual as a participant when submitting the passenger reservation information to TSA’s Secure Flight system.”

    No background check for such passengers. In these instances, passengers are invited to PreCheck and are therefore deemed less risky solely by dint of how much money they have spent with private companies.

    And regardless, background checks are meaningless. Presumably TSA employees are also subject to background checks before being hired, yet hundreds have been charged with various sorts of crimes, ranging from theft to drug smuggling.

  • rwm

    Not true. PreCheck only selects passengers that have already been accepted for US Customs global entry (rigorous background check required). I know this for fact. And GE background check is more rigorous than TSA employee check. For example, any misdemeanor arrest will probably get you disqualified.
    Your comment about TSA employees doesn’t hold water. Many employees with clean background checks can decide to commit a crime. They can’t background check your thoughts.

  • Saul B

    You are mistaken. No background check is necessary for airlines’ elite status holders.✓™/tsa-pre-check-TM-participation

    “Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways are contacting eligible frequent travelers with an invitation to opt-in. Once the passenger opts-in, the airline identifies the individual as a TSA Pre✓™ participant when submitting passenger reservation information to TSA’s Secure Flight system.”

    My sister received such an e-mail and she is not a member of any trusted traveler program.
    “And GE background check is more rigorous than TSA employee check.”

    Yet we are told that TSA employees are our last line of defense. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standards as trusted passengers?

    “Many employees with clean background checks can decide to commit a crime. They can’t background check your thoughts.”

    So shouldn’t the same hold for passengers as well?

  • Bettina

    Please remember, my last experience, as per my original comment was in 2008. However, it was always either Newark, Dulles, San Francisco or Chicago where I ended up going through immigration. And the only long wait I ever had was in the 1980’s at JFK just before Christmas. As I have never again travelled to the US for Christmas or any major US holiday travel time, I guess I was lucky. But the wait for immigration is one thing, and definitely atrocious. However, whether there is one or not does not excuse the terrible treatment at the hand of the TSA upon leaving.

  • cahdot

    81 people said they are a HELP???? nuts

  • BMG4ME

    Thanks Chris! As one of the elite I agree that it should be that way for most people (not for everyone though).

  • Jason

    I regularly fly through Schiphol as well as Frankfurt. You must have bad luck, or have skewed your times to reflect your point. I have never waited anywhere NEAR close to an hour for immigration. I almost want to say never a half hour but am sure there were lines at some point. Average somewhere around 3 minutes vs 20 in US.

  • Monroe

    I agree with you, If anything TSA is there to minimize the risk of terror attacks…but honestly what is “safe”? i learned that every day guns are either snuck or “accidentally” brought onto planes…(thats a fact) how do they slip through the screening is my question

  • gracekelley

    Just a tid bit here and irrelevant but crew members have to take shoes off etc etc we just get to pass the line well cause we don’t get paid until the a/c door shuts and probably are coming from an 8 hour overnight when we got released into rest 15 minutes after landing to a 40 minute car ride. You want your pilots to come in earlier or get more sleep? Honestly I’ve stood on a sidewalk many times and said if I fell asleep right here and don’t eat or shower i might get 6 hours of sleep 6 hours. That’s the same for those people flying your aircraft. That is why we get to cut line I’d hardly consider it as “elite” treatment. Further I get padded down in uniform weekly so do pilots. Sure a few airports have known crew member but most aren’t open when we report so it doesn’t matter if your 4am report or at one of the majority of airports that does not have KCM. I’m just saying we feel your pain. We don’t enjoy cutting line and being berated for it but its part of being employees of an airline having the uniform makes us hated by the general public. We’re sorry.