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

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

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

“I told the TSA agent that was no problem,” he says. “I explained to him that I was a retired state corrections officer with 25 years experience doing pat-searches in a maximum security prison and knew what to expect. I also told him that I knew a proper pat-search could be performed without touching my genitals or anal areas and that I did not consent to be touched on either area.”
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It’s time to tell the TSA what you really think of it — and for it to listen

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

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

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

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the TSA to engage in something known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its screening procedures, and specifically its use of full-body scanners. You can leave your comment at the Federal Register website until June 24th.
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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?
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3 reasons you’ll shut up after being humiliated at the airport

tsascanLike most infrequent air travelers, Vicki Burton just wants to get through security without causing a scene. So on a recent flight from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Miami, she obediently stepped into the airport’s full-body scanner, held her arms up, and waited for the agent to wave her through.

He didn’t.

Instead, a female screener was summoned to give Burton an “enhanced” pat-down. “My breasts were patted down right there in front of God and everybody,” she says. “I wasn’t even afforded the privacy of a screen. I was so stunned, I was just mute. What do you say without being arrested? What should I have done?”
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7 things you’ll love about the TSA

Carolina K. Smith MD/

It’s been almost three years to the day since Special Agent Robert Flaherty knocked on my front door and handed me a subpoena.

The Department of Homeland Security order — which would have forced me to reveal the name of a source who had sent me a “secret” TSA security directive — was dropped a few days later after I told the feds I’d see them in court. It also turned me from an aviation security skeptic into one of the TSA’s most vocal critics. Every week I take the agency to task on my consumer advocacy site.

So you’d think that when it comes to the subject of airport safety, I wouldn’t have one nice thing to say. But that would be wrong.
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What do you really know about the TSA?

Hey babe, you on the no-fly list? / Photo by Drewski 2112 - Flickr
When it comes to the TSA, you may know less than you think.

I was reminded of that last week when I heard from Sergei Shevchuk, a reader who was flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Delta Air Lines.
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Ridiculous or not: Just who does the TSA think it is?

Hardly a day seems to go by that I don’t get a complaint about the Transportation Security Administration.

Today it’s Judi Kutzko’s turn. She believes many air travelers like her are afraid to stand up to the agency for fear of being blacklisted.

“TSA can — and often does — make things miserable for anyone who speaks up,” she says.

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TSA Watch: Should we avoid screening — or embrace it?

Full-body scan or pat-down?

It’s a choice that hundreds of thousands of air travelers will make for the first time this summer.

Not willingly, mind you. Some passengers are even going so far as to change the way they dress in an effort to avoid the whole thing. Susan Jones, an executive from Bellevue, Wash., wears clothes that won’t set off the airport magnetometer, hoping to pass through the checkpoint quickly.

“I have a favorite underwire garment that gets caught going through the machine,” she says. “So I try to remember not to wear it when I’m traveling.”
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TSA Watch: Confronting an out-of-control agency

It’s been a week of run-ins between the TSA and its critics. Maybe the most interesting one was Sen. Rand Paul’s confrontation with Transportation Security Administration Chief John Pistole during a Congressional hearing.

“You’ve gone overboard and you’re missing the boat on terrorism because you’re doing these invasive searches on six-year-old girls,” Paul said of the TSA’s searches, pointing to a poster-size image of a young girl from his state being patted down. “It makes me think you’re clueless if you think she’s going to attack our country.”
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