Case dismissed? TSA ruined my diabetic insulin

The TSA’s mission is to protect America’s transportation systems and to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. So you’d think it would be concerned if, in the process of doing its job, it endangered the lives of one of its own citizens.

Then again, maybe not.

Virjean Svoboda says her medical insulin was damaged when she checked in for a flight in Phoenix on March 9. I’ll let her explain.

Here’s the letter she sent directly to TSA administrator John Pistole.
Continue reading…

Are we traveling in a police state?

As she waited for her flight from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Medford, Ore., last month, Linda Morrison noticed something unusual in the waiting area.

“A lady in a TSA uniform came over, put on her rubber gloves and went up and down the rows of seats, choosing bags to go through,” remembered Morrison, a retired corporate recruiter who lives in Seattle. “She didn’t identify herself, didn’t give a reason for the search. She seemed to be targeting larger carry-on bags.”

Morrison was stunned. She expected to be screened at the designated checkpoint area, or maybe at the gate, where the TSA sometimes randomly checks passengers as they board. But this was different. “To me, it just felt like an illegal search performed by a police state,” she said.

There’s that phrase again: police state. It’s being thrown about a lot more since November’s pat-down/opt-out fiasco, as public anger over the TSA’s new security measures remains high. Which makes the question of whether we’re traveling in a police state, or something like it, worth taking seriously.
Continue reading…

From the frontlines on Opt-Out Day: “Today was different from anything that I have ever experienced in my years of flying”

Edmond Valencia had an 8 a.m. flight out of Albuquerque today, and since this is one of the busiest days for air travel, he arrived with time to spare.

It’s a good thing.

There were protesters at Albuquerque Sunport holding signs that said, “The Terrorists are Winning,” and “Go Ahead and Sexually Assault Another 2 Year Old.”

They were being interviewed by print and TV media. The man stated that he is a Marine veteran of three Iraq tours. He felt that the liberties he fought for were being eroded by the actions of the TSA.

Then it was Valencia’s turn to go through the security line. He flies about once a week, so he’s used to the screening procedures. Or so he thought.
Continue reading…

Are you exempt from a TSA screening? The list is growing, and you just might be on it

Maybe you aren’t a senior member of Congress, a visiting dignitary or a working pilot — three of the most high-profile groups of air travelers who are exempt from a full-body scan or “enhanced” pat-down by the Transportation Security Administration.

But the list of exceptions is bigger than you might think, and it’s growing.

Working pilots are the latest group to skip the scanners, following intense pressure from their unions and several lawsuits. “Allowing these uniformed pilots, whose identity has been verified, to go through expedited screening at the checkpoint just makes for smart security and an efficient use of our resources,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a prepared statement last Friday.
Continue reading…

Some airlines refunding tickets for passengers who fear pat-downs

Sommer Gentry had plans to fly from Baltimore to Charlotte next month. But after she heard about the TSA’s invasive new scanning and pat-down procedures, she decided to cancel.

“I can not fly when these are the terms,” she says in an email to her airline, AirTran Airways.

Unfortunately, her tickets were nonrefundable. Accepting a ticket credit and paying a change fee isn’t an option for her, and many others like her who vow never to fly until TSA changes its policy.

Airline responses to the TSA pat-down problem range from inflexible to accommodating. I contacted five of the major airlines yesterday to find out if they planned to loosen their policies in response to the screening crisis.

Here’s what I found:
Continue reading…

Congress calls on TSA to review pat-downs as agency backs off crew screening

The days of the Transportation Security Administration’s controversial “enhanced” pat-downs may be numbered.

TSA Administrator John Pistole this morning said airline pilots will be exempted from physical checks at security checkpoints, bowing to pressure from pilot unions and several lawsuits by crewmembers. Earlier this week, the agency modified its pat-downs for children 12 and under after coming under fire from passengers.

Now, in a move that could prompt the TSA to further modify its screening practices, Congress is asking for a time-out.

In a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican leader John Mica and Aviation Subcommittee top Republican Tom Petri called for a review of the pat-down procedures.
Continue reading…

New TSA policy? Empty your pockets when you’re being screened

If you’re confused by the TSA’s many new security protocols — from enhanced pat-downs to printer cartridge bans — then you probably don’t want to know about Eugene Solomon.

When Solomon was screened in Bozeman, Mont., a few days ago, a TSA officer instructed him to remove everything from his pockets before he walked through a magnetometer.

The TSA officer told me they had a new protocol and I was to empty all of my pockets. This was not secondary screening. I asked if this included my wallet and cash in my pocket. The response was “we would like you to.”

Continue reading…

TSA’s “layered” approach to security and what it means to you

The Transportation Security Administration’s campaign to confuse airline passengers has intensified. After posting a revised statement and Q&A about Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to its Web site yesterday that essentially said nothing, travelers are expressing frustration with the agency that’s supposed to safeguard America’s transportation systems.

“Ridiculous!” says Jean How, a retiree from Holbrook, NY. “Rather than correct the problem, the TSA is simply doing a CYA procedure and instituting the most dumb and irrational procedure anyone has come up with to date.”

The TSA appears to have backed off from its first security directive and is now allowing passengers on inbound international flights to stand up less than an hour before landing (but saying passengers “need to abide by crewmember instruction”), permitting in-flight entertainment devices and other electronics to be turned back on, but also adding additional checkpoints, according to sources who have seen the revised directive.

But that’s not the real story. American travelers are far more concerned about what security precautions will be taken domestically — and there, we have little to go on except the TSA’s vague security-speak. Here’s how it addresses the issue on its site:

TSA has a layered approach to security that allows us to surge resources as needed on a daily basis. We have the ability to quickly implement additional screening measures including explosive detection canine teams, law enforcement officers, gate screening, behavior detection and other measures both seen and unseen. Passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport.

Continue reading…

TSA orders pat-down of all passengers during boarding

The Transportation Security Administration has ordered airlines to perform a manual pat-down screening of all passengers on inbound international flights, “concentrating on upper legs and torso,” according to a memo sent to US Airways employees. The search must be performed by airline personnel during the boarding process, in addition to the regular screening at the checkpoint.

The TSA, meanwhile, has said nothing about its new security measures — either on its site, blog or Twitter feed — in the last 24 hours. However, an administration official confirmed earlier today that the president had ordered a review of airline screening procedures.

Here’s the full text of the memo, which was sent to crewmembers this morning:
Continue reading…

“TSA screeners are all idiots”

You’d think that by now the Transportation Security Administration would have figured out a way of dealing with the infant formula issue. Then I got Kristi Grady’s e-mail with the provocative subject, “TSA screeners are all idiots,” and felt like someone had turned back the clock five years.

Grady’s account of her experience suggests TSA agents remain confused about how to deal with infant formula and related items.

Here’s what happened to Grady.

I recently flew from Amarillo to Orlando for a Disney World vacation with my family. We were given considerable grief about the water (Dasani and Nursery water, in original containers) we use to mix our daughter’s infant formula.

Apparently, they would like for me to mix it all at once, so they can test it, and then let me fly with it. When I told them that once mixed, it was unusable after one hour, they informed me that I should have read their policies on water, and formulas. I did. I also asked the man at the beginning of the security line if the water was appropriate to which he replied, “yes.”

Based on Grady’s reading of TSA policy, she concluded it would be acceptable to bring water bottles and powdered formula through the checkpoint. But that’s not how TSA saw it. At the Orlando checkpoint, a TSA agent told the family they couldn’t fly with formula, either.

Interestingly, the agents completely overlooked a three-inch long pocketknife that had been inadvertently packed in the Grady’s carry-on luggage. How’s that possible?

Frustration abounds. Baby formula = dangerous and lethal. Swiss army knives = safe.

What is the policy on formula, because last May in Houston, we were told at the beginning of the line that our gallon jug of nursery water was to be emptied into the bottles, and the jug surrendered, only to be asked at the end of the line “Where’s the ORIGINAL container?” by a rude agent.

Are these people misinformed, or just complete fools with considerable overinflated egos at their perceived power over the flying public?

I put that question to the TSA. Andrea McCauley, a spokeswoman for the organization, responded.

Infant formulas, powdered formulas, juices and breast milk are allowed through the checkpoint and are considered exempt by TSA.

We ask that the passenger declare the items prior to entering the checkpoint. Powdered formulas are always allowed through he checkpoint. If a passenger is traveling with special water for the formula (i.e. nursery water), that water must be declared as medically necessary for the child. Then it will be considered exempt and tested.

If the water is traditional water i.e. Dasani, then it is not allowed through the checkpoint and must be bought post security.

We want to make traveling with children as easy as possible for families and thus have exempted formulas, juices and breast milk. These items, however are still subject to testing. Passengers should never be asked to taste these items during the screening process.

Here are details on the TSA’s policy on formula, breast milk and juice.

Does anyone else think this is a little absurd?

I mean, here you have a mother with an infant returning from a Disney World vacation, and you’re harassing her about her baby water? Come on. Is it too much to ask for a little common sense here? The chances that these passengers represent any threat to the airline’s safety is infinitesimally small. No, nonexistent.

I’m getting a little tired of saying this: It’s time for the TSA to drop its senseless ban on liquids and gels.