When the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check formally launches sometime this fall, its trusted-traveler program will already have the enthusiastic endorsement of frequent travelers — and an equally enthusiastic denouncement from privacy advocates.
Pre-Check offers an appealing shortcut past the often long airport security lines. After you pay an enrollment fee and submit to a background check and interview, the TSA promises to treat you like a VIP. You’ll be sent to a preferred line, where you can leave your shoes, light outerwear and belt on, leave your laptop in its case and keep your bag of liquids and gels in your carry-on.
“I can’t say enough about how much I love it,” says Ralph Velasco, a photographer based in Corona del Mar, Calif. “It’s saved me many, many hours. I’d highly recommend it.”
How do Velasco and others know about the benefits of Pre-Check?
Because the agency assigned to protect U.S. transportation systems has slowly rolled out the program in 40 airports since 2011.
Travelers could opt in to Pre-Check through their frequent-flier program or through another government trusted-traveler initiative, such as Global Entry, a similar program that allows travelers to cut the customs line when they return to the United States from overseas. Continue reading…
Let’s give the Transportation Security Administration one last chance.
After the release of a Government Accountability Office report that revealed widespread TSA employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling, public sentiment is squarely on the side of a top-to-bottom overhaul that could privatize or dismantle the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.
But today, just a few days after the 9/11 anniversary, is not the time to talk about the end of the TSA. This is the moment to take account of the failings of one of America’s least-loved agencies, and to say: Our patience has its limits; it’s almost up. Continue reading…
Roberta Ling is a 73-year-old woman from Austin, Texas. Statistically, she’s likelier to be the next Miss America than a terrorist. But that doesn’t stop the TSA from harassing her whenever she flies.
Ling expects it. She has an artificial breast prosthesis, and is forced to make a difficult choice between a full-body scan and an uncomfortable pat-down when she’s screened. (Disclosure: I am opposed to the TSA’s current screening methods, and believe the choice between a scan and pat-down violates our Fourth Amendment rights.)
What Ling doesn’t expect is the hard sell on the scanner, which has sounded strangely similar lately. Continue reading…
Like most Americans, Jim Davies believes the Transportation Security Administration might benefit from a top-to-bottom reform.
And like most Americans, he wasn’t surprised when a Government Accountability Office study revealed widespread employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling activities, as well as circumventing mandatory screening procedures for passengers and baggage.
All of which made his recent experience in Philadelphia so noteworthy. As he waited in line to have his ID checked, he saw three elderly men approach the checkpoint.
“One of the gentlemen had clearly not been on a commercial flight in some time,” he says. “He presented his Medicare card and then his library card as his ID.” Continue reading…
If you’re afraid a TSA agent might bungle your screening when you fly somewhere this summer, maybe you should do what John Klapproth did when he was traveling from Seattle to Anchorage recently.
Like many air travelers, Klapproth declined to use the TSA’s full-body scanner, and was sent to a holding area for an “enhanced” pat-down.
“I told the TSA agent that was no problem,” he says. “I explained to him that I was a retired state corrections officer with 25 years experience doing pat-searches in a maximum security prison and knew what to expect. I also told him that I knew a proper pat-search could be performed without touching my genitals or anal areas and that I did not consent to be touched on either area.” Continue reading…
If you said, “not really,” then maybe you know Theresa Putkey, a consultant from Vancouver. She had a run-in with a TSA agent recently after trying to opt out of a full-body scan, and sent a complaint letter to the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.
Travelers love to complain about the TSA, and even though the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems claims to listen, most of us know better.
Don’t believe me? Try sending the agency an email, complaining about your last pat-down. Do you hear the sound of crickets? Me too.
But now a court has ordered the TSA to listen, and to pay attention — and maybe, if we’re lucky, to do something about it.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the TSA to engage in something known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its screening procedures, and specifically its use of full-body scanners. You can leave your comment at the Federal Register website until June 24th. Continue reading…
With the frenetic summer travel season just around the corner, here’s a little warning about a road hazard you might not expect: a checkpoint staffed by Transportation Security Administration workers.
The so-called VIPR teams (shorthand for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) are special TSA units that search — and sometimes detain — travelers at bus terminals, railroad stations, subways, truck weigh stations and special events such as NFL games and political conventions. Continue reading…
Today’s tale of TSA inefficiency comes from the Atlantic Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, NY.
“This station has at least six entrances,” says Jeff, one of my readers who witnessed the spectacle. “But the TSA was only set up at one of the two that I saw. If someone was up to no good they would just walk past the turnstile entrance where the TSA was and go to one of the other entrances. It is such a waste of time and money that they are allowed to do this.”
I asked Jeff if I could mention his observations in an upcoming story. But that’s when he clammed up.
“Do you have to use my name if you write about it?” he asked.
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area.
It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter.
“When we got to security, my son went first in line through the X-ray machine and TSA flagged him for the hand swab test,” she remembers. “While the rest of the family was stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine, my son was pulled aside for supposedly having a positive result for explosives.”
Bruce, who lives in Dallas and is a mathematician by training and a homemaker, is certain it was a misunderstanding. Her son is no terrorist, she says. He’s a clean-cut honor student. Continue reading…
It’s been almost five years since the Transportation Security Administration quietly began installing its so-called Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) — better known as full-body scanners — at airports nationwide. And now the government wants to know what you think of the machines.
In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the TSA to engage in what’s known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its use of the technology. You can share your opinion on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the Federal Register Web site until June 24. Continue reading…