The Transportation Security Administration’s surprise announcement that it will allow small knives and previously banned sporting equipment on planes next month was met with concern and confusion from airline passengers and drew strong criticism from airline crew members and law enforcement representatives.
But mostly, it left the average air traveler wondering: Will my next flight be less safe?
This month, the TSA announced that starting April 25, it will allow passengers to bring small knives with non-locking blades shorter than 2.36 inches and less than half an inch in width, small novelty bats, ski poles, hockey and lacrosse sticks, billiard cues and up to two golf clubs onto a plane. The move is intended to allow security screeners to “better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives,” according to the agency. Continue reading…
Intrusive airport searches are just fine with a majority of air travelers. They also think the TSA has singlehandedly prevented a 9/11 repeat, and that critics of the agency’s current practices are nothing more than “anxious advocates.”
At least that’s the impression you might be left with if you read a recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune and other surprisingly favorable mentions in the mainstream media. Even amid the sequestration slowdowns, we’re big fans of the TSA.
Connect the dots, and the conclusion is inescapable: There’s a silent majority of Americans who really do believe the TSA is the “gold standard” in aviation security, as the TSA’s John Pistole recently proclaimed. We’re safer today because of the TSA, and out in flyover country we feel nothing but gratitude toward America’s airport sentries, who are the last line of defense against terrorism. Continue reading…
At a time when the federal agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems can least afford it, there was another dust-up involving a young passenger — this time to Lucy Forck, a three-year-old with spina bifida flying to Disney World with her family.
When the little girl in a wheelchair is pulled over for a pat-down, her mother starts taping the procedure on her phone, which is permitted. Continue reading…
If 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.
Like 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.
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?” Continue reading…
If you think the American government keeps too many secrets, you should meet Jose Lacson.
Lacson lost his job as a federal air marshal in 2011 after allegedly disclosing “unauthorized” information to the public. The TSA says he published what it calls “sensitive security information” (SSI) in a website forum.
But here’s the interesting thing: In an appeal to his dismissal, Lacson claims the posts were fictional. The information referenced the number, deployment, and attrition rate of federal air marshals hired at various times and deployed at various duty stations, according to a report.
Don’t look now, but the TSA’s full-body scanners are alive and well.
Late last week, news organizations breathlessly reported that the agency’s X-ray scanners were being removed from America’s airports , leaving many air travelers with the impression that the TSA had abandoned body scans as a primary screening method.
On her last four trips through U.S. airport security, Anita Nagelis says she’s been pulled aside and subjected to a more thorough search by TSA agents, including an aggressive pat-down.
Nagelis, who works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., doesn’t know why. She never set off a metal detector, isn’t on a no-fly list, and no suspicious items are ever discovered in her luggage.
“It’s so odd,” she says. “I don’t fit the profile.”
That’s exactly what I did on a recent trip from Orlando to Atlanta. Actually, I do it every time I fly.
But as I waited for a male agent — who would ask me to spread my legs, would touch my torso, rub the inside of my legs, and feel the back of my neck and arms — I began to understand what the TSA really means when it says it’s focusing its efforts on “intelligence-driven, risk-based screening procedures.” Continue reading…
When the Minnesota Vikings faced off against the Green Bay Packers last weekend in Minneapolis, the big story wasn’t that the Vikings defeated the Pack to secure a wildcard berth.
It was, strangely, the TSA.
That’s right, the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems was patrolling the Metrodome. Nathan Hansen, a North St. Paul, Minn., attorney, snapped a few photos of the agents before the game, and broadcast them on Twitter.
“I don’t think any federal law enforcement agency needs anything to do with a football game,” he told me yesterday. Continue reading…
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. Continue reading…
Nothing will wipe a grin off your face faster than a squad of Navy SEALs rappelling into your anonymous compound from a Black Hawk. But while Osama Bin Laden is dead and gone, and unable to mock America’s clumsy efforts to protect its planes from our Homeland-fueled fantasies, his disciples are more than capable of laughing at us.
And laugh they do. How could they not? We’ve given them a lot of material, thanks to the Transportation Security Administration. Continue reading…