TSA

Speak out now on the TSA’s full-body scanners

hyxdyl/Shutterstock
hyxdyl/Shutterstock
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.
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Random, unpredictable airport security that’s not always awful? Only in America

1-photo (1)The TSA screening area at Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s B gates isn’t much to look at. It’s a dark, cavernous processing area with well-worn linoleum floors that almost makes you feel like you’re visiting a relative in prison.

But looks can be deceiving. I just had the best TSA screening experience in Reno, and I’m not alone. On a recent Monday morning, my entire family transited through Terminal B, and they could scarcely believe they’d been checked by federal screeners.

The TSA checkpoint at Denver International Airport looks like it’s something straight out of a science fiction movie. It’s a gleaming hall with the newest technology, including an array of shiny new body scanners. It’s the kind of place where you’d expect to find a modern, friendly, and efficient screening.

Yet here, too, all is not as it seems: A few days ago, I had the single worst screening experience of my life. I still can’t believe what happened.
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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.”
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Why it’s time for airport screening to come full circle

hyxdil/Shutterstock
hyxdil/Shutterstock
Andy deLivron says he’s no threat to aviation security. But he flies with box cutters in his checked luggage — the same weapon used by the 9/11 terrorists. And he recently packed the sharp tools in the wrong suitcase.

By the time deLivron, a sales manager from Pottersville, NY, realized the box cutters had been misplaced in his carry-on bag, it was too late. He was already past the TSA screening area at Dallas Love Field and boarding his flight to Orlando, where he planned to catch a connecting flight to Albany, NY.

DeLivron missed his connection and had to spend the night in Orlando.

“But now I had a problem toss the knife or try to get it home in my carry-on bag,” he says. “I decided if I could place the knife on edge in my carryon it would be highly likely that security would miss it again. Sure, enough I was right. My carryon went right on through in Orlando.”
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Guess who’s shilling for the TSA

Land of Smile/Shutterstock
Land of Smile/Shutterstock

Wanna insult a reporter? There’s no easier way than accusing him or her of being a shill for the other side, of churning out propaganda instead of covering a subject.

And that’s especially true when it comes to the TSA.

But consider the following “exclusive” story from a local ABC affiliate, which aired a few weeks ago.

It was an earnest report about the imminent dangers of a terrorist weapon being detonated on a plane. Explosives “experts” at Camp Pendleton in California rigged shoes and laptop computers and blew them up in front of a group of TSA trainees. They even let a reporter incinerate one of the props from a safe distance.
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What’s wrong with the TSAs gun obsession?

Smit/Shutterstock
Smit/Shutterstock

Maybe the TSA hasn’t ever caught a single terrorist red-handed, but it’s given us something almost as good: guns. Lots of guns.

Guns are a hot topic today, and not just in Washington. The TSA confiscated them in record numbers last year, and most of them were loaded. They make news, even in small amounts.

No one is going to argue that having guns on planes is a good idea, even after the TSA’s surprise announcement that some knives would be allowed. But is it fair to connect aviation safety to the confiscation of firearms?
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The truth about the TSA’s pointless knife fight

graja/Shutterstock
graja/Shutterstock
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.
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Airport security can be better — and here’s how

1-IMG_0461It’s been more than a decade since the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.

Almost from the beginning, a small group of activists have kept a vigilant eye on the agency. When TSA agents pilfered your luggage, they spoke up. When the blueshirts forced us through inadequately tested scanners, they said something. When agents treated us like prison inmates, they fired up their laptop computers and they wrote.
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A silent majority sounds off about airport security

Wang Song/Shutterstock
Wang Song/Shutterstock

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.
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If you love the TSA, read this story

It happened again.

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.
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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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Can I tell you a secret about airport security?

hyxdyl/Shutterstock
hyxdyl/Shutterstock
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.

I repeat: Lacson says he made it all up.
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Look out! 4 things that get damaged at the airport

wheelchairTSA agents believe they are the last line of defense against terrorism, and that sometimes you have to break a few metaphorical eggs to keep America safe.

At least that’s the impression Norma Eigles came away with when she was recently screened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in South Florida. Eigles, who was visiting relatives in Boca Raton, Fla., is 75 years old and has a knee replacement — an unlikely threat to aviation security.

“While I was being patted down, another screener opened my carry-on bag to remove my adjustable cane,” she says. “This was sent through X-ray again, and he then proceeded to unscrew the sections because he said he had to be sure there was no knife or sword in it.”
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