Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wow! What a Response (Commenting Disabled)

Wow! The number of comments on our blog has been amazing. Many of the posts during the last 24 hours are exactly the types of questions we hope to answer and the conversations we hope to begin with the traveling public. Some have been downright mean and cranky but that’s okay too. For most people, this is the first chance to reach out directly to TSA and tell us about your experiences and we very much want to hear from you.

Frankly we’ve been overwhelmed with the number of response we’ve received, more than 700 comments at last count, and comments are still pouring in. Several of you have suggested a format change to go from a laundry list of: shoes, cranky officers, idiotic rules, you guys sure try hard…, stream of consciousness diatribes to a more logical way of collecting and hopefully shedding light on many of the things that passengers want to know.

Well we’ve heard the comments and we’re making the move. Later this afternoon you will find several common questions or topic areas that have been raised and are on the front of all our minds like shoes, ID requirements, liquids an others. This list will evolve as this blog does and we’ll be posting answers, thoughts and comments on each of these topics on these pages.

Because of the software we’re using to run this blog, it’s up to you to post your comment on the right page, in the correct topic. Today we don’t have any way to move posts from one place to another so we’re relying on you to post in the right place. If it’s not posted under the right topic we will not be able to move the post. Because we have more than 700 comments on the Welcome post, we are closing the comment feature there. Even though that post is not longer accepting comments, we still welcome your feedback and thoughts here.

In the spirit of transparency, we plan to note how many comments we've rejected and tell you why. Mostly the rejected comments include profane language, political rants or abusive posts that we just can't print, and some are completely off topic. Other than these, every post will go up as written and we will continue to operate this way.

Thanks again for the great range of insightful, sad, humorous, outrageous comments. Keep them coming and we’ll do our best to try to keep up.

Evolution Blog Team

electronics in flight said...
electronics in flight said...can someone please explain to me all the fuss about having all of your electronics OFF before we leave the gate?

A good question. Actually it was found that cell phone signals, specifically those in the 800-900 MHz range, did interfere with unshielded cockpit instrumentation. Because older aircraft with unshielded wiring can be affected, because of the possible problems that may arise by having many airborne cell phones "seeing" multiple cell phone towers, and because of all the electronic systems in a modern airplane that would have to undergo lengthy and expensive certification, the FCC (via enforcement through the FAA) still deems it best to stay on the safe side and prohibit the use of cell phones while airborne. It should be noted, though, that such a prohibition is being lifted in Europe.And while I'd like to take credit for that rant...all credit goes to The Mythbusters (with a little help from Wikipedia).


How about Booties?
In response to anonymous who would like booties for their feet…
I understand your concern on the hygiene issue. While part of TSA’s mission is to promote great customer service the reality is that customer service in aviation is a partnership between the airport authority, the TSA, and the airlines. While I speak only for my airports most of them do in fact provide some type of ‘booty’ to passengers as a customer service enhancement. Those who don’t provide footwear ensure the cleaning crew cleans those floors regularly.
My recommendation is to start with your airport and explain your concern to them…the same could be said about having plastic baggies at the checkpoint for folks who forget to bring them to the airport. The airports also care about customer service and sometimes a gentle reminder goes a long way…



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JL said...

A short reply to mrs d to be who wrote:

We're white, middle class, normal everyday Australians and we decided against the USA for our honeymoon, mainly because of the apparent goings on in the airport.

I dont want my memory of the first hours of my honeymoon to be wrecked by overzealous rent-a-cops, I don't want my stuff stolen, I don't want to be yelled at, I don't want to be groped or cavity searched.

I've wanted to go to the US my whole life (my parents were from there and I've never been), but between talking to people who have flown recently (which I do every day in my job), the news reports, the net reports etc, it's just too big a risk.

That's right - for tourists who want to have pleasant memories, the TSA makes visiting the US too risky.

We're going around Asia instead. That's about $15000 we're pumping into someone else's economy. Congratulations TSA.

If you took the time to actually research what you "apparently" accepted as truth maybe you would see there are many flaws with what you stated in your post. Before you bash the TSA you should at least have had some kind of experience with them. It is so sad that you would give up your life long dream because of what someone else says, especially someone on the internet. It is also a shame that you would let the complaints of some form your opinions for you. If you actually had a bad experience then maybe I could understand but you are taking someone else's word as truth and then blaming the TSA for your decision. It seems like a knee jerk reaction and a lemming mentality. If you believe everything you read on the net, see on the news, and hear on the radio you must be quite naive. The TSA are not rent-a-cops, they are federal officers. The majority are not theives, but just like any other profession there are some bad apples. They really don't want to touch you, much less grope you, but they do have to touch passengers to perform their required duties. I guess it is a good thing for you to go somewhere else so you can think you are in a less risky environment, the TSA wouldn't want you to feel out of sorts here in the U.S. I hear Asia is very pleasant and seeing as they harbor terrorists in some areas I'm quite sure they will be glad to take your money. By the way when you get back to fairytale land say hi to Elvis, Bigfoot, and the space aliens from Area 51 for me, I heard on the internet they were moving into your neighborhood while you are gone.

Anonymous said...

People who are mad about having to go through security procedures need to remember what we're up against. Is it really necessary to have another 9/11-type incident for people to remember why we have to be so careful? I hope not. I'd personally rather take off my shoes than get killed. Sure, it's inconvenient, but remember the crazy terrorists are the reason you have to take your shoes off, not the TSA.

Anonymous said...

It looks like gripe and grins is closed, so I hope you will post this here.

I was traveling to my sister's wedding in 2003, flying from coast to coast with one stop in the middle. She is a geologist so I bought her a nice rock with her wedding, with a very cool display stand for her rock made out of steel rebar. I wanted to put it in my carry-on but since it sore looked like it could be used as a formadible weapon, I put in in my checked bag. I wrapped it carefully in bubble wrap, and wrote a note on my business card describing what it was and that it was a special gift.

I knew that it was unusual, and expect it to trigger a search of my bag, so I was not surprised to find a TSA note when I reached my destination. Not only was my bag not messed up, but the rock and stand was carefully encased with TSA tape.

I decided not to wrap the gift, but instead handed it to my sister and told her it had been wrapped at govt, expense. We both had a good laugh. Thanks to whomever handled this so respectfully.

I hope you get the same grin from this story as I do each time I think of it.

Anonymous said...

Here are a few issues I have with TSA. First, don't hate travelers. A lot of us have to travel for our jobs and don't need the added aggrevation of a bunch of TSA agents barking at us, demanding stuff and never bothering giving an explanation. Heaven forbid if you actually ask for an explanation, you'll be "randomly" selected for more screening. Second, if someone is blind, don't push then out of the way so you can go on break. I witnessed this in Louisville Kentucky, mentioned it to the agent in charge and watched exactly nothing happen. Third, all travelers are created equal. Treat us as such, as in don't have a short line for First Class and a long line for us cattle. Forth, random selection isn't exactly random, is it? Change a flight quickly or happen to be on one that is cancelled, you are "randomly" selected for more screening. Carry a backpack, your random, carry a briefcase, your fine to keep moving. Fifth, why bother with the color coding scheme if it never changes. It is like if all traffic lights went yellow and never moved again. Orange means nothing because you've made it mean nothing. Sixth, clean the floor sometime. You want us in our socks or barefoot so show us the courtesy of having a clean floor to walk on. Sixth, remember who pays your checks every week. We pay you, so show us respect.

sick of rude TSA staff said...

The TSA staff at ATL are rude and overbearing to the point that I no longer fly to or from Atlanta. After several incidents, including being *yelled* at by a TSA employee for stepping forward, which I had been *instructed* to do by the screener standing next to him, I have decided that it is preferable to add 3 hours on to each trip by driving to Atlanta instead.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of winers! If you prepare before you fly, you'll see TSA security maybe 30 seconds of your trip. (I'm not talking about waiting in line, I'm talking about actually being face to face with them). To say "TSA makes visiting the US too risky." shows a level of immaturity that staggers the imagination.

As for going to Asia to be safer, remember that Ramzi Ahmed Yousef (know for the first World Trade Center attack) actually blew up a bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 on December 11, 1994. Haruki Ikegami, a 24-year-old businessman, died from the blast, although the plane did land safely. The flight originated from Manila going to Cebu, then to Toyko.

roseyf16 said...

I am a professional pilot for a major U.S. carrier. An agreement between the TSA, the Air Line Pilot's Association (ALPA), and the major U.S. carriers that will allow crew members to bypass security at all U.S. airports is long overdue. In a few airports, crewmwmbers and employees who work flights or in secure areas are already able to use their employee badges to enter doors that allow them to bypass security. The time has come for this process to occur at every U.S. airport.

As a pilot, you can take away every single item in my bag and flight kit. You could take away all of my clothes and even the uniform I am wearing. At the end of the day, I AM STLL THE ONE FLYING THE AIRPLANE!!! It doesn't matter if I have metal in my shoes, change in my pocket, a computer in my bag, etc... I AM THE ONE FLYING THE AIRPLANE!!! So why does the TSA continue to insist that crew members proceed through security in the majority of the airports in the U.S.?

It is time to put an end to this unnceccesary diversion and inconvenience.


Keith R.

Anonymous said...

People with metal implants have to go through security just like everybody else because TSA must clear every metal detector alarm before allowing the passenger access to the sterile side. Suppose one miniute that someone straps a gun to their leg, walks through the metal detector, shows their medical card explaining their metal implant, and we allow them down the concourse with a loaded weapon ready to do damage. Sometimes I wonder why the public doesn't see this.

Anonymous said...

I think the vast majority of the time I've had no problems with TSA. I think my worst experience was in LAX when they were horribly understaffed. Nobody likes having to take off their shoes and do the carry-on shuffle, but it's really frustrating when that process takes longer than it should. If I could suggest anything, I would say that TSA needs to have a surplus of staff on hand so they can remain thorough in what they do without creating bottlenecks in the airport. Anyone who is really upset about having to chuck their bottled water should probably remember that it's 2008. They've had quite a few years to get used to it.

Anonymous said...

For the most part I think ya'll are doing a pretty good job, it is ahard one with so many people to check and so forth. Now mt reason for writting. On 1 feb 08 I flew from SEATAC to SLC, I was in my US ARMY uniform with proper ID, orders etc. I get to the first security point where a young man checks my id and ticket, looks at me then back at my id (good job) and tells me I need to go to station one for a in more in depth check. OK.....I am in uniform,US ARMY...the good guys!!!
I get over to "station one" the guy looks at me and askes "why did they send you here?" Come on folks....the uniform should have been the first hint that I am a good guy. By the way my bag tested hot for explosives (because of a IED blast)needless to say that pushed them over the top....they almost kept my bag. I did make my flight.

Some food food for thought.

IowaTraveller said...

This set up is much better than when it was first launched, but there's still one more thing that could be done to make it much easier to follow up on responses. Could you grant a certain level of access to TSA employees so only they can reply to comments. I read some comments, and then when I want to see the response, I have to read every single post after it until I find something that indicates it is a response. Having a reply or response option for TSA Employees ONLY would be nice to see how you all are following up on our comments. :)

Bob said...

To the various folks that have argued that "yes there are new inconveniences, but that is the price of safety in the post 9/11 world", I think many of us have a number of concerns:

1) We don't believe that the security measures employed by the TSA are effective in any way at increasing "security".
2) Many of our complaints have nothing to do with "inconvenience", but there is no recourse that we can take. Things like extreme lack of courtesy from TSA staff, inconsistent TSA policies and envforcement both increase public frustration and actually reduce security.
3) Freedoms are very, VERY expensive things to give up, and we should be extremely cautious in doing anything that reduces them. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Ben Franklin. Paraphrasing: "He who gives up a little liberty to gain a little security, deserves neither and will lose both".

Part time flyer said...

I've noticed one thing in reading most of the blog. The responses from TSA are all the same, "Just doing my job."
If thats the case, what good are you? You can't account for any terrorist act because in case you haven't noticed, the things they have been doing are not in your rulebook. You also aren't addressing any of the very valid complaints but rather dismiss them with the "I have to" speech. You don't have to, you can quit. Your job is voluntary, just like our flying apparently is. So can the attitudes and maybe things will go a bit smoother on both ends.

I'm flying again in a couple weeks, we'll see how that goes. I sure hope no TSA employee yells at me again, thats going to get ugly fast.

Rob said...

I know that a lot of people complain about the TSA and I'm not entirely happy with all the regulations but a few years ago in Chicago, well after 9/11, a young TSA agent was very pleasant and polite and even joked, although he was very thorough in his job. He went out of his way to make a necessary evil a little less evil. I only wish I knew his name and had thanked him while I was there.

Anonymous said...

I was traveling to Florida from Atlantic City. My mother who is severely handicapped, is limited to just a wheelchair, and has severe painful spasms that are uncontrollable was forced into the "advanced type search" where the screeners mocked her handicap saying, among other things, "looks like we have a dancer here" in reference to her spasms. It's one thing to ahve to check a wheelchair for security purposes its another to humiliate the person in the chair. I think the quality of person hired by the TSA is deplorable, and respectable human being would show compassion.

Anonymous said...

Some have been downright mean and cranky but that’s okay too.

Heh, it seems a bit disingenous to annoy the heck out of all these people, and then forgive them for being so annoyed.

Anonymous said...

TSA represents a frivolous investment in feel-good pap, and well represents those who trumpet out "victory" in the War on Terror.

What constitutes victory seems to be shifting popular mindset; we deem ourselves victorious if we are able to cower deeper and deeper in pits of fear, and relinquish ever greater amounts of freedom in the name of Security.

I fear for us. But not because of terrorists.

Anonymous said...

I see you have disabled posting in some of your negative topic forums.

Your agents are consistently rude and lack empathy for the traveler. We are no longer able to securely travel with any checked baggage, since items are often stolen, confiscated, or damaged. Your checkpoint employees do not exercise any common sense in their judgment of situations. Frequently I have observed checkpoint agents carrying personal conversations while ignoring travelers.
If you give your employees more frequent breaks, raise the qualifications for hiring screeners, & raise the pay grades for checkpoint employees you would improve the quality of service. Effective business management starts with effective oversight of employees.
Sadly it seems that you either have no internal oversight & personal accountability, or you choose to act on complaints. I have seen no improvement in your business practices over the past 3 years. If any private company were as poorly managed and completely ineffective it would be shuttered within a matter of days.

Toby said...

One TSA employee had a very cordial post, but I can't say his name because that would break the rules.

Anyway, this employee sounds like a very nice person and all that, but he/she still basically said "don't blame us, we're just doing our job."

That does not excuse you. If my employer asks me to do something unethical, then I quit.

You thanked me for paying your salary. That was very kind. I must say that I do not pay it willingly. It is surrendered because the government chosen to do harm to me and to take the funds from me if I will not surrender them willingly. So please excuse me if I am not happy to pay for a service I don't need and that I believe is immoral.

One more post of mine that will probably get censored . . .

Anonymous said...

While in the Atlanta airport I observed a young, dark, bearded male speaking in Farci to a young woman in a head scarf, burka and chador, obviously a Muslim. She was was behind the counter working at the airport magazine stand. He bought nothing after standing for some time in line in front of me and leaned over and only whispered to her. She put something in his hand. No money changed hands. He disappeard quickly but not towards the planes or exits - maybe men's room. No big deal. However, when I tried to notify someone in charge of my slight concern where there are two farci speaking people exchanging something, before I could even tell the story, airport policewoman via phone brushed me off. Another woman hung up on me. One told me to find a TSA person (which was back miles on the train but I went). Question is, if you DO see something suspicious, it's impossible to alert anyone in Atlanta.

Bob said...

The TSA staff at LAX deserve credit and my eternal gratitude for rescuing and returning my laptop, which I stupidly left with them while rushing to catch my flight. The TSA Lost & Found Dept. at LAX, in particular, was extremely professional and prompt. I am typing this comment on the laptop only two days after leaving LA without it. The TSA has some honest employees there.

Anonymous said...

Why did you take done the "Gripes and Grins" section?? Was it quickly overwhelmed with harsh negatives? Did you not want to hear and deal with all that? Why can't you write a ne post that explains why that section is gone and what happened to all those comments and all the comment there were under the "Welcome" post? There are probably thousands of posts submitted that dissapeared in to oblivion. If you got overwhelmed and had to end it, fine...but LEARN from it. Don't sweep it under the rug like it didn't happen. You (TSA) have now received plenty of comments on how rude, lazy, inept, the screeners are…it begs the question; what are you going to do about it? I know there are a battery of tests and a limited background investigation and some training, but how do outright ignorant, rude, or power tripping individuals get hired? Sure, it’s a fairly low paying job, so you’re not going to get many clean cut college grad types or anything, but maybe at least hire supervisors with enough intelligence and experience to be capable of monitoring and correcting screener behavior. I know too the perks of a federal job, once a person gets it it’s hard to fire them…they have so many loopholes and protections, but come on, something HAS TO BE DONE about these people. At the very minimum, make them wear IDs that have their name or a employee number and make it easy for a passenger to get that number written down so they can go online, on the phone, or in person to a supervisor and complain specifically about a screener. If a screener has to fear that the American tax payer they are working for could actually get them in trouble/disciplined/fired it may give them some incentive to be polite, courteous, and efficient. Also, could you please add a write up on the blog homepage describing for us how you are screening these posts, what system you have for recording valid complaints and suggestions, and how you plan on implementing them? Today’s technology would allow you to set up software that catches profanity and certain words and these could get be screened with no real person reading it all the way through and noting anything at all about the actual content and the important things the writer had to say. We would like to know that if we post a good idea someone at TSA reading these might recognize it and do something. Or if there are 300 complaints about the same thing some one is taking notes and there will be serious debate and discussion on changing policies. And don’t pat your own back about four positive remarks out a hundred. No one likes to hear criticism, everyone wants to be proud of their effort, their job, their agency, but don’t sugar coat or ignore these complaints. Don’t get personally offended about negative harsh comments. You should feel ashamed about the behavior of some of your people and vow to do a better service to your fellow Americans. I’d like for this whole blog thing to be big news with the national media and you get even more complaints and some screener sees it on the news and genuinely feels like they need to do a better job at work the next day.

electronics in flight said...

can someone please explain to me all the fuss about having all of your electronics OFF before we leave the gate?
Are you honestly telling me that my $20 gadget that i bought at the local Radio shack can bring the whole plane down? because that IS a scary thought and maybe that's what needs to be addressed!
If someone can provide me with a rational, valid explanation then i will be happy to discontinue my electronic devices until the pilot tells me I can turn them back on. Until then, I will continue to use my IPod during takeoff and landing!

Gecko said...

I have to say, I travel at least a dozen times a year, and I've by far found other travelers to be the most annoying experience of my flight process (aside from delayed/canceled flights, last year being the worst.) Most people know by now that you have to take your shoes off, take your laptop out of the bag, take your jacket off, and have liquids in small containers in baggies.

And yet every single time there's a longer and longer line of people fumbling around right as they get to the scanner and get scolded for one of the aforementioned violations.

Yes, they are frustrating rules, but they are currently the rules nonetheless. Until they change, realize you have to deal with them and move along. Wear slip off shoes to remove them faster, don't wear a jacket or take it off in line, keep your baggie of liquids in an outer pocket of your suitcase at the ready, take out your laptop while in the line. Once you do it once, you should be used to it and anticipate. Thanks.

BlognDog said...

This blog is replete with explanations, obfuscations, excuses, rationalisations and complicated justifications for the TSAs ludicrous policies.

But no TSA representative has EVER been able to provide an answer to a very simple question -- how is it that every OTHER country in the world is able to screen its passengers without the shoe carnival, the barking agents, the arbitrary, made-up-on-the-spot "rules", the UV lights for checking IDs, the aggressiveness, the harassment, the the silly little footprints they want you stand on while you are wanded, the insistence on carrying out bag searches where you are not right there to watch them, the retaliatory secondaries, the use of a secretive database that marks certain boarding passes "SSSS" through a process nobody is able to explain, etc etc etc, yet the TSA is not. Unless and until you are able to answer that very simple question you have no right maintaining these ludicrous and obviously unnecessary policies -- if the procedures you defend were in fact necessary, then the rest of the world should be suffering endless terror attacks.

Also -- if the USA is willing to accept 40000 deaths/year from automobile accidents without interfering with citizen driving PRIVILEGES, why is it not will to accept a similar level of deaths from terrorism without feeling complelled to interfere with people's RIGHTS to privacy, free assembly, free speech etc.?

Toby said...

Anonymous said: "Anyone who is really upset about having to chuck their bottled water should probably remember that it's 2008. They've had quite a few years to get used to it."

Why should I get used to it?

Why should an American citizen roll over for whatever a bureaucrat demands or face prison?

Furthermore, why should I be forced to pay said bureaucrat's salary?

I've noticed a lot of "just be nice to them and it'll all be OK" or "just follow the rules and quit whining" kind of comments.

Those comments reflect an attitude toward the relationship between citizens and government that I do not accept. I really do believe that those in government do not exist to rule us. Our Constitution was written to preserve that relationship.

Why can't security be free-market and not regulated by the government?

Let us be a safe or as unsafe as we want to be.

The alternative is the to allow further intrusion into every aspect of our lives by busybody bureaucrats.

Cheesy-poofs make you fat! Fat Americans are a risk to the health of America. If you eat Cheesy-poofs then you hate America! Ban the Cheesy-poofs and imprison anyone who tries to eat them.

Feel free to substitute having sex, reading the Koran, reading the Christian Bible, smoking a cigarette, having a beer, or whatever your favorite activity is for "eating Cheesy-poofs."

Freedom means that we cannot manage the risks that others choose to take. We only have a right to manage our own.

An answer to airline security that allows each person to manage his or her own risk is to de-regulate the industry completely. Let people fly however unsafely they wish, and accept the consequences of their actions. Others can choose to fly on airlines with security systems designed by Napoleon from Animal Farm.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the thick skin and humor you bloggers have. While 80% of the TSOs I have encountered have been rude, confrontational, and disrespectful, it's nice to know that the TSA is trying.
Please consider creating a forum for recommendations that people can submit to improve the flying experience. I've seen a couple buried in the comments (chairs for putting shoes back on, some way to screen water from other liquids, comment cards, a checklist people can use to deal with inconsistencies encountered by TSOs, etc.). It would be nice to have a forum that created a "brainstorming" session with the public. Since you moderate comments, you could limit this to strictly on-topic suggestions and let people abuse you elsewhere.
I for one would like to see true improvements rather than have all the comments get into the ping-pong "TSA sucks" versus "Nuh-uh, it keeps you safe" dialogue.

Anonymous said...

The problem I see with Toby's comment is that air travel doesn't just affect those on the flight. Remember 9/11? All the people in the Towers were not flying. So why should we have lax security that will endanger the lives of many on the ground? I also see that you bring up the liquids again. Why do you think that at most airports they have shops on the side after the screening point? So you may purchase a soda there as well as anything else you have forgotten or may need.

Toby said...

"Remember 9/11?"

OK, buddy, you have a marginally fair point I have addressed in other posts that have been delayed a great deal more than pro-TSA posts like yours. Read it slowly:

Make the cockpits practically impenetrable.

Here's a bonus suggestion: require pilots to by armed to the teeth and trained to use those weapons. Even require them to visit a local gym and take about 8 weeks of Krav Maga. Get you some of that stuff and nobody will be taking over a plane any time soon.

I've answered your objection fully. Can we please move on?

I didn't bring up liquids. I was quoting someone who did, and responding to their argument. Just like I didn't bring up 9/11. You did. Now I will respond to that.

9/11 was bad. It was not the only bad thing that has ever happened in the world. In fact, more infants are killed by abortion in a month in America than all the people that were killed in 9/11. Making THIS analogy will probably get me on a no-fly list. Seriously, if you think fetuses are people, then 9/11 was nothing compared to that.

I visit the dying on a regular basis in my profession. I see folks who survive in a way that seems much worse than dying to me.

My wife helps a support group of women who have been through abuse and addiction, and they have suffered far more than anyone who died in an instant on 9/11.

OK, I know that may sound insensitive, but I'm trying to make a point about proportion here. Every bad thing in the world does not justify totalitarian action by the government. Neither does every bad thing justify vigilante action by individuals.

The guys who justify bombing abortion clinics because they murder babies are in the same camp with those who justify taking our liberties because of terrorists, as well as in the same camp with liberals who want to take everybody's money because some people are poor. All these groups seek to overstep their rightful boundaries in order to have their brand of "justice" or "security."

Here's one more point that you really won't like: America has a thing called an Air Force. That Air Force should have been able to stop those planes from flying into the buildings. DOD knew that kind of attack was possible so saying "nobody ever thought of that" is incorrect.

Miss the first plane? Maybe. Miss the second 2 planes? Gross negligence. Somebody screwed up big time in national defense. The second plane hit right next to the first one and they couldn't stop it. The third plane had to be taken down by brave civilians who had no choice but to give up on the government stopping that plane.

Rather than address that real issue, we get totalitarianism and "trust us, we know what we're doing." Really? The same government that couldn't send a missile to stop planes 2 & 3 is supposed to be trusted by me to figure out complex potential threat matrices and implement safeguards? Are you kidding me?

Furthermore, the issue goes deeper than that. When government tramples on legitimate freedoms in order to protect us from unknown future threats, it is claiming a kind of messianic authority over our lives that leads inevitably to gross tyranny. Doesn't anybody read history books anymore?

Jack said...

Here's one more point that you really won't like: America has a thing called an Air Force. That Air Force should have been able to stop those planes from flying into the buildings. DOD knew that kind of attack was possible so saying "nobody ever thought of that" is incorrect.

Imagine if all three planes had been intercepted by the USAF and had been shot down. Imagine the grief that would have come out of the USAF shooting down those three planes. Imagine the conspiracy folks saying that Bush had ordered the planes shot down for political reasons. Imagine the law suits, demonstrations, etc that would have resulted from a successful interception. Imagine being a pilot who fired on a CIVILIAN airliner and having his name etched into (often revisionist) history. Would you have been willing to follow orders to fire on those airliners? Would you have been willing to give those orders?

FYI the US is BIG. Flying at 600 mph it takes nearly 5 hours to fly across it. No fighter, we currently have in active service flies fast enough to have scrambled to intercept those planes. How many fighters do you suppose we have flying around, fully armed with air-to-air missles? I suppose it is less than 5 and those are in Nevada.

As to funding, social welfare programs now consume more than 60% of our national tax dollars. Consider that when you want bullets over butter.

Toby said...

Jack, cut all the social welfare programs out. That would suit me just fine. The same arguments I use to say the TSA is unconstitutional totalitarianism I would use to condemn all taxpayer funded social welfare.

I might accept your argument that there was no jet that could get there in time, but everything I have read about that day makes me believe that problem lay in decisions made by the folks in charge rather than the physical abilities of America's defense systems.

It may be different because I live in "flyover country" but I've never lived farther than 200 miles from an Air Force Base. Did Air Force jets have to fly the entire distance of the continental US to get there in time?

As for a plane hitting the pentagon, even here in flyover country I know that Andrews AFB is about 10 miles away from it. How did they hit the freaking pentagon without even being shot at? Somebody screwed up big big big time.

The only bullets or butter I want are the ones I purchase with my own money. That just doesn't seem so hard to me.

Jack said...

Toby, you never answered my question about assuming liability for shooting down a CIVILIAN airliner. Lots of decisions must be made before a civilian aircraft is brought down. How much time do you suppose it takes to:

1) get permission to arm a fighter?
2) actually arm the fighter?
3) aquire the target? Remember the skies were crowded on 9/11.
4) determine that the aircraft was hostile.
5) fire on the aircraft.

Also remember Waco? A cute thing called posse comitatus act?

It would have taken an act of Congress for our military to have acted on those planes. So on 9/11 how good was your crystal ball? Remember that the bad guys turned off the transponders ID'ing the aircraft? What if the USAF had fired on a CIVILIAN aircraft that had radio problems? Also remember that if the missles fired at the target aircraft had locked onto another innocent target you would have just killed several hundred people in the air and possibly more on the ground.

I'm sure glad that you aren't in the Command and Control of any aspect of our military. Loose cannon Toby?

Jack said...

A good question. Actually it was found that cell phone signals, specifically those in the 800-900 MHz range, did interfere with unshielded cockpit instrumentation. Because older aircraft with unshielded wiring can be affected, because of the possible problems that may arise by having many airborne cell phones "seeing" multiple cell phone towers, and because of all the electronic systems in a modern airplane that would have to undergo lengthy and expensive certification, the FCC (via enforcement through the FAA) still deems it best to stay on the safe side and prohibit the use of cell phones while airborne. It should be noted, though, that such a prohibition is being lifted in Europe.And while I'd like to take credit for that rant...all credit goes to The Mythbusters (with a little help from Wikipedia).

So if a plane happens to fly near a transmitter (airports are abuzz with transmitters and yes people are allowed to transmit from the ground) that plane could lose control and fly into the ground? An out of band signal with enough power can saturate the front end of a poorly designed radio and cause it to fail. I thought that the FCC testing included out of band signals for navigation systems.

Using the Myth Busters as a reference to justify a policy, makes no sense at all. They might be entertaining, but the layout they did for that test left a whole lot to be desired. Nice try though.

chrisqi said...

The problem with TSA isn't so much TSA itself, it is the U.S. Congress which passes the laws giving TSA the authority to do what it does -- however lacking in common sense it may be.

To make matters worse surrounding this fact, Congressmen and women have exempted themselves from airport screening. All they have to do is show their US Congress IDs and they can bypass all the lines and aggravation the rest of us have to go through.

Now I don't know about you, but I think their are probably more career criminals in the US Congress than their are in the general flying public.

Until citizens tell Congress it needs to follow the same rules they subject the rest of us to, nothing will be done.

How can these clowns in DC know how bad it is if they don't ever have to experience it themselves?

Call your member of Congress and tell them to fix TSA and to quit exempting themselves from all the rules the rest of us have to live by!

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the TSA could answer one simple question. How do we report rude or abusive behaviour of TSA employees?

Jon said...

If you would like to pass on any positive feedback or concerns to TSA regarding your experience, feel free to contact a screener supervisor while you're at the airport.

You may also contact the TSA Contact Center by e-mailing:

We take all input very seriously and will respond promptly and appropriately to all complaints or comments.

TSA Blogger

Toby said...


Not lots of time today. I admit I don't know how long all that takes, but I know that fighters were in the air long before the Pentagon was hit on 9/11.

Andrews AFB is home to a National Guard Air Unit, which is exempt from posse comitatus.

I agree about Waco. It was a criminal act by our government.

I'm not in favor of a bunch of force thrown all over the place either. I'm trying to say that the government is incompetent to protect. It is only fit to punish after the fact. The loose cannon comment proves that you've been missing the point the whole time. I would dismantle the federal leviathan to the point that there would be no cannon if I had my way, but we don't live in a perfect world, so I'm trying to make my case with the state that things actually were in on 9/11. We did have an Air Force. We did have Andrews AFB charged with defending DC. They were National Guard and exempt from posse comitatus. They failed utterly in their mission. I don't know the reasons for their failure, but I don't have to be an expert in a field to no what a failure looks like. Just like I don't have to be a better coach than Bill Belicek to know that he lost in the superbowl.

If the whole freaking air defense system of the United States couldn't stop 9/11, then I believe that the DHS and TSA don't have a chance at stopping a real terrorist attack.

So get the government out of it all together. Let airports and airlines take care of security their own way. Let Americans have our 2nd Amendment back.

Just allowing pilots to be armed would have stopped 9/11 dead. Arming them now is all that it would take to keep it from happening again.

I keep hearing "remember 9/11" on this blog. I do remember. I have proposed a solution that would prevent any airline from every being hijacked again: arm pilots, make the cockpit impenetrable, let civilians arm themselves.

By the way, it's not security I have a problem with. If an airline decides in the free market that I can't fly on their planes unless I pass through XYZ security, GREAT! They have a right to do that in the free market. Other airlines might handle it differently.

My beef is with the restriction and erosion of our liberties by the federal government, and by the encroaching totalitarianism of the government's control over more and more things in the free market. There is a real slippery slope about these things, and liberty requires constant vigilance.

It doesn't matter to me if it's Big Brother or Big Nanny, I'm against them both.

So, what's your deal, Jack? What's your solution to the security issue? What's your take on the liberty side of it?

Almost forgot, you said I didn't answer your question about blowing up a civilian airliner. Here it is:

A. I don't feel obligated to answer your questions any more than you are mine.

B. After one plane went into a building, I imagine folks would not mind as much.

C. The government acts with impunity all the time, trampling our liberties in the process, why should this have been any different?

You did make a comment that I am still baffled by about guns and butter. What did you mean by that? Do you have some idea than I'm a gung-ho kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out militarist/fascist?

By the way, Jack, I agree with your comments on the cell phone thing 100%. So there. :-)

Toby said...

Jack, one more thing about the planes. The commander of NORAD originally testified that the pilots who left MA en route to NYC on the morning of 9/11 were traveling between 1100-1200 mph.

USAF claims that their F15's have a top speed of over 1800 miles an hour.

That is radically different from the representation you made in your first post of crossing the entire continental US traveling at merely 600 mph.

Jen said...

Maybe instead of providing expensive booties you could use a layer of paper like they do at doctor's offices?

I travel a lot and lately the soles of my feet have started burning...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to give a compliment and make a suggestion. A few days ago a left on a flight from Tampa. My experience with the security check there was nothing less than wonderful. After the boarding pass/ID check, someone directed each passenger into one of eight lines for the metal detectors. For a change, surprisingly, there was actually enough table space at each line to spread out several bags and plastic trays and load them with shoes, pocket contents, plastic baggie, and the laptop from one of the bags. No one was shoving me through from behind and I actually had time to breathe while doing this. After exiting the metal detector, There was actually enough table space for all of my things, and enough time to re-fill my pockets, put my laptop back in the case, grab my shoes an move on without holding anyone else up. There was actually somwhere to sit to put my shoes back on. The whole thing took less than 3 minutes from the time I entered the line, because there were enough space and resources to handle the situation. Why can't all airports do this rather than trying to funnel everyone through one or two metal detector lines (often two lines for one metal detector) with no realistic table space and everyone pushing and shoving the people ahead of them, and nowhere at all to deal with your stuff when it comes out of the xray machine? Why don't all airports follow the example set by Tampa? It would certainly leave everyone in a much better frame of mind, and give the security folks time to actually do their job of looking at the xray image rather than just trying to move the cattle through the choke-point.

Anonymous said...

BTW, the reason I posted here before is because I couldn't find any way to post in Gripes and Grins. There didn't seem to be any way to leave a response there.

Neil said...

Anonymous said:
BTW, the reason I posted here before is because I couldn't find any way to post in Gripes and Grins. There didn't seem to be any way to leave a response there.

Hey, anonymous; sorry but we had a technical 'glitch' that prevents us from taking any more comments on the Gripes & Grins post. In the future we plan to cap the comments to no more than 400 per post so that we don't run into technical glitches.

Evolution Blog Team

Jack said...

Toby, suffice it to say that one of our fighters can't travel across the country on full afterburners at 1800 mph. Suggest that you do some research on what the specifications are on full afterburner.

Also as to the posse comitatus does apply to the National Guard. Do some more research please.

Also weapons are highly secured in the USAF. Fire a pistol by mistake and you stand to lose at least one stripe. Someone gets hurt, property damaged and you might be spending some time in jail. It takes orders, flowing from the chain of command to load weapons on any aircraft. Do some research on that one.

George said...

After spending 40 minutes in Security Line at SeaTac airport because there were only 3 security lines open at 4.00pm on a Thursday afternoon, I came up with an "I DARE YOU" suggestion.

Over EVERY security area in the country, POST a sign "LET US HERE FROM YOU".


Anonymous said...

Concerning cell phone use on taxi. Why is it okay to use my cell phone immediately upon landing but not on take off?

Anonymous said...

Why have I seen pilots walk through the security check point without taking their shoes off? The last time this happened the pilot was off duty and not in his uniform. When I questioned the agent running the metal detector why the man in front of my did not have to comply with the same security regs I had to, I was told simply "...because he is a pilot."

Anonymous said...

In the age of digital media and e-tickets - what could possibly be the point of checking my boarding pass at any point in the security line. Any six year old child with a computer and imaging software can easily forge a boarding pass. This process does nothing but create a false sense of security and long lines.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know the point of the machine that blows puffs of air on me before going through the metal detector. If it is, like I have read, to 'sniff' trace elements of explosives they do not work. I frequently work with black powder rifles before getting on a plane and as such go through security with unwashed clothes and hands. I have never been stopped after running through this machine even with visible residue of black powder still on my hands!

Anonymous said...

One thing that would make travel easier is to know in advance what is expected. Clear, in your face signs saying things like "hold onto your boarding pass & Id you will need to show it again" For those who don't travel often TSA make it a humiliating experience if you do something wrong.

Anonymous said...

Something really amiss at San Diego Terminal 1 SouthWest Airlines Concourse.

Arrived yesterday with over an hour to spare to find the line stretching *all* the way down the terminal.

A 2 hour wait?

Generally it's less than 15minutes.

I walked over the Terminal 2, purchased a ticket on US Airways and got home on time.

When will this be fixed!?

Airline personel said something about installing some new equipment?

Anonymous said...

I am a professional photographer who logs several thousand miles a year flying. The world has changed and Americans are as spoiled as any nation when it comes to change. Lets not forget the basic misson of the TSA is TO KEEP US SAFE!!! Look around you next time you wait to pass security. Would you like to examine all the crap we carry on board an airplane? I would rather them take a little extra time and caution than deal with the consquenses in flight. Instead of bitching at the examiners, try a little respect and kindness. It goes a long way.
Dennis, Tampa, FL

electronics2 said...

You didn't answer electronics' question. He or she was talking about an iPod being on, not a cell phone. I can understand prohibiting cell phones from being on, but why prohibit iPods from being on under 10,000 feet? It doesn't seem to make any sense.

Anonymous said...

How about just a set of chairs for folks to sit down, put their shoes back on and get their stuff back together. instead of limping away from the checkpoint, shoes in hand, laptop half hanging out of you bag, handfulls of change, keys, wallet. Feels like you've been mugged by the TSA. Some places they put these out, others, I generally have to block the entire line while i try to get my stuff together to the point that I can actually move.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand the need for security and appreciate what adaunting task this is. My only problem is with the attitude of the TSA employees in some airports. In every airport I have been in they are friendly and courteous, BUT Atlanta. I live in Atlanta and am embarassed that our city has to have the worst. They nned some training or need to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a write-up documenting what you had to go through to get a TSA blog going. This had to be difficult and a bit of background into your posting/approval policy might be helpful to other agencies (or people within conservative companies) wanting to do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

"Was this a real threat? Yes, there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft."

You are off your rocker if you believe this. Those guys would have never been able to blow up anything. Just because someone wants to do something, and plans to do that something, does not mean that it is possible. Had they not been arrested they would NOT have been able to do any harm to a plane using the plan they had come up with.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the comments of anonymous on February 1, 2008 5:53 PM and is a TSA employee.

This person declares that they work for the TSA. Their comments make the hair on the back of my neck stand!

I don't favor retaliation and respect the right to speak ones mind, however this persons attitude to the traveling public is exactly what is wrong with TSA.

This agent should be found and removed from any position that requires contact with the public.

This person is truly in the wrong line of work!


bilgriffith said...

I just heard about this blog so I feel a bit behind the curve but here's my take on the TSA.
I travel 2 or 3 times a month so I have spent my time in TSA lines. I think that for doing what they have to do, they do ok with it. I have not felt violated or personally attacked, even tho I've had ssss about 3 or 4 times on my boarding pass. I didn't fly much before 9/11/01 so I really have nothing to compare, but I am very careful about my privacy.
The biggest gripe I have, besides the shoes issue, is that when the lines get long, there are unmanned lines that we can't use. This is especially true in smaller airports like my home airport gso, but I have seen it in many airports. I'd like to see this change. There are frequently people standing around, I know they aren't all goofing off but some are, and unexpected flurries of customers show up, but it just seems the lines could be improved by opening up these unused stations.
I also want to publicly thank the TSA for returning my drivers license to me. I'm not sure where it was lost, but I left gso late on a recent flight and had to run (literally) across the Charlotte airport to make my conector to Baltimore (I debated this and should have just driven). So during that chaos my drivers license fell out of my jacket and I couldn't get a rental car, but more importantly, I was concerned that someone could use that as part of an identity theft attempt. So, thanks a lot to the folks at Greensboro and or Charlotte Douglas for promptly returning my drivers license to me via postal mail.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading some of the comments on this blog. Most of the comments seem to project an extremely negative feeling from the public towards TSO's. Most of the complaints, in my opinion, are so ridiculously trivial such as the removal of footwear or the 3-1-1 rule. It makes me think about all the sacrifices my parents and grandparents had to make on a daily basis during WWII. They, and all other Americans, did without such common things as silk, rubber, gasoline, and countless other articles that we so much take for granted these days. Have we as a nation become so spoiled that being screened at an airport checkpoint by Federal Employees has become such an inconvenience to the public as to cause such uproar in the media? Have you noticed while reading through the blogs the traveling public has time to spout venom and complain about how they are treated while screened? However, when you ask them if they read the signs or visited the web site they have a “deer in the headlights” look. All we would ask as TSO’s is that the public cooperate with us and make the smallest of sacrifices. Remember we are here for you. Does anybody remember 911?

Anonymous said...

Hi, while I find what you're doing an incredibly hard job, I do have an urgent request. I fly frequently to meet my husband while he is on business.

I travel with a service dog. Some of the TSA folks don't know how to deal with us and many times I have had to go back to the ticket agent and have them walk back out with me to the TSA and have them be informed what a service dog is and the dog will not have a 'ticket.'

Also, is there some rule that no one can help me get through the xray process? I have my laptop which must be pulled out, shoes to take off, xray lead to put on dog so we don't set the sensor off (I try to do this before hand, but she really needs her harness on up to the last minute) and usually a carryon bag, computer bag and purse. Most times I think I'm filling up 3 bins and pushing them through xray along with a dog who doesn't understand all the people and commotion and other travelers who are in a hurry. Yet the TSA agent stands there and watches the struggle. And please, please, please provide a spot we can sit down to put our selves back together and could I just pile all of my stuff once you're done with it into one bin and take it to the seat? And could you make me not feel like a criminal some times and that you hate me cause I have to move slow? And I really miss my little teeny tiny Swiss Army knife that has gone through multiple xrays before in many countries... did the TSA agent really feel it necessary to speak to me like a 4 year old while he was taking it away? He wouldn't even let me leave the line so I could go find an envelope to mail it home. That knife was probably older than he was.

I hope you can get things working better. I honestly don't want to die from a terrorist. But things really need to change and get better. Thank you.

jimbo46920 said...

in response to RB
"In regards to the comments of anonymous on February 1, 2008 5:53 PM and is a TSA employee.

This person declares that they work for the TSA. Their comments make the hair on the back of my neck stand!

I don't favor retaliation and respect the right to speak ones mind, however this persons attitude to the traveling public is exactly what is wrong with TSA.

This agent should be found and removed from any position that requires contact with the public.

This person is truly in the wrong line of work!


Hey RB I want you to know that I also work for the TSA and read this persons post and they seem a lot sarcastic. I will say that we don't keep(or at least I don't keep) anything that is taken out of your checked bags. At the airport that I work it is given right back to the airline and they make the call. As for that TSO's attitude there are a lot of TSO's that have never been put in charge or put in a position of authority and you know how it is with people. But if I could just say that if you do have the time please check out the TSA website and know the do's and don'ts of our securityit is the best way to ensure that you can make it thru easily. As for me I try to make people laugh when they come thru and try to make them smile but please relize there are people out there that are having a bad day and take it out on us and it can put you in a bad mood but you can't teach people to let it roll off there backs you know. But RB I want to say we aren't all bad apples and I hope that the TSA can find a way to help the peolpe in bad moods I suggest that if you get chewed out by a passenger then you should be able to take a five minute break to let you cool down not just be put back to work I think it would help with our public perception.

Anonymous said...

I am a frequent flyer logging about 100,000 miles a year, mostlly for work. I also usually carry a small inch and a half pocket knife that I have had since I was in college.
Given that planes now have reinforced doors, and given that I would have to be James Bond to hold a plane hostage with my pen-knife, and given that other common household items such as fountain pens, steel rulers,etc can also be used to hurt someone, why is there a need to ban pocket knives under two inches? Toenail clippers? Nose hair scissors? These items pose an inconsequential threat but are very useful items to many.

Write Your Congressman Instead said...

I just read the "what about booties" response and realized the big issues here.

1) The TSA blames the airlines and the aiports who in term blame the TSA for the lack of ammenities. I think if the TSA is going to require no shoes, laptops out, etc. they should be providing booties, tables, etc.

2) The TSA is treating interstate travel as a privilege when it is a right. The Founding Fathers discussed this at length, the right to conduct commerce between states is under the jurisdiction of the Constitution. Congress needs to make the TSA accountable, clearly spell out the rules, and consider our rights when laws are passed.

3) This website is not to listen to our complaints and then make changes. This website is a poor attempt at customer service. The TSA is providing the illusion of listening without real change. It's not like it's become a democracy. If anything, we should be writing our representatives and Senators. Honestly, there should be Congressional hearings about the abuses of power, lack of rules and structure, lack of communication, and the poor job done by screeners in many many markets.

While it's nice to know I'm not the only one abused and treating like cattle, reading this has almost become entertainment. The TSOs who respond seem to feel that they have the right to do anything to make us "safer" without regard to the same rules that police and federal agents have to follow. It's like we've given rent-a-cops the keys to the kingdom without ANY checks and balances.

Anonymous said...

My wife (a legal US resident) is regularly identified for extra screening when she flies. She has lived here for several years. Prior to that she lived in Austria for 20+ years. She is a Danish national.

We suspect she is taken aside because she has visited Jordan (Aquba) several times (she worked in a hotel there when she was young).

I can't find out why she is listed this way and I can't do anything to contest it. That seems to be fundamentally unfair (accused but unable to examine my accusers).

Please let me know what we can do about this...

Screener Joe said...

"Many problems of TSA checkpoints come down to two issues. 1. They are understaffed for the number of people they need to process. You need to fix that. It pisses off everyone, employees and travelers alike.
2. You've given great power and authoority to employees (with the exception of a small percentage) who have neither personal knowledge or training on how to handle unpleasant situations, and to use intelligent discretion.
And one last thing... while on the subject of bombs: The liquid bomb threat was debunked! Scientifically! Couldn't be done that way! Really. I bet you could read about the studies in journals and on teh internets. Bah."

1. TSA is understaffed because that is how many screeners congress has budgeted for. TSA did not select those numbers, and the screeners agree with you. There should be more screeners. Write your congressman.

2. Two edged sword there. On the one hand, most screeners would agree that we would like more and better training. We speak about that a great deal on our own internal web sites. On the other hand, we might not have such severe problems if we didn't have to deal with unruly and demanding passengers who start with the assumption that we are the problem and create a self-fulfilling prophecy with thier own actions.

And one last thing... Some college professor who has never and will never make an explosive device claims it can't be done becaue he can't do it. I was in U.S. Army Special Forces, and I could do it.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me what airline passengers blame on the TSA security screeners (specifically with regard to checked baggage issues), apparently without knowing or considering what all goes on?

While it might be remotely possible for "the wrong person" to slip through the cracks, pass all the government background checks, and get hired by the federal government, it is extremely unlikely. At most larger airports, TSA employees have many co-workers who both work with them and often commute together as a group. So it is reasonably unlikely that a TSA employee would steal anything from checked baggage when they only have a very short amount of time to check and handle each piece of baggage. If they ever did take anything, they would have a difficult time concealing it from their co-workers unless it was small enough to fit in one of their uniform pockets.

TSA may confiscate prohibited items from checked baggage, but that is completely different than an individual taking them.

The many airline-employed baggage handlers who handle baggage after TSA security screens checked baggage are much more likely "thieves", this can occur at any airport along a traveler's itinerary.

I speak from personal experience, an airline-employed baggage handler stole from my checked baggage at my destination airport, and what they threw out from my checked baggage was found in an airline-employee security area (long before TSA security screeners). I worked for federal contractors, so I am familiar with the federal government background check procedures, and I have a close personal friend who works for TSA.

For various reasons, I am usually selected for "special" screening most times I travel.

I believe the security screening is important, but I also believe that both airline employees and passengers need to have better training. For instance, in order to fly, you should go through a brief anti-terrorist presentation every so many years.

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