Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Consistency and Where We're Going...by Kip Hawley

Thanks for participating in the Evolution of Security blog. In the coming weeks we will ask for your opinions about some issues we have now in discussion -- balancing intrusions into personal space (pat-downs, imaging) with better detection, devoting dedicated lanes to 'speedsters' frequent flyers and how to manage who goes to that lane -- are two examples. We will also continue to go where you take us with the issues you raise. I would like to address one of those issues now: 'why do I get different results at different airports?'

There are two main issues: a) process consistency, where we want to have the same result everywhere; and, b) purposeful variation so as not to offer a static target.

Let me say up front that we have sometimes confused the issue ourselves, seemingly excusing unwanted results with 'well we do it differently on purpose' answers. While I understand the frustration of not having a completely identical process every time, I cannot say that you will ever be able to go through completely on autopilot. Here's my perspective...

Let's take process consistency first. Imagine we were a manufacturing business and that we wanted to crank out identical, high quality widgets. That's hard to do even when you use precision equipment and consistent materials. If TSA were a manufacturer, we would be processing over 700 million unique transactions a year, using over 40,000 different people, at over 400 locations. And, rather than combating maintenance woes (although we do) and the standard banes of manufacturing quality, our enemy is active, intelligent, malicious, patient, and adaptive.

Because TSA started from scratch, we used very defined 'standard operating procedures' in order to get the new organization up and running. Over time, that detailed process control started to work against us. It had the effect of making the job checklist-oriented. ('If I follow the SOP, then I am doing my job.') The tighter we squeezed to demand tighter adherence to the SOP, the more we squeezed individual initiative and thinking out of it.

While we had great people as TSO's, we were putting them in situations where they had to do things 'because it's SOP' whether or not it made sense. It was not helpful for public credibility or for keeping our people sharp.

Since nobody would care that we followed the SOP precisely if there was a successful attack, and since our enemy can observe our SOP and plan ways to beat it -- we needed something more.

This is the purposeful variation part. The idea is to have a menu of different security measures that TSOs add randomly to the standard process.

Everybody goes through the magnetometer and puts carry-ons through the x-ray and if there is an alarm, it is resolved. However, given the limits of technology and simple human fallibility, vulnerabilities inevitably exist. We are covering those vulnerabilities by adding, truly at random, additional measures. For example, in the last couple of months, I have had two versions of a quick pat-down. My computer was swabbed for an explosives check, as were my shoes even though I didn't alarm going through (Yes, I go through security just like everyone else). We also have new handheld liquid and solid explosives detection devices deployed as well as a variety of other measures. You may, and should, see what I mean in an upcoming trip.

I should also add that we have recently added other layers of security to address the same vulnerabilities that I have been discussing -- behavior detection, document checking, K-9 teams, undercover air marshals, etc.

So, our theory of how to achieve process consistency from a quality control perspective is to train well and set outcome goals that encourage individual initiative and judgment. We think that for a distributed workforce that sees endless variety in passenger situations and faces an adaptive enemy -- that is the way to go. This means that, yes, you will see some differences trip to trip on some judgment things that are not on purpose. That is the price for a thinking, switched-on front-line -- if you want people thinking, then you have to let them make decisions based on their training and experience.

You will also see some different measures applied trip to trip that are purposeful, put there to prevent someone from exploiting a vulnerability.

Thanks for working with us, Kip

135 comments:

mark edward marchiafava said...

Simple question: how many "terrists" have you guys/gals captured to date?

Anonymous said...

A Govt agency that encourages thinking and initiative. That seems too good to be true. Good luck and God Speed.

Anonymous said...

My Friends:

I have no problem with your protocols and I fly about two times a week. I am a retired US Army colonel. Safety is paramount. Stay as you are.

God bless,

Bill Parnell

Anonymous said...

To be honest, all the security and I don't feel any safer. If anything I'm now scared that someone will be so fed up with security that it will motivate them to go "postal." Let the airlines/airports deal with security and get the government out of the picture. Corporations are extremely good at pleasing customers, keeping costs low, and doing what is necessary to keep their name out of the press. Which all boils down into them using the bare minimum security needed to keep people safe and happy.

Ayn R. Key said...

When you say "behavior detection", does that include singling out for extra scrutiny anyone who dares complain about you?

Dave said...

Is purposeful variation the reason why at some [but not all] airports, when you need to go for secondary screening, the TSO's leave your bags at the X-ray machine where they can be stolen?

Randolph Carter said...

I assert that since 9/11, security measures for flying have become far more (I would argue needlessly so) restrictive: Knives and some tools are no longer allowed aboard, the amount of liquids is restricted, shoes must be removed. I think you will all agree that this is true, yes?

Now, I object to all of those things that I listed above. So let me ask this: Why do we have those policies? Are they in place to (a) stop terrorists from hijacking a plane and using it to inflict a great deal of damage, as in 9/11, or (b) to stop someone from destroying the aircraft in flight?

If the answer is (a), then you're foolish. Nobody is ever again going to gain control of an airline. Airecrews have changed their SOPs, passengers have proven they will attack anyone who gets the least bit uppity, and cockpit doors lock. If the answer is (b), then let me ask this: There's plenty of ways for one person to kill many more people than are on an airline, in venues with zero security. I won't list them here, but a reasonably intelligent person should be able to come up with lots of ways to relatively easily commit mass murder of soft targets on a large scale.

So if the answer is (b), then it seems that you're unreasonably singling out air travel as the one place to plus up security, while ignoring all the other places a terrorist could do much more damage.

Either way, I assert that much of what TSA does is pointless. I urge you to consider allowing knives aboard (it's killing me to travel without my trusty Leatherman), do away with the liquid ban (I don't want to pay $3 for a drink past security, I want to bring my own), the shoes-off silliness (plantars warts and athlete's foot, here I come).

mark edward marchiafava said...

Ahhhhhhh, Bill Parnell is a retired US army colonel, someone who actually believes the government is sovereign over the citizen. On top of that, safety is, in his own words, "paramount." That's government doublespeak for "your rights take a back seat." NO, Bill, I'd rather not "stay as you are, I want real change."

Cynthia said...

I fly at least four legs a week. I have no problems with the procedures and the people enforcing them. It's the best we can do in a violent world. If terrorists can build bombs out of liquids, I don't mind having my liquids segregated and scrutinized to guard against that threat. If terrorists make "shoe bombs", I'm happy to have mine x-rayed so long as it helps dissuade or even catch bad guys.

TSOs and security employees generally are doing the best they can. Like in any other line of work, some people distinguish themselves with the excellence of their work while a small number of others abuse patience or authority. I'm glad there's a way for me to express my support for TSA and the largely thankless job it does!

Anonymous said...

Kip-

I think you need to better distinguish between what is "on purpose" and what is "not on purpose". Is yelling at passengers at some airports but not others done on purpose? How about the availability of comment cards? Seems to me like the main difference that's done on purpose is how a secondary screening is conducted. That excludes 99% of the complaints we've seen here.

Anonymous said...

While I can understand a certain level of unpredictability in thwarting the bad guys (I'm a Navy veteran, who also did a tour with the Marines, so I understand these things), I think the TSA needs to work harder at avoiding the appearance that the screeners get to make up their own rules. For example, if a tube of lipstick has to be in your ziploc bag at one airport but not another, this suggests that the screeners are interpreting the rules differently. It doesn't help that the screeners react so harshly if the passenger asks a question in these situations.

Speaking of screener behavior and ziploc bags, the TSA needs to put a LOT of effort into getting the screeners to be civil and helpful. Before the 3-1-1 rule, the screeners were businesslike, but generally good natured. Now, the screeners come across as being on a power trip. Instead of giving instructions in a firm but calm manner, screeners bark orders like drill instructors and yell unnecessarily. They have adopted a hostile and generally angry demeanor. (This observation is based on flying out of four different airports since last summer.)

The whole process would go a lot more smoothly if the TSA screeners would stop alienating the law abiding citizens with their hostile manner. The typical reaction to a question about the rules does not create an air of rational law enforcement, but instead creates one of "little people on a power trip."

The overwhelming majority of flyers just want to get through security and be about their journey. I seriously doubt that the TSA would tolerate a passenger treating its screeners the way they treat a passenger whose only "crime" is trying to travel by air and not understanding how the bureaucratic hairs get split about "liquids, aerosols and gels". The inconsistent application of the rules only makes this situation worse.

SkyWayManAz said...

First off I would like to thank your organization for establishing a blog. I have felt from previous experience in contacting your customer service line that my concerns were not being handled. With a blog well maybe they still are not being handled but others can chime in on them. People may see that your organization has a legitimate concern that trumps whatever perceived inconvienence I feel I've gone through. On the other hand it puts a mirror up to you to see whether or not your organizations actions trump common sense.

I remember well the first experience I ever had with a TSA screener in Columbus Ohio. He became quite angry with what he perceived as my unwillingness to cooperate with him. He asked me repeatedly to empty all my pockets and became verbally confrontational when I insisted I had. Only after I finally raised my voice to his level and stated "I have taken EVERYTHING out of my pockets!" did he let me know I was lying because he could feel something in my left back pocket. I told him as calmly as I could that it was button. He still maintained his anger with me stating, "How am I supposed to know that's a button!" I stated men's slacks usually have a button on the back pockets. He was still quite disgusted with me and passed me on. An employee of the airport authority who witnessed the event asked me to repeat what had happened but unfortunately I had to go as they were calling my flight and had to politely decline. That upset me for a long long time that I didn't report it right then and there but sadly I didn't want to miss my flight. I can only hope one your supervisors noted his behavior and corrected him immediately afterward.

One ongoing concern I've had is that if an airline has to cancel your flight or reaccomodate you the new boarding passes are marked for extra screening. This defies common sense and frankly is creating make busy work for your employees. Shortly after the 4th of July in 2004 I was flying on a Delta flight out of Kansas City. Due to a computer glitch affecting the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport Delta and American were cancelling numerous flights. Delta reaccomodated me on an America West flight which required me to leave the secured area and change terminals. Upon arrival at America West's screening area I was denied entry by the TSA approved contract screeners because I did not have an America West boarding pass. OK fair enough I suppose but I was amused that they kept giving me directions to Delta and did not seem to understand Delta couldn't issue me an America West boarding pass. Even if they could I'm quite confident it would say Delta on it and I'd still be denied entry. I, and the six other passengers Delta sent over, all got America West boarding passes marked for extra screening. Initially we were again denied entry because we had Delta ticket jackets and it was a huge effort to get them to notice the America West boarding passes, or even recall we were just there. The gate there is close to the screening area and the gate agents were quite distressed that they felt we were taking our time. Their faces just screamed they were angry with us for holding up their flight. Then it didn't help that a screener had failed to return my boarding pass after it was confiscated during the extra screening. He initially denied he had it but then the other 6 also realized they were missing their boarding passes and they quickly turned up.

I had heard of your customer service line around this time and contacted them advising them of this situation. That yes I understood as far as the computer was concerened it looked suspicious that 7 people suddenly decided to take a flight one way at the last minute. However some common sense would immediately suggest there be a way to handle an airline reaccomadation better. Most passengers would never experience this because most airports you can reach all the gates once past a central screening area. There are exceptions and unfortunately Kansas City International has separate screening for each airline. I felt my concern was largely ignored becuase of the uniqueness of it. I know the practice continues to tag reaccomadate passengers for extra security though as it happened to a friend of mine this past Christmas. He was bumped off a Northwest flight in Bangor and reaccomadated on Delta for the next day. He initially was amused they "randomly" selected him for extra screening but when I told him what to look for on his boarding pass he quickly realized there was nothing random about it. The computer decided he suddenly purchased a one way ticket across the country and was therefore suspicious.

Mark said...

Has anyone posting on here pointed out how much passenger searches endanger us and make us less safe?

CDR 17 said...

Please add a TOPIC for Travelers with Disabilities. We often face extra and sometimes embarrasing scrutiny and it would be worthwhile to have a TOPIC section to collect both issues and kudoes.
Thank you,
LW President
Californians for Disability Rights, Inc

Anonymous said...

I am from Australia. I hold dual Australian/American citizenship.

Sadly, trying to explain to the TSA or Customs why they have no record of me leaving America/using a foreign credit card for my ticket/carrying a pilots licence and headset/GPS/SCUBA gear/Laptop/video camera is a personal nightmare.

To give you an example of why its a nightmare, I would have to explain how I happen to hold a U.S. Passport, but have no other identifying U.S. documentation or records, my laptop certainly contains disturbing material (I'm trying to write a novel about Arab terrorism) among other things, and I have former military background. My $1500 Bose Aviation headset, aviation GPS and pilots licence would also be in there as well, which again would raise questions in the minds of screeners.

I will never, ever, visit the USA or any of its territories ever again to avoid having to submit to this embarrassing farce.

Anonymous said...

Robert Jackon had represented the United States at the Nuremberg Trials; four years later, when deciding Brinegar v. United States (338 U.S. 160, 180 [1949]), he extolled the Fourth Amendment: "These rights, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indipensable [sic] freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government."

Anonymous said...

As a flight attendant for a major airline, I thank you for what you are doing!

I may not know everything that the TSA knows about security but I will say that what I do know as a crew member really gives you a new perspective.

It's not only about terrorist threats folks, not everyone who flies today has every one's best interest at heart.

You would not believe some of the things that have happened on board my aircrafts. Some of these instance's make me glad knives are not allowed on board.

Folks, things are different today and I don't think you want you or any of your family member's to be a victim of anything that may happen if we don't stay vigilant.

Anonymous said...

A 500 billion dollar defense budget couldn't prevent what a $40 handgun in the cockpit could. I want my money, and my 2nd amendment, back.

Anonymous said...

I think its gotten alot better and the vast majority of agents I interact with are friendly and professional and the procedures are getting pretty uniform.

If I would improve anything It would be to add more agents (and lanes)so there is NEVER a backup :) Don't make us take the baggie out of the carry on, that slows things down...I can dig the required 3-1-1 but your x-rays I would think are pretty good. Finally allow any person through to the gates as long as they pass through the required security...Bring back the joy of seeing the kids when you first step off the plane...

Thanks for all you do

Anonymous said...

If you are trying to be more consistent as a TSA organization, I suggest you take a look at the Kahului airport in Maui first. The way they operate that is completely inconsistent with every other airport and CAUSES delays due to whoever runs the TSA operation there. I fly Delta airlines and the way they have it set up is you have to get your bags checked by TSA BEFORE (not after like everywhere else) you check in for your flight. The multiple kiosks remained unused as the line grows longer and longer and longer. I've questioned the TSA's there why they are the only airport to do it that way and they look at me like I have 2 heads. Their system is completely inefficient and a waste of traveler's time. Please tell them to "be consistent" with how things are operated at every other airport in the United States. Let people check in their bags and use the kiosks to check in AND THEN take them to be dropped off at the TSA's. I'm sure you could cut the staff from 15 people working the Delta area to just 5 at a time.
Thank you. I've been wanting someone to fix this for the past 3 years since I started traveling there.

lardra said...

tsa has only responded to techniques.

shoe-bomber never should have been allowed on a plane.

liquids and semi-solids in a quart "baggie".

what if a woman rigged/falsely rigged a bra? - would system grind to a halt?

how does faa loose battery reg get implemented? - if not by tsa - otherwise what's the purpose of promulgating such a rule.

Anonymous said...

tpa evening tsa crew observed playing cards - with few passengers coming into terminal at night.

at look busy - clean equipment - calibrate equipment - pretend there's a traing lecture.

playing cards!

Anonymous said...

Dear Kip,

Did the people behind the UK "liquid explosive" plot have a working binary liquid explosive? Please answer yes or no. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. You vary things so the bad guys won't be able to figure out what you're doing.

Okey dokey, then. So if the bad guy's got a shoe bomb he now knows he'll get the shoes scanned in some airports -- kind of randomly and not in others.

Kind of increases his chances of being successful, doesn't it?

You're following the speed trap logic. In this case, state troopers can't be everywhere all the time, so they place cruisers at random places to trap speeders who are unsuspecting. If cops could detect speeders everywhere at all times, believe me, they certainly would.

But you ARE at every entry point to the air concourse. So take advantage of it and screen for everything you think is dangerous and screen every time. If shoes are dangerous, screen for them every time and every place. If there is something to be gained from swabbing computers, swab them every time at every airport.

Your logic is totally flawed.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. You vary things so the bad guys won't be able to figure out what you're doing.

Okey dokey, then. So if the bad guy's got a shoe bomb he now knows he'll get the shoes scanned in some airports -- kind of randomly and not in others.

Kind of increases his chances of being successful, doesn't it?

You're following the speed trap logic. In this case, state troopers can't be everywhere all the time, so they place cruisers at random places to trap speeders who are unsuspecting. If cops could detect speeders everywhere at all times, believe me, they certainly would.

But you ARE at every entry point to the air concourse. So take advantage of it and screen for everything you think is dangerous and screen every time. If shoes are dangerous, screen for them every time and every place. If there is something to be gained from swabbing computers, swab them every time at every airport.

Your logic is totally flawed.

Anonymous said...

Why does the TSA even exist? It has been shown that private security firms have more than double the rate of success as you do, and are able to employ a high quality staff that gets higher pay than TSA employees. It would seem then that the TSA is just another over-bloated ineffective government agency, and this website seems to show that you are hearing about some of your many problems for the first time. A private firm would be much more in tune with the public because if they had as many problems as the TSA did, the Airport would just cancel their contract and hire a better firm. If the TSA messes up, they just get more money from us taxpayers, and then don't fix the problem only to receive more money when they mess up again. The problem isn't the TSA's policies, it is TSA, because the more you mess up, the more power you are given, to mess up more.

bill said...

This is remarkable. I thought this blog was a bogus idea. I was wrong. This is a valiant effort, and I applaud you for it.

Anonymous said...

I am quite used to being ordered around by TSA personnel, but I do not appreciate and won't stand for being separated from my valuables. A while back at ATL I was going through 'security' and I was pulled aside beyond sight of my valuables. Subsequent to having been 'wanded' and apparently having passed, I made my way to the plastic bin in which I expected to find my possessions. Imagine my surprise when I discoverec that my electronic recorder was missing. When I complained, I was told, "You should have kept an eye on it". How was I supposed to "keep an eye on it" when I was directed to an alcove beyond sight? I was told I could leave the secure area and proceed to the administrative office and file a report (and thereby almost certainly miss my flight) I declined, and lost that item, which contained several dozens of names, addresses, phone numbers and various other information of value to me. Practically every time I go through security I am directed to assume a position which causes it to be awkward for me to maintain direct view of my valuables. I will not knowingly lose any other objects in order to accomodate 'security' and if that is not agreeable we're likely to take this further. I am downright peeved about this treatment, and this sheeple isn't going to be accomodating.

I know there will be no follow up on this as TSA just doesn't care. This loss was not an error, nor was it a mistake. While I was distracted someone made the conscious decision to help themself to my peoperty, and the TSA facilitated the larceny.

Anonymous said...

To the above comment, I am a frequent flyer who gets extremely annoyed at all the rules TSA has implemented. However, these are just one element of the myriad of hoops we now need to jump through to ensure safety in the air. The first time standards are relaxed is when something will go wrong. Why do you think we have the ridiculous 3oz liquid rule? There was an incident.

I'm sure within a year, we will have another restriction to contend with because we do not have the creativity of some people. Also, why is it necessary for you to carry a knife on board? Stow it! Your attitude is exactly the reason why I take a situation that I normally would scream uncontrollably in (because of ineptitude or inpatience) and endure it longer.

Do I think it could be better? Yes. Does it unnerve me? Yes. Do I feel intimidated? Yes. But, remember, we're all in this together.

Ayn R. Key said...

To the flight attendant.

It is true that flight attendants are happy with the new arrangement, because your customers are no longer customers but subjects. If, for example, a mother doesn't want to give baby benedril to a babbling (not even crying) toddler, that's grounds for turning the plane around because the mom is being disruptive.

That particular stewardess got a slap on the wrist for going overboard, but she also appreciates the extra power given to her by the new arrangement.

Screener Joe said...

On Feb 10 anonymous said: " if the bad guy's got a shoe bomb he now knows he'll get the shoes scanned in some airports -- kind of randomly and not in others" and so on.

To be perfectly honest, there is no impermeable security system in the world. Can't be done. Someone could rob the Fort Knox gold reserve if they were willing to commit the cost and resourses. But the price would be so high that they could not profit by it. Security exists to raise the difficulty level to a point where it is impractical to try.

Terrorists my be suicidal in many cases, but we cannot assume they are stupid. They will not try something on the off chance that they will pick the airport where they can get away with it. They will try something that gives them a reasonable chance of accomplishing thier goal. Varying the screening routine, and using different techniques, make it more difficult for the bad guy to know what will work; and that makes it harder for him to try.

Kip Hawley said...

Appreciate the comments - good suggestion on the comment cards, we'll make it easier to provide feedback at the checkpoint. They are available now, but I get the point that they're not easily accessible.

Working on calming things down, including quieter at checkpoints. You should see more TSOs walking the line and talking with passengers and more use of radios.

thanks - Kip

Randolph Carter said...

To anonymous 7:31 pm....Why do I need a knife onboard? Because I can't put it in checked luggage: I don't check my luggage; I pack light. You want me to check luggage, it adds a half hour on to the trip to wait and retrieve it. Then there's the question of whether or not it will arrive with me, and whether stuff gets stolen out of it.

Also, there was no incident that precipitated the 3-oz rule. There was a rumor about some guys in London who had a plot that wouldn't work (you can't make TATP on an airplane).

Anonymous said...

I think the whole thing is a total waste of time and money. We're not any safer than before because of this security nonsense. I haven't flown since 9/11 because of this idiotic, knee-jerk farce. On any given trip, I might consider flying but I can never know what will be expected of me on my return trip. Even if I can accept the rules that exist on the day leave, my return flight may have completely different rules because the TSA is reacting stupidly to another news item. Someone, somewhere is unsuccessful at an attack so all the rules for passengers suddenly change and I cannot have any liquids or must check my laptop to go home. It's unacceptable to me. I wish TSA would allow one airline to bypass all this "security" crap and let the market decide. I know I'm perfectly willing to accept that life has some risks, a overall, terrorism is just not that likely. I'd fly on an airline that could continue doing thing as they were prior to 9/11 and I suspect many others would, too. Let the paranoid people fly with TSA checks and let them bear the costs of those checks instead of ramming it down the throats of "free" Americans. The point of terrorism is to make people feel scared of a small minority of people. I guess we've given them exactly what they wanted.

Anonymous said...

The point is, people are complaining loud and clear via this blog that the TSA and its employees treat them rudely, put their property and health at risk, are inconsistent in application of rules, do not explain the rules, and, in general act unprofessionally in all aspects of their operation.

You respond by saying, "Well, we do that on purpose to stop the terrorists."

I'm not buying it.

Please tell me one terrorist you've stopped. And I don't believe the blue balloons in a pair of shoes is proof of a terrorist.

p.s. Please send me back my tiny nail scissors the TSO at MKE grabbed from me in 2002. I really miss them. I see these are no longer considered a threat.

rick jones said...

I must say that much of what randolph carter has said resonated with me. One might think of a terrorist act as akin to an engineering disaster - there are so many links which must line up for it to be a "success" and if any of them don't line-up - such as say being able to breach the cockpit at the climax, or recruiting the terrorist during the prologue - the thing will fizzle.

I always wonder why people are willing to submit to the sorts of screenings they do with air travel. Perhaps it has something to do with already being inately concerned if not subconsciously afraid about undertaking something alien to a human being - flying five miles up at 500 miles per hour. So, to feel a little safer, we put up with all manner of intrusion.

Today, we dread the prospect of even one airliner dropping from the sky each year, even though not all that many years ago they did so just as a matter of routine. Yet we don't seem all that concerned about the orders of magnitude more people who die each year on our roads or from avoidable disease. Perhaps we think we have more "control" over those situations and so don't think it could happen to us - but we don't have control while being herded through the sky at 500 miles per hour.

How many planes would have to fall from the sky for the death toll to be anything close to statistically significant compared to all the other ways we die. Are we really better off as a whole following a philosophy of "If it saves a single aircraft?"

Anonymous said...

You know, I think that if the following two things were accomplished, there would be a lot less animosity toward the TSA.

1. TSA personnel should be courteous to the citizens they serve and recognize that by being polite and helpful they will gain the respect of the citizenry.

2. We, the traveling public, want our "stuff" to be safe from pilferage as it goes through the security checkpoints or through the baggage inspection process. It's fairly obvious from anecdotal evidence and the results of police investigations that theft by TSA personnel and airline baggage handlers does occur. We just want to get from here to there with the same "stuff" we started with.

If you can accomplish those two things, I, personally, will be extremely happy.

Anonymous said...

Protocol? How about clueless computers.....

Now, I understand that you have a rule about last minute one-way flights and throwing the SSSS on those boarding passes.

Now, when returning from Singapore at the end of 18 hours of flight, find your flight canceled because of bad weather and that the airline has done the decent thing and booked you on another flight, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Then you get your boarding pass, see those SSSS and think, man, are we unlucky or what (because the whole family was tagged).

We get to security, and woah, there's almost a hundred people in the "super secure line".

Great. I see what happened. It only took a few minutes to realize that all those canceled planes had all their forwarded passengers screened, because, well they just were suspicious due to weather reasons.

Fine, I could take that, if the TSA officials at that site would have a clue and shift resources to process the 300+ people (from six canceled flights) effected. But no, we have to wait, and wait, and wait, like four and a half hours while watching them staff up for crowds of "normal security" and then take breaks when not.

So either learn to adapt the workforce or better just change the database rule to not be so myoptic.

That was in SFO this last January.

Anonymous said...

Please comment on TSA's apparent lack of compliance with the Privacy Act when TSOs collect info from passengers in illegal systems of records.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say that if someone tried to take over an airplane 10 friends and plastic box cutters much like on 9/11 it would pretty much end with the same result.
Metal detectors... okay!
Taking my laptop out of its case everytime.... not okay. You can blow up your laptop battery, whether or not it's scanned in the bag or out of it.
These precautions do nothing except cause headaches, and make you miss your already delayed connection.
Furuther I agree with what one person said. I feel much less safe now then ever before. You now have the right to hold us as terrorists if we get act a little upset with the late-flight/missed-connection/unplesant-security-officer/lost-luggage.
The only reason I can see for the policies enacted is to let the public "feel" safer, but it has really done anything but.

Anonymous said...

The fourth amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Anonymous said...

I agree with standardized and sensible safety measures. I can't think why anyone would disagree with keeping real threats off of planes, but I'm a US Navy veteran and I'm no threat.

After the TSA was formed, I flew twice, and then stopped. Ever since that last flight, which lasted only 2 hours, and the 6 hours on the ground dealing with TSA checking shoes and other nonsense best summarized by Lewis Black: "If you have to scan me, scan me, but if you have to waive the wand afterwards, well that didn't work then did it? So wand everyone if you have to. What, then you have to search me? Well that didn't work either, did it?"

Why are we put through processes which are not only NOT proved to work, and would not have prevented 9/11, but are actually shown to be worse than doing nothing in media tests of the system? Why are our rights so easily obliterated by a congress that doesn't even read the laws that they sign?

What about the right to Freedom of Movement for a lawful citizen?

I haven't flown since I was last put through 6 hours of stupidity at an airport, and I will continue to rent cars to travel until I retire - outside the USA.

When you decide that you want to abide by the Constitution, and actually put into place measures which are scientifically sound and useful, then I will fly again. Until then, TSA has cost United Airlines [once my favored line] over 10,000.00 in tickets since 2001.

I will not fly. With a 6 hour delay, and the added civil rights being "waived" on airlines, I'd prefer to drive. I may not always get there faster, but I get there with more ease.

A cold war vet.

hawthorn said...

Kip, I appreciate your theories on process consistency, but I think you need to realize the psychological effect that inconsistency has on the passenger base. Inconsistency breeds uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds fear. I understand that you need the flexibility to introduce additional screening from time to time and place to place, so that the bad guys do not become complacent and game the system. But much of the reported inconsistency is actually one of two types: (a) TSA policy says that XYZ is prohibited, but airports A, B and C allow it anyway; or (b) TSA policy says that XYZ is safe to carry on board, but airports D, E and F make their own rules and ban it anyway. These things are a slap in the face of TSA authority. And the public concludes that TSA doesn't really know what it's doing and can't control its people.

As for the shouting TSO's, what you really need is a local announcement system similar to what the airlines use in gate areas. Those repeated speeches about laptops, shoes etc, should not have to be yelled in mid-room by designated barkers; they should emanate pleasantly from speakers overhead, freeing up TSO's to scrutinize bags and so forth.

Henry said...

Congratulations on a good start on a thankless task!

Anonymous said...

To Randolph Carter:

It was not a rumor about the liquids. It was an actual plan to blow up several planes heading from the U.K. to the U.S. If you choose not to believe it that is up to you.
Also, I understand not wanting to check a bag. It does add time and there is always the chance that it will not arrive at the same time as you. However, if you NEED (and I stress NEED)a prohibited carry-on item with you on your trip, you should check the bag.

Henrique said...

Hello TSA,

My father had a TSA-approved lock broken for a bag search on a recent trip to the US. Why does this kind of thing happen, and do I have any guaranties that I won't be throwing away money if I buy luggage with TSA-approved locks?

DHS Curmudgeon said...

@anonymous 8:22 am

You are incorrect. The "London bomb plot" of 2006, as stated by authorities, was based on terrorists smuggling aboard the makings of TATP and creating it on the plane. This is impossible. Google recipes for TATP if you don't believe me. Making TATP requires a great deal of time, temperature control (both to heat up and cool down), and a fume hood. And then some filtering and a whole lot of drying time. It CANNOT be accomplished in an airline lavatory. The plot, as stated by the authorities, was not workable.

Anonymous said...

Another TSO here:
I have worked at many different airports.. Yes things are different at most of them.. but the basic things are being dong. screening passengers and their bags. If we get an alarm then we resolve that alarm. If something looks suspicious then its investigated. Listen, TSO's are people, not androids, sometimes an alarm is a feeling that something is not right and that feeling should be checked out.
Bottom line is every WILL be checked.. I know that some of you would like to just walk through and get on the plane with whatever you have, knife, gun, liquids whatever, but let me ask you this, what about the terrorist? Do you want the terrorist to get past with his gun, IED’s, do you want us to check his shoes, his laptop? YOU DO? What about a guy that just lost his job or his wife, with a death wish and a gun and is going to get on your plane or better yet the plane that you just put your unaccompanied minor on. Think about it.
on the plane with his gun?

Donnie said...

A first step at consistency would be better identifying rules and regulations for what has to be screened seperately and what does not. An example - on a recent trip through DCA, I observed the sign indicating that laptops, large electronics including full sized DVD players would need to be removed from bags. I was carrying a 6 inch mini DVD player. I was immediately stopped and chastised for not following the posted rules. When I tried to politely point out the sign so that it could be corrected, I was asked to step aside and be further screened.

When returning through the ATL airport, I took the mini-DVD player out and placed it on the conveyer belt. The TSA employee informed me I was taking too much space on the belt and slowing down the line, that I should leave anythging other than a laptop inside my bag.

You can see where inconsistencies like this would frustrate any routine traveler.

madison said...

i've never understood why my liquids or cigarette lighters etc were such an issue, but i am allowed on board with my cell phone and ipod, which if turned on during take off or landing apparently will cause the plane to fall to the earth. if these devices are so dangerous, why screen for knives, when a "terrorist" could just bring ten cell phones on the plane and turn them all on at once!

Anonymous said...

Mark Edward Marchiafava- TSA does not capture terrorist. That would be the job of local law enforcement. Perhaps your question would have been better if you had asked. How many times has TSA stopped a passenger carrying a weapon(knives, guns, ammo, grenades, pepper spray, tear gas etc.) from getting on a plane? The number would scare most people from ever wanting to fly again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- I agree with you. Customer service is important.. but not at the expense of security. Terrorist like exploiting the bare minimum.

Anonymous said...

ayn r. key- Behavior Detection is a complicated process that does not include picking on people who are obnoxious. TSA prefers to treat everyone equally even those who complain.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone who complains about security are the ones who are in fear of terrorism. The people who have no problem going through security aren't sacrificing liberties. They are just everyday people who have nothing to hide and want to get to their destination. Those who don't understand the threat and what TSA is doing FEAR it. So do some homework, that way you won't have to be afraid.

And for all those who continue to question "Just how many terrorists have you caught?": Get real. You are probably the same people who argue with the police when getting pulled over for speeding. "I was only going 10 mph over the limit, don't you have more important things to do?"

Anonymous said...

Your chances of killing yourself by a fall in your bathroom are tremendously higher than your chances of being killed by a terrorist. Let's keep things in perspective.

Kamigaeru said...

I whole-heartedly agree with the comment made by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2008 (10:48pm): a little politeness goes a long way!

I recently traveled to Germany and I was impressed by ALL of the European airport personnel, including ticket and gate agents, security (TSA equivalent), and customs officials. Everyone was extremely professional and polite. None of the security or customs agents were overly friendly, nor did I expect them to be, but they did their jobs efficiently without creating any additional aggravation to travelers, even when minor problems arose at security checkpoints.

I must say I was rather appalled at what I experienced when I returned to the States via PHL. It was a literal zoo. The security checkpoint lines, which were understandably long due to several flights arriving at the same time, were disorganized and travelers were confused as to where they were supposed to be going. TSA officials were yelling at passengers who were slow to respond, and there were also raised voices at many of the x-ray machines.

I experienced some less than professional behavior from a TSA official when there was some confusion over my CD player after it went through the x-ray machine. (I was not aware that it should be taken out and run through in its own tray.) I try to comply with all the regulations when I travel, as it makes it easier for everyone involved.

I know TSA officials have a difficult job, but as someone who has chosen to work in that capacity, you should be able to keep a cool head when problems arise, especially minor ones. A calm, professional attitude when interacting with travelers would help greatly improve the TSA image and increase passenger compliance. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

Anonymous said...

Hawthorne- Most people zone out the overhead annoucements. The TSOs are just trying to get people to follow the process and get screened as quickly and as efficiently as possible. I agree it can sound like yelling. For some reason people also ignore the signage leading up to the checkpoint.

Anonymous said...

responding to Kamigaeru
Its not the TSA in the US its the general public. Americans think they are better than everyone else. And when Americans are waiting in line they assume the signs that explain the procedure is for everyone else but themselves.. so they wait until someone tells them to do it and if no one does then they don't. Like little children really. Then when someone tells them to do something that they dont agree with, regardless they complain and argue and want to tell everyone 10 reasons why they think it is stupid. I have lived and traveled outside the US and believe me they dont act like the American general public. If TSA seems to act rude or yelling its due to the public in their faces everyday!

Anonymous said...

You do have to even get on a plane to cause the public to panic about air travel and the airports. It is not even required to clear the TSA check point. A bomber can just blow themself up in that 12min waiting line that winds back and forth with 30-40 people in it. The TSA cant stop that..oh wait yes they can lets move the check point out side the airport.

Dave X the first said...

@ Mark February 10, 2008 2:47 PM:

"Has anyone posting on here pointed out how much passenger searches endanger us and make us less safe?"

One way that TSA makes us less safe is that flying is safer than driving, and when the inconveniences and fears cause people to drive rather than fly, more people die:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March05/Sept11driving.pdf

TSA is probably responsible for killing more people by causing them to drive than they could hope to save through screening.

Kip:

So you've explained the purposeful variation. If you want us to believe your Inspector Clouseau-ish "everything we do is carefully planned" explanations, you really need to explain why you don't follow your own rules.

The difference between the 100ml limit you talked about in a recent post and 3oz of the 3-1-1 rule causes significant problems. Can't you even get that one straight?

I've asked why my combination toothpick, tweezers, scissors, and nailfile, all under 2", was confiscated, (2nd post of lighters... and the only answer I get back out of you folks is "no knives of ANY length are allowed to pass the checkpoint."

You say: "While we had great people as TSO's, we were putting them in situations where they had to do things 'because it's SOP' whether or not it made sense. It was not helpful for public credibility or for keeping our people sharp." -- it isn't helpful for public credibility when you point to your rules as the justifying SOP, but your screeners don't follow them.

What part of "you guys took my tweezers" do you not understand?

Sour Lemons said...

I found it humorous that one TSA person here said that out of the 5 gazilion flyers there were only a few complaints... So here's mine:

I travel about once a month for the US Army. Now while I have no problem with what the TSA is doing I still have some (what I believe are) serious gripes.

1. They have broken two pieces of US Army Luggage. Both times were with the handles and were undoubtably TSA's doing. WHY does the TSA insist on having me leave the handles up on the luggage? The second time I even took the time to explain how it works. (this isn't rocket science guys....)

2. Can I have my (personal) TSA approved lock back now? You apparently took it off to look inside and never put it back on.

3. I really didn't appreciate the time when you insisted that I drop my trousers in the airport that time. When I said "Don't you have a room for this?" I got a pretty intimidating reply with a "it will back up the line unnecessarily".
At least my pants didn't have to go past my hips and a good thing I don't go "commando"....

I'm not going to go into the time last year when you put one of my office compatriots on the no fly list. (he has a top secret clearance.) Then you lost his paperwork to get him off the list.
something like 9 months later.....

Anonymous said...

I have three comments. First, Chicago Midway should be a model for TSA. I fly there at least twice a week. My average wait is approximately 4 minutes. Not only is it fast, staff there on the balance are professional and courteous while making the process painful and secure. Bravo to Chicago Midway. Second, the yelling out of the rules at some airports has to stop. It makes the entire experience more stressful and less secure, without helping at all to speed up the process through security. It is unnecessary noise. Rather than having the 'yeller', I would suggest putting that FTE on another closed lane to speed things up.
Finally, your comments around 'thinking and initiative' are brilliant, but it is not happening in the real world. On the balance, it does not seem like TSA employees ever look at me. You can learn a lot by looking into someone's eyes. At a minimum, it's another data point for security. They should be trained to look for suspicious behavior, use their intuition, etc. to make our airports more secure. Instead, I could be acting totally wacky, nervous, or strange, and they would never notice while they decide whether my shampoo container is over the size limit. P.S. PHL Southwest terminal is terrible (I believe it is E), lines at night are unacceptably long, and the employees are generally the least pleasant in my experience in the entire country.

Emily said...

Ideally I would leave this under "Gripes and Grins", but for some reason it won´t let me leave a comment there. I travelled from San Jose, CA to LA in September and then on to Santiago, Chile. When I arrived in Chile, the iPod speakers I was carrying - a birthday present to my brother-in-law - had been stolen, my TSA-approved lock broken beyond repair. This makes me question the supposed "security" of my bag.

It is basically impossible that the speakers were stolen in Chile as the bags came out very quickly and to my knowledge are not reviewed between plane and baggage claim. This means either some TSA employee decided he/she felt like a new set of speakers or my bag was somehow left unattended after I checked it, allowing an outsider to open it. The latter seems unlikely - why would my bag randomly be chosen and only the speakers removed unless someone had access to x-ray equipment or was already reviewing the bag. Isn´t it ironic that I feel my possessions are actually less secure with TSA than without? While I do hold TSA responsible for the theft, I understand that in large companies you´re bound to find a few "bad apples". My main complaint is that there is no effective way to deal with situations like these. My dad went to the San Jose airport in person in the hopes of being able to speak to someone, but we never managed to effectively communicate our distress to TSA nor - God forbid - was any kind of compensation offered. A previous complaint received a written response over ONE YEAR after we originally wrote to TSA, with no apology for the time that had lapsed.

More generally, I often travel with my laptop in my checked bag in order to avoid the security line hassle. I carefully place it in the middle of my suitcase, surrounded by clothing. Why oh why, TSA employees, do you insist on leaving it on top of my (now disorganized) clothes, with no padding whatsoever? I really feel like some part of the TSA training should involve a course on "how to open the suitcase without breaking the lock (when it´s one of the TSA-openable ones)" and another on "how to repack a suitcase without completely messing up someone´s careful organization".

Anonymous said...

My only problem is the requirement to remove shoes. I have messed up feet. Just taking a few steps on a hard floor without my shoes or without my slippers, I'm in pain. I so wish that I could just take them off while seated, give them to someone to examine, and have them return them to me so I can put them back on before having to walk. But I can't. So, no more flying for me. It's the open road (albeit, slow road) for me. Otherwise, I think you guys are doing a great job!

Matter-Eater Lad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC said...

I think it's ridiculous that you don't have two separate lines for airline personnel and passengers. Instead, when waiting on line at airports such as JFK, I wait on line for ages, then just as I'm about to load my bin to go through the x-ray machine, I'm cut off by airline personnel. I understand they are there to perform their job, but that is seriously frustrating. All it takes is the foresight (or common sense?) to realize it will aggravate passengers and have them upset when you perform other necessary procedures.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone just notice that every link, post, and article except for Mr. Halwings have been taken down.

How about getting those posts back up quickly, "like alchohol flowing though Bourbon St."

Ben said...

Clarity on the rules for passengers and consistency in enforcing them would be good. I had 60+ segments last year, and every time I kept my liquids in my carryon bag instead of presenting them separately. Never once was I asked to open my bag for inspection of my liquids after going through the xray. However twice at one airport I was asked before I reached the xray machine whether I had liquids or not. I mentioned they were in a baggie like they were supposed to be, and the screener demanded I take them out of my bag and present them separately and then chastized me for not following the rules. How can I go through 58 times without taking my liquids out of my bag, and then twice be yelled at for not following the rules by presenting my liquids separately.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that we would arrest someone saying "Bomb" in an airport, but nominate for the Presidency someone who wants to bomb other countries?

Why can't dropping bombs be universally wrong?

Anonymous said...

A wider-ranging crowdsourcing can hopefully be conducted by TSA. We need a disruptive surveillance technology to deal with rampant terrorists schemes and plots that go beyond our imagination.

TSA and DHS systems currently do not allow small start-ups or independent invesntors to present their innovations and solutions more freely. For example, RFP limits categories, and it is my understanding that TSA, DHS and even DOT are supposed to take unsolicited innovations and solutions. But it was not possibble everytime I tried.
A lot of crowdsourcing can help, rather than top-down approaches towards innovative surveillance solutions.

Basically, RFID and biometrics combined won't help the increasing load of security checks and mass surveillance to head off the ever-increasing terror threats that go beyond any new solutions based on the already-known terror plots.

Anyhow, it is a wonderful idea that TSA is running a blog, and hopefully it is one step forward toward more aggressive crowdsourcing.

Mike said...

Kip,

You say "My computer was swabbed for an explosives check, as were my shoes even though I didn't alarm going through."

This makes it sound like you walked through the metal detector with your shoes on. How is that possible?

36x24 said...

I fly out of Charlotte, NC and am always amazed at how many times I am asked to show a ticket and ID before entering the metal detector. Show it to a TSA rep, move 6 feet, show it to another TSA rep, move 20 feet, show it to a seated TSA rep, move 6 feet, enter the detector and show it to another TSA rep! In 32 feet four people look at the same documents; doesn't give me a feeling of increased security but rather of make-work jobs being created for the rather slow but poorly compensated and power mad!

Chance said...

Regarding the comment above:

How many planes would have to fall from the sky for the death toll to be anything close to statistically significant compared to all the other ways we die. Are we really better off as a whole following a philosophy of "If it saves a single aircraft?"

Many security measures that are in place protect more than the flying public. The use of an aircraft as a weapon affects more than people than just those on board, as the 9/11 attacks demonstrated. In our analysis of risk, the total consequences of any given attack are always considered, including total loss of life, economic impact (add other factors here) and other considerations.

While one might argue that the loss of any single aircraft, though tragic, might not justify the expense of our security measures (I disagree, but that's a separate discussion), when that single aircraft is treated as the equivalent of a cruise missile, the equation changes dramatically. That one plane could have consequences for several times the number of people on board, (directly and indirectly) which is certainly a statistically significant number.

Chance - Evolution Blog Team Member

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous of February 11, 2008 8:22 AM who said...
To Randolph Carter:

It was not a rumor about the liquids. It was an actual plan to blow up several planes heading from the U.K. to the U.S. If you choose not to believe it that is up to you.


Yeah, an actual plan by people who did not have passports, nor any clue of a viable way to actually create TATP onboard the aircraft.
By that logic, the Secret Service should never allow the President of the US out in public, because there have been threats made. And because there have been whole books about ways to damage the Congress and the Senate, he should never visit them either...
Could it be that this might be too intrusive for the actual threat level? That there is a huge difference between a plan and a credible threat?

TSO Tom said...

As a TSO, here are MY thoughts on "dedicated lanes for speedsters, and first class":
I don't like the idea. Because it gives these passengers an idea of being able to "butt" in front of other passengers, and it causes concern in the line. I've had passengers actually approach me and tell me that the first class line was moving too slow! Personally, I don't care about the first class line, my job is SECURITY and I do it the same whether they are first class or coach. So please, let's not (TSA) get involved in the first class line, its not our job to create or monitor such a line. If the line is moving too slow, its becasue we are doing our job the way we should be doing it, and as a TSO I don't want to hear that its moving too slow, I have other concerns on my mind. If I'm checking a bag, or patting down a passenger, the last thing on my mind is if the first class line is moving quickly enough. Please,lets stay away from this. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Count me among those who believe your entire methodology is misguided. The productivity drain of your procedures scales into many billions of dollars, not to mention the real cost of all your airport screening. And yet tens of thousands of other venues filled with tens of thousands of innocent people all around the nation operate without a shred of security each and every day.

I do not feel safer in any way because of your efforts. I feel only inconvenienced every week by pointless exercises that are rationally indefensible.

Dave X the first said...

Blogger Chance said...

...In our analysis of risk, the total consequences of any given attack are always considered, including total loss of life, economic impact (add other factors here) and other considerations.

Chance - Evolution Blog Team Member

February 11, 2008 2:47 PM

Your risk accounting you only seem to count the benefits of your bureaucracy, and none of the costs.

It is obvious that you don't consider the total consequences of your screening practices -- Causing more people to drive, as some of the people posting as screeners seem to desire, actually causes more people to die in traffic fatalities: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March05/Sept11driving.pdf

There was a study some years ago that equated the 1-in-a-million chance of death from a single commercial airplane flight with driving 120 miles while wearing a seat belt. Making people choose to drive 4 hours instead of flying doubles their risk of death.

With your commenters posting that they drive 16 hours to avoid the hassles of airflight, and your screeners posting that people should drive if they can't hack the "security", I'd bet that you guys are killing more people with the many small added inconveniences and bad "service" than you could hope to save.

The heroes on Flight 93 showed us how to reduce the damage one plane could cause. And the geniuses who armored the cockpit doors reduced the damage that passengers could cause. TSA's risk analyses can't honestly take credit for those risk reductions.

ToastyKen said...

I have a question regarding your "truly random" comment. How do you ensure that the additional screenings are random? Is there a computer program or a pair of dice that determines the randomness, or is it based on the judgment of the TSO?

On a related note, I was wondering if you could comment on racial profiling? I've heard comments to the effect of "we don't do racial profiling, but we consider possible affiliation with countries that sponsor terrorism", which sounds conflicting.

Given the geographical/religious nature of the current primary threat, I can imagine that racial profiling might actually work to some degree, but it has to be balanced against the civil rights of people like my Indian friends who, by virtue of being "brown", get "randomly" selected for additional screening quite often.

I'm Asian, and I imagine that if there's any conflict between the US and China in future decades, I would be similarly racially profiled. So I have a personal vested interest in this as well as concern for my Indian friends.

How does the TSA balance these issues?

Anonymous said...

The first thing that should be done is to get the signage straight. I'm a business traveler and have been to MANY airports and they have these wonderful little signs that say you CAN have knives so long as the blade is less than 3 inches. PERFECT! I have a cute little PINK swiss army knife whose blade is barely 1.5 inches. I need it when I'm on site, for the scissors (I hate tags in my shirts) and the nail file. I carried it for months in my purse with no issues. Then in charlotte (my home airport where I had taken it through with no issues many many times) they declare that they have to confiscate it. I argued and argued but there's no winning, not even when they saw the signs - I think that they just wanted a pink swiss army knife. They finally agreed to let me mail it home to myself - which they were NOT happy about. The sign is still up, I still argue with them and every other airport TSA agent, but oh well. I'm not carrying the knife cause it's too cute, but I curse the TSA whenever I'm in desperate need on site.
gina

Anonymous said...

I agree that there should be a section for people with disabilities.

Anonymous said...

"We can't have SOPs because then we'd be predictable"?.. Pull my other leg, I think this one is a bit longer.

SOPs are not for the standardization of the 'what we do'. They are for standardization of the 'how we do'. I've written about 100-150 technical training SOPs and getting consistent training results is why you need SOPs. If your training is not consistent it shows.

The TSA already has a bad public image problem with the 'what we do', and not having a standardized way of 'how we do' only makes it worse.

From the viewpoint of the flying public at large, and as evidenced by the myriad complaints on this blog, the TSA has a severe and almost fatal 'how we do' standardization problem.

Just from the comments on this blog there are complaints about IDs being accepted at one airport and not at another. There are complaints about TSO's being unprofessional. There are complaints about TSO's at different airports doing the EXACT same thing differently.

The higher ups in the TSA must understand that the majority of the flying public sees the entire agency as being made up of people who are inconsistent and unresponsive specifically because of the lack of standardization in the 'how we do' realm on the floor.

SOPs are neccessary for any training program.

DW said...

I fly frequently for business, out of the same airport (Charlotte) and into a variety of airports, some large, some small. In my opinion, most of the problems that are perceived to be caused by TSA are caused by passengers who either a) don't make any effort to learn/read the rules at that particular airport or b) don't believe the rules really apply to them.

It's unfortunate that the TSA screening process isn't the same at every airport, but that's the way it is and people should act accordingly. Complaining at the airport will not change that.

If you don't travel often, check the TSA website for prohibited items and new rules. If in doubt, don't bring it. If you must have it at your destination, UPS/FedEx are cheap (relative to airfare cost already incurred), fast and reliable. If you decide to risk it, you are the only one to blame for any hassle it causes.

As for airport-specific rules, very few (if any) are more restrictive than the official TSA policy. So, if you prepare for the TSA rules before you fly you won't have any problems OR cause any problems for other travelers. There is nothing worse than standing in line behind someone for 10 minutes who has shuffled by 4 different signs describing the liquid and laptop carry-on policy, only to have them get to the conveyer belt, take their sweet time removing metal articles from their pockets, attempt to pass through security only to have to go back through because they didn't realize their keys would set of a metal detector and the bag of liquids must be out of the bag. Sure, some airports don't require you to remove shoes/liquids/laptops, but the rule is that you are required, so if you do it that costs you a max of 30 seconds, whereas when you don't do it and are forced to repeat the process it takes easily 3-4 times that long, creating further delays and irritating passengers who actually have their acts together and are capable of following instructions.

In essence, while the TSA isn't the perfect system, if you have half a brain and plan accordingly the TSA should be the least of your travel concerns compared to the ineffective way in which most airlines and airports "plan" their flight schedules.

Anonymous said...

I previously posted the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, but it was rejected by the censor. Dear censor, why is the 4th Amendment to the Constitution considered unacceptable content?

Anonymous said...

dw: Since FedEx and UPS are so cheap, please post your billing information here, and I'll just charge it to you the next time I fly somewhere.

By the way, my job often takes me aboard Navy ships. Please remind me how I FedEx or UPS to ships?

Anonymous said...

I applaud this blog to help ID some security improvements or expose weaknesses that can be addressed. You won't like the suggestions but I thank you for even trying:
Put your efforts into catching bad guys long before they are at the airport.
Put your efforts into screening and securing baggage against theft and loss as well as transport of harmful chems.
Put your efforts into helping Amercians fly efficiently and give up bottleneck screening; most of us know we are more likely to die of frustrated heart attacks in security lines or security holds than to ever be on a plane a terrorist is even interested in boarding. And I suspect nowadays no passenger would rest until a highjacker or three were rendered disabled.
Put your efforts into guarding my right to be free of being 'screened' or having my self and articles pawed through and exposed to theft, handling or others germs; rather than your current efforts to go through the empty and nearly useless motions of screening innocent commercial air travelers while more wealthy travelers board their private planes and jets, and truck, train and shiploads of flammables move through hundreds of cities/towns unsecured daily.
Put your efforts into finding security work which does not get your hands in my life.
I and my family have always served this nation to champion freedom and rule of law in America, and this adminstration and this agency have made a mockery and joke of defending our U.S.A..

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with anonymous who stated that the Southwest airlines terminal at PHL has the worst TSOs at any airports I've encountered in the country. I've never been in Army bootcamp or processed into prison, but I might imagine it's similar to this.

These folks go beyond simply rude. They are downright threatening. There is no excuse for this kind of bullying.

The TSA seems to be missing a paramount rule of law enforcement: how to defuse a tense situation.

kev said...

I found out this week, airport employees can pass through screening with a drink at Denver International Airport, the general public can't -- Why?
This seems like a serious breech of national security. Next thing you know they will walk through with chap stick and other seriously dangerous products.
Please stop them, for the children!

I'd be nicer, if u were smarter... said...

To DW regarding your post on February 11, 2008 5:25...

"In essence, while the TSA isn't the perfect system, if you have half a brain and plan accordingly..."

Amen!

kev said...

I recently saw a screener (DEN) allow a passenger into the screening area with a Spanish language ID card, I believe it was a consular ID card. The Agent asked to see a Passport or Drivers license and the passenger just smiled. She obviously could not speak English. The TSA person allowed her to continue with a warning that next time she has to have a passport of drivers license, which she just smiled and nodded to--What the heck is this?
I'm sure I would be turned away if I didn't have a valid ID.

whathappenedtoamerica said...

I was selected for SSSS screening because my renewal sticker had not yet been mailed to me for my drivers license. After passing through the ID check, we put all our belongings through the metal detector and then as they came out the TSA agent was trying to separate me and my stuff from my family's belongings, (hard to do, I'm a mom traveling with husband and two small children on a family vacation for heaven's sake!) and she kept snapping at me "don't touch anything!" as she is lifting my hardshell case with all my gear, lenses, laptop bag and so on. Of course, she lifts it up with the case still open so it all nearly spills out onto the floor. I instinctively grab it so my expensive items will not crash onto the linoleum! She snaps at me again "Don't touch anything! I told you not to touch anything!" Then my daughter comes running up and grabs my arm so she snaps at me again "Don't touch anyone!" clearly freaking out my little girl who does not understand what's happening. I'm starting to fume silently, but don't want to make a scene, as everyone knows that if you make a scene you'll be prevented from flying, you are held hostage no matter what bad behaviour you are treated to! You can't complain and you can't do anything but try to follow their idiotic directions that absolutely do not take into account a parent traveling with a child present. So I am sitting there and they go through every freaking inch of my baggage with a wand, and after they let me start carefully repacking the bag she nearly dumped onto the conveyor belt, I mention to a nearby hostage I mean traveler that there's no wonder that the TSA is hated worse than the IRS. Of course that's the wrong thing to do because now I have about a half a dozen hostile agents surrounding me demanding to know what I think is so wrong with their little security theater. I was actually told to "move to Britain" if I didn't like it and also told that they did not work for the American public so don't tell them how to do their jobs!!! Incredible that an American citizen can be treated so badly as if I was a criminal or a threat! And they justify their jobs by telling me that I am in the wrong and the conversation got very heated of course I had about six agents surrounding me and I was way on the defensive who wouldn't be? I had one agent actually try to block my way onto the escalator to the gate and then they had the nerve to call the police on me!!! The police tracked me down as we were sitting at the gate and questioned me in front of my two small children! Just because I objected to the treatment I received, I was treated as if I was the criminal. Insane, has the world really come to this? Is this really helping anyone? Were the 5-6 agents who spent time arguing with me really supposed to be doing that or should they have been looking for other violations?? I'm sick and tired of it and completely baffled by the repeated assertion that harassing ordinary travelers with idiotic liquids bans, shuffling off our shoes and belts, being subjected to humiliating, degrading treatment every time we have to go to the airport is doing anything other than completely wasting taxpayers money and time. Seriously, being confrontational with the American public who DARES to question them? Well I will continue to question and speak up loudly for basic, humane civil treatment, and if I need to get arrested in front of my children for doing so then I hope they will be proud of their mom when they grow up as a proud American citizen who will not bow humbly before the whip of the TSA! You say you want to hear what we have to say, well here it is. No I do not dare to give you my name are you kidding me? As if getting myself on the no-fly list by speaking up about abuse of power will help the next time I want to show my children some of this great country of ours where we used to have things such as due process and personal liberty and freedom.

Henrique said...

In support of ToastyKen regarding racial profiling: Besides being a form of prejudice and a sure way to generate more animosity towards the TSA, let's not forget that this selective screening of people from "countries associated with terrorism" has two major drawbacks. First, TSA personnel have no idea how different a tanned Latin American, an Indian (as in India, with dozens of ethinc and religious groups, not as in native-american), Pakistani, North African and Middle Eastern citizens are, let alone distinguish Asians, which include several ethnicities from so-called "terrorist-supporting" countries with large Islamic populations. Second, racial screening would never pick up the Timothy McVeighs and Unabombers, a clear mistake.
There's an additional problem even with random screening: If you select people for random screening, you are clearly assuming that the normal screening process will allow some of the danger to leak through, and you are trying to create an added risk for would-be terrorists by having this added layer. But if you have a layer that only filters something like 1 in 10 passengers, then obviously one would expect 90% of the leak to get by unharmed. Therefore, I see only two possibilities here: Either the "random" check isn't random and is totally profiled to check those considered high-risk (which I sincerely doubt, since my Caucasian wife has been selected in the past, whereas I, being a Latino, have not), or the random check is completely ineffective and could be abolished altogether. Do you agree? I would really like to see an answer by the TSA to this and to my other question about the TSA approved locks that get broken. Before you flame me, I understand the need for security and that the intention is basically valid, I just question some of the methods and especially the seemingly-chronic power trips of the officers. I just want to use this blog for its purpose, which is to have a civilized discussion of important issues.

Jay Maynard said...

1) Being inconsistent is not justifiable for security reasons. Either a test or a procedure is designed to counter a specific threat, in which case omitting it allows that threat through, or else it doesn't, in which case it's an unwarranted intrusion in people's lives - unless, as I suspect, the real justification is that it's designed to hassle people until they feel secure. That's the definition of "security theater".

2) I don't oppose the TSA's massive, systematic violations of the civil rights of American citizens because I'm afraid of terrorism. Quite the contrary: to fear terrorism is to give the terrorists the victory they can't get any other way, and I refuse to do that. I was in Manhattan on business on 9/11/2001, and was ready to fly home the next day if I could have. The only thing that will get me to quit traveling by airline is getting fed up with the TSA. (As it is, I'm going to be buying an airplane later this year so I can avoid the TSA for some trips; I already drive to any destination that I can reach in 12 hours or less.)

Kip, your thinking is just plain wrong. You're violating the Fourth Amendment millions of times every day. Your agency is the most hated in the US government for good and sufficient reason. Your screeners are on constant power trips and are totally unaccountable to the traveling public.

YOU are giving the terrorists their victory, by destroying what America was before 9/11.

Anonymous said...

re comments by whathappenedtoamerica

You have had the distinct pleasure of being subjected to the US version of current day Waffen-SS.

I encourage you and any others who have experiences like yours to call your Senate and House of Representative offices and complain loud and long. This situation will not change until political pressure reigns in this abuse of civil liberties.

Security yes, abuse no!

George said...

I do have to give Kip Hawley credit for noticing that the traveling public feels resentment toward his agency rather than the gratitude and appreciation he expects. This blog is a well-meaning attempt to address a public relations problem, just as the TSA itself is a well-meaning attempt to address a security problem. It remains to be seen whether either one is effective at its well-intentioned purpose.

That said, I honestly believe the only possibly effective way to voice an opinion about the TSA is to politely refuse their services by not flying. Granted, the transportation system in this country is heavily biased toward flying, so often there is no choice. But when you do have a choice (such as a vacation), you can avoid all the hassles of air travel (of which the TSA is only a part) by choosing a destination that doesn't require flying.

What I've seen of the TSA when I have to fly inspires absolutely no confidence in anything they are doing. And everything I've read about their consistent failures in test after test, audit after audit, only reinforces that impression. So my feelings toward the TSA are of resentment rather than appreciation and gratitude.

But I am grateful to the TSA for one thing. In the Dark Dangerous Days before the TSA, when flying overall was far less unpleasant than it was now, I would take my vacations in far-off places. Thanks to the TSA, I have had the opportunity to discover some of the wonderful sights, sounds, and flavors within a day's drive of home, which I had previously overlooked. No lines, no shoe removal, no arbitrary and capricious "interpretation" of absurd rules on liquids and gels, no getting yelled at by petty TSO tyrants, no wedging into middle seats to sit for hours on the ground, no cancelled flights, no missed connections, no hassling with lost luggage. I just get up and go, like in the Dark Dangerous Days. So if I can be grateful at all to the TSA, it's for the opportunity they gave me to discover the overlooked treasures in my own back yard. Thank you, Kip. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

I’m not against an extra ETD swab or two or other minor variations in procedure, but planned inconsistency is used as an excuse for many problems by TSA.

1) Prohibited Items List: This MUST be consistent. When a screener confiscates a permitted item, that is THEFT. In my opinion, it should be prosecuted as such. And if a screener/supervisor has doubts, they need to err on the side of the passenger. Now TSA will disagree with me on this one, but I’m not talking about swords or guns, here, I’m talking about things like:

Car keys: In 2005, TSA confiscated a passengers $300 car key.
http://tinyurl.com/34yepc

Leather bookmarks: In 2004, TSA confiscated an 8-inch leather bookmark, and referred the poor passenger to law enforcement for arrest. She was detained, and threatened by TSA with a $10000 fine.

Unlabeled toiletry bottles less than 3 oz: There are many reports of these being confiscated, in spite of Kip Hawley himself saying to the Wall Street Journal that they are allowed. Empty water bottles get confiscated sometimes too.

Lithium ion batteries: Early this year, there was a report of a passenger at SEA being made to give up either their spare laptop battery or camera battery because they were “only allowed one spare battery.” Neither was the type of large battery that is restricted. (The camera battery was an NB-5L) This was an egregious misreading/abuse of the new FAA rules. These batteries are not cheap, and are virtually impossible to replace on a trip.

Medical exceptions to liquid rules: There are reports of mothers being refused to bring bottled water to make formula for their babies. Sounds like a means of drumming up business for the airport venders, who sell water that is too cold to make formula anyway. Once screener this year refused to allow a mom to pass with water unless it was a particular expensive brand called Nursery Water. Now, everyone in TSA from Hawley down knows that mom’s factory-sealed bottle of water is not explosive. If they thought it were, they wouldn’t throw it in a giant trash bin next to the checkpoint. (Not to mention that liquid explosives are so unstable it would have exploded before the checkpoint.)

When TSA steals permitted items, it destroys any shred of confidence passengers have in this agency. Such theft should be punished with strong reprimands and termination for repeat offenses. Passengers need to see some accountability in TSA.

2) Inconsistency as an excuse for retaliation.

We all know the drill, and all know it happens. Question or a annoy a screener, and you get referred for additional screening, usually as slowly as they can. Complain again, and they say it was planned inconsistency. Yeah right.

E.g., At BOS in 2006 I get SSSS for a last minute reroute from UA to AA due to a cancelled flight. I have 30 minutes until the flight. AA refuses to deselect me in spite of me showing my non SSSS UA boarding pass. TSA checkpoint refuses to deselect me in spite of the same. I insist that TSA screener keep my wallet in my sight when he insists on running it through the x-ray (there was no alarm), and he gets annoyed with me. So then he makes a scene of holding the wallet over his head, and proceeds to swab each solid object in my carry-on with a separate ETD swab. He made a real scene of being slow about it too. This was pure retaliation.

E.g., at IND in 2004, metal-detector screener says I can’t shuffle my feet through the detector (again, no alarm) Fine, on my second trip, I make it clear that I am not shuffling by lifting my feet about 3 inches off the ground. He takes this as attitude and high-stepping, and refers me for the full wanding and pat down, which of course is delayed for several minutes. Again, there had been NO ALARM. Pure retaliation.

There needs to be accountability in TSA to reassure passengers. There needs to be a clear established procedure for passengers to quickly complain to a supervisor about retaliation. When this happens, all retaliatory screening should stop, and the passenger should be provide a new screener (or the supervisor) to restart the procedure according to non-retaliatory SOP. Then there should be swift, effective discipline against screeners to engage in retaliatory screening.

Anonymous said...

Comment to Kip:

If you would like to build some positve raport with the public how about a listing on the TSA page stating how many test were ran against TSA checkpoint vs how many attempts were intercepted.

Ways and means would not be needed just gross numbers.

When you can demonstrate that your agents are stopping the test targets as often as they are stopping our water bottles then we may display some trust.

I would think anything less than 100% would be a failing grade.

Ayn R. Key said...

anonymous February 11, 2008 10:15 AM

Behavior Detection is a complicated process that does not include picking on people who are obnoxious.

In theory. In practice anyone who complains must be a threat because they are held over for additional screening as a result.

Darrel Darron

Or look in these comments for one by whathappenedtoamerica.

Anonymous said...

Does "behavior detection" include that junk science known as "microfacial expressions"?

CaptNemo said...

What's happening with the TSA being replaced with corps like the Trinity Technology Group in Santa Rosa, CA? Are these competitive bid contracts? How is an airport selected for a contracted-TSA? I haven't read about this anywhere, but I just saw Trinity workers in STS inspect bags. They did not wear TSA uniforms, just black windbreakers with SECURITY printed on the back.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hawley mentioned 700 million passengers per year. I estimate that the "security" changes since 2001 have increased time spent at airport at least one hour each. 700 million hours is 80,000 years. If the average traveler has 50 years of life left, all airline passengers would be better off with the old "security" screenings if fewer than 1600 people per year died in terrorist attacks in the air. Let people vote with their feet - allow airlines which have distinct terminals to minimize screening, with passengers agreeing that the airline won't be held liable for highjacking, bombs on board, etc. TSA may choose to continue to provide random air marshalls to these or not, telling passengers.

Does anyone at TSA believe, given re-inforced doors and better baggage x-rays, that more than 1600 people would die each year? There was never a year with five Lockerbies.

I don't care if someone is carrying a pocket knife or Leatherman on board as the odds of his using it on people are negligible.

Forget fear. Look at numbers and only numbers.

Anonymous said...

I feel the TSA is missing something with their 'random variations.'

It's understandable that TSA would not want potential terrorists to be able to predict how the screening process will play out. However, inconsistent policies and rules do nothing but add distraction, because they anger so many law-abiding passengers. As passengers become annoyed, TSA agents are forced to divert attention to annoyed passengers rather than focus on real threats.

It would be much better from a PR and a security standpoint if TSA agents approached every passenger the same way, with the same guidelines, but made the screening of items truly random.

TRULY random selection of passengers for additional screening, without all the drama of yelling and public pat-downs would go a long way toward making things better as well.

And there is a wholly different, yet important topic that goes unspoken by the TSA, the DoD, and many other federal agencies. Airports and Airlines are incrementally safer even after spending billions on security measures for PASSENGERS. Grounds crews, concession workers and even couriers and shipping company staff are just as much a security threat. Add to that list pilots and passengers on private planes with access to the tarmac, and one begins to see that we are nowhere near achieving real security.

We're putting a very expensive, inadequate finger in a very large dike, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

"I fly out of Charlotte, NC and am always amazed at how many times I am asked to show a ticket and ID before entering the metal detector. Show it to a TSA rep, move 6 feet, show it to another TSA rep, move 20 feet, show it to a seated TSA rep, move 6 feet, enter the detector and show it to another TSA rep! In 32 feet four people look at the same documents; doesn't give me a feeling of increased security but rather of make-work jobs being created for the rather slow but poorly compensated and power mad!"

Different people look for different things. They check each other to make sure that one doesn't miss something important. The TSA checks boarding passes a few times, to make sure it's you using your boarding pass, and another person to make sure you're not a Selectee designated by the airline (SSSS). If one person checks everything, and a selectee goes through unchecked and unstamped, the selectee has to be screened at the gate.

Anonymous said...

"If I would improve anything It would be to add more agents (and lanes)so there is NEVER a backup :) Don't make us take the baggie out of the carry on, that slows things down...I can dig the required 3-1-1 but your x-rays I would think are pretty good. Finally allow any person through to the gates as long as they pass through the required security...Bring back the joy of seeing the kids when you first step off the plane..."

If you visit the airline ticketing counter, most would be happy to issue a Gate pass to be allowed through security.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 10:09PM:

No. Do not allow just anyone through security. The lines are long enough, without allowing people who aren't getting onto planes through.

rob said...

I am all in favor of having well trained supervisors that are able to use common sense. I just have not seen it...

Does that mean that if I have small sample size shampoo and I don't have a plastic bag, this someone is going to have the sense to say "obviously that item is small enough to fit in a quart size bag" and not make me toss it?

After all , the stated purpose of the bag is to limit the volume of the items...

bwi said...

I think a post like this, should not be allowed to be posted.
"A bomber can just blow themself up in that 12min waiting line that winds back and forth with 30-40 people in it. The TSA cant stop that..oh wait yes they can lets move the check point out side the airport."
That is not even funny. On another point, does any one who has had an item from their checked luggage missing, ever think, that possibly it was stolen by one of the airline baggage handlers. They even make less than the screeners, and usually aren't watched as much on camera.

Fred G. said...

Two very important items to remember:

1) We pay your salaries. All of them - including Mr. Hawley's. In addition to the other remarks referring to the Constitution and the 4th Amendment in particular, which are more than a little important in the greatest democracy in history, abuse of power threatens a whole lot more than a happy flight on UAL 1737. It threatens our country. Hundreds of thousands of our military have died over the years to protect the rights that are being so egregiously ignored today. Do you people have any respect for their sacrifices? Do you understand why they made them?

In response to "Chance" here is a "certainty" that leaves this Vietnam Veteran a little sad for the state of his country: every unnecessary insult, degradation of individual freedoms that TSA or any Federal Agency imposes is another notch in the belt of Osama bin Laden. As agents of change to our fine country, you people are unwittingly becoming the problem and not the solution. I know you mean well, but at the highest levels of government this whole fiasco should be rethought.

And with all respect for the souls lost on 9/11, there is very rarely any list of people, including myself, whose tenuous and impossible-to-measure "security" I would enforce in exchange for these principles.

2) As a matter of pure practicality, it's impossible to anticipate a surprise attack. We witnessed it all the time in Vietnam. And how much more "secure" could our base camp have been? We had twin 40 mm guns on tracks, barbed wire and Claymore mines around the whole perimeter, 8" self-propelled howitzers, tanks, machine guns, etc. And guess what? The VC mortared us when they felt like it anyhow. AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN SUICIDAL! They wanted to be around to do it again next week.

Lest you all get too involved with your security schemes, let me assure you that there are many, many ways to raise havoc in an open, industrialized society. Including bringing down an airplane without going near the airport. I won't discuss it here, on the off chance that there might be a stupid terrorist reading this post. But sad to say, I'd credit the terrorists we've all read about with more on the ball than the average security peep, and that's part of the problem: they have a lot more creative/destructive intelligence than the folks at the airline gates (although they're probably more polite.).

We need someone to make at least a passing check at bags. And a trip through the magnetometer isn't the end of the world. (But I would submit that going beyond that for EVERYBODY constitutes "unreasonable search.") I think the reason that (as mentioned by one poster) we have to spend more time at the airport than elsewhere, is that since many people are afraid to fly under the best of conditions, it makes aviation venues a magnet for those who would inspire more fear (like Mssrs. Atta et al.)

But we could have less officers at the checkpoint, and more incognito in the airport with radios, just keeping an eye on things. Kip Hawley mentioned in a speech he made (go to the TSA homepage) that he thought the goal ultimately was to make TSA more invisible. I couldn't agree more. The European countries have been doing this for years, and it always works better to "surveil" than to institute a process as invasive and clumsy as the one we have. What if a terrorist wanted to blow up the security line itself? With the number of people there, he could score higher than wiping out an entire 747!

To a a great extent "security" is more a state of mind rather than a physical condition. And the sooner that our government accepts that, the better. I, for one, don't hold any federal, state, or municipal government accountable for 9/11, which others consider "failure." It isn't. Bad things happen in life, and we should get over it and move on.

I highly recommend that every security screener in the TSA be required to read the entire US Constitution. And one last thought: do it with a smile - you live and work in a pretty great country. But it's a country where the means IS the end, not the other way around. Let's keep it that way!

Fred G.

Anonymous said...

I am TSA, and my name is Maya

Honestly, I believe all of these stories that are mentioned in posts above. I am sad that things like these happen on the checkpoint lanes.
But please, go ahead, write it out loud which airports are these, who are those screeners (we all wear name plates) who make your travel so hard, expose them! I am proud of what I do for living and it makes me mad to work with unprofessional individuals who treat passengers like dirt. Screeners like those makes all of us look bad, but I know for a fact that we have great number of screeners who are professional and love their job. I also despite inconsistency on different airports but I can’t be everywhere to know what is where going on, I assume that things are done by the book.
Let me tell you this also; dear passenger, why don’t you take initiative and make it easy on not only TSA but on you and your fellow traveler, leave at home your loaded weapons, your knifes, and all those extension cords and wires which clutter your bags and makes hard on us to see clearly if there is anything concerning in your bag or not. Less time spent on honest folks gives us time to look more for someone who are maybe really carrying something to harm others.

Yossarian said...

bwi said...

I think a post like this, should not be allowed to be posted.
"A bomber can just blow themself up in that 12min waiting line that winds back and forth with 30-40 people in it. The TSA cant stop that..oh wait yes they can lets move the check point out side the airport."
That is not even funny.


What's funny is the idea that one can make the line more secure by banning posts from a blog. It is a demonstrated fact that terrorism does not begin or end at aircraft doors. Remember the terrorist incident at LAX in 2002? It was at a ticket counter. Also, terrorists certainly have better sources of information than the comments thread on this blog! Banning posts will not make you safer.

Anonymous said...

Why do you make people play Freeze Tag?
http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/08/reporter-caught.html

Jay Maynard said...

Maya, about "all those extension cords": I, for one, don't carry a thing I won't need at some time on my trip. In today's technological society, that means lots of cords to charge the stuff we carry. I carry all of mine in one neat pouch, not for the TSA's benefit, but my own: it makes them easier to locate when I need to charge my Bluetooth headset or my cellphone or my document scanner.

Your complaint is emblematic of something the TSA has a problem with. It shows you don't understand the needs of the business traveler.

Jim Huggins said...

Kip, I'm seeing a slight contradiction here.

On the one hand, you're (reasonably) asking the flying public to make themselves aware of TSA's rules and procedures regarding flight (e.g. 3-1-1, take off your shoes), so that screening can occur more efficiently.

But then you say that TSA will vary its procedures on occasion, for testing purposes, or in response to intelligence, or other reasons. Obviously the flying public won't be prepared for the changes you're making on the fly. This leads to uncertainty, which breeds confusion, which breeds delays, which breeds frustration, which increases the possibility of conflict between passengers and TSOs. Once it gets to that point, everyone loses.

A compromise, perhaps: if you're going to vary the procedures at one airport, how about informing the passengers of the variation on-site (signage, verbal announcements, etc.), so that they understand that the variation will only be happening at this airport?

Anonymous said...

re; comments by Maya

You say you cannot be everhwere at once and I agree, however your senior managers can and should be checking out all the TSA installation across the country. They apparently are not doing so based on the problem with different rules being applied across the country.

I agree that we should not be bringing weapons to the airport however many other things are confiscated daily that are on the approved list because you people do not apply standards equally.

How about TSA cooperating a little with the travelers, don't harrass us, treat us with respect, learn the TSA rules for permitted items or maybe get a job you can handle somwhere else.

After you do all of that then I think you will find that people will return the respect that you ask for.

Right now you guys have nothing coming.

Anonymous said...

"1) We pay your salaries. All of them - including Mr. Hawley's. In addition to the other remarks referring to the Constitution and the 4th Amendment in particular, which are more than a little important in the greatest democracy in history, abuse of power threatens a whole lot more than a happy flight on UAL 1737. It threatens our country. Hundreds of thousands of our military have died over the years to protect the rights that are being so egregiously ignored today. Do you people have any respect for their sacrifices? Do you understand why they made them?"

As an Officer that works for the TSA, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and soon to be a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I understand firsthand the sacrifices soldiers make to defend the freedoms that we at the TSA so "blatantly ignore". Coming from a year in the Mideast, and coming straight to the TSA, I can appreciate what the other Officers of the TSA are trying to do. What we are trying to find is sometimes minute, seemingly invisible items that could possibly be assembled into something lethal. Having plenty of experience with homemade explosives overseas, I can attest that things you would NEVER expect to be used in a hostile manner CAN and WILL be used to their advantage. Case and point, a good friend of mine was injured by a roadside bomb that was hidden in a WATERMELON on the back of a bicycle in Jalalabad. Did it look lethal? No. Was it? YES. So keep in mind that people at the TSA are trying to put the pieces together for every bag that comes through.

As for the gentleman or lady saying that the TSA doesn't understand the needs of the business traveler...We do. What you're doing is wonderful (keeping your cords in a pouch). We wish everyone would do so. If you pack your bag neatly, maybe use a tie or rubber band to keep your cords wrapped up, that would make our look at your bag a lot shorter. If we have to make sure that one cord does in fact lead to the power supply. We understand that a lot of times, you're in a hurry. But if you think about it from our perspective, packing a little more neatly is a small effort you can make to ensure we don't rifle through your bag to clear up the clutter.

Bubba Bert said...

There's this old guy who our governing body in their infinite wisdom labeled a "Terrorist." He had a saying which appropriately applies to Uncle George Bush and the rest of our governing body, INCLUDING the TSA. His saying is "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." This terrorist's name was Benjamin Franklin. He published the saying in "Historical Review of Pennsylvania" in 1759.

bwi said...

Yossarian said...
What's funny is the idea that one can make the line more secure by banning posts from a blog. It is a demonstrated fact that terrorism does not begin or end at aircraft doors. Remember the terrorist incident at LAX in 2002? It was at a ticket counter. Also, terrorists certainly have better sources of information than the comments thread on this blog! Banning posts will not make you safer.

Very true, but I think making a joke about blowing up something before the checkpoint is not right. True, it could happen and that fact should not be hidden, but to make a joke out of it is unneccessary.

Anonymous said...

I still feel unsafe when traveling in any airport. If a watermelon can kill, so can any passenger with the will to fill the body cavities of themselves, spouse and children with explosives or weapons. Time to take off the kid gloves and put on the rubber gloves for security.

Anonymous said...

I am TSO, Maya

I thank everyone who took time to respond on my comment. I also thank you for being the best traveler we can wish for, but you need to understand that not everyone packs neatly and wraps their extensions cords, so that we can easily recognize what is it in the bag. That is why bags have to be rearranged and rerun in the x-ray so we can see through, and that of course is time consuming for everyone in the lane.
Like in my previous, so I do in this post, calling you to expose the screeners who are rude and unprofessional. Write down airport name (not just airport code), time and date of your travel, look at screener name tag or glance on their badge, let all of us know where is your bad experience coming from. I am sure that TSA management will have use of that information and they will take actions against those screeners. I think that is in everyone interest to make TSA one accredited professional agency.
I am sure I won’t find my name here as well as thousand others who like their job.

Anonymous said...

Maya I would like to help do the things you want but as it is now if a citizen complains the are threatened with "do you want to fly today" or extensive invasive extra screening. What would you do if you need to make your flight?

Fixing your agency will have to come from within.


Your managers have to accept that maybe they don't have the best people available and take steps to fix that problem.

You report the bad agents you see, as should your fellow agents. If you don't do that then nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

On February 13, 2008 11:42 AM bwi said:

". . . On another point, does any one who has had an item from their checked luggage missing, ever think, that possibly it was stolen by one of the airline baggage handlers. They even make less than the screeners, and usually aren't watched as much on camera."

I can only go by my own personal experience of 30+ years of flying on business, almost always with at least one checked bag.

1. From 1975 until the advent of TSA - absolute NO loss of any item from checked or carry-on bags

2. From the start of TSA to the present, one theft from checked baggage, one from carry-on, one thwarted attempt at theft from carry-on, one incident that may or may not have been an attempted theft.

Maybe it's coincidence, maybe I was just lucky for the first 2 decades of travel or maybe the lack of any accountability at TSA has contributed to an attitude by some agency employees that they can do whatever they want, including helping themselves to others' belongings.

Anonymous said...

From the Evolution of Security Blog by Kip Hawley:
http://www.tsa.gov/blog/

"The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula
and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries
using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite. That was with a bomb prepared in advance in a lab setting. A less skilled person attempting to put it together inside a secure area or a plane is not a good bet. You have to have significant uninterrupted time with space and other requirements that are not easily available in a secured area of an airport. It adds complexity to their preferred model and reduces our risk, having the expert make the bomb and give it to someone else to carry aboard. They are well aware of the Richard Reid factor where he could not even ignite a
completed bomb. Simple is truly better for them. Also, bomb-makers are easier for us to identify than so-called clean
'mules.'"

If you ADMIT that a liquid bomb is nearly impossible to make and ignite under all-but-perfect conditions even with

expert help, why do you continue to put the traveling public through the farce and annoyance of the 3-1-1 rule?

Here's a specific example that I have recently encountered in my travels. If I am traveling with my children, I am allowed by TSA's own guidelines quoted here: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm

However, I was recently forced to throw away a commercially-packaged bottle of grape soda (which was a special treat for my daughter)- because it did not say "juice" on the bottle.

I checked the small bottles of Gatorade which passed muster at the same time, but they did not say "juice" either, and I can't believe the amount of grief I received from a TSA SUPERVISOR who wanted to argue with me about what I could bring with me to feed my children!

Is there some magical property of fruit juice that I am not aware of which ensures that a person cannot create an
admittedly-impossible "binary liquid" bomb from?

When my bag was scanned, the younger agent which was present seemed to be overjoyed that he had found liquids to force me to throw away, and when I protested and told them that I was allowed to bring drinks for my children, a huge argument ensued and I actually had them yelling at me for wanting to bring a bottle of grape soda aboard.

Well I admit that I don't understand why "juice" is somehow any safer than any other commercially packaged liquid. I mean, where does it end? I have a soft packaged lemonade here, the individual little bags don't say "juice" but the box does, so do I have to cut out the ingredients from the box next time so I can prove it is "juice" or has juice in it? What percentage of "juice" makes a beverage safe automatically?

Please TSA people, enlighten me so I can travel with my children without fear of harassment at the checkpoint.

Jack said...

... and all those extension cords and wires which clutter your bags and makes hard on us to see clearly if there is anything concerning in your bag or not. Less time spent on honest folks gives us time to look more for someone who are maybe really carrying something to harm others.

Maya, I travel with a complete IT kit with lots of wires, and cables, adapters, hard drives, floppy disks, dvd disks, etc. Do you consider me to be a terroristic threat because I travel for my job? Should I purchase these items at every customer's location just to make your job easier? Do you consider people like me to be an annoyance?

If so what do you propose I do? Already if a customer is less than 500 miles from home I drive so as to avoid the issues with air travel. FYI a trip going to the airport entails the drive, getting there two hours early, waiting for the flight, landing, collecting luggage, getting a rental car. A 500 mile flight costs me 6 hours, the drive costs me between 7 and 8 hours.

Please respond.

Anonymous said...

To Jack, who asked :

"Maya, I travel with a complete IT kit with lots of wires, and cables, adapters, hard drives, floppy disks, dvd disks, etc. Do you consider me to be a terroristic threat because I travel for my job? Should I purchase these items at every customer's location just to make your job easier? Do you consider people like me to be an annoyance?"

I think Maya already answered your question by stating :

"... and all those extension cords and wires which clutter your bags and makes hard on us to see clearly if there is anything concerning in your bag or not. Less time spent on honest folks gives us time to look more for someone who are maybe really carrying something to harm others."

She didn't say you shouldn't travel with your stuff; she didn't say anything along the lines of you being a terrorist, or an annoyance. She was simply saying that the clutter in your bag could lead to a bag check if the x-ray operator doesn't feel that they can see clearly enough through that clutter. What you do with that info is up to you, if you choose to drive...great!

Anonymous said...

To: Mark Marchiafava,
How many planes have you crashed on to date?

Lancifer said...

What people fail to realize is that not long ago it was a pleasurable experience to fly. Here's the kicker; it was just as safe! Our country was just as hated in the time before 9/11, as it is now. The only difference is that the people that hate us are being given attention by our media now. Instead of making a huge production out of how you're going to prevent "terrorists" from carrying out their plans, why not invest in a more complete training regimen? You could train the TSO's to actually be effective in using behavioral identification. It will most likely cut down the number of TSO's that make it through training, but a loss of those not fit to complete training isn't a bad thing.

I'm going to be flying halfway across the country, and I don't look forward to it. I've said it before, inconsistency does no good as a security measure. I don't find it all so great that I have to arrive 2 hours before my flight due to an isolated incident that has spawned a whole new level of hysteria. Thanks, terrorists! You got what you wanted.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad that this Blog is mostly one way communications.

In the beginning we were told a page would be up detailing rejected post. Didn't happen!

I also expected a little more from TSA senior leadership on questions that have been brought forth.

It seems to me that TSA is happier keeping its collective head buried in the sand instead of responding to reasonable questions.

Might as well pull the plug now!

Anonymous said...

I am TSO Maya

To traveler Jack who said;

Maya, I travel with a complete IT kit with lots of wires, and cables, adapters, hard drives, floppy disks, dvd disks, etc. Do you consider me to be a terroristic threat because I travel for my job? Should I purchase these items at every customer's location just to make your job easier? Do you consider people like me to be an annoyance?

Jack, I can’t believe that 9 out of 10 passengers need to clutter their bags with so much stuff, which causes us to check almost every computer bag. If you can take minute out of your busy schedule and wrap your cables and wires, or maybe take them out of your bag along with your computer while waiting in the lane will help us enormously.
You can’t imagine ignorance we receive everyday on the check point from folks who roll their eyes once we pull their bag out of the x-ray for bag check, but they know exactly how much stuff they have in there, and if I let it go unchecked I will not have minute of sleep thinking what if that was the bag that had something, what if there was something which is going to cost someone’s life and I had it let go just because that person looked annoyed with our work and had no respect for responsibility we carry on our shoulders.
All I am asking for is that if you don’t have anything to hide than don’t look like you do.

Doug said...

Whats your guys' take on this?

Airport security prize announced

http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/dn13356-airport-security-prize-announced.html

Anonymous said...

"I know that some of you would like to just walk through and get on the plane with whatever you have, knife, gun, liquids whatever, but let me ask you this, what about the terrorist? Do you want the terrorist to get past with his gun, IED’s, do you want us to check his shoes, his laptop? YOU DO? What about a guy that just lost his job or his wife, with a death wish and a gun and is going to get on your plane or better yet the plane that you just put your unaccompanied minor on. Think about it.
on the plane with his gun?"

Ignoring the rights/freedoms/'big bad scary boogieman' issue for now, let's do some numbers. This guy with a death wish and a gun--let's say a 18-shot semiautomatic handgun--has 18 bullets. There will be at least 100 people on the plane, of which a large proportion will proceed to subdue the HELL out of this assailant. Net risk? Still less than you take every time you climb into your car and pull out into traffic. Every time I'm in a TSA line, I VOLUNTEER for extra screening. I request it. Do you know why? Because I want to see some return on my tax dollars, and although I can't stop them being wasted on this farce, I can at least ensure the screeners have to work for that paycheck.

Jack said...

Hello Maya,

I travel with 3 hard drives, 20 dvds, 5 wall warts, multiple cables, adapters, etc. It fills the case from top to bottom and front to back. It is neatly packed with most cables either coiled up or secured in some manner. I need that stuff so I can work on customer's PCs.

I don't 'take them out of my bag' because that results in a much longer period of getting shoes, coat, belt, laptop, and bags recollected.

FYI, I did get the 'empty the bag into the bin' at O'hare treatment once and the comment was 'gee, I didn't know that you had that much small stuff.'

Maya, unfortunately, you are part of the problem. Sometimes a hand inspection is needed and I have no problems with TSA swabbing the stuff down. You've got to use your brain and make decisions based on what you see rather than having a one size fits all procedure.

Anonymous said...

We should think about security first and complain later. This isn't about the passengers that come through the checkpoints every day, it is about the security that we provide to all of the flying public. Stop worrying about yourself and know that we do a lot to ensure that you stay safe on your flight.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you my story from Detroit Metro.

My family and I were traveling to Orlando last fall. We stayed the night at the Westin at DTW. After waiting in line for more than an hour to get our "passes" to go into the terminal to eat (the night before our flight), we got to security. We didn't have our tickets - because we weren't boarding a plane that night - but we had our security passes. After handing them to the TSA officer, we were told to go to a particular line and then we were removed from line and selected.

Yeah, that's right. We were selected for a random search and we weren't even getting on a plane. They not only patted down me and my husband, but they also patted down my 3 year old and my 8 month old baby. All so we could go eat at McDonald's in the terminal.

The next day - as we were headed to board our flight - the TSA agent informed me that I had too much baby food in my carry-on bags (which, as an aside, is an area the TSA needs to clarify - exactly HOW MUCH baby food is allowed in a carry on). Despite this "no-no", we were allowed to go through, no extra search, nothing.

Someone please explain to me why there is such a disparity in the way we were treated over the course of 12 hours. It makes no sense. Search us - and scare my kids - when we aren't flying...it makes no sense to me at all.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hawley,
I can say appreciate your candidness and the allowances you have made for both the public and the screening force to get together on their issues about TSA.

I have been with TSA for five years and it is my belief that communications are an inherent problem no matter what direction they appear to be going.

The changes we make for variation purposes are ones, that Screening Officers working on the floor (like me) do, seem to be less apparent to the public, since they don’t really know much of what we’re doing anyway. If you’ve read our Screener’s forum at our personnel website, you’d see that most employees are less worried about that, than the things which have a direct impact on their daily routines.

For instance one of the most common things we hear from passengers is how “I just came from airport X, and they let me take that in my carry on”. Moreover we tell the Passengers to read the signs, we instruct them at every step of the way through the checkpoints and they might still get something quite different from the media that simply confuse them all the more.

Our own signage is grammatically flawed so that when the Passengers who do read them, see pictures of the knife with the circle and slash through it (No Knives) they then read the text next to the picture, which is comprehende ny most Passengers as meaning (paraphrased ) "no knives or scissors with blades greater than four inches".

I was in advertising sales and marketing for over four years during the ‘90s and there is a very specific way you have to communicate with your public when you signage, brochures and so on. For example when I was a political action committees member, I took a campaign manager’s class sponsored by the local community college. The literature that campaigners left with their constituents had to be specifically short and to the point, so that you knew they read everything that you wanted them to, in ‘six seconds’ or less because the ‘hands on’ research showed that this was all the longer than the majority of readers spent on that literature.

Next you have a forty-three thousand strong screening workforce, who work all different shifts and hours and a public who expects that they all get the same information all at the same time. But that isn’t the way it works because of the way the networks must perform, so not all screeners get all of the non-emergency information at the same moment it becomes available. They also have supervisory personnel oftentimes giving them alternative data at some locations, so the public sees us doing similar things in many different ways. For example I read the blog from gentleman John Hill, who lost his Jelly Bellies because a screener claimed the candy (Jelly) came under the “liquids rule”. I think it quite possible that supervisory personnel, perhaps short on time or working short handed that day, may have told that screening officer to read the label to decide what items were considered liquids, rather than explaining how to determine the size of a container as per the labeling, as we advertise it to the public.

This is a communication error for which I have one of many solutions to offer in another forum. However for us to get over this ‘hump’ as it were, we need to get more tangible information out to the Passengers, who still have so very many questions, and we need to get new non-emergency info to the screening work force on the floor, as soon as it is made available, so that the Passengers are not so often confused about what we are requiring them to do to, even if the ‘why’ is not made publicly available.
Additionlly the most of the U.S. Public does not comprehend is hwo that consumer friendly we really are, as by contrast when you fly through many airports in other countries, you may be subject to a search by that country's Federal Police force and those Officers are usually armed.
Sincerely
Lori
TSO

Anonymous said...

I fly about 2X per week, and am flagged each time (in airports with the new AIT) for a pat down, mostly around my knees (apparently I have abnormal knees). What I wonder is why the TSO has to grope my crotch when the image clearly shows only the knee area as being flagged?

Andrew said...

With all of the terrorism going on, I am not sure where the line should be in terms of protecting the AMERICAN/AUSTRALIAN people by bag searches etc. Its a tricky subject but then again, we must make sure we do not cross the boundary to ones personal rights.