Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why We Do What We Do: When Security Officers Find Illegal Items at the Checkpoint

A number of readers have raised questions about TSA's legal authority to make a referral to other law enforcement entities when evidence of a crime unrelated to aviation security is discovered during the screening process. This post explains that Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are required to make such referrals. TSO referrals have led to the arrest and/or conviction of individuals for serious crimes such as illegally possessing narcotic drugs, transporting child pornography, and bulk cash smuggling.

As you know, the job of our security officers is to screen passengers and their belongings for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security. In the course of performing that responsibility, security officers sometimes come across illegal items that are not directly related to transportation security. For instance, last month in Guam, TSOs screening checked baggage discovered almost $900,000 in U.S. currency along with an undisclosed amount of crystal methamphetamine. Although anyone in the United States is free to travel with currency, the failure to make a currency report to Customs and Border Protection when leaving the country with more than $10,000 in cash is a violation of federal criminal law. 31 U.S.C. §§ 5316 and 5322. Attempting to smuggle bulk cash out of the country also violates 31 U.S.C. § 5332, a felony that carries a possible prison term of up to 5 years.

As a component of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA's standard operating procedures require Transportation Security Officers to report evidence of potential crimes to the appropriate local, state or federal law enforcement authorities. When a TSO opens a bag and discovers a large stash of ecstasy or obvious child pornography, he or she is not permitted to close the bag and turn a blind eye to these serious offenses. Instead, a TSO is required to call for law enforcement support. It is up to the responding law enforcement authorities—not our TSOs—to decide whether an arrest is warranted.

TSA's practice of referring evidence of criminality to other law enforcement entities is not only good public policy, it is fully supported by the court decisions. The courts have recognized that illegal items found during a warrantless “special needs” or administrative search, such as the search of an airline passeger's luggage for weapons or explosives, may be turned over to the police. See, for example, United States v. $557,993.89, More or Less, in U.S. Funds (pdf), 287 F.3d 66, 81-83 (2d Cir. 2002) (plain-view seizure of large number of money orders valid because airport security screeners permitted to search briefcase for weapons were not required to ignore evidence of crimes).

This case and others apply the principle of the plain-view doctrine, which allows a police officer to seize an unlawful item that he discovers in plain view, even if he comes across the item while carrying out unrelated duties. For instance, police who enter a residence in response to a call for medical assistance may seize contraband they see in plain view. See, for example, United States v. Quezada, 446 F.3d 1005, 1008 (8th Cir. 2006) (seizure of shotgun in plain view valid because officer entered apartment with reasonable belief that someone was inside but unable to answer).

The incidental discovery of illegal items in the screening of carry-on bags, is not, as one post suggested, akin to forcing a motorist to open his trunk at a sobriety checkpoint. Police officers conducting field sobriety tests at a vehicular checkpoint have no need to look in the trunk of a car to determine if the driver is impaired. By contrast, TSA screeners need to inspect every carry-on bag for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security. To do so, they must examine all compartments of the bag that are capable of concealing such items. If their task causes them to discover evidence of crime, they must ensure a prompt law enforcement referral.

128 comments:

Anonymous said...

This topic raises a question based on my recent experience.

I was travelling through one airport where I travel every week.

The chromatograph alarmed, and prompted a more thorough search of everything.

After the thorough search, nothing was found (as nothing was there). When requesting the information about "What caused the alarm" I was told "I can't tell you".

I asked if I could speak to a supervisor or someone who could tell me, as this was the second time my bag caused a false alarm, and I wanted to identify what was causing this false alarm.

Upon asking this question I was informed that "I am the supervisor, and I have already told you I can't tell you, and if you ask again, you can be arrested for not cooperating". I pointed out that I was being fully cooperative, and there was nothing I was doing that was uncooperative, and that I was trying to identify the source of a false alarm so that I might correct it before travelling again.

So tell me again why "you can't tell me" what's causing a false alarm. Security through Obscurity isn't.

Open, transparent communication is the key to continued security and safety for all.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I dont understand how your average person can not understand and/or not agree with you but I am sure most wont!

Eliah Hecht said...

"Illegally possessing narcotic drugs" should not be a serious crime, and certainly not one to be mentioned in the same sentence as child pornography. This government is depressing.

Dave said...

It's called mission creep. For every joint or other harmless item you find, your red teams get real threats through your checkpoints. Care to address that one?

TSO PHX said...

Nice job Francine! I know why I do what I do as a TSO but it helps tremendously when someone else puts it in writing. :)

Anonymous said...

Well then, it seems that our beloved country truly has decayed from a free democratic republic into a police state. Just because an authority has the power to go on a fishing expedition does not mean one has the right to do so. Nor does it make it right to do so.

Anonymous said...

Let me translate:

"We law enforcement departments don't think we should have to follow due process. We believe that every case is "special needs" based on a the fact that we should be able to forcefully search people getting on aircraft any time we feel like it. Furthermore we don't think you deserve rights, so we'll just chisle away at them until the american public is a slave of it's own fear. I mean, seriously, why did they put that whole "probable cause" thing in anyway, it just gets in our way."

Anonymous said...

Originally posted by Francine:
By contrast, TSA screeners need to inspect every carry-on bag for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security. To do so, they must examine all compartments of the bag that are capable of concealing such items.


So do you think the credit-cards in a wallet that did not alarm the metal detector are "compartments ... cable of concealing such [illegal] items?"

Because TSOs at some airports seem to take great joy in pawing through (non-alarming) wallets and reading the contents. There's no way that is a search for prohibited items; reading of any document is not necessary to determine if something is a weapon. It is an outright invasion of privacy and fishing expedition looking for things completely unrelated to TSA's mission.

When will passengers be given some real, effective recourse against such abusive TSOs? When will passengers get to see some punishments and consequences for such actions? When will TSA have some semblance of accountability?

Anonymous said...

"After the thorough search, nothing was found (as nothing was there). When requesting the information about "What caused the alarm" I was told "I can't tell you"."

The supervisor was probably telling you the literal truth, and just couldn't admit it that he was clueless as to what was causing the alarm. Just remember: NEVER question clueless authority, it will just get you arrested on some spurious charge, and make you miss your plane.

Runner said...

Is $3,000 on a domestic flight evidence of a crime? Or merely suspicious in the judgement of the TSO?

Randy said...

Francine,

One thing I am not sure of is how do TSA bag search people know it is ecstasy or another illegal narcotic? Do these agents have specialized drug training or are they just speculating?

If they are speculating isn't that akin to going on a fishing expedition? If they are speculating, do reasonable and probable grounds exist for LEO involvement?

Marshall said...

I think it's quite interesting that TSO's can identify ecstasy, as Francine has alluded to. How do they do that? Or is a cop called for anything the might just look like a drug? That's a fishing expedition.

Marshall said...

I find it quite interesting, Francine, that apparently TSO's can identify ecstasy by sight. Or do they just call a cop whenever they see anything they think might be a drug? That's called a fishing expedition.

Remember the poor girl with flour in condoms? Unfortuntately, only the City of Philadelphia wa found at fault - the TSA should have been also.

Anonymous said...

Isn't everything on the prohibited items list illegal? Even the ones included at the discretion of the TSO?

TSA Sanctions and here.

Don't these mean that TSA could fine me $250-1500 for bringing anything to the checkpoint that, in the opinion of a screener, could be used as a weapon?

With a definition that loose, your lawyers could fit nearly anything into 'evidence of a crime'.

Anonymous said...

First anonymous comment: I suspect that "I can't tell you" actually means "I have no clue how this machine works, let alone what sorts of false positives might trigger it. As far as I know, it's a big black box that beeps occasionally, and when it beeps I must perform the ritual I've been taught (not unlike that primitive tribe that had to feed that "Val" godlike statue in that old 'Star Trek' episodes). I have no interest in understanding the meaning of the ritual, and I therefore can't tell you why the machine might have given a false positive, only that I have performed the ritual adequately. I have no deeper interest in the situation than that. Thank you, have a nice day, and stop peppering me with philosophical questions."

See how much easier it is to say "I can't tell you"?

Rick said...

As a component of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA's standard operating procedures require Transportation Security Officers to report evidence of potential crimes to the appropriate local, state or federal law enforcement authorities.

This, really, is the crux of it. If you had said ..."The law requires Transportation Security Officers to..." that would have been pretty much the end of it - no point advocating that the TSA break the law. Those against this would better spend their time advocating that the laws be changed.

Instead, you've simply stated it's your policy to pursue this path, and that you have the legal right to.

But it does seem that it's not the LAW requiring it, it's "procedure," and, so, I can't help but wonder - does this procedure distract TSO officers from their main mission of ferreting out terrorist plots? I certainly can't imagine it's without any cost to security, and indeed the distraction seems like it could only be to security's detriment?

Anonymous said...

Lack of professionalism, poor customer service procedures, bad attitude, showing no respect to travelers. Young TSA officers in their 20s or so, barking orders to respectable people for no reason whatsover. They don't ask for things, they demand, thus assuming we are all bad guys. I venture to say that the vast majority of incidents that transpire between travelers and the TSA is due to their lack of customer service training.

The TSA must learn how to be respectable to travellers. Going through an airport today is like reporting to boot camp!...On the other hand, if in the process of checking bags and interviewing people they discover a bad guy, then by all means bring the law down hard, but don't assume that we are all out to do something bad.

Train these young TSA agents that people are to be treated with respect and politely.

This in my opinion is what irritates me the most about the TSA.

Anonymous said...

To some degree, Francine, you're misstating the law. While you are privileged to search outside of bounds of the 4th amendment, that privilege has its limits.

In other words -- yes, you can search. But you have to have a valid reason to search -- like seeing a weapon that turns up on x-ray screening. If you don't have another valid reason to search, the "plain view" exception doesn't apply (and it really doesn't apply anyways), and the evidence should be subject to exclusion under the 4th amendment.

Now, with the recent evisceration of the exclusionary rule under the 4th amendment as a result of Hudson v. Michigan (547 US 586 (2006)), the exclusionary rule has changed since I took the bar exam, and it's likely that your searches WOULD be held to be in compliance with the 4th amendment (given the current judicial climate and its tendency to err on the side of the government instead of the side of the people). But it's not a great idea, and if the TSA keeps looking for drugs and money, they're going to miss a knife or bomb here or there. This blog has continued to state that the mission of the TSA is to keep us safe during the current "war on terror". Is it worth sacrificing some screening for "the war on terror" in order to win "the war on drugs"? (and those terms are in quotations for a reason)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Francine uses the analogy of sobriety checkpoints. Remember that although the Supreme Court found them to be constitutional (Michigan Police v. Sitz, 1990), in the decision it was pointed out that they DO infringe on a constitutional right. The court made the absurd assertion, however, that this infringement is justified in order to reduce drunk driving.

Nevertheless, a number of states disallow checkpoints, correctly noting that they violate the civil protections afforded by the state's constitution.

This is a pernicious, slippery slope we're descending here. We start allowing sobriety checkpoints. Then comes the TSA poking through folks' wallets, and mission creeping their way into the drug war, the porn war, the "large amounts of cash we'd love to seize" war, etc. (Anonymous 12:52 pm: For a laugh, print out the text of the fourth amendment onto bill-size pieces of paper and credit card size pieces and stuff them into your wallet, so the next TSO that tosses your wallet will have enjoyable reading.) Fine, you think to yourself, I won't drive or ride, I'll take the train. Nope. Now TSA is running random searches at the train station. (You know, in case a terrorist gets a hold of the train, and then....uh....drives it into the White House???) OK, maybe I'll just walk. "Papers, please, citizen," Officer Friendly asks. After all, now the police have to look for illegal aliens (they do in some parts of Virginia). You could just stay home and use the phone....but the NSA already got there, and the telecoms have retroactive immunity!

It's an interesting slide toward a police state, and all the sheep bleating, "If you don't have anything to hide, it shouldn't b-a-a-a-a-ther you," don't help.

As near as I can tell, our government have bought into the concept that "The terrists hate us for our freedoms," and have decided that the best way to stop the "terrists" is to eliminate those freedoms. Yeah, it's a solution all right, I'm just not sure it's the right one. I'd be happier with a solution that DOESN'T let the terrorists win.

Ben Arnold said...

Originally posted by Francine:

"By contrast, TSA screeners need to inspect every carry-on bag for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security. To do so, they must examine all compartments of the bag that are capable of concealing such items."

Francine,

To quote the greatest president of my lifetime, "There you go again!"

Your statement: "...they must examine all compartments of the bag that are capable of concealing such items." tells me that the TSA has determined the smallest size of a prohibited item. Of course, this is SSI and you won't tell the American people what the dimensions are of the smallest item. Why is this important? You can't legally "discover" anything in a location that can't possibly contain your smallest item.

So, if the smallest item is a penknife approximately 1" x 3", you legally can't search in an area that's smaller than this dimension. Anything you "discover" is inadmissible and it the fruit of an illegal search. I believe some of my cop friends call this the "elephant behind the bookcase" rule.

So, since you alluded to the fact that there is a smallest prohibited item, please post the dimensions.

I do have a couple of other questions:

1. Why do you just stop at drugs, kiddie porn, and cash? There are a lot of other illegal items that people might try to get past you:

a. Cuban cigars
b. Copied DVDs, music CDs
c. Bootleg or unregistered software (better check everyone's laptop!)
d. Reading material that, in the mind of the screener, violates "local community standards"
e. Alcoholic beverages on airports in dry counties
f. Counterfeit Rolexes and Nikes

2. At any point in a sobriety check that leads to a consenual search, we can withdraw consent at any time. But, we can't do that at a checkpoint. And, just where does that non-withdrawal point begin? Have you moved it from the X-ray out to the ID checker, or, perhaps to the airport perimeter itself?

Looking forward to your replies.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, turning on someone's laptop and finding something (potentially) illegal is exactly the same thing as opening someone's trunk at a sobriety checkpoint.
Clearly there is nothing in the series of zeroes and ones on a person's hard drive that poses any immediate threat to the airplane or other travelers, so there is no reason whatsoever for TSA personnel to concern themselves with it at a security checkpoint.
Unless someone comes up with a data-based explosive, TSA should stay out of travelers' laptops.

Anonymous said...

Nirates found in some sausage and the glycerin found in lots of body washes often results in false positives, for nitrate based ezplosives and for nitryo glycerin.

Anonymous said...

So do you think the credit-cards in a wallet that did not alarm the metal detector are "compartments ... cable of concealing such [illegal] items?"

Because TSOs at some airports seem to take great joy in pawing through (non-alarming) wallets and reading the contents. There's no way that is a search for prohibited items; reading of any document is not necessary to determine if something is a weapon. It is an outright invasion of privacy and fishing expedition looking for things completely unrelated to TSA's mission.

When will passengers be given some real, effective recourse against such abusive TSOs? When will passengers get to see some punishments and consequences for such actions? When will TSA have some semblance of accountability?
**********************************

To answer your question, we do need to check every compartments because that is where most people try to hide most of their stuff. You would not believe where other passengers try to hide their prohibited items just because they want to bring it through the checkpoint. Just because... In your wallet we do not probe, we check. Some have credit card knives that they hide in there, some can probably hide razor blades in there because they can fit inside the wallet compartment. That is not the only place where passengers try to conceal prohibited items. You will be amazed but that would be telling you too much information... Thanks a lot for the concern...

Anonymous said...

I am a road warrior that flys every week, and have been doing this for several years. I appreciate the work that TSA does, but this week I felt violated and victimized by the detailed search that was performed on my laptop bag. I was going through the line in Syracuse, NY and noticed that something was up, since there were quite a few more TSA staff than usual but only one very long, slow security line open. After passing through, my laptop bag was selected for further inspection. I am an IT professional and carry a lot of equipment with me-that bag is my office all week. The TSA agent removed every item (there were quite a few things) from my bag and swabbed many of them (at least 6 swabs). She also took out my checkbook and thumbed through the journal, removed the contents of my bills that I carry to pay during the week, thumbed through each page of the 3 notebooks and calendars that I carry. I did not think my checking account balance was subject to TSA review. She took a lot of liberties-and almost 25 minutes to do all of this. I expected that any protest would be met with severe retaliation and missing my flight. Meanwhile, a couple that spoke no English and set off the metal detector many times were allowed to pass through without further searches. I understand the need for some of this-but this was way out of line I believe. My laptop-which is by far the largest single item I carry was in my hands the whole time-she was not interested in that apparently. She also was obviously unfamiliar as to what many of the items I carry were or their purpose.

Anonymous said...

I've seen any number of people have their wallets pawed through and every piece of paper read and examined. Same with confidential business information in a sealed envelope within a briefcase.

Once it is established that no weapon exists, TSA should not engage in a fishing expedition to see what they can read.

Francine, you have just admitted and tried to justify TSA running a dragnet on behalf of law enforcement. I would not be surprised if your screeners at certain airports have cut deals with local law enforcement to examine personal belongings well beyond the scope of transportation safety.

I do hope that you reconsider.

Anonymous said...

Francine is absolutely correct. A TSA checkpoint is a "regulatory search," which the Supreme Court has held is entirely exempt from all Fourth Amendment constraints on search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment guarantees of due process. So TSOs, BDOs, and anyone else wearing a TSA uniform or badge has complete authority to search anyone who ventures into the "Rights-Free Zone" of the checkpoint, and also to refer anyone to law enforcement for any reason they want (and any failure to show respect for the screener or to to maintain an appropriately docile and servile demeanor during the "regulatory search" process is an entirely appropriate reason for such referral). The "mission creep" that is effectively turning the TSA checkpoints into generalized criminal dragnets is entirely consistent with this the expansive powers authorities enjoy when conducting a "regulatory search."

But just because there is an apparently unassailable legal basis for operating a general criminal dragnet that assumes all passengers are guilty until proven innocent does not mean we have to accept it and resign ourselves to surrendering our rights in the name of "security." It might be met with less objection (and with cooperation rather than skepticism) if the TSA were committed to treating us passengers like human beings rather than herding us like animals, scolding us like children, and humiliating us like prisoners. It might be met with less objection if we had reason to believe that the "security" we're getting in exchange for surrendering precious rights were effective, which test after test and audit after audit shows it definitely is not. It might be met with less objection if the screening process and rules were not so clearly arbitrary and absurd to anyone who passes through a checkpoint with open eyes. And it might be met with less objection if it weren't foisted upon us by an administration that continually demonstrates its contempt for civil liberties and for the rule of law.

Just because something is legal-- and a loyal attorney can produce a memo proving it-- doesn't mean it's something we should accept without questioning its value and its cost. I can only hope that the new administration will make a priority of carefully reviewing every aspect of the TSA, and of ensuring that the screening process is effective and accords proper respect for the rights of passengers rather than the dubious and excessively intrusive charade we now have.

Anonymous said...

the most dangerous prohibited item thats is fairly small is about the size of a pen cap.

or for an item a little less vague, think a small razor blade, not much thicker then a piece of paper and smaller then a 50 cent piece, so pretty much any nook and crack of your bag is subject to inspection.

Anonymous said...

Passengers know that their baggage, carryons and persons will be screened/searched and should therefore pack appropriately. Leaving your prohibited items at home, and not bringing illegal drugs and/or suspious items along with them. I do know that some states have legal medical mj but the federal govt doesn't. The right of employers to fire employees possessing a medical mj prescription has been upheld by the courts. I'm not sure about traveling with it, but I'd check with the authorities before doing so.

Anonymous said...

Some states have legalized medical marijuana but the courts have held that employers can fire employees for failing the drug test. I'm not sure about the ability to fly carrying medical marijuana, but since the TSA is federal I'm thinking that it's not a good idea.

Anonymous said...

By contrast, TSA screeners need to inspect every carry-on bag for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security.

Right, this is what TSA is supposed to be doing, not looking for people breaking other laws. I think Schneier calls some of this "security theatre". I'm not sure how any of these drug busts or other finds do anything to protect us while we're in the air. Can you list the terrorists caught by the TSA?

BTW, your CAPTCHA doesn't work in Firefox.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
To some degree, Francine, you're misstating the law. ... If you don't have another valid reason to search, the "plain view" exception doesn't apply (and it really doesn't apply anyways), and the evidence should be subject to exclusion under the 4th amendment.


Does it seem to you that TSOs are going through carry-ons without justification? I've watched the checkpoint screening process at length while waiting for delayed flights, and note that the TSO x-ray operators only call for bag checks when they see something on the screen. Most baggage never gets physically searched. I have never seen a bag searched without this justification (except where the passenger requires secondary screening for some other reason (i.e., SSSS)).

H

Anonymous said...

Originally posted by anonymous:
or for an item a little less vague, think a small razor blade, not much thicker then a piece of paper and smaller then a 50 cent piece, so pretty much any nook and crack of your bag is subject to inspection.


Again, will someone from TSA please explain a justification for READING papers within one's wallet, briefcase, etc. LETTERS ON A SHEET OF PAPER ARE NOT A THREAT TO AIRCRAFT.

IMO there is no justification whatsoever for such an intrusion, and any screener caught doing so should be 1) terminated immediately, with proof of termination provided to the victim and published in the local paper, 2) required to personally pay punitive damages to the victim. I'd also like to see some sort of criminal charges levied, but I suspect that would require legislation.

Anonymous said...

According to the aviation transpportation security act (atsa)passengers, as a condition of traveling on a comercial aircraft, give consent to search of all accessible property and their person for potential threat to the aircraft or the passengers on the aircraft. If you want to travel and not be searched there are options such as renting a car or taking the bus or train. As for not getting involved in other areas such as illegal drugs I say that people should not be so naive, the only way often times to discover the roots of any criminal enterprise, law enforcement has to follow the money trail. The terrorists are getting their money from somewhere and it would be foolish to think that terrorist groups are not involved in other illegal acts such as drug dealing to offset their fund raising efforts. As a person who travels quite often for business I am glad for increased security. I laugh every time I notice a person who wraps their drugs in aluminum foil and put it in their pants then attempt to go through a metal detector. I guess it's called dope for a reason.

Anonymous said...

Will someone please explain what Non-physical contact is?

C. Other Security Violations by Individuals or Persons
1. Interference With Screening
(49 C.F.R. § 1540.109 )
a. Physical contact $1,500 - $5,000
b. Non-physical contact $ 500 - $1,500
c. False Threats $1,000 - $2,000

Anonymous said...

"The terrorists are getting their money from somewhere"

Those who attacked were (mostly) Saudis. Saudis funded the attack. An administration whose leader (Bush) redacted information from the 9/11 report about the Saudi's involvment. Saudis and Whabis are inseperable. The Saudis have backed the Sunnis in Irag who have callled many Americans.

The Saudis get their money from oil.

Oil companies finance FAR, FAR more terrorism than domestic pot growers/smokers.

Anonymous said...

"According to the aviation transpportation security act (atsa)passengers, as a condition of traveling on a comercial aircraft, give consent to search of all accessible property and their person for potential threat to the aircraft or the passengers on the aircraft. If you want to travel and not be searched there are options such as renting a car or taking the bus or train."

----------
How do you suggest one travel from DC to say, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands etc for business travel?

Take a ship?

Not the most practical choice, if you are required to take a trip in order to maintain employement.

Robert Johnson said...

Quote: "the most dangerous prohibited item thats is fairly small is about the size of a pen cap.

or for an item a little less vague, think a small razor blade, not much thicker then a piece of paper and smaller then a 50 cent piece, so pretty much any nook and crack of your bag is subject to inspection."

So if the hand held metal detector doesn't alarm on my pants where my wallet is, there is no reason for you to go pawing thru it.

How's the old saying go? "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Robert Johnson said...

Quote anonymous@12:35: "As for not getting involved in other areas such as illegal drugs I say that people should not be so naive, the only way often times to discover the roots of any criminal enterprise, law enforcement has to follow the money trail."

The fallacy in your statement is that TSA is law enforcement. They're not. Wannabe cops ... maybe, but they're definitely not law enforcement.

Quote: The terrorists are getting their money from somewhere and it would be foolish to think that terrorist groups are not involved in other illegal acts such as drug dealing to offset their fund raising efforts."

And it's the intelligence community's and law enforcement's job to find out where that is and deal with it. Not TSA's.

Marshall said...

"Again, will someone from TSA please explain a justification for READING papers within one's wallet, briefcase, etc. LETTERS ON A SHEET OF PAPER ARE NOT A THREAT TO AIRCRAFT."

You won't get a response because they can't justify it and rather that admit to that, it will just be ignored.

Screener Joe said...

It is known, and published in open source documents, that the men who want to kill you use the internet as their primary intelligence asset. Everything that is published in this blog, is being read by those men. And in the past, the men who want to kill you have gone flying on extra trips so that they would know the routines. They want to know what TSA does and how TSA does it, so that they can devise methods of defeating our operations. TSA must keep some of its procedures proprietary in order to make it as difficult as possible for the bad guys.

Joe Screener said...

I, as a TSA screener, am not in the business of finding illegal narcotics. I am not a police officer. I am in the business of protecting the flying public from items that could be used to cause injury, death or catastrophic loss of property. But in the course of performing my duties, I do find items that are illegal under local and federal statutes, or prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration for safety reasons. I am not looking for them, but I do find them.

I once found a five gallon container stuffed full of marijuana. If that was supposed to be for medical purposes, it would have been a twenty year supply. Judging by what else I saw, I firmly believe that he was transporting it to sell.

When I find things that are illegal or unsafe, I am legally and morally obligated to report them. I was brought up to believe that is called "good citizenship."

Anonymous said...

"t is known, and published in open source documents, that the men who want to kill you use the internet as their primary intelligence asset. Everything that is published in this blog, is being read by those men. And in the past, the men who want to kill you have gone flying on extra trips so that they would know the routines. They want to know what TSA does and how TSA does it, so that they can devise methods of defeating our operations. TSA must keep some of its procedures proprietary in order to make it as difficult as possible for the bad guys."

Joe, before a terrorist strikes they do a rewards vs risk assessment. Do the rewards outweigh the risks? How many of our guys die, sort of thing. Osama said that he was amazed at the amount of damage he caused with the use of so few assets.

We're focused on nailing the barn doors shut after all of the livestock have run off into the woods. The next strike probably won't have much, if any aircraft involvement (think dams, power plants, refineries, etc). It will be spectacular and meant to cause as much destruction and as many deaths and injuries as possible. The doors to the cockpit have been beefed up as an effective security measure.

Personally, I would like to see armed aircrew (pilot copilot). Before you go on a rant about explosive decompression, that only happens in submarines and Hollywood (look up pressure differential and notice that even if there was a total vacuum on one side you would only see around 15 PSI differential).

The use of frangible ammunition also limits the amount of collateral damage.

Much better bomb detection equipment does exist than xrays. The cost would be prohibitive to the airlines/taxpayers. It would also require better trained observers to operate.

The millimeter band scanning system works, but is has the capability of being abused by the operators.

Anonymous said...

Hey look; another TSA success story!

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A sick teenager said an over-zealous security screener at Orlando International Airport put his life in danger. After Channel 9 started making calls, the TSA opened an investigation into the matter.

James Hoyne, 14, has a feeding tube in his stomach and carries a back-up in a sealed clear plastic bag. Hoyne said two weeks ago a TSA officer insisted on opening the sterile equipment, contaminating his back-up feeding up tube which he later needed.

"I said 'Please don't open it' and she said 'I have to open it whether you like it or not. If I can't open it, I can't let you on the plane,'" Hoyne said of his conversation with the TSA screener.

TSA officials apologized to James and said they're looking into the incident to see what corrective steps need to be taken.


Sounds like the kid has more chance of getting killed by a TSA employee than he does by a terrorist. Nice work!

BlognDog said...

Talking about mission creep, it is almost beyond credibility that the TSA is openly bragging about it's recent deliberate and systematic violations of both the law and its own stated mission during its operations in San Diego -- see http://www.tsa.gov/press/happenings/san_vipr.shtm

In this part of it's web site, the TSA brags proudly about conducting "limited screening of suspicious passengers" on the San Diego trolley system (in other words, stopping and harassing trolley passengers despite all the numerous previous assurances we have been given that the kind of harassment air passengers are subjected to are a very special, very limited exception that will never, ever be allowed to spread to other modes of transportation) and resulting arrests for "warrants, immigration issues and identification" (e.g., the San Diego trolley network has now joined the air transport network as an illegal dragnet for searching for individuals with outstanding warrants or for finding and harassing undocumented aliens). As if all that wasn't revolting enough, the TSA now also seems to be claiming to have participated in arrests for "identification" issues, suggesting that they are now asserting that it is necessary to have your papers in order if you want to travel by trolley. Absolutely disgusting and yet another piece of evidence of the real intent of the TSA and yet another reason to hasten the day when we try and imprison every last TSA employee.

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

Will someone please explain what Non-physical contact is?

C. Other Security Violations by Individuals or Persons
1. Interference With Screening
(49 C.F.R. § 1540.109 )
a. Physical contact $1,500 - $5,000
b. Non-physical contact $ 500 - $1,500
c. False Threats $1,000 - $2,000


Anybody going to answer this?
If we can be fined for Non-physical contact we should be told what that is.

Anonymous said...

I will give an example of something that happened at my airport:
A TSO was screening a passenger who had "SSSS" placed on his boarding pass by the airline. During the course of the screening, the officer came upon a crack pipe strapped to the passenger's ankle. The TSO notified the supervisor who instructed the TSO to continue the search of the carrry on bags of the passenger. Police were also notified of the crack pipe. The passenger would have been released but during the course of the bag searches, the TSO found a piece of paper which had been used as a note during several bank and convenience store robberies. The passenger was arrested by local airport police who have full authority to do so. The passenger had robbed two banks and a convenience store and was planning on skipping the country to evade capture. The police had been looking for him for several weeks and thanks to an alert TSO and the quad S system, he was captured. The search was LEGAL try to argue it all you want you will not find one legal basis for which the search could be deemed illegal. Sorry to dissapoint you.

Anonymous said...

(re: anonymous March 6, 2008 3:08 PM) So a wanted bank robber carrying a crack pipe was unlucky enough to be honored with a "quad S," and consequently an ever-vigilant, highly competent TSA agent was able to turn him over to the police. A success story well worth crowing about!

The only question is how this "success" of stumbling upon a rather stupid criminal makes aviation any safer. That is your supposed mission, after all, and every other kind of "success" is merely a sideline that could possibly even be distracting you from that mission.

The TSA might have more credibility and respect if you could crow about catching a terrorist or criminal who was planning to blow up an airplane. In the absence of that sort of "success" (which I believe is something inherently very few and far between), I don't think you're going to convince an increasingly skeptical public that the possibility of bringing a few ordinary criminals (and rather stupid ones at that) to justice is worth the rest of us being yelled at, treated like guilty criminals, and forced to submit to capricious "interpretations" of arbitrary rules about shoes, electronics, and lip gloss. I honestly don't think any of what you've been touting as "successes" are worth the price we're all paying for them.

sbroadway said...

Why on earth is TSA allowed to do this kind of thing?

Teen Says TSA Screener Opened Sterile Equipment, Put Life In Danger
http://www.wftv.com/irresistible/15511359/detail.html

Neil said...

Francine asked me to post this on her behalf.

@anonymous and Trollkiller:

TSA's sanction guidance has been misread. Our sanction guidance sets forth TSA's enforcement policies for security violations at the checkpoint. Under the sanction guidance, a monetary fine can be imposed on an individual for "non-physical" "interference" at the checkpoint.

"Non-physical" "interference" covers conduct such as verbally threatening a TSO, refusing to submit to additional screening, or entering the sterile area before screening is finished. A copy of TSA's sanction guidance can be found on our website.

- Francine

Anonymous said...

"Under the sanction guidance, a monetary fine can be imposed on an individual for "non-physical" "interference" at the checkpoint"

Is the person who is fined given a court date so that they may contest the charge?

Who determines if a fine is administered?

Anonymous said...

Francine, what fines are used to control your TSO's who threaten a persons health as in :

Teen Says TSA Screener Opened Sterile Equipment, Put Life In Danger
http://www.wftv.com/irresistible/15511359

or do they just get a pat on the back for doing a good job?

TSO NY said...

I see many comments by confused passengers in this section of the blog. I understand the need for keeping a lot of information from the public, because if the public knows, the bad guys know too and will be able to use that information to thier advantage. Because not everything we do and why do it can be released to the public, many of the things we do and why are confused as abuse or ignorance. However, I feel the public needs to know that...

1. The x-ray's don't alarm. Anything we search in your bag was found by the TSO's good eye.

2. Sometimes we see things that may or may not be there. In an x-ray your cell phone may not look like a cell phone, and therefore cause your bag to be searched.

3.We can't always explain things to you and you need to understand that it's because we don't know, it's that you don't need to know.

Anonymous said...

"Why on earth is TSA allowed to do this kind of thing?"

We're not. This is a MAJOR violation of our SOP. And soooooo wrong! If this TSO isn't being retrained, he/she should be. Even if the screener felt that it was a threat, he should have called in a supervisior for a final decision.

Nothing drives me crazier on the blog than when I see passengers complaining of things that I know TSA did WRONG.

TSO-Joe

Anonymous said...

"The only question is how this "success" of stumbling upon a rather stupid criminal makes aviation any safer."
"The passenger had robbed two banks and a convenience store and was planning on skipping the country to evade capture. The police had been looking for him for several weeks"

I bet this though never crossed the minds of the bank emplyees that were held up, nor the cops who brought the guy it. TSO-Joe

Anonymous said...

"an illegal dragnet"

Other than you typing it, where is it documented that this is illegal?

I know, to quote Bugs Bunny, "dems fightin' words", but I see people here saying over and over that what we do is illegal, but I just don't see any court or legal briefs saying so. TSO-Joe

Nothing Noteworthy said...

I was flying a return trip from MCO to BWI back in October. The woman in front of me didn't speak a word of English and had a US passport with a name on it that didn't even remotely match the name on her boarding pass. You read that right -- can't speak English but has a US passport with a name that doesn't come close to matching her boarding pass. After not finding anyone who could speak with her, the agent did what any security-minded person would do, he waved her through.

As I was walking through the metal detector, she and her bags were being pulled aside. The TSA agent found the following in her bags:

- 2 six-packs of Red Bull
- Full sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and hairspray
- A butane lighter
- nail clippers
- 2 bottles of water

The agent tried explaining that she couldn't take those items with her, but of course, couldn't speak her language. So he just let her have them.

But my asthma inhaler (less than 3oz, btw) got confiscated because the prescription label had come unglued from the box that it came in and the agent couldn't be sure that it was a) really mine and b) not an explosive aerosol (is there such a thing).

And why didn't I report it to anyone at the time? Because I was afraid of being labeled as a trouble-maker and missing my flight or being detained.

While the rules are annoying, I'm a firm believer in following them, because 99% of the time I get through security quickly and without issue as long as I unquestioningly follow the rules despite the fact that they don't always make sense. I don't make jokes in line, I take my shoes off, put my laptop in its own bin, put my liquids in a "TSA Approved" Hefty baggy, and always say "Yes Sir" and "Yes M'am" and "Have a great day" -- because I understand that there are TSA agents who are just trying to do their job and don't need a bunch of crap from me.

But its trips like this one that make me hate the system.

Trollkiller said...

Thank you neil for posting Francine's answer to the "Non-physical contact" question.

Francine wrote:
TSA's sanction guidance has been misread. Our sanction guidance sets forth TSA's enforcement policies for security violations at the checkpoint. Under the sanction guidance, a monetary fine can be imposed on an individual for "non-physical" "interference" at the checkpoint.

The sanction guidance was not misread, it was miswritten.

The document titled "TSA Sanction Guidelines" (7.15.2004 PANUZIO) Taken from the link "Our Civil Sanction Guidance for Individuals" on the page titled "Civil Enforcement Policies" clearly states on page 3 "Non-physical contact".

Your post points out what is wrong with the TSA culture. Instead of taking credit/blame for an error that is clearly the TSA's, you try to push it off onto the public.

You (TSA) can not have made a mistake, therefore it must be the public misreading, not understanding or in general being stupid.

This air of faux infallibility infects your whole organization. When people feel they are infallible they also feel they are unaccountable.

Unaccountable people tend to bully. As you can see by the posts from the public, that is THE problem with the TSA.

Anonymous said...

>> This air of faux infallibility infects your whole organization. When people feel they are infallible they also feel they are unaccountable.

Unaccountable people tend to bully. As you can see by the posts from the public, that is THE problem with the TSA. <<

Amen to that. Who decides who has "interfered" with screening? Some hot headed screener? Some supervisor who will never, ever admit one of their people was wrong?

What constitutes "interference"? That term is so broad that it could cover anything, like "taking to long" to comply with the latest set of barked orders that you can't understand.

Sounds like the TSA looking for more ways to be Judge Dredd -- where the roles of police officer, detective, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner are all given to one person.

Also, where the due process in this, or is it just some TSA kangaroo court? Is there some sort of actual proceeding where the passenger gets to dispute the charges and give his side of the story?

Neil said...

@Trollkiller:

I'm not a lawyer, so take that for what it's worth, but aren't you just arguing semantics?

Isn't "non-physical contact" and "non-physical interference" essentially the same thing? Especially since Francine gave several examples of such contact/interference, ""Non-physical" "interference" covers conduct such as verbally threatening a TSO, refusing to submit to additional screening, or entering the sterile area before screening is finished."

Perhaps Francine was refering to the actual statute itself? In any event it seems that you are trying to split hairs. On page 3 of Sanctions Guidance for Individuals, it clearly says 1) "Interference with Screening" and list three subpoints: a) b) and c). As you say, b) is labeled "non-physical contact" but remember it's listed under the section entitled "Interference with Screening".

So... should the author of this document used the word, interference instead of contact in this case? Yes, probably. However, why don't you cut us a break? Talk about nit-picking. TSA was just two-years old as an agency when this was written. Imagine standing up an agency of 50,000 employees plus many more contractors, staffing 450+ airports and putting all of the rules and regs in place to do that, let alone train them and try to keep the standards consistent across these 450+ airports.

I think most fair-minded people would say that the employees that were responsible for standing up this organization did a fine job given the circumstances.

So, if it gives you some satisfaction to know that back in 2004 some policy writer used the word "contact" instead of "interference" then hooray for you. In the context of where it appears, it is crystal clear as to its meaning.

-Neil
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

TSO-Joe said: "We're not. This is a MAJOR violation of our SOP. And soooooo wrong! If this TSO isn't being retrained, he/she should be."


No Joe they should not be retrained.

This person has displayed that they do not have the basic common sense to make intelligent decisions.

They should be removed from the TSA ranks.

The actions this agent took could result in crimminal charges. I suspect all of the protections enjoyed by TSA workers does not extend to willful misconduct, assault or unjust treatment of a person with a disability.

Want to bet that TSA will let this agent swing in the wind and not defend them?

Anonymous said...

Neil why would you say this?

I think most fair-minded people would say that the employees that were responsible for standing up this organization did a fine job given the circumstances.

What is your evidence?

So everyone is so happy with TSA you guys just created this blog for fun?

You have a higher turnover rate than a burger joint but all is hunky-dory at good `ol TSA?

Not buying it!

Sandra said...

"So... should the author of this document used the word, interference instead of contact in this case? Yes, probably. However, why don't you cut us a break? Talk about nit-picking."

The TSA should be cut a break because someone who should have known better used an oxymoron? I don't think so, as it's symptomatic of the TSA as a whole.

Of course on page 4 of the Sanctions document, it lists one of the aggravating factors in being fined as "Attitude of the Violator."

Now ain't that just simply ducky: a screener, who most likely started to bully a passenger over a prohibited item, gets to subjectively determine our "attitude."

Sandra said...

And speaking of attitude, from another website:

"...current director Mr Hawley and several other senior officers at a social event in D.C. Yes, the topic came up about the TSA's operations and the conduct of the field personnel. During the initial conversation opening he interrupted with a angry and contempt filled response about anyone who would think to complain about him, or the TSA."

Seems to me the attitude filters from the top all the way down.

Trollkiller said...

Neil, words have very specific meanings especially when dealing with law. I asked for a clarification from a lawyer representing the TSA. If you look at Francine's bio you will see she is no low level flunky, but Chief Counsel.

If Francine had said "Whoops that should say interference, I will put that change on the To-Do list", my response would have been "No biggie, thanks for the clarification".

Instead she redirected the error onto the public. It must have been misread because we can't make a mistake.

You try to defend her by pointing out she may have been referring to the actual statute even though she referred back to the document with the error. Once again attempting to push the error onto the public.

If you re-read my post you will see I am not splitting hairs or even arguing the intended meaning of "Non-physical contact" even though I could successfully do so. Like I said when dealing with law, words have specific meanings.

My post dealt with a larger problem then a erroneous word on a document. Documents are easy to fix, you simply open them, replace the word, click save and then email the revised document to the web master and ask them to replace the old document with the new.

My post dealt with the culture problem at the TSA. Your response to me reinforces the fact the problem runs rampant through all levels of the TSA.

It is so difficult for the TSA to admit an error that you would rather attack me for "nit picking" then address the error or more importantly the culture of faux infallibility.

You say the meaning is crystal clear, normally I would agree that common sense would dictate the meaning of "Non-physical contact" under the heading of "Interference With Screening", but remember we are dealing with an agency where common sense seems to be a very rare trait.

Common sense would dictate that you do not open a sterile feeding tube, believe a 5 year old is the person on the no fly list, or that reading the contents of a wallet is really a weapons check.

You ask us to "cut you a break" because the TSA was only two years old when the document was written. The TSA was only two years old when the document was written with a budget of over 16 BILLION dollars . Surely for that kind of cash you can hire a proofreader.

The TSA has the highest turnover of any Govt. agency. I will bet the people leaving for the most part are people that have too much respect for themselves to stand by while coworkers bully passengers with "do you want to fly today?" or are unable to cope with the lack of decency and common sense when dealing with the public.

The excuse of "we are new" is getting pretty tired. The TSA is broken, it needs to be fixed. If it is beyond repair it needs to be scrapped.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said:

Neil why would you say this?

I think most fair-minded people would say that the employees that were responsible for standing up this organization did a fine job given the circumstances.

What is your evidence?

So everyone is so happy with TSA you guys just created this blog for fun?

You have a higher turnover rate than a burger joint but all is hunky-dory at good `ol TSA?

Not buying it!


It was obvious he was reffering to back then when TSA was established. Not presently now, where you say everything is not hunky-dory. But please don't "buy into anything." since all you're doing is looking for a fight on a blog of all things.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say this much; has any one ever stopped to think about how much of your disagreements are a product of this agency, vs. the product of a bad recruit? I mean, disagreements on policy are, obviously and admittedly a problem with the rules set forth by the agency, agreed. However, in methods of execution or incidences of "retributive screening" what you are actually dealing with is a conflict created by an individual. An individual who has misapplied and misunderstood there authority. And I for one would like to state that I think it is unfair to hold these "bad apples" actions against an entire work force. A work force, who, for the most part, works with pride every day to attempt to provide "world class security with world class customer service". I think, if I could offer some advice it would be to consider your actions and attitudes as well when approaching a checkpoint. Start by asking if you've really got a problem with TSA, or did you harbor a problem you had with ONE, PARTICULAR, TSO?

Anonymous said...

Why We Do What We Do: When Security Officers Find Illegal Items at the Checkpoint

Probably depends on if the detector wants it or not....

Anonymous said...

>> I think, if I could offer some advice it would be to consider your actions and attitudes as well when approaching a checkpoint. Start by asking if you've really got a problem with TSA, or did you harbor a problem you had with ONE, PARTICULAR, TSO? <<

I have to say it's systemic. The overall screening environments in Atlanta and Orlando are heavy on noise and yelling, plus they treat the passengers like cattle. Flint MI, and Pensacola FL are light on noise, but still heavy on yelling, the overwhelming amount of it unnecessary.

Take a look at this blog, and you'll see LOTS of complaints about the shouting, yelling, barking orders, condescending attitudes, hostility, intimidation, etc. (That's not to say that there's the occasional passenger with an attitude problem.)

However, when I walk up the to checkpoint and the screeners start the interaction with a really negative attitude, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of a doubt. They're the ones in charge, and they set the tone.

Anonymous said...

TSO NY said... 1. The x-ray's don't alarm. Anything we search in your bag was found by the TSO's good eye.

Not entirely correct. While the x-ray machines do not go beep beep when a suspicious item gets scanned, software does help the operator highlight items to look for during the baggage check. However, most of the burden is carried by the TSO.

H

r.pad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Neil Wrote:
"However, why don't you cut us a break? Talk about nit-picking. TSA was just two-years old as an agency when this was written. Imagine standing up an agency of 50,000 employees plus many more contractors, staffing 450+ airports and putting all of the rules and regs in place to do that, let alone train them and try to keep the standards consistent across these 450+ airports."

Tell you what, Neil, I'll cut you a break as soon as you cut passengers a break. THere is no such thing as "consistency" across airports. And we have a plethora of "rules and regulations" such that a passenger can unwittingly get themselves a huge fine (or worse!). Our founding fathers limited the reach of govenment for a reason.

As I've read the blog, I come away with the distinct impression that the TSA is unaccountable to anyone, and that "the end justifies the means". "The end justifies the means" is an excuse to justify otherwise unconstitutional or improper behavior.

I see proof of the pervasiveness of "the end justifies..." in statements that lord the arrest of a foolish criminal who had a crack pipe taped to his leg (well, he was a bank robber, and because we read his personal papers we had him arrested). Or claiming that a passenger carrying a large sum of money (completely legal in the US, legal internationally as long as it's disclosed to CBP) is a criminal. FInding child porn once out of millions of passengers doesn't justify reading every piece of paper in a wallet, envelope, or notebook.

The terrorists must be laughing openly as they see how our government has justified destruction of basic, American principals by using the excuse "terrorism".

TSO Ryan said...

I don't understand what the confusion about TSA policy is, it is quite simple. If a TSO finds something that is obviously illegal, be it a weapon, kiddie porn, large amounts of cash, or anything else obvious, the STSO is called and they then make the decision on whether or not to involve the LEO. If it is a suspected drug, I don't know about all airports but our LEO has field drug testing equipment at his podium and can test suspect substances on the spot. TSO's are not going to search specifically for drugs, or porn, or even large amounts of cash. If they are discovered during the course of normal duty we are as I already stated obligated to bring it to the attention of the supervisor who handles it from there. This rule is identical to the rule regarding hazardous materials in checked baggage. (FYI: HazMat is a US DoT issue) If during the course of a regular checked bag inspection we come across a flammable or otherwise HazMat rated item we are obligated to remove it. This is not meant to be invasive, this is not because we enjoy taking things from people, we are people doin our jobs, performing the tasks we have been given and we do our best to ensure that ALL travelers get to their destination safely. Not every TSO could win a congeniality contest, but as for myself I do my best to be as courteous to passengers as they are to me.

Anonymous said...

Question for: TSO Ryan said...

Since when did the possesion of legal currency become a violation of law?
Who determines how much is to much? By whose standard?

Anonymous said...

to answer the question posed to TSO ryan.

It is not illegal to carry around excessive cash but if you have over 10 thousand dollars cash, you are leaving the country and isnt properly documented and reported which is required by law.

However if you are carrying around less then 10 thousand and are leaving the country you are fine. If you are carrying around a million dollars in cash and you are staying in the country you are fine, but expect to be questioned about it.

Trollkiller said...

TSO Ryan said...

I don't understand what the confusion about TSA policy is, it is quite simple. If a TSO finds something that is obviously illegal, be it a weapon, kiddie porn, large amounts of cash, or anything else obvious, the STSO is called and they then make the decision on whether or not to involve the LEO.


The Fourth Amendment guarantees our RIGHT to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

I fully agree with the TSA that a complete search of a bag is not unreasonable when you consider that the smallest commercially available fire arm is only 2.16 inches long (5.5cm) and costs about $6,000 US. Or the inspection of shoes after Richard Reid, aka Abdul Raheem tried to set off a shoe bomb.

TSO Ryan, large amounts of cash are NOT illegal. The presence of a large amount of cash does not give rise a probable crime. Involvement of a LEO due to a large amount of cash oversteps your bounds as a TSO and breaks your covenant with the American people.

TSO Ryan, I don't know who has encouraged you disregard the rights of Americans and visitors to our great country, but you need to stop.

You were hired to safeguard aircraft against a dangerous foe. A foe that violates the inalienable rights of people. Do not join the enemy by your actions.

If the reporting of large amounts of cash is due to a directive from above, you need to do your patriotic duty and release that directive to the public. Do not support the sins of superiors.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
to answer the question posed to TSO ryan.

I am aware of the need to declare certain amounts of cash items when clearing customs.

However, if I am traveling domestically it is of no concern to TSA what amount of cash I have. Cash does not endanger the flight I might be on.

TSO Ryan said...

Trollkiller said,

"TSO Ryan, large amounts of cash are NOT illegal. The presence of a large amount of cash does not give rise a probable crime. Involvement of a LEO due to a large amount of cash oversteps your bounds as a TSO and breaks your covenant with the American people."
As has been stated earlier in this thread, and perhaps I should have been more specific; Transporting large amounts of cash IS legal inside the US. You can transport all the money you wish within the United States and there should be no problem. Carrying more than $10,000 OUTSIDE of the US without prior notification to CBP IS ILLEGAL. The following is quoted from the CBP website: "…Reporting is required under the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (PL 97-258, 31 U.S.C. 5311, et seq.), as amended. Failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties and may lead to forfeiture of your monetary instrument(s)."
See here: CBP notice on currency reporting

I have come across people carrying more than $10,000 twice in my career and as it happens, both passengers were on their way to Las Vegas. (Must be nice!) If passengers are transporting cash or other high value items for a legal purpose and are selected for additional screening, they often exercise their right to request private screening where the search can take place in the presence of more than one TSO, in a discreet manner and away from the view of the traveling public.

In reference to the 4th amendment and your RIGHT to be protected against unreasonable searches and/or seizure, I include this link: United States v. Sergio Ramon Marquez

I am not a legal expert, (You’re surprised I’m sure.) and this may not quell all of your reservations but it may help. I’m sure there are other cases that could help explain the decision of the courts regarding administrative searches and the special circumstances involved with airline travel. Perhaps Francine can provide us with some cases of reference. If you don’t agree with the findings of the court, then you won’t find satisfaction on a TSA blog.

I understand my role as a TSO; I don’t suffer from Super-Cop syndrome that I have sometimes seen in other screeners. To suggest that I personally overstep my bounds and have come to disregard the rights of fellow Americans is absurd. I am a Marine Corps veteran and have spent nearly a quarter of my life in the uniform of a group charged with protecting and upholding the Constitution of the United States. I don’t want to live in a police state and if I felt that TSA was contributing to a slippery slope as some have suggested I wouldn’t have chosen to become a TSO. People (especially Americans) will always question rules they don’t understand and if TSO's could take an extra second to try and explain what we do, the traveling experience can be better for both passengers and screeners. I for one am glad that people like Trollkiller question the methods and rules we use at TSA; it is part of the spirit of being American and one of the best ways to check the power of the government and remind those in positions of power who it is that they really work for.

Anonymous said...

Quote: I will give an example of something that happened at my airport:
A TSO was screening a passenger who had "SSSS" placed on his boarding pass by the airline. During the course of the screening, the officer came upon a crack pipe strapped to the passenger's ankle. The TSO notified the supervisor who instructed the TSO to continue the search of the carrry on bags of the passenger. Police were also notified of the crack pipe. The passenger would have been released but during the course of the bag searches, the TSO found a piece of paper which had been used as a note during several bank and convenience store robberies. The passenger was arrested by local airport police who have full authority to do so. The passenger had robbed two banks and a convenience store and was planning on skipping the country to evade capture. The police had been looking for him for several weeks and thanks to an alert TSO and the quad S system, he was captured. The search was LEGAL try to argue it all you want you will not find one legal basis for which the search could be deemed illegal. Sorry to dissapoint you.[End Quote]

If the arrest went down as you say, then there may be some issues.

You admit that the crack pipe was not enough and the pax was going to be released. Only when the TSO found the piece of paper and read it did the LEO come in and effect the arrest. The piece of paper was not a prohibited item and the TSA has no reason to read anything personal in their search for prohibited items.

As such, I could see the validity of the search being subject to question and the fruits of the poisonous tree being excluded. So I think I have found one legal basis for your incident being a bad arrest.

Anonymous said...

TSO Ryan said...
"I don't understand what the confusion about TSA policy is, it is quite simple. If a TSO finds something that is obviously illegal, be it a weapon, kiddie porn, large amounts of cash, or anything else obvious, the STSO is called and they then make the decision on whether or not to involve the LEO. If it is a suspected drug, I don't know about all airports but our LEO has field drug testing equipment at his podium and can test suspect substances on the spot."

Can you point me to the law that requires you to report this? And I do mean laws passed by Congress.

Nothing is obviously illegal. The TSA has not provided you with any training in drug detection, so how do you know what drugs look like compared to flour, oregano and other organic non-illegal items? You are just making an uneducated guess as to everything you perceive as being illegal, when many times it is not.

As such, limited resources are being diverted from the task at hand -- protecting airplanes from being taken over or destroyed.

I would prefer that a drug smuggler be sitting next to me on the plane (after all he has been properly searched, right?) than a bomb getting through because time was spent on checking out whether someone's library books were overdue.

You took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, which includes the Fourth Amendment. Searches that go beyond ferreting out prohibited items have no place in the TSA.

Our system of justice provides checks and balances such that as a society we are willing to let many guilty go free to ensure that an innocent person is not incarcerated. For that reason, heading down the slippery slope of expanding searches gives me pause for concern.

Ben Arnold said...

I'd like to bring up a related legal issue that is frequently raised by frequent travelers in their encounters with screeners at checkpoints involving liquid medicines.

There are occasional discussions about how someone will enter a checkpoint with some sort of liquid medicine (usually of the over-the-counter variety) or medical product such as contact lens solution, nasal spray, etc, and run afoul of a screener who determines that the passenger is carrying "too much" or that the medicine "isn't necessary." Flyertalk.com is a good source for these stories. (Perhaps a Flyertalk poster who has had this type of experience will join in over here?) There are the infamous stories about breast milk as well as other medical-related items.

Several posters at Flyertalk with medical and/or legal expertise have asserted that a screener who makes this type of determination can be accused of practicing medicine without a license -- a felony. For someone without a medical degree and license to determine what type of medicine, dosage, and quantity a passenger is allowed, I think, is really risky to their careers, to say the least.

Please present this to Francine forher comments -- perhaps in another separate topic. I believe there needs to be across-the-board guidance to the screener workforce before a screener gets hung out to dry.

Jack Bauer said...

@anonymous said:
"If the arrest went down as you say, then there may be some issues.

You admit that the crack pipe was not enough and the pax was going to be released. Only when the TSO found the piece of paper and read it did the LEO come in and effect the arrest. The piece of paper was not a prohibited item and the TSA has no reason to read anything personal in their search for prohibited items.

As such, I could see the validity of the search being subject to question and the fruits of the poisonous tree being excluded. So I think I have found one legal basis for your incident being a bad arrest."


Dude, what are you a lawyer? Don't worry about the arrest. We obtained a legal confession from him after a series of waterboarding sessions. He's at Gitmo now. So, forgetaboutit...

Trollkiller said...

TSO Ryan,

When you have TSOs on this very blog assert that screenings are EXEMPT (their word, not mine) from the Constitution, it is not a very far leap to assume, by the way you wrote concerning large sums of money, that you may be one of the clueless.

Re-read my post concerning the validity of searches, you will see I was supporting the TSAs right to do a thorough search.

What I can not and will not support is the TSA reading the contents of personal papers or assuming large amounts of cash are illegal. (Glad we cleared the cash problem up in relation to you.)

I am glad you do not have the Super-Cop syndrome, but it is your duty, as well as every other TSO, to rein in those that do.

On a personal note, thank you for your service. I wish every screener would come from the background of someone like you, and have an idea just how costly freedom is.

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of our TSA. My son is part of the TSA in Michigan. He is a proud American who takes his job very seriously. He is well educated and well trained. He remembers what we are fighting for and will never forget 9/11 and what was done to our fellow Americans. Lets try to remember that no system is perfect, but we need these folks to protect our families and friends. Terrorists have no problem using children and the infirmed as pawns to carry out their acts of destruction. The terrorists have made it necessary to inconvenience these poor people.
We didn't start this fight but let's make sure the terrorists don't finish it. I am glad the TSA is looking for my security. Thanks to all of you!

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of our TSA. My son is part of the TSA in Michigan. He is a proud American who takes his job very seriously. He is well educated and well trained. He remembers what we are fighting for and will never forget 9/11 and what was done to our fellow Americans.

My son flew over the remains of WTC on 9/11. He was part of a navy SAR team. At one mile up he said that he could feel the heat and smell the fires. Shortly afterwards he attempted to fly (in uniform, under orders, military ID card)and due to explosives residue detected on his gear, was nearly kept from flying by an over zealous TSA agent.

Richard said...

Anonymous said...
My son flew over the remains of WTC on 9/11. He was part of a navy SAR team. At one mile up he said that he could feel the heat and smell the fires. Shortly afterwards he attempted to fly (in uniform, under orders, military ID card)and due to explosives residue detected on his gear, was nearly kept from flying by an over zealous TSA agent.

There was no TSA shortly after 9/11. The agency was not in airports until almost 1 year afterwards. You will have to pick another target for this complaint. Regardless, please thank your son for his service though.

Sandra said...

Anonymous said:

We didn't start this fight but let's make sure the terrorists don't finish it.

The terrorist won with the institution of agencies such as DHS and TSA.

Francine said...

@ Trollkiller: Thanks for finding an old document on our website that contained the wording “non-physical contact” when “non-physical” “interference” is the correct wording. I’ve checked with our IT folks and it looks like the document with the incorrect wording is an older document from July of 2004 that was not prepared by an attorney and was not removed from the website when the website was updated in 2006. The official Enforcement Sanction Guidance Policy was last updated in March 2007 by my office and is the document to which I was referring. The discrepancy between the two documents was discovered as a result of your post. The older document has now been removed from the website to avoid further confusion. Great work!

To all of you out there who are interested in posts about legal issues that affect TSA, I am working on some interesting posts for the future. Please stay tuned…

Trollkiller said...

No problem Francine.... that will be $5.00 please. ;-)

Anonymous said...

thanxz for saving me from teh terorists that is triein to destoy us!

Trollkiller said...

No problem Francine, that will be $5 please. ;-)

On a more serious note, I discovered something today that really bugs me. So much so I am staying late at work to finish this post.

It seems that up until late February, TSOs had no whistleblower protection.

From the article "TSA and the MSPB signed an agreement to provide "enhanced whistleblower protection for TSOs," under which TSOs will -- for the first time -- be allowed to appeal cases to the MSPB.

Previously, TSOs only could appeal to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which then would make a recommendation to TSA. However, TSA was not bound by that recommendation."


Also from the article "The TSA/MSPB agreement does not allow TSOs to appeal a negative decision to the federal courts, which current whistleblower protection law allows other federal workers to do.

The agreement also allows MSPB and TSA to negotiate on the procedures governing the processing of TSO whistleblower complaints. It is imperative that MSPB issue their own regulations and not negotiate with the agency they are overseeing."


Francine, why do TSOs not have the same protection as other Govt. workers? Why is the TSA so reluctant to protect the TSOs?

If you look at the posts on this blog you will see the main issue with the screenings is not the "silly" rules like 3-1-1 or taking your shoes off, but with TSOs bullying passengers, with TSOs stealing from passengers, or just incompetent TSOs. In other words, bad TSOs.

If the good TSOs fear for their jobs they won't turn in the corrupt dealings of the bad TSOs or managers.

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out a legitimate reason the TSA would not want the TSOs, or all their employees for that matter, to have full whistleblower protection.

Four cigarettes and endless laps around the parking lot later, and I still can't come up with a legitimate reason.

Please explain why TSOs don't have the same protection as other Govt. employees, also please explain what avenues the TSOs have available to them to turn in corrupt coworkers, and why the reluctance on the TSA’s part to give them the whistleblower protection.

Thanks, I look forward to your reply.

Chris Boyce said...

Trollkiller quote:

If you look at the posts on this blog you will see the main issue with the screenings is not the "silly" rules like 3-1-1 or taking your shoes off, but with TSOs bullying passengers, with TSOs stealing from passengers, or just incompetent TSOs. In other words, bad TSOs.

**********

I would add that the angst we have towards the "silly" rules stems from disgust of an agency that has never met a threat it didn't like and an agency content with fighting the last war.

Anonymous said...

"There was no TSA shortly after 9/11. The agency was not in airports until almost 1 year afterwards. You will have to pick another target for this complaint. Regardless, please thank your son for his service though."

Do you really think it takes just a few days or weeks to come up with a such a huge department with laws, sog's, hiring, training, etc.? 1 year is pretty good for coming up with a corporation this size.

Anonymous said...

When we flew west to see my in-laws, my wife had several fruit cups in her carryon. They got confiscated as "liquid" - who are we kidding?

In my carry-on, I carry a smaller bag with a Bible and a few other books in it. That smaller bag invariably gets pulled out and searched. Why would carrying books on an airplane make me a potential terrorist? Oh that's right, only terrorists read books.

Anonymous said...

"anyone in the United States is free to travel with currency"

Someone forgot to tell the 8th Circuit Court in 2006. United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency, 05-3295. Dude gets his life savings taken away for being suspicious but not convicted.

Land of the free, so long as you smurf your cash and don't take a plane.

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller quote:

If you look at the posts on this blog you will see the main issue with the screenings is not the "silly" rules like 3-1-1 or taking your shoes off, but with TSOs bullying passengers, with TSOs stealing from passengers, or just incompetent TSOs. In other words, bad TSOs.


That's the biggest problem within TSA. The vast majority of TSO's are hard working dedicated employees. TSA however makes it impossible to get rid of the few that are not. All the "bad" TSO needs to do is make some unfounded allegations and by the time everything is investigated, it get's "forgotten" that the TSO was a problem to begin with. We have a system in place that allows them to "work the system" forever.

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

That's the biggest problem within TSA. The vast majority of TSO's are hard working dedicated employees. TSA however makes it impossible to get rid of the few that are not. All the "bad" TSO needs to do is make some unfounded allegations and by the time everything is investigated, it get's "forgotten" that the TSO was a problem to begin with. We have a system in place that allows them to "work the system" forever.


Are you saying the TSOs have too much protection now? Is the problem TSO being "forgotten" because the higher up are afraid for their jobs?

Tell us more what is wrong within the organization. Remember darkness hates the light, and bureaucracies hate bad publicity.

To the blog team, please make sure Francine sees my original questions. I would really like an answer to them from a qualified person. (translation: I will keep bringing it up until I get an answer... my parents and teachers hated it, my wife has learned to live with it.)

Thanks

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

Someone forgot to tell the 8th Circuit Court in 2006. United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency, 05-3295. Dude gets his life savings taken away for being suspicious but not convicted.

Land of the free, so long as you smurf your cash and don't take a plane.


Don't get me started about Govt. theft by improper seizures. If you are ever in Florida do not sign anything from a cop without a lawyer reading it first. There are a couple of towns down here that swear you voluntarily gave them your car out of the goodness of your heart when stopped for a minor traffic violation.

BTW 20 bonus points for using the word "smurf". Well done!

Anonymous said...

When we flew west to see my in-laws, my wife had several fruit cups in her carryon. They got confiscated as "liquid" - who are we kidding?

Please, next time have your wife bring either a cantalope, honeydew, or a watermelon. The problem was with the liquids surrounding the fruits, not the fruits themselves. When confronted by this obiviously large, solid, melon and are asked to turn it over respond, with "This is a solid melon."

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

Please, next time have your wife bring either a cantalope, honeydew, or a watermelon.


And make sure she brings enough to share with the whole plane.

All kidding aside, there is a lot of liquid in fruit cups. I can see the TSO point of view on this one.

Next time just bring candy bars or other junk food.

TSA TSO NY said...

You guys want to see asinine?
I'm a STSO. Last Thanksgiving/Christmas we recvd an official TSA memo telling us that pies, yes, baked holiday pies, were not allowed if they contained any type of fruit filling or anything of a similar consistancy!

You can imagine how that went over!
We expect to see the same memo this year......

Explain that one, Blog authors!

Anonymous said...

Travelers! PLEASE do not pack your entire bathroom in your luggage. You don't need full-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc. Buy little containers and squirt what you'll use during your trip into them. You'll be a lot happier that you're not lugging around all that excess weight and our backs won't be sore! And LADIES! You don't need seventeen pairs of shoes!

trollkiller said...

TSA TSO NY said...

You guys want to see asinine?
I'm a STSO. Last Thanksgiving/Christmas we recvd an official TSA memo telling us that pies, yes, baked holiday pies, were not allowed if they contained any type of fruit filling or anything of a similar consistancy!

You can imagine how that went over!
We expect to see the same memo this year......

Explain that one, Blog authors!


Oh sure blame it on a memo. I bet you didn't confiscate one fruitcake.

"sorry ma'am I need to confiscate your cherry pie. You can keep the fruitcake... no really keep the fruitcake... no I insist you keep the fruitcake... do you want to fly today?"

Random STSO said...

Trollkiller: We are an "excepted service" agency. Among other things we are on a different payscale system than the GS scale that the majority of the Government uses. To avoid a repeat of air travel coming to a halt (ala' the Air Traffic Controller strike of days gone by) we are also non-union.I believe this is all by design in the original charter for our agency in an effort to provide uninterupted travel and commerce as opposed to "the man" keeping us TSO's down. Hope that helps.

Trollkiller said...

Random STSO said...

Trollkiller: We are an "excepted service" agency. Among other things we are on a different payscale system than the GS scale that the majority of the Government uses. To avoid a repeat of air travel coming to a halt (ala' the Air Traffic Controller strike of days gone by) we are also non-union.I believe this is all by design in the original charter for our agency in an effort to provide uninterupted travel and commerce as opposed to "the man" keeping us TSO's down. Hope that helps.


Thanks for the answer. I do believe TSOs can have the same protections even in a non union environment.

Do you feel you have adequate whistle blower protection?

What avenues do you have available to you to rid yourselves and the traveling public of the abusive TSOs?

Anonymous said...

TSA workers need to be reminded that they are dealing with people, not animals. More training has to be done in order to teach TSA workers to be respectful and learn how to treat travelers. Almost every time I travel I witness an incident where a TSA agent is disrespectful to a passenger. They should also be reminded that they are just that: TSA worker, not police or any other law enforcement agent. Their job is extremely stupid and they cant even do it well.

Anonymous said...

JFYI, I have had to screen wallets, and some of the weapons I have found in them belogned to some really innocent looking people, many of them females. The kind and variety of these items would scare the hide off a cat, and could literally take yours off too. Bad things come in small packages too!

Anonymous said...

Travelers! PLEASE do not pack your entire bathroom in your luggage. You don't need full-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc. Buy little containers and squirt what you'll use during your trip into them. You'll be a lot happier that you're not lugging around all that excess weight and our backs won't be sore! And LADIES! You don't need seventeen pairs of shoes!

Hmmm, transfer the contents of large containers into smaller containers. Do that and put them in your carry on luggage those unmarked containers will be confiscated even if they are less than 100ml/3.4oz/or depending on the screener 3.0 oz.

We need what we need and really don't need someone telling us what we need, how much we need, and when we need it. You aren't our boss at work. You inspect bags and passengers. When will that sink in?

Anonymous said...

Have Uniform Policy nationwide-NO exceptions & If items Non Threatening then Return to passengers for flight.
Otherwise Move on Your Clean.
Must have Uniform Screening Policy BUT flexible for security needs alone.

Anonymous said...

"Please, next time have your wife bring either a cantalope, honeydew, or a watermelon. The problem was with the liquids surrounding the fruits, not the fruits themselves. When confronted by this obiviously large, solid, melon and are asked to turn it over respond, with "This is a solid melon."

Oh, that's why we get to keep the nail clippers.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please explain to your TSA union goons, that when they are pawing through our bags, the velcro which is frequently found on shaving and toiletry kits does lots of damage to fabrics. We pack a certain way for a reason. Having that pack job trashed and clothing ruined by the careless mauling of our bags by your employees is happening at a rate that is not acceptable.

Lucile Cook said...

I am an 80 year old woman with both hip implants and a knee implant. They beep when I go through the checkpoint. Now I have no problem with them running the wand over me and feeling me where I beep, but I REALLY RESENT having them feel me all over. They want tosay that I could be carrying something dangerous. My clothes are so tight fitting that a piece of paper would show, and I don't beep anywhere else. I have taken to wearing bare midriffs and bikini bottoms and pulling my dress off where it is fastened with velcro, but I shouldn't have to go through all this so they can actually see skin and know I have nothing on me. You let people who are big in the belly getright on because they don't beep. How do you know what they might be carrying? I avoid flying anywhere because of this. I want you to teach your employees to use some common sense. If there are tight fitting clothes everywhere, and a person does not beep there, keep there hands off. Just check where I beep. Yours truly, a great-grandma.

Bobby Vucasovich said...

On the evening news last night there appeared a middle aged lady complaining about the restrictions on carry-on items; specifically containers of lotion and shampoo. Please let me weigh-in on this subject. My wife travels across the country 40-45 times a year. I am on flights 5-6 times per year. We are both of the same opinion: You can take our luggage apart each and every time we go through security and you can have us strip naked if this is what it takes to ensure a safe flight. Whatever items you find that you think are suspicious, please remove them, inform us of their existance, and we will not repeat the violation. We can purchase whatever we need at the other end of our flight, or we can do withoout. I, for the life of me, cannot understand the problem people have with these restrictions or short delays when you consider what the possible alternatives are. Go ahead. Check my luggage and my shoes and me if need be. I want to arrive safely and I want my wife to arrive safely also.
Thank you, Bobby Vucasovich

Francine said...

@Trollkiller, you asked about whistleblower rights for TSOs. We agree that good government requires protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. A TSO who reports a violation of any law, rule or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety has a right to be protected from retaliation. In 2002, the first year of TSA's existence, the head of TSA entered into a written agreement with the Office of Special Counsel, the government agency that has primary responsibility for protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Under the TSA/OSC agreement, OSC receives, investigates and recommends resolution of complaints from TSOs alleging reprisal for protected whistleblowing. Since May 2002, when the agreement was signed, I am not aware of any case in which OSC has determined that a TSO suffered retaliation for whistleblowing. Under TSA's Human Resource Management Letter No. 1800-01, which was issued in November 2002, TSA's whistleblower protection policy protects TSOs from the same prohibited personnel practices barred elsewhere in the federal government. In order to further strengthen TSO whistleblower protections, this year, in February 2008, TSA entered into an agreement with the Merit Systems Protection Board. The independent administrative judges at MSPB evaluate claims of reprisal against whistleblowers. Under the TSA/MSPB agreement, a TSO will be able to ask an MSPB judge to render a decision on whether threatened or proposed disciplinary action against the TSO is a reprisal for his or her whistleblowing. If the MSPB judge decides the TSO is the victim of a reprisal, TSA will take corrective action. As you point out, a TSO will not be able to appeal an unfavorable MSPB decision to federal court. Congress would have to pass a new law granting TSOs the right to appeal MSPB decisions to federal court. That's because Congress gave TSA special personnel authority to handle a large and dynamic TSO workforce and that special authority does not permit TSO personnel actions to be appealed to any court. Thanks for your comments. I've enjoyed reading your contributions.

Patented Patience said...

I'd like to address a few things. First, I AM undereducated compared to my co-workers. See, I started, but didn't finish my university degree. Though I have several years in security work, and prior govt. experience overseas, I didn't finish my degree.

These oath-swearing, federal officers to which many keep refering to as idiots, jerks, rude, and stupid, are generally well educated. Some of them hold multiple degrees, a huge amount are prior military, or other public service sectors, and more than a few are either currently working on one of their degrees, or on a second or third retirement plan.

The next time you're tempted to jump to the conclusion that the TSO is an idiot, because you're CLEARLY not a terrorist, and insist they should ignore security protocol to satisfy you, please take the time to inquire into the TSO's background. Maybe you'll be better able to trust the TSO's judgement, if you realize that his or her fast food days are long gone.

Patented Patience said...

Before I retire for the evening, I'd like to make a couple of more points #1. I'm on my own time. (on my day off, even) There is no way my supervisor is going to approve paid time for me to blog.
If you think it's worth your tax dollars, then by all means....*big grin*
2.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH, ON THE ISSUE OF YELLING!!!!

---I think I've gone half deaf, and perhaps it's an occupational hazard. Obviously yelling is a huge source of irritation. I'd like to remind passengers who feel harassed, that we (TSOs) are expected to make passengers aware before they reach the opening of the x-ray machine, and then proceed to the metal detector, of the divestment procedures. We like to think we're just projecting. Is it necessary to project so? Usually, the TSO tasked with this thankless task is many feet away from the passengers, standing behind the metal detctor, in a VERY noisy environment. The advisements are not exactly brief and concise. Very often the verbage is condensed into key elements, (shoes, jacket, laptop...) in order to keep from sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher. In our airport, if the passenger is facing his bin, you're looking at his back. The advisements are meant to help the passengers, not freak them out. Maybe they need to consider small mics and a speaker systems. Better or worse?

3.) The lack of adequate space for preparations is a mutual nuisance. Please remember that most American airports weren't designed with security checkpoints. The checkpoints have been crammed into spaces that weren't in the original design. We understand and feel you're frustration. While you spend a few minutes feeling herded into a cramped space, we spend all day there. But, changes have already been made at my airport to better accomodate passengers. We have chairs at the front of the checkpoint, to ease shoe removal, footsies, and shoe horns. There are benches and tables in a space that's slightly more secluded for passengers to rearrange themselves. We urge them to leave their bins for their convenience.

4.) I'm very aware of families w/small children, and persons with disabilities and am always willing to help. However, I have to say, I'm not a personal assistant, or a nanny. I have responsibilities, and cannot hold your baby for you, or be your mother's personal valet through the airport. There are skycaps at every airport, who are willing to assist and able to do so,as that is their function in the airport. Please consider utilizing their services, if you're travelling under strained circumstances.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I like my job, even when I'm unappreciated. I applied for this job, and went through the lengthy screening process, because I wanted my boys to be proud of their mother. I am proud to wear my uniform, read the x-rays, and take the continuous lengthy training, because I believe in the validity of what I do every day.

Anonymous said...

"Patented Patience said...
I'd like to address a few things. First, I AM undereducated compared to my co-workers"

-------------------------

Education is a fine undertaking. However, a degree does not make for a smart person. Intelligence is more a matter of what one does with the schooling they have attended.

Common sense, how a person responds to changing events is much harder to acquire. Some have it, some don't!
Some of the most educated people I have known lack this element.

Anonymous said...

"JFYI, I have had to screen wallets, and some of the weapons I have found in them belogned to some really innocent looking people, many of them females. The kind and variety of these items would scare the hide off a cat, and could literally take yours off too. Bad things come in small packages too!"

Were any of these "weapons" a credible threat to blowing up an airplane or hijacking it? I highly doubt it, but if you have further info, I would like to know and will take the chance that it won't literally take my hide off.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"JFYI, I have had to screen wallets, and some of the weapons I have found in them belogned to some really innocent looking people, many of them females. The kind and variety of these items would scare the hide off a cat, and could literally take yours off too. Bad things come in small packages too!"


Would you describe some of these weapons and tell how they could be used to hijack an aircraft with a reinforced, locked cabin door?


Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I travel from time to time and have to use a CPAP machine to sleep. Every time that I travel, I get that bag checked and it has to be done by hand. Now I try to treat everyone with respect that I run into through life. The person at the airport doing the screening is simply doing their job, nothing more, nothing less. I have had numerous screeners at airports thank me for being so patient and polite during this process. My only reply back to them is to ask them if my fussing and griping would really speed things up? I know that the job is a thankless one and I have thanked the ones that I have run across when they check me. Sorry to burst some folks bubbles but I am happy that the screeners are on the job.
We can not be silly enough to think that any organization in the world has all good people. Yes there are some bad ones. My hats off to the good ones.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Hey Francine..I guess it's ok for people to hide razor blades in their wallets. Did you forget that on 9/11 that they use box cutters? Stop griping about your inconvenience and concede that not everyone can be trusted and unfortunately, there are individuals who will try to hurt you so they will go through any means possible. Food for thought and I hope you're hungry.

Anonymous said...

"I can't tell you" means I'd rather not give out free information as to how our machines work to those fishing for ways to circumvent our screening procedures. It also means I'd rather screen the next passenger and keep the line moving instead of going into a detailed conversation as to what our machines are doing.

Anonymous said...

It is very easy for people to get on this blog and complain about how "terrible" security is now. Or how poorly they were treated. As a TSA employee, I am sincerely sorry if you have been treated in such a terrible manner. I do my very best to be curtious, sincere, and respectful in my duties. But it does not help that I vast majority of people utterly hate me, because they "don't like what I do". If I were to shut down my check point and spot screening all together, NOT A SINGLE PERSON WOULD BOARD THAT PLANE. You want better security but don't want to make the sacrafice or effort for that. You want us to make things "better" and take certian precautions away, but when another attack happens, everyone of you will be very quick to blaim us right off. Once again, I am apologizing on be-half of myself and others if you feel that you were mistreated. I am sorry for that. I know that my screeners and myself will always do our best to be Professional, Curtious, Understanding, and even Helpful to eveyone of our passangers. At least here in San Diego we will. God Bless and take care.

Anonymous said...

You want better security but don't want to make the sacrafice or effort for that. You want us to make things "better" and take certian precautions away, but when another attack happens, everyone of you will be very quick to blaim us right off.

I want effective security, not security theater. The next threat most likely won't be at the airports, but instead at a port involving LNG or nukes.

Anonymous said...

I understand the total frustration of no answer or I can't tell you. I do work for TSA and when I have an officer that has an alarming item I tell them to let the person know what they are looking for and to educate them. It frustrates me that other officers don't treat people with respect. If I come across it I deal with the issue and help educate them. I have a masters degree and I also worked for the DOD in nuclear defense weapons. So I have a diversified background and have seen many different things. I get frustrated that as a whole we are trying but need to try harder. Congress makes our rules and even though I don't agree with them all, I enforce them. It is frustrating that TSA airports all have the same regulations but some chose to do or not do them. When I get a passenger extremely upset that they brought in an oversized liquid and had no issue at ie. Atlanta or whereever and now trying to leave with the liquid they can not have it. I totally sympathize and find it extemely frustrating that we are not all on the same page. Treat people with respect in the same aspect that passengers need to be respectful. I always try to treat passengers and anyone traveling as if they were my family flying out and I am doing my very best to keep them safe. On the occassion I have had passengers swearing at my officers or myself which is not tolerated as I am being respectful and trying to get to the bottom of what happened to make this person so upset. There are some issues that are deemed "Security Sensitive" and we are not allowed to discuss. But as for what caused the bag search, I find at times it is like the "Perfect Storm" things are laying just the right way and even after running through the X-ray for a second look it still is does not look good. Also there is the human element just because one officer looks at the bag and deems it ok doesn't mean another will look at it the same way. Do I think there is a better way. Yes I just don't know what it is and until we come up with it this is the way it is. I offer all suggestions going to Congress but the fact remains there are people out there that want to hurt us and will find anyway to do it. God Bless you all and remain diligent!

Alex said...

If it's about important security, like in airports or checkpoints, I probably would do anything and I wish all of you to behave the same way. It is merely a very short inconvenience to us but with a great pay off! We become safer.
There are precatutions that we need to heed.

Mike said...

""""The incidental discovery of illegal items in the screening of carry-on bags, is not, as one post suggested, akin to forcing a motorist to open his trunk at a sobriety checkpoint. Police officers conducting field sobriety tests at a vehicular checkpoint have no need to look in the trunk of a car to determine if the driver is impaired."""

But they do anyway? Don't they?
There is what an officer SHOULD DO and there is what they DO. 2 Very different things.

Well written article though, I will say that.

Anonymous said...

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pesicolacat said...

I will. The red team knows loopholes with the security equipment of potential loopholes. They exploit them so they can show the officers how they did it, to see how often they are caught through other means of security like random pat downs, and there are many more reasons they can't list. TSA screeners are paid very poorly. The public is only willing to do so much with security. Common scenes should show that prisoners get through security and they go through cavity searches. The general public doesn't even come close. The airlines hire private contractors so they can pay as little as possible bc the public wants to pay as little as possible to fly and the airlines CEOs want to make as much as possible. The private contractors have to pay for parking that costs hundreds to thousands every year, pay for uniforms, and make less than many fast food workers for real. With that type of wage gap and employees who can bypass security straight to the plane making $8/hr or less sometimes many take bribes to smuggle drugs. Guess what the people they are smuggling for could be liars. You know it and everyone should know it security is like looking for a needle in a million haystacks everyday. It's like trying to solve Germanies Enegma without a computer everyday without any code words.