Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Security Technologies Make Airport Debut

Blogging has been light this week, with some on the team out for end-of-summer vacations and Bob's out taking care of his new baby.

So this week, as one political convention comes to a close and another is about to start, we wanted to highlight a story on our website about two new technologies that have been deployed in the two convention city airports. Those traveling through Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul might see these explosives and threat detection technologies that have previously been used in other modes of transportation and can be flexibly deployed to airports.

The technologies are passive millimeter wave, a mobile technology which has been used in maritime and mass transit to detect the characteristics of explosives hidden on the body. It is completely safe, non-invasive and does not store information. A hand-held spectrometer can penetrate sealed containers in seconds and identify a wide range of solid and liquid explosives using laser technology.

To learn about other ways TSA and other Department of Homeland Security components are working to keep convention travel and sites safe, check this out.

We'll get back into the regular swing of things next week, and we hope all of our readers enjoy a safe and fun Labor Day weekend.

EoS Blog Team

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Information on the Chicago Aircraft Inspections

There have been some questions on our blog and elsewhere about the Chicago aircraft inspections.

Also, I've noticed some confusion out there, so please note that this involved a Transportation Security Inspector, (TSI) not a Transportation Security Officer. (TSO)

Here's what we posted on our website.

On August 19 a Transportation Security Inspector (TSI) was conducting a routine compliance inspection on aircraft parked on the airfield at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (ORD). The TSI inspected nine American Eagle aircraft to look for and test, among other things, access vulnerabilities or areas were someone with ill intent could gain access to the aircraft.

Aircraft operators are required to secure each aircraft when left unattended. The TSIs are encouraged to look for and follow through on vulnerabilities. During the inspection process at ORD the Inspector used a Total Air Temperature (TAT) probe – a probe that protrudes from the side of the aircraft that is used to measure outside air temperature – to pull himself up while investigating possible access vulnerabilities with the unattended aircraft.

The Inspector was following through on regulatory inspection activity. The Inspector was able to gain access to the interior of seven of the nine aircraft inspected, which is an apparent violation of the airline’s security program. TSA is reviewing the inspection results and depending on the conclusion, could take action with the airline, up to and including levying of civil penalties.

While the inspection process is a vital layer of aviation security, it is not TSA’s intent to cause delays or potential damage to aircraft as a result of our inspections. TSA took immediate steps to re-enforce education about sensitive equipment located on the exterior of a plane.

  • TSA has 1,465 Transportation Security Inspectors at almost 150 airports that can cover all modes of transportation.

    • 535 in air cargo (including 85 dedicated canine teams)
    • 755 in aviation
    • 175 in surface transportation modes)
TSIs undergo a 4-week basic training course that consists of security regulations overview, inspection procedures, and safety briefings. TSIs are also trained through a formal on-the-job training program and periodic formal recurrent training. Additionally, Inspectors receive local safety training at each airport when they receive their airport identification.

EoS Blog Team

Covert Testing Results Critical to Security

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on TSA’s covert testing program. We’ve written about the report and posted it on our website. Some media and blogs have covered the report and created some misperceptions along the way –headlines like: “TSA Doesn’t Look Into Airport Security Screener Failures don’t help. So we wanted to talk a bit about the covert testing process at TSA.

TSA undergoes covert testing by three entities: The GAO, the DHS Inspector General and TSA’s own Office of Inspection. The recent GAO report focused on TSA’s covert testing procedures. During the course of the year long GAO review, the auditors examined all TSA covert test reports and recommendations, and had access to new policy or Standard Operating Procedure changes derived from the covert test recommendations. Many of the changes are in place today to further enhance the safety and security of the traveling public.

The report validated TSA’s covert testing program and included some recommendations. The recommendation that is causing confusion deals with the way TSA records test failures.

GAO recommended that TSA include a line item in our database for "failures." One would assume “failure” means someone missed an IED, but in fact the failure could be in how a rule is applied, how a technology functions in a specific airport, or how a procedure requires follow-up on an alarm. Because of the vast amount of qualitative information recorded by testers, they write more detailed explanations of failures in a written report instead of a line item in a database. We did, however, concur with the GAO recommendation and have now added a category to the data base on failures in addition to the more detailed reports we’ll continue to do.

The specific misperception we wanted to clear up is what we do with the test results. In some of the blog coverage I’ve seen, including the link mentioned above, some think we don’t do anything with the test results, which is far from the truth. These results are critical to closing security gaps in individual airports and throughout the entire aviation system. As soon as a covert test is completed in an airport, the findings are shared with the TSA leadership there, noting areas for improvement, whether it be in the application of Standard Operating Procedures, use of technology or other areas. The testers also meet with Transportation Security Officers after the testing is completed to show them where mistakes were made and offer suggestions to immediately close any security gap.

After the airport staff is briefed, the testers conduct a briefing to TSA senior staff to show them the failures and recommendations. Information is shared with the Office of Security Operations, which oversees TSA operations at airports nationwide. This gives headquarters an opportunity to look at results at one airport to see if there are implications for the whole aviation network. As needed, Standard Operating Procedures and training could be changed, technology is tweaked, and processes can be changed at the national level based on covert tests.

Bottom line: we take these results – and the results of GAO and the DHS Inspector General - very seriously and TSA constantly uses them to improve security.


EoS Blog Team

Friday, August 15, 2008

Keep Your Lap Top IN if you have a “Checkpoint Friendly” Bag

James Brown once sang Papa's Got a Brand New Bag. Well, it may be a different kind of bag than what the Godfather was singing about, but now everybody can feel better than James Brown and keep their laptop in their “checkpoint friendly” bag as long it meets certain criteria. You may already own a “checkpoint friendly” bag and not even know it.

Tomorrow (8/16) is the day that new laptop procedures roll out nationwide.

For all of you Debbie Downers out there, we realize that purchasing or owning one of these bags isn’t your free ticket to never have your laptop searched again. However, there is a darned good chance that your laptop won’t be searched. To put it in perspective, how many times has your laptop been searched when it’s been out of the bag? It’s pretty rare.

Just think of it this way, as long as there is nothing in your bag besides the laptop, you’re good to go. But, please remember that our Officers are trained to look for anomalies and if something looks odd or out of place, they will search your laptop. Next time you go through security, look around and see how many laptops are undergoing secondary screening. It’s rare.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re a road warrior and you’ve got all sorts of cables, adapters, gadgets and gizmos. You’re probably wondering where you’re going to put all of that stuff. Have no fear, several manufacturers have been hard at work designing bags that meet “checkpoint friendly” criteria. Just Google “checkpoint friendly laptop bags” and you’ll have a wide variety to choose from. Just remember, the TSA does not endorse any of these bags and you’ll need to be aware of our criteria to ensure you buy the right type of bag. These are some examples of bags that meet our criteria.

This new procedure will make things a little easier for our travelers while lessening the amount of preparation and recomposure time. Hopefully this will reduce your hassle factor at the checkpoint and make for happier passengers and happy passengers make the bad guys stand out.

Happy traveling and we hope to hear from you here about your experiences with the new procedures.

Blogger Bob
EoS Blog Team

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You won’t be put on a TSA “List” if you forget Your ID

“Lack of ID put fliers on TSA list.”

This USA Today story perpetuates exactly the type of misperceptions that damage the credibility of a system designed to protect the traveling public in a post 9/11 world. The paper was careful not to be inaccurate but omitted information we provided that would have given a more balanced perspective.

An August 13 USA Today article overstated the Transportation Security Administration’s interest in passengers who come to airport checkpoints without identification but cooperate in establishing their identity. The story gives the public the impression they might be put on a “list” if they forget their ID. That is false.

Passengers whose identity is confirmed will not be added to any watch list or face additional scrutiny during future checkpoint visits.

When it comes to security, identity matters. Positively identifying passengers is a critical tool in TSA’s multi-layered approach to security and one that has been bolstered significantly during the past 18 months. On June 21 enhanced identification requirements went into effect and passengers now have to be positively identified before proceeding past the checkpoint. This makes sense because our law enforcement and intelligence partners go to great lengths to identify people planning attacks on aircraft. It is our obligation to stop them once they have been identified.

Since the new requirements went into effect, 16,434 people nationwide have come to the checkpoint without identification for a variety of reasons. The identity of these individuals was successfully resolved in all but 558 instances. This was during a period of time that 92 million people flew in the United States.

TSA collects real-time information from airports across the country so that our operation center can look for patterns and data points of significant security value. The information is only shared with other law enforcement partners on a need-to-know basis. The ability to "connect the dots" on emerging situations can not be underestimated. In the post 9/11 world, such analysis is so fundamental to protecting the American public that it was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

Because our mission requires this capability, we do collect information about individuals who present false identification or misrepresent themselves to get in an airplane.

TSA EoS Blog Team

Monday, August 11, 2008

Furthering the Dialogue on IDs

This post is from TSA's Chief Counsel Francine Kerner. It was originally intended to be a response in the comments section to answer some ID questions, but we thought it deserved its own post. Thanks to Francine for taking the time to provide this well thought out and very informative response.

I would like to share my perspective of this issue and my legal analysis. From my perspective, in considering these matters, we need to go back to first principles: what security goals are we trying to achieve? One goal is to ensure that bad things are kept out of the sterile area. Another goal is to ensure that known or suspected terrorists are kept out of the secure areas of the airport and off airplanes. We simply do not want to provide a terrorist with access to the aviation transportation system to plan, plot or carry out criminal acts.

To achieve the first goal, keeping out bad things, we perform a physical examination of passengers, employees and other individual who enter the secure areas of the airport. We also perform a physical examination of their property. Sometimes these security measures take place at the checkpoint. Sometimes they take place at other entrances to the airport.

To achieve the second goal, prohibiting entry by known or suspected terrorists (regardless of what they are carrying), we perform or cause others to perform an identity check against government databases. Identity vetting of airport or airline employees is a rigorous process that is based on a collection of fingerprints, a criminal history records check, and a security threat assessment.

Of obvious necessity, identity vetting of passengers is handled differently. I think of it as a two-step process, a responsibility shared between the air carriers and TSA. The air carriers compare a passenger's name to government watch-lists, while TSA ensures that the name provided to a carrier, as reflected on the boarding pass, matches the ID that the passenger is carrying.

It is instructive to note that before September 11, under government directive, air carriers were required to check a passenger's name against government watch-lists and confirm a passenger's identity by examining specified forms of identification.

Over the last year or more, TSA has taken over the identity verification process, stationing TSOs before the checkpoint to perform this function. More recently, TSA has determined that passengers who fail to show ID must otherwise assist in confirming their identity before being permitted sterile area entry. All of these steps have been taken to improve aviation security. Real ID and Secure Flight are other government programs that will continue to strengthen the identity vetting process.

As Chief Counsel, I firmly believe that TSA's ID requirements are warranted from a security perspective and entirely legal. Under a TSA regulatory provision, 49 C.F.R. § 1540.105(a)(2), a person may not enter the sterile area “without complying with the systems, measures, or procedures” applied to control access to the restricted area in question. Verifying the identity of passengers who access the sterile area falls within this rubric and is, in fact, part of TSA’s screening process. It is true that an earlier regulatory provision, 49 C.F.R. § 1540.5, which sets forth definitions, states that access to the sterile area is “generally” controlled through the “screening” of persons and property and that “screening function means the inspection of individuals and property for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries.” The definition of “screening function,” which focuses on physical inspection—the most intrusive form of screening—cannot be read to limit the Administrator’s broad expanse of authority under the operative language of section 1540.105(a)(2) to establish “systems, measures or procedures” governing sterile area access, including an ID screening process. Certainly, the common definition of screening encompasses methods other than physical intrusion. One definition of screening listed by Google reads as follows: “Is the person on a watch-list? Biometric information can be used to determine if a person is cleared to be in a restricted area, or if the person is on a watch list (eg the FBI Most Wanted list).” Similarly, under section 1602(a)(5) of the 9/11 Implementation Act, H.R. 1, the definition of cargo “screening” includes methods other than physical inspection. Given the Administrator’s fundamental statutory responsibility pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 44901 to secure the aviation transportation system, a unduly narrow construction of § 1540.105(a)(5) cannot be justified.

I hope my response furthers the dialogue on these important issues. Thank you again for raising your concerns.

Francine Kerner
EoS Blog Contributor

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Encryption Is the Issue In Case of Missing Laptop

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the loss of a Clear®- owned laptop computer on July 26 that contained unencrypted data of approximately 33,000 customers. TSA has verified that a laptop was discovered by Clear® officials yesterday at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). It was voluntarily surrendered to TSA officials for forensic examination.

TSA’s regulatory role in this matter is as follows: Every commercial airport is required to have an approved airport security plan. So Registered Traveler is part of that comprehensive plan at the airports where it operates. Under the airport security plan, the sponsoring entity, (SFO in this case) is required to assure its vendors have an approved information security program. Because the computer at SFO was not encrypted it is in violation of the airport’s security plan.

TSA also has the ability to go directly to vendors when the plan is not being adhered to so TSA is conducting a broad review of all Registered Traveler providers’ information systems and data security processes to ensure compliance with security regulations.

Clear® needs to meet the information security requirements that they agreed to as part of the Register Traveler program before their enrollment privileges will be reinstated. Encryption is the wider issue as opposed to one incident with one laptop. So for now, Clear® enrollments remain curtailed.

Current customers will not experience any disruption when using Registered Traveler.

Eos Blog Team

Monday, August 4, 2008

Answers to Your Top 10 Questions

Here are the top ten questions we received from our recent request. We tallied the number of times we received each question or a similar version of it and noted the total for each question below. Thanks to the Office of Chief Counsel, Privacy Office and Kip for helping us provide you with the answers.

10) What immediate measures can a person take when encountering a less than friendly TSA agent? 12 of our readers asked this question.

First, you can request a lead or supervisor. If you're not satisfied after speaking with a lead or supervisor, you can request a manager. If you're in a hurry and don't have time to talk, or if you are not comfortable making your complaint in person, you can visit our new Got Feedback? web page. "Got Feedback?" is a new program that allows passengers to contact us via e-mail with very specific questions, comments, complaints, etc. Rather than your e-mail being sent to a single mail box where it sits in the queue waiting for a response, it is actually sent directly to the TSA Customer Support Manager at the airport your feedback concerns. Upon request, the Customer Service manager will contact you. Click here to read more about the "Got Feedback?" program.

Our officers have a tough job, and they are there to protect you and your family. Everyone at TSA appreciates the support of the traveling public, including those who express their support with their courteous behavior and words of support.

9) Do any members of the Blog team actively perform screening functions? 12 of our readers asked this question.

Not currently. When Bob joined the blog team, he was a Behavior Detection Officer based out of Cincinnati and a former Transportation Security Officer who performed screening duties. Bob eventually came to headquarters as a full-time blog team member. So, while Bob has 5 ½ years experience in various screening functions, he is no longer a TSO/BDO.

While not in a screening function, Jay is a Federal Security Director for an airport in the Midwest. He oversees screening operations at about 10 airports of varying sizes. Also, we had a TSO contribute as a guest blogger and write an article on Checkpoint Evolution.

There are currently many TSOs and other field employees actively involved commenting on the blog, and we appreciate their participation.

We will continue to invite members of the workforce to weigh in on the blog to keep it relevant to what is happening in airports. The blog will improve as we add new folks with various areas of expertise.

8) Why do you have access to my political affiliation? 13 of our readers asked this question.

"It's unequivocally not our policy to use political, religious, or other sensitive personal topics as identity validation. If it happened, it was wrong and will not be repeated." Administrator Kip Hawley

Perhaps you're asking this question because of a recent story about a person who said that their identity was verified at a checkpoint by asking their political affiliation. Early on, there was a case where the operations call center ran a passenger's information through their database (which includes commercial data) for a passenger without ID, and found no significant information to verify their identity. One thing that did come up was political donations for a person with the same name. Political donations are a matter of public record and accessible to anyone with basic Internet search skills. As a last ditch effort to help the passenger, a decision was made to ask them about their political affiliation. It was a mistake.

7) Why has TSA restarted the pointless gate screening? If the sterile area is in fact sterile, there's no need to screen those who have already been screened. 13 of our readers asked this question.

In reality, we do very little screening of bags at gates. We do, however, conduct a great deal of additional security in the sterile area. For instance, we have Behavior Detection Officers and K-9 teams on regular patrols as well as undercover Federal Air Marshals throughout the sterile area. Not to mention video coverage. We want to pick up on people who may be doing surveillance or attempting to prepare for a later attack. We are interested in activity around gates, but also restaurants, Duty Free shops, and other common areas.

As to gate screening itself, we have special purpose checks for specific items and behaviors. We may also have a particular interest in different flights. We layer in some random activities so as not to raise attention when we do have a specific interest. You may see our inspectors with new portable explosives detection devices that go onboard an aircraft ahead of boarding and check employees with access to the aircraft, including catering.

TSA’s overall strategy is to incorporate mobile, unpredictable, intelligence-driven security measures in ways that frustrate a terrorist planner seeking to engineer attacks against an easier, stationary target. We do not, as the question suggests, do gate screening of bags merely to re-do what we already did at the checkpoint.

Click here to watch a short video on gate screening.

6) I had a TSA agent tell me that each airport is free to implement security standards beyond those listed on the TSA site -- meaning that they could restrict items from being allowed in carry-on baggage that are explicitly allowed according to the TSA site. 14 of our readers asked this question.

There is a standard list of prohibited items that is available on our Web site to anybody with an internet connection, including terrorists. Clearly we have to pay attention to those items, since they are obvious tools of would-be attackers.

We cannot, however, fixate on those items and think that if we stop them, we're safe. Terrorists know TSA's standard operating procedures and work on how to engineer around them. Look no further than the August '06 London bomb plot with liquid sports drinks. If those terrorists had made it to the checkpoint, many of the items they were bringing would have been extremely hard to identify.

TSA is moving the focus of our officers from a checklist mentality to an empowered environment where officers use their experience and training -- and trust their instincts. The TSA workforce has screened more than 3 billion people, about half the population of the earth. We have a good handle on what "normal" looks like. Anything out of the "normal" range may get additional scrutiny, whether or not it is on the prohibited items list. That could mean a variety of things from a more thorough physical search to a seemingly casual conversation. It depends on what the anomaly might be. We know that with many layers of security the thinking, engaged and experienced TSO will be the one to stop an attack.

TSA is committed to using the judgment and experience of our officers to keep the security advantage. TSA is embarking on a two-day training for all officers that will tie together the latest intelligence analysis, more advanced explosives detection skills, and ways to engage with passengers in a way that promotes a calmer environment and better security result. It uses the physical checkpoint to our advantage to improve security.

5) Why doesn't TSA consider items being stolen from checked bags a security threat? Dangerous items could just as easily be ADDED to luggage. 15 of our readers asked this question.

We do! We consider every opportunity for someone to get a weapon or a bomb onto a plane and use a variety of methods to ensure there's something in place to mitigate that threat.

Specifically, there are video monitoring systems in places where individuals have access to checked bags, both airline baggage handling areas and TSA inspection stations.
Beyond that, we have a multi-layered approach to security, because if one layer gets breached, another layer or layers can step in to fill the gap. Let's focus on layers that directly affect your question.

TSA does background checks on and issues credentials to all employees who work in the secure area of the airport – which includes people handling baggage. TSA also conducts random employee screening every day in airports to ensure only people with proper and valid credentials get into the secure area.

TSA initiates internal investigations or ‘stings’ if we have a concern. When caught, arrests are made and serious federal charges are brought. Also, behavior detection officers are trained to spot suspicious behavior anywhere in the airport.

It's also important to note that employees who work in the airport often see the same people day in and day out, and know when something doesn't seem right. While they don't always work for TSA, they are another set of eyes and ears keeping watch for your safety.

4) Where is the Privacy Impact Assessment for the form that TSA provides to people who claim to be unable to present credentials at TSA airport checkpoints? 15 of our readers asked this question.

The Privacy Impact Assessment, or PIA, that covers the information collection and handling associated with identity verification is the Operations Center Information Management System PIA. Identity verification is one of several types of information associated with airport security efforts that fall within the coverage of this PIA.

For bonus points, we'll answer another question that some have asked: whether the form itself requires an OMB control number. Since the form entails no burden beyond identifying the individual and home address, it is exempt from Paperwork Reduction Act requirements pursuant to 5 CFR 1320.3(h)(1).

3) Given that it's trivially easy to forge a boarding pass, how does presentation of validated IDs do anything to ensure that people on selectee/no-fly lists don't enter the sterile area? 16 of our readers asked this question.

An excellent question. TSA's document checkers are looking at IDs and boarding passes. They are aware of the techniques that forgers use and are looking out for them. We are working with the airlines both in the U.S. and world-wide on this issue. There are encryption and other methods of validating a boarding pass. Some are sophisticated, some are very low-tech and simple. Some airlines are now using encrypted electronic boarding passes that appear on a passenger's cell phone or PDA. The International Air Transport Association, which secures international cooperation and uniformity in aviation regulations and standards, is moving all of its members to use this technology by the end of 2010.

Even so, it is important to remember that the different layers of security work together. We're not only checking IDs and boarding passes at the checkpoint, we have measures throughout the airport, at the gate, and on the aircraft, that identify someone who may be dangerous.

Lastly, one of the other Top Ten questions dealt with random gate screening, which is another way of closing the loophole. The random check can also be used to ensure additional security measures when our information suggests it is warranted.

2) In the context of ensuring air travel safety, what is the difference between two people, both of whom are willing to cooperate with TSA's invasive interrogations, one of whom politely declines to show ID, the other of whom claims he lost or misplaced his ID? 20 of our readers asked this question.

Bottom line is identity matters. We need to verify who is getting on the plane.
The best and quickest way for us to assure identity is with a photo ID issued by a federal or state government. We work with passengers who have something less than that, including no ID. Most passengers in that situation help us quickly resolve the matter by sharing whatever information they have, sometimes verified through our Ops Center in Virginia. Someone declining to show an ID that they have on them endures a lot of hassle for not much of a point since it is far more intrusive for us to resolve it through the Ops Center than showing a legitimate ID up front. It is only when someone refuses to identify themselves or attempts to use fake ID that we would deny entry to the sterile area based on ID.

Ever since airport security started decades ago, it was based on "things" – making sure a bad thing like a gun or a bomb didn't get on a plane. Problem is, terrorists kept finding new ways to disguise their tools to be almost identical to ordinary objects; most recently, bottles of sports drinks and batteries with explosives inside. They will continue to find more novel threats. That is why the additional layer of identity verification matters more now than ever. Watch lists are a valuable tool in keeping people with known ties to terror plotting off planes.

1) TSA cites 49 C.F.R. § 1540.107 and 1540.105(a)(2) as the law giving them authority to demand identification as a condition of granting access to a sterile area of an airport. 49 C.F.R § 1540.5 appears to limit such passenger screenings to searches for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries as the only requirement for granting access to the sterile area. How does TSA reconcile this conflict? 27 of our readers asked this question.

There is no conflict to reconcile. It is true that 49 C.F.R Section 1540.5 describes screening functions and screening locations in terms of the inspection of individuals and property for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries. However, 49 C.F.R. Section 1540.105(a)(2) doesn't use the word 'screening' at all. Section 1540.105(a)(2) simply states that persons may not enter the sterile area without complying with the systems, measures, or procedures being applied to control access to that area. TSA's identification requirement is one such system, measure or procedure that is used to determine who is permitted to access the sterile area.

By citing 49 C.F.R. § 1540.107 in our original post, we were trying to illustrate one of the ways (and indeed, the most visible way) in which TSA has used its statutory authority to establish security procedures at airports. But, it's important to note that TSA's responsibility for aviation security is not just limited to checkpoint screening. TSA has broad authority to develop policies, strategies, and plans for dealing with the changing threats to aviation security. See, for example, 49 U.S.C. §§ 114(d) and (f) (addressing TSA functions, duties, and powers); id. § 114(h) (addressing notification procedures concerning persons who may pose risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to the airline or passenger safety). This authority is in addition to TSA's responsibility for the screening of passengers and property. See, for example, 49 U.S.C. §§ 114(e) (addressing screening operations), 44901(a) (addressing screening of passengers and property).



EoS Blog Team

Friday, August 1, 2008

"Got Feedback?"

As of today, passenger/airport communications will be turned on its head. We’ve read your comments on the blog regarding checkpoints not having comment cards. We’ve cringed when we read that you were asked for an ID in order to receive a comment card. We’ve seen the oftentimes weak boilerplate letters that go out to passengers from TSA.

Well, in the spirit of striving for improvement today we’re launching the "Got Feedback?" program nationwide at all airports. We’re including a capability for passengers to contact us with very specific questions, comments, complaints, etc.

To get travelers attention, we are strategically placing “Got Feedback?” stickers in highly viewed areas on equipment and tables. The stickers contain the TSA Blog’s address.

When a passenger visits the blog, they’ll see a hyperlinked image of the “Got Feedback?” logo. After clicking on the image, the site will redirect to a map where you can click on the exact airport where you want to leave feedback.

After clicking on a specific airport, an e-mail form will open automatically addressed to that airport’s TSA Customer Support Manager. After submitting, the form will be delivered directly to the Customer Support Manager. The form will be similar to the comment cards that are currently in use.

Customer Support Managers will receive and respond to “Got Feedback?” e-mails for their airport. We are steering towards a more personal response rather than the cold, soulless response of a form letter.

The information the Customer Support Manager receives will be used to not only address concerns, but will also serve as content for local training and shift briefings directly with local TSOs and management.

As an alternative to leaving specific feedback with a Customer Support Managers, a link on the “Got Feedback?” page will be provided to the blog where passengers can also leave general feedback.

Many passengers have asked for a secret shopper type program and that’s basically what this is. We’re really excited about implementing it. We’re only as strong as our weakest link, and this will help us discover those links that need to be polished and repair them.

Got Feedback is not replacing the blog. It is simply allowing passengers to communicate directly with airport Customer Support Managers. Keep using the blog to discuss TSA-wide issues.

Edited at 1600 EDT to add: Coming Monday, look for the answers to your top 10 questions.

EoS Blog Team