Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can I Take Photos at the Checkpoint and Airport?

Unfortunately, there isn't a cookie cutter answer that can be applied to all of our screening locations and airports. It’s important to note that we know there’s a difference between someone taking a casual photo and someone doing surveillance, but if you are taking pictures at or near the checkpoint, don’t be surprised if someone (TSA, airport police, or a curious passenger) asks you what you’re up to.

We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.

However… while the TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances might. Your best bet is to call ahead and see what that specific airport’s policy is.

I suggest you contact the TSA Contact Center.  They will have an answer for you and if they don’t, they can connect you with somebody who does. Of course, if you’re a member of the press, you should contact the TSA Office of Public Affairs.\

I’ve taken photographs in checkpoints, terminals, and on planes and I have never had an issue. I know some of you have and hopefully this information helps you a little. 

Bob Burns 
TSA Blog Team 

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blogger Paul's Visit to the TSIF

What’s a “TSIF” you ask? Well, it’s one of several hundred acronyms I’ve had to learn since I’ve been here—but this one is special. The TSA Systems Integration Facility is a newly renovated 128,000-square-foot test facility located at Ronald Reagan National Airport. Here’s a little tour through the facility. Enjoy!


Blogger Paul
EoS Blog Team

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Traveling With Homemade Gadgets

The internet, as I am sure you all would agree, is a marvelous thing. People from coast to coast and around the world have used it for everything… researching term papers, reading the news, paying bills and even writing blogs. The internet is also a marvelous tool for those looking to save or spend money. These tough economic times have led many passengers to search for discount flights on the Internet and even, as we have learned at TSA, used the Internet to learn to make homemade gadgets. It’s these gadgets that have caused some …. How shall we say, second and third looks at the checkpoint. By second and third looks I’m not talking about just TSA, I’m talking our Bomb Appraisal Officers (BAO) and local bomb squads. In a matter of minutes this morning, Blogger Bob found Internet sites with “how to build” instructions for a desulfator and radio receiver in a common mint tin (a desulfator is used to put high voltage pulses into a battery), a guitar amp out of a cigarette pack, a mint tin made into a guitar and a circuit bender made from an old plastic parts kit. While none of these items are threatening in and of themselves, imagine what a mint tin with wires, batteries and a switch looks like in an x-ray machine. While each of these items gets the award for creativity, it might be a good idea to put these items in your checked baggage or maybe even leave them at home. However, if you have to bring them with you, maybe letting our folks know that you are the master innovator could prevent any unnecessary surprises from occurring. Nonetheless, expect some extra scrutiny… What do I mean by further scrutiny? Yesterday, March 24, an item very similar to those described above, was blown into a zillion pieces in Palm Springs, California, because neither our officers, our BAO or the local bomb squad could determine with 100% certainty the item didn’t pose a threat after seeing it on the x-ray. So, if you are traveling with a homemade charger, amp, desulfator or anything with batteries, screws and wires sticking out of it that could be deemed out of the ordinary, please tell us. It will probably allow us and the local bomb squad to help keep your items in one piece, not a zillion. Probably… Nico - EOS Blog Team 
UPDATE: Based on the comments, Nico & I felt a clarification was needed. This post purposely never mentioned a passenger because the bag was left unattended and there was no passenger available to interview. We're not implying that you cannot travel with these types of items, we're just pointing out that they could be of concern, or possibly even hold you up a little bit. Listen, we think these things are cool too, but this is just a friendly "heads up" and not a threat. Also, explosive detection systems would not identify these types of items in checked baggage, because they aren't explosives. Our checked baggage machines use CT technology and can actually recognize and alarm on potential explosives.  
Blogger Bob EOS Blog Team

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gate Screening

Many travelers have noticed that strange things are afoot at departure gates across the nation. Should you pack your tinfoil hats? Nope… Save them for December 21, 2012 when the Martians attack.

Anybody who keeps up with TSA knows that static security is not our cup of 3.4 oz. tea. We’re constantly evolving in an effort to make things more difficult and unpredictable for those wishing to do us harm. And that’s the case here. Over 2 years ago, we started an employee screening program that included unpredictable gate screening. Just recently, we strengthened our layers of security by increasing the frequency of gate screening. Travelers haven’t seen this much gate activity since TSA rolled out in 2002, so people are taking notice.

In some cases, travelers have become concerned about the safety of their flight after being selected for gate screening. There’s no reason to worry. It’s not being screened due to any specific threats.

Gate screening allows us to screen anybody who has access to the aircraft. Oh yeah, and there are signs at the checkpoint or at the gates informing passengers they may be subjected to gate screening.

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Traveling 101 for Diabetics

I was reading a blog post today from Diabetics Daily and while this issue doesn’t pop up on our blog too often, it's apparently a concern on other diabetes related blogs and message boards.

From Diabetics Daily, Sara Knicks writes:
I just got back from a recent work trip that involved some airlines flights. I have noticed (especially on the message boards) that a lot of diabetics worry about being stopped and forced to endure extra inspections because of their diabetic supplies.

As a Type II Diabetic, I can definitely see why people would be concerned about this.

First and foremost, if you’re concerned about your disability in relation to the screening process, let a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) know what’s going on and what you’re concerned about. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but as a former TSO, I can tell you that the screening of people with disabilities goes much more smoothly if everybody involved knows what to expect.

Also, don't go lettin' the checkpoint get you all hypogleycemic. Be sure to let a TSO know if your sugar is dropping or if you need medical assistance. Tell them what you need.

If you’re concerned about any of your diabetes related items, let the TSO know what you’re traveling with. The following items are permitted for diabetic passengers:

Insulin pump and insulin pump supplies (cleaning agents, batteries, plastic tubing, infusion kit, catheter, and needle); Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin. If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector or Mill with your insulin pump, notify the TSO that you are wearing an insulin pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead. Advise the Security Officer that the insulin pump cannot be removed because it is inserted with a catheter (needle) under the skin.

Insulin and insulin loaded dispensing products (vials or box of individual vials, jet injectors, biojectors, epipens, infusers, and preloaded syringes; Insulin in any form or dispenser must be clearly identified.

Unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin or other injectable medication; lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, alcohol swabs, meter-testing solutions; Urine ketone test strips
Glucagon emergency kit;

Unlimited number of used syringes when transported in Sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container. Sharps disposal containers or similar hard-surface disposal container for storing used syringes and test strips.

You have the option of requesting a visual inspection of your insulin and diabetes associated supplies.

Be sure to check out another blog post titled “Diabetes and the TSA.” A passenger named “James” writes about his experiences traveling with his insulin pump. You can also read more about traveling with other disabilities at TSA.gov.

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Interview with Blogger Bob

Steve Radick recently interviewed me for his Social Media Strategery blog. (The check is in the mail)

If you're interested in getting an insider’s look at the history of TSA's Evolution of Security blog, I strongly suggest you check out:

An Interview with Blogger Bob from TSA’s Evolution of Security Blog.

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Lotion is designed to keep you smooth, but apparently not smooth enough to fool our Millimeter Wave (MMW) machines. Recently, a passenger concealed a 4 oz. bottle of lotion on their person for the sole reason that it was expensive and they didn’t want to lose it.

Of course, many of you are saying, “Thank the heavens for the TSA. Without them, a harmless bottle of lotion would have made it onto an airplane. “

While the sarcasm is expected, what you don’t know is our intelligence has shown us that terrorists with dry flaky skin are unable to fulfill their missions. So it’s vital to keep all lotions off of airplanes.

I kid, I kid, but on a serious note, what if it wasn’t lotion? What if it was liquid explosives, or a block of plastic explosives?

The success story here is not that we kept a bottle of lotion off of a plane, but we found an intentionally hidden item on a passenger. We found a hidden item and knew exactly where it was without having the passenger undergo a hand-wanding or patdown.

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Day In The Life Of: Transportation Security Inspectors (TSI)

In an effort to explain the many different positions we have in the field, I've asked a Transportation Security Inspector (TSI) from Cincinnati to talk a little about his position.

Jim is from the Aviation side of Inspections, so keep in mind that TSA has a cadre of inspectors in the field. We’ll highlight their jobs in the future as well.

Now, the next time you see the folks in the fancy "TSA Inspector" jackets, you'll know what they do. ~ Bob

When most people think about TSA, the dedicated men and women performing the duties of the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) come to mind; and why not? It is by far the most visible public component of TSA and usually the first thing we see as we approach the checkpoint. Much like the many layers that make up TSA’s security “system of systems”, other components of TSA are tasked with duties not so visible to the traveling public, but are just as fundamental to securing our nation’s transport systems. Today I will discuss one of those components...TSA’s Transportation Security Inspectors, or TSIs.

As with most things governmental, regulations abound! Especially with respect to airline operations, airport operations and the wide variety of security programs that these entities adopt and implement. That’s where the TSI comes in. I’m an aviation inspector, so I’ll refrain from commentary on the cargo inspection program or the surface (rail and mass transit) inspection program. The duties and responsibilities of a TSI are quite varied due in no small part to an industry that can be complex, market driven, evolving and critical to our nation’s economy. Bear with me as I reach deep into my mind-numbing facts hat and reference the actual regulations that drive what TSIs actually inspect. Our beloved Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) has many titles and parts, but for the aviation TSI, it’s all about 49 CFR part 1500 and the relevant subchapters. Within that body of work, those who find themselves regulated by TSA will know what is expected of them as well as what can be expected from us. If you find yourself unable to sleep on a given night, look them up on the web at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ under the executive resources portion.

So, what does it all mean? TSIs in the field conduct comprehensive inspections, assessments and investigations of regulated entities to determine how well they comply with the regulations as well as identifying areas of weakness that need to be fixed. Exactly how is it done? Well, TSIs will use a variety of methods to determine compliance which may include surveillance, interview, document review and/or testing. But it doesn’t end there. Those findings are archived so we can get a snapshot of trouble areas that are common and adjust our security priorities to meet those needs.

In addition to our normal inspection workload, TSIs conduct investigations into alleged violations of security regulations at the screening checkpoint. Normally this would be the result of a person attempting to bring something prohibited through the screening checkpoint – things like guns, explosives and incendiaries. On occasion, and it doesn’t happen all too often, someone will cause a fracas at the checkpoint that rises to level of interference with the screening process. When that happens, the TSI will investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged violation and determine what enforcement action is appropriate. An enforcement action may be administrative in nature (warning notice), or result in a monetary fine (civil penalty). However, if the investigation demonstrates that no violation occurred, the matter will be closed with no action and a letter advising the person of that determination will be mailed out. I could go on and on regarding enforcement actions because those can be thorny and it doesn’t simply end with a fine because the TSI recommends it. There is a process and I will defer to our legal team regarding the steps that it entails.

Lastly, TSIs conduct outreach activity with our industry partners and local/Federal agencies in order to foster that open relationship and share information critical to our mutual success. There is more to a TSI’s job than what I have written about today, but my post is getting long so I’ll wrap it up. Perhaps I can post another time with some more riveting TSI tidings. Until then, travel safe and thanks for checking out our blog!

Guest Blogger


Monday, March 2, 2009

Frozen Monkey Heads & Other Fun Stuff

I saw this story today and thought it would be a fun link to share with our readers. Among the usual pocket knives, lotions and bottles of water, our officers often find some, well… not so usual things.

Check out this Daily News article on the weird and wacky stuff that’s found during searches by TSA and Customs at JFK.

I encourage any of our officers that are reading to chime in and talk about some of the out of the ordinary things you’ve found.

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team