Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Missing Crematory Remains

Many stories are circulating that TSA lost crematory remains that were checked as baggage at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After working with the airline, TSA was able to determine the bags belonging to the passenger in question were never handled or opened by TSA officers. The bags were screened by our automated inline baggage system and sent directly to the airline. Each bag has an ID number and the computer logs every bag that alarms and is sent to the resolution room for secondary screening. The bags in question did not alarm and therefore went directly to the airline..

To date, the family has not contacted TSA.TSA has made attempts to contact the family and will continue to try to do so. TSA regrets the family has to deal with this during their time of mourning.

The guidelines for traveling with crematory remains are correct and up to date on TSA.gov.

Bob

Eos Blog Team

104 comments:

RB said...

I really hope what you posted is correct.

I have read a report that a TSA Inspected love note was found in the bag.

Is TSA disputing that report?

Anonymous said...

I am torn. Some of you peopke seem pretty intelligent and have some insightful criticism, but on the other hand, you are so quick and naive to believe anything any news rag or disgruntled flyer has to say. I think you are all smart enough to not believe everything the papers tell you, but you are also smart enough to use this easy ammo for your easy big as a barn target. Shame on you. Shame.

Earl Pitts said...

A better question, RB, is would TSA admit it and make it right even if it was responsible (which I think is probably the case)?

TSA's investigation probably went something like this:

Screeners who worked the bag room at the time are gathered together.

TSA Investigator: Did any of you remove the remains?

Screener A: No.
Screener B: No.
Screener C: No.

TSA Investigator: Anyone see the ashes?

All: No.

TSA Investigator: Blame it on the baggage handlers then. I hope none of you left a love note in there ...

Even with as bad as baggage handlers can be, I see NO reason why one of them would touch something like that. No value in it.

If it's a mistake, TSA, own up to it. Is it too much to ask? Can you ever admit you're wrong? Can you let go of the Bush administration's refusal to make mistakes?

Earl

Earl Pitts said...

Anonymous: Can you tell me what motivation a baggage handler would have to remove ashes? Conversely, considering TSA freaked out over a bag of dirt at PTI recently, seeing them freak out over ashes is plausible.

When incompetence is endemic and part of the culture of an organization, such things like this are easy to believe, don't you think? Especially when it fits the pattern of incompetence demonstrated over the past.

For the rest of it ... well, if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...

Earl

Anonymous said...

Let's see. We're counting on the record-keepers at TSA to have accurately accounted for that piece of checked luggage on a March 28 flight out of SEA.

Meanwhile, on a LAS-BOS red-eye, a Marine correctly declared a gun in his checked baggage, then was arrested in BOS because TSA temporarily misplaced his paperwork for declaring the weapon.

TSA is asserting it never touched the bag with the urn because that's what its paperwork says. They concede they have not contacted the person who claimed to have found a TSA calling card in the bag with the emptied-out urn, to check her story.

I think I'll wait and see whether TSA's story on the paperwork holds up, or turns out (like the Boston Marine story) to be a case of "ooops, the paperwork was temporarily misfiled."

Earl Pitts said...

Bob: "Each bag has an ID number and the computer logs every bag that alarms and is sent to the resolution room for secondary screening."

So Bob, if this is true, why is it so hard to identify thieves and accept responsibility for theft when TSA leaves a love note? It shouldn't be hard to figure out who was in the bag room if it's logged.

At the very least, TSA should at least be able to determine one of their guys is guilty and pay the claim even if they can't get them to fess up.

Or is it still easier to blame the baggage handler?

Earl

RB said...

Anonymous said...
I am torn. Some of you peopke seem pretty intelligent and have some insightful criticism, but on the other hand, you are so quick and naive to believe anything any news rag or disgruntled flyer has to say. I think you are all smart enough to not believe everything the papers tell you, but you are also smart enough to use this easy ammo for your easy big as a barn target. Shame on you. Shame.
.......................
I take it your remark was directed toward myself. That's fine.

I asked TSA a question respectfully.

If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time you would know that TSA is pretty loose with the truth, or at least TSA's version of the truth.

So why would a news source print this story unless they had some indication that the story had merit?

http://tinyurl.com/dhdgtb

Given the information posted by TSA on this blog in the past months I feel the credibility of Washington News is the winner this time around.

RB said...

If TSA didn't handle the bag with the remains did they find the dirt at PTI?

Anonymous said...

So when will the TSA actually secure the baggage? Should we all start doing what they suggest in the UAE, which is wrapping our checked baggage in packing wrap?

Abelard said...

And if the woman in the story produces the TSA love note...?

Chris Boyce said...

Bob,

Your "explanation" just doesn't pass the giggle test. Think about it for a minute... If you had been these victims, their phone would be ringing off the hook with reporters, lawyers, airline officials, etc. This doesn't even count the amount of people showing up at their house. I seriously doubt they answer any call from anyone they can't identify on their Caller ID.

Claiming the TSA tried and failed to contact these people, with all the personal information you already have on us every time we log on to an airline web site, let alone fly, insults our collective intelligence.

Blowing off any acknowledgement that there was a TSA baggabe search note in the bag insults our collective intelligence.

Admit it: The TSA has no interest in resolving this with the family. Simply be professional and admit that the TSA is hunkering down expecting this to go away in a week or so.

A TSA official -- not a public affairs dweeb -- needs to make a personal visit to this family and leave no stone unturned to find out the truth.

Anonymous said...

OK let me get this straight the comment about the TSA being loose wiht the truth but the media is n ot loose with the truth..Why would the paper print a story that is not true..I don't know maybe to cause what is happening here..
It seems to me that the family here if they indeed had lost something as iprtant as the ream,ins of a loved one there would be a heck of alot of media coverage and why hav we not heard form the family again on this subject if indeed there was a "love" note in the bag...Besides I can produce "love" notes from times when I had a previous bag checked and saved the note..Can you say frivilous law suit

Anonymous said...

Do you keep the images? If so, did the image for ID number #whatever show anything in the urn?

I realize that TSA takes no responsibility for security outside their checkpoints...

Anonymous said...

I travel all the time and I have a handful of TSA love notes (thank you BUR). I think it’s quite possibly could be an old note. Honestly how many other frequent flyers don’t have at least one or two. Now as for the Marine who's paperwork was loss; I’ve had my bag loss, headed down to the baggage office with my claim check and they tried to tell me I never had any bags. So I can believe they could forget to file some declaration paperwork.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, on a LAS-BOS red-eye, a Marine correctly declared a gun in his checked baggage, then was arrested in BOS because TSA temporarily misplaced his paperwork for declaring the weapon."

as for the marine no, it was just not his weapons, he had explosive materials also in his checked baggage including live detonators.

also if he did correctly declare his weapon, the airlines would have record of the declared item, it was not just the gun that got him arressted it was the explosive material as well as not properly packaged rounds of ammunition

-BOS TSO

Anonymous said...

Okay, I do not ever go along with the constant negativety against the TSA. I am TSA and therefor like to stick up for myself and co-workers.
Now the first thing that I noticed is that in the news reports it stated that "there was a standard notice from the TSA that her bag underwent inspection, but no word on what happened to the ashes".

http://www.nwcn.com/statenews/washington/stories/NW_041409WAB-missing-remains-seatac-KC.d740c51e.html

If there is a note in the bag, then someone had to put it there. Why would she make that up?

RB said...

Bob: "To date, the family has not contacted TSA.TSA has made attempts to contact the family and will continue to try to do so. TSA regrets the family has to deal with this during their time of mourning."

..........................
If the story has merit and this family retained a lawyer I would think the advice would be to say nothing to anyone about the subject.

We ask questions of the TSA all the time and they ignore us, their "customers"!

George said...

@Anonymous, April 21, 2009 10:34 PM: Some of you peopke seem pretty intelligent and have some insightful criticism, but on the other hand, you are so quick and naive to believe anything any news rag or disgruntled flyer has to say.I don't think this reflects naivety on our part as much as the TSA's lack of credibility and competence. The TSA may or may not have been connected with the loss of the ashes, but their track record and reputation make news accounts implicating them entirely plausible. The news reports may not be believable, but neither are statements from the TSA. I don't think we'll ever know the truth about this.

I also wouldn't ascribe any significance to the (possible) fact that the family never contacted the TSA. The family may well have contacted the TSA, but whoever they initially contacted either ignored it, told the family to contact the airline because the TSA isn't responsible, or failed to escalate the report up the chain of command. While I'm sure the TSA has (SSI?) procedures to follow in cases like this, it's entirely possible that the procedure wasn't followed and/or the person the family contacted wasn't properly trained in the procedures. That happens far too often with TSOs, who don't seem to be accountable at all when that happens, so it could well happen with other TSA employees. That may not be the case here, but when the TSA clearly is at fault their standard procedure is to spin, deflect, cover up, mislead, and even blame the passenger.

Bob is probably telling us the truth as he and whoever investigated this case know it. But just because there's no record of the family contacting the TSA doesn't mean they didn't. For that matter, the family may not have contacted the TSA because they knew it would be pointless.

Mark said...

If there is a note in the bag, then someone had to put it there. Why would she make that up?She could've made it up to get publicity, or she's someone looking for a quick buck.

Like many others have said, I have tons of "love notes" from trips. I do think the TSA should start putting some sort of identification on the notes so it could be proven when/where it was put in. That would make it easier to determine if it belonged to the bag in question.

RB said...

Mark said...
If there is a note in the bag, then someone had to put it there. Why would she make that up?She could've made it up to get publicity, or she's someone looking for a quick buck.

Like many others have said, I have tons of "love notes" from trips. I do think the TSA should start putting some sort of identification on the notes so it could be proven when/where it was put in. That would make it easier to determine if it belonged to the bag in question.

April 22, 2009 12:07 PM

................................
Do you really think TSA will do anything that would lead to accountability?

A date, time, place and inspector would indicate that TSA has been in someones luggage.

I don't think they would ever agree to being held to that standard.

Got to maintain the deniability position.

AeroTruth said...

As an employee in the Airline industry...I can say that I have seen TSA's procedures in place which protect their employees as well as the traveling public's property. Additionally, I have been stopped at a random screening conducted by TSA for it own employees, while I leaving the bag well area in the Airport mentioned. As an insider, I believe it is a shame that TSA is being given the once over when the contracted baggage workers have free access to the traveling publics property, unattended, for great lengths of time. I have heard many stories about these same employees bragging about theft. I ride the bus right along with many of these employees, and I have not only witnessed their overt rudeness, I have also witnessed their possession of very high-priced techie gadgets. I know I cannot afford these devices. I have seen the TSA employees' duty stations, and I have seen firsthand their procedures. I think it is time to ask the Airlines..."What they are doing to protect a passenger's property." BTW - I went on several Airline websites and found links which take the passenger directly to TSA, if they needed to report a lost item. I believe this is unacceptable. These are OUR tax dollars. Please explain where the Airlines responsibility is?
Can we remember when an Alaska Airlines contracted worker hit an Airplane and never disclosed this information. This could have cost lives. Now is the time to say "Enough" and probe this ongoing problem. Our country is in the state it is in, due to greed. I cannot fathom turning my head when I know someone is stealing who works for me...and then sending them to the government to pay the tab. The almighty dollar is more important that integrity. I know it is a high horse...is anyone man/woman enough to try and climb on?
Please justify how blaming TSA is resolving anything. Furthermore, I wish the family great peace at this time.

Anonymous said...

We ask questions of the TSA all the time and they ignore us, their "customers"!
___________________________________

CORRECTION:
passengers

RB said...

Please justify how blaming TSA is resolving anything. Furthermore, I wish the family great peace at this time.

April 22, 2009 1:38 PM

..................................
TSA is charged with ensuring contraband is not loaded on aircraft through checked baggage.

TSA's position seems to be that once inspected they have no remaining responsibility.

I would disagree with that position. If the baggage is not maintained in a secure environment from the time the traveler hands over custody to TSA and the property is returned to the traveler by TSA then we all know that other people can place contraband in a bag as well as remove an item.

TSA is charged with this function yet refuses to live up to their obligations.

In short baggage must be maintain in a secure manner, either by seal or other means.

Al Ames said...

AeroTruth:

I accept that baggage handlers are a problem. It's why we want our bags to be secure. Problem is, TSA makes this difficult to do.

We can't effectively lock our bags due to TSA regulations. True, we can put TSA locks on them, but the locks are not effective when they're cut off. I've seen it many times with TSA locks and have had it happen to me, even after I've told TSA that I have TSA locks on my bags. And of course, the friendly TSA "we were here" love note was found in all cases that it's happened to me and my coworkers.

TSA doesn't seem to understand that if something can be removed out of a bag, something can just as easily be put IN the bag. That is a security risk, a serious one, that TSA doesn't take seriously. On this blog, several people have proposed rather inexpensive but effective solutions, such as Trollkiller's strapping system, where TSA could strap the bags after they're inspected. Not only would this protect TSA from liability and accusation, but it would also be a telltale sign that someone AFTER TSA got into the bag.

What was removed from the bag wasn't a high-tech techie gadget. I don't doubt that baggage handling thieves take this stuff. What I see here, though, is something that has no real value (someone's ashes) to a would-be thief that it shouldn't even appear on their radar.

However, as you can see in this article, that TSA thought harmless dirt was a bomb. So, I hope how you can see the logic in looking at TSA on this.

You're right that airlines do bear responsibility for theft: they shouldn't be employing thieves. However, the blame for allowing stuff like this to happen really falls on both the airlines and TSA, though I believe TSA bears more burden because of their mandates. If we could lock our bags, TSA would close this hole. If TSA was interested in security, it would see that securing the bags is real security. If the airlines cared, they wouldn't employee thieves.

However, both the TSA and airlines have an out: blame the other. So the customer loses something of value while neither party takes responsibility.

And AeroTruth, if the TSA love not was in the bag as was claimed, would the logical conclusion not point to TSA? The evidence may be circumstantial, but a lot of times, juries convict on that and the convictions are upheld.

And honestly, in you're writing, I had a hard time telling whether you were talking about baggage handlers or TSA screeners. Fact is, what you described describes both sets accurately.

Al

Al Ames said...

Anonymous: I pay for TSA's service thru a fee on my ticket and as a part of my taxes.

I am a customer in every sense of the word.

Al

Enough is Enough said...

Personally, if it had been the remains of one of my parents that were lost I wouldn't be contacting the TSA directly. They would hear from me through an attorney, probably at the time that some decently sized lawsuit were filed against them, the airline, and the airport(s) involved during the loss. Sue them all and let the judge sort them out.

I find it plausible that TSA may have tried to contact the person as well. But I ask all of you to consider this: would YOU answer a phone call if the caller ID read "TSA"? I certainly know I wouldn't, except to pick up the receiver and shout a few obscenities at the person on the other side of the line.

Personally, I believe that the TSA is likely responsible for this loss. And I also believe that the TSA will never own up to it. The culture of this organization won't allow it, as it would (1) be admitting that a mistake was made, and (2) be accepting responsibility for said mistake. Both of these are not part of TSA's culture in the least, and probably never will be.

As long as we have an organization that makes up rules as they go along and cites moogily-googily mystical SSI rules as an excuse for their ad-hoc nature we will not have an organization that admits the slightest bit of fault or accepts the least bit of accountability.

The Obama Administration promised us change; how about seeing some of it with the TSA? Either reform the organization and reinvent it from the ground-up as something that actually makes flying safer, or treat it like a cancerous growth and gut it from our landscape altogether.

Far too much money is being wasted to confiscate baggies full of dirt, charge good Marines with crimes they have not committed, steal cremated remains of dead relatives, and infect the flying public with scabies at airports.

Trollkiller said...

Times like this, I miss Kip. There I said it.

Miller said...

Didn't alarm? Cremains are pretty dense when you consider that they are the stuff bones are made of. I suspect the bag alarmed, was inspected and the cremains dumped out as being 'suspicious' under whatever the SOP was at the time.

As to frequent fliers, yep, we get a collection of the love notes from TSA. This might have been just a once in a lifetime flight however.

GSOLTSO said...

RB said - TSA's position seems to be that once inspected they have no remaining responsibility.

I would disagree with that position. If the baggage is not maintained in a secure environment from the time the traveler hands over custody to TSA and the property is returned to the traveler by TSA then we all know that other people can place contraband in a bag as well as remove an item.

So are you saying that we should have the airlines fire all of the baggage handlers and employ another 40,000 to 75,000 persons to take over this function? I am certain that would go over really well with the airline industry, firing half of the industry work force and replacing them with personnel they have no control over. Not something I would recommend at this point, the economy is bad enough as it is. TSA is responsible for the baggage from the time it is given to TSA until it is given to the baggage handlers. There are some areas that have CCTV that allow the local TSA or LEO to monitor the areas for the baggage handlers, but not all. I understand the desire by the public to have the CCTV and additional personnel to watch over all the areas that the bags go through, but it is economically not feasible. I would love nothing more than to have 40 cameras watching me in the bag room, on the checkpoint, etc, but it just is not something that can be funded at this time and is not likely to be funded in the future.

West
EOS Blog Team

RB said...

So are you saying that we should have the airlines fire all of the baggage handlers and employ another 40,000 to 75,000 persons to take over this function?

West
EOS Blog Team

April 22, 2009 6:10 PM

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Not what I said at all West. I would think that a highly trained TSO like yourself could come up with a couple of plans that did not require firing the baggage handlers. But I forgot you are TSA!

How about after inspection the bags are sealed.

How about TSA surveillance when bags are being handled by other parties.

An effective video security system.

Since air travel is off by more than 10% it would seem that TSA must have some excess manpower that could be used.

Along with screening all cargo that is loaded on passenger aircraft as already mandated by Congress.

You guys have the manpower to interfere with a person traveling with $4700, don't tell me you can't come up with a method of doing one of the core jobs actually assigned to TSA, keeping contraband from getting on aircraft via checked baggage.

Al Ames said...

So West, after TSA "relinquishes" control of the bag, is it or is it not in a sterile area?

If it is in a sterile area, then not having cameras working to maintain that sterility implies that the area isn't sterile and in fact, our bags are exposed to security threats that can then be loaded on a plane.

If the ramp isn't considered a sterile area and anything can be added before the bag gets on a plane, what's the point of bag screening then>

Please don't insult us with the "it's not economically feasible" line. TSA has wasted tons of money on new uniforms that didn't need to be bought, virtual strip search machines, shoe and liquid carnivals, and so forth that aren't really economically feasible either. TSA doesn't seem to have a problem wasting money on things that don't improve security. So why is something that actually WOULD improve security poo-pooed as being economically infeasible and probably a waste of money.

Both points are intellectually bankrupt.

Al

Jim Huggins said...

West writes:

TSA is responsible for the baggage from the time it is given to TSA until it is given to the baggage handlers.TSA is also responsible for a policy that actively discourages passengers from locking their luggage with private locks, disclaiming all responsibility if a passenger does so:

If you decide to lock your checked baggage and TSA cannot open your checked baggage through other means, then the locks may have to be broken. [...] TSA is not liable for damage caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes.There would be less opportunity for those with malicious intent (regardless of employer) to take items from baggage if this policy were not in place. TSA's policy is thus a contributory factor to such thefts.

So are you saying that we should have the airlines fire all of the baggage handlers and employ another 40,000 to 75,000 persons to take over this function?No; there's no guarantee that the new hires would be any more honorable than the current hires.

At least two practical suggestions have been previously offered:

(a) Use an in-line baggage strapping system to provide a tamper-resistant seal on all bags after TSA inspection is completed.

(b) Redesign security procedures to allow passengers to be present when their bags are screened, and then to lock their bags with a lock of their choice at the conclusion of that screening.

Yes, both options cost money, which would ultimately be paid by passengers by way of fees and/or taxes. But the current situation also costs passengers money in terms of lost items --- assuming the items are replaceable. (No amount of money can replace this grieving family's loss.)

And, as others have noted numerous times, such systems would provide added security to the overall system. If someone with malicious intent can remove items from passenger luggage, they can also place items into passenger luggage. It is in TSA's best interest to know that the luggage they have screened for dangerous items remains free of those items, even after they leave TSA's control.

Anonymous said...

RB said...
I really hope what you posted is correct.

I have read a report that a TSA Inspected love note was found in the bag.

Is TSA disputing that report?

April 21, 2009 9:54 PM

Many times people leave the love notes in their bags from previous trips. I guess they think that if theres a inspection letter in the bag that means TSA doesnt need to search it.

Also, who the hell would steal an urn? Are they selling good on ebay?

TSO-Joe said...

I don't know about other airports, but at MSP, a quasi-state agency runs/owns the airport and the airlines rent their space. They get pretty antsy when TSA shows up to tell them what they can/cannot/have to do in thier space. TSO-Joe

Anonymous said...

And West did rant:

So are you saying that we should have the airlines fire all of the baggage handlers and employ another 40,000 to 75,000 persons to take over this function? I am certain that would go over really well with the airline industry, firing half of the industry work force and replacing them with personnel they have no control over.
Actually, I do believe the point of the original poster was that the TSA needs to establish some manner of point-to-point command and control over checked baggage, or at least some reasonably practical measure to prevent the clandestine manipulation of 'previously screened' luggage.

A perfect, and extremely cheap, example of how to do this can be found at the Dubai International Airports baggage hall. A passenger can get their bag wrapped in cellophane in manner that makes any and all baggage tampering self-evident. Another example of how this could be accomplished is the previously mentioned strapping solution. Of course, solutions this simple and cost-effective will never be implemented by the TSA due to the endemic not-invented-here-itis infecting the upper levels of management. No, the TSA would much rather practice security-theater instead of actually improving security.

The only way that a passenger will be able to ensure that their baggage is secure from TSO/Baggage Handler mistreatment is to avail themselves on services such as United Airlines 'door-to-door' baggage delivery service agreement with FedEx.

Please extend a BZ to the Portland Domestic TSO's. I was amazed at how smoothly and efficiently they processed last Saturday's morning rush. They could teach SEA a thing or two about crowd control and opening more cattle lanes when needed.

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...


"...So are you saying that we should have the airlines fire all of the baggage handlers and employ another 40,000 to 75,000 persons to take over this function?..."


How about proper surveillance and supervision?

How about screening workers entering and or exiting?

How about securing luggage by wrapping?

I'm sure there are hundreds if not thousands of other suggestions that would help that don't require TSA taking over all baggage handling.

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
RB said - TSA's position seems to be that once inspected they have no remaining responsibility.

I would disagree with that position. If the baggage is not maintained in a secure environment from the time the traveler hands over custody to TSA and the property is returned to the traveler by TSA then we all know that other people can place contraband in a bag as well as remove an item.
............................

So are you saying that we should have the airlines fire all of the baggage handlers and employ another 40,000 to 75,000 persons to take over this function? I am certain that would go over really well with the airline industry, firing half of the industry work force and replacing them with personnel they have no control over.
.............................

West, a simple easily implemented program of screening all people who enter or leave the secure areas of airports would certainly mitigate the problem of TSO's, baggage handlers and others from bringing in or removing contraband, drugs, weapons, or stolen goods from the airports property.

It's just not that hard!

What is lacking is TSA's true dedication to their mission. It is easier to harass travelers than to provide effective security programs.

How can you take a position of knowing checked baggage is at a significant risk of tampering and not caring enough to take steps to stop this avenue of risk?

If current TSA policy creates a known security lapse giving opportunity to bad actors while TSA takes no action to manage that risk then TSA is derelict in its obligations to the public and it's senior staff should be held legally accountable for their lack of action if an incident occurs.

If TSA cannot keep contraband off of airplanes then what purpose do you serve?

What travelers see is really just a big show to instill confidence yet little real security is being provided all the while people are being harassed for simple things like carrying $4,700 or having ice packs to cool a babies milk, neither of which threaten aviation safety in any way.

Since 9/11 no attempts to commandeer or to high-jack a commercial aircraft has been reported in the United States.

So it would seem like TSA is a total waste of resources regardless of how much theft of checked luggage is happening.

On one hand TSA's policies create an opportunity to have contraband introduced to aircraft while on the other hand citizens are abused because TSO's can make up any rules they like at checkpoints.

Is there any wonder why TSA is so poorly regarded?

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...
I would disagree with that position. If the baggage is not maintained in a secure environment from the time the traveler hands over custody to TSA and the property is returned to the traveler by TSA then we all know that other people can place contraband in a bag as well as remove an item.

Avoids the lawsuit, bomb blows up after cleared and yet they climb on airplanes
And here we have the crux of the problem, the TSA requires that we leave our luggage unlocked or use a flimsy TSA approved lock, but if anything happens after inspection it’s the airlines fault. At which point the airlines blame the TSA their policy. This is the same semantics behind the “we don’t confiscate it’s your choice to surrender something” mentality. This way the TSA avoids having to take any responsibility for its actions or finding solutions for the problems these policies create.

There are at two low cost solutions I am aware of to resolve this, one of which is Trollkiller’s strapping system. As long as the TSA continues claiming that the choice is up to the passenger or blaming the airlines they can only expect things to get worse.

Earl PItts said...

Anonymous: "Many times people leave the love notes in their bags from previous trips. I guess they think that if theres a inspection letter in the bag that means TSA doesnt need to search it."

Many times they don't either. When I find a love note in my bags, it's right on top and one of the first things out of my bag when I unpack.

I think it's a lot more likely that it's a fresh love note than an old one.

"Also, who the hell would steal an urn? Are they selling good on ebay?"

It wasn't the urn that was stolen. It was still there - the ashes were dumped.

Again, if TSA can freak out over a bag of dirt as GSO (West, do you have a comment on that? - it just happened at your airport), I find it likely that they could dump ashes.

RB said...

Is TSA disputing that report?

April 21, 2009 9:54 PM

Many times people leave the love notes in their bags from previous trips. I guess they think that if theres a inspection letter in the bag that means TSA doesnt need to search it.

Also, who the hell would steal an urn? Are they selling good on ebay?

April 22, 2009 8:47 PM

........................
Ok, but is TSA disputing that report?

Question asked and not answered as is typical.

RB said...

TSO-Joe said...
I don't know about other airports, but at MSP, a quasi-state agency runs/owns the airport and the airlines rent their space. They get pretty antsy when TSA shows up to tell them what they can/cannot/have to do in thier space. TSO-Joe

April 22, 2009 9:11 PM

............................

Are you stating that this "quasi-state agency" trumps TSA security procedures?

TSORon said...

Al Ames said...
“If it is in a sterile area, then not having cameras working to maintain that sterility implies that the area isn't sterile and in fact, our bags are exposed to security threats that can then be loaded on a plane.”

Al, sterility is maintained by controlling access to the sterile areas. That means either live person security checks or pass-card and code access. Once the bags are out of the TSA’s hands they are passed to the airlines baggage handling systems (be that human or mechanical), and eventually loaded on an aircraft. That entire time they remain in a sterile area and the only persons with access are those allowed into the sterile areas. There is the occasional violation n of the secure areas, but its fairly rare.

TSORon said...

An Anonymous poster said:
“There are at two low cost solutions I am aware of to resolve this, one of which is Trollkiller’s strapping system.”

I suppose that “low cost” is a matter of perspective. The strapping idea is indeed one way to increase bag security, but then again we are talking about more than 200,000,000 bags a year. Not to mention the cost of the banding systems, the TSO time needed to band each and every single bag, and the fact that many bags or checked items do not lend themselves to this type of security system due to shape or construction.

Anonymous said...

Why not just strap the bags yourselves?

TSA will only open the bag if it alarms. Thus, don't put anything in that will alarm, strap your bag and go.

If it arrives without a strap and you did not get called back tot he counter, someone other than TSA was in it.

Anonymous said...

Regarding RB's comments: Even the CIA and the Pentagon are now releasing formerly top secret memos about their abusive policies and practices when waging the War on Terror. So maybe it's now time to shine some light on the TSA, and see exactly what muck of incompetence and abuse has accumulated behind their SSI brick wall.

After a thorough review and housecleaning, perhaps we can have confidence that the TSA is executing its mission effectively while subjecting the overwhelmining innocent traveling public to the minimum necessary inconvenience. But as long as they insist on maintaining the pretense of being incapable of error while operating behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, we will have good reason to doubt the TSA's effectiveness and incompetence. And we will have even more reason to doubt them if they refuse to acknowledge (let alone correct) flaws and problems that are visible and obvious, and that continue to generate "incidents."

RB said...

Could this happen???

TSA’s GRAND PLAN FOR AIRCRAFT SECURITY
I can see this scenario playing out;

Secretary DHS thank you for appearing before the Senate Anti-Terrorism Committee today.
AS you know on July 4 last year Flight XXX exploded while on approach to DCA. All 190 crew and passengers aboard the aircraft plus 50 people on the ground were killed.
Yes Senator, all of DHS is aware an offer our condolences to the families of the victims.After extensive investigation the conclusion of the investigators is that an explosive in a passengers bag caused the accident. We have endeavored to determine how the device was introduced to the aircraft.

TSA is a activity under your Department, correct?

Yes SenatorTSA is responsible to keep explosives off of aircraft, correct?

Yes SenatorTSA inspects all luggage placed on aircraft, correct?

Yes SenatorThis luggage is maintained in a secure manner after inspection, correct?

Well, not exactly Senator. TSA does inspect all of the luggage but after inspection we turn it over to the airline or airport employees to transport to the aircraft. We can’t be responsible for what happens after our inspection.Secretary DHS, I would assume that all people who handle this luggage have been screened for items that cannot be taken into the secure area of the airport, correct?

Well, Senator, we don’t use the same screening standards for our people and other airport workers as we do for people who actually fly on the planes.

All of the airport workers including TSA employees have had Back Ground checks. So we only feel a random screening method is needed.
So Secretary DHS, it is entirely possible for any of the people in the secure area except for the passengers to have introduced a weapon or explosive to an aircraft is that correct?

That would be correct, Senator……………..

TSO Rachel said...

I think that strapping system is a brilliant idea. I have heard way too many stories of stolen items, and when the TSA video footage was reviewed, the TSO did not take it... so guess who probably did. I don't know why they don't use it, and haven't taken you up on it. Bravo for suggesting it. IT would take a lot of the pressure off of us, and allow the public to trust us (at least a tiny bit).

GSOLTSO said...

RB said - "How about TSA surveillance when bags are being handled by other parties.

An effective video security system.

Since air travel is off by more than 10% it would seem that TSA must have some excess manpower that could be used."

I agree that surveillance would be an effective deterrent if the manpower were available. The CCTV set ups mentioned are an excellent system of prevention and allow the ability to cull thieves and slugs out of the system. I have pointed out numerous times that I LOVE the idea of cameras on me at work (for my protection, as well as the passengers protection). I have also pointed out the monumental cost that would be involved with implementing that type of system. If you can get the program through the Congress and signed into law, I will help them install the system.

I love the banding idea, it would give us the opportunity to effectively seal the bag after screening. I would love to see this sent down to us next week... Once again if you can get the funding sent down through Congress that would be most excellent, I would help install that free of charge too.

I notice that people keep writing about the abundance of TSO's that we have based on the airline industry being down about 10%, at my airport, I don't see it. After the new positions that have been created between BDO's, TAI's and the control centers being spun up nationwide we (at my airport at least) do not have an overabundance of TSO's.

That was not really a rant, you should see me when I get to stamping my feet and whining!

Good to see you again RB!

West
EOS Blog Team

GSOLTSO said...

Al said - "If it is in a sterile area, then not having cameras working to maintain that sterility implies that the area isn't sterile and in fact, our bags are exposed to security threats that can then be loaded on a plane."

Hi Al, I will refer you to my previous comments about not being feasible. I would love to have cameras on me and if you can get that pushed through congress, I would love to help them install the system, I even told RB that I wouldn't charge them for the time I would have to spend putting t in place for them! I will have you know, I am not imtellectually bankrupt, just currently overdrawn...

West
EOS Blog Team

GSOLTSO said...

Jim Huggins wrote - "TSA is also responsible for a policy that actively discourages passengers from locking their luggage with private locks, disclaiming all responsibility if a passenger does so"

Hi Jim, I agree with you 100% that someone somewhere has got to be able to come out with a more heavy duty type of lock that will work with the TSA approved system. Most of the locks that are in the TSA Approved list are designed for small locking assemblies/bags. Why has some company not come out with a TSA lock that is like the old woodshed hasp locks I have at my house (can't mention specific names, but ML comes to mind for some reason.)?
I (personlly) have gone to extrordinary lengths to avoid having to remove a lock forcibly from a bag, but sometimes there are items in that bag that have to be cleared. If the TSO can not gain access to the bag without forcing it open or cutting the lock, the SOP states that we are to resolve the alarm. I would like to see the strapping or CCTV.... Oh you guys have already seen the previous posts by now. I hope that we can form some way of improving the baggage systems to provide better protection to:

A) The passengers and their items

B) The TSO's that have never taken anything and never will.

C) The airlines and their employees.

I agree that the system in place is not perfect, but it is what we have to work with now. I welcome the suggestions here, they may lead to someone being able to devise a program or system that will lead to better accountability procedures for TSA and the airlines.

West
EOS Blog Team

GSOLTSO said...

RB said - "If TSA didn't handle the bag with the remains did they find the dirt at PTI?"

We did find the bag of dirt! All proper security protocols were followed by the book!

West
EOS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

In our area, I know some airlines will not accept remains in check baggage. (Southwest for one) If remains are discovered, the airline is notified and THEY take it out and notify the PAX.

Anonymous said...

What kind of person checks "grandma." The same person that checks a Rolex or laptop.

While it's sad to hear, you've got to be smarter than a fence post to survive in this world.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, on a LAS-BOS red-eye, a Marine correctly declared a gun in his checked baggage, then was arrested in BOS because TSA temporarily misplaced his paperwork for declaring the weapon.
***********************************

Actually, a gun is supposed to be decelared to the airlines at the ticket counter and the airlines are required to put the proper paperwork in a checked bag with a declared weapon, not TSA. They didn't in this case. TSA didn't "misplace" anything. Get your facts straight please before you criticize.

Anonymous said...

There would be less opportunity for those with malicious intent (regardless of employer) to take items from baggage if this policy were not in place. TSA's policy is thus a contributory factor to such thefts.
**********************************
There would also be less opportunity if passengers stopped packing cash, credit cards, valuable jewelry, iPods, laptop computers etc. in their checked bags. Pack clothing and toiletries only and keep your valubales and electronics in your carry-on.

Bob said...

Anonymous said... Actually, a gun is supposed to be declared to the airlines at the ticket counter and the airlines are required to put the proper paperwork in a checked bag with a declared weapon, not TSA. April 24, 2009 10:01 AM
--------------------------------

You beat me to it. This is correct. TSA does not handle the declaration of firearms.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

"Al, sterility is maintained by controlling access to the sterile areas."

But the "sterile areas" are anything BUT sterile, given that TSA apparatchiks and airport employees don't get the same screening citizens traveling by air do.

Al Ames said...

And Ron, are those people screened, or do they just have their badges checked by a person or a reader?

If they're not screened, you can't guarantee that it's a sterile area.

Earl Pitts said...

"We did find the bag of dirt! All proper security protocols were followed by the book!"

Thanks for saving us from dirt, West! I feel much safer now.

Earl

TSO-Joe said...

"TSO-Joe said...
I don't know about other airports, but at MSP, a quasi-state agency runs/owns the airport and the airlines rent their space. They get pretty antsy when TSA shows up to tell them what they can/cannot/have to do in thier space. TSO-Joe

April 22, 2009 9:11 PM

............................

Are you stating that this "quasi-state agency" trumps TSA security procedures?"

Nice way to turn a phrase and not read what is written. TSO-Joe

GSOLTSO said...

Trollkiller said - "Times like this, I miss Kip. There I said it."

That really hurt you to say didn't it? Maybe the new management group will be able to further some of the projects he started and even implement new ones aimed at mitigating the threat and resolving some of the issues that we have had.

West
EOS Blog Team

Tomas said...

TSORon wrote...Al, sterility is maintained by controlling access to the sterile areas. That means either live person security checks or pass-card and code access. Once the bags are out of the TSA’s hands they are passed to the airlines baggage handling systems (be that human or mechanical), and eventually loaded on an aircraft. That entire time they remain in a sterile area and the only persons with access are those allowed into the sterile areas. There is the occasional violation n of the secure areas, but its fairly rare.________________

Ron, the problem, of course, is that TSA doesn't bother to actually physically check those folks traipsing in and out of the "sterile" areas.

Those entering with card and code only prove that they have a card and know a code. That is not a verification that they are not carrying out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of passenger property, nor will it assure at all that they are not carrying in weapons or bombs.

If they can use the card and code entries as a clear path for theft and smuggling, which they do, the method by no means makes the area secure, and that means it is a gaping hole in flight security.

Bottom line, it means TSA is not doing their job.

Let's also consider this: If TSA actually controlled entry/exit of EVERYONE from the sterile areas to the same extent they control entry by passengers, those TSOs and airline employees who steal passenger's belongings would not have the window of opportunity to do so. No point in stealing something if you can't get it out.

Tom (1 of 5-6)

kellymae81 said...

RB said:Do you really think TSA will do anything that would lead to accountability? A date, time, place and inspector would indicate that TSA has been in someones luggage. I don't think they would ever agree to being held to that standard. Got to maintain the deniability position.Just so you know, we do have a machine now that stamps on the love note the Date, Time and Airport. I'm not certain that all airports have them yet, but I'm sure they will soon. This was put into circulation after many inquiries made by passengers and TSO's that this be done. TSA does try to facilitate suggestions from passengers/TSOs and this was one of them.
Many of you have argued and complained numerous times over the same thing, and it sometimes does some good, so keep it up. I will attempt to say over and over again on TSAs part that as a whole, we are not as bad as many of you would like to think. We do things that may be yet another annoying procedure, but we think it is for the sake of security...not to hassle you.

Kelly
EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

"Just so you know, we do have a machine now that stamps on the love note the Date, Time and Airport."

That's a good start. Now include the name of the screener.

"We do things that may be yet another annoying procedure, but we think it is for the sake of security."

Perhaps so, but you've earned no benefit of the doubt, and many of the things you think are for the sake of security, like the shoe carnival, are clearly not.

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
RB said - "How about TSA surveillance when bags are being handled by other parties.

An effective video security system.

Since air travel is off by more than 10% it would seem that TSA must have some excess manpower that could be used."

I agree that surveillance would be an effective deterrent if the manpower were available. The CCTV set ups mentioned are an excellent system of prevention and allow the ability to cull thieves and slugs out of the system. I have pointed out numerous times that I LOVE the idea of cameras on me at work (for my protection, as well as the passengers protection). I have also pointed out the monumental cost that would be involved with implementing that type of system. If you can get the program through the Congress and signed into law, I will help them install the system.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
And what was. or will be, the monumental cost of Strip Search Machines to equip every airport and every checkpoint?

TSA found the money to further abuse citizens with Strip Searches but seems unwilling to spend one penny to safeguard our belongings.

Am I the only one to see the problem?

RB said...

We do things that may be yet another annoying procedure, but we think it is for the sake of security...not to hassle you.

Kelly
EoS Blog Team

April 24, 2009 3:20 PM
.......................

TSA doing things like abusing the guy with $4700 or Mr GelPack case of taking the gelpaks to keep a babies milk cold?

Please tell me how these things are for the "sake of security"!

RB said...

I notice that people keep writing about the abundance of TSO's that we have based on the airline industry being down about 10%, at my airport, I don't see it. After the new positions that have been created between BDO's, TAI's and the control centers being spun up nationwide we (at my airport at least) do not have an overabundance of TSO's.

West
EOS Blog Team

April 23, 2009 2:51 PM
.......................
Perhaps that excess labor is being used very poorly by doing gate checks of already screened people!

TSA has the resources they just can't manage them!

Jim Huggins said...

Anonymous writes:

Why not just strap the bags yourselves? TSA will only open the bag if it alarms. Thus, don't put anything in that will alarm, strap your bag and go.

And how am I supposed to know what will and won't alarm? Just because I don't include anything from the prohibited list doesn't mean that something else in my bag will create a false positive.

If it arrives without a strap and you did not get called back tot he counter, someone other than TSA was in it.

Nope. TSA says itself that it may break into locked baggage if it needs to do so:

"However, if you decide to lock your checked baggage and TSA cannot open your checked baggage through other means, then the locks may have to be broken.So, if my bag arrives with its strap broken, I have still have no idea who entered my bag.

Isaac_Newton said...

GSOLTSO wrote:
I agree that surveillance would be an effective deterrent if the manpower were available. ... I have also pointed out the monumental cost that would be involved with implementing that type of system. If you can get the program through the Congress and signed into law, I will help them install the system.

I love the banding idea, ... Once again if you can get the funding sent down through Congress that would be most excellent, I would help install that free of charge too.
.........
Okay, I've worked for enormous, dysfunctional, semi-government organizations where the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing, so I can guess what the answer will be. But it has to be asked.

An active mmw scanner (strip-search) cost about $150,000. The "awesome" SPO-7 must come close. Video surveillance cameras cost, what, $1000 tops? This is like a guy eating in a 5 star restaurant arguing about the dollar for the parking meter.

Did TSA have to get specific funding and approval from Congress for the strip-search and passive mmw machines? I figure they give you money and someone at HQ decides how to spend it.

TSA has enough surplus screeners to man SPO-7 in the public areas and to conduct redundant gate searches. How many people does it take to change a tape in a camera once a day?

There are several possible reasons that TSA won't put surveillance cameras in the baggage area, but I'm sure it's not about cost and manpower.

Anonymous said...

West,

Thanks for bringing a somewhat respectful tone to the blog. Can you clarify what you mean by a "monumental cost" for installing CCTV systems?

Perhaps you could also do some research comparing the cost of installing such a system vs., say, replacing TSO's uniforms.

Thanks for your time and effort.

RB said...

TSO-Joe said...
"TSO-Joe said...
I don't know about other airports, but at MSP, a quasi-state agency runs/owns the airport and the airlines rent their space. They get pretty antsy when TSA shows up to tell them what they can/cannot/have to do in thier space. TSO-Joe

April 22, 2009 9:11 PM

............................

Are you stating that this "quasi-state agency" trumps TSA security procedures?"

Nice way to turn a phrase and not read what is written. TSO-Joe

April 24, 2009 2:30 PM
.................
TSO-Joe, all I did was paraphrase your statement.

I didn't twist your words in anyway. I didn't insult you in any manner.

As it stands you did not refute how I interpeted what you originally said.

You just shot back an insult.

Goog job, TSO!

Miller said...

Kellymae said:

I will attempt to say over and over again on TSAs part that as a whole, we are not as bad as many of you would like to think.You're correct. TSA is much worse.

We do things that may be yet another annoying procedure, but we think it is for the sake of security...not to hassle you.So in other words, just shut up, and trust us because we know what is best for you, the traveler? Kelly do you realize what you just wrote? Do you really feel that the traveling public should rollover for TSA?

donnie said...

Seeing as how at least 90% of all checked bags are "zippered", locks really serve no purpose. It takes all of 2 seconds to pop any zipper with a pen, completely negating any protection a lock on the zipper tabs may provide. Simply run the zipper tabs back over the opened zipper lining and there will be no evidence that the bag was even opened.

I'm not saying this to scare anyone, only to make a point that locks do not secure a bag by any means. The strapping/wrapping ideas are good ideas but are EXTREMELY costly (most airports charge upwards of $5+ per bag for such a service) in a time of cost cutting.

More CCTV is also a good idea, but if bags are truly being broken into by baggage handlers, the main area they need to be is between the baggage carousels (post TSA inspections) and the actual airplane baggage cabins. 90% of the area in between is wide open TARMAC. It would be very difficult (and again, costly) to have any sort of proficient CCTV to monitor these areas efficiently, since the cameras can only be mounted on the airport building structures.

And then of course, there is the baggage cabin, which would block any cameras from monitoring, unless you also mount them inside the baggage cabin itself.

I don't know what the solution is. Is the item theft issue significant enough to institute a multi-million dollar project of CCTV/wrapping/strapping? I know I as a tax payer don't think so.

I do think there should be much stricter screening on all people entering the sterile areas however. A swipe door is not an effective security sweep. All a swipe door does is verify that the person entering HAS a valid swipe card. It doesn't even verify if the person with the card is even the person who the card belongs to.

The problem with the scenario of 100% screening is airline and airport employee compliance. In the air travel economy, such a security protocol would cause "undue time delays and cost increases" in the eyes of the airline big-wigs. This cost would inevitably be passed on to the traveling public.

Your average airline employee may come in and out of the sterile area a dozen+ times a day. If they have to be screened every time, you're looking at around 20-30 minutes of "dead time" a day where the employee is going through the screening process and not sorting bags, pushing planes, ticketing, etc.

In an ideal world, there should be 100% screening on all items and persons entering a checkpoint. This is the only way to absolutely prevent prohibited items from getting on a plane. However, this would be so cost prohibitive and time consuming that it will never happen unless there is another attempted 9-11 type situation.

The further we get from 9-11, the less people are going to want to be "bothered" by screening processes. Thus, the TSA is tasked with the very difficult duty of balancing risk vs inconvenience. Anyone who thinks that is an easy job should certainly step up to the plate.

How do successfully run a secure traveling environment while simultaneously being non-invasive and fast while not spending an excessive amount of money.

Security
Speed
Cost
Invasiveness

It's a very difficult formula with no perfect solution.

TSORon said...

Tom (1 of 5-6) said:
“Ron, the problem, of course, is that TSA doesn't bother to actually physically check those folks traipsing in and out of the "sterile" areas.

Those entering with card and code only prove that they have a card and know a code. That is not a verification that they are not carrying out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of passenger property, nor will it assure at all that they are not carrying in weapons or bombs.”

One could say the same for every other worker on the planet. I get it, you trust no one. No matter the hoops they have had to jump through to get their jobs, no matter the background checks, you don’t trust them. OK. Get over it. You have unrealistic expectations.

”If they can use the card and code entries as a clear path for theft and smuggling, which they do, the method by no means makes the area secure, and that means it is a gaping hole in flight security.”

No security anywhere is perfect. One must trust people sometime. The government does what it can to mitigate the threats that seem to concern you so much, but you are asking for something that you not likely to want to pay for.

”Bottom line, it means TSA is not doing their job.”

No, that is not the bottom line. The bottom line is that you really don’t understand security. The best way to describe it is that one must trust, and verify. When there is no longer a reason to trust then you fire that individual and get another. It has always been that way, and as long as people are involved it will always be that way. It cannot be avoided.

”Let's also consider this: If TSA actually controlled entry/exit of EVERYONE from the sterile areas to the same extent they control entry by passengers, those TSOs and airline employees who steal passenger's belongings would not have the window of opportunity to do so. No point in stealing something if you can't get it out.”

Sorry, but that also is not true. There are always ways to get around security. Humans are infinitely adaptable. Good security is adaptable, changes with the need to meet the threat.

Accept it Tom. You really don’t understand the subject.

Anonymous said...

Bob, If you had taken a moment to read the news reports (or TSA internal memos on the incident, I imagine), the Marine CORRECTLY DECLARED THE FIREARMS WITH HIS AIRLINE upon checking in Las Vegas, en route to N.C. via BOS. Everybody knows that by now, don't you?

A comedy of errors led to his bag being re-inspected by mistake in BOS (it got sent to the wrong carousel), and then TSA detected the CORRECTLY DECLARED FIREARMS, paged the Marine, and set off all kind of alarm bells before realizing, ooooooops, this bag contains CORRECTLY DECLARED FIREARMS.

Here's what your own agency's spokesperson said,

"Ann Davis - a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees airport security - said Reed had declared the firearm in Las Vegas as required. Investigators had initially reported that he did not declare the gun, which was secured in a locked gun box, but later determined he had after locating the paperwork."

So, Bob, when you came on the blog so breathless and all to write:
"You beat me to it. This is correct. TSA does not handle the declaration of firearms.

Bob , EoS Blog Team

April 24, 2009 1:35 PM"

...you were just misinformed. As was ANONYMOUS who had chimed in a few hours earlier,

"Actually, a gun is supposed to be decelared to the airlines at the ticket counter and the airlines are required to put the proper paperwork in a checked bag with a declared weapon, not TSA. They didn't in this case. TSA didn't "misplace" anything. Get your facts straight please before you criticize.

April 24, 2009 10:01 AM"

Do you understand, Bob and Anonymous? He CORRECTLY DECLARED THIS WITH THE AIRLINE. The TSA Investigators misplaced notification of that declaration, causing the unnecessary alarms at BOS when they "initially reported that he did not declare the gun" and "later determined he had after locating the paperwork."

Anonymous, maybe you are the one who should "get your facts straight please before you criticize."

Tomas said...

Tomas wrote..."Those entering with card and code only prove that they have a card and know a code. That is not a verification that they are not carrying out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of passenger property, nor will it assure at all that they are not carrying in weapons or bombs.”

TSORon wrote..."One could say the same for every other worker on the planet. I get it, you trust no one. No matter the hoops they have had to jump through to get their jobs, no matter the background checks, you don’t trust them. OK. Get over it. You have unrealistic expectations."
________________
Actually, Ron, my security background started when I was trained in the USAF, before I got my TS clearance in 1967, and refreshed by the USAF at every opportunity, especially while I had access to nuclear weapons and the SAC aircraft that carried them. You are correct, one of the basic tenets of REAL security is to trust no one.

Ron, I had to jump through a lot more hoops to get a Top Secret clearance than you did to get clearance to snoop in my carry-on, yet YOU won't trust ME to even bring a four ounce container of sunscreen with me on my way to Tahiti.

Tomas wrote...”If they can use the card and code entries as a clear path for theft and smuggling, which they do, the method by no means makes the area secure, and that means it is a gaping hole in flight security.”

TSORon wrote..."Accept it Tom. You really don’t understand the subject."
________________
If you actually believe that simple, perfunctory background checks on airport employees assures aircraft and luggage security, despite ample evidence that it DOES NOT, then it really is not I who does not understand security.

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Al Ames said...

Ok, donnie, so what you're saying is money talks. Thanks for confirming what we thought.

TSA doesn't seem to care about wasting resources on insignificant things, like cop outfits and tin badges. Nor does it care about wasting tons of money on new toys like strip search and passive MMW machines.

So why the resistance to doing something that could benefit passengers and increase security. You're focusing on theft - that's only half the problem. The other half is that if someone can take something OUT of a bag, someone can put something bad IN to the bag.

For all the money wasted on miniscule and nonexistent threats, such a system that actually provides security should be a no brainer, but apparently TSA has even less brains than that.

Al

GSOLTSO said...

Earl said - "Again, if TSA can freak out over a bag of dirt as GSO (West, do you have a comment on that? - it just happened at your airport), I find it likely that they could dump ashes."

My comment to you Earl is, we had an alarm and addressed it based on the SOP. WHen the item was cleared, it happened to be a bag o dirt with bones in it. There is a new post here on the blog explaining how innocent items can look not so innocent.

West
EOS Blog Team

TSORon said...

Tomas said:
"Actually, Ron, my security background started when I was trained in the USAF, before I got my TS clearance in 1967"

Well then, we have a very similar background. I also had a TS, in the same field, for exactly the same reason. USAF Security Police, 81170. 1979 to 1992. A lot of progress was made in the years after you ended your military service, including a complete revamping of the concepts of security.
So, taking you at your word, I'll grant you a certain level of education on the subject. Misguided though it may be.

TSM, said...

Quoted:
" Jim Huggins said...
Anonymous writes:

Why not just strap the bags yourselves? TSA will only open the bag if it alarms. Thus, don't put anything in that will alarm, strap your bag and go.

And how am I supposed to know what will and won't alarm? Just because I don't include anything from the prohibited list doesn't mean that something else in my bag will create a false positive.

If it arrives without a strap and you did not get called back tot he counter, someone other than TSA was in it.

Nope. TSA says itself that it may break into locked baggage if it needs to do so:

"However, if you decide to lock your checked baggage and TSA cannot open your checked baggage through other means, then the locks may have to be broken.So, if my bag arrives with its strap broken, I have still have no idea who entered my bag.

April 25, 2009 12:04 AM"
-----------------------------
Except that if TSA cut your wrapping, they would leave a love note. Hence, you would know if it was TSA or not. If a TSA went through the trouble to cut open your strapping, to perhaps steal something from the bag he would be taking a big risk of being seen. Since he wouldn't know if there was anything worth stealing until he opened said bag, why would he open it for any reason other than screening? So, strap your own bags!!

Anonymous said...

Tomas said: "Actually, Ron, my security background started when I was trained in the USAF, before I got my TS clearance in 1967"

TSORon said...
...A lot of progress was made in the years after you ended your military service, including a complete revamping of the concepts of security.
So, taking you at your word, I'll grant you a certain level of education on the subject. Misguided though it may be.


And again, another example of the condescending, "we can do no wrong, so go buzz off" attitude exhibited by a select few of our friends in the TSA towards the general travelling public.

This is why such discord exists. Thanks again for clarifying it in print.

kellymae81 said...

Miller said:So in other words, just shut up, and trust us because we know what is best for you, the traveler? Kelly do you realize what you just wrote? Do you really feel that the traveling public should rollover for TSA?I would really like to know when I said that. Can you guys not just take something for what it is and not twist it? I and many other TSOs really are here trying to help and (some of you) want to complain no matter what. Most of us have no problem with
'constructive' critisism and some things that have been discussed have turned into something positive. (i.e. TSA inspection notes with info stamp) It may be a baby step to many other things that need changing or updating, but we won't get any further if we aren't constructive.

Kelly
EoS Blog Team

Tomas said...

kellymae81 wrote I and many other TSOs really are here trying to help and (some of you) want to complain no matter what. Most of us have no problem with 'constructive' critisism and some things that have been discussed have turned into something positive.
________________

You are correct, Kelly, and it really is obvious that MOST of the TSOs posting here really are receptive and trying to be helpful, but in all seriousness you have to realize that all it takes is one post by a TSORon to void ten good, constructive, enlightened posts by a Kelly or West.

Just when we think things are being understood and possibly on the way to being improved for everyone, good ol' Ron and others with his compassion, viewpoint, and tact say something that shows that there are still massive attitude and training problems.

I'll paraphrase an old quote so it can be published here...

"If you put a teaspoon of wine in a barrel of [____], you end up with a barrel of [____]. If you put a teaspoon of [____] in a barrel of wine, you end up with a barrel of [____]."

So long as TSA has TSOs and TSIs that just don't get it, and constantly show to the public they don't, it almost doesn't matter how many great folks there are. One aw [____] outweighs ten atta boys, and those bad actors in the public's face are your aw [____]s.

They indeed are the proof that the job of the complainers is not yet done. ;^)

Sorry!

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Anonymous said...

TSORon - SERIOUSLY? TRUST YOU?

Why should we trust anyone that cannot trust us? We are treated like we are card-carrying terrorists every time we encounter a checkpoint. We have to PROVE we're not intending any harm to an aircraft. Trust is a two-way street.

And regarding background checks for airport employees - PLEASE! I am a former airport ops officer at PHL and our sister department did the fingerprinting for background checks on people getting SIDA badges. Just because they didn't do something (or get caught) for something in the past does not mean they are considered crime- and corruption-free.

In my job position, I was quite good friends with several officers on the PHL police force. And, there is a reason they don't spend a whole lot of time in Terminal F. Probably the same reason it's referred to - BY THE POLICE FORCE, among others - as North Philly International.

Anonymous said...

OK, KellyMae, I can't stand the temptation any more.

KellyMae sez:
"I and many other TSOs really are here trying to help and (some of you) want to complain no matter what. Most of us have no problem with
'constructive' critisism and some things that have been discussed have turned into something positive. (i.e. TSA inspection notes with info stamp) It may be a baby step to many other things that need changing or updating, but we won't get any further if we aren't constructive.

Kelly
EoS Blog Team

April 28, 2009 1:49 PM"

KellyMae, there are approximately 12 complaints about theft by TSOs for every one firearm TSA catches. In its short history, TSA has already fired over 450 TSOs for theft. Theft is a problem with TSA.

So, let's be constructive. The TSO who rifle through my bag now leaves a note which identifies Date, Time and Airport. But I already knew all that. It would cost zero in additional time, money or effort for that stamp to also identify precisely which TSO rifled through my bag. Can you do something for me. Tell me how to convince TSA to require a TSO employee ID on that love note.

I can guess what you are thinking: "That won't work, because a TSO who stole something from your bag would be stupid to put a love note in the bag that identified the thieving TSO."

If you think my plan will only work if the TSO is stupid, that's chance I'll have to take.

Anonymous said...

kellymae81 said... Can you guys not just take something for what it is and not twist it? I and many other TSOs really are here trying to help and (some of you) want to complain no matter what. Most of us have no problem with 'constructive' critisism and some things that have been discussed have turned into something positive. (i.e. TSA inspection notes with info stamp) It may be a baby step to many other things that need changing or updating, but we won't get any further if we aren't constructive.

Kelly
EoS Blog Team
Kelly,

I became a private pilot to get away from the hassle, intimidation, and garbage dished out by the small but prevalent percentage of TSO's that work off the random "my new rule of the day" interpretations of your organization's onerous policies.

Unfortunately, your organization continues to expand it's scope and intrusion in both commercial and now private flight. Google TSA LASP or Security Directive 1542 08F for details. In addition, on this very blog, your partners have boasted how you are now moving into rail and other forms of public transportation.

One by one, the TSA identifies some "it might happen" threat, and then moves in to counter it with more theater.

Quite simply put, WE DON'T WANT YOUR NEVER ENDING EXPANSION INTO OUR PRIVATE LIVES.

Life has risk. Get over it. 41,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2007. 29,000 people died from firearms. 13,000 seniors died from falls.

HOW MANY DIED FROM COMMERCIAL TRANSPORTATION TERROR ATTACKS SINCE AND BEFORE 9/11??? WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO FEED THE MONSTER???

If we want to minimize risk, why not make the national speed limit 15 mph? Ban outdoor sports? Make french fries and big macs illegal?

You are now maneuvering to intrude into checking my passengers (immediate family), luggage, and body and on my older personal plane, which is similar in both price and weight to a common SUV.

We are all losing freedom to travel without poking, prodding, papers, and permission because of the bureaucratic organization that you are a part of. This organization is run by people who are making careers out of unchecked growth in the name of terror. These folks are paranoid of having any type of incident on their watch, because of the effect it would have on their little careers.

Risk will happen. Most of us understand that, and accept a level of risk to enjoy the freedoms of being an American citizen in this country.

WE DON’T WANT A PSEUDO POLICE STATE “for our protection”.

We want a small, contained, rationally justified TSA. Nothing more.

Bob said...

Tomas said... You are correct, Kelly, and it really is obvious that MOST of the TSOs posting here really are receptive and trying to be helpful, but in all seriousness you have to realize that all it takes is one post by a TSORon to void ten good, constructive, enlightened posts by a Kelly or West...Tom (1 of 5-6) April 28, 2009 4:55 PM

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

Tom,

We have over 45,000 officers in the field. That's 45,000 different personalities from all over the nation. Can anyone on this blog truthfully say they believe that a workforce of that many people can be perfect? I've never come across a workforce that was perfect and a couple of my previous jobs were the US Army and the United Parcel Service. No matter where you go, you've got inconsistencies, bad apples, etc.

Are you actually allowing a post from somebody you don't agree with to taint the comments of others? If so, your standards are a bit too high and I'm not sure of any major corporation or Government entity that could match those standards.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

RB said...

Are you actually allowing a post from somebody you don't agree with to taint the comments of others? If so, your standards are a bit too high and I'm not sure of any major corporation or Government entity that could match those standards.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

April 29, 2009 2:35 PM
....................
Not Tom, but.... the poster Tom mentioned seems to have an aptitude to post in a manner that is very damaging to TSA.

He's yours and I think should be dealt with since he is bringing discredit to your agency.

If he was not identifying himself with TSA I would say he is free to take any position that suits him.

As a TSO this person seems poorly trained, confrontational and in general a poor candidate to interact with the public.

Just my 2 cents.

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "KellyMae, there are approximately 12 complaints about theft by TSOs for every one firearm TSA catches. In its short history, TSA has already fired over 450 TSOs for theft. Theft is a problem with TSA.

So, let's be constructive. The TSO who rifle through my bag now leaves a note which identifies Date, Time and Airport. But I already knew all that. It would cost zero in additional time, money or effort for that stamp to also identify precisely which TSO rifled through my bag. Can you do something for me. Tell me how to convince TSA to require a TSO employee ID on that love note."

Anon, let me start by saying the complaints of theft vs. the discovery of firearms comparison is kind of silly. Most of the complaints the organization recieves based on theft are not items/property taken by TSA so the number will appear inflated. If there is a number you can post a link to I would be interested in finding it, along with the comparison of complaints that are actually verified as being stolen/removed by TSA and items deemed stolen by other persons. One thing a lot of people claim as theft is a prohibited item being removed from the bag (such as lighter fluid, other chemicals, etc, that are not suitable for flight).

Now to the issue of stamping the name on the love note in baggage, there is no compelling reason to put MY name on a sheet that goes into a bag. During the screening process any number of people could have interaction with that bag (such as a supervisor, BAO, etc) based on alarms, questionable items. If I place my name on the sheet, the only thing I certify is that when the bag left my hands, it was properly cleared and sent on it's way. Once that bag goes to the baggage handlers I no longer have control of it, even more so for the airports that have inline baggage systems. If I were the last person to handle that bag and could verify the fact that no other person touched it once it was on the plane, I would have no problem putting my name on the paper. As the system is in a lot of airports right now, it would lead to a lot of suspicion based on conjecture as opposed to fact. If you as a passenger get home and find my name on the love note the first thought you will have is "that West is a dirty rotten scoundrel and stole my stuff", when in reality all West did was verify that the alarm in your bag was not a bomb/prohibited item. I agree that the fact that the handling of bags after TSA presents a large problem for the organization as well as the baggage handlers (they are in the same boat, 99% of them don't steal anything either). Each side wants to blame the other for anything that comes down the pipe and what we should be doing is working towards better accountability. I love the idea of the banding, I love the idea of the CCTV set ups even more because that can assist with more than just theft issues. Both options are viable, but the funding will have to be determined at a higher level than I am at!

Sorry, kinda rambled there a bit!

West
EOS Blog Team

Tomas said...

Blogger Bob wrote... Are you actually allowing a post from somebody you don't agree with to taint the comments of others? If so, your standards are a bit too high and I'm not sure of any major corporation or Government entity that could match those standards.
_________________

No, Bob, while a small number of misdirected TSOs do not taint my view of good comments from quality TSOs, they DO color my overall view of TSA, as they should.

My standards are apparently higher than TSA's standards, and that is generally what you will find me commenting on: The quality of TSA training, supervision, management, and "rules."

Yes, I will respond to obviously in-error statements by TSA employees, as should the official bloggers here. Problem is, the official bloggers generally just appear to ignore in-error statements by their own agency's players.

I find that unfortunate.

By letting in-error statements by those who claim to be TSA employees stand, the official bloggers, and in turn the TSA itself, appears to be supporting and endorsing those statements.

In any organization with a public facing interface, those people in direct contact with the public ARE the organization to the public.

Poorly trained or incorrectly acting representatives of an organization WILL color the public's view of that organization.

That coloring WILL affect how most people approach their next need to interface with that organization.

This is especially true if there is no obvious reaction by the organization to correct the problem.

Bob, a large part of TSA's problem is their fear of being public about anything they do. It's the "secrecy is rule one" attitude repeatedly presented by TSA as an official stance, even for things that have absolutely no reason for secrecy.

Anyway, you needn't worry about my taking the response by one TSA employee as reflecting the attitude of another. I accept each person's input as their own.

What DOES happen is that those responses ARE held against the organization as a whole so long as the organization appears to accept and endorse them.

I believe that is fair.

Find the bad actors, correct their actions, eliminate them if they can not or do not comply.

Until that sort of action happens publicly the public will continue to believe that the organization finds nothing wrong in the actions of the bad actors.

THAT is what taints or colors our view probably more than anything else.

Take care,
Tom (1 of 5-6)

Anonymous said...

The marine traveling LAS-BOS was an EOD and had the paperwork for ALL of the materials in his bag. The airline should have never taken his bags out of the sita area. And TSA should have investigated the paperwork more. I don't think the marine should be at fault for the airline and TSA making the mistakes they made, leaving him to figure out whether he had to re-declare everything or not.

RB said...

I love the idea of the banding, I love the idea of the CCTV set ups even more because that can assist with more than just theft issues. Both options are viable, but the funding will have to be determined at a higher level than I am at!

Sorry, kinda rambled there a bit!

West
EOS Blog Team

April 29, 2009 3:46 PM

TSA is charged with keeping contraband off airplanes.

If TSA cannot ensure that bags are not tampered with TSA is not doing the job as charged.

Dereliction of duty!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Do you really think TSA will do anything that would lead to accountability?

A date, time, place and inspector would indicate that TSA has been in someones luggage.

I don't think they would ever agree to being held to that standard.

Got to maintain the deniability position."

Actually a few airports do date/time stamp the love notes. It is not a national policy though.

TSO-Joe said...

As a baggage TSO, I would have no problem with my name or ID number being on a "love note" left in a passengers bag. Then again, at MSP, every baggage station has several cameras on it so if something was reported missing, there is film of me checking the bag. A date/time stamp would help my supervisors find the film faster. ID number may be best as there are several Joe's here and in a single day, I may move from station to station. TSO-Joe

Jim Huggins said...

Regarding strapping of bags, I wrote:

So, if my bag arrives with its strap broken, I have still have no idea who entered my bag.

TSM responded:

Except that if TSA cut your wrapping, they would leave a love note. Hence, you would know if it was TSA or not.

1. Please show me a document that assures me that every time TSA opens my baggage outside of my immediate presence, they will leave a "love note". I can't seem to find any such promise on tsa.gov, based on a few searches. (And everything passengers need to know about travel is on the website, right?)

2. Even if there is such a policy, there's no reason that a TSO intent on stealing from baggage would leave behind a note identifying themselves as the thief.

If a TSA went through the trouble to cut open your strapping, to perhaps steal something from the bag he would be taking a big risk of being seen. Since he wouldn't know if there was anything worth stealing until he opened said bag, why would he open it for any reason other than screening?

3. The TSO could easily have reason to know whether the bag was worth entering to steal items; after all the bag is x-rayed (or otherwise electronically scanned) by TSOs during the baggage check process, giving them knowledge as to which bags would be worth entering.

Jim Huggins said...

Bob,

We have over 45,000 officers in the field. That's 45,000 different personalities from all over the nation. Can anyone on this blog truthfully say they believe that a workforce of that many people can be perfect?

Of course not. But as I've said before, TSA expects passengers to perfectly obey every TSA rule and procedure --- whether or not such rules and procedure are published --- every single time they fly. And when a passenger fails, that failure is loudly proclaimed on the TSA homepage for everyone to see --- sometimes with a spectacular press release as well.

If TSA expects passengers to be absolutely perfect, every time they fly, then TSA should expect its own TSOs to be absolutely perfect, every day they work.

Besides, it only takes one mistake by a TSO to allow a prohibited item onto a plane. "Not on my watch", right?

I agree, by the way, that both standards are unreasonable. But that's the image that TSA seems to project to the public.

RB said...

TSO-Joe said...

As a baggage TSO, I would have no problem with my name or ID number being on a "love note" left in a passengers bag. Then again, at MSP, every baggage station has several cameras on it so if something was reported missing, there is film of me checking the bag. A date/time stamp would help my supervisors find the film faster. ID number may be best as there are several Joe's here and in a single day, I may move from station to station. TSO-Joe

April 30, 2009 3:48 PM
.........................
Jusr exactly what people are asking for.

We (travelers) don't need to know your name, but some form of ID known to TSA on the love note would suffice.

The cameras seem to me to be a must. How can TSA protect its employees from false claims without such?

Thanks for the post Joe!

RB said...

Bob, any updates on this story?

Anon Charlie said...

"The CCTV set ups mentioned are an excellent system of prevention and allow the ability to cull thieves and slugs out of the system. I have pointed out numerous times that I LOVE the idea of cameras on me at work (for my protection, as well as the passengers protection)."

A few comments on video surveillance:

1. Video surveillance is not a preventative control. A camera does not *prevent* anything, just ask anyone in the camera-crazy UK that has been mugged/raped/killed in sight of many cameras.

2. Tape? Hello 1985. Technology marches on, and modern systems are IP based (Meaning the cameras send their video/audio stream to a centralized server for processing and storage, using good ole' TCP/IP (The protocol that runs the Internet)

3. If you're relying on cameras for safety, you have misplaced your faith. If your lucky a camera may capture whats happened after the fact; assuming 1) It's turned on 2) It's actually focused on the right area 3) There is enough light and.or it has infrared capabilities 4) You've got a long enough retention time for your stored images to still be there should you have to review.

TSORon said...

Another Anonymous poster said:
[i]Why should we trust anyone that cannot trust us? We are treated like we are card-carrying terrorists every time we encounter a checkpoint. We have to PROVE we're not intending any harm to an aircraft. Trust is a two-way street.[/i]

Sorry Anon, but that’s not really accurate. We treat every individual who comes through as a passenger who wants to get on an aircraft. Each equally. Random screening is random, screening is screening, and for those with medical or other types of physical issues we [b]still[/b] screen them. Its not that we don’t trust you, its that we don’t know you. You could be anyone from anywhere, carrying anything or planning anything. We will screen you just as we screened the guy in front of you and the gal behind you. Its [b]not personal[/b], its business. We don’t care who you are or where you are from, you will be treated just like every other passenger out there, hopefully with respect and dignity (some TSO’s find that difficult and should spend their days screening bags, not people).

On the checkpoint, trust is indeed a two way street. I trust my fellow TSO’s, everyone else gets screened.

Jim Huggins said...

TSORon writes:

We don’t care who you are or where you are from, you will be treated just like every other passenger out there, hopefully with respect and dignity (some TSO’s find that difficult and should spend their days screening bags, not people).

With respect, Ron, I would hope that the TSOs that screen my checked bags would treat my bags with respect and dignity as well. Yes, there's a difference between treating a person with dignity and luggage with dignity. But we've heard the stories about TSOs who, in the course of examining checked luggage, act in awfully disrespectful ways regarding the contents of that luggage.

And, yes, I'm making a minor quibble here.

On the checkpoint, trust is indeed a two way street. I trust my fellow TSO’s, everyone else gets screened.

As we've seen, though, this creates a security hole. Since not everyone who has access to the secure area gets screened, these "trusted" individuals can bring contraband through, and then hand it off to an accomplice. (Otherwise, there'd be no need for gate screenings, as is starting to occur now.)

It wouldn't be that big a deal to screen TSOs as well. It happens all the time in the "real world". I worked for a couple of summers at a Really Big Computer Company, where everyone had to swipe their ID badge to enter the building. No exceptions. You could hold the door open for your office mate, as long as he still swiped his badge first. And if your ID card failed (which happened from time to time), nobody thought any less of you as you shuffled off to HR to get your badge fixed.

RB said...

TSORon said...
Another Anonymous poster said:
[i]Why should we trust anyone that cannot trust us? We are treated like we are card-carrying terrorists every time we encounter a checkpoint.
.............
On the checkpoint, trust is indeed a two way street. I trust my fellow TSO’s, everyone else gets screened.

May 11, 2009 12:04 PM
..................
Perhaps you need to look at your fellow TSO's TSORon.

How many now have been thieves, drug dealers or other violators of the law?

cheap shoes said...

Ins of a loved one there would be a heck of alot of media coverage and why hav we not heard form the family again on this subject if indeed there was a "love" note in the bag...Besides I can produce "love" notes from times when I had a previous bag checked and saved the note..Can you say frivilous law suit.

smurffnc said...

I have flown several times. Planes vibrate and bump depending on turbulence, takeoff and landing. Luggage is loaded, unloaded, jiggled, stacked, et. I've had the top of my liquid makeup, bath gel, lotion, etc. come unscrewed and be loose enough to leak. That's why I always put anything liquid in a Ziploc bag. I've had the cap of my hairspray come off, I may not have snapped it on well enough, and the can pushed up against the wall of the suitcase spraying all of my hairspray all over my clothes. I now also put all aerosol cans in a Ziploc bag. Just because the suitcase was inspected doesn't mean the TSA opened anything. Stuff happens and although I feel for this man I am pretty confident the spilling of his mother's ashes could have just been an accident due to flight conditions.