Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Explosive Trace Detection Usage Expanded: Give Us A Hand

What’s the biggest threat to an airplane? A knife? A pistol? While these items can be dangerous, with hardened cockpit doors installed after 9/11, an improvised explosive device poses the biggest threat to aviation security today.

I’ve talked about using Advanced Imaging Technologies to detect non-metallic and metallic threats, including IEDs already, but today I wanted to talk about another technology we have to detect explosives hidden on people and in bags.
While going through checkpoints, you might have seen officers using little white swabs at TSA checkpoints at one point or another. In case you had no idea what our officers were doing, they were conducting state of the art Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) tests. And all along you thought they were giving your items a complimentary cleaning…

ETD tests are used in checkpoint, checked baggage, and cargo environments. We swab things such as laptops, shoes, film, cell phones, bags, wheelchairs, hands, casts - you name it. Certain procedures call for an ETD test.

Basically, our officers run the white swab over the area in question to collect a trace sample. They then place the swab in the ETD machinery which analyzes the sample for extremely small traces of explosives. The test takes a matter of seconds.

In the TSA of the past, our ETD machines were anchored to certain checkpoints or baggage areas. This is a mobile technology and we’re now going to take advantage of that luxury.

Recently, we tested ETD technology outside its regular use at checkpoints and checked baggage areas, and confirmed its ability to be used in other areas of the airport like the gate to check for explosives residue on passengers. Why the move? Since the attempted attack on 12/25, we looked at ways to immediately strengthen security using existing technology and procedures in different ways. ETD is quick, good for security and cost efficient.

Sure, we’re improving the checkpoints with technology such as Advanced Imaging Technology machines, but we currently have ETD machines at every checkpoint in the country and this new procedure will help us beef up security. Explosive Trace Detection is a highly effective, proven technology.

So as you travel, you might be asked for a swab of your hands at the checkpoint or gate. It’s painless and quick. The swabs are disposed of after each use and will not be used on more than one person.

This is another way we can help keep the flying public safe from attempted attacks such as the one on 12/25.

For additional reading, check out these new articles on our expanded use of ETD technology:

167 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another great example in the security theater you are performing in order to justify your outrageous budget. The puffers failed so now you are trying the next trick to get us to comply with giving up our civil rights.

I wonder how many news stories there will be about the Glycerin from soaps and hand cremes that trigger your alerts and create issues for the poor victim of your false positive.

Ayn R. Key said...

Does this mean you no longer need the WBI? Does this mean you no longer need to limit water to 3 oz?

Anonymous said...

Bob, how many positives found via this method have turned out to be the result of harmless materials on citizens' hands, rather than explosive material?

Are your employees obligated to change their gloves before touching citizens' persons?

What steps have you taken to post virtual strip-search images on this blog at the same size and resolution as those seen by the operators of the virtual strip-search machines?

Anonymous said...

Muslims will claim that infidels touching their hands, or examining their hands for explosive residue, is an offense to their religious sensibilities in 3.. 2.. 1..

Anonymous said...

So are those gloves going to be touching hundreds of people and passing germs around?

Can we request that the TSO changes his or her gloves before they touch us?

If so, are they going to retaliate against us and send us to get groped?

Anonymous said...

This is going TOO FAR.
My hand isn't going to explode.
What chemicals are on that swab ?
What happens when I refuse ?, which I will.
So if I went target shooting, or reload ammo the day before, it goes off ?

Anonymous said...

This seems to be crossing the line from security screening to unreasonable search.. any biological touching/testing of my person is unreasonable without a warrant in my opinion. I hope someone with the resources challenges this.

Anonymous said...

While I commend TSA (something I rarely do) for actually screening for explosives, one of the three things TSA is supposed to screen for--weapons, explosives, and incendiaries--TSA should clarify how they are going to mitigate the impact of the inevitable false positives on innocent passengers. Because terrorists are so rare (Has TSA ever caught one actual terrorist among the tens of millions of passengers they have screened in the USA? No.), most ETD positives will inevitably be false.

Dealing with an ETD false positive hit at the checkpoint (heart medication, hand lotion, lawn fertilizer, passenger recently was hunting or on a firing range, passenger contacts explosive components as part of his work) is one thing because a passenger can typically deal with a brief delay of 5 minutes or so for a more detailed search.

But dealing with an ETD false positive during a gate screening during boarding is another matter entirely. What steps will TSA take to make sure passengers don't miss their flights? When passengers miss their flights, what compensation will TSA provide to the passenger? If TSA forces an airline to hold a flight for a delayed passenger, what compensation will TSA provide to the other passengers on the plane who miss their connections due to TSA's delay? These things should be spelled out now in a public statement, not left to the ad hoc whims of some gate screener and his supervisor.

Oh, and the general consensus from passengers in the field seems to be that TSA does re-use the swabs unless passengers insist on a clean one. Not only does this increase the risk of false positives, it is unsanitary. Bob should either clarify this statement with the truth, or state the disciplinary action that will be taken against TSO's caught re-using swabs and provide evidence that this policy is being enforced.

Anonymous said...

Bob, what's your procedure for dealing with the inevitable positive results that result from completely harmless and innocuous behaviors or exposures? How much inconvenience should a policeman who cleaned or fired his weapon a day before flying expect to encounter as a result of a positive result?

Anonymous said...

As if a bomb-maker won't just use gloves now.

How much does this program cost?

How much does a pair of latex gloves cost?

Do the math and honestly tell me this isn't security theater.

Tomas said...

If the devices are sensitive to many common hand cleaners and lotions, and by the simple expedient of wearing rubber gloves when handling anything that would leave a trace a "terrorist" could easily "pass," just how effective can these "hand swab" devices be in actually protecting the public?

For myself, a target shooter since before Blogger Bob was born, I suspect I have "residue" in, on, and about my person and effects that would drive their machines nuts.

Even my luggage - which WILL have a firearm and ammunition legally locked in it, SHOULD alarm an explosive detector if it is set sensitive enough to be of any use at all.

I'm not sure what the overall effect of these new tests will be other than a huge number of "false positives" - or even worse, absolutely legitimate detection of harmless, expected, explainable explosive residue.

Heck, since I have legally carried concealed firearms daily for decades, I doubt that I have any clothing that is not "contaminated" with minute traces of "explosives."

Looks like you may finally have found the way to prevent me from flying, Bob.

Tom

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said... Because terrorists are so rare (Has TSA ever caught one actual terrorist among the tens of millions of passengers they have screened in the USA? No.)

Easy to say but let's not forget how hard it is to prove a negative. How about,"has taking aspirin daily ever prevented a heart attack?" All the experts (doctors) say it helps but how do you prove it? Maybe the heart attack just changed its mind and doesn't want to happen anymore? Maybe the heart attack is no longer after me because my leader bowed to the head heart attackers?

Silly example but the point is clear. TSA can't prove they have stopped any terrorist and you can't prove they have not. I can state that there have been no more airplanes flying into buildings since 9/11 and the terrorist still hate us. It stands to reason that something has stopped them from succeeding in another attack.

And you big whinners worried about the dirty swabs... get you finger out of your nose and admit that your hands are dirty just like mine (I just wipped mine off on my shirt. Shh, don't tell my wife.) While you're defending your right to clean hands I'm going to happily board a flight that has a slightly better chance of arriving at my destination. I think it's a good trade.

To_Protect_and_Serve said...

Please tell me why you keep chasing the 1 in a centillion chance TSA, when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. This isnt going to add anything to security other then take alot longer and create alot more animosity and dissent amongst travelers.

Do i really need to post the stats and odds on dieing from terrorism on this entry as well?

We dont even treat criminals like this in the US. If i treated the citizens in my city like TSA does to travelers I would lose my shield and be lynched.


also what about the nice little report employees at IAD being marked AWOL for not making it to work during the blizzard.

Andy said...

Bob,

This is one more gient leap in the wrong direction for the TSA. First we make everyone take off their shoes at the airport, next we send people through puffers that are not working and are causing false positives, then we make everyone memorize 3-1-1 or is it 3.4-1-1, next we start the assult of the body scanners, we take this up to the point where we are using them for primary screening, now we are treating passengers as lugguge. This is crazy and must end, expect a very long list of questions that I will expect to be ANSWERED

Anonymous said...

"I can state that there have been no more airplanes flying into buildings since 9/11 and the terrorist still hate us. It stands to reason that something has stopped them from succeeding in another attack."

No, it doesn't; terrorism is an incredibly rare event, and terrorism targeting air travel is even rarer.

Bob said...

I've seen a few tweets on this so I wanted to add a quick note and let folks know that we are not testing for DNA.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Do the new procedures instruct screeners to use new gloves and new swabs on every person? Do the new procedures instruct the screener to use separate swab for each hand?

What happens if I apply lotion after I clear the checkpoint? Will that cause an alarm? How will this alarm be resolved quickly? How will you address the issue of false-positives that cause someone to miss their flight?

Does this addition to "security theater" send yet another message that "we missed something during the initial screening"?

Anonymous said...

Bob, address the questions on THIS BLOG, not random tweets. Where are you answers to the questions HERE?

Anonymous said...

Easy to say but let's not forget how hard it is to prove a negative. How about,"has taking aspirin daily ever prevented a heart attack?"

That would be not advisable. You should not take medication if you don't need it. Likewise you should not treat citizens as criminals if they are not.

Your way of arguing is very dangerous. Where do you stop? What would be the end of a reasonable TSA treatment?

Also, the posts here show how bad people are in dealing with probability and risk management: it is 500 times more likely to die committing suicide in the US than to die of a terrorist attack. Still we're spending a lot (more than 2 billion USD!) on our terror fear...

I'm not advocating for spendng USD 2bn on suicide prevention but frankly we're paying way too much for a bad show.

The land of the brave? I don't think so. We're a bunch of frightened cowards that rather spend 2bn on useless security theater than on rebuilding our economy.

Anonymous said...

What chemicals are on those pads that will touch our hands?

Can we opt out?

Is a new pad used for each and every passenger? If not, why not? Wouldn't this spread germs around? Can we request that a new pad be used?

Will you provide Purel after the swabbing for our own hygiene?

Anonymous said...

That's nice. No "testing for DNA", whatever that means (what, exactly, would constitute a negative test for DNA)? What about testing for narcotics? Will you be doing that? The specifications for the paper traps used in the machine indicate that they're for "Narcotics and Explosives" testing. What say you, Bob?

tramky said...

So far we see no answers to questions about what happens to my 77-year-old grandmother when she flies next Wednesday afternoon after working in her garden that morning with fertilizers and soil enhancers.

A positive reading means that the person is likely a terrorist with violent intentions. TSA can & will call the FBI, US Marshals Service, and local police. They will obtain your home address, dispatch police to search your home looking for the bomb material you must have been handling before going to the airport. They will find out your place of employment,dispatch investigators to go there to search for & retrieve materials you may keep in your desk.

Since TSA can not use ethnic, religious or national-origin profiling, they will investigate grandmothers of Norwegian ancestry just as completely as they might a college student flying in from Saudi Arabia.

And like shoes, you'd better take off any leg or arm braces your child is wearing so they can swab the underside of those braces and the child's skin for evidence of C-4 and Torpex.

Understand this, people. When you go into an airport in the United States, you have entered a twilight zone where the rules & principles by which you have led your life no longer apply.

tramky said...

I'm really curious about what happens when a positive reading comes up. It stands to reason that the person will be grilled by TSA and likely agents of other agencies. And what happens when the person's answer is only "I have no idea why that's on my hand." What then?

Presumably the person would be asked to strip completely, spread cheeks, bend over, maybe even cough. Speculum?

The swab is prima facie evidence of a serious crime: terrorism with deadly intent. They won't readily breeze over that!

Arun Krishnamurthy said...

For some reason I am predicting this will follow the same fate as the puffer machines did and fail within a year. If this is equivalent to how the puffer machines work, then the number of false positives might not provide the best accurate data considering the current alternatives we have. Also, I would not be surprised if there are techniques to counter these machines in providing false negatives.

This is just my 2 cents. :)

Anonymous said...

How about answering come of the questions asked in the comments on this post, Bob?

Anonymous said...

So, when the machine alarms because of the glycerin in my hand lotion, what happens?

Will you compensate me if you delay me from making my flight? Will you dump the concourse and inconvenience thousands?

How about if I walk across the airport grass that's just been fertilized on my way in? Will you confiscate my shoes and make my fly barefoot (like TSA did to a colleague?)

Anonymous said...

To_Protect_and_Serve said...

We don't even treat criminals like this in the US. If i treated the citizens in my city like TSA does to travelers I would lose my shield and be lynched.


The truth to this observation is that the federal government has lost the concept of being with the people of the United States. Instead the federal government management sees itself as overseeing the American people as guards in a vast prison. It doesn't take too much observation to see how this plays itself out in TSA security areas. The sullen looks, the "Basic Training" voice and the sneer at those that fail to do what they are told to do fast enough to satisfy the guards; all indicate that the TSA guard is the representative, not of fellow citizens, but masters of a lower species.

I don't blame TSA for this attitude, it permeates the spectrum of federal agencies. TSA only adopted it.

Chris Boyce said...

This is ridiculous and the most intrusive act in Security Theater yet. You are subjecting law-abiding citizens to police detention and interrogation, warrant checks, permanent records of detention & interrogation for the crimes of:
1. Taking nitroglycerin-based heart medication;
2. Living in & around agriculture (i.e.: America's farmers)
3. Being a legal gun owner
4. Moisturizing body parts with glycerin-based lotion;
5. Being in the active military, guard, or reserves;
6. Working in the explosives or mining industry;
7. Working in the cosmetics industry;

... just to name a few.

There will be no repercussions for screeners and numerous permanent ones for citizens.

This dragnet is as big as North America and rubs every citizen's nose in the Constitution many of us defended.

Rick_in_MCO said...

Wow, there is one of those screening wands, just like the one found by the passenger who surrendered his bag to TSA and received it back missing a $2500 laptop. But hey, the thief left him a nice screening wand in its place instead - OOPS!

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/crime/012910-stolen-laptop

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote:

Easy to say but let's not forget how hard it is to prove a negative.
...
TSA can't prove they have stopped any terrorist and you can't prove they have not.


Ahh, that is why I explicitly wrote *caught* any terrorists in my post. You're right that nobody can prove if TSA has stopped (deterred from ever coming to the airport, etc.) terrorists.

I can confidently say, though, that TSA has not *caught* any terrorists at its checkpoints. Given that they have championed checkpoint drug busts and fake ID busts and even confiscation/theft of non-threatening battery packs with massive PR pushes, you can bet that they would have publicized if they had caught an actual terrorist at a checkpoint.

The point, anyway, is that any screnning/test is going to have many more false positives than actual catches. If 1 in every 100,000,000 travelers screened is a terrorist (of course it's actually much lower), TSA's screening catches *all* terrorists, but TSA's screening technique has a 0.001% false positive rate, TSA will "catch" 1000 innocent people for every 1 terrorist they catch. So a responsible agency has to give as much (actually more) consideration as to how to deal with those false positives without harassing, degrading, humiliating, or inconveniencing the 1000 innocent passengers as they do to what to do with the 1 terrorist.

Joseph said...

ERm, so I'd better either fill up my car well in advance of going to the airport, or spend a while in the bathroom scrubbing my hands, to avoid any gasoline residue?

Andy said...

Bob,

As others have asked what will happen to a passenger who refuses?

Anonymous said...

"No, it doesn't; terrorism is an incredibly rare event, and terrorism targeting air travel is even rarer."

That's one of the many ignorant, misinformed statements I've read on this site. One day Americans will wake up.

Anonymous said...

Just to let everbody know TSA a has been swabbing your hands and property since they started, nothing new and TSA is used as a deterent as like every agencie is used. Do you think customs catches every smuggler, no but they do what they can to minimize the threat.

To clarify you input on terriost attacks. You should turn on some news or talk to military troops and listen to them tell you how IED's going off all the time and suicide bombers are blowing people up. This is the reality we live in and the price we pay to live free.

So to get thru the airport fast follow the few simple rules. If you dont know them be smart and ask and when a officer tells you something cant go dont whine and give stories about how the other aiport let you have it. So stop acting like children and you wont be treated like them

NoClu said...

I'm going to pack a 3.2 oz bottle of hand lotion so that I can moisturize every time I see you guys at the gate. That way my hands will be oh so smooth for your test. Think I'll pass if the lotion is 50% Glycerin? I make it at home.

P.S. You guys can change your gloves before touching my super soft hands also.

This is a rediculous practice. How much $ will you guys be spending every day on this unnecessary test?

avxo said...

Anonymous wrote "I can state that there have been no more airplanes flying into buildings since 9/11 and the terrorist still hate us. It stands to reason that something has stopped them from succeeding in another attack."

Sure, you can state that all you want. But your conclusion does not actually stand to reason.

Take an introductory Philosophy course at your local Community College if you can't tell why it doesn't.

Eric said...

to TSA's latest assault on privacy and common sense. Rest assured, when faced with this idiocy, my response will be "Fresh gloves from the box. Fresh swab, from the box, for EACH part or item you wish to test. And I want to see exactly what you're doing and to maintain watch over my personal belongings, for the protection of BOTH of us."

And the positive you just got? Yeah, that would be the hand cleaner I used just before I got to the checkpoint. The one in my Kippie bag. The one which, like virtually all hand sanitizers, soaps, and lotions commonly available in the US, contains GLYCERIN.

You continually say that you want us to respect you, to give you a break - but you treat us, the people who are PAYING YOUR SALARIES, as guilty-without-possibility-of-being-proven-innocent, you're powertripping, you're abusing authority, you're stealing from us, you're practicing medicine without a license, you're invading privacy, and you're violating our rights - and after all that, you *STILL* can't even manage to do your jobs right!!! Is it any wonder we aren't inclined to give you or your organization the benefit of the doubt?

Anonymous said...

According to the cnn.com story, the government plans to spend $60,000,000 to purchase 800 more of these units. That comes out to $75,000 per unit. A defibrillator costs about $1500. Imagine the number of lives that we could save by spending this money on defibrillators, putting them in more public locations or even in the homes of people at a high risk for cardiac arrest. Instead we continue to throw money down a hole to minimize a risk that is already infintessimally small(i.e. death in a terrorist attack on an airplane).

Isaac Newton said...

If the TSA wants to do this at the checkpoint, as long as they use clean gloves and a clean swab for each person - it would be stupid for TSA to help spread swine flu and other diseases - I have no problem with that.

But why does it need to be done again at the gate? Other than keeping excess TSA staff employed, this is unnecessary. The checkpoint is for - duh - checking people. Do it right there, and then just leave us alone.

And Bob, I agree with you that knives are not a threat to aircraft security now that the airlines have hardened cockpit doors. Since the swabs can detect explosives and the WTMD and x-ray can detect guns, why do you need the nude-o-scope? (Hint: you don't!!)

TSO Colyn said...

I've been itching to start this procedure for awhile. One of the best steps we can take is to do these ETD tests right at the gate! Tho, when referring to speed of these devices, fast is an understatement (usually <5 seconds!). Compared to other necessary and vital screenings at the gate, this one is sure to continue our mission success.

Great post Bob!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You are using technology that is actually designed to detect explosives, and does not create images of our naked bodies!

Anonymous said...

Dear Sirs,
It is very naive think you can detect anything from a perpetrator after all these advertisements and after the detection technic be explained as it is here. You have to do something unknown, use technic not announced, screen with out all these publicity, and MAY BE you are going to detect something.

Anonymous said...

Two major questions that must be answered about this new tactic.

1. If a TSO "asks" to swab my hands, is it REQUIRED that I comply if I want to remain in the sterile area? i.e., if I refuse, what happens- will I be removed from the sterile area or what? (please don't play word games about 'voluntary' etc.- if I say 'no', will I in any practical sense still be allowed to board/fly/remain in the sterile area?)

2. What happens when a positive occurs if you do this during boarding- bag check, patdown, or what? What happens when a passenger misses their flight if they are delayed by a detailed check?

Anonymous said...

There are at least a dozen important, valid questions so far on this thread and the only thing you respond to, Bob, is a ridiculous Twitter rumour about DNA that no one here has even mentioned.

Way to go after the low hanging fruit.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't make sense. The person wiping the hands is using gloves and then throwing the swipe away. However every traveler is expected to continue on with hands contaminated by an unknown and probably dangerous chemical. Why is that I don not feel any safer at the thought.

Anonymous said...

You'll probably have to start a separate line for people who use certain kinds of hand lotions or sanitizers. Lots of false positives- how are you going to weed them all out? You really can't dump the terminal for each one, can you.

You may or may not detect the bomb carrier- the bomb maker is probably far away building his next IED, so the suicide bomber might not have residue to detect.

I hope this works out, but considering the past TSA track record.....

Anonymous said...

one more reason that me as a citizen of the U.S.A will NEVER fly!

Anonymous said...

Why is it that everyone has to complain about everything TSA do if you dont like it then dont fly stay home.....

Sandra said...

"Passport fraud by terrorists or criminals is the world's biggest travel threat, the head of Interpol has said.

Airport body scanners, ...... are a misguided solution to travel threats, the police group's secretary-general Ronald Noble said."

RB said...

There have been reports of people being swabbed prior to entering the screening process (placing items on xray feed).

Is TSA screening people prior to the checkpoint and if so by what authority?

KeithK said...

I'm allowed to transport my firearm in my checked baggage, so will the gunpowder that gets everywhere set off this machine? If so, what's the follow-up after the buzzer dings?

Anonymous said...

So if I happen to be at the shooting range before flying, will the gun powder residue trigger this? How about if I was shooting off fireworks with my family before I have to fly on a trip?

Anonymous said...

As if a bomb-maker won't just use gloves now.

How much does this program cost?

How much does a pair of latex gloves cost?

Do the math and honestly tell me this isn't security theater.
__________________________________

Hey smarty pants.....
It does not matter if the person making an explosive wears gloves. The explosive residue is all over everything involved in this process. It has probably gotten on their close and on the bag that they will place it in. No matter what they are going to touch the same place that was touched while constructing or hiding the explosive. Its all over. Any more smart comments?

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but if I were to go down to my local gun range for some practice shooting (as I'm allowed as an American citizen) and later went to the airport to board an airplane, wouldn't this test show positive for gunpowder residue?

What do you do? I was legally using a firearm I own, away from the airport. I'm entering the airport weaponless but the residue remains and shows positive on your test.

Seems to me that your test is pretty pointless, doesn't it?

MarkVII said...

OK, what are the procedures to ensure that a passenger that turns up positive (which is not the same as a passenger with explosives) will be treated with courtesy and respect, and not be made into a public spectacle?

Considering the track record so far with children getting the third degree for having the same name as someone on a "list", I'm not optimistic.

Mark
qui custodiet ipsos custodes

MarkVII said...

And if you want to see how a person was made into a public spectacle at the checkpoint courtesy of a breast prosthesis, a WBI, and some checkpoint personnel, go to the Bollywood thread and check out the February 16, 2010 5:48 PM post.

Mark
qui custodiet ipsos custodes

Anonymous said...

Quoted:
"What happens when I refuse ?, which I will."

Just for you we will re-invoke the DYWTFT statement cause that's what's gonna happen!

Anonymous said...

The biggest threat to aviation safety isn't terrorists. It is security at any cost.

Anonymous said...

Any comments on the dog attacking a four-year old girl during a training exercise?

How will the girl be blamed for this?

Shouldn't the dog been muzzled?

RightEyeGuy said...

Please clarify if this will be detecting residue that may be left on the hands or clothing after a visit to the shooting range.

Bill said...

For the "What happens if I refuse" people, 49 CFR § 1540.107(a) states:

"No individual may enter a sterile area or board an aircraft without submitting to the screening and inspection of his or her person and accessible property in accordance with the procedures being applied to control access to that area or aircraft under this subchapter."

So yes, you probably won't fly.

Anonymous said...

Anon said...
"Any comments on the dog attacking a four-year old girl during a training exercise?"

You'd have to ask Customs and Border Protection. It was their dog.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
it is unsanitary

WASH YOUR HANDS!!!.

Does this mean you no longer need the WBI?


That has nothing to do w/ the additional layer of security prior to entering the checkpoint.

Can we request that the TSO changes his or her gloves before they touch us?


TSO's won't need to hold your hands. They'll just need to swab them. Just like when you cook hamburgers you don't touch the grill they don't need to touch your dirty hands.

This is going TOO FAR.


Don't FLY!!!.

Anonymous said...

Once again, TSA (especially at Philadelphia) continues to practice abuse of power:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Woman-Philly-airport-security-harassed-me-for-C?urn=nfl,220432

"Dignity and respect"? What a load. It's obvious these screeners cared nothing for their duty, but wanted to inflict their own personal opinions upon this citizen.

Dan S. said...

So, given that 99.9% of ETD 'hits' will be positives produced by innocent activity, how exactly does a passenger go about 'proving' their innocence?

Or is your day pretty-much over and your travel suspended for at least 24-48 hours if you have touched:

* Acetone (nail polish remover & paint thinner)
* Aluminium powder (most baking powders)
* Ammonium nitrate (fertilizer)
* Calcium chloride (food additive, I.V. drug, aquarium supply, fabric softener)
* Calcium silicate (fireproofing)
* Castor oil (a moderant in certain explosives)
* DEHA (hydraulic fluid, aviation lubricant, lastic wrap)
* Diesel fuel
* Dinitrotoluene (polyurethane foam)
* Erythritol tetranitrate (a slow-release vasodilator)
* Glycerine (hand lotion & KY jelly)
* Gunpowder/GSR
* Hydrogen peroxide
* Lecithin (egg yolk)
* Magnesium (antacids)
* Mononitrotoluene (photo developer)
* Nitric acid (fertilizer and wood finishing)
* Nitrobenzene (shoe polish)
* Nitrocellulose (lacquer)
* Nitroglycerine (heart medication)
* Perchlorate (automotive airbags; hyperthyroidism)
* Polyisobutylene (synthetic basketballs)
* Potassium chlorate (gunpowder, primers and 'snapper' percussion fireworks)
* SAE 10 motor oil (a component of C4)
* Silver fulminate ('snapper' percussion fireworks)
* Sodium chlorate (herbicides)
* Sodium chlorite (disenfectants)
* Toluene (model airplane glue)

...to name a few items?

Also, do the machines you plan to use pose a radiation threat to operators and passengers, in the event that the housing is cracked? If so, how frequently will the machines be thoroughly checked for radiation leaks?

Anonymous said...

"So to get thru the airport fast follow the few simple rules. If you dont know them be smart and ask and when a officer tells you something cant go dont whine and give stories about how the other aiport let you have it. So stop acting like children and you wont be treated like them"

This post typifies the reasons Americans hate TSA and the people who work there. What are the simple rules? Where can someone find an authoritative list of the rules that citizens and TSA clerks are obligated to follow at checkpoints? You can't point to one because no such thing exists -- TSA is too inept to train its employees properly and consistently. As a result we get nothing but more and more security theater and less and less safe, while high school dropouts with tin badges shout to "FOLLOW DUH ROOLZ" even though there's no authoritative list of rules in existence. Pathetic. TSA couldn't do more to support al Qaeda's aims if it tried.

Anonymous said...

"Hey smarty pants.....
It does not matter if the person making an explosive wears gloves. The explosive residue is all over everything involved in this process. It has probably gotten on their close and on the bag that they will place it in. No matter what they are going to touch the same place that was touched while constructing or hiding the explosive. Its all over. Any more smart comments?"

The bomb maker (trained)is not likely to be them expendable bomb delivery person. You might want to think about that.

RB said...

Dan S. said...
So, given that 99.9% of ETD 'hits' will be positives produced by innocent activity, how exactly does a passenger go about 'proving' their innocence?

Or is your day pretty-much over and your travel suspended for at least 24-48 hours if you have touched:

* Acetone (nail polish remover & paint thinner)
* Aluminium powder (most baking powders)
............
snipped a whole bunch

....
* Silver fulminate ('snapper' percussion fireworks)
* Sodium chlorate (herbicides)
* Sodium chlorite (disenfectants)
* Toluene (model airplane glue)

...to name a few items?

Also, do the machines you plan to use pose a radiation threat to operators and passengers, in the event that the housing is cracked? If so, how frequently will the machines be thoroughly checked for radiation leaks?

February 19, 2010 9:15 AM
........
If these devices alarm on products containing glycerin then the traveling public is in for a lot of abuse.

My informal survey of several hand lotions, hand sanitizers, moisturizers and other common products list glycerin as a leading component.

TSA, will these machines alert on glycerin as used in the above listed items?

Anonymous said...

Why is so much money and effort being put into protecting property and lives and not lives alone? If TSA feels there is a threat of explosives being loaded on aircraft by criminal passengers, do not these passengers filter through the same open areas as the rest of the travelling public? So could not explosives detonated in these areas harm and kill scores of passengers before the baggage is searched and the detection system employed?

Why are there no blast shields to minimize casualties in the public and pre-screening areas? Are not the lives of the travelling public important before they board aircraft? Why are passengers herded together where a terrorist could get a higher kill rate?

Is the government more interested in saving the insurance companies a payout expenditure than saving citizen lives?

Earl Pitts said...

So Bill, just how many times do we have to be "screened" to get on a plane? Where's the line drawn? If TSA already screened us once and cleared us to get on the plane, why does the process have to be repeated with the potential for denied boarding, especially considering the high potential for false positives?

Funny thing is, I don't see in the CFR where it says I have to resubmit to screening once cleared. I know some lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of these additional searches outside the scope of the checkpoint.

Is TSA that unsure about the effectiveness of its security measures that it has to keep repeating things over and over again? Or is it just have a lot of money to spend and it needs to justify more machines and keeping people employed?

If it's about layers, more layers don't mean more security if the layers aren't effective.

And to those screeners who say if you don't like it don't fly, what if people take that advice? You'll be out of a job and we'll have an industry go under. Is that really what TSA's aim is to do?

Earl

Earl Pitts said...

@TSO Colyn: "I've been itching to start this procedure for awhile. One of the best steps we can take is to do these ETD tests right at the gate! Tho, when referring to speed of these devices, fast is an understatement (usually <5 seconds!). Compared to other necessary and vital screenings at the gate, this one is sure to continue our mission success."

Colyn, how are these screenings at the gate necessary and vital? We've already been checked at your checkpoint once. We've been cleared. Harassing us more doesn't make us more safe.

How is it a good step when there are so many false positives that can occur from common, permitted and legal substances? Others have already mentioned these substances.

I don't care how quick it is. Once I've cleared the checkpoint, I'm deemed safe to be in the sterile area and get on a plane. Quit harassing us!

TSA hasn't continued its mission success because it's already an abysmal failure. Read the GAO reports and results for TSA. Read other tests conducted by people like Bruce Schneier. You can't continue something you haven't begun.

Please put down the kool aid. Adding unnecessary layers like this doesn't increase your effectiveness.

Earl

RB said...

Don't FLY!!!.

February 19, 2010 7:11 AM

........
Typical remark by a TSA employee.

Perhaps we should stop flying. Then there would be no need for the TSA screeners.

Save the taxpayers a bundle.

NoClu said...

Annon said...
Hey smarty pants.....
It does not matter if the person making an explosive wears gloves. The explosive residue is all over everything involved in this process. It has probably gotten on their close and on the bag that they will place it in. No matter what they are going to touch the same place that was touched while constructing or hiding the explosive. Its all over. Any more smart comments?

February 18, 2010 3:58 PM

I was trying to compose a "smart comment". Fail.

Seriously, How does the TSA plan to quickly clear all of the false positives this test will generate?

Anonymous said...

It's very easy to tell a false alarm from a real one. So for those children that said they were going to moisturize their hands right before the test with glycerin filled hand sanitizers... go for it! You'll only be wasting your time, not ours.
I for one, am no longer wasting my time on this blog. The posts on here from bloggers are ridiculous, and misinformed. The petty name calling, the insult of officers integrity for the mistakes of a few, and the childish terminology used for TSA procedures, makes it impossible to have an adult conversation here. Some of you are worried about your rights being violated, only when it serves your purpose. Yet when those same rights are expressed in turn, you condemn the person for saying anything that doesn't support your claim.
Many officers get in this line of work to help protect people, and move on from this agency to join the FAM's, CBP, ICE, even the FBI and many other government agencies. Many of us would sooner risk our own lives protecting an innocent, rather than stand by and watch you get hurt. You're questioning OUR character??
Go ahead and point to the news headlines all you want, then go ahead and give me ONE agency, ONE company, or organization, that hasn't had some idiot do something stupid, and illegal.
The only thing that hasn't made me lose faith in people in general, are the many thank you's I get for doing my job everyday. Even more now than when I first started working for TSA. Then I realize the people that bad mouth every little move that TSA makes... they aren't the majority, they're the minority. You start yelling and shouting about how you can't bring your bottle of water through, you have 100 other people behind you thinking, "Wow, I didn't know adults still had temper tantrums in public."
So I've had enough of the people here, I'm going to continue deterring terrorist acts, while being kind, and polite, and not judging a complete stranger for the acts of a few. Thank you to the very few supporters who decide to comment here.

Andy said...

ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS
ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS
ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS

To_Protect_and_Serve said...

Anonymous said...

Quoted:
"What happens when I refuse ?, which I will."

Just for you we will re-invoke the DYWTFT statement cause that's what's gonna happen!

February 18, 2010 6:45 PM

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

To Anonymous power tripping TSA employee

You all want respect but you havent done a thing to earn it, because you DEMAND it with attitudes like this and acting like a thug. BTW the cop-like dont work either because after all the bad press recently people are seeing straight through you. I get a laugh out of seeing you in your cop wannabe uniforms because it reminds me of my nieces comment " when did the smurfs take over the airport"

Then a little peace of advice for you. It would be in your best interests not to be saying that to anyone!

If they call for a LEO (IE someone like me) to complain about your threat and seek redress; It would end badly for you as I would be making a report to the DA(and/or a summons to appear) for the charges of making a terroristic threat and for assault at minimum and could be more depending on the situation.


Still waiting on my answer Bob and Francine this is the 3rd or 4th time i have asked now so answer the question.

interesting word verification - pyscho

TSM said...

Quoted:
" Anonymous said...
This doesn't make sense. The person wiping the hands is using gloves and then throwing the swipe away. However every traveler is expected to continue on with hands contaminated by an unknown and probably dangerous chemical. Why is that I don not feel any safer at the thought.

February 18, 2010 12:30 PM"
--------------------------------
The swab does not contain chemicals, it collects them. So none will be "left" on your hands.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote: "This is the reality we live in and the price we pay to live free. "

Sorry dude, we're long past "living free". The government has unchecked power and no accountability.

Look, Anon and Bob: if this were limited to the checkpoint and REASONABLE accommodations were made so passengers are not unreasonably delayed by false positives or traces of common household substances such as glycerin, plant fertilizer (Miracle Grow), lawn fertilizer, toluene (in gasoline), etc, then I think there would not be a lot of objection. Doing it at the gate, however, without a reasonable way to clear the false alarms in a timely manner (causing people to miss flights), is really a problem. People are nervous enough as it is about missing flights.... and about tests they can't control (false positives).

You gotta accommodate that. If you don't, then you run risk of rage or anger: see how some passengers treat the gate agents when their flight is delayed, a connection is missed, or they are denied boarding. Multiply that by 100x when you have a passenger that's done nothing wrong and is victimized by a false positive with NO compensation and NO recourse.

Add to all of that the fact that the machines are capable of detecting drugs - and the fact that 90+ percent of currency has traces of cocaine - and you've got the makings of a real mess. (Yes, I know the TSA says that drug testing is disabled, but they've also said that they won't make people take off leg braces, that they plant evidence, that they accept certain IDs at check points, etc - all of which certain screeners seem to ignore).

Given the horrendous track record of the agency, and the huge credibility gap between what the policy makers spew out and the way the screeners & supervisors in the field act, it's easy to understand why people object.

Again: do this at the checkpoint, create an easy and timely way to resolve false positives so folks don't miss flights, and treat people with respect, and this will be a non-issue. Carry on with the authoritarian attitude and lack of respect for the citizens of the US (who pay taxes that pay your salary) and you're going to get complaints/pushback.

By the way, Bob, propaganda is demonstrating lack of respect for us.

HappyToHelp said...

Bob said...
"I've seen a few tweets on this so I wanted to add a quick note and let folks know that we are not testing for DNA."

or drugs I might add.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Andy said...

To The Blogosphere,

It does not waste a penny of taxpayer money, even worse passengers pay for it each time they fly, the charge is called the "September 11th Security Fee"

To Bob,

ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS

LTSO with Answers said...

Hello Earl,

I will offer some insight into your curiousity, questions, complaints.


Colyn, how are these screenings at the gate necessary and vital? We've already been checked at your checkpoint once. We've been cleared. Harassing us more doesn't make us more safe.

The screenings at the gate or any screening after the checkpoint is vital for more than one reason. A big reason is it actually plays a role in countering an "insider" threat. That means people with access bypassing the TSA checkpoints are able to hand prohibited items to people that have cleared the checkpoints. Screening after the checkpoint is a security measure to counter this.

Another reason can be that you were able to smuggle something through the checkpoint and additional measures catch it on the sterile side of security. Lets face it there are places where TSA is unable to touch you and if you are not swabbed at the checkpoint but you are swabbed at the gate then the extra screening has worked.

A third reason is the more security you go through the harder it is to defeat it. In other countries you are subject to more than one checkpoint. It is good security and yes I understand the more you go through the more hassle it is. I will leave it at these reasons.

How is it a good step when there are so many false positives that can occur from common, permitted and legal substances? Others have already mentioned these substances.

I can see your concern. Facts are we encounter alarms every day and we have procedures to look deeper and clear you even after an alarm. Most alarms are innocent but to prove this we must look deeper because we need to trust our technology. These machines do not "false positive" if they hit then they have indeed found a chemical that is in the chemical make up of an explosive. Yes some innocent products contain similar chemicals and this is why we will dig deeper to clear you through the alarm. Just because you alarm doesn't mean you can't fly. It just means we need to take a closer look. In my experience we will not receive an obsurd amount of alarms to cause us to be overwhelmed at any time.

TSA hasn't continued its mission success because it's already an abysmal failure. Read the GAO reports and results for TSA. Read other tests conducted by people like Bruce Schneier. You can't continue something you haven't begun.

I wanted to personally comment on this statement. For the record Bruce Schneier makes me laugh with some of the things he says. While he has good insight and insight that he has no idea what he is talking about. I can say in his point of view he compares security with a price tag.

Please put down the kool aid. Adding unnecessary layers like this doesn't increase your effectiveness.

We have already done screening after the TSA checkpoint. This is merely using existing resources and procedures to enhance what we do on the sterile side. Yes we are using up some money for these portable machines but the machines will get their use for the money in my opinion.

LTSO with Answers said...

Seriously, How does the TSA plan to quickly clear all of the false positives this test will generate?

NoClu we will not receive as many alarms as you may imagine. We will receive alarms of coarse as this is a daily occurance and there are products that will assist in an alarm. The procedures to clear alarms do not take all your time up and to help the process go quicker your cooperation helps officers more than you know!

Corbin said...

I have read some of the posts on this blog claiming that the TSA's new practice of swabbing hands is a further invasion of privacy and a violation of their civil rights. I strongly disagree. Any measure taken in good faith to protect me and my family while traveling on an airplane is well received. I understand that there is no silver bullet in screening passengers, and I hope the TSA will keep deploying a wide range of tactics to prevent terrorists boarding aircraft with weapons.

In the grand scheme of things, I think Americans have to realize that the threat is real, and the measures being undertaken by the agency are done to keep us safe. If that means subjecting myself to a hand swab or a full-body scan by a professional, then so be it. Claiming that our rights are violated by screening practices will only make it easier for terrorists to kill Americans when, in fact, we have lost nothing in the process.

Anonymous said...

People seem to forget...flying is not a "right". It's a service that is provided by a PRIVATE company. Since airlines ARE private companies, they have the right to refuse service, just like a store or a restaurant. Passengers have other options in this case...don't fly if you don't want to go through security. I have travelled through Europe. People..be thankful you aren't there. They profile, their security carry automatic weapons, civil rights are not at the forefront of their minds....its SECURITY, which means they are going to do EVERYTHING possible within their means to ensure that nothing or no one bad boards that aircraft. Its the same there...they dont always find something every day. Don't people have the right to be safe??

Anonymous said...

"Typical remark by a TSA employee.

Perhaps we should stop flying. Then there would be no need for the TSA screeners.

Save the taxpayers a bundle."

I haven't flown since the St. Louis incident. I either drive myself or take the train. Takes a little longer, but not as much as you'd think. Most of my travel is within 700 miles; if you consider 2-3 hours pre-flight time spent (security, etc) plus the 2-3 hours of flight time plus that extra hour to get a vehicle and get away from the airport, you only take an extra hour to drive yourself or an hour less to take the train (but I usually drive). Thanks TSA - you're saving me a bundle and a lot of hassle by making driving the better choice for travel these days.

Anonymous said...

When (inevitably) a terrorist smuggles contraband onto a plane via bodily orifice, will TSA institute cavity searches? I am not trolling; this is a serious question.

TSOWilliamReed said...

We have always used ETDs. They are everywhere. They have not been a problem yet why would they suddenly be a problem now. They wont be a problem now because we havn't changed them at all. This is just an informational post about the star explosive detection tool we use.

winstonsmith said...

I think Bruce Schneier, noted security expert, summed it up best: "... this is no more or less stupid than anything else that TSA has put in place." Indeed, more useless theater, more hassle, more reasons not to fly, with zero incremental benefit. The TSA has not shown any real value for the investment the American taxpayer has put into it and thus needs to be disbanded completely. We can redirect its budget to actual intelligence work that stops the bad guys before they get to the airport (not unlike what the London investigative authorities did to discover the liquid bomb plot that started the whole 3-1-1 nonsense), keep the hardened cockpit doors and air marshals, and go back to the basic pre-9/11 screening we had.

Vin MEGA said...

I am an avid sport shooter. I reload ammo as well to save costs. Will my regular use of ammo and guns make my palms suspect?
Just curious.

thanks.

sauronsfinger said...

I think this is a good idea. Look, it is just a few seconds, and it won't happen to everyone. All this talk about rights is nonsense - you have the rights the government gives you. If you disagree it just means you think you're better than everyone else, that you want to be a dictator to everyone else. Deal with it. It keeps us safe.

Anonymous said...

Going through TSA screening at DFW Terminal A something about my camera bag didn't please the xray operator. They said it had to be swabbed. Plus I got a pat down.

A single swab was rubbed on the bag and each major item in the bag, camera body, flash, and the various lenses,

The swab came up positive. So now a little conference about what to do next. My camera and lenses were all removed, place in a tray and ran back through the xray.

At this point I guess the same xray operator didn't see anything of concern. So the TSA screener repacked my camera bag, and in the right manner, and I was finally on my way.

Now I know there was nothing in my bag that was dangerous. I know TSA doesn't know this. Yet the resources of up to four indiviuals were taken away from the screening process while chasing a FALSE ALARM on my bag.

This proves to me that the ETD equipment is either faulty or the way the swab was handled was faulty or the machine is set to dectect at levels that are not realistic.

Bottom line is TSA is using resources that do not advance safety in any manner.

MarkVII said...

I can remember posts on this blog where people were required have their hands swabbed, and when they asked about it, were told it was to detect swine flu.

Could it have really been a pilot for this program?

Mark
qui custodiet ipsos custodes

Bill Fletcher said...

What a thorny issue. The bad guys have become masters at using our liberty and freedom against us.

It often seems like they "win" no matter what we do. We must be very clever to resolve this to without loosing our freedom.

There must be a way.

TSO Colyn said...

@ Earl Pitts

The gate screenings are an additional layer of security. Think of it this way, had additional ETD screening been performed at Amsterdam, Abdulmutallab would most likely have alarmed the device. Everything we do is designed to create a system as secure as possible without commiting an egregious violation of someones rights.

I would like to clarify something, fals positives are incredibly rare. What's common are nuissance alarms. If someone alarms a gate screening ETD sample, they will be cleared in accordance to SOP.

Sorry, can't comment on GAO reports. As to harassment, I encourage you to pass thru an Israeli checkpoint. I'd also strongly encourage you to contact your congressman and suggest ideas and improvements.

Safe flying everyone!

Anonymous said...

anon says:
...However every traveler is expected to continue on with hands contaminated by an unknown and probably dangerous chemical.
----------------
if cotton is a dangerous chemical for you, your life must be hell.

Anonymous said...

Eric stated that he pays TSA's salaries and therefore should be treated as a boss-like-figure when screened. I would like to point out that every person in TSA is a VERIFIED taxpayer. They pass a background check that includes that check. Eric could easily be Canadian. Null point.

Anonymous said...

The TSA will hire anybody:

"The U.S. Transportation Security Administration insisted that Richmond International Airport issue its highest-level security clearance to a TSA security officer with a felony conviction for robbery.
The current employee was 17 years old when he committed the crime and 18 when convicted. The TSA said such juvenile adjudications do not bar people from employment.

Based on its security program, RIC denied the request. The TSA, however, said the airport had to issue the credentials because the employee met the federal agency’s hiring standards."

Anonymous said...

Bob said...
I've seen a few tweets on this so I wanted to add a quick note and let folks know that we are not testing for DNA.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

February 17, 2010 5:07 PM

Really people? Testing for DNA via swab of the hands. Your paranoia has ascended to an all new level of nuts. Just shows what little you really know. OH NOOsss!!! BIG BROTHER IS PUTTING SWINE FLU ON THESE CHEMICAL PIECES OF CLOTH!!! rediculous......

Harry said...

Well, from first hand experience I can tell you there is a benefit of getting pulled out and swabbed - you get to go right to the front of the line!

Anonymous said...

When I think of TSA, I am reminded of the Inquisition. There is a religious fervor underlying the foundation of the organization, a righteous battle against another fundamentalist enemy. There is even a hint of the Children's Crusade peeking out. The result is a sadly misguided attempt at providing security at any cost, up to and including punishment of those who do not believe in the cause.

RB said...

sauronsfinger said...
I think this is a good idea. Look, it is just a few seconds, and it won't happen to everyone. All this talk about rights is nonsense - you have the rights the government gives you. If you disagree it just means you think you're better than everyone else, that you want to be a dictator to everyone else. Deal with it. It keeps us safe.

February 20, 2010 11:34 PM

I hope you not an American citizen. If you are you failed civics in a spectacular fashion.

RB said...

Corbin said...
I have read some of the posts on this blog claiming that the TSA's new practice of swabbing hands is a further invasion of privacy and a violation of their civil rights. I strongly disagree. Any measure taken in good faith to protect me and my family while traveling on an airplane is well received.
...................

Where do you draw the line? When TSA shows up at your home unannonced to screen your home?

Monitor your private communications?

Invesitgate you because of your reading materials?

Conduct a real strip search and cavity search?

Gosh, any measure taken in good faith to protect you is well received.

RB said...

LTSO with Answers said...
Hello Earl,

I will offer some insight into your curiousity, questions, complaints.


Colyn, how are these screenings at the gate necessary and vital? We've already been checked at your checkpoint once. We've been cleared. Harassing us more doesn't make us more safe.

The screenings at the gate or any screening after the checkpoint is vital for more than one reason. A big reason is it actually plays a role in countering an "insider" threat. That means people with access bypassing the TSA checkpoints are able to hand prohibited items to people that have cleared the checkpoints. Screening after the checkpoint is a security measure to counter this.

Another reason can be that you were able to smuggle something through the checkpoint and additional measures catch it on the sterile side of security. Lets face it there are places where TSA is unable to touch you and if you are not swabbed at the checkpoint but you are swabbed at the gate then the extra screening has worked.

.......................
If TSA screened everyone entering the sterile area there would be no "insiders"!

So someone figure out how to smuggle an item through security. Knowing of the useless gate screenings then just wait until aboard the airplane to retreive the item.

IF TSA utilized the resources available to screen everyone entering the sterile area then this harassment inside the sterile area would not be needed.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
It's very easy to tell a false alarm from a real one. So for those children that said they were going to moisturize their hands right before the test with glycerin filled hand sanitizers... go for it! You'll only be wasting your time, not ours.
I for one, am no longer wasting my time on this blog. The posts on here from bloggers are ridiculous, and misinformed. The petty name calling, the insult of officers integrity for the mistakes of a few, and the childish terminology used for TSA procedures, makes it impossible to have an adult conversation here.
.........
Yet your so proud of your association with TSA that you use Anon as a name.

Anonymous said...

"I would like to point out that every person in TSA is a VERIFIED taxpayer. They pass a background check that includes that check."

And yet, TSA insisted that a convicted felon be given clearance to work at Richmond. Gee, I feel safer.

avxo said...

LTSO with Answers wrote:

"For the record Bruce Schneier makes me laugh with some of the things he says. While he has good insight and insight that he has no idea what he is talking about. I can say in his point of view he compares security with a price tag."

Right, Bruce Schneier and all the other actual security experts and agree with what he says have no idea what they're talking about.

But you do know. Because you're not just another mindless drone, shuffling bins around in your fancy blue shirt and pinned-on a shiny badge day in and day out. Because like all TSOs you can "repeatedly lift and carry an object weighing up to 70 pounds" according to the job posting of the TSA.

No sirree! You're an expert on security! And you've got answers!

Why don't you tell us your name, Mr. TSO? Why don't you also tell us what your qualifications are on matters of security?

You know, so we can make sure you're actually an expert on security and not merely a high-school graduate who applied for a job and managed to get through the rigorous 20 hour training?

Andy said...

Bob,

Is this a two-way blog or is it a one-way blog. People are asking you questions and the only member of the blog team that has answered any of them is Tim. Your TSO's have answered more questions than you have.

LTSO with Answers said...

If TSA screened everyone entering the sterile area there would be no "insiders"!

So someone figure out how to smuggle an item through security. Knowing of the useless gate screenings then just wait until aboard the airplane to retreive the item.

IF TSA utilized the resources available to screen everyone entering the sterile area then this harassment inside the sterile area would not be needed.


There is a lot of truth to what you say RB. The facts are that TSA does not have the manpower to screen every access point so screening of every person by passing security is difficult, although it has been pilot tested at some airports. This will cost a lot as additional personnel will be needed.

And these gate screenings are random and unpredictable. Someone will not know about the screening going on. These screenings also happen during the boarding process so there is no waiting to board to escape the screening.

Andy said...

avxo,

Your comments are not acceptable and I must say that I am amazed that Blogger Bob approved them for the blog. The LTSO is not jsue a regular person who is watching a moniter or checking ID's they moniter the other TSO's at the checkpoint. An LTSO would have to have experiance as a TSO to become a LTSO. The people in the airport (with the exception of the smaal group that know nothing) are nice and know what they are doing. The issue is the organization and the people higher up who make the stupid decisions about what TSA shound and should not do to ensure passenger safety.

Andy said...

Anonymous,

Background checks are not perfect and usually are only performed once when a peson applies for a job. If a person did something after they were hired for the job the background chaeck would not include it.

Andy said...

RB,

I must say that the TSO may not have a Blogger account or may have posted as Anonymous for some other reason unknown to all of us. When I first started making comments I used Anonymous.

LTSO with Answers said...

Wow avxo. Nice on trying to shatter my emotions by displaying all of your disrespect for our officers and my agency. Let me say in another way that Bruce Schneier and other experts say things about some of our security measures that are just not true. You say things as if there are no security experts that TSA works with or that works for the agency. You think we just come up with stuff out of the sky and that is just not true. Some things that security experts say simply does not add up to some of the stuff we know.

Andy said...

First off everyone who is making comments on this blog has to calm down and think about what they are going to say before they post it to this blog. I understand that some of the TSA procedures are outright silly sounding to most of you, the people who work for TSA are wouking for them because they feel that the work that TSA does and the improtance of that work is very important. The people who work for the TSA are treated very poorly by most of the passengers on a dialy basis. If all that you did all day was have to listen to a bunch of passengers yell at you and your coworkers would you want to be nice to those same passengers who yell at you all day long? The blog is not a place to say all of the things about the TSA that you would say under your breath to avoid others from hering you say the comments. Blogger Bob is an actual person and he reads almost all of the comments if not all of the comments that are made on this blog. He is not just a computer that will listen to people yell at him and talk bad about him and the other people who work for his organization. He might not be responding to all of your comments because he is trying to remain calm, which is a very hard thing to do with this many people yelling at you on a daily basis. You have to quit acting like a bunch of children when you are commenting on the TSA blog. With regards to the topic at hand I have previously made comments regarding this and must say that after looking into it a bit more on my own it is not as bad as all of you are trying to make it be. For the record passengers who refuse will be reffered to a TSA manager at the airport checkpoint, that is not me making something up it is from the local Atlanta newspaper and can be found by searching for airport security at ajc.com. I will say that there are times where I do not agree with the TSA, but most of the time I understand what they are doing and it is only being done to protect the travelling public from harm when they fly, also all of you who complain about not being able to take your family member who is in a wheelchair to the gate, all you have to do is explain the situation to the ticket agent for the airline at the airport and they will try to help you, it does work. We all have to understand that when we comment of this blog we are communicatingh with real people with real feelings.

Skyler said...

We all know this is only security theater. This is just another way to pull people out of line, remove their bags, scare the crap out of them, and people around them, and maybe to scare potheads from flying...

I'm just waiting for some grandmother to get picked up for being a pothead because she accidentally grabbed the wrong cup at Coffee'Bux, and have a heart attack while being placed in handcuffs, unable to take her glycerin pill.

Next there'll be some TSA agents wanting autographed nude photos of the people they're supposedly chec... OOoops! http://tinyurl.com/yahorbv

HappyToHelp said...

Avox said…
"Right, Bruce Schneier and all the other actual security experts and agree with what he says have no idea what they're talking about."

While Bruce Schneier is an IT security expert (currently a Chief Security Technology Officer for a managed security service), I have to agree with LTSO on this one. Some of his drawn conclusions are based off of assumptions of TSA policy and procedure leading him to bad conclusions.
He is not doing this on purpose. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are Sensitive Security Information (SSI) and are not public. He is a great security blogger, but he is by far not a one stop shop for security opinions. If Bruce Schneier and the other security experts who agree with him are the only ones you read, you have placed yourself into a “groupthink” situation.

Avox said…
“But you do know. Because you're not just another mindless drone, shuffling bins around in your fancy blue shirt and pinned-on a shiny badge day in and day out. Because like all TSOs you can "repeatedly lift and carry an object weighing up to 70 pounds" according to the job posting of the TSA.

No sirree! You're an expert on security! And you've got answers!

Why don't you tell us your name, Mr. TSO? Why don't you also tell us what your qualifications are on matters of security?”

Why the attack (flame) on LTSO? Do you not want Earl to get a response or some kind of feedback on his blog comment?
LTSO’s qualifications and name would not change your mind, and implying they would is very disingenuous. From your post, it seems you have made up your mind and will attack, on a personal level, anyone who disagrees with your opinion. If you are here and do not want to read different points of view, you are flat out in the wrong place.

@ LTSO with Answers

Thanks for taking the time to respond to Earl. I hope the information you provided is helpful to him.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

sauronsfinger said...

RB wrote:
I hope you not an American citizen. If you are you failed civics in a spectacular fashion.

Actually I'm a retired High School history teacher. I taught the subject for 34 years, so I think I know a little more about it than you do.

All this theoretical talk about rights is nothing more than talking about angels dancing on the head of a pin. It's nonsense. You have the rights society gives you.

TSO Colyn said...

Hi again folx!

First off, I'd like to thank LTSO with Answers for a nicely written post. It's always nice to see/hear a leads perspective.

I decided to post because some posters have dropped the name "Bruce Schneier" and proclaimed him to be an expert in security.

It's most important to point out that Mr. Schneier has no experience in security other than Information Technology. His degrees are in Computer Science and Physics and lacks the credentials to be considered an expert in Aviation Security.

Schneier is a wizard on the computer, but he has no more understanding of the threats against America than the media.

avxo said...

"LTSO’s qualifications and name would not change your mind, and implying they would is very disingenuous."

You cannot refute the fact that being a TSO doesn't make one an "expert" in aviation security anymore than working the counter an airport McDonalds makes one an "expert" in the fast-food business, or working as a baggage handler makes one an expert in airport operations.

So yes, knowing what credentials this guy has would make a lot of difference. At least to me. As it stands now, I don't even know if the guy is actually a TSO.

As for Schneier not being an expert in aviation security, as Colyn said, that may be true. He does have security expertise, but it's not necessarily in the field of airport operations security. However, he knows how to apply proper security principles and he has been spot on with almost everything he said on the issue of airport security. Which, in the end, gives him a lot more credibility than some around here, or even at TSA/DHS headquarters, at least in my book.

RB said...

sauronsfinger said...
RB wrote:
I hope you not an American citizen. If you are you failed civics in a spectacular fashion.

Actually I'm a retired High School history teacher. I taught the subject for 34 years, so I think I know a little more about it than you do.

All this theoretical talk about rights is nothing more than talking about angels dancing on the head of a pin. It's nonsense. You have the rights society gives you.

February 22, 2010 7:08 PM
.................
You should sue your college to get your money back then.

And if you taught your students that the government gives rights to citizens then hundreds of kids have been misinformed.

The United States government does not give rights to the citizens. The Constitution limits government power.

Eric said...

Anonymous #1 (February 20, 2010 9:36 AM) said...
"People seem to forget...flying is not a "right". It's a service that is provided by a PRIVATE company. Since airlines ARE private companies, they have the right to refuse service, just like a store or a restaurant. Passengers have other options in this case...don't fly if you don't want to go through security."

Travel by common carrier is a protected right, actually (from EPIC.org – “The right to travel is a part of the "liberty" of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment ... Freedom of movement across frontiers in either direction, and inside frontiers as well, was a part of our heritage. Travel abroad, like travel within the country, may be necessary for a livelihood. It may be as close to the heart of the individual as the choice of what he eats, or wears, or reads. Freedom of movement is basic in our scheme of values. "Our nation," wrote Chafee, "has thrived on the principle that, outside areas of plainly harmful conduct, every American is left to shape his own life as he thinks best, do what he pleases, go where he pleases."
-- Justice William O. Douglas, Kent v. Dulles (1958)”
. Airlines are a common carrier. Moreover, since it's not the AIRLINES making "security" checkpoint clearance and post-checkpoint hassling of cleared pax such a trial, but rather it's a GOVERNMENT AGENCY (the laughably-named "Transportation Security Agency" is NOT a private agency...), your argument falls more than a little flat, Anon.

"I have travelled through Europe. People..be thankful you aren't there. They profile, their security carry automatic weapons, civil rights are not at the forefront of their minds....its SECURITY, which means they are going to do EVERYTHING possible within their means to ensure that nothing or no one bad boards that aircraft. Its the same there...they dont always find something every day. Don't people have the right to be safe??"

They have the right to TRY to be safe. They aren't allowed to infringe upon other peoples' rights to do so. And the way European, Asian, Middle-Eastern, etc., countries do things is really rather irrelevant. We are not in any of those locations. This is the USA, where rights are (allegedly) important. "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Ben Franklin, 1755)

And, for the record, what happens when TSA expands its grip to include OTHER public methods of transportation? We've already seen them at subway and train and bus stations, conducting their drills and inspections to the detriment of THOSE passengers - where do people go to avoid TSA's wrongful harassment when IT KEEPS FOLLOWING THEM??? Can I complain about it when they set up a checkpoint at the head of the freeway onramp, or do I have to wait until they're at the end of my driveway?

(cont'd)

Eric said...

(cont’d)

Anonymous #2 (February 21, 2010 5:50 PM) said...
"Eric stated that he pays TSA's salaries and therefore should be treated as a boss-like-figure when screened. I would like to point out that every person in TSA is a VERIFIED taxpayer. They pass a background check that includes that check. Eric could easily be Canadian. Null point."

Point of information - Eric stated no such thing, and you (expletive deleted, to avoid Bob's censoring) well know it, Anon. I said that I pay TSA's salaries (and many others do as well, actually - my exact words were "... you treat us, the people who are PAYING YOUR SALARIES..."). I said nothing about being "...treated as a boss-like-figure when screened." YOUR faulty inferrence is not my problem, Anon. All that may be REASONABLY inferred from my post is that we (in the generic sense - here meaning "the flying public") would like to be treated in a civil manner, rather than in the manner I described, which is certainly an accurate description of how TSA appears to view the flying public. I want to be treated like an innocent, law-abiding American citizen if I have occasion to transit the checkpoint, Anon - I ask for nothing more. Sadly, TSA's policies appear to forbid that, and far too many screeners appear to believe that their blue shirts and shiny not-really-law-enforcement badges give them license to (or REQUIRE them to) indulge in harassment, abuse of authority, and just plain poor treatment of the thousands of people they see at the checkpoint every day. If you believe it's wrong to demand better from public servants, then perhaps YOU'RE in the wrong country. I, on the other hand, will continue to require civil service from my civil servants, as is my right.

And for the record - The US federal government was eminently satisfied with my citizenship status (natural-born citizen, that would be) nearly 2 decades ago now, when it did the background checks for my security clearance prior to my enlistment as a US Navy nuclear operator. You have no reason to doubt them, nor to assume that anyone here not specifying otherwise is not in fact a citizen of the United States. TSA's "background checks", on the other hand, have infamously passed numerous theives, convicted felons, pedophiles, and the like, who have only been caught AFTER employment by said agency. So, on your attempt at distraction from the ACTUAL issues at hand, I issue you a big fat FAIL. Please try again - or not.

Anonymous #3 (February 21, 2010 9:48 PM ) said...

Bob said...
I've seen a few tweets on this so I wanted to add a quick note and let folks know that we are not testing for DNA.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

February 17, 2010 5:07 PM

Really people? Testing for DNA via swab of the hands. Your paranoia has ascended to an all new level of nuts. Just shows what little you really know. OH NOOsss!!! BIG BROTHER IS PUTTING SWINE FLU ON THESE CHEMICAL PIECES OF CLOTH!!! rediculous......"

Who here, other than Blogger Bob (well, and now you, too), has so much as MENTIONED the idea that these swabs were ever intended to acquire DNA samples? Oh, I'm sure that there are one or more conspiracy-theory websites out there which have floated the notion, complete with appropriate misspellings and evidence of outrage, but I haven't seen anything here (other than Bob's post and yours) which had even mentioned it. Talk about manufacturing a straw-man so you've got an easy target to knock down... (thumbs-down)


In the meantime, it's been several days, and NO ONE from the site (hint-hint, Bob) has so much as touched the numerous questions and LEGITIMATE concerns raised by many of us posting here. Step up, if you please...

avxo said...

I would also add that I'm not vehemently opposed to the TSA qua TSA, nor am I somehow being vitriolic towards anyone who carries the moniker "TSO" or works for TSA.

But you can't expect me to not become disillusioned when TSA brags about deploying "document checkers" and their thorough training, but those very document checkers cannot -- at a major international airport -- figure out what country a passport is issued from and whether it's a valid form of ID for travel inside the United States.

You can't expect me to not become disillusioned when, in the height of the liquid hysteria, someone can sneak in two bottles of liquid in contact lens solution bottles, simply by claiming "two bottles for two eyes."

You can't expect me not to become disillusioned when TSA agents at checkpoints open envelopes that contain papers, even in the wake of the Fofana decision and become rude and feign ignorance when that decision is brought to their attention.

You can't expect me not to become disillusioned when the "rules" seem to be in a state of constant flux ("USP" notwithstanding) so that a small cardboard nail file is OK in one facility, but not OK in another.

I'm sure that the TSA has security experts, and I'm sure that many of them are top-notch. And when they (and the agency) does something right, I will point that out, as I have in the past, here and elsewhere.

On the matter at hand, for example, I have no problem with the ETD screening at the gate. I think that it's a decent idea, although, if it really only takes 5 seconds, why can't it become a part of the standard checkpoint procedures? As you're about to go through the metal scanner, you simply stick your hand out and get swabbed. Unpredictability is good, but if this is really that painless then doing it all the time is better.

I don't have a problem with the millimeter wave and the backscatter scanners, although I do think that the agency is trying to pass them off as security penicillin, and think the agency failed horribly by asserting that the devices didn't have any capability to store/save images, instead of saying outright that the capability is present, but not available on operationally-deployed machines.

What I want -- and support -- is: sane and practical security measures and not knee-jerk reactions and well-trained and conscientious employees and not people who just got a "guvmint job" and become muscle-flexing feudal serfs of their little checkpoint domain.

I know that the TSA has good people. I know that the TSA has some not-so-good people. It's inevitable. But we should all strive to get rid of the bad apples and you guys (the TSOs, LTSOs and so on) should be the first to want to do so. They reflect badly on your agency and they make your job more difficult.

TSORon said...

Anonymous asked...
When (inevitably) a terrorist smuggles contraband onto a plane via bodily orifice, will TSA institute cavity searches? I am not trolling; this is a serious question.
---------------------------
Well Anon, give it a moments thought. Just how big an explosive device do you think you can fit up there? Not trying to be funny, but space is quite limited in those areas of the body, and to be honest its not really a significant threat. I don’t ever see us using body cavity searches as a part of our routine. You can stop being nervous about it.

TSORon said...

Vin MEGA asked...
I am an avid sport shooter. I reload ammo as well to save costs. Will my regular use of ammo and guns make my palms suspect?
Just curious.

thanks.
-------------------------
Hi ya Vin! I also am an avid shooter and it has never been an issue for me. And I am around ETD’s all day every day. Even if by some chance you alarmed for something, there are procedures to clear the alarm and they have been in place for years now.

TSORon said...

Anonymous said...
Now I know there was nothing in my bag that was dangerous. I know TSA doesn't know this. Yet the resources of up to four indiviuals were taken away from the screening process while chasing a FALSE ALARM on my bag.

Bottom line is TSA is using resources that do not advance safety in any manner.
-------------------------
Hi ya Anon. Sorry, you are just a tad wrong. Camera’s, film, electronics, think about it. All of those items go through a manufacturing process that uses chemicals. Some of those chemicals may be what our systems are designed to detect. After all, the systems as designed to detect levels in the “parts per million” range, which is what they need to be able to detect. And all they do is give an indication that more in-depth screening needs t be done, they don’t label you or anyone else as a terrorist. The TSO’s have the training and the authority to make decisions in this area, there is no need for people to get hyper about it.

Phil said...

Someone anonymously asked:

"When (inevitably) a terrorist smuggles contraband onto a plane via bodily orifice, will TSA institute cavity searches? I am not trolling; this is a serious question."

TSORon replied:

"Just how big an explosive device do you think you can fit up there? Not trying to be funny, but space is quite limited in those areas of the body, and to be honest its not really a significant threat."

Ron, you know where else space is quite limited? The soles of the shoes you force us to remove so you can X-ray them. Almost anything that could be smuggled in the sole of a shoe could also be smuggled in armpits, crotches, pockets, mouths, and rectums. Your shoe carnival only foils the would-be bomber who can't think of anywhere else to smuggle his explosive. I contend that there are very few, if any, suicidal bombers who, presented with the fact that their shoes will be X-rayed, will throw their arms up in the air and move on to unrelated business.

To be honest, explosives that would be smuggled in shoe soles if it weren't for your shoe X-ray policies and will not instead be smuggled in pants pockets, in body cavities, or taped to bodies, are not really a significant threat.

--
Phil
Showing ID only affects honest people.
What if the people with the power to secretly put your name on a "no-fly" list didn't like the reason for which you want to fly?

RB said...

TSORon said...
Anonymous asked...
When (inevitably) a terrorist smuggles contraband onto a plane via bodily orifice, will TSA institute cavity searches? I am not trolling; this is a serious question.
---------------------------
Well Anon, give it a moments thought. Just how big an explosive device do you think you can fit up there? Not trying to be funny, but space is quite limited in those areas of the body, and to be honest its not really a significant threat. I don’t ever see us using body cavity searches as a part of our routine. You can stop being nervous about it.

February 23, 2010 1:56 PM
.......
"Taking a trick from the narcotics trade - which has long smuggled drugs in body cavities - Asieri had a pound of high explosives, plus a detonator inserted in his rectum."
......................
So Mr. Self Proclaimed Security Expert, just how much damage could one pound of high explosive cause?

Perhaps the real reason for the sudden ETD swabs of hands, eh!

avxo said...

Andy said that my comments are not acceptable, and that even if the people "high up" at TSA made bad decisions, the people at the airport (except for very few) know what they're doing.

My reply was "barbed" and spiky, no doubt. But it didn't include any profanity or any personal attacks. Of course, Bob et all are free, per their policy, to not approve it if they don't want to.

Asserting that someone isn't an expert in aviation security simply by posting on a blog with "LTSO" as a moniker -- whether that person is or isn't employed by TSA as an LTSO -- is not a personal attack or an insult.

You may disagree with this, of course and that's nobody's problem but your own.

You are free to call someone who drops fries in the fryer at McDonalds a chef, just as you are free to accept people them as experts in the field of fast-food. But your acceptance has no bearing on objective reality.

But the facts are as follows:

a) Being a TSO or even an LTSO doesn't automatically qualify someone to be a security expert.

b) Implying or suggesting that one is a security expert opens the door to have that expertise called into question.

You suggest that the TSOs and LTSOs at the airports are nice and know what they're doing and that the fault is the higher-ups.

Let's set aside the issue of "niceness" since it's too vague. I agree that many of though, although not most, are at least polite. But the assertion that they know what they're doing is clearly bogus.

Even if we ignore the whole "headless chicken" argument you bring up about the people up top being the problem (which they may very well be) a lot of the TSOs and LTSOs simply don't seem to know what they're doing.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Greg Denny was able to bypass security procedures in San Diego, get into the "sterile area" and deport his cousin's wife back to the Philippines by flashing a fake badge and posing as a U.S. Marshal.

The administration's response? The supervisor will get more training. Perhaps, when that remedial training is complete, he'll actually qualify as an expert... Right Andy?

To_Protect_and_Serve said...

TSORon

Your still dodging questions that have been posted repeatedly here and on Flyertalk. Are you going to answer the and take the visual drug test that has been posted repeatedly or can I confirm my assessment that you cant identify drugs by sight, but yet still search for them despite that TSA is not LE and has no legal right to search for drugs or any other objects outsite of Weapons Explosives or Incendiaries.

If Im wrong prove it!

Jim Huggins said...

LTSO With Answers writes:

And these gate screenings are random and unpredictable. Someone will not know about the screening going on. These screenings also happen during the boarding process so there is no waiting to board to escape the screening.

Oh, one can escape this type of screening all the time. If one sees a large squadron of TSA employees gathering around a particular gate, it's rather trivial to simply walk away from the checkpoint and re-book onto some other flight, with one's cleverly concealed contraband still intact.

I mean, it's not like all of you are hiding in the tunnel waiting to jump out and yell "Surprise! You've been selected for additional screening!"

LTSO with Answers said...

HappytoHelp
Colyn
Andy

Thanks.

QQ said...

Quick question: what security kind of security measures would you blogging 'experts' suggest? Just curious.

Jim Huggins said...

QQ asks:

Quick question: what security kind of security measures would you blogging 'experts' suggest? Just curious.

There have been dozens of them suggested over the lifetime of the blog. Most of them are dismissed out-of-hand, or otherwise ignored.
Just off the top of my head, here's a few that others have suggested:

* 100% screening of all people entering the gate area, not just passengers. This eliminates well-publicized problems with airline or TSA employees smuggling contraband into the sterile area.

* Inline luggage strapping machines, used on luggage after passing TSA inspection. This ensures that no-one can open a passenger's bag without being noticed. Not only does this greatly reduce problems with airline or TSA employees taking things from bags, it also reduces the possibility of someone adding things to bags (like bombs).

* Eliminate ID verification at the checkpoint. TSA takes considerable time and effort to verify that the ID presented is genuine, while accepting a completely unauthenticated piece of paper as a boarding pass. It's utterly trivial to forge a boarding pass. Matching a genuine ID to a random piece of paper doesn't do much for security. Take those staff and put them on regular screening duties at the checkpoint (which just got harder, because you're doing 100% screening of all employees, right?).

* Eliminate BDOs. BDOs at the airport seem to be good at catching people who have overdue parking tickets or fake IDs or drugs. None of those things have anything to do with the primary mission of keeping weapons off aircraft --- and BDOs don't seem to be catching terrorists. Take those staff and put them back on primary screening duties (which just got harder, right?).

* Drastically alter the way in which the "no-fly" and "selectee" lists are used. Consider that the most dangerous terrorists aren't on the list for "security" reasons. Also, no-one will tell you if you (or someone with the same name) are on one of the lists, and it takes an Act of Congress to get off the list.
Make the lists public, require the government to get a court order to place someone on the list, and allow citizens to challenge such orders in court.

* Re-evaluate current policies on prohibited items. It seems silly to ban small knives, when small knives are available on-board each aircraft in the first class cabin for meal service.

That's just for starters. Of course, I'm not a paid security expert, so I'm sure I'll be dismissed as a crackpot ...

Anonymous said...

" I understand that some of the TSA procedures are outright silly sounding to most of you, the people who work for TSA are wouking for them because they feel that the work that TSA does and the improtance of that work is very important. "

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

I have no idea what "wouking" means, but assuming you meant "working,": don't you think that some people who work for the TSA do so because it is the best job that they can find?

"The people who work for the TSA are treated very poorly by most of the passengers on a dialy basis. If all that you did all day was have to listen to a bunch of passengers yell at you and your coworkers would you want to be nice to those same passengers who yell at you all day long?"
Just based on my limited experience: I have witnessed a great number of TSOs yelling at passengers. I have never witnessed a passenger yelling at a TSO.
-----------------------
"Blogger Bob is an actual person and he reads almost all of the comments if not all of the comments that are made on this blog. He is not just a computer that will listen to people yell at him and talk bad about him and the other people who work for his organization. He might not be responding to all of your comments because he is trying to remain calm, which is a very hard thing to do with this many people yelling at you on a daily basis. "

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

Yes, we know that blogger Bob is an actual person. That is why it is so galling that he is able to spout meaningless nonsense all the time. And people aren't "yelling" at Bob-- they are typing their (often insightful) comments.

"You have to quit acting like a bunch of children when you are commenting on the TSA blog."
-------------------------------
Who https://www.blogger.com/captcha?type=IMAGE&captchaKey=1kz7r61m3rbuhis acting like a child?

sauronsfinger said...

Really RB? What are your credentials?

The Constitution grants certain rights to the public, with the Bill of Rights. That's what I taught, because that's the way it is. You tell me how many rights you have without the government protecting them. You have none.

avxo said...

Sauron said: "The Constitution grants certain rights to the public, with the Bill of Rights. That's what I taught, because that's the way it is. You tell me how many rights you have without the government protecting them. You have none."

Wow, I didn't think anybody could be *THAT* obtuse.

You ought to put "Lord of the Rings" down and re-read (or is that read?) the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Sauronfinger, the Constitution doesn't grant any rights. It recognizes the rights of the people and certainly limits the powers of the federal government. You're correct that it is the government's job to protect those rights. Unfortunately, it's not doing its job.

If you're going to call out someone's credentials, it's only prudent that you put yours out there too.

Anonymous said...

Our founders said in our declaration of independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

sauronsfinger said...

I taught high school history for over 30 years in the Detroit public school system. What about you?

sauronsfinger said...

Maybe you never learned this in your history class, but the Declaration of Independence isn't a legal document.

avxo said...

sauronsfinger wrote: "I taught high school history for over 30 years in the Detroit public school system."

Well... that certainly explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

Studied some law and work for the government. Understanding the Constitution and how it applies to my job is something that is taken seriously and I have to regularly review my obligations and restrictions under it for operating in my capacity.

I find it really sad that after 30 years of teaching "history" that you still don't understand what the constitution is, and how history is repeating itself.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm now sitting at home learning about these devices because a false positive made me miss my flight. Great job champs!

Lusiyene said...

Well, I'm now sitting at home learning about these devices because a false positive made me miss my flight. Great job champs!

Beryl said...

I found a baggage inspection notice in my luggage on returning from a trans-Atlantic flight yesterday. Fortunately my luggage does not have a lock, otherwise, according to your note, it could have been vandalised by security agents with no opportunity for redress for such action which, within any other context, would be classed as criminal.
This level of intrusion entirely unjustifiable. It would be perfectly feasible to arrange to conduct such ad hoc checks in the presence of the passenger in question at check-in, with the added advantage that in this way, ALL passengers would be aware, and/or reminded, of the fact that such checks do indeed take place, thus providing a deterrent element.
I am further reminded by this incident of the fact that, shortly after 9/11 when the whole of the western world was on red alert against terrorism, I had an issue with my passport which I had mislaid, at the same airport (LAX), with the result that I had to take my hand luggage through security three times. During my stay in LA, I had attended an Ideal Home Exhibition where I was given a free gift of a vegetable knife with a 6-inch blade, which I had put in my bag and forgotten about. To my horror, it was only the THIRD time that my luggage went through security, that it was detected at the bottom of my bag, and even then only because the third time, the bag was sent through the tunnel on its side. I complained about this to a security guard who was there at the time, barely visible behind his burden of weapons, and he just looked at me as much as to say ‘What’s your problem? I only work here’.

In general, I continue to find security staff surly, unhelpful, and constantly omit to provide genial notice of unexplained delays in the baggage inspection procedure. I therefore invite you to address these issues for the benefit of all passengers. Incidentally, I had to use this blog instead of your feedback form as the system will not accept a UK phone number.

RB said...

Beryl said in part.....In general, I continue to find security staff surly, unhelpful, and constantly omit to provide genial notice of unexplained delays in the baggage inspection procedure. I therefore invite you to address these issues for the benefit of all passengers. Incidentally, I had to use this blog instead of your feedback form as the system will not accept a UK phone number.

March 9, 2010 9:44 AM

..............
You think TSA is surly and unhelpful at the airport?

TSA at LAX doesn't hold a candle to the TSA folks on this blog.

You won't get any answers from TSA here either.

Anonymous said...

I just flew out of DIA yesterday and my backpack tested positive for explosives. The TSA agent asked me if a I had been hiking, which I had so I answered in the affirmative.

What the heck does hiking have to do with explosives? They ran 2 more tests on my bag and both came up negative and I was allowed to go through.

Anonymous said...

I was pulled aside yesterday while traveling from MCO. I was treated like a criminal while my three children stood there watching and wondering what was up. After walking through the metal detector without incident (I always make sure I have nothing on me that will make me beep)the "guard" first indicated that I was clear to pick up my backpack and shoes from the belt. Then all of the sudden he changed his mind and motioned me into an all-glass cell and without a word to me he turned his back on me and ignored me while I stood there feeling like an idiot and wondering what the heck I was supposed to do. All the while my three sons, who had cleared security, looked at me quizzically and I felt like a zoo animal. After a few minutes (literally minutes -- which is a long time in this situation) a gentleman beeped on his way through the metal detector so he was told to join me in the glass cell. Shortly thereafter a different TSA guy finally opened the door at the other end of the cell and motioned for me to come out. He then proceded to do the whole hand swab routine without saying a word to me except telling me to hold my palms out. He then asked me where my bags were. Duh, where do you think my bags were? Sitting there unattended on the conveyor belt with my wallet and all my travel documents in them because I was stopped from retrieving them several minutes earlier. He told me to get them so I grabbed my backpack, shoes and clear zipper bag with my less than 3 oz. of lip balm and hand sanitizer (because I was doing everything according to the rules). He mumbled something about my shoes so I asked if I could put them on and he snapped at me to put them on. Then I stood there watching him swab the inside of my backpack. He didn't say a word to me the whole time while he ran his little tests and finally told me to go. I was furious and humiliated and just felt like crying. When I rejoined my kids they wanted to know what that was about. I told them I didn't know and I had to try really hard to not burst into tears. If someone would have used just a hint of kindness and respect throughout this whole ordeal, it wouldn't have been a big deal at all. But when you're yanked from the line and suddenly treated like you're a criminal under arrest, it's very upsetting and humiliating. I plan to register a complaint with the TSA, but I know nothing will come of it. I just want the next person to be treated better than I was.

Anonymous said...

I am curious that maybe this is not so much a security issue for terrorists, as it is an easy way to start a national database for fingerprints to match names (real or not). I can't imagine anyone being able to accumulate enough explosive "dust" or residue to ever explode anything but their fingers. If the government wants a national database to prevent illegals from entering this country, or to ACTUALLY deport them, I think it's a positive thing. But, that of course should have been done at the borders in the first place. So we have to assume since the border security is doing their jobs diligently, that there is some other motive for a possible database.

Anonymous said...

i just set off the trace equipment in canton. i have been traveling for business for years...pulled into the office, patted down (intrusive) had everything tore through and searched..and as expected they found nothing...

i asked what it was that triggered the alarm, so i could avoid this situation in the future...they wouldn't tell me...

what things can cause a false positive???????

Anonymous said...

but Bob, what stops you from turning around tomorrow or the day
after from getting the DNA off the gloves. You guys also said that the images of the full body scanners couldn't save images. Sorry! There goes TSA credibililty!
XX

Accelerated Learning Techniques said...

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Anonymous said...

ETD is designed to detect nitrates. OK.

Does anyone in the TSA think that using nitrile rubber gloves will contaminate the sample?

Nitrile rubber is manufactured using nitrates, the same thing the ETD is looking for.

What type of protocols are in place to ensure there is not cross-contamination?

If you demand the authority to inconvenience us in the name of security, then you must accept responsibility for performing your mission in a competent and professional manner. And yes, I have 20+ years experience in this field.

Anonymous said...

Bob, serious issue here....Through experience, I've come to the understanding that your EDT machines experience a high rate of false-positives for nitrates after a post-pat-down glove swab. Your screeners are using Nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves are manufactured with nitrates, specifically calcium nitrate, which is made with nitric acid, a primary component of nitrate-based explosives. Are you seeing the connection here Bob? Nitrile...nitrates...I'm fairly certain that gloves manufactured with nitrates will alarm for nitrates, especially when testing for parts-per-billion. It's just a hunch, but I wouldn't assume that someone in your agency has made the connection yet.

BTW Bob, you've got a "no-fly" list. Wouldn't it be prudent to develop another list of those who are of minimal or no risk? Seriously Bob, is it really productive to spend an hour screening a United States Senator, or someone with a DoD TS/SCI security clearance and a full-scope polygraph; someone who's been vetted far more thoroughly than the vast majority of law enforcement officers who are allowed to board aircraft while carrying guns? Do Federal Air Marshall's undergo an SSBI and polygraph? Do Transportation Security Officers even have a government security clearance and it's accompanying background investigation?

Tommy C. said...

Ok I've read a lot of the comments attached to this article and I believe these tests are just a method used by the TSA to cover their butts from any liability and not to discriminate between people. What most of you dont understand is that if their was an incident that involved an aircraft that exploded, everyone would be screaming about what could have been to stop it from happening and that is what the TSA administration is trying to do. They are trying to protect you from harm. As far as the issues about bacteria being spread, dont touch your eyes, nose or mouth and just go wash your hands afterwards the human body is designed to protect you from germs and a besides you are going to be in a sealed flying can with the same people that are being touched. Now I do disagree with the child pat downs but I can also understand why the TSA does them. There have been incidents with children being used as "explosive traps" that are designed to get past your defenses and cause massive damage as well as psychological damage. Heck maybe we needed to develop the scanner they had on the original total recall movie them maybe everyone would be happy. Oh wait that's impossible.

The Zombie Hunter said...

I have a shoulder bag that sometimes carries my pistol for CCW in my country. Since I take it to the range once in a while for practice and fire off a few dozen rounds, the gun may leave some gun smoke residue or powder in the bag.

I'm planning to fly to the USA this year and would like to use the same shoulder bag (and leave my gun at home!) because its built for international travel.

would the tiny bits of gun powder be a cause for alarm? would I be breaking any laws?

Anonymous said...

Since when did flying in airplanes become a right? It's a priveledge. If you don't like it then don't fly. I'm all for security. I've never been violated, hurt, or humiliated by it. Furthermore, I'm alive and safe because of it. There is a price to pay for safety and you can either pay it or find another form of transportation.

Anonymous said...

What chemical are they applying to passengers' skin with these swabs? I'm a senior citizen who was subjected to the swabbing at Bush International Airport in Houston (IAH), which has caused the palms of my hands in the exact spots that were swabbed to break out in little red itchy bumps. The itching has not subsided and it's been nearly a month. The affliction has occurred nowhere else, only where the TSA agent applied the chemical. Documentation shall be forthcoming by an MD, and since I am certain that I can't possibly be the only one who may have such an allergy, I will seek and join in on any future Class Action lawsuit that may be filed about this.

Anonymous said...

"What chemical are they applying to passengers' skin with these swabs? I'm a senior citizen who was subjected to the swabbing at Bush International Airport in Houston (IAH), which has caused the palms of my hands in the exact spots that were swabbed to break out in little red itchy bumps. The itching has not subsided and it's been nearly a month. The affliction has occurred nowhere else, only where the TSA agent applied the chemical. Documentation shall be forthcoming by an MD, and since I am certain that I can't possibly be the only one who may have such an allergy, I will seek and join in on any future Class Action lawsuit that may be filed about this."

There are NO CHEMICALS ON THE SWABS. NONE. NADDA. ZIP.

The idea is to take a sample and test it in the ETD machine, not to apply a litmus test to your hand.

As for why you have a rash - most likely because you thought it DID have chemicals on it. Powerful thing, persuasion.

Diane Bryant said...

What do they use with this swab?
I ask as i had a very negative experience
First within a few seconds my hands felt fiery and tingly
and within perhaps 15 seconds i noticed my body starting to vibrate inside
That went on for over 3 days for me and my hands felt fiery and tingly for 5 days
THey also did our son, his reaction was not as severe as mine but his hands felt fiery and he was inwardly vibrating for hours

I want to know what they use as i would like my Dr to know
now i am very apprensive flying since the first time i had this bad a reaction

GSOLTSO said...

Diane Bryant asked - "What do they use with this swab?
I ask as i had a very negative experience
First within a few seconds my hands felt fiery and tingly"

There is nothing added to the swabs during the testing process. They are removed from the container they are shipped in and used per the instructions given with the machines. I am uncertain of the complete list of swabs used, but the ones I have had experience with are made of plain cotton.

West
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

I would like to know this
You left out a important part of my comment --that within seconds after swabbing my hand my body inside started vibrating. I talked with my Dr and he told me that whatever is on that swab i am probably allergic to and the next time that happens it could kill me
Obviously if your hand feels like fire and then within seconds you start to vibrate inside a chemical has gone through your skin (which would be normal) and some people may be allergic to this
I would like to know what the name of the chemical is that is used

GSOLTSO said...

Anon sez - "I would like to know what the name of the chemical is that is used"

There is no chemical added to the swab in the process TSA uses. The swabs are removed from the manufacturers bin and used as is. The swabs I have had experience with are nothing but a cotton pad. I have read that some explosive trace detection systems use Nomex and Rayon, and TSA uses some of the Nomex with the newer ETD machines, but none of them have chemicals added as part of the process.

West
TSA Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Wow lots of interesting comments on here, but my question is a simple one. I want to avoid any problems going through security and have not found the answers on TSA's website:
If I go to a firearm range a couple days before my travel, will I test positive with the swab test. I always opt out of the body scanners, so the swabs seem to be SOP with the pat down. I'm asking to decide whether or not I will go to the range before traveling.
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I just had a guy at PBI shouting at me after they swabbed my hand. He said "You can't touch your luggage for 9 seconds." Never heard of such a thing. As you know the procedures in all the airports are different; tribal knowledge is what we call it in the IT industry. Anyway, the guy turned beet red when I ignored him. Have any of you heard this before?

Anonymous said...

Come on people! Everyone acts like it is a huge deal to have a hand swipe. It is for a greater good. And what if they never catch anyone? and what if they do? are you willing to take that risk because your "hand privacy" is more important? Just because no one here is willing to create an explosive doesn't mean someone else wont. Maybe if we would have had all this technology and used it effectively in the past, maybe 9-11 wouldn't have happened.
And if the security wasn't in place, people would complain because we don't have enough security. If it is in place, people complain because it is.. No one is happy!

Be thankful people actually care to keep us safe when flying.

Jesse Teal said...

My hands were swabbed the other day in Dallas and something came back positive. I was subjected to an allover pat down. I felt I should have been offered a cigarette afterwards. Of course the results of the pat down was negative. I am 75, retired military with very high clearances, with a Star on my Drivers license and qualified for pre-check. A waste of my time and the TSA people who could have been looking for real terroists.