Thursday, May 27, 2010

TSA Response to "Pushy fliers may show up on TSA's radar"

You may have read or heard about a recent article on how fliers might end up in a TSA workplace violence database. The fact is, TSA screens nearly 2 million passengers each day at over 450 airports nationwide. Since we began the workplace violence program in 2007, we've screened over a billion air travelers and yet only about 30 passengers are included on this list.

Roughly 30 names out of the more than 1,000,000,000 passengers screened by TSA since 2007 made the cut.

So how did these 30 folks make the list? Two options:
  • The police got involved.  In all but one incident, local police officers responded to assist in resolving the incident.
  • They got arrested. In the majority of these cases, the individuals involved were arrested or issued summonses by local law enforcement officers for allegedly assaulting a Transportation Security Officer.
In short, to join this select group, a passenger has to commit an egregious act that harms, or threatens to harm, either passengers, airline personnel, or Transportation Security Officers.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

TSA 2010 Summer Travel Tips

Summer Travel Banner
Summertime isn’t officially here yet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s summer as soon as the pools are open. So, in preparation for this holiday weekend and the summer travel season to come, I wanted to post some helpful travel tips. Our highly trained security officers are prepared for the increase in passenger volumes and are dedicated to ensuring safe travels. TSA will be fully staffed and prepared to address the needs of the traveling public this summer.

So lather up with your favorite suntan lotion, take your laptop out in the sun, and read all about TSA travel tips. Fruity beverages and lounge music are optional.

How to Get Through the Line Faster: Passengers can help speed up the screening process by packing their carry-ons in an organized manner. This helps our officers efficiently see what's inside to quickly process it through screening. We put together some great tips on how to get through our lines faster. Click here to read tips about how to pack your bags, the right clothes to wear, which ID to use and many other helpful tips and videos. If you travel through an airport with Advanced Imaging Technology (Body Scanner), ensure you remove everything from your pockets whether it’s metal or paper to prevent you from having to undergo additional screening. How to Get Through the Line Faster: Passengers can help speed up the screening process by packing their carry-ons in an organized manner. This helps our officers efficiently see what's inside to quickly process it through screening. We put together some great tips on how to get through our lines faster. Click here to read tips about how to pack your bags, the right clothes to wear, which ID to use and many other helpful tips and videos. If you travel through an airport with Advanced Imaging Technology (Body Scanner), ensure you remove everything from your pockets whether it’s metal or paper to prevent you from having to undergo additional screening.

Are You Going Camping This Summer?: Check out this post for tips on traveling with your camping gear.

The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): If you have liquids, aerosols, or gels that are used for medical or infant/toddler purposes, they do not need to adhere to our 3-1-1 policies and do not have to be placed in a bag. You may be asked to go through a TSA Family Lane (see below) so we can expedite the screening process. The liquids, gels and aerosols will need to be removed from your bags and declared to a TSO.

If you’re checking a bag, make it easy on yourself and just put your liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about 3-1-1. I know that suggestion doesn’t work for everybody. Some liquids are essential and some of you understandably would not like to pay to check your luggage. If you’d rather take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading…

3-1-1 is the name for our liquid policy. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist of 3-1-1… Each passenger is allowed to take one clear quart-sized sealable bag and fill it with as many liquids in 3.4 oz or less sized containers that will fit, while still being able to seal the bag. Basically, don’t stuff it to the point where it won’t close. Make sure you take the bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray, or our officers will have to search your bag.

Answers to common questions: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is. Powder makeup is fine. Common size facial cosmetic and medicinal products in a tube, for example mascara, lip gloss, and lip balm are not required to be placed in the 1 qt. bag.

Family Lanes: Frequent flyers hate it when they’re in line behind a family, and guess what… families hate it when the frequent flyer is behind them tapping their foot and sighing. That’s why we created Family Lanes. They’re designed to let families take their time and ask questions without feeling rushed by the experienced frequent flyers who can zip through a checkpoint in no time. Also, as stated earlier, anybody carrying exemptible liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 3.4 oz may be directed to a Family Lane.

Foods: Food items that are in the form of a liquid or gel are generally not permitted however, items such as cakes, bread, donuts, ham sammiches, etc. are all permitted. Here is a list of items that are prohibited at the checkpoint… Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, salsa, jams and salad dressings, gravy (mmm gravy), jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

ID & Boarding Pass Checking & Secure Flight: As you approach a TSA checkpoint, you will see an officer checking IDs and boarding passes. Please have your acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to present to our officer. If your ID is in a plastic sheath or other type of holder, it will need to be removed so our officers can properly inspect your IDs. By having your ID and boarding pass out and ready, you’ll help move the line along faster. The several seconds it takes to get your ID and boarding pass out might not seem like much time, but it really adds up when you’ve got people in line behind you.

Also, folks have had questions about the Secure Flight program and whether the name on your ticket has to match the name on your ID. The Secure Flight watch-list matching process occurs before a passenger even gets to the airport so if you get a boarding pass, the Secure Flight watch-list matching process is done. In other words, you are clear once you get that pass.

If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions for us. It will take some extra time, so please make sure you get to the airport earlier than you normally would.

Inconsistencies: You may notice your screening experience at one airport doesn’t match the experience of another airport. We realize this happens, and some of it is intentional. While it can be a little confusing for our passengers, it also makes things unpredictable for those who might wish to do us harm.

Here are some more links to tips for traveling with special items this summer:
The best piece of advice I could give a traveler is to arrive early. No matter what happens, (aside from a flight being cancelled) if you get to the airport early, you should be fine. Worst case scenario is you’ll have some time to catch up on some reading or a few Z’s while you wait on your flight.

For a complete rundown, check out our “What to Know before You Go” blog post. It has everything broken down by category.

Also, we’re going to be Tweeting a TSA Summer Travel Tip every day for the rest of the week, so follow us on Twitter @tsablogteam for travel tips, blog post announcements, and other useful information.

Make sure you check out our Summer Travel Checklist. (PDF)

If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to check out U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s international travel tips.

Have a great summer!

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Tteam

Friday, May 21, 2010

TSA SPOT Program: Still Going Strong

The Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program has come a long way since I first blogged about it back in 2008. As of May 2010, about 3,000 Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) have been deployed at 161 airports nationwide.

For those of you not familiar with the SPOT program, BDOs are trained to detect behaviors that one exhibits in response to the fear of being discovered. In layman’s terms, BDOs look for behaviors that show you’re trying to get away with something you shouldn’t be doing. If you’re one of those travelers that gets frazzled easily (not hard to do at airports), you have no reason to worry. BDOs set a baseline based on the normal airport behavior and look for behaviors that go above that baseline. So if you’re stressing about missing a flight, that’s not a guaranteed visit from the BDOs.

Paul Ekman (PhD) is a Professor Emeritus at UC Davis and assisted in the development of the program. He’s been studying behavioral analysis for the past 40 years and has taught the TSA, Customs and Border Protection, CIA, FBI and other federal agencies to watch for suspicious facial expressions of tension, fear or deception. He has even taught animators at Disney-Pixar to create convincing faces for film characters. The SPOT program is a derivative of other behavioral analysis programs that have been successfully employed by law enforcement and security personnel both in the U.S. and around the world. TSA actually consulted and still regularly consults with several well respected behavior scientists when developing SPOT.

TSA deployed SPOT as an added layer of security to help deter and detect terrorists attempting to outsmart or circumvent the aviation security system. The program allows our officers to push security out in front and behind the checkpoint.

Our BDOs have identified illegal activities that have resulted in over 1,800 arrests at transportation systems across the country – most notably spotting an individual who was discovered to have explosive components at the Orlando airport in 2008.

We are aware of a new GAO report on our SPOT program. GAO’s recommendations are helpful as we continue to refine our procedures as the science and the program matures.

On a side note, I was a trained BDO in my airport days and personally feel the training I received was extremely valuable to security. Also, my wife, kids and used car salesmen are not able to get one over on me.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Egypt Air Firearms Incident: Differences Between Checked Baggage & Carry On Baggage

PistolThe recent JFK to Egypt incident where a passenger transported firearms and ammunition in their checked baggage has many wondering if TSA missed these items. Firearms, knives, and ammunition are allowed in checked baggage – they’re not on the checked baggage prohibited items list.

When passengers are checking luggage with firearms, firearm parts, and ammunition, they’re required to declare the items with the airline and ensure they are packed properly. TSA has no role in the declaration process. However, if a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) has to search your checked bag and comes across weapons or ammunition that have not been properly declared or packed, they will have to notify a law enforcement officer as well as an airline representative. Depending on the laws of that state you’re in, you may be fined or even arrested.

Ammunition
Unlike the checkpoint where our officers are using X-ray machines to search for a variety of dangerous items (guns, knives, explosives), in checked baggage, our focus is on finding explosives. If you have a gun or knife in your checked bag, you’re not going to be able to go into the belly of the plane to get it (Unless you’re Samuel L. Jackson). That’s why the prohibited items list differs between checked and carry-on baggage.

We have state of the art explosive detection systems (EDS) in many of our checked baggage locations which work like the MRI and CT scan machines you see in the hospitals. EDS machines can quickly determine if a bag contains a potential threat or not. If our machines alarm on an item, we have procedures combining explosive trace detection and bag searches to help us clear those alarms. In locations without the EDS, we use explosive trace detection in conjunction with bag searches.
We have state of the art explosive detection systems (EDS) in many of our checked baggage locations which work like the MRI and CT scan machines you see in the hospitals. EDS machines can quickly determine if a bag contains a potential threat or not. If our machines alarm on an item, we have procedures combining explosive trace detection and bag searches to help us clear those alarms. In locations without the EDS, we use explosive trace detection in conjunction with bag searches.
Our officers find all sorts of things during checked baggage searches. Frozen monkey heads, kitchen sinks, goat heads and yes, guns, ammo, and knives of all sizes. So make sure you properly declare your guns and ammo, or you might incur an unexpected layover.

Advice From TSA.gov on Traveling With Firearms, Firearm Parts & Ammunition

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Friday, May 14, 2010

E-Cigarettes – Go, or No-Go?

E-cigarette
E-Cigarettes are becoming more and more popular and I’m happy to report that TSA has no problem with e-cigs being packed in your carry-on or checked bags. Now as far as using them on a flight, I would suggest you contact your airline and see what they have to say. And, while not recommended by 9 out of 10 dentists, candy cigarettes are permissible as well.

Since I’m on the topic, I’d like to touch on a couple of things. Once upon a time, cigar cutters were prohibited, but these are permissible to pack in your carry-on luggage.

LightersLighters were also once prohibited as a result of a congressional mandate, but the ban was lifted in 2007 to allow our officers to spend more time looking for threats. (Over 11 million lighters were surrendered in 2006) Keep in mind that torch lighters are not allowed. For more information on traveling with lighters and matches, click here.




Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

3-1-1 Liquid Policy Still In Place

3-1-1 BaggieA recent article is leading some to ask whether TSA has lifted the 3-1-1 policy on liquids, aerosols and gels. Not so. While we continue to aggressively work to find a way to relax the 3-1-1 requirements, we know liquid explosives still pose a threat to aviation security. This remains a top priority and TSA is partnering with vendors to find a solution that effectively screens liquids.

Two notable major incidents involving liquid explosives are:

1995 “Bojinka Plot” in Asia where Ramzi Yousef planned to use liquid explosives to bomb 12 passenger carrying aircraft bound for the United States. This was one month after his test on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 where a smaller “liquid” container killed one person.

The 2006 foiled liquid explosives plot in the U.K. This plot demonstrated a real threat and is the catalyst for TSA's liquids restrictions.

So please remember: 3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.

3-1-1 Poster
Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Friday, May 7, 2010

TSA Has Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence and Inappropriate Comments

This week there was an incident involving workplace violence at Miami International Airport. We take this type of incident very seriously. TSA has zero tolerance for violence in the workplace and we’re moving swiftly to take appropriate action with respect to the security officer who has been charged with assault.

We’re also looking into alleged harassment during and after a training session and will determine if any procedures were violated or if any officers committed professional misconduct. Inappropriate comments are not acceptable and are dealt with swiftly. The training was internal and did not involve passengers at any time.

When using imaging technology, the privacy of passengers is always protected by our strict procedures. An officer who views the image never sees the passenger and once cleared, images are deleted forever. This isolated incident in no way reflects on, nor did it ever compromise the procedures put in place to screen passengers.

Blogger Bob on Behalf of TSA Public Affairs
TSA Blog Team