Friday, January 28, 2011

New Mexico v. Phillip Mocek: A Quick Reminder on ID and Photography at TSA Checkpoints


***Update 1/30/2011 I referred to recent media coverage (which was all about Mr. Mocek's acquittal).  The purpose of the blog was to focus on TSA checkpoint procedures which have not changed- as some have assumed- and to provide a refresher on TSA procedures.

Mr. Mocek was charged by the Albuquerque Police Department with trespassing, disorderly conduct, refusing to obey an officer, and concealing identity.  He was acquitted.  In so far as Mr. Mocek wants to fly in the future, like other passengers, he will still need to produce ID or work cooperatively with TSOs to confirm his identity. 

TSA verification processes must proceed quickly and without interference. Any passenger holding a camera in the face of TSOs as they try verify identification should not be surprised if asked to step aside so that other passengers in line can be processed expeditiously without further disruption. 

TSA's goal is to ensure that all passengers who fly are checked against government watchlists. This can be achieved only if a passenger's identity is confirmed at the checkpoint.
***



A recent case - New Mexico v. Phillip Mocek - is making the news recently. The case stemmed from Mr. Mocek’s failure to cooperate with the instructions of Albuquerque police officers at the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport after interactions he had with TSA transportation security officers.

Mr. Mocek had a boarding pass, but would not produce ID when asked. As I've said before here on the blog, if you don’t have an ID, TSA will work with you to verify you are who you say you are. On the other hand, if you refuse to provide information, you will not be permitted to fly. This process had begun with Mr. Mocek, but was not completed. Without an ID that matches the individual holding the boarding pass, we can’t be sure the passenger has cleared government watchlists.

As far as photography, as I stated in a previous post, TSA does not prohibit photography at checkpoints as long as there is no interference with the screening process.  As TSOs were talking to Mr. Mocek to verify his identity, he was holding a camera up to film them and appeared to be trying to film sensitive security information related to TSA standard operating procedures on ID verification.  Such behavior interferes with the ordinary course of business at the checkpoint and may well delay other passengers.    

We are grateful for the support provided to TSA by the Albuquerque police.  

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or searchour blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Bombing of Moscow's Domodedovo Airport

After this week's tragic bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, people are asking what TSA is doing to secure crowded areas on the public side of the airport from a similar type of attack.

As always, we are working with our international partners to share and analyze information regarding the latest terrorist tactics and security best practices. At U.S. airports, you may continue to notice TSA security measures in all areas of the airport, including before the checkpoint. These measures include behavior detection officers (BDO), explosive detection technology, canine teams and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, among other measures both seen and unseen. You may remember an incident in 2008 when one of our BDOs spotted a suspicious passenger in Orlando well before the screening checkpoint.  This led to the discovery of two galvanized pipes, end caps, two small containers containing BBs, batteries, two containers with an unknown liquid, laptop, and bomb making literature.

TSA security personnel continue to analyze information coming out of Moscow and share information and best practices with our partners. We also continue to work closely with local law enforcement officers and airport officials to protect our nation's airports.

Securing the public side of airports is a joint responsibility.  Each airport has a set security plan that is reviewed and approved by TSA. TSA regulates these plans to ensure the best possible security.

As we've said in the past, while it is impossible to completely eliminate risk, our many layers of security mitigate risks to help keep airports secure.  TSA will continue to utilize these layers to keep you safe when you travel.  We also encourage you to remain aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to TSA or local law enforcement.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Friday, January 14, 2011

FOIA Request for 2,000 Images is for Lab Images, Not Checkpoint Images

MMW ImageYou may have read recently in a number of news articles and blog posts where a Federal Judge ruled that TSA did not have to release 2,000 Advanced Imaging Technology images as a part of a FOIA request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

This has led some to believe the images are from the checkpoints. That’s not the case. The images are from a lab and for testing purposes only. The subjects are hired by the lab and compensated for the use of their images for this testing. The machines in our labs store images, and the machines at airports cannot. As you can understand, the machines in a lab setting must have the ability to print and store images so the machines can be tested and the results can be studied. Machines in airports do not need this functionality. Not only do the machines not store images, the person viewing the image is in a remote location and never actually sees you.

Soon, there won’t be individual images at all.

You might be interested in this post about new image-free technology, or Automated Target Detection (ATR). This is software that’s used with the AIT and displays no image at all if no threat is detected. Otherwise, a computer generated, generic human image is generated on a monitor attached to the AIT machine. It highlights areas on the image to show where anomalies may exist. It does not display the actual image of the passenger like the current technology does.


Blogger Bob 
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taz Arnold’s Spiked Shoes Are Clear for Takeoff and Options for Prohibited Items That Are Not

Spiked Shoes
Photo courtesy of christianlouboutin.com
Just last week at Dulles International (IAD), Taz Arnold came through the checkpoint and our X-ray Operator saw a pair of shoes like no other they had ever seen before… It was a pair of Louboutin Spikes. As you can imagine, the X-ray image was quite unique. After taking a closer look, our Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) permitted Taz to travel to the gate with his spiked shoes. It caused a slight delay, but it all turned out well in the end. Taz tweeted his experience and many different blogs understandably decided to jump on the chance to write about it. This led to a few tweets and blog comments sent in our direction.

While Mr. Arnold’s shoes were not a prohibited item, I’d like to talk a little about what happens when a prohibited item is brought through the checkpoint.

What caught my eye in many of the articles about the shoes was the word “confiscated.” Even if Mr. Arnold’s shoes would have been prohibited, he would have had options. I think some people assume that if a prohibited item is brought through the checkpoint, we just take it and that’s that. This is not the case. You have the option of being escorted out of the checkpoint with your item and at that point, you have a number of options:

1) Take the item to the ticket counter and check it in your baggage or a box provided by the airport.
2) Ship your item through the US Postal Service or other shipping service at the airport.
3) Hand the prohibited item to family or friends who may be at the airport to see you off.
4) Take the item to your car if you drove to the airport.
5) If the item is a liquid, gel or aerosol that meets the 3.4 oz requirements but was not packaged properly, you can depart the screening checkpoint, package it properly, and then return with it to the checkpoint.

If you’re not given these options, or not permitted to use them, you should ask to speak with a supervisor or manager. You can also use the Talk to TSA program to contact TSA Customer Support at that specific airport.

Of course, if you have an illegal, prohibited item, (guns, bombs, Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulators) you will not be given the above options. You’ll have a conversation with a Law Enforcement Officer.

We understand passengers aren’t always able to use these options due to the chance of missing flights. If the passenger doesn’t have the time or doesn’t want to bother with it, they can surrender the item. So, what happens once an item is surrendered? Some people are under the wrong impression that our TSOs get to keep the items. Nico wrote a really informative blog post on what happens to surrendered items. You can read it here.  

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Friendly Suggestion on Products Designed to Conceal Sensitive Areas

Throughout history, there have been many creative products offered to consumers that promise to make certain parts of their lives easier. Some work better than others, and well... some just don’t work at all. What am I getting at? I’m getting at the products folks have created that are designed to shield private areas of passengers going through our Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).

Remember the post (Message In a Carry-On) about the artist who designs metal plates for baggage with messages that appear on the X-ray monitor? This is very similar to that. If there is something shielding an area and we don’t know what’s under it, we have to conduct a pat-down.

So basically, passengers should be aware that the use of these types of products will likely result in a pat-down. Some might think this is TSA’s way of getting back at clever passengers. That’s not the case at all. It’s just security.

We're certainly not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t buy or wear, but I feel it’s only fair to give you a heads up on your choice of attire.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Feel free to read and comment on all of our previous AIT related posts. If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chalk Up a Smooth Holiday Travel Season to Hard Working Officers and Prepared Passengers

Passengers at an airport.The holiday travel season of 2010 has come and gone and thanks to our hard working officers and prepared passengers, travelers were able to move through our checkpoints smoothly and uneventfully. Some are saying this is due to TSA turning off Advanced Imaging Technology machines (AIT). Just as I said after Opt Out day, this is not the case and there may be several reasons somebody might think this.
  •  First off, everybody is not necessarily screened by AIT. I think people need to understand that TSA operates out of 450 + airports. Of these 450 + airports, 78 currently have AIT. There are a total of 486 machines in the field right now. (We’re working quickly to deploy more units to the field - above and beyond the 486). 
  • Even at airports with AIT machines, they are not yet deployed at all checkpoint lanes.
  • At times, machines could be shut down for routine maintenance, or maintenance issues. 
  • If the technology just arrived at the airport, it's possible passengers would see a unit in the checkpoint but not in use. Several things have to happen before we can start using them, they have to be installed, tested and we have to fully train officers on how to use the technology.
After reading comments around the web from travelers, I learned that some saw the machines in action and some didn’t. That sounds about right to me. 

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team