Friday, May 27, 2011

Texas House of Representatives Seeking to Ban Current TSA Pat-Down

***Update: 5/27/2011 – Read this story in the Houston Chronicle for an update.***

What's our take on the Texas House of Representatives voting to ban the current TSA pat-down? Well, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article. VI. Clause 2) prevents states from regulating the federal government.

We wish we lived in a world where you could just walk on a plane with no security screening, but that just isn't the case unfortunately.  Aviation security agencies worldwide have been using pat-downs long before TSA was created to prevent dangerous items from getting onto airplanes. The pat-down is a highly effective tool to resolve certain alarms and keep these dangerous items off of planes that could cause catastrophic damage.  It's important to note that if a passenger (or bag) alarms during screening, our officers must resolve the alarm before allowing the passenger and their baggage on the airplane.

Here are some pat-down myths and facts:

Myth: Everyone who travels will receive a pat-down.

Fact: In fact, less than 3% of passengers receive pat-downs. Only passengers who alarm a walk through metal detector or AIT machine or opt out of the AIT receive a pat-down. In addition, some passengers may also receive a pat-down as part of our random, unpredictable security measures.  In his testimony to a Senate subcommittee, Administrator Pistole said: "The bottom line is few people in the overall scheme of things will actually receive those pat downs. Now, we've heard some examples, and obviously, there's a vocal group out there who have experienced this for the first time, and, rightfully so, raising concerns, what's behind this. And the bottom line is we, the transportation security officers in particular, are trying to work in partnership with the traveling public to say we want to ensure that you are safe on this flight. Work with us in a partnership to provide the best possible security. And that's what it comes down to."

Myth: All children will receive pat-downs.

Fact: No. TSA officers are trained to work with parents to ensure a respectful screening process for the entire family, while providing the best possible security for all travelers. Children 12 years old and under who require extra screening will receive a modified pat down. 

Myth: Complaints about the pat-downs are extremely high.

Fact: Only a small percentage of the traveling public receives a pat down as they travel through the security checkpoint.  Between November 2010 and March 2011, TSA screened nearly 252 million people. In that same time period, we received 898 complaints from individuals who have experienced or witnessed a pat down. That's roughly 0.0004%.

Myth: Pat downs for certain individuals are limited to the head and neck.

Fact: No one is exempt. Everyone is subject to the same screening. TSA is sensitive to religious and cultural needs, but everyone must be screened effectively.

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, May 26, 2011

The Radiation Retest Results are In: Scanners Operating Safely

Remember how we told you in this post that there had been some errors in our reports and we were going to retest all of our AIT units to ensure they were screening at safe levels? Well, we’re done, and everything came back just fine. You can see all the reports here just as we promised. You can read a recent Reuters article on the subject and while you’re reading up on the subject, be sure to take a look at an article from the Archives of Internal Medicine, co-authored by a UCSF scientist concluding that there is no significant threat of radiation from the scans.

To put things in perspective, here are some sources of radiation you may not have been aware of: 

  • One year of naturally occurring background radiation: 300 millirem 
  • Annual recommended limit to the public of radiation from man-made sources: 100 millirem
  • Chest X-ray: 10 millirem 
  • Flight from New York to Los Angeles: 4 millirem 
  • One day of natural background: approximately 1 millirem (corrected 3/16/11 20:56)
  • Drinking three glasses of water a day for a year: 0.045 millirem
  • One backscatter X-ray scan: Approximately 0.005 millirem 
    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.
     

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    TSA Pat-downs At Santa Fe Prom? Nope.

    Disco Ball
    While we enjoy power ballads and disco balls more than anybody, TSA has not conducted pat-downs at any proms. Some are getting the story right, but others are predictably getting it wrong and we wanted to clear things up.

    Here's the scoop: A school in Santa Fe that uses contract security  (unrelated to TSA) is being sued over how it screened two female students. In a ruling stating that the Santa Fe School System needed to change its screening procedures, a judge initially ordered the school system to provide a “TSA certified” person to “supervise the searches.” While we appreciate the Judge’s confidence in TSA screening procedures, TSA’s transportation security mission does not allow us to provide pat-downs at the prom. The judge later allowed the School System to use state police officers instead. 

    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, May 13, 2011

    Secretary Napolitano Visits the Transportation Security Operations Center

    As part of her CBS Evening News interview with Katie Couric discussing Osama bin Laden retaliation threats, Secretary Napolitano visited the Transportation Security Operations Center (TSOC) also known as the Freedom Center. As part of her CBS Evening News interview with Katie Couric discussing Osama bin Laden retaliation threats, Secretary Napolitano visited the Transportation Security Operations Center (TSOC) also known as the Freedom Center. 

    The Freedom Center can be seen in the interview, and I’m guessing some of you might want to know a little more about it. I know it piques my interest when I see an operations center full of computers and giant displays. It makes me want to push buttons and stuff. Anyway,  it’s our main information center, where analysts monitor the entire transportation network and connect TSA with the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration, FBI, and other law enforcement and security agencies. When an incident happens such as a plane being diverted, a bomb threat, airspace violation, etc, the TSOC is fully involved in these types of scenarios. You can read more about the TSOC here.

    Freedom Center
    You might wonder what that is in the photo that secretary Napolitano is being shown in the photo. It’s a memorial composed of a World Trade Center girder, Pentagon stone, and  a fragment from the wreckage of Flight 93. It serves as a reminder of why we do what we do and what we’re trying to prevent and all TSOC employees pass by it every day when they arrive at their jobs.

    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.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    TSA Searching for Poop Bombs?: Headline Not Up to Snuff


    I’ve changed enough diapers to know a thing or two about “poop bombs,” but something really stinks about the attention this photo is getting. The photo – taken by someone not traveling with the family  – has gone viral. The caption used with the photo is “TSA Looking for Poop Bombs?” We reviewed the screening of this family, and found that the child’s stroller alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm, who by the way were very cooperative and were on the way to their gate in no time. The child in the photo was simply receiving a modified pat-down which doesn’t even come close to what the headline implies.

    I blogged about a similar situation recently, and just as I stated in that post, our Administrator is looking into ways to move past the cookie cutter approach to screening. Recognizing that terrorists are willing to manipulate societal norms to evade detection, TSA has been actively assessing less invasive screening methods for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers, while still maintaining a high level of security.

    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.



    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Osama bin Laden Dead, Threat Still Very Much Alive

    There's no doubt about it, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden, and his death is a major success for the United States as well as the rest of the world. While his death is a huge blow to Al-Qaeda's terrorism network, the threat of terrorism is still very much alive.

    Many of you have asked: What steps has TSA taken in light of this development? Some think we should ramp up security even more for possible retaliations and others think we should relax our procedures and do away with body scanners and the liquid restrictions. I can reassure you that we're constantly looking at current intelligence to evaluate and adapt our procedures to keep the flying public safe. Passengers may continue to notice a variety of security measures at U.S. airports to include the use of physical bag checks, random gate screening, explosives detection technology, canine teams and behavior detection officers. We ask that you remain vigilant when you travel and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
    "I commend the President and offer my gratitude to the men and women who defend and protect our nation at home and abroad, whether they wear a military or law enforcement uniform or serve as one of thousands of unsung heroes in the intelligence and homeland security community. It is true that we are stronger and safer than we were on 9/11 - not only because Osama bin Laden is dead, but because of the unflagging dedication and hard work of so many people throughout the world committed to freedom and security. ~ DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano"
    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.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    TSA Officers React Quickly to Devastating Tornado Touchdown at St. Louis Lambert Airport


    TSA Officers With DHS Secretary Napolitano Many of you have followed the heartbreaking stories and recovery efforts coming out of severe weather in the Midwest and Southeast. I wanted to share some of the stories that were brought to my attention. 

    On April 27, one of the most deadly weather events in U.S. history occurred as tornadoes ripped through America, killing hundreds of people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of those regions as they start the process of rebuilding.
    The tornadoes on April 27 came about a week after another strong tornado inflicted significant damage in St. Louis, including at the airport.
    Out of stories of unspeakable tragedy like these, we often hear stories of great courage by otherwise regular people. We have heard a few of these stories in recent days about the actions of the men and women of TSA at the St. Louis airport and wanted to share a few of them with you.
    Imagine a 200mph tornado busting through your workplace. That’s exactly what happened last week to many TSA officers and airline employees in St. Louis. Watch the devastating footage here, and here.
    In the midst of all the chaos and confusion, several TSA officers went above and beyond to ensure the safety of their coworkers and passengers.
    One officer carried a woman who had frozen in panic to a safe location. Moments later, the glass windows in that area of the terminal imploded sending shattered glass in every direction.
    Three other officers came to the aid of EMS personnel by helping them remove two passengers from a tornado damaged vehicle. They held IVs and kept the stretchers steady as the passengers were pulled from the car. The officers also helped carry the stretchers through the debris-strewn parking garage when the ambulance couldn’t get through.
    Another officer helped a passenger who was a nurse set up a triage area. The officer helped gather supplies together from first aid kits, helped treat wounds and also tasked other officers with ways they could assist the emergency personnel.
    Two other officers initiated the evacuation of a terminal after noticing the windows had started to bow and stayed behind a few extra moments to help direct passengers to safety.
    Due to falling glass and other hazards, many officers later assisted passengers with safe exit of the airport after the storm.
    This spring’s storms have wreaked havoc in many parts of our nation and many regular people are responding in great ways – as we always do in this country – to help. We are proud of our officers who played a role in keeping people safe in St. Louis last week.
    TSA Officers React Quickly to Devastating Tornado Touchdown at St. Louis Lambert AirportSecretary Napolitano visited the airport last week and commended the officers for their actions and presented them with DHS coins – an honor and a sign of respect in military and government settings.
    The response of our crew at STL came as no surprise. This is just one example of the caliber of employees we’ve hired at airports nationwide. They are quick on their feet and ready to respond in the face of chaos when needed.
    For more information on recovery efforts from the storms, please visit FEMA’s blog.

    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.