- They are not friendly, have a real attitude problem and treat you as if you are guilty before proven innocent. You are the face of the country, the first impression every traveler gets. When i say "how are you doing?" as i approach, its what i say to everyone. Have the common decency to say "Yeah i'm ok" or "Not so great" rather than just looking at me like i'm an idiot.
- The TSA doesn't make it clear that they are just specific to the USA. When boarding planes in another country you hear about the "TSA" and you're like "who the hell is this International body that rules transport?". They are private agents of the US, no different to the guards that any other country has. This should be explicitly clear, because they act like gods.
- They seriously invade my privacy and treat me as if i have no rights just because im from somewhere else. Nothing says "Welcome to the USA" like having your body photograph, fingerprints taken (the finger printing seriously bothers me...i cant explain why because i dont know why, but it seriously bothers me is all i can say) and some border guard with an attitude problem treating you like you've turned up to take all the jobs. So much freedom, give me a break...
Moving all invasions of privacy aside, forgetting about how effective or ineffective the TSA is...i just hate the way they treat people. They have a reputation to up hold, they are everyone's first impression of the US and...given the USA's global reputation today, they could really do with some advice from Rackspace on how to deal with customers.
EDIT: Fixing my spelling of "planes" :-(
If they depended on us for their survival (like they claim we depend on them for ours) then you'd see them become much friendlier and much more effective. Really, that's why most (not necessarily all, but the majority) companies provide good customer service. They know how far a bad review or an outspoken customer can go. Speaking out against the TSA gets us nowhere on an individual basis because they lose nothing. We need to make sure our government officials set the TSA straight.
I have traveled good handful places and most places are frightening friendly - I carry the paranoia of TSA/Immigration to all these international places and get surprised always.
The only one friendly experience I've had in the last 8 years was in ABQ, where this friendly TSA agent 'inquired' in a very friendly way. I somehow felt respected, which got me thinking if there was something to it - are they going to get me telling something irrelevant and make a case. That's the paranoia that the TSA/Immigration has trained my brain from the past years.
And why would TSA agents care about TSA reputation? They are just a hired clerks, and their pay is not that spectacular, and they get very little respect for what they are doing, and for many of them that job is just a step towards a better federal job. I'm not saying that to justify them - it was their choice to go for this job and stay on it - but it is what it is. TSA is a bunch of semi-professional clerks following instructions which they by now must know do not really contribute much to anything and they by now must also know many of the people they meet on the job every day are either disgusted by what they are doing or consider them useless and annoying. It's very hard to be happy doing such job, and even harder to find as many people as needed to do it and be happy about it. So no wonder you meet some unhappy ones, it's a natural consequence of TSA being TSA.
I hate TSA as much as I do. I hate them more because I can imagine how this show will look in the future (further on this one)
> They are not friendly, have a real attitude problem and treat you as if you are guilty before proven innocent
I think this is one of those places where presumption of being guilty should proceed the one of being innocent. Otherwise, would you really care that now its about the time to point a finger that this guy is guilty [for planting a bomb] where your eardrums exploded from sudden cabin decompression and you free-falling into the ocean?
If you been watching the terrorism scare-show in US for a while now, you would easily came up with impression its a money show and nothing more than that. You throw some drugged loser on a plane [under CIA agents supervision] and he "fails" to detonate his bomb, then TSA asks for more money to "tighten up" security while boarders are wide open.
I found this particularly disgusting: "Michael Chertoff has been an advocate of enhanced technologies, such as full body scanners. It is important to note that his consulting firm Chertoff Group (founded 2009) represents manufacturers of the scanners" . +300MM "market" paid off by taxpayers money. Still his 300MM is a drop in the ocean comparing with privately owned military complex.
The sad truth is, that noone in their sound mind would assume things will get better and security will loosen up. It won't. Based on the past, one could assume the following:
- some idiot will hide explosives inside his rectum,
- some other idiot will construct powerful enough bomb but small enough to hide in his cavities.
So, after we spend $300MM on all those scanners, next turn will come to spend another $300 on upgraded version that can shoot x-rays through your ass and teeth. Otherwise, those nasty terrorists will get us. It won't happen tomorrow or next year, but next 5-15 years will make today travel look like a breeze.
 wikipedia + http://gawker.com/5437499/why-is-michael-chertoff-so-excited...
You don't get to toss out innocent before proven guilty just because you come up with a particularly uncomfortable way to die. The risk of dying from terrorism in the US, with or without the TSA, is incredibly low. It could get ten or a hundred times worse and still not be noticeable next to the ~40,000 road fatalities in this country every year. Why is terrorism so special that it causes people to want to do anything and everything to stop it, while they don't even bat an eye at things that are far more dangerous?
These days i travel regularly, as I mentioned and you pointed out. At that time (in 2005) i had never had the pleasure of talking to a TSA guard, nor any American for any more than 30 seconds. I've been Star Alliance Gold (blah blah blah...) for several years now, but it doesn't change the fact that my first ever face to face conversation with an American was in 2005 at LAX airport. It wasn't fun, i felt a bit frustrated at the end...what more can i say? I'm an honest person, i was new to international travel...they treated me like i had something to hide (which made me feel like i actually did have something to hide)
I don't think all Americans are like TSA guards (like i said that was an unfair impression from that 20 minute encounter during that first time in the US) and clearly you don't either. I have had good encounters with the TSA here and there, even one who smiled once...but clearly the up votes tell a story that I'm not going to try re-create in this block of text.
even at fascist regimens they would have the decency of opening the bags in front of you and not spilling powders all over your stuff
Say what? I see the same people railing against both, all the time.
I'm not 100% sure that this is all true, but it is my own impression and, I suspect, the author's as well.
Don't get me wrong, the agency can be full of the most wonderful and talented dedicated intelligent people imaginable. I kind of doubt it, but it doesn't make a difference. If the paradigm of the agency is seriously broken, it'll never do anything but prolong the problem. If anything, it'll make the problem of terrorism worse (for many reasons too involved to go into here.)
After 9-11 we overreacted and created a monster. We've created a system where the general public is the "enemy". Is the system so broken that even after this is obvious to 90% of the public we still can't get rid of the TSA? </rant>
I know when I go on like this about the TSA that I sound like somebody running around with their hair on fire, but dammit, out of the dozen or so major intrusions on my privacy and life by the security state and corporate system over the last 20 years, the TSA is like a poster child for what's went wrong. Good intentions, a real (but very small) threat, bipartisan support, a mission to support air travel safety (something everybody is for). The problem is although it's great at getting votes, it's just not worth the trade-off. And it's such a political football that nobody can touch it. We're giving up too much for way too little in return. And it looks from here like the change is going to be permanent, no matter what we say or do about it.
"If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, order more tunnel"
Here's my view. It's not just the TSA that is to blame. It's the fact that American politics is often driven by hysteria. As an American, I say the answer is teaching people about real security strategy.
The hard truth, and one the American people have not accepted is that any idea of security must be firmly conditioned on the idea of acceptable risk. No matter what we do, the risk will never reach zero, so we are better balancing risk with the intrusiveness of the effort to eliminate it. Any security professional in any field worth his or her salt will tell you that.
So the TSA folks on the ground are put in a bind. They are sold as the answer to security and told they must prevent all future attacks. But the TSA is not in a position to do that. What they are in a position to do is to make it hard enough to carry out an attack that the real security folks (FBI, etc) can stop the plot before the terrorists get to the airport. This means that the right screening measures are important because by the time a terrorist gets to the airport, having planned and prepared with airport security in mind, it's simply too late for airport security to stop them. Therefore you have to see airport security as an assist to security rather than as the mechanism as a whole.
In that regard, the TSA has failed miserably. The article lists a few points, but misses one of the biggest problems with the way the bodyscanners are currently implemented: they replace metal detectors.
Nobody has ever brought down a plane with a bomb detonated by a non-metalic detonator. There have been a few attempts (the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, etc), but these require a lot more human intervention to set off, and therefore provide crew and passengers a better chance to react. In many cases they are also more difficult to get to work in the first place.
So the bodyscanners eliminate a small security hole but in the process create a much larger one. Metalic devices can be hidden in body cavities and are invisible to the scanners. And without metal detectors we don't even have a chance to detect the worst of them.
The TSA has shown that they are worried about this. They have repeatedly said they are concerned about, say, radio-controlled toys and cell phones, but they have created a situation where they can't do anything about it.
Security is a process and not a product. When it becomes a product, we see what happens. The TSA is both a product of the product mentality (pun intended), and a product that was sold to the American People after 9/11 as the answer to our security woes. Until we can get the American people to go through the security assessment process, we will be stuck with more of the same.
We all know that the article is completely in line with Bruce and he even blogged it: www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/02/fbi_special_age.html
Just clearing that up ;)
For the record, I interpreted it the same way you did.
(I didn't flag this article; it's pretty great.)
I always just assumed that sooner or later they'd start issuing us some sort of jumpsuits and we wouldn't be allowed to fly in "street clothes". Sadly that sounds almost reasonable in this climate. Or at least no less reasonable than some of the other stuff they do.
The worlds most expensive security theater. Making you feel safer for your troubles.
All it takes is one terrorist to get this bright idea in their head and then I lose more of my rights to the next level of security theater. :(
And humiliating you so you're more likely to accept whatever the federal government doles out in the future. Psychological conditioning.
They should listen to his recommendations. He's saying nothing new here. Every other security expert is saying much the same thing, but is still being ignored.
Not being able to bring an expensive bottle of wine on the plane.
A friend of mine was traveling through various airports in the states. He had accidentally left his pencil bag in his back pack which had a pair of scissors in it. The scissors were over the length allowed on a plaine (Something like 4" is considered safe.)
He went through 2 security checks in the states, and boarded planes with these scissors in his back pack. It wasn't until he went through a simple, small security check in a small Canadian air port that they were found and confiscated.
I find it funny that he made it through all this elaborate security in the States, and a simple security check in Canada with a Security guard who did his job well found the scissors.
Gave me a start when I found it that evening on the train.
Now, I don't know how security in the capital compares to that found in airports - but you'd think it would be comparable.
Turns out all you need to do to foil security is jam a pair of socks down on top of bullets and you're set.
I think this is as much ( more ) about harvesting tax dollars as anything else
My buddy was told that there was a faint line on the xray machine and they wanted to check it out. He didn't even know he had those scissors.
Incidentally, states sell confiscated items at auction.
E.g., "Another time, I was bypassing screening (again on official FBI business) with my .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and a TSA officer noticed the clip of my pocket knife. "You can't bring a knife on board," he said."
"With the congressional spotlight on the organization, TSA is finally feeling what it's like to be screened."
His argument for random screening was more original (to me, at least): Certain terrorist organisations shy away from risk. Make the risk of failure high enough, and they won't strike. He proposes that 10% risk of failure is the sweet spot (based on his own experience with Al Qaeda) and says that thoroughly searching a random selection of 10% of the passengers will result in 10% failure.
Two things don't add up there, in my eyes. First of all, you just told us that there is no security anyway: the iPod cable thing, naked tied up people. What if a terrorist was among the 10% "unlucky" ones, and he had simply been clever enough to think of a solution not covered by your screening process? Granted, the more thorough searches will be harder to "beat", but allegedly even very ordinary items can be used to do bad stuff. And while the fact of the search will be unpredictable, the process of the search will probably be just as predictable as before: with 10% of all passengers being searched, the procedures can't hope to remain secret. So I guess you have to rely on being extremely thorough; with the thoroughness of a search probably coinciding with the amount of inconvenience caused by it.
Secondly, he does rely on the failure probability of 10% being enough to stop an attack. That might be what it takes to stop some organisations now, but other organisations might not be as risk averse, others might change their mind in the future (particularly if such a strategy is adopted). Obviously operations other than random screening will increase the failure probability beyond 10% anyway, but that is beside the point; as is the fact that he only addresses screening while also reporting that many threats originate from persons that are never screened because they are not passengers.
Apart from the random screening argument, he addresses the impropriety of backscatter scanners. There is nothing new there at all. Apparently this is a huge issue to a large percentage of the population. Apparently, having a person of the same sex look at your naked picture would be an improvement. I don't really get it, personally. Maybe I'm a hippie.
All that said, I guess his random search procecure would be a net improvement to most passengers, with his argument standing and falling depending on whether or not you buy into the risk-aversity argument. And of course if you assume that neither procedure gets you any notable amount of security, as could be argued from his first point, the procedure with the least amount of convenience -- his -- wins.
Before credit cards were popular, it was common for aircraft passengers to be armed with handguns and carrying a lot of cash -- yet there were few incidents. Think about that.
An organization planning an operation against any nation-state relays on secrecy and anonymity to function, period. That is what random screenings will help combat.
The current TSA regime is really trying to stop crazy people. I believe there is some documentation to establish that they are somewhat successful at that too. The problem with the TSA approach is that they are too big to be competent at what they do, and the near universal contempt that they are held in hurts that mission -- even deranged people hunk the TSA is dumb.
How would that work? Most cities only _have_ one airport.
If I live in Tulsa, I use the airport there. It's that or drive two hours to Oklahoma City.
TSA is a federal organization.
The pain would be felt at the local level.
TSA is like the phone company. They don't care - they don't have to.
Aside: the idea that anyone would go to _Tulsa_ as a tourist is bizarre. But I grew up there so it's hard for me to see it as anything but a good place to leave.
This doesn't sit quite right with me. I could be wrong but I don't imagine a conservative would fancy themselves a "supporter of the United States government." That sounds more like, right or wrong, what a liberal thinks of a conservative (and what a conservative thinks of a liberal, for that matter).
Supporter of "the troops" or "the nation" sure, but "the government" seems a bit off.
A stronger argument could be to show that in none of the countries that do not adopt TSA-like measures there have been any terrorist attempts, let alone successful.
How easy would it be to board in, say, Mexico or Canada, and hijack the flight to the US?
EDIT: looking at the comments (and the downvotes) I have the feeling that I wasn't clear. I agree with the article pretty much on everything, I'm just trying to say that where there are no body scanners deployed, for example in Europe, there have been no terrorist attacks, and I think that this is a stronger argument than "the TSA hasn't prevented any attack".
The problem is that the TSA is not responsible for any of them. Either they were discovered and apprehended before carrying out the act by intelligence agencies (that predate the TSA and DHS, and have been doing this for a long, long time), or they were stopped by passengers and bystanders, in which case the TSA has demonstrably already failed.
Either way the DHS is just an embarrassment.
It's really not any better than the argument that of course the TSA keeps away terrorists and tigers because there haven't been any hijackings or tiger maulings on airplanes since they took over.
It clearly works, too! I've been using it for decades, as have many of my customers, and wouldn't you know it! None of them have ever been attacked by a Rhino.
$60b a pack.
[Later, a full-force Bear Patrol is on watch. Homer watches proudly.]
Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a
Lisa: That's spacious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
[Lisa refuses at first, then takes the exchange]
The thing is that's the wrong metric.
The TSA isn't in a vacuum. The metric is whether the security measures have made it hard enough to mount an attack that law enforcement could disrupt it before it began.
Right now, I don't see enough evidence to evaluate that either way. However I can say without a doubt that there are plenty of huge issues with the way the TSA is going about things and a lot of things, like body scanners, do not support an effort to score high on the above metric.
This isn't proof that TSA hasn't stopped any attacks. You could be correct that fear of the TSA has stopped terrorists from trying, or trying as often. However, given that there have been actual attempts and TSA has failed to foil any of them, it seems doubtful.
Arguably harder than it would have been before 9/11, as the U.S. has insisted on security standards for flights destined for American airports. That's why you frequently have to go through an additional gate security check at a European airport when flying to the U.S.
The Department for Transport has full confidence in the independent assessment
undertaken by the Health Protection Agency. We are confident with their assessment
that the dose from being scanned is far below the allowed levels in the UK and
does not constitute any unacceptable risks to health
I couldn't believe he didn't finish the last paragraph of his background with "I am the most interesting man in the world."
He says there was no outcry over the backscatters. That's just out of touch; it was all over the Internet and even major news media back around November of 2010. Liberals and conservatives alike found the idea of their nude images too far. This kept backscatters from being deployed for the most part; have you ever seen one?
Seems to me that the TSA has changed their backscatter approach since then. Instead of showing the full images to security personnel it will do some computational analysis of the images and then represent any anomalies on a simple drawing of a human. The people going through the machine will see the same images the TSA will. See this image: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2012/02/TSA-Bo...
Nobody likes waiting in line or taking off their shoes. But I'd much rather do that than let people get onto my plane with explosives. Forget patriotism, it's a matter of your own personal safety.
I don't fly very frequently, but my understanding is that nearly all airports in the US now have them. Is this incorrect?
Nobody likes waiting in line or taking off their shoes. But I'd much rather do that than let people get onto my plane with explosives. Forget patriotism, it's a matter of your own personal safety.
The problem with the TSA's procedures has little to do with the minor inconvenience of taking off your shoes. It's about the bigger picture: the extreme reaction to an infinitesimal threat. Even daily activities like driving involve a far greater risk to your well-being than the threat of airline terrorism. If we're not suffering from crippling fear of the mundane but far more significant threats we face in our everyday lives, why do we allow this one far-fetched threat to literally terrorize us into giving up our basic rights and sacrificing billions of public dollars for the "privilege" of participating in air transit? The spectacular violence of a single event 11 years in the past has sent us into a downward spiral in which fear is increasingly winning out over logic and rationality.
There have been no successful terrorist attacks on US flights in the decade since 9/11. And none of the failed attempts were foiled by the TSA; they were foiled by the foolish incompetence of the attackers and the permanently heightened vigilance of the public. For every carry-on item that the TSA can prohibit, "the terrorists" can come up with 100 more that aren't even checked for in the screening process. It's a hopeless losing battle. Like the author says, the holes in the screening process simply cannot be closed unless everyone is required to fly naked and handcuffed.
In short, your personal safety when on board an airplane is not significantly improved by the ridiculous security theater that surrounds the boarding process. So why bother with it at all? Why inconvenience millions of innocent travelers, trample on their rights, and throw piles of money down the toilet just so that people can feel that "something is being done"?
Yes. Actually there's an interesting connection with a recent HN article about how space missions are being severely hampered by an irrational aversion to the risk of loss of human life. In the same way, someone with a sharpened stick holding it at the throat of an innocent woman could very well lead to the hijacking of a plane because the people in the situation may very well consider doing "anything" to save that one life. Hollywood, and all that.
> Nobody likes waiting in line or taking off their shoes.
This is one reason why you may deserve some downvoting - this is a classic straw-man argument, and minimizes the true root of the problem: we have a vast, faceless beauracracy that seriously messes with millions of Americans (and foreigners!) for no good purpose. This is a serious problem, and minimizing it like this won't earn you any influence.
P.S. I disagree with the parent comment, and yet I upvoted it because it is cogently argued, if wrong.
> have you ever seen one?
> Seems to me that the TSA has changed their backscatter
> approach since then. Instead of showing the full images
> to security personnel it will do some computational
> analysis of the images and then represent any anomalies
> on a simple drawing of a human. The people going through
> the machine will see the same images the TSA will.
Also, the generic image is only used with the millimeter wave scanners (the clear phone booth looking scanners). The back scatter machines still produce a grayscale nude image.
Every plane is already equipped with hundreds of pounds of explosives. You wouldn't get anywhere without them. The statistical probability of that or any other explosive causing you harm - even in the event that harm is intended - approaches zero. It is far more likely you'll be the victim of assault, auto accident, or of unknown causes than have any harm come to you on or by an airplane and this has always been the case. Statistically, there is absolutely no personal or public safety issue with eliminating intrusive, unconstitutional searches in order to board planes.
So if you don't mind spending an extra $150 per trip and running from the far ends of the airport where the feeders dock, you can still avoid the them, at least for now..
Prior restraint is a great evil that needs to be carefully weighed against its benefit and I just don't see the pre-boarding perp walk actually making us enough safer to be worth it.
If you want to blow up/hijack a plane, it's easy. It takes a smart person, ingenuity, and nerves of steel, but I don't think there's anything hard about it...the reason is that instead of the TSA sitting around and thinking for a few minutes about how someone could blow up a plane, they only think about how people have already blown up planes.
Their methods are flawed, and I feel absolutely no safer travelling via air with the TSA around.
In Sea-tac for example, they try to pick out people more likely to be at risk and put them through the scanners. This would be correct except that they should be putting such people through metal detectors too. Defence in depth....
In LAX, I have seen separate lines for standard metal detectors vs AIT machines. This is just stupid and justifies so many jokes about LAZ security....
In Nashville TN, I haven't been there, but I understand from TSA employees that everyone goes through the bodyscanners.
I don't think it is just a question of public acceptance. Really you have different courts looking at how the 4th Amendment applies to metal detectors in airports, and although they all agree that metal detector requirements are Constitutional, they arrive at this for different reasons.
The 9th and 3rd circuits have adopted a balancing test (the most important case there in the third circuit was authored by none other than Samuel Alito btw), and this does not necessarily allow the TSA to get from the idea that metal detectors are per se Constitutional to the idea that bodyscanners are.
The 11th and 5th Circuits however, have adopted a view that when you travel you consent to be searched as a condition to that travel, and unlike other consensual searches, consent cannot be withdrawn. This is a very broad ruling and it makes it hard to argue that anything the TSA might do in the course of a search infringes the 4th Amendment rights of the traveller. In other words, in these circuits, airports are 4th Amendment-free zones.
So this varies quite a bit by region and even by airport culture. That doesn't make the use of the scanners any better on the whole, or change the fact that they should be reserved for individuals where there is a reasonable suspicion and that they should be used in tandem with metal detectors.
The problem with "outcry" in the US is that it is short lived and most people have short attention spans. Now that the media "furor" has died down, things will progress forward as the powers-that-be wish.
I just flew round trip, BWI-SJO, was directed toward a backscatter machine and opted out. I was treated rather rudely at BWI and had to stand around until a 'male assist' or whatever they called the person that had to pat me down. The whole ordeal made me feel guilty of something when I had done nothing wrong.
I oppose backscatters on multiple fronts. Health, invasion of privacy, corrupt contracts, general ineffectiveness, etc.
Are you a pilot? If so, I'd like to hear more about the subject of the TSA from your perspective.
If not, consider that those of us who might prefer to travel with a slightly higher risk for significantly greater convenience have just as much right to call a plane "ours."
That is one major international airport (Boston) and one fairly small domestic only airport (New Orleans), both scanned everyone.