TSA Hails the "Blogesphere" for Letting It Know What the Heck Screeners Are Up To Out There

Scott Beale (an old pal of mine) told the world on Jan 31 that San Francisco airport screeners had begun requiring all electronic devices--down to cables--to be taken out of carryon luggage as it went through screening. Now, on a TSA blog (get those permalinks set up!) they apologize and explain:

On Monday afternoon we began receiving questions about airports that were requiring ALL electronics to be removed from carry-on bags (everything, including blackberrys, iPods and even cords). This practice was also mentioned on several other blogs and left us scratching our heads.

So…we checked with our security operations team to figure out what was going on. After some calls to our airports, we learned that this exercise was set up by local TSA offices and was not part of any grand plan across the country. These practices were stopped on Monday afternoon and blackberrys, cords and iPods began to flow through checkpoints like the booze was flowing on Bourbon Street Tuesday night. (Fat Tuesday of course).

As a commenter in the TSA blog thread says:

It's an embarassment that the TSA does not know what's going on it its own house without this blog. Rogue screeners have been creating their own rules since the inception of the TSA, yet this is hailed as a major victory?

Please, figure out what's going on in your own house, clean it up thoroughly, then come brag to us about it.

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  • ||

    The TSA can suck my balls!
    So far they've made the travel part of my vacation more expensive and rearranged the contents of my luggage. Hello! There's a reason the white clothes were nowhere near the shoes!

  • Jennifer||

    Hmm. So bad things happen when high-school dropouts are given unchecked authority over people? Wow. I never ever would've seen that coming.

  • ||

    TSA, after sucking Reinmoose's balls, I'm next! (Please brush and Scope first, though.)

    Seriously, are things better now than before the existence of TSA? Since it is well documented that people have intentionally brought firearms through security to prove a point, would box cutters really have been stopped? Why are electronics being prioritized? I would think the scary guy with the machete might be someone you'd want to look at before harrassing my grandmother.

    Why not just let us all carry our guns and then no one will fuck with us? Too simple? It's called the Second Fucking Amendment, cockmasters.

  • ||

    Wow, what a dick.

  • Kolohe||

    yet this is hailed as a major victory?

    By the standards of normal responsiveness of the TSA, the federal government of the United States, or just about any other govt in history of humanity:

    Yes, yes it is.

  • ||

    I'm personally a fan of how, after all the hysterics over toenail clippers and the like that now we're allowed to bring pointed-tip scissors in our carry-on provided that the blade is no longer than 4". Oh! But that bottle of water and can of shaving cream? We're going to have to confiscate that.

  • Kolohe||

    And to be totally contrarian:

    One person has an idea. Asks his immediate boss to implement it. Boss say ok. Idea is implemented. People ask bigger boss what the heck is going on. Bigger boss comes down on lower boss (and idea person) and tells them to stop it and wtf do you think you're doing?!


    So what does everyone think is going to happen the next time a person out in the field has an idea an presents it to a boss?

    1) 'great idea, let's try it.'

    or

    2) 'STFU and GBTW.'

  • ||

    So what does everyone think is going to happen the next time a person out in the field has an idea an presents it to a boss?


    Assuming said idea is of similar caliber to the ones we've seen coming out of the TSA so far, I think I'd prefer a lot of door #2.

  • ||

    TSA sucks! Balls AND shaft!

    That said, this type of thing is common, especially in large organizations, including businesses. Somebody's doing something bad, management finds out and corrects it.

    To be fair, we should probably give this guy some credit. I would have expected a different scenario:

    San Fran TSA goes crazy.
    Management finds out.
    Management rolls out SF craziness to all airports to "make us safer."

  • ||

    These practices were stopped on Monday afternoon and blackberrys, cords and iPods began to flow through checkpoints like the booze was flowing on Bourbon Street Tuesday night. (Fat Tuesday of course).



    Does this not sound like somebody trying really, really hard to be "hip" and "cool" and "groovy" or whatever those young whippersnappers who use the tubes sound like nowadays?

  • ||

    And my balls are dry, TSA. So dry.

  • ||

    They have a "grand plan." God help us.

  • ||

    '88 - '91 I traveled for the Navy. 2-3 trips by air a month. It was hectic but it had it's rewards. I thank my lucky stars that I no longer have to get on airplanes. Not because of fear of terrorists, mind you, but impatience with incompetents. My blood pressure elevates just thinking about what the poor slob who's doing that job today has to go thru.

  • ||

    Kolohe:

    The immediate boss should be smart enough to say "That is a stupid fucking idea."

    However, the TSA is not staffed with people smart enough to realize that. They should not be coming up with ideas.

  • ||

    Rogue screeners have been creating their own rules since the inception of the TSA

    Right. Just like "rogue soldiers" were responsible for the abuse that went on at Abu Ghraib. TSA is nothing less that creeping fascism. An Orwellian federal agency that is counter productive to it's stated mission.

  • ||

    Dance!

    Dance, my KabukiSlave marionette, as I pluck the earbud wires of your ipod lifestyle accessory device! Kick up your heels! Prance for me!

    Stop!

    Wait!

    Sit! Beg! Roll over!

    Whimper, and you will be scolded. My newspaper is rolled tightly, and I will strike without mercy.

    Now you may resume rushing, civilian KabukiSlave; your humiliation is complete.

    For Now

  • ||

    Rogue screeners sounds an awful lot like "failed police exam."

  • Xaq Fixx||

    This happened to me on my way to the Liberty Summer Seminar last year. I was stuck in JFK for 3 days and one TSA goon made me take my ipod out every time, while he was on shift (I had to go outside to smoke.) I tried to explain that the sign said video cameras and laptops, and that my ipod was neither, and that in all my travels (an average of a flight a month for the last several years)this had never been an issue and he started yelling at me.
    I complied.

  • Kolohe||

    "that is a stupid idea"

    again, I am by no means a fan of TSA (esp cond my frequent travelling for the navy was '00-'02 so I was at the front line of the changeover) but they are in a Kobyashi Maru situation here based on the comments

    Normally, everyone is favor of 'distributed intelligence' and the 'wisdom of crowds' right?

    We've seen plenty of instances of how someone's 'stupid idea' changed the world ("IBM: I can't see how the world will need more than about 5 computers" Gates: "a computer on every desktop and in every home, running microsoft software")

    Most of the time you can't tell an idea is stupid or brilliant unless you try it. 99% of edison's ideas were crap to take an inferrence from his famous quote.

    And in this specific situation, what was so stupid? Laptops seperate, but cellphones though the machine in bags? Why are they different? Isn't the threat (or lack thereof) just about the same?

    Seriously, I actually like the blog idea (although also wince at their attempts to be 'edgy' with their word choice). But this specific case study looks like just another example of top-down command & control mangement where if any idea doesn't originate IVO L'enfant Plaza, its B.S.

  • LT Nixon||

    I actually got a reply from a TSA manager that I submitted a gripe to right here. It had to do with running military members in uniform with valid military ID cards through the x-ray machine when coming back from Iraq/Afghanistan. I've spent 8 months in IRaq, and I can confidently say that most of the people trying to blow themselves up aren't guys in military uniforms with military IDs. I was trying to help their process along in the efficiency department.

  • ||

    T housands S tanding A round

    People, people, it's about the illusion of security, not actual security. Now get back in line before I tase you.

  • T||

    Wow. The TSA is just working hard to make everyone not take plane flights unless absolutely necessary.

  • ||

    "TSA. We put the LINE in AirLine."

    Credit to my brother, Cracker's Other Boy.

    CB

  • ||

    """I've spent 8 months in IRaq, and I can confidently say that most of the people trying to blow themselves up aren't guys in military uniforms with military IDs. """

    Most Americans going through the screening are not going to blow themselves up either. Welcome back to the new America where you're guilty of suspicion until YOU prove otherwise.

  • Dave B.||

    LT Nixon -

    If you pretend for a moment that the screening actually makes us safer, letting people bypass the screening based on common-sense criteria like "He's a soldier returning from Iraq, he's not going to hijack a plane" just opens a huge hole for social engineering attacks.

    The real problem here isn't that you aren't allowed to bypass the pointless security checks. Its the pointless security checks themselves.

  • ||

    Can't say I hate the TSA any less than anyone else, but credit where credit is due: the blog is a great idea and gutsy. I hope whoever is doing it doesn't get fired for excessive productivity and customer service attitude.

    The last couple of flights I've taken have been international and the worst situation I've seen so far was in Gatwick. The place is a shithole at the best of times, but I was lucky enough to arrive just after a jumbo from Durkadurkastan had unloaded and there were only 2 people working passport control. It took an hour and a half to get through.

    I saw something that amused me going through security at Fiumicino, though. There were a bunch of Asian tourists in front of me; the old, clueless and traveling in a herd kind. They clearly didn't speak or understand English or Italian, but the TSA equivalent kept telling every new batch of 2 or 3 that stepped forward to take off their shoes. When they didn't understand, he used universally recognized technique for when someone doesn't speak your language: he repeated himself, but much louder.

  • Homer||

    Most Americans going through the screening are not going to blow themselves up either.

    Because the screening process stops them...

  • Russ 2000||

    customer service attitude.

    WTF? Does anyone really WANT to be a customer of the TSA? The only way the TSA can be as nice as the "customers" want them to be is to abolish themselves.

  • ||

    "That said, this type of thing is common, especially in large organizations, including businesses. Somebody's doing something bad, management finds out and corrects it."

    Sorry, but I have to differ with that comment. Sure, all bureaucracies f*** up, but only government (read: coercive) bureaucracies do so with such complete impunity.

    The scary part of the TSA (and the "War on Terror" more generally) is how easily the broad public adapts and goes along instead of standing up in outrage. The effectiveness of the TSA is laughable, the costs and indignities imposed on millions of us every year unacceptable. But nothing is done, and for the most part the travelling public cheerfully acquiesces.

    And now, from the people who brought you the DMV, the USPS and the TSA, we have a new venture: national healthcare!!

    But, really, the TSA blog is a joke, right?

  • ||

    Those comments are brutal. I can't believe that they haven't disabled comments yet.

  • TSA||

    Nick | February 7, 2008, 2:39pm | #
    TSA, after sucking Reinmoose's balls, I'm next!



    Sure thing boss, but are you sure he'll need it after I'm done?

  • Bernd||

    OK, for once I have to defend the government side here:

    That they allow comments, or even do a blog in the first place, seems like a sincere effort at transparency and improvement.
    That they change their policies regarding feedback they found online seems like a sincere attempt to improve their procedures.

    Of all the things they do, how is this a good hook to blast them?

  • TSA||

    Does anyone really WANT to be a customer of the TSA?



    Anyone who doesn't can just fly off to live in some other country.

    No, wait...

  • Cargosquid||

    Every time I traveled for the Navy, I used my Military ID going through TSA. Every time I used it, I get separated and searched. When I used my driver's license, I was never removed from the line.

    I think they stop military members because they KNOW there won't be any trouble and they fill their quota of checks.

  • ||

    TSA, you're not good at anything, so...hey wait, no I meant I want mine sucked, too. Oh you silly TSA, you got me. Teehee.

    (fascist)

  • ||

    I certainly have no love for the TSA, particularly as I don't see them actually increasing my security. That said, I fly every week to various US cities for work and the actual inconvenience factor is pretty small.

    Even flying on Monday morning (when every other business traveller is also flying), through the USAir terminal at Philadelphia International (which travellers may know is absolutely horrible) I rarely have to wait in the security line for more than a half-hour. Yeah, sometimes I get a real dick for a TSA agent but that's the exception.

    Perhaps worse, 99% of all TSA agents I deal with just look incredibly bored. Yes, they offer little to no real security, their rules are internally inconsistent and they're a waste of resources but I'd still rather stand in any airport security line than get my license renewed at the DMV or (god forbid) go down to the Philadelphia Parking Authority offices.

  • lunchstealer||

    They have a "grand plan." God help us.

    Would you call it more of a 'Five Year Plan' or a 'Great Leap Forward'?

  • Russ 2000||

    Those comments are brutal. I can't believe that they haven't disabled comments yet.

    Nah. They'll just send a SWAT team to track the IP address and locate the commenter for being a potential terrorist. This gives the SWAT team one more address to get wrong...

  • TSA||

    Yeah, sometimes I get a real dick for a TSA agent



    You guys all want only one thing.

  • GILMORE||

    FWIW, i'm off the TSA watch list now.

    Whoo hoo! Now I only get REGULAR screening. And it only took 50hours of wasted extra check-in time... way to go America!

    Only now, I dont feel special anymore. I dont get those fishy looks, those insinuations... "gilmore...irish, ay?..." Plus I could always get the airline check-in girls laughing about how dumb the whole thing was. Now i'm ronery, so ronery...

  • squarooticus||

    I rarely have to wait in the security line for more than a half-hour.

    This is supposed to be a marque of quality? Wow, sign me up.

  • GILMORE||

    Stretch | February 7, 2008, 4:26pm | #
    ... through the USAir terminal at Philadelphia International (which travellers may know is absolutely horrible) I rarely have to wait in the security line for more than a half-hour.


    1. Philly is really not that bad.
    2. try Atlanta without planning extra 1.5hrs in advance

    Ohare, Midway also crapola. Philly doesnt do enough volume to produce true mob-sized crowds of desperate travelers being herded by highschool dropouts and/or some little pakistani woman with a radio checking IDs for the 4th time in 50ft

    One thing - atlanta at least has lounges you can have a smoke in if you're trapped in the airport overnight. No all-night bar. :( boo hoo.

    In Atlanta, I once had a giant black woman in a TSA costume threaten to call MORE security to take me away unless I ceased *blaspheming*.

  • ||

    This is supposed to be a marque of quality? Wow, sign me up.

    Not at all. I agree with all the criticisms of the TSA. My basic point was that despite all the wailing and hand-wringing over the TSA, their actual inconvenience to me (as someone who deals with them on a constant basis)is significantly less than other forms of bureaucratic nonsense that we've dealt with for years. Hell, some insane FAA regulations have caused me way more hassel, headache and time since I've been flying regularly than the TSA has. I suppose we should just give them some time to mature into their full incompetence though.

  • ||

    I actually fly through Atlanta quite a bit, and have found it an overall pleasant experience (yeah, those smoking hot-boxes go a long way).

    I avoid Chicago like the plague and fortunately, I never have to go through JFK or Laguardia.

    Again, to my point, the problem with Philly isn't the TSA...it's the airport itself and USAir in particular.

    I flew back from Denver just before Christmas, and man was I impressed by how well it ran. Of course, hiring extra non-TSA security help has everything to do with that.

  • T||

    Over at the Make forums, electronics types have all kinds of great stories about TSA stopping them because electronic components are evil and scary. What always blows my mind is the apologists who say things like "You can't expect screeners to be electronics experts." Well, no, but I can expect them to understand a circuit board isn't a weapon and can't blow up. God forbid if your prototype board or other project has batteries hooked up.

  • ||

    Similar topic, Federal judge rules for a man who won't give up the password on his laptop on 5th amendment grounds.

    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8ULMSJ00&show_article=1

  • ||

    Normally, everyone is favor of 'distributed intelligence' and the 'wisdom of crowds' right?

    Um, no, by the way.

  • Dave B.||

    I can expect them to understand a circuit board isn't a weapon and can't blow up.

    You can't expect people who's entire job description consists of identifying weapons and explosives to be familiar with what is and isn't a weapon or explosive. That would probably require at least a week of training, and we need these people in the field stopping terrorists now.

  • ||

    Similar topic, Federal judge rules for a man who won't give up the password on his laptop on 5th amendment grounds.

    That is the best advertisement for PGP possible. I'd heard good things, now I'm convinced.

  • ||

    "These practices were stopped on Monday afternoon and blackberrys, cords and iPods began to flow through checkpoints like the booze was flowing on Bourbon Street Tuesday night. (Fat Tuesday of course).'

    Does this not sound like somebody trying really, really hard to be "hip" and "cool" and "groovy" or whatever those young whippersnappers who use the tubes sound like nowadays?

    I kinda feel sorry for the guy who writes for the TSA blog. You can tell he's a decent writer and is trying to come across as normal and human and unofficious and unbureaucratic and irreverant and candid ... I mean, they are really trying to put a human face on this. But because it's the TSA, it all just sorta comes across like seeing a They Might Be Giants T-shirt on Hitler.

  • ||

    I can expect them to understand a circuit board isn't a weapon and can't blow up.

    Most electronics techs have seen capacitors explode. In high power radar applications they can get pretty destructive. Of course, they won't be on printed circuit boards. I'm talking 100 lb capacitors. Really fun stuff if you're a geek.

  • T||

    Most electronics techs have seen capacitors explode.

    I saw somebody bridge out a cap about the size of a coffee can one time. Fun stuff. However, it's a far cry from the TSA confiscating a usb card reader with no case, or a multimeter with homemade probes.

  • ||

    So let me get this straight...
    I see lots of whining about electronics items getting pulled out of their bags and screened. Yet the same bunch (all whiners look alike to me, belly solly, lound-eyes) gets worked up over those stories of "bomb parts" getting smuggled thru the checkpoint.
    Hate to rain on your collective soapboxes, but most of those "bomb parts" WERE REGULAR ELECTRONIC ITEMS!!!

    Oh and by the way, the airport screening process originated in the '60s when planes were making unscheduled stops in Havanna on a regular basis. So knives have been added to the list of prohibited items, and we need a means to enforce it. The FAA didn't want to run the security business, so they forced it on the airlines. They did a lousy job of it, so Uncle Sam had to take it over.

    Don't like it? Take the bus.

  • ||

    So knives have been added to the list of prohibited items, and we need a means to enforce it.

    Given the change in passenger attitude toward mid-air schedule changes since 9/11, I would suggest that knives be taken off the list, to enhance passenger response capacity.

  • ||

    llorgam, have you ever taken the bus?

    The real issue here is that we should be allowed to carry our own means of defense. By disarming 125 regular passengers and hoping 5 terrorists didn't do a super job of hiding their weapons of choice, they are taking chances with all of our lives.

    If the agents checking bags were actually flying with me, maybe I'd trust them a little more to be vigilant. I don't trust them to catch anyone who really wants to smuggle a weapon, so I'd just rather bring mine and defend myself, my family, and my flight.

  • LarryA||

    I may have discovered a loophole. The last couple of times I flew within the U.S. I took along my concealed handgun. (With a Texas CHL I can carry in 30 states.)As soon as I declared it at the ticket counter attitudes improved. It took about a minute to fill out the declaration form. They sent me with my suitcase to the head of the TSA line, where it went straight into the scanner instead of being dumped in the pile.

    Looking back, no one asked why I had it. They may have presumed I was some sort of law enforcement, or it may have been the typical street law enforcement appreciation of concealed handgun licensees.

    Of course I was traveling out West, not in the Northeast or California.

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