Posts Tagged ‘TSA’

TSA and Long Lines

17 May 2016

In all the news stories about super long lines at some airports, there is little in the way of discussion as to why the lines are long in the first place.

There has been some talk about the need to hire more TSA “screeners” (they are really searchers, but use the term screeners to dodge the Constitutional issue), but I think that is just a dodge.

If you travel much, you can observe that most TSA checkpoints are way overstaffed.  I’ve been through numerous checkpoints, and there are maybe three people actually in contact with travelers:  the ID checker, the x-ray machine runner, and the strip-search machine viewer.  In almost every case, there are other TSA people standing and watching those three people.

In OKC, the last time I flew, there were three ID checkers, and two other TSA people standing  behind them and watching them.  There were two people who told everyone over and over to remove their shoes and such.  The strip-search machine operator had a second person watching the first person (and the damn machine identified the back of my head as a threat, which got me a full-body pat-down).  There were two x-rays operating, and each had a second person watching then operator.

There were others hanging about the screening area generally watching, I think about four.

So why does TSA apparently not trust the people who don’t trust the travelers?  There is so much TSA could do, for example get rid of the strip-search machines, which are slow and alert on stupid stuff like wrinkles in socks, every one of which get’s you a patdown, which further slows the line.

It’s not really about security to them.  Remember the lady in OKC who went through “security” wearing a bikini?  She was denied boarding.  She clearly had no weapons, so it clearly was retaliation for her making a statement.  The million-dollar strip search machines alert on a piece of paper in your pocket.  Where’s the threat?  The magnetometers are good enough for Pre-Check people, why are they not good enough for everyone?  They are known technology, far less expensive, and faster.

TSA is a disaster.  The strip-search machines probably got some people promoted and made a hell of a lot of money for some contractor, and still are making money for the contractor to maintain them, but they didn’t increase security one bit.  If they did, they would be used for Pre-Check as well.  TSA also ought to have more lanes open, and stop using TSA people to watch TSA people.

Their lack of accountability is astounding.  Congress, where are you?

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TSA at SAN – Clueless

31 March 2012

I didn’t have the best experience going through security at the SAN commuter terminal today. A little background: SAN has a curfew for takeoffs that ends at 0630. My flight was scheduled to depart at 0620; there were five flights scheduled to depart from the commuter terminal right at 0630.

Each of the five flights were regional jets, about 50 passengers on average. That’s up to 250 people going through security in the 1.5 hours from when the terminal opens until the flights close about 30 minutes before departure.

Now, the TSA has two lanes there. One was open; there were over 100 people in line when I checked at at 0500. I note for the record that TSA had the normal number of people staffing that lane (six), and another eight standing around watching.

TSA was using their horrible backscatter “we MUST see them naked” machines. Now, it takes extra time for people take off all belts, pens, wallets, chapsticks. Then the machine takes 10 seconds or so to get loaded with the traveling public that has had the million-dollar monstrosities forced on us (using our own tax money, I might add). The stupid machine takes 10 seconds to irradiate you, and then at least another 10 seconds for the hidden TSA person to finish staring at the naked body. So that’s at least 30 seconds per person to (1) strip you of your clothes and your rights, and (2) get a single person through the checkpoint (and that doesn’t count if they have to do secondary screening because the damn machine doesn’t work – more on that later). So to get a couple hundred people through the checkpont using the backscatter machine would take more than 1.5 hours, which is impossible since they have roughly an hour to do it.

So somebody came to their senses (finally), and they opened up the standard magnetometer, and started cranking people through in less than half the time. At that point the line really started moving.

So I was next in line for the magnetometer, and some TSA guy who is working the backscatter literally interposes himself between me and the magnetometer and pulls me over for the backscatter. Now I had to take off my belt. And take my chapstick out. I managed not to take my wallet out. THAT got me secondary screened.

Side note to TSA: Your policies are stupid. The NO METAL policy is dumb – they treat a quarter in your pocket like a 9mm pistol. And their magic million-dollar machine is not bright enough to figure out that a Chapstick isn’t a threat (I found that out in Boston last week). Or a wallet. But really, TSA, how many square leather guns do you run across?

So now that the Invisible Commissar Of The Backscatter Machine has Detected An Unauthorized Wallet, you have to have it Inspected by yet another TSA guy. And that also means that they swab your hands, because TSA apparently Knows For Sure that if you have a wallet that isn’t taken out during the scan, then you, a loyal American with a security clearance since 1984, have probably handled explosives and You Might Be A Threat.

TSA is, as an agency, stupid. The security situation is NO different than it was pre-911. Except, of course, it is hideously more expensive due to having twice as many TSA people than they had before, and they have spent huge amounts of money on machines that detect that you have an Chapstick in your pocket. And let’s not forget the tens of millions expended on machines that puffed air at you, AFTER you went through the magnetometer, in an attempt to find out if you have had explosives on you recently.

I’ve read many releases from TSA “Administrator” John Pistole, and he has a deaf ear to the taxpaying traveling public. They need to rethnk, or actually think, through their policies, and abandon the strip-us-naked machines and stick with what works, the magnetometers.

TSA and Searches

19 November 2010

I’ve said before, at least in jest, that TSA would not be happy until they could strip people naked before boarding an airplane.

I have also commented on the term “screening”. It’s a dodge to get around the 4th Amendment.

But the newly deployed machines, and the “enhanced pat downs”, are more intrusive than a police frisk, are not Constitutional, and are not effective anyway. They are clearly searches, and are not reasonable.

The TSA ought to be ashamed. President Obama ought to be taking action.

Terminal Evacuation at OKC Last Monday

6 February 2010

I like new experiences. Last Monday, 01 February, I had one: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) evacuated the terminal at OKC Will Rogers World Airport for a security situation.

I was standing around at Gate 4 waiting for my flight when I noticed a couple TSA people walking towards Gate 4. They had a very tense attitude, and both were sweeping both sides of the terminal with their eyes as they walked. The tension in those people was palpable.

One walked to the United gate across from 4, and the other walked down to the end of the terminal (Gate 6 and the Frontier gate). Both still watching. I noticed that a United A320 was waiting off the gate – someone had told it not to finish the taxi to the gate; the airplane front wheels were chocked.

A couple of other TSA people were coming down the terminal, and the American local manager was in the Gate Agent area. All were clearly nervous. About this time, the Automated Announcer Lady came on the intercom and announced “Code Red” several times. That started getting other peoples attention, but not many (I must say that a lot of the people waiting for the flight were oblivious to all this).

Two of the TSA people accosted two of the passengers at Gate 4 and searched their bags. One of the passengers was First Class, I don’t know about the other. The two people seemed to be chosen at random, but you know that random is not always truly random where the TSA is concerned, so who knows. The bag searches were very fast, on the order of 20-30 seconds only, so they could not have been comprehensive.

I asked a passing TSA person what “Code Red” meant, and she said “it’s a Leo thing”. I think she meant LEO, as in Law Enforcement Officer, but that’s just a guess.

About this time another Code Red announcement was made, followed by a siren and another automated announcement that the TSA had demanded the terminal be evacuated, followed by the usual and expected empty words about how it was All For Our Own Good and Our Safety (cue the Star Spangled Banner in the background for effect).

By the time I got up to the Southwest part of the terminal, I saw an unusual sight: the custodial people were out in full force, emptying every trashcan into a big gray cart, leaving the trash can lids on the ground. Clearing the cans of evidence, I imagine. Those people were moving!

I went out the east security checkpoint and got right back in line. I was three people back from where the TSA ID checkers were. I asked two TSA people what the heck was going on, and got the same suspiciously uniform answer: “I can’t say”; whether this means “I’m not supposed to/going to say”, or “I haven’t a friggin’ clue, either”, I don’t know.

After about 15 minutes, they started running people through the “screening” process again. I was back in the terminal and walked right on to my flight in about five minutes. We ended up departing about 45 min late.

None of the people at the American gate were talking. The flight attendant I spoke to on board had no idea, and asked me what had happened. A TSA person I asked as I walked through the detector said “I can’t say”. Hmmm…

The airline people working at the gates did not evacuate, and neither did the people working the various concessions.

News reports later that day indicated that it was an issue with a bag that might have been taken through the screening checkpoint but not screened.

I wonder what really happened.

I did a search on Google for the Code Red phrase, but only found references to the famous color chart for terrorism threat.

The Transportation “Security” Administration

15 June 2009

I’m at DFW airport. Earlier today I passed through OKC on the way here.

I go through a lot of airports and so see a lot of TSA and other activity. Today, there were two lines open in the west side security gate. There were two people checking IDs and boarding passes, and two people doing nothing but watching the two people checking IDs and boarding passes.

As I took off my shoes (another stupid and pointless exercise that adds NO value to “security”), there were two people running the two x-rays, and two people carrying tubs from one end of the xray to the other, and two people waving people through the metal detector. And FOUR people watching them. There were other TSA people hanging out in the private screening area.

One note – as usual, I show my boarding pass to the metal detector guy, who says “don’t need it anymore”. WTH? It was a stupid requirement in the first place, but I just can’t believe that it’s not a requirement any more. Maybe the idiot that proposed it got their SES promotion or whatever, and moved on.

I walked down to the AA gate. About 20 min later, here come four TSA people, two have Official Looking Clipboards. The gate agent announces that the TSA is there for “additional screening”. They array themselves around the entrance to the jetbridge. Two of them look over the line of boarders and point at every fifth or so person – that person has to produce an ID and show their boarding pass. The other two stand there at the head of the line with Official Clipboards (doing who knows what, but given that it’s TSA, are probably WATCHING the two doing the actual shakedowns, er, screening). I let a woman into line ahead of me, and they got her. Sorry, ma’am.

Almost every trip, my bag is opened after I check it, and the TSA leaves a note that they have been rooting around in there. I suspect it’s because I carry a number of external disks and cables and such.

One other thing I’ve noted at several airports (RNO is one). Before a flight departs, a number of TSA people (they always travel in packs) push a cart loaded with stuff in boxes to the boarding area, then watch everyone board. I wonder what’s in the boxes – maybe radiation detection gear?

They took a fork from me a couple years ago. I had carried one to work to eat lunch, and then put it into my backpack and forgot about it. Raegan had to drive out to the airport to retrieve it; it probably got some yutz a promotion.

29 June 2009 Update:

I have passed through TSA screening at five airports in the past couple weeks. In each case but one, the metal detector monitor did not even glance at my boarding pass like they used to. So at OMA, I go through, and the TSA metal detector person DOES look at my boarding pass. No one was in line behind me, so I ask what the heck? The TSA person groans and rolls eyes, and says that the Omaha airport people (administrators? police?) insist that the TSA people still check the boarding passes. The TSA person says that it was stupid and still is stupid (which I heartily agree with).

One other thing about OMA: in early May, a coworker and I drove out to OMA to pick up a couple people. I pulled up to the curb outside of bag claim and started in, leaving my coworker in the car. A local Omaha cop quite rudely ordered that the car be MOVED NOW. I said that I was going in to get our people (they were standing inside the door), and the cop says no YOU HAVE TO MOVE THE CAR, even though it was attended. I told my coworker that she had to move the car because the cop ordered it and he pops off that it was a POLICE REQUIREMENT.

It does not do to try to reason with apes with guns, so she had to go park in the structure for the couple minutes it took to get our pickups out to the car. I cannot believe that airports are so ripe a target to justify this kind of behavior. I wonder if it’s just that the cops want you to park in the garage so they are helping extort parking money from people.