TSA Granting Expedited Security Checks To Entire Lines Of Travelers Undercuts Everything About Its Security Theater

from the the-TSA-wants-YOU-to-not-think-too-hard-about-this dept

The TSA finally appears to be doing something to trim down the runtime of security theater performances. The PreCheck program, which sold travelers' rights back to them for a smallish fee is now being applied randomly to people waiting in line. And not just certain somebodies as the TSA did randomly over the holiday season in an effort to appear slightly less annoying. A whole lot of somebodies, according to this report from The Consumerist.

[A]s I approached the checkpoint to have my ID checked and my boarding pass scanned, a man who appeared to be a TSA supervisor stood and declared that my line and the one next to it are now PreCheck lanes.

The initial reaction from those around me was confusion — mutterings of “Why did they put me in the wrong line? What is PreCheck? Do I have to get in another line?” — but then the supervisor just continued telling us that we didn’t need to take off our shoes, remove laptops from their bags, and the other perks of being a PreCheck traveler.
While the TSA would probably prefer this random largesse to be greeted with relief and gratitude, its normal day-to-day enforcement of petty, illogical policies ensures that this sort of thing is only greeted with suspicion.

Chris Morran was naturally perplexed by the TSA's implicit admission that its security theater was, in fact, security theater. After all, if whole lines can be declared "not terrorists," then why all the shoeless jumping through hoops the other 99.99% of the time? He reached out to the TSA, which responded with this:
“TSA also utilizes these lanes during certain times for other low-risk passengers who are identified through a real-time threat assessment process,” explained a TSA rep who then directed me to this TSA.gov page on what the agency calls “Managed Inclusion.”
The infamous "threat assessment program" (as performed by barely-trained "Behavioral Detection Officers" [BDOs] and overseen by Passenger Screening Canines), which the GAO referred to as little better than a "coin flip" at detecting terrorists is now being used as the justification for granting dozens of fliers instant PreCheck approval.

Morran has a good reason to be suspicious of this move. Not only does it undercut the TSA's arguments for pretty much everything else that it does, it also contorts itself to give itself a pat on the back for being so damn good at detecting terrorists. This allows the TSA to give its Threat Assessment Program a veneer of legitimacy it hasn't earned. Morran points out that he didn't see a single "screening dog" anywhere and nothing indicating the decision was being made with any sort of "assessment" being involved. It was just business as usual and then, suddenly, everyone swept through the security process with shoes and laptops intact.

While I'm sure the travelers appreciated the expedited process, the real danger here is that the TSA -- which is supposed to be ensuring our airplanes are terrorist-free -- is now arbitrarily deciding to drop 90% of the process on a whim. Even if the infamous BDOs (and their pet friends) are performing some sort of en masse "assessment," that process has been deemed no more likely to net a terrorist than the randomly dragging every other person off for extra screening. Either the TSA needs to drop the many pretenses that "support" its procedures or it needs to stand by the very things it has claimed for years are essential to preventing terrorist activity. What if this had nothing to do with assessment and had everything to do with agents feeling less than motivated? It would look exactly the same and would have the same amount of "threat detection" behind it.

I would like to see the TSA drop the "theater" part and return to actual security, but trying to half-ass it with crowd-pleasing "everyone is pre-approved!" tactics like this is the agency trying to have it both ways -- and it's hugely disingenuous.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Wally, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:21am

    nathandog04@yahoo.con

    It's simple...and affective. McCarnel International Airport, Cleveland Hopkins, Dalas Fort Worth International Airports and JFK...all have this system in...The prioritized security voucher check pertains mostly to elderly people, or people with medical issues such as cancer...Rather than make them go through the trouble of getting out of wheel chairs, going through security checks, their carryon is already pre-checked by attendants..

    It saves a lot of time and mobility when connecting to a flight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:23am

    I took a flight last week and at my home airport a TSA agent was using an iPad (attached to one of the poles with the web strapping in it) with an app called "TSA Randomizer" which they simply touched and it pointed in one direction or another.

    One lane was the usual security with taking shoes off and jackets and etc etc. The other lane was a precheck lane, as far as I could tell.

    The app didn't do much to alleviate the congestion, most of the time it directed people into the busy heavy security lane and the agent kept getting frustrated that it just kept putting people into the busy line. The person in front of me got to go to precheck but the next 5 parties, including myself, stayed in the busy line. After that it went back and forth alternately, before pushing more people into the busy line and frustrating the agent again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:24am

    Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    "I expect that pilots and flight attendants will eventually be let out of the severe screening, and as I said previously, that begins dividing society into levels of the more and the less trusted, enforced by epsilon minus TSA thugs."

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101115/11033711873/tsa-threatens-to-sue-guy-for-not-agreei ng-to-having-his-groin-touched-by-tsa-agents.shtml#c1468

    Not that I'm prescient. The whole plan can be read in "1984" and "Brave New World". You just can't believe The Rich are serious about this global tyranny, but they are. Crazy serious. All they want is absolute and total control. -- By the way, reason to not indulge in fantasies is two-fold: not only does it blind you to reality and let you escape, but these themes are planted gradually to get you accustomed to them. For instance, "Total Recall" has the scene where Arnold is taking off for Mars or wherever, and goes through the X-ray scanner, just like you already do.

    The phony deal that evil people (and gullible fools) try to force on us: You can't have the benefits of technology unless give up all privacy.

    04:24:42[f-577-6]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:28am

    Euphanisms...

    "real-time threat assessment process"

    Call a duck a duck for once. It's profiling. That's all it really is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:28am

    In other news TSA proves it does nothing!

    Why are people paid just above the minimum wage allowed to decide anything?

    They are nothing more than food service vendor employees that wanted to get a fake badge and exercise authority over people that can afford to fly somewhere. They are paid the same. They prove time and time again they do nothing but exercise their own will and preconceived desires to cause discomfort to those that are better off than they are.

    They are skilled in nothing but BS scanning procedures that do nothing to actually protect air travelers.

    So in the final conclusion expedited security checks are nothing but a PR stunt. Nothing but marketing BS to the masses that they are trying to help and secure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:30am

    There are plenty examples of people that got in with potentially dangerous stuff. I went in with a lighter once and one of those victor inox things (yay multiple knives, saws and cutting stuff) at another opportunity. Both were not intended.

    This is pure theater. But it does fill pockets with money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:33am

    Real terrorists wait in long lines!

    Nonsense Tim, REAL terrorists wait in long slow moving lines!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:37am

    Re: Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    OOTB,

    This is not a class warfare thing. Wow I bet you enjoy your paranoid world view, but those that seek to address real world grievances to our privacy and restrictions do not see it the same way.

    But I will agree with you on a couple points.

    Yes the best tactic to get people to except something is the graduale method.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    FighterFei, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:38am

    A much more cynical answer...

    Would be to see this as an advertisement to the convenience this precheck baloney offers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:41am

    Highly Sensitive TSA training material leaked to the american public

    ...When trying to determine which potential terrorists rights and dignity to trample always remember this simple mnemonic device while performing "Real-time Threat Assesment"

    "Duck, Duck, Goose, Duck, Duck, Duck, Goose"

    All of the Geese ((plural for Goose) plural means more than one)) require "extra screening" while the ducks can be ignored, because really how dangerous are ducks anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:43am

    In a way I hate to see critical articles like this being written, because it only serves to encourage the standard response of authorities whenever attention is drawn to their incompetence: to stubbornly never admit they were wrong (and to 'prove' it, they typically "double-down" rather than backing off).

    Anyway, they are not "dropping" invasive security - they're only halfway rolling it back to the level it was before the post-911 insanity took hold.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    ffs, you dont ever respond to blue, no matter the temptation.. ever, discipline

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Lord Kibble (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    I wondered what was going on.

    I assume that is what happened when I left Las Vegas on Sunday then. For a brief moment everyone in the queue was mildly confused before hurriedly making their way through security in case the powers that be changed their minds. I was actually slightly put out as I'd planned ahead and worn slip on shoes and had left my laptop in the UK. I imagine with CES being on they got pretty fed up of looking at laptops.

    It was nice to see the full body scanners sitting idle. The whole security thing (both entering and leaving) seemed considerably less stressful this year.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    I wonder what brought this on. Budget cuts, maybe?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:51am

    Re: In other news TSA proves it does nothing!

    the TSA gaurds are now unionized, better paid, and more powerful politically. Calling them "minimum wage" is akin to calling cops "unskilled/semi-skilled labor" - which they basically are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 8:55am

    Re:

    Maybe TSA agents smoked something they confiscated?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    hggdh (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:03am

    Typo in the TSA program name?

    '[...] TSA.gov page on what the agency calls “Managed Inclusion.”'

    Might they be referring to "Managed Illusion"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    AC you are right. I am so, so very sorry!!! I did do the unpostable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:09am

    Re: Highly Sensitive TSA training material leaked to the american public

    because really how dangerous are ducks anyway.

    That I don't know, but living in Michigan and dealing with migratory Canadian Geese, I can tell you I really, REALLY hate geese.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:10am

    Re: A much more cynical answer...

    Exactly what I was coming in to say. They are probably trying to advertise their services so that more people would be willing to pay them to get this all of the time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:13am

    Re: Re: In other news TSA proves it does nothing!

    Google Search= Define: TSA = To See Asses

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:13am

    Re: Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    STFU blue... no one cares what you have to say... even when you actually make sense. You made your own bed asshole.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    911 only allowed those that wanted to restrict freedom a path to success. Republicans were lambasted for taking our freedoms, but the Democrats saw what had happened and said "WOW we can do so much more to create a dependency on our government polices and thus create a permanent Democratic voting block by running with this paranoia. They will have no choice but to vote Democrat as they depend on the Gov to provide everything to them including safety and income."

    Simply put the RINOs did what they were suppose to do. They created a Gov dependant class and the TSA is just a place to see it in operation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    krolork (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:29am

    We need a revolution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:37am

    So they finally realized that they are just wasting the money.
    If someone wants to do something serious, they will get past the security, as we have seen before many times.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    memphislimsan, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:43am

    Re: Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    Hi Cathy!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Long predicted division into privileged classes.

    What I want to know is why OOTB wasn't complaining that this story failed to mention Google in some way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:45am

    If it's security theater anyway, then I guess lessening it could be a good thing.

    It also could be a sneaky way to inconvenience someone without them knowing it. Giving someone extra scrutiny is fairly noticeable. But what if you just make it so they never get less scrutiny? I mean, they can't exactly complain that their line is never the expedited one, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re:

    This is not a partisan thing. Falling for the trick of framing as such only allows further entrenchment of the tyranny that the true ruling party -- the extremely wealthy and the major corporations -- wants. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are working for the same masters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 9:50am

    Re: Euphanisms...

    Um... I think that is what they want you to think. I think you'll find the actual process is simply whatever they make up on the day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    They're doing this because this is a business model for them, and another way to make money, all while having fewer employees.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:12am

    Re:

    What are you talking about? The airports do not pay the TSA we do with our tax dollars.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:13am

    Re: A much more cynical answer...

    I'm thinking along the same lines, but this example being more like hard drugs. The first taste is free (more of an advertisement), but when you come back for more because you discover that you like it, that is when it is going to start costing you. The TSA PreCheck price will inevitably go up, getting you to pay even more for the same old security theater.

    Just look at all the new fees and increases the airlines have tacked onto every flight, while cramming more and more people into the same physical space over the years.

    I guess the government wants their extra piece of the pie too, and this is one way to get it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re:

    We pay for it with the insulting "service fee" that's tacked onto our plane tickets.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Euphanisms...

    Either way it's still fubar. Either they are randomly making things up as they go which is completely useless or they are profiling and trying to spin it by giving it a fancy name. Maybe NYPD should try to rename Stop and Frisk to something fancy and see how far they get with that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You are right. It's not a partisan thing. It's a right-wing vs left-wing thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 15th, 2014 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, its' a corporatist vs all of us thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Clownius, Jan 15th, 2014 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I fail to see how that can be as America has no left wing in politics. Just the far right and extreme right wings

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The whole damn country has lurched to the right, okay? Think about where we stood on the issues thirty, forty years ago. We've become more selfish and narcissistic as people, demanding reductions in taxes and insisting that every penny spent benefits us directly or we won't spend it.

    We're voting people into office because of the principles they claim to stand for, not on their record of governing well or providing efficient administration in other roles.

    We've become tribal, creating a toxic "Us v Them" political climate that makes it impossible to get things done. It's in the interest of the Establishment to keep us bickering like kids over hot button issues instead of working together to hold them accountable for their performance in office. Are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Because there aren't enough of us holding their feet to the fire to remind them they're supposed to be representing us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 1:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 4:53am

    Re: Real terrorists wait in long lines!

    Only if they want maximum targets...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 4:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's the left wing and the right wing of the far right. You know, where Eisenhower and even Reagan are somewhere in the middle or even left.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Re: nathandog04@yahoo.con

    I dunno. I flew out of New Orleans two weeks ago and got randomly put in the precheck lane. While I was breezing through security, I saw the TSA making an older guy in a wheelchair get up and back down repeatedly as they searched him. I'm 31, and he was wearing a Vietnam veterans hat. Seems pointless to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: In other news TSA proves it does nothing!

    Ok, how about we call them rent-a-cops instead? That's pretty much what they are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anon, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 4:54pm

    There shouldn't even be a TSA. The 'War on Terror' is FAKE!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This