TSA Boss: Naked Scanners Are Great At Stopping The Last Attack; Don't Ask About The Next One

from the it's-as-if-he's-not-even-listening dept

Last week, TSA boss John Pistole defended the use of the highly criticized naked scanners:

“They are the best possibility we have right now of detecting Christmas Day … type explosives.”

That’s kind of amusing, since plenty of other reports have noted they wouldn’t have actually detected the explosives used there. But, it really highlights the key point, that the TSA is always looking to stop the last attack, not the next attack. It’s as if they don’t realize that terrorists can adapt. Along those lines, Rep. John Mica pointed out how silly Pistole’s argument is:

“The equipment is flawed and can be subverted…. Our staff has subverted it. [TSA Administrator] Pistole said ‘GAO is very clever.’ Well what the hell does he think a terrorist is?”

Pistole’s other suggestion was the already panned idea of letting people skip security if they give up a bunch of privacy.

Pistole made the case for a proposed “trusted traveler” program, which allow frequent flyers to provide personal information in order to avoid long airport security lines. Under the proposal, passengers would provide fingerprints, credit information and other personal data. In exchange, they would receive an ID card they could show to bypass security lines on flights.

Except, as plenty of people who actually understand security have pointed out, all this really does is change the target. Now terrorists can focus on the people in the trusted traveler program to get a bomb or other weapons through security. It amazes me that someone like Pistole can keep his job when it appears he can’t think past each action to the obvious reaction. We want a chess player in charge of security, and it seems like we ended up with a checkers player.

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Comments on “TSA Boss: Naked Scanners Are Great At Stopping The Last Attack; Don't Ask About The Next One”

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chris (profile) says:

Re: Naked and handcuffed

is no way to fly. It would however stop the next attack.

that sort of reactive thinking is the problem.

a plane that doesn’t fly can’t be hijacked. not only will that stop the next attack, but all other attacks that follow.

and it’s a documented fact that terrorists never target any other mode of transportation.

once there is no air travel, all terrorist will immediately renounce terrorism and seek gainful employment in the food service industry.

Peter S. Chamberlain (profile) says:

Re: Planespotter -

Right! They keep overlooking the obvious fact, well known to every terrorist trainee, that the Christmas day bomber did in fact have no trouble getting, and got, onto the planes without being “screened” by TSA. The only qualification for this whole Homeland Security and TSA scam is political. Of course it was a joke under Bush’s people, too. The whole thing is theater, a sham, and a scam. Somebody with hte right connections is ge3titng rich off this. Years earlier, when the threat was “take me to Cuba” hijackers, and they fist put in mental detectors, etc., a newsman in Dallas got on successive flights with a revolver and an Army .45 using nothing more sophisticated than two Neiman-Marcus shopping bags, and he got on the second plane after telling them about getting on the first one. By the way, the legal definition of a “deadly weapon” aptly starts with the word “anything.”

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:


“We want a chess player in charge of security, and it seems like we ended up with a checkers player.”

Nah, even in checkers good players look several possible moves ahead. They play more like Jeopardy. Only looking at the question at hand, answering it in a way no normal person would and only worry about strategy when it means making sure you have more money then they guy next to you doing the same thing.

At least in Jeopardy that’s how it’s suppose to be played. The questions aren’t customers, the guys next to you aren’t fat cats, and when technology comes along and whoops their ass, they don’t freak out about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with inferior people like Pistole...

…is that they have inferior minds. We see this with the MPAA, the RIAA, the NYT, and all kinds of entities frequently discussed here. They simply lack the intellectual ability to comprehend these things: it’s as far beyond their pitifully feeble minds as Hawking’s most advanced theories are beyond mine.

There is no reasoning, no arguing, no persuading these people: they don’t get it, and they’re never going to get it. The same can be said for those who support and defend them: they too, are inferior people.

It is a mark of the failure of our society that we permit these inferior people to hold positions of power. This is why I’ve suggested that intelligence testing be made mandatory for all public officials, with the bar set ever-higher in accordance with the scope of the position. For example, nobody should be eligible to run for the Presidency without a demonstrated IQ of 165. (Yes, yes, I know that IQ testing is fraught with issues, many of them difficult. But so is having an appallingly stupid President, or Senator, or TSA head.)

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: The problem with inferior people like Pistole...

I disagree, it isn’t inferior minds that causes this. I think it is the motivation behind them that drives them, greed and a lust for power.

I’ve been around people with a low IQ, in my experience they would see the obvious fact that this doesn’t work, they probably couldn’t give you a reason why but they could tell you it is wrong.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: The problem with inferior people like Pistole...

Oh, these folks are plenty intelligent. They know what they are doing…heck, they made it to the top. They are banking on the average intelligence of the non-thinking public. Politicians can make illogical statements and as long as the masses are appeased that we are “stopping the terrorists from not thinking of the children” that they can continue to get away with it. Then the questioning minority is cast as a “radical” being debased to the laws of the cattle.

Hiiragi Kagami (profile) says:


“We want a chess player in charge of security, and it seems like we ended up with a checkers player.”
Well, if it’s any consolation, at least all this will end in a draw, neither victor or defeated can be claimed.

On topic: Yeah, my doctors say my screening is to benefit me, but study after study shows me they only capture what’s already ailing me, not what they can prevent.

I’m still not sure what a finger up my rectum’s trying to uncover, but I for one insist the ounce of prevention is doing more harm than the ailment which does not exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cute.

my doctors say my screening is to benefit me, but study after study shows me they only capture what’s already ailing me, not what they can prevent.

Either you don’t understand what they’re doing, or you don’t have very good doctors.

What’s one of the first things your doctor does when you get a physical? Blood pressure.

Why? Is it because high blood pressure is bad? No, not in and of itself. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is an indicator of several other problems (stroke, heart attack, etc.)

Your doctors should also be asking you questions about your family’s health, and then testing for the results. If not, you should find another doctor.

paxamus says:

Trusted flyers program

“Except, as plenty of people who actually understand security have pointed out, all this really does is change the target. Now terrorists can focus on the people in the trusted traveler program to get a bomb or other weapons through security.”

That is total garbage! A program like this CAN work.
Should business people who has proof of residency and work be scrutinized like criminal every time they need to fly? Of course I am talking non-international flights here.

I would still have these passengers walk through metal detectors, just not have to take off their shoes.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trusted flyers program

Maybe not. But are you telling him that any other method is 100%, and that’s the standard that needs to be met? Nothing is 100%, and that should not be the goal, or the only answer is to stop air travel.

I personally like the idea of a Safe Traveler List. These few would be frequent fliers. They would still get their bag’s x-rayed and walk through the classic (fast) metal detectors. However, a side benefit is that they would (mostly) be seasoned travelers. Thus, a special line for these folks would move quickly, as they all know how to take a laptop out and remove metal from their pockets.

“Trusted Traveler” wouldn’t eliminate security inspection for those frequent flyers, it would just de-emphasize them, and process them more quickly, such that additional TSA time and resources could be spent on more likely groups.

As for me, I already had any hint of privacy obviated when I immigrated to the US. They already have my prints, my biometric details, all my biographic history, my education, my marriage, holiday photos (I kid you not), my parents biographic information, my political affiliation, my criminal record, my health status, inoculations, and they took multiple blood tests ostensibly to see if I had AIDS. I figure I don’t have much privacy to lose.

The notion that after all that, they can’t make a pretty good guess as to whether I would bomb a plane or not is pretty stupid.

PS: I would not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Trusted flyers program

I agree the only 100% way to make air travel safe is to eliminate air travel, and maybe i was a little harsh in my response.

What you propose sounds great. A separate line for frequent fliers who give up a little bit a privacy and have an quicker security check. Partially quicker because it is less intensive, i.e. no fondle or scan, and partially faster cause everyone is experienced. The main problem I can foresee with this is how long till the “quick” line is longer than the normal line? I have no data to back this but I imagine most of the people flying at any random time are frequent fliers. I would be surprised to learn that the majority of fliers are, in a random airport at any given moment, are infrequent or casual fliers who only use a plan once or twice a year, and therefore wouldn’t want to be on the “Trusted Traveler” list .

But my original point in the post above is the TSA’s job is to make life harder for people who want to bomb planes (how affective they are is a whole other post.) If they made a list of people who don’t have to be scrutinized I can guarantee that terrorists would make it onto this list. The TSA would then only be making life harder on normal people and giving terrorists a big window to climb in through. Its not like we can trust every TSA agent who has access not to get bribed/blackmailed or the checks in the system to be so good that a terrorist couldn’t sneak onto the list, or falsify a pass, or steal someone identity, or steal someones pass, or buy someones pass. /sarc Also people with a clean history never turn out to be terrorists and terrorist profiles are 100%(hell; >50%) accurate /sarc. I mean how long would it take from them saying “if you get access to this line we wont check your shoes or lift you balls” to a terrorist getting access to the line and stuffing his shoes and taint full of c4?

Examples of why not to trust TSA employees not to fuck this up? See the stories on TSA employees stealing boatloads from luggage, or the TSA agent who added his wife to the no fly list (hilarious)

Examples of why a government program will fail at its intended purpose and fail to stop who it is suppose to and interfere with tons of people its not suppose to? See government

Anonymous Coward says:

One assumes that the TSA is doing what it wants in providing security. Considering the political landscape, that may not be the case.

Maybe they want to do better inspections, profiling, etc. etc. but the political leaders won’t let them.

Maybe they do just what is politically accepted, even though it is not very effective.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s funny to think the feds are convinced the terrorists are going to try and use planes again. We have a porous nearly open border to our South that the feds constantly downplay and don’t protect. The Southwest is already terrorized by Mexico’s drug cartels through many murders, kidnappings, cop killings, etc. on US SOIL. I’d be surprised if the next attack has anything to do with airplanes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Speaking of a porous border in the south, do you realize that all of the 9/11 hijackers were here perfectly legally? They dotted all of their Is and crossed all of their Ts. In response we get security at the borders making sure you are allowed in the country. From an immigration perspective that can make sense. But from a terrorism perspective it makes no sense considering the terrorists were here legally in the first place.

Dr. Spaceman says:

Re: Time travel

I currently hold the water rights to the water that flows under your bridges. Your bridges obfuscate my water as well as damage my business of selling people flotation devices to cross aforementioned water. Your alternative method of travel is ruining my business model and your bridges damage my copyright and trademark. Please cease and desist the existence of bridges.

animose says:

Qh5+ ?!

“We want a chess player in charge of security, and it seems like we ended up with a checkers player”

Perhaps Pistole -is- a chess player, he’s just a really bad one. There’s a name, in the chess world, that refers to short-sighted players who do not think past each action and reaction and that’s a “patzer”. The famous chess quote, “patzer sees check, patzer makes check”, has never been so applicable especially off the chess board.

DV Henkel-Wallace (profile) says:

Actually, TSA is working as designed

But, it really highlights the key point, that the TSA is always looking to stop the last attack, not the next attack. It’s as if they don’t realize that terrorists can adapt.

Actually, there’s little value in figuring out which of a million strange things some crazy might come up with would be worth defending against. On the other hand, failing to defend against a repeat of the last attack would be terrible: the head of the TSA could lose his job!

If you spend money trying to defend against an attack that never comes you are wasting the taxpayers’ money. If you fail to defend against a known attack you are negligent. But if you trowel in mortar to block repeat attacks, you’re at least doing “as much as any reasonable person could.”

The entire model is broken — it’s not worth spending time trying to tinker with it.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Screening People Getting _Off_ Trains.

There was a curious episode about a month ago, involving TSA agents searching people who had just gotten off an Amtrak train in Savannah, GA. No justification whatsoever, but “just showing the flag,” or whatever you want to call it. There seems to have been improper touching of children, and I don’t know what all else. Anyway, it was videotaped and put up on YouTube, and when the Amtrak police chief found out, he barred the TSA from the property.

Here are a set of links:
The fightback against TSA tyranny begins: At last, lawmakers are heeding the call of ordinary Americans to defend them from the TSA’s invasive infringements of liberty

Screening of Passengers at Savannah Amtrak Station

Don Phillips, TRAINS exclusive: Amtrak police chief bars Transportation Security Administration from some security operations

Why Did TSA Pat Down Kids, Adults Getting Off Train?

Breakfast links: The security-industrial complex


Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Why The TSA Doesn't Work For Trains.

Trains are different from airplanes. For airplanes, taking off and landing is a big deal, both time-consuming and expensive. That leads to centralized airports, and the “hub system.” For trains, stopping and starting is not a very big deal. It requires skill, of course, but a skilled locomotive engineer can make it no big deal, on a routine basis, just as a cook routinely cooks every item correctly. Even for the fastest trains, stopping and starting at intermediate points does not slow the train’s average speed down very much. A train which makes a number of intermediate stops can often be ninety percent as fast as a nonstop train over the same route. Between New York and Washington, the Amtrak North-East Corridor stops at Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; Baltimore, MD; and Baltimore-Washington Airport– that is, about every fifty miles.

The multiplicity of train stations makes it very difficult to control passengers. This has certain implications– for example, it is difficult to do the kind of price manipulation which airlines do. A passenger can always buy a ticket from Washington to New York, and get off at Trenton, if the fares should be distorted enough to make that logical. So the fare to Trenton has to be less than or equal to the fare to New York.

Another implication is that a lot of the stations which make the system work are comparatively small and simple compared to the main stations. Passenger railroads sometimes have “flag stops,” places where the train stops if there is a passenger to get on or off, but not otherwise. There are stations where the railroad does not have anyone to sell tickets, where you traditionally have to buy a ticket from the conductor after you get on the train and after it is moving again. There are a lot of stations on Amtrak’s network where it doesn’t have any paid employees. Instead, it has Honorary Stationmasters, railfans who take care of the station, and come in at train time. They get a fine-sounding title, and the right to wear a funny hat, and they generally help out new rail travelers, who might become confused. They can’t actually sell tickets, but nowadays a website or an 800 number can do that. Under the circumstances, anything approximating an effective security cordon would be absurd.

In any case, attacks can easily come from outside the train. In West Virginia, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mountaineers who resented the railroad used to stand on hilltops with rifles, and shoot down at trains in the valley. Say a range of 200-300 yards, and 200-300 feet down. By the time anyone climbed up the hill, of course, the sniper would be gone.

When the TSA tried to search all the people getting off the train at Savannah, what was happening was that the logic of the train system was forcing the agency into a “Theater of the Absurd.” One might very well find that the agents involved were part of a “re-assignment pool,” that is, agents who had been removed from regular TSA jobs because there were complaints against them, or something like that. Those are the sort of people who are likely to be available for an impromptu performance.

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