TSA Security Theater Described In One Simple Infographic

from the theater-of-the-absurd dept

Didier J. MARY points us to an infographic highlighting why the TSA’s security theater has been such a huge waste of taxpayer money:

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Comments on “TSA Security Theater Described In One Simple Infographic”

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halley (profile) says:

The points made in the infographic may be powerful, but the presentation completely ruins the impact.

I’ve seen many of these so-called “info-graphics” that are nothing more than unattractive typestyle masturbation exercises. “Ooh, a grungy filter, that’ll make it look great!” It’s pixel barf, sliding down a long wall.

If the data is more clearly demonstrated visually, use a graphic, and make it clear. If the data is just a series of bullet points or better expressed in prose, don’t feel compelled to make a two-meter-tall PowerPoint slide out of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some of the points in the graphic have been debunked. I am not a fan of the TSA, but I hate to see Techdirt lower itself by promoting its viewpoints with bad data. One of TD’s touchstones is its insistence on quality data.

There are plenty of good solid reasons for hating the TSA without resorting to this type of garbage.

Eileen (profile) says:

Re: So...

It is shocking. Think of all the times you’ve read an article about a groundbreaking NASA satellite and someone always responds “Guys we are BROKE! No more playing around with learning stuff about the universe! We need to stop spending blah blah”. 60 Billion is TEN James Webb telescopes (and that’s the most expensive, state-of-the-art ever). It’s 60 Chandra X-ray observatories (one of the ‘great observatories’ which is surpassed only by Hubble in revolutionizing our understanding of the Universe). It’s funding for Hubble scientists (the thousands of people who use the instrument) for another six hundred years.

Anonymous Coward says:

which is worse?

whilst working for TSA, in a supposedly responsible, highly-controversial position dealing with the public and public safety, steal $40,000 and get 5 months jail time when caught.


sharing a few songs, get fined millions of dollars, have your life totally and forever fucked up by a bunch of absolute morons

answers on a postcard please!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Biggest issue with the TSA is they’re (at least partially) concerned with all the wrong things. They’re also always chasing the last threat.

Who cares about knives? The only reason knives worked on 9/11 is that in all the previous hijackings, the worst the passengers got was a week in Havanna or some random not-so friendly country. Then they went home and no body was seriously injured. Now, no sane passenger will let a plane be hijacked by people with knives now. Hell, taking over a plane with knives didn’t even work more than an hour on 9/11 before that tactic was rendered obsolete over PA.

The other issue is the huge waste of money to cover X vulnerability, while Y obvious one is left open. To date, it’s those other vulnerabilities that have been exploited (e.g, getting past security in a foreign country).

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

Re: Re:

Locking the pilots in the cabin was the #1 best way to prevent kamikaze planes. That fix severely limits the damage any terrorist could do essentially assuring they will not likely gain control of the aircraft. It reduced the number of potential deaths to those on the flight and maybe a few on the ground from falling debris. Still a tragedy but not 9/11.

EF says:

—“TSA Security Theater”— The most expensive show in town! Come on down and we’ll make you a part of the act! As a participating audience member, we’ll put you on stage: you’ll get groped, naked-scanned, searched and humiliated. All ages welcome. Bring the kids and grandparents, and your hot girlfriends, we’ll screen them all! [No cameras allowed (except ours). Heckling not allowed. No refunds allowed. Gratuity may or may not be secretly collected.]
So pack your bags and come see the show! You won’t feel any safer when you leave but you’re sure to have bad time!

Now playing at an airport near you!

Prashanth (profile) says:

Last parts of the graphic

I’m not sure I agree with the last part of the graphic. I mean, I agree with the overall message, but couldn’t this have been done more generally without invoking any particular politician’s name? Plus, how is private security any better than government-run security? The same thing would likely continue, and it would probably be even worse because we would be losing the precious few rights we have once we let private companies run what was once the domain of the government. (I only say this because I’ve seen a number of stories where discrimination and such suits have worked against the government but not against private companies, so please correct me if I’m wrong in saying this.) What I would REALLY like to see is a return to the pre-9/11 overt security measures combined with skilled people trained to monitor passengers’ behavior.

EF says:

Prashanth, one major point revealed by this info-graphic is that the gov’t has spent ALL THIS MONEY, your money, my money, our money… and for what? A bloated, expensive, ineffective, bureaucracy and none of us are the better for it. Control, restrict, and regulate is the order of the day, all at the peril of the taxpayer and their liberty. The TSA is, in effect, just a small representation of the Federal Government itself.

Liz (profile) says:

TSA agent among 55 caught in kid porn net

Time to update the infographic.

TSA agent among 55 caught in kid porn net

Cops snared 55 Massachusetts men in a sweeping, multi-agency child pornography crackdown ? including a Transportation Security Administration officer assigned to Logan International Airport who is just the latest embarrassment for the troubled federal agency.

Anonymous Coward says:

We don’t need a fancy infographic to tell us that the TSA has been completely ineffective.

Just look at the data: it has been unable to prevent the occurrence of 9/11 every year since its creation. And, if the current trend continues, we will have yet another 9/11 this year, in early September.

The TSA should be looking at work done in this area by it’s European counterparts. For example, ancient Roman experts have long introduced measures to ensure that the threat of 2/29 only occurs once every 4 years. That’s a 300% reduction in the number of occurrences, a real success story.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Private security wouldnt cost the US taxpayers 60 billion dollars, and likely be far more effective.”

Not really, private security would still have to follow the TSA’s rules for what to/how to search for threats, so they wouldn’t be any less invasive. They could add their own security searches/etc if they want to however. Also the cost would be shifted onto airline passengers, since who do you think pays for private screeners?

Also I doubt that the private screeners really save any money, regardless of who pays for them, seeing as TSA workers at airports ALREADY make minimum wage. That’s part of why their yearly turnover rate is over 100%, it’s not a pleasant job to do, nor is it pleasant having people constantly angry with you over the invasive things you’re being paid to do.

The only way you can possibly save more money then hiring minimum wage people is to hire less people, which means longer lines and waits, or buying expensive new equipment that’s supposed to speed up the process (like the full body scanners, that are very invasive).

Simple Mind (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, really. “wouldnt cost the US taxpayers 60 billion dollars”. How in any way is that “Not, really”? I guess for you not paying for something with tax dollars is the same as paying for it with tax dollars.

And notice from the graphic that the bureaucracy is getting paid much more than minimum wage. As with anything paid for with taxes, there is little incentive to lower costs. Over time it just becomes a huge hierarchy of bureaucrats leeching off of us.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“””…seeing as TSA workers at airports ALREADY make minimum wage.”””

Could you provide your source for this? Other than the infographic above, it seems like I’ve read that TSA workers in the field make well over minimum wage. Probably not in the 6 digit range, but definitely not minimum wage.

Anonymous Coward says:

They are only missing one thing in this infographic: The background should be cherries, to represent all the cherry picked facts and unqualified statements.

35,000 security violations? How does that compare to (a) number of checkpoints, (b) number of travellers, (c) number of travelled miles by passengers in the system?

It’s pretty obvious that someone is trying to do a one sided hatchet job. It’s ugly and misleading.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“How many terrorists has the TSA stopped? “

We will never know. If a terrorist chose not to attack the US on US territory because an attack from a US airport was no longer easy, they may have stopped many attacks.

It’s like asking how many robberies your locked front door on your house stops. You might only find out if you leave your front door wide open for a few weeks to see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yes but 0 terrorists arrested and 25,000 breaches + the few terrorists that have gotten onto planes since 9/11 (underwear guy, shoe guy ect) have all been stopped by passengers not the TSA + the TSA consistently fails its own security tests proves that it isn’t working.

We were attacked before, since then they have let terrorist slip through and constant security mishaps with not one terrorist actually physically stopped. Current TSA is no more of a psychological deterrence than the old private security forces were.

Its like saying replacing my front door made of wood with one made of iron will prevent future break ins even when I dont change my back door or any of my windows.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You realize a ONE TIME EVENT does not show a trend. Yes there was 9/11 but where is the stream of attacks before that? If you could show that it was common before 9/11 for planes to get hijacked and that now it has stopped then you could claim this system works.

You don’t have that though. It would be about like getting attacked by a tiger in your home in Colorado and then installing anti-tiger measures and claiming they are keeping out the tigers. You have no clue if it is working or if that was the only one anyway.

Beta (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“If a terrorist chose not to attack the US on US territory because an attack from a US airport was no longer easy, they may have stopped many attacks.”

Are you sure it wasn’t the magic pebble I’ve been carrying since October 2001?

Any terrorist with the backing, intelligence and dedication of the 9/11 terrorists could commit an act of mass murder on U.S. soil without boarding an airplane. Granted, killing thousands in a single attack (or two) would be difficult, and the drama of 9/11 would be almost impossible to beat, but people like that wouldn’t be stopped by current airport security measures even if current airport security measures worked as intended, which they don’t.

So can we please stop this “look, no attacks since we banned nail clippers” routine?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You know a really good place to set off a bomb now days? In the security line or ticket line depending on which is more backed up. I hope that makes you feel safer knowing that nothing prevents a terrorist from walking into an airport and blowing up the few hundred people that are always right inside the door of a busy one.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We will never know. If a terrorist chose not to attack the US on US territory because an attack from a US airport was no longer easy, they may have stopped many attacks.

It’s like asking how many robberies your locked front door on your house stops. You might only find out if you leave your front door wide open for a few weeks to see.

Interesting… Because on the subject of the social networking patent thicket, you said:

Please show me an example of companies that have been forced out of the social media / interactive business because of patents.

Double standard much? Maybe we should leave the doors of patents wide open for a few weeks to see!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wow, you are dense, aren’t you? You try hard, but wow, do you fail.

Patents might take 10 years or more for us to see a change. It isn’t really on the same scale.

Further, let’s be fair here: Removing the security at a given airport isn’t the same scale as disabling the patent or copyright system on a hunch.

You really are a piece of work there Marcus. You are having to work so hard to try to catch me on something. You are still a few points behind, considering how many times you have had your ass handed to you in the last couple of weeks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I don’t think he’s had his ass handed to him at all. In point of fact, you have had yours handed to you way more since you’ve been on this site than Marcus has.

Besides, your idea of Marcus having his “ass handed to him” usually means you try and put a spin on Marcus’ OPINION and saying “ha, you’re wrong!”

That’s not even remotely the same as handing someone’s ass to them.

Dense? Yeah, that’s you. Try hard and fail? Yep, you again. Piece of work? You’ve hit the trifecta there. Working hard to try and catch Marcus on something? Ditto.

Basically everything you try and say Marcus is ACTUALLY applies to you more than it does him. Not too mention the weird obsession you have with him. And to deny it is to just say, “I AM A BIG FAT LIAR AND EVERYTHING I SAY CAN OFFICIALLY BE TAKEN WITH A POUND OF SALT.”

AC, just give up. You’ve won nothing, you’re no points ahead, etc.

FuzzyDuck says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We will never know. If a terrorist chose not to attack the US on US territory because an attack from a US airport was no longer easy, they may have stopped many attacks.

Remember what Bush said: “they hate us because we are free”. The obvious solution was to remove freedom. This objective has been consistently pursued by the Bush and Obama regimes.

Why would any terrorist need to attack the US, when the US government is doing exactly what the terrorists want?

Fiona Taylor says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I am from London and work n the travel industry. The TSA measures really do have an impact on people deciding not to fly to the US. Countless passengers who would otherwise love to visit America, often decide it’s “much less hassle” to travel through Europe instead, usually because of some poor experience friends or relatives have had with airport security in the states. My own elderly mother refuses to fly to NYC to vsit my brother now as she feels her treatment by security staff at JFK was humiliating and wholly unnecessary. Security is of course needed but not so much that it eats itself. Got to find the balance.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

> Your right they forgot this important piece
> of data. How many terrorists has the TSA stopped?

I’m no fan of the TSA, but that’s an unfair question.

It’s like asking how many assassinations the Secret Service has prevented this year. No one has been arrested for trying to kill the president, but there’s no way of knowing how many people were deterred from even trying based on the hard target perception the Secret Service creates with its protective policies and procedures.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Number of traveled miles by passengers? You think that would be a good metric? Why not increase it to number of feet traveled per cubic volume of blood? That would make the numbers even more in the TSA’s favor without having actually measured anything of any significance. Is there some kind of inherently bigger security risk for longer flights over shorter ones? I admit that it’s less likely for terrorists to hijack a flight from Chicago to Milwaukee since they’d have so little time to act, but that doesn’t mean that they’re more likely hijack a trans-pacific flight than a cross country flight.

As an aside, I googled “35,000 security violations” and the first link was your post, which Google seemed to think occurred 6 days ago.

Brian B. (user link) says:

Here's an alternative to TSA

I have known for years that TSA would eventually turn into a government run department void of accountability and riddled with inefficiencies.

I’ve never gotten used to the awkward belt de-robbing, the absurd .001 liquid rules, and the mounting disrespect for humanity while traveling past security in any airport in US. I’ve never seen a group of individuals so entitled to control your belongings and strip you not only of your clothing but your dignity.

What I also can’t get used to is being charged for my bags to be boarded each time I fly when I know the airlines are just as inefficiently run as TSA. I can’t control the TSA just yet (leave that to Congress), but I can take my bags away from the airlines and send them ahead of time. I ship my bags each time I fly. They pick up from my door and send to my end destination, allowing me to better handle the de-humanzing and often stressful travel experience. I use http://www.lugless.com, they are pretty great and pricing is very similar to what airlines charge for checked bags.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

well lets look at it like this… make the security private… (thats step 1), so comapanies have to bid to get the job, and a list is created of what they have to do… (stop attacks)… now you have the navy send in some seals or marshalls or what ever to test the security… if the private company fails… fine them x dollars per time… and bang (to save profit) the company finds a way to secure the airport and do it with out civil rights violations (law suits are expensive)..

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How’s about they’re two completely different subjects. One is an, as yet unproven, charge of copyright infringement against Megaupload and the seizure of the site.

This is about a taxpayer funded public security agency that has yet to prove that it’s done much of anything it was set up to do and costs an arm and several legs to keep going. Not only that but it’s had 200 or more theft allegations against it and it’s employees, selectively screens by all reports and can’t even keep objects off aircraft that it’s supposed to that the old method of metal detectors would have intercepted. All of which is on the record.

I’m inclined to believe that it could be done more efficiently and for less privately rather than by this lot.

Taxpayers do deserve and have a right to expect a bang for their buck not incompetence which is what TSA is being shown as being. The two are completely different.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Megaupload was accused. What proper evidence surrounding the factuality in those accusations has been kept under lock and key, and the prosecution for that case is very insistent on deleting that evidence before it can be properly examined by a neutral third party.

On the other hand the information in this infographic has been publicly found and cited.

Next time you want to mock others based on accusations some relevant, available evidence would be nice. Until then go pound sand.

myxzptlk says:

Let me get this straight...

The TSA is security theater, because it is generally ineffective at stopping informed and determined terrorists.

But we can get the same result by privatizing airport security, and save $1 Billion per year, so let’s privatize.

Am I the only one baffled by that conclusion?

It’s about time the US looked outside its borders for security ideas that work. If we did that, we’d also discover that the current crop of scanners that has enriched Chertoff and others have been banned in other countries, due to health concerns.

Daggers says:


It makes the point that the TSA is pretty much worthless, and then ends with the argument that we should outsource the uselessness?

Most privatization arguments end up suggesting that we should pay some private company 20% less to provide 50% less service. Government agencies are not nearly as inefficient as privatization proponents like to claim. I’m moderately conservative; I’m not a big-government fan. But I’m also honest enough to acknowledge that most privatization proposals fall flat on their face with dishonesty.

Yes, the government should do less, but that doesn’t mean we should be paying some private corporation to replace them.

Jack Durish (user link) says:


Imagine how much better air travel security would be if we simply hired El Al to run it for us.
Imagine how much money we would have saved using El Al’s people to train and supervise ours.
Imagine how we could have used Homeland Security Budget rather than foreign aid money to pay for these benefits (in other words, we would have gotten real value in return instead of just giving the money away)

Paul says:

Johnny Walker Blue

Travelling back from Jamaica, I purchased a high end bottle of whiskey called “Johnny Walker Blue” to give to my co-worker, which cost about $ 175. Had to get off plane on North Carolina with carry-ons only to reboard same plane 45 minutes later. As I was getting ready to get back on plane, TSA agent says everyone has to go back through security. They see the bottle and start yelling “this is over 3 ounces!” To which I said, “Well, yes, it’s a bottle of whiskey.” I told them the funny thing is I had just travelled on a plane ride with it and presented my duty free receipt. The TSA lady screams ” I don’t care! This should not be on a plane – it’s over 3 ounces” and confiscated it. (I couldn’t get out of line to check it since the we all had five minutes to get back on the plane.) I asked if I could pay shipping and get it sent to me to which she laughs and says “Honey, this the TSA, this ain’t UPS.” She said she would have to “throw it out” (yea, right). Hope they enjoyed themselves. In retrospect, I should’ve opened it up and poured it out and posted the video on YouTube. (Oh, and one other thing – the “TSA” of Mexico tells you to NOT take your shoes off when travelling to the USA, while the TSA in the USA obviously has just the opposite policy – hmmm, wonder who is right? Answer: neither – it doesn’t matter)

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