9-Year-Old Sneaks Onto Flight; TSA Blames The Government Shutdown, Then Says It Did Its Job Just Fine

from the because-you-gotta-blame-someone dept

You may have seen this story making the rounds about a 9-year-old boy somehow getting through multiple layers of security at an airport in Minnesota to get aboard a flight to Las Vegas. It appears that there were multiple lapses here. The kid got through the TSA security checkpoint without a ticket. He got onto the plane without a ticket. The plane then took off without anyone noticing that (1) the plane had too many passengers and (2) he wasn’t on their list of unaccompanied minors (something they noticed mid-flight). The TSA’s response was initially to blame the the government shutdown:

WCCO contacted the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) Sunday morning, during which a spokesperson said staffing is currently low due to the number of employees furloughed in the wake of the federal government shutdown.

A few hours later, the TSA responded again, trying a different strategy. Apparently someone realized that nearly all TSA agents at security checks are still on the job, even if their pay is deferred. So, with a second shot at this, rather than blame the government shutdown, the TSA’s strategy is to claim it did everything it was supposed to:

“The child was screened along with all other passengers to ensure that he was not a threat to the aircraft,” said the TSA spokesperson.

Someone else in the article also notes that the TSA’s job is to make sure that the people passing through security are “not a threat,” and not whether or not they’re supposed to board the plane. That’s an interesting argument, but doesn’t make much sense. I fly fairly frequently, and these days every single time I fly there are two TSA agents who review the boarding pass before you make it through security (one as you enter security who mainly makes sure you have a boarding pass for a flight through that security checkpoint, and the second who checks your IDs and is supposed to verify that the boarding pass is legit).

Of course, these kinds of lapses aren’t unheard of. In the past it used to be much easier. Comedian/actor Molly Shannon has told her story a few times about how when she was a little girl she was able to sneak onto a plane to NY (after her father suggested she try it). But that was back when airport/airline security was a lot lower. Either way, it’s pretty ridiculous for the TSA to blame the government shutdown for such a lapse. People have long argued that the TSA is more “security theater” than anything else — giving you the appearance of security, rather than any actual protections — and this seems to support that theory.

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Comments on “9-Year-Old Sneaks Onto Flight; TSA Blames The Government Shutdown, Then Says It Did Its Job Just Fine”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s been a few years, but I use to travel out of MSP on a regular basis and they only had 1 check.

That being said, if the TSA’s are not paying attention to how many kids are traveling in a family where they are as young as this guy, slipping wouldn’t be that hard, nor getting through boarding as well.

Crusty the Ex-Clown says:

OMG! Midget terrorists!

Fool! Can you not see, this was an al Qaeda feeler attack! Now they know 9-year-olds are invisible to TSA agents! OMG! Our nation can never be safe again until we place the names of all nine-year-olds on the No-Fly List!

I forget, does TSA stand for

Totally Silly Agency
Technological Sexual Abuse
Thousands Standing Around, or
Theatre Security, Airlines?

Anonymous Coward says:

If the Shutdown really were to blame the TSA just put us in danger by saying that

So if the government shutdown is to blame, the TSA just announced to all the world’s terrorists that now is the time to bomb a plane. Since everyone else was saying that national security related parts of the government are still running during the shutdown, which most would assume includes the TSA.

So once again, the TSA actually makes us LESS safe rather than more safe.

Beta (profile) says:

I can't believe I'm defending the TSA, but...

They’re right.

The first excuse, about the shutdown, is an obvious lie, but the second part actually makes sense. Checking boarding passes prevents people from flying without paying or swapping tickets (so the airlines like it), and allows the government to track everyone’s movements (’nuff said), but it does nothing for actual security.

Wouldn’t it be great if this started a movement to eliminate the ID/pass requirement?

Anonymous Coward says:

?The child was screened along with all other passengers to ensure that he was not a threat to the aircraft,? said the TSA spokesperson.

I actually think this is mainly the airline’s bad.

Nonetheless, I would think that someone trying to board a plane without a ticket should set off a red flag for an organization tasked with protecting airplanes.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you don’t have the credentials to either A) board a flight or B) escort someone who is boarding a flight you shouldn’t be able to get into the terminal. thanks to the TSA, its assumed you should be in the concorse and so a child, moving close enough to an adult, might not be noticed, because we know they are supposed to be there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Payroll deferred? WTH?

One thing that bothers the hell out of me is that during the government shutdown, TSA screeners are working, but their payroll is deferred.

Someone who knows this stuff for sure tell me pls (and tell me how you know it): Is this what’s happening with everyone ELSE who’s on the Fed payroll and still working during this “shutdown”? That they’ll all be paid what they’re owed … Eventually?

If so, can someone also explain to me, pls, WTH is the purpose of a government “shudown”?

I hereby STG that I am not trolling with either of these questions … I really think I must be missing something vital here … Else my head will explode.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Payroll deferred? WTH?

Is this what’s happening with everyone ELSE who’s on the Fed payroll and still working during this “shutdown”? That they’ll all be paid what they’re owed … Eventually?

My understanding from NPR news is that that’s what happened last time, but there is no guarantee it will happen again since it’s up to Congress.

If so, can someone also explain to me, pls, WTH is the purpose of a government “shudown”?

Political theater I think.

Annie O' says:

Re: Payroll deferred? WTH?

Well, it makes more sense than sending them all home, like they’ve done with all non-essential workers, and still promising them that they’ll get paid for their time off.

That the government is saving money by not having people come to work, even if they’re still getting paid, proves that many government workers aren’t just a waste of a paycheque, but also while they’re working they waste a lot of other tax dollars on top of their paycheque.

DB (profile) says:

The TSA's justification for failing are often truth

Their excuse for screening failures is often that planes were not put at risk. That’s usually true, but mostly because they were not at risk in the first place.

It’s been repeatedly demonstrated that TSA security misses over 80% of weapons in ‘red team’ tests. In some cases it was 100%. And there are many, many other routes to get things into the secure area. The only conclusion we can draw is that there are not terrorists attempting to bring down planes.

Just try getting through the screening without a ticket. It’s absolutely against the rules. You’ll be treated like criminal for even attempting it. But if they miss checking for a ticket, it’s suddenly not a problem.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

While I’m more than willing to blame the TSA, it’s not the TSA’s job to ensure that a passenger has a valid ticket. That is what the airline attendant who waits at the entry ramp the flight is supposed to do. The TSA’s job is to ensure that a passenger is not a threat to the airline or a threat to the safety or security of the flight.

Hate to say it, but it’s the fault of the airline for not checking to see if the 9 year old had a valid ticket to be on that flight.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Location Security is all about statistics. If you make entry to solid soft targets harder (ie. have a valid boarding pass, make the ‘villian’ wait while you check it), you increase the likelyhood of suspicious behavior (I know, broad identifiers, not valid, ect.) and reduce the likelyhood of an attack (barriers weed out most impulsive crimes). A security researcher proved you can generate a junk data ticket that will pass security. Its not and can’t ever be fullproof. Instead we look at reducing the likelyhood of an attack, and this step follows a solid body of crime prevention, make the criminal think and he is often likely to not commit the crime.

Also, please remember that getting on the plane is not the only possible target in an airport.

And what they are looking for is that the ticket is ‘valid’, in that it is for the right day, the right area of the airport, for the person identified, ect. Not that the ticket is for a specific flight. Their is burden on the airline that the kid got on, but there is burden on the TSA as to how he made it to the ‘secure area’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Consider the personnel involved

It’s important to remember that TSA employees are the bottom of the barrel — they’re people who weren’t good enough to get a job doing something useful. And as we’ve seen, they’re quite often drug dealers, thieves, rapists, pedophiles, liars, bullies and thugs.

So of COURSE they were easily outwitted by a 9-year-old: they were probably busy groping some woman’s boobs or stealing all the electronics out of somebody’s suitcase.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, not that I’m going to say this 100% happened, but the quote from WCCO doesn’t mention anything about the context of the government shutdown. The PA flacks are, more than likely, all furloughed, and could have been what was relayed. There is no way of knowing from the complete lack of context provided.

It could be they had to call a PA flack in to answer the question, because very few people at TSA are actually allowed to speak to the media.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Security Theatre"

But it is popular.
It caters to those whose primary drive is fear.
There’s a lot of that in the states and the more fearful they are the more they want the security theater no matter how ineffective it actually is. It’s like getting mommy or daddy to check the closet for monsters for you.
But in this case, it’s mommy and daddy who tell you there are monsters and that those monsters could well be in the closet and that if you don’t behave they’ll gobble you up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not TSA's job

As someone else said, it is not the TSA job to deal with ticketing, boarding, or serving drinks, they don’t work for the airline.

There job is to look for and identify possible threats.

I hope you don’t expect the Government to be paying people to issue tickets, and serve drinks on the plane !

TSA are looking for possible threats, a 9 year old boy probably fell below the threshold.

Now if it had of been a man in his 20’s of Middle Eastern appearance, then you have a stody.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Not TSA's job

From the TSA website:

“Passengers should present the following documents to a Transportation Security Officer at the checkpoint:

Boarding pass

So they are dealing with boarding because only people with a boarding pass are supposed be allowed through security and only those people who make it through security are supposed to be allowed in the secure area.

“TSA are looking for possible threats, a 9 year old boy probably fell below the threshold.”

Then explain the various kids and their families that are pulled out for additional inspection because the name of their 9-year old child matches the name of a middle-aged man on the no-fly list?

The TSA has no idea who they are looking for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not TSA's job

Then explain the various kids and their families that are pulled out for additional inspection because the name of their 9-year old child matches the name of a middle-aged man on the no-fly list?

looks like you already did explain it! plus we are talking about THIS case, not some other case. This kid was on no no fly list, but he also was not on the ‘fly list’ either.

Why on earth do you feel that ANY system should be PERFECT ? Is that not a bit unrealistic, how many people travel by air in the US every day ?
Out of that large number how many times have these kinds of things happened ?

Do you expect perfection all the time, the only thing that is perfect is something that does not do anything.

A stopped clock is right twice a day, but at the end of the day, mistakes will be made if you do anything!
Yes, that includes trying to screen the thousands of people travelling by air each day.

Are you trying to say, you should just do nothing, because when you do something sometimes mistakes happen, sometimes even intentional abuse happens. So you can give up and start knitting or keep on trying, and trying to improve.

But pointing out every single, trivial error from an organisation only shows they are trying, and they are human. We already worked that out.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not TSA's job

Right. The TSA has told us it needs to strip search toddlers because they might be carrying bombs. A child without ID or a boarding pass managed to walk right through the security which should have caught that he didn’t have a boarding pass.

I agree with you its not perfect and we shouldn’t judge…but wide-spread reports of corruption when combined with the failure of the TSA to respond to critizems of ineffective measures and examples of the ineffectiveness of those measures paints a larger picture of lots of money and time being spent doing very little.

RR. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not TSA's job

Are you really that ignorant. First off tsa doesn’t do strip searches on anyone or any child you idiot. Stop feeding into the b.s. the media tells you. It’s only human error that these things happen, tsa are not robots but human beings just like you and me. They are not programmed to do a task or a job. At least nothing has happened since the 9/11 attacks so be grateful for that cause when someone happens that when everyone reacts. Stop feeding into non sense and ignorance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently I’m the odd one out in that I don’t think anything needs to be done about this. So one out of a million 9-year-olds slips past security and makes it to the gate, and one out of a million of those lucky little scamps actually makes it onto a plane. This is not a crisis.

Just what do you all think the TSA is going to do in order to prevent this from happening in the future? Whatever it is, I assure you it’s not going to make our experience at airports any smoother, safer, or more pleasant.

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