Whistleblower Accidentally Demonstrates How Much Of The TSA's Security Efforts Is Pure Theater

from the Best-Actor-In-An-Inadvertently-Comedic-Disclosure dept

There’s a whistleblower talking about TSA stuff, but it’s not the sort of whistleblowing you’re probably accustomed to. Frustrated by the internal routing of his complaints, the TSA’s highest-ranking official in [checks notes] Kansas has brought his complaints to CNN.

We all know the TSA has done almost nothing to make traveling safer over the course of its existence, but what the TSA’s Jay Brainard has observed shows the actors in our nationwide security theater are tiring of their roles.

A whistleblower with the Transportation Security Administration is sounding the alarm about loosened security at US airports, charging that top TSA officials have prioritized speed over security by reducing the sensitivity of metal detectors, disabling technology on some X-ray machines, issuing orders to keep the baggage conveyor belts moving in certain circumstances and ordering policy changes that result in fewer pat-downs.

It’s true the TSA is somewhat concerned about long lines. This concern doesn’t seem to be enough to rid the agency of extraneous steps or equipment that make traveling a hassle without providing a security boost in exchange for longer waits at checkpoints. Every so often the TSA will do weird things like waving no-Precheck passengers into Precheck lanes to speed up processing. This temporarily alleviates the problem while also providing a clear demonstration of just how theatrical the TSA’s security theater actually is.

Jay Brainard, has a long list of complaints. Among them are accusations that walkthrough detectors have had their sensitivity lowered, X-ray belts aren’t being stopped to examine questionable items in bags, and passengers with medical devices being allowed to self-frisk if they’ve tripped an alarm.

None of this is particularly surprising. This new laxness appears to date back to at least 2015 and may have something to do with TSA screeners repeatedly (and spectacularly) failing explosive device audits by government oversight agencies.

Here’s what’s motivating Brainard’s disclosures:

“In the last two years, the focus of sacrificing security over wait times has increased tremendously,” Brainard said. “That’s the reason I have come forward. It is happening so fast that it’s difficult to keep up with the notes.”

But is the TSA really “sacrificing security?” Or is it just streamlining processes that have done more to increase the length of screening than generate any additional security?

Brainerd’s right to complain the TSA isn’t doing its job properly. But claiming these efforts have resulted in less travel security simply doesn’t make sense. If this was resulting in less security, you’d think we’d be hearing more about attempted hijackings, explosives/weapons being discovered on board, or would-be terrorists successfully boarding planes. We’ve heard nothing like this over the past couple of years. Whatever the TSA is sacrificing for efficiency doesn’t seem to be making fliers any less safe.

At some point, a report by the US Office of Special Counsel will release its report on Brainerd’s accusations. Don’t bother flagging the CNN article for future reference. The OSC has repeatedly delayed its release of this report. It’s currently 500 days overdue.

But the lack of corroborating evidence in the “less secure” column makes Brainard’s dire warnings seem a whole lot less dire.

He believes airports are less safe than they were five years ago due to the “diluted” security procedures — a trend that he says has accelerated in the last two years.

Maybe some terrorist will be emboldened by the public release of the TSA’s dwindling attentiveness. But that seems unlikely. The TSA has admitted terrorists aren’t nearly as interested in planes as they used to be. Most terrorism carried out today involves vehicles not subject to a gauntlet of screening devices. And with cockpits being pretty much inaccessible, hijackings are all but impossible. Someone could still blow up a plane, but there have been no recent attempts made by passengers to take a plane down — at least nothing during this time period of escalating laxness.

The whistleblowing is still valid. Americans should know when the agencies they fund are underperforming. But claiming the skies are less safe is a bit much. If Brainard’s going to suffer any retaliation, it won’t be because he exposed the TSA’s adjustments to screening procedures. It will be because he exposed just how many of these screening procedures are absolutely useless.

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Comments on “Whistleblower Accidentally Demonstrates How Much Of The TSA's Security Efforts Is Pure Theater”

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58 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Too funny. I remember working in Mississauga in the late 1980’s. One of my colleagues was from Israel. I’d just sent a birthday present (a battery-powered wall clock) to a sibling by putting it on the bus to Ottawa, before putting myself on a bus back to Toronto.

He thought this was nuts. They accept parcels on passenger coaches? A ticking package? On a bus going in some other direction?

That would never be allowed in Israel!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

A ticking package?

… because terrorists still use mechanical timers in their black powder bombs? And have timers with easy-to-distinguish "off" switches next to the countdown display? Ticking? It might set people in a panic, but only because they’ve been watching too much TV.

The other bits – a parcel on a bus going the other way, that might trigger more practical alarms.

CSMcDonald (profile) says:

Observation shows this happening

Flying out of Orlando the weekend after Thanksgiving I could see relaxed screening in operation – there was a half hour wait to get through security (which is fairly high at that airport, it’s generally one of the more fluid security lines for a busy airport) – in two lines we could hear the TSA officer telling people to keep their shoes on, belts on, all electronics / laptops in the bag, and just put it through the x-ray.

I of course had chosen the line that required all the normal shoes off, electronics out, etc. Which led to confusion as the officer directing our line didn’t say much of anything and people were confused because of the directions from the other line.

And of course you just smile and try not to look like you require secondary screening and get through.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’re mistakenly assuming that "less safe" results in "more attempts". It doesn’t. It means that any attempts to hijack or get explosives or weapons on a commercial flight are more likely to succeed. The only way it would result in "more attempts" is if someone were to call attention to the fact that it’s less secure, like you just did.

I used to work for the TSA, back in the early days. I probably trained many of the supervisors and terminal managers who’re out there today. Sure, most of it is mainly security theater, but security theater works. Think El Al has great security? I’ve observed their screeening. They don’t. People just think they do, so they don’t try and beat it. If you’re a terrorist, you don’t go for the hard targets, you go for the easy ones.

The security theater has been getting less effective for years. Gate screenings used to provide a useful 2nd line of defense (because let’s face it, not everything can possibly ever get caught at a checkpoint). Too costly and time consuming, so out it went, gradually at first, but went it did. Baggage started getting screened, and staffing levels didn’t increase significantly, so screeners who worked checkpoints got re-assigned to baggage. This not only slowed down screening at checkpoints, but made it less reliable. Does Uncle Ed have metal in his knee, or a concealed weapon? Heck, now we might never know unless there’s some sort of incident.

And the people who run things are willing to take a risk on that. Let’s face it, the number of people who’re out there attempting some sort of terroristic incident, and who have the ways and means to do so number in the hundreds (or less), world-wide. More than 8 million people fly, every day. It’s seriously like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You just don’t want it to be your (or someone you know’s) haystack when it goes up. So we can’t just stop the theater, or someone will take advantage of that…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Very true, and I think it’s also worth pointing out that the piercing that illusion is not a binary condition. Someone who seriously intends to hijack a plane is probably researching those scanners and screening policies more than the average citizen, and a large terrorist organization probably wouldn’t mind if the TSA still caught 90% of their attempts — they can just send twenty people. You think this whistleblower changes anything after they’ve been seeing people sneaking knives and hacksaws and loaded firearms and thermite and igniters through these kinds of screenings for YEARS already? By the time "everyone knows" it’s useless, the few people who matter likely suspected they were sufficiently useless for quite a long time.

The reason we haven’t seen another successful hijacking recently is because nobody with any notable level of resources has tried. Or if they have, their plans did not reach the point of actually getting to an airport.

MathFox says:

Re: Re: Re:

I see the security screening as a barrier against attacks on flight safety. It does not have to be perfect, it must be good enough to deter the underfunded wannabe terrorists and high enough for the well-funded terrorist groups to decide to spend their resources more effectively somewhere else.

Theatre is not much of a barrier for a serious attacker.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Very true, and I think it’s also worth pointing out that the piercing that illusion is not a binary condition. Someone who seriously intends to hijack a plane is probably researching those scanners and screening policies more than the average citizen, and a large terrorist organization probably wouldn’t mind if the TSA still caught 90% of their attempts — they can just send twenty people."

..and the pot odds are that any organizations seriously dedicated to security theatre is also carrying a decided false sense of security as a result, if for no other reason than that they deal with too many false positives every day to even notice a bona fide alert.

The real reason as to why there haven’t been more successful terror attacks is because Al Quaeda was an aberration, with a leadership originally well trained by the CIA to target the soviet invasion in afghanistan.

Today most terrorists are, putting it bluntly, dumber than bags of hammers, which is why the tactics we’ve seen employed in recent years relies on idiot-proof operations only really requiring the operative gets across the border or is capable of stealing a truck.

If the goal was to blow up airplanes alone then all that was needed was for someone to put in a month’s worth of plinking at a firearms range, then buy a .50 caliber Barrett at the nearest gun show and park their ass half a click from an airport landing or takeoff runway. McVeigh still illustrates just how easy it is to cart a truck full of homebrewed bomb material around – nothing’s changed there to make it that much harder.

The current hazard when it comes to terrorism isn’t large organizations any more. It’s single individuals going off the deep end who need travel no further than an hour’s worth of driving to the first target of opportunity, and no further than a stateline to obtain whatever material they need for the munitions of choice.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
MathFox says:

Re:

I do think security checks make some sense, I remember the times when everyone could walk on a plane with a gun; which lasted until hijackings became almost weekly. The introduction of metal detectors stopped a lot of hijack attempts in the bud. Another measure I support is checking luggage and cargo for explosives and other contraband.

There remains a slew of measures I think is more theatre than that it is effective, I mention the "liquid ban" and "shoe X-ray check" as none of those seem to have stopped and effective attack. Make security checking more efficient by skipping the theatre?

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Dr evil says:

Listen up sheep

When you all had the chance to bypass ..opt out.. of the surrender machines (hands up) as they were phased in to replace the working, but already paid for magnetometers, you gave the feds tacit agreement to end your freedoms.. Stop bitching about it now unless you opt out ever single everloving time and FORCE them to grope every one of you. THAT would change it all.

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Listen up sheep

It doesn’t matter how they FEEL about it, it WILL slow them down. Then they have to either pay for more guards (and they never like paying for things) or slowly dismantle one part of the system to keep another part running (as described in this article) — and that may include dismantling the scanners if they decide that the opt-outs are the least important thing to be dealing with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Listen up sheep

If "they" never like paying for things, how did we end up with this super expensive bit of theater in the first place? How do they keep spending more on projects which don’t work or never see the light of day, they are so bad? How do we get attempts at going through people social media accounts, phones, and stealing underwear?

They absolutely love paying for shit, as long as it makes them look good or there is some pork involved.

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R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re:

You are overestimating the FBIs blatant bungling of manufactured terrorist tactical operations (colloquially called organized gang stalking*) while underestimating CIA, British, AU, Israeli, and other intel agencies/NGOs unspecified, using the same overt methods.

Foxes of a feather eat henhouses together.

the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) calls this counter-terrorism tactic of 24-7 stalking of a target the “parallel colluding investigation,” while shitbags like the Florida governor recently called this extreme and constant harassment of a target extreme vetting* after the Pensacola shooter attacked those that he perceived had attacked him, both online, and off.

With little irony, that guy was being cyberstalked by FBI-Mossadi jihadis online and off for months after he filed a sexual harrassment complaint against his flight trainer.

Its a chicken/egg thing, cuz’ sky is falling

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wendy, how was the church sermon for Christmas? Did the naked boy statue appear again, or not?

A Miracle!

But I can find ZERO historical or scientific evidence of the Jesus that you" people of faith”believe in.

But sure, I will help you do your homework, AGAIN:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/12/07/pensacola-shooting-saudi-student-tweets-fbi-investigating-ter/4364451002/

SITE Intelligence has been repeatedly linked to race baiting, cyberstalking, hacking and hoaxing.

You can draw your own conclusions, but mine are based in empirical evidence.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I will presume that yours is a legitimate query, but first:

1- I do not dabble in conspiracy theories

2-ROGS Analysis of mass shooters is a proven tool of pre and post event analysis, citing empirical evidence, and applied social science, as we saw in my predictive link(pre-event) in the Virginia Beach shooting, and many others too

That said, the article is about security theater, and the blatant and unapoligetic surveillance state.

Manufactured terrorism, is a thing that hapens (mysteriously) and these manufactured terror events are what prop up the US/Western poluce states, which are secret police states by definition of the term.

Does that answer your question, AC?

Rita Kitty Katz crisis PR team says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Mossadi jihadis

are overestimating the FBIs blatant bungling of manufactured terrorist tactical operations (colloquially called organized gang stalking*) while underestimating CIA, British, AU, Israeli, and other intel agencies/NGOs unspecified, using the same overt methods.

Foxes of a feather eat henhouses together.

the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) calls this counter-terrorism tactic of 24-7 stalking of a target the “parallel colluding investigation,” while shitbags like the Florida governor recently called this extreme and constant harassment of a target extreme vetting* after the Pensacola shooter attacked those that he perceived had attacked him, both online, and off.

With little irony, that guy was being cyberstalked by FBI-Mossadi jihadis online and off for months after he filed a sexual harrassment complaint against his flight trainer.

Its a chicken/egg thing, cuz’ sky is falling

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Salvatore Mundi says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:stalking by police

Yeah, nasch (a former cop ) quotes the most widely debunked NYT piece EVER on that topic. The journalist who wrote it quoted from a ponerologist who works in the prison industrial complex to boot.

And, that journalist later went on to write about hidden and actual gangs in LAPD, so theres that.

Read http://www.fightgangstalking.com instead, a blog that covers corruption in the intel and security industry and how the alphabet agencies utilize what the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP ) calls “colliding parallel investigations, ” of activists, dissidents and others, aka, the weaponized investigation that targets minorities, activists, and dissidents:

From FGS:

“*Gang stalking” (Cointelpro Version 2.0) is one of the extreme manifestations of America’s tendency toward militarism and police state governance – along with drone assassinations, warrantless surveillance of email….”

Or, read about Stanley Cohen, Esq., targeted by many tribal -religious factions.

Or, read about how Hamid Khan is making progress raising awareness about this brutal, illegal police stalking too:

https://stoplapdspying.org/

naschzi, whats your stake in gang stalking denialism anyways? Are you a #private contractor or other fascist now?

Or are you just a shitbag?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:stalking by police

Where did you get the idea I’m a former cop? I have no vested interest in the gang stalking phenomenon. I’d never heard of it until you (I assume you’re ROGS) brought it up. I looked into it and decided the most likely explanation is that it’s a mental health issue. Others can reach their own conclusions.

naschzi, whats your stake in gang stalking denialism anyways? Are you a #private contractor or other fascist now?

Or are you just a shitbag?

Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

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R/O/G/S says:

the 4th wall

the actors in our nationwide security theater

The fourth wall is a convention of theater, when used correctly can be amazing, but most frequently fails in most theatrical productions.

Hes just carrying the role into the audience, as actors are do to create audience engagement.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall
The convention of breaking the fourth wall is often seen on mockumentary sitcoms

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Rekrul says:

If you now try to bring liquid onto a plane, such as a bottle of water, you’re forced to get rid of it. What do they do with it if you don’t want to drink it on the spot? They throw it in a trash can. A nearby trash can. They throw suspected explosives in a trash can right next to the line of people they’re supposedly trying to keep safe.

Personally, I think the TSA is lucky no terrorist group has yet thought to make them accomplices in an airport bombing.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"What do they do with it if you don’t want to drink it on the spot? They throw it in a trash can. A nearby trash can. They throw suspected explosives in a trash can right next to the line of people they’re supposedly trying to keep safe. "

…and this is one of those times where I really don’t know whether the terrorists or the TSA are more unimaginative. It’s not the only way the security theater fails.

Checked luggage, for instance, only goes through the CT scanner if a suspicious flag is triggered for the ticket purchase. 9 times out of 10 you could probably bring a hefty fuel-air explosive on board set to blow at a predefined time.

The most prevailing reason there are few successful terror attempts these days is because the last CIA-trained operatives in Al Quaeda have been killed off, leaving "terrorists" who are either dumber than bags of hammers or socially inept red flags like McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"…bringing a big bomb in a suitcase into the lines and detonating it would create more mayhem than any underwear or shoe bomber had they been successful."

And there we have the illustrated example of why both airport security and terrorists are failing these days. How many planeloads worth of people are in range for a decent-sized bomb within the entrance hall at any given time?

No, the real reason why terrorism is on the back burner today is because first of all you don’t make much of a point with a single bombing. It has to be spectacular. It has to scare people even if they’re just sitting in offices. It HAS to bring the message that you can be gotten to no matter who you are or where you are.

And frankly, the average school shooter does far more in that regard than anything the current crop of politically motivated fanatics could pull off even in theory. A few blown-up planes will sadly be just another statistic in a country used to reading about a few dozen dead children in a school, courtesy of the local wingnuts.

The TSA are pulling off an expensive piece of security theater in a venue which isn’t any longer a viable or desirable terror target. If another terrorist organization with actual brains comes along the targets will be stuff which causes serious mental damage for years. Deliberately spread pandemics. Blowing up hoover dam. putting nerve gas canisters in the NY public subway.

Jane D#53 says:

Re: Re: the 4th wall~and smoke and mirrors

the actors in our nationwide security theater
The CIA /JTRIG /Mossad /DIA /FBI /EtAlphabet deploy unconventional warfare on free speech. But its also.helpful to re -examine how men like Ted Kaszinski were actual MKULTRA era mind control victims too.

https://www.counterpunch.org/1999/07/15/ted-k-the-cia-lsd/

Then:

The fourth wall is a convention of theater, when used correctly can be amazing, but most frequently fails in most theatrical productions.

Hes just carrying the role into the audience, as actors are do to create audience engagement.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall
The convention of breaking the fourth wall is often seen on mockumentary sitcoms

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

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Jane D#53 says:

Yes, TD admin, I am pen testing your personal, non -government censorship policies in practice .

You are banning via IPs, and of course we know that only the commies, dictators, and Middle Eastern monarchies suppress speech, right?

And TDs moderator of course.(your moderator is making YOU look like total shit now, as they flag an entire set of VPN. IPs )

Of course!

Keep the subscriber /underwriter happy, right?

I won, AGAIN!

Play ROGS Bingo for the win!

JD says:

Brainard is 100% accurate in his comments. The fact that there has been no attack is not proof of better security, rather it simply has not been tried yet. All he is saying is the leadership is reducing the criteria in order to allow for more passengers to be screened faster. That is 100% fact. To lessen the standard will eventually lead to failure and certainly increase opportunity. All of that is for the sake of speed and passenger through put. TSA leadership has known for over a year and ignored his information. Admiral Pekosky should know one thing for sure – Jay is not going away.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

All he is saying is the leadership is reducing the criteria in order to allow for more passengers to be screened faster. That is 100% fact.

No, he is also saying that has the effect of making air travel less safe, which is not a fact.

To lessen the standard will eventually lead to failure and certainly increase opportunity.

Only if the security measures are effective. If they do nothing or almost nothing (which several years ago they did, having a 95% failure rate) then it may not matter.

R/O/G/ish says:

the fourth wall

the 4th wall(see flagged post above )

re: the actors in our nationwide security theater

The fourth wall is a convention of theater, when used correctly can be amazing, but most frequently fails in most theatrical productions.

Hes just carrying the role into the audience, as actors are do to create audience engagement.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall
The convention of breaking the fourth wall is often seen on mockumentary sitcoms

whatsapp omar says:

whatsapp omar

We all know the TSA has done almost nothing to make traveling safer over the course of its existence,
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall
but what the TSA’s Jay Brainard has observed shows the actors in our nationwide security theater are tiring of their roles. whatsapp omar can help you https://watsab-plus.com/obwhatsapp-3copies-omar/

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