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(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
airports, inspections, security, tsa


TSA Inspections Are Still A Farce

from the security-theater dept

If you thought taking your shoes off and putting your liquids in little plastic bags was going to stop terrorists from smuggling bombs onto planes, think again. A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that investigators were able to smuggle bomb components through TSA checkpoints without being caught. This isn't much of a surprise; a similar test last year found that the TSA caught only 2 out of 22 people who tried to smuggle dummy weapons through checkpoints in a Newark airport. This is not really surprising. The TSA's strategy has been basically reactive: the 9/11 hijackers used box cutters, so those get banned. Somebody tries to smuggle explosives onboard in his shoes, so the TSA makes us all take our shoes off. Somebody tries to smuggle liquid explosives onto a plane, so the TSA bans bottled water. There's no reason to think these rules actually make us safer, but they do allow the TSA to pretend they're "doing something" about terrorism. A TSA spokeswoman insists that this wasn't a fair test because they only got by one of their "19 layers of security." I wouldn't be surprised if the other 18 layers were as ineffectual than the others, but one thing that can be said for them is that they're a lot less annoying for travelers. How about if the TSA stops wasting resources forcing 5-year-old girls to take their shoes off, and shift those resources to the sort of in-depth police work that led to the foiling of last year's liquid explosives plot.

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  1. identicon
    TheDock22, 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:34pm

    19 Layers of Security?

    Since when? They rifle around through my suitcase (sometimes) and then force me to walk through a metal detector while they x-ray my stuff. That only sounds like 3-layers of security to me.

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

  2. identicon
    Bav, 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:34pm

    Next we'll be going through full body xray scanners to look under clothing...

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

  3. identicon
    T.M., 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:56pm

    Will be a joke

    The TSA will be a joke until they stop being PC. If you look like a terrorist you get searched. If you look like a scum bag you get searched. If people get upset the TSA should be able to say without fear, "sorry you are upset, but you look like a terrorist" and walk away. Also, the TSA is a joke because it is a government agency that was thrown together on a whim. They took the same no education, no skill, no talent, apes they had before 9/11 and then paid them more and change their title thinking that would make a difference. They need Cops to fill those positions. The TSA are at the low end of law enforcement, really just security gaurds. I hate to say it, but they may even be a little better than correctional officers, which is not saying much. Cops have a saying when someone mentioned they want to be a Correctional officer, "Do you do drugs or have you been convicted of a felony? No, sorry you can't be a CO.

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

  4. identicon
    matt, 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:59pm

    Hopefully no bav :)

    Bav, I seriously hope not because being continually xrayed is a very serious health risk.

    Thats why dentists activate x rays from the next room over behind a leaded wall even if the beam is aimed away from them, because if they were continually xrayed it would cause cancer.
    read here ->
    if you want an example of that. Of course UK medical studies state that xrays only cause 0.6% of cancer cases which I'm sure is a magic number for them since xrays cause cancer.

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

  5. identicon
    John, 16 Nov 2007 @ 3:16pm

    Theater of security

    As we should all know by now, this is "theater of security": it may look impressive on the surface, but is it effective?

    It seems like the new job of security is to make us *feel* safer, not to actually *be* safer. So, liquids and sharp objects are banned, yet you can get alcohol and perfumes (very flammable liquids and sprayers) and pens (sharp objects) AFTER you go through security. If the real job was to make us safer, then these objects wouldn't be for sale at the airport... but then the merchants would get upset that they were losing business.

    Like the above poster said, many security people are too PC. This means they don't "profile" people (meaning they don't search people who may look like terrorists). While this is good for people who fit the profile and are innocent, it also means searching everyone... including your 80 year old grandmother and the 3-year old in the stroller.

    Also, since the TSA is so reactive, what will happen when a "terrorist" tries to sneak something through in his underwear? Will we all have to go through security naked? Or will that be the point when people start to have common sense?

    The larger picture should be stopping possible terrorists BEFORE they even reach the airport, not as they're going through security to get on a plane.
    The British and Pakistani intelligence agencies found the "liquid bombers" before they even thought about getting on a plane... which is what intelligence agencies should do!

    Yet, the government can say it's making people *feel* safer if they put highly visible security measures at the airport. By comparison, the average Joe can't easily see how intelligence agencies are fighting terrorism.

    I mean, really, if you catch a suicide bomber at a security checkpoint before he gets on the plane, what's he going to do? Yep, blow up the bomb in the airport. Now that's great security!

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

  6. identicon
    Shun, 16 Nov 2007 @ 3:17pm


    Yeah, it's really easy to pull someone into secondary screening if they "look like a terrorist". Also, if you "look like a scumbag" how did you afford the ticket? Problem is, you can be a terrorist and not look like one. It appears that the TSA is failing that test. Also, the article mentions that one of the test participants intentionally went into secondary screening by putting a roll of coins into his pocket. They did not find his makeshift "explosive components".

    Upon Patton's defeat of Rommel in North Africa (WWII), Patton is quoted as saying: "Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!"

    The testers read the TSA's book.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2007 @ 3:59pm


    Why not go all the way and just ban clothing?

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

  8. identicon
    Fogglestein, 16 Nov 2007 @ 4:28pm

    How about...

    just removing all the security measures and go back to a pre-9/11 security posture. People now realize to keep their eyes open for 'odd' behavior like flight students who don't care to learn how to land an airplane.

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

  9. identicon
    Larry, 16 Nov 2007 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Theater of security

    You are absolutly correct John. The idiocy of the TSA is evident every time I fly (often).

    If I am destined to get blown up, I'd prefer that I not be standing in the security line with my shoes in my hand.

    This last summer, I was "escorting" my 13 year old step-son to the gate (with the appropriate "escort" non-boarding pass), I was dressed for summer in San Diego (shorts, T-shirt, flip flops) and was made to remove my FLIP FLOPS. Like my 5/16th thick open toed sandels could hide any explosives...idiocy!

    Tim is also on the mark! Right after 9/11 I was on active duty and travelling frequently to train ships that were preparing to head over to the gulf. Since I was usually flying on a one way ticket (riding the ship out and flying back or vice versa) I was getting pulled into secondary screening EVERY TIME. It took me more that a few trips to final figure out why. I couldn't convince any of the $12 an hour monkies that a guy in uniform with an active duty ID card that passed the "normal" screening shouldn't be subject to a second search just because of the one way ticket. Idiocy!

    I guess my biggest beef is that most everyone (especially airline employees) excuse this idiocy by saying "they are just doing their jobs". What a joke.

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

  10. identicon
    WeinerCat, 16 Nov 2007 @ 4:53pm

    Oh NoES!!!!

    Then they'll see my weiner!

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

  11. identicon
    WeinerCat, 16 Nov 2007 @ 4:58pm

    OH NOES!!!!1!!


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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:18pm

    Random searches because Timothy McVeigh was a white, ex-military (so "square looking") guy. But they did arrest an *innocent* guy who was traveling to Jordan from the OKC airport (so there's your PC bit you inbred hicks up for "looking like a terrorist"). Same deal with Texans trying to blow up a natural gas processing plant -- just a bunch of white boys.

    The basic reasoning behind the TSA is "terrorists only have to succeed once". Someone tried to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb, now they check shoes.

    It's clear liquid you say is water. The test bomb brought aboard was a liquid explosive. Is the TSA going to trust you or are they just going to ban water? TSA employees are underpaid government employees so it's not like TSA is attracting the brightest. They need to successfully screen millions of bags at a high rate of speed using employees who don't even make twice minimum wage.

    Yes, TSA overreacts like little girls, but really, "they're from the government and they're there to help you" with all the meanings that quote brings up.

    If it was up to me, there'd be no tests at all. You pays your money and you takes your chance.

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

  13. identicon
    Overcast, 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:43pm

    Next we'll be going through full body xray scanners to look under clothing...

    Not me, I'll just drive more, lol

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

  14. icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), 16 Nov 2007 @ 6:05pm

    The TSA is a joke...

    It's funny that passengers on El-Al don't have to put up with all these indignities, and yet they have _no_ security problems. It's obvious to anyone that most of what the TSA does, just like most of what our whole government does, is strictly for appearance.

    I mean if Congress, for instance, actually stuck to doing actual work, instead of putting so much effort into appearing to do something useful, they could have 2 day weeks and take 9 months off a year.

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

  15. identicon
    Shalkar, 16 Nov 2007 @ 6:16pm

    My Opinion is:

    I couldn't agree more with post 12. Pay your money and take your chances. Will any of this make you safer? No. Just like you can look carefully both ways before crossing the street, but there's still a good chance for a speeder to come through at high enough speed that they seem to "come out of no where". Then you're just as dead.

    You're more likely to be hit by lightning. Statistically speaking. And yes WeinerCat, they ARE going to X-Ray your weiner off. So let's drop the security, or at least bump up the number of lines and the number of people doing the "screening" and their pay so that we can get through quicker. FFS

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

  16. identicon
    Dunno, 16 Nov 2007 @ 6:51pm

    Re: 19 Layers of Security?

    Actually, there are more layers of security than you think. What people don't realize is that TSA does more than screen passengers. They also screen cargo and any kind of freight. The people who handle the logistics screening are actually very intelligent people who's been in the industry for a long time (i.e., ex-hazmat screeners before becoming TSA, etc).

    Unfortunately, the screeners at the airport terminals are not doing a good job. They're giving the rest of the agency an extremely bad impression. They should definitely step it up.

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

  17. identicon
    Max Powers, 16 Nov 2007 @ 8:25pm

    Many Problems with the TSA

    1. What security measure can guarantee 100% against stopping a person who is willing to commit suicide?

    2. How can using non-professional, former fast food working, under trained TSA workers make you feel secure?

    3. Profiling is needed. What's wrong with everyone? Screw it if you feel violated. Better violated than dead.

    4. Quit changing the rules every week concerning what will be searched. Somebody trained (like from Israel) should come over here and set the TSA system up.

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

  18. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 17 Nov 2007 @ 2:56am

    Liquid explosives

    Funny you should mention the liquid-explosives so-called plot from last year, because the more details that came out about that, the less plausible it seemed.

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

  19. identicon
    Hatch, 17 Nov 2007 @ 5:47am

    TSA =

    Toothpaste & Shampoo Authority

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

  20. identicon
    DC5, 17 Nov 2007 @ 6:58am


    Seems like the large group of people waiting in security lines make quite a target. Sometimes more people than could be on a plane. Thats exactly what happened 30/40 yrs ago to EL AL. Then what will TSA do ??

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

  21. identicon
    Le Blue Dude, 17 Nov 2007 @ 11:25am

    Re: Many Problems with the TSA

    Babies and 6 year olds are not such an issue. But that's about as far as profiling can go, honestly

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

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2007 @ 11:39am

    "3. Profiling is needed. What's wrong with everyone? Screw it if you feel violated. Better violated than dead."

    There is profiling. There's higher paid TSA employees who wander around looking for suspicious looking people. Of course, the gub'mint ain't doing this one right either. They hire up from the screeners instead of looking for people with experience or training say psychology/anthropology background.

    And answering Number 4, they do receive training from Israel. Only, it's the gub'mint so by the time it makes it down to the screeners doing the work, very little of Israel's wisdom makes it.

    Number 2 is totally correct. "How can using non-professional, former fast food working, under trained TSA workers make you feel secure?" Sometimes fast food is fine, and sometimes they spit in it. Back to you pays your money and you takes your chances.

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2007 @ 8:09pm

    Re: Theater of security

    You're exactly right! TSA is the biggest waste of money ever. The whole concept rides on the fact that the more fear the government can instill, the more they can spend to "protect" people, which results in bigger and bigger government with more and more power.

    The value that the TSA provides is non-existent (not negligable, not minimal, but truly non-existent). Honestly, if there's anyone out there entrusting their lives to some idiots with perceived security training, making $10/hr, who thinks it's a good idea to harass the innocent, then they have much more serious issues than any "terrorist" might give them, and they probably should be let out of their homes alone in public, much less allowed to fly.

    I fly well over 100K miles per year, and it's absolutely ridiculous what I go through. TSA LOVES to rifle through my laptop bag. These clowns see me at the airport nearly EVERY week, yet they act surprised every week when my bag goes through the x-ray and they see I'm carrying a bunch of electronic gear. I'm much more afraid of some whack job gunning people down in the security line, or blowing up a fuel truck near the terminal, or launching an off-grounds surface to air missile, or basically any other potential threat than some guys trying to take over my airplane once it's in the air. I think we've all seen what will happen these days if crazies try to do something stupid (reference the Southwest flight where the passengers beat a guy with mental issues to death when he tried to enter the cockpit). Not to mention, it would take Superman to get through a cockpit door, at this point, given the level of reinforcement they all have!

    In my opinion TSA = waste of money. It should be disbanded, and privatized, and all the silly shit the government has gone overboard with should be done away with. So much for the terrorists not winning.....

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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2007 @ 8:11pm

    Re: Re: Theater of security

    PS- If the people making up these bullshit rules ever had to actually live them (ie- go through the ridiculous security), I'm guessing they'd be very short-lived.

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

  25. icon
    haibane (profile), 18 Nov 2007 @ 1:45pm


    "Better violated than dead. "

    See, I'm not sure violated is better than dead. I don't want to be treated like a potential criminal when I haven't done a damn thing.

    Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? These days we're all treated with suspicion, and it's made us worse as a society.

    I'm willing to accept a higher amout of risk to reduce my aggravation and increase the respect I'm given when travelling.

    It's just another case of "punishing" the 99.9% of people who travel on the off-chance of catching that 0.01% of people who actually mean us harm and manage to get to the security checkpoint.

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

  26. identicon
    Barrenwaste, 18 Nov 2007 @ 5:31pm

    Are you guys serious?

    1) What does a terrorist look like? I know a guy who dresses in camo and combat boots but couldn't make a pipe bomb to save his life and another who walks around in slacks and sweaters and makes napalm for fun. You cannot tell the intentions of a person simply by looking at appearances. The fat businessman with the breathing strips is just as likely to be a terrorist as the stumblebum with greasy hair.

    2) The TSA is to PC? Never give up your rights, because once you do, you have to fight the same battles over and over to get them back. We have the right to privacy, which includes not being strip-searched on the way to Florida. We also have the right to bear arms, or at least we are supposed to. That means that if I wish to carry my pocket knife with me, or even a good pig-sticker, I should be able to. And last, but not least, there is no way that searches should be based on ethnicity or race. Terrorism is not confined to a certain sect of peoples.

    3) And finally, profiling is a joke. Not only is it inaccurate as all hell, but anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows about it and will act accordingly. You can fake your way through any personality test or criteria in existance. There is no way to stop a person from killing another once they have made up thier mind to sacrifice thier life in the doing of it.

    The upshot of all this is that the TSA can look all it wants, and it will find some. Mostly though it will just weed out the stupid and teach the rest how to succesfully attack our citizens. It will not, however, lessen the amount of people willing to do it, nor lessen thier determination. So, people, don't voluntarily give up your rights and freedoms for the illusion of safety. You aren't safe, you never will be. That's the risk you take in living. Deal with it.

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

  27. identicon
    Brother Jonathan, 18 Nov 2007 @ 6:21pm

    Once everyone understands the herding process America, Inc. is pushing on it's people, they might even understand that terrorism only exists because they have convinced you that it does. Anyone with half a brain should be gathering together in groups to end this nightmare and take back the government. Plenty of groups are already assembling, and these aren't "terrorists". They are just people who want the control back in the hands of the people. No voting can accomplish this.

    YOUR VOTE HASN'T COUNTED IN OVER A HUNDRED YEARS! Don't believe me, research it yourself...but just be careful not to ask the gov't for the proper history.

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

  28. identicon
    Anthony Kuhn, 19 Nov 2007 @ 3:00pm

    Oh, the irony of it all

    Ben Franklin said it right! How can it possible for the TSA to miss the exact things they are looking for? If they are willing to subject Joe and Jane Q. Traveler to all this fake security stuff, how can they continue to justify it when real threats sail through the fences?

    It's all a sham.

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

  29. identicon
    Wade, 24 Nov 2007 @ 10:16am

    Re: Will be a joke

    what's a terrorist look like? Would you stop a white guy in a golf cap, navy pea coat, or nice leather jacket, and jeans? or somebody in a suit coat and tie, or just arabs and punks?

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

  30. identicon
    Corey (TSO), 29 Nov 2007 @ 2:53am

    Those tests were bull. They were done with regular home products that anyone can carry, with NO EXPLOSIVE MATERIAL. Sure, they might have been able to use them as a timer and detonator, but guess what, they are worth jack squat without explosives. Now if one of these gay investigators tried to sneak in the ESSENTIAL part of the bomb, like some c-4, tnt, anything for all i care, we would find it. Stop listening to everything you read, just because people hate the tsa they try to make them look bad.

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

  31. identicon
    Terry (TSO), 30 Nov 2007 @ 8:49pm


    man im so glad u said that the shit these ppl are writing is total bs, we dont do additional screening based on race, the airlines choose who we screen so these idiots need to get their damn facts straight b4 they say anything, if they dont like us saving their lives then they need to take amtrak, and i agree its total bs to test us with something that wont alarm the etd machine, these damn idiots will keep saying this until something happens, then they will be standing around looking stupid saying oh the TSA was right. Terrorists are plotting everyday and trying to make up a new wy to attack us and thats the reason TSA was put into place and make sure nothing happens in the friendly skies of america so that idiots like this can live another day and be able to complain. It just pisses me off how they try to make us look like villians

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

  32. identicon
    Matthew, 3 Dec 2007 @ 8:20am


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

  33. identicon
    Matthew, 3 Dec 2007 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Theater of security

    ...and you're letting your congress reps know all this stuff, yah?

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

  34. identicon
    Anonymous, 3 Dec 2007 @ 5:30pm


    I do completely understand your description of the TSA workers as "former fast food working (employees)", and it is true... for the most part. But also keep in mind that there are a fair number of TSA employees who are currently in college, or just graduate college, who are not of the lowest standards, who actually care, and who are looking to advance their careers. For some of them, the TSA is just a start, a way to get their "foot in the door" with the federal government. The fact that the TSA offers part-time employment with full pre-tax benefits is a big factor, especially to college kids who can't work full time due to a full class schedule. I do agree with you, but keep in mind that they aren't ALL from that "fast food" way. Keep that in mind the next time you're on one of those lines with your shoes in your hands.

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

  35. identicon
    Y.M., 28 Mar 2008 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Will be a joke

    what exactly does a terrorist look like you jack ass

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

  36. identicon
    prideof76, 25 Apr 2008 @ 5:04pm

    TSA Screeners

    My brother works for TSA and while there are problmems with the system, with management, A large percentage of screeners are retired military, former police officers, coast gaurd, national gaurd or reservists, have worked in other government agencies, some of his coworkers recently got back from Iraq....many of them are currently working on degrees....they are not the uneducated, former fast food workers that everybody thinks. In my opinion, if you are going to do the job TSA is trying to do, you need MUCH better and more efficient technology, and quit trying to make everyone happy and sacrificing consistency for customer service.

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

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