Prior to the 9//11 attacks, you only had to worry about airport baggage handlers beating the hell out of your luggage or stealing your valuables. Thanks to the post-attack panic, there's a new layer of ineptitude and deceit your luggage is subjected to on its way to its destination (which may not be your destination).
Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow (or rather, his luggage) was recently subjected to the brutish charms of the Transportation Security Administration.
[T]he TSA still routinely and unaccountably destroys luggage equipped with "TSA-safe" locks, just because they can. Last week, TSA inspectors at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport pried the locks off of my unlocked, "TSA-safe" suitcase before taping it shut again and loading it onto my London-bound flight.
Here's what Doctorow's luggage looked like after the "TSA-safe" locking mechanism outmaneuvered the TSA agent in charge of crowbar-wielding and packaging tape application.
This appears to be the luggage
Doctorow "submitted" to the TSA (although Doctorow's is possibly an earlier iteration), which then handled it with all the grace and skill of two male supermodels trying to retrieve files from a computer
The TSA should have had no trouble unlocking the suitcase (using keys, rather than physically attacking it). Rimowa's site states that its luggage features "TSA combination locks."
Bypassing it with a master key was the option the TSA was supposed
to use. Instead, it just forced it open, taped it back together and handed it back to Doctorow without even a shrug of bureaucratic regret.
It did, however, respond to his legitimate complaint
. If you can call it a response. First, it loads up on disclaimers. (Doctorow's interjections are bracketed.)
Thank you for contacting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Contact Center regarding damaged or missing checked baggage locks.
TSA is required by law to screen all property that goes onboard commercial passenger airlines, including checked baggage. To ensure the security of the traveling public, it is sometimes necessary for Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to inspect checked baggage by hand. Locked checked baggage [[MY BAG WAS UNLOCKED]] may cause delays due to the need for TSOs to open locked baggage by using alternative measures, including force. Please be advised that TSA is not liable for any damage to locks or bags that are required to be opened by force for security purposes. [[HOW CONVENIENT – WHY NOT?]]
Yes. The agency takes no responsibility for breaking something that was a.) unlocked and b.) even if it wasn't, had passkeys it could have used. It inexplicably mentions this unused option while explaining why it manhandled Doctorow's luggage like the world's most inept burglar.
In cooperation with private industry, TSA implemented a system under which TSOs are able to identify, unlock, and then relock certain locks using passkey sets available to TSA screeners [[AND ANYONE WITH HALF A BRAIN AND A BIT OF GUMPTION]]. TSA-recognized locks can be opened and relocked by TSOs without force and with little delay. TSA cannot, [[WHY THIS COMMA?]] guarantee that such locks will never be damaged or lost while TSOs and airline employees handle checked baggage [[HOW CONVENIENT]].
On top of being unable to perform its job without destroying luggage, the TSA is apparently unaware that URLs can be copied and pasted, rather than carelessly typed into a response email for maximum ineffectiveness.
To learn more about damaged locks, please visit www.tsa.gov\node\1428.
Just try to do what the TSA didn't
and paste that not-a-URL-at-all into an omnibox. (Well, it will be automatically converted into a real URL, but that's only because web browsers are smarter than TSA Customer Service agents.) Doctorow says this indicates some sort of DOS mindset, which is its only level of scary.
So, to recap: the TSA can break your stuff, despite having the tools to do otherwise and
despite having a number of luggage manufacturers specifically making passkey-compliant suitcases to prevent this sort of thing from happening and
despite the suitcase being UNLOCKED THE WHOLE TIME. And the traveler's path of recourse is a mistyped URL surrounded by "not our fault" boilerplate.
The TSA will never
have to pay for broken luggage. Because terrorism.
I miss the good old days when this sort of behavior was only displayed by baggage handlers searching for valuables/setting distance records in amateur luggage-tossing competitions. At least then you could find someone
to hold accountable for the damage sustained.
The TSA, however, is above even the most minimal
level of accountability. If its employees are outsmarted by a "TSA-safe" lock, it's your
fault for not ensuring your checked luggage was already open and dumping its contents all over the conveyor belts by the time it reached the TSA's elite group of suitcase-battering counterterrorists. This entire situation (especially the TSA's "response") cleary shows that Doctorow is the guilty
party here. If he truly loved America, he'd have prepared for this eventuality… or at least just taken back the taped-together remains of his $1000 suitcase and shed a tear of gratitude for all the hard work the TSA did to ensure his flight didn't get blown up/hijacked.