Tag Archives: tsa

I Saw Daddy Pat Down Santa Claus

If you’re a holiday traveler, you will appreciate this song. Click here if the embed doesn’t work.

In related news, due to holiday traveling, there will be limited blogging until late next week. A scheduled post or two will pop up in the meantime, but that’ll be about it. Thanks for reading, and see you then.


TSA Thwarts Breast Pump Bomber

New mothers are the fastest-growing demographic among potential terrorists. That’s why TSA officials at a Hawaii airport were suspicious of one young mom’s mechanical breast pump. That’s suspicious in and of itself. But they decided that “because the bottles in her carry-on were empty,” they needed to take a closer look.

The woman’s bottles were empty because the TSA does not allow liquids through security. Bottled water, soda, coffee, whatever. Dump it out before you get in line. There is an exception for breast milk, but the woman didn’t know that.

Long story short, the TSA made the woman use the pump to prove that it was genuine, and not a bomb:

“I asked him if there was a private place I could pump and he said no, you can go in the women’s bathroom. I had to stand in front of the mirrors and the sinks and pump my breast in front of every tourist that walked into that bathroom. I was embarrassed and humiliated and then angry that I was treated this way.”

This is a classic example of what Lenore Skenazy calls worst-first thinking. The TSA released a statement apologizing to the woman, which it rarely does in these types of cases. But they keep happening. When screeners see ordinary people, they assume the worst, first. This is not how one deals with a threat rarer than getting hit by lightning.

Holiday Travel Travails

Just in time for the holiday travel season, Vanity Fair’s Charles C. Mann took a trip through airport security with security expert Bruce Schneier. Mann used a fake boarding pass that he printed at home with a little bit of Photoshopping and some coaching from Schneier; it worked.

In fact, there are only three security measures that are effective, and they’re all already in place. They are “locking and reinforcing the cockpit doors, so terrorists can’t break in, positive baggage matching”—ensuring that people can’t put luggage on planes, and then not board them —“and teaching the passengers to fight back. The rest is security theater.”

It’s also time to allow passengers to keep their shoes on:

Taking off your shoes is next to useless. “It’s like saying, Last time the terrorists wore red shirts, so now we’re going to ban red shirts,” Schneier says. If the T.S.A. focuses on shoes, terrorists will put their explosives elsewhere. “Focusing on specific threats like shoe bombs or snow-globe bombs simply induces the bad guys to do something else. You end up spending a lot on the screening and you haven’t reduced the total threat.”

Schneier goes on to show, point-by-point, why almost every aspect of TSA’s security apparatus is spectacularly ineffective. Body scanners, behavioral detection officers, air marshals, and all the rest are the kind of big-budget production that doesn’t actually produce much in the way of increased safety. Fortunately, terrorism is rare; we are still safe.

Read the whole thing. And when you’re done, pick up a copy of Schneier’s book, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained (A Very TSA Christmas)

The latest from comedian/musician Remy. Click here if the embedded video doesn’t work.

The GOP Response to TSA Strip-Searches

The TSA has allegedly strip-searched an elderly woman for wearing a back brace. They suspected it was a money belt; turns out it was a back brace, just as the woman said. Two points to make here:

One, how degrading for the poor woman. Life is hard enough with a bad back.

Two, this strip-search was security-unrelated. Suppose the woman was wearing a money belt. Even the crispest of $100 bills can’t bring down a plane. Currency does not pose a safety threat of any kind.

The TSA is also explicitly disallowed from searching for criminal evidence unrelated to passenger safety. And there isn’t even anything criminal about carrying hidden cash. If anything, it’s probably safer to carry it that way.

Fortunately, the GOP is stepping in with a strong response that cuts to the heart of the problem: a new bill that would remove badges from official TSA uniforms. Agents might also lose the stripe on the side of their pants.

Regulation of the Day 200: Flying Food

Millions of Americans are taking to the skies to spend time with their families over Thanksgiving. Many of them will be carrying leftovers on their return trips. Fortunately, the TSA is fully prepared to defend the airways against terrorist turkeys and rogue desserts. Here is a list of food and other holiday-themed items that run afoul of the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule:

Cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy, jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, salad dressing, salsa, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

That means you’ll have to put them in checked baggage if you have a decent amount. They are far too dangerous to bring on the plane in a carry-on.

There are also specific guidelines for pies and cakes:

Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.

I feel safer already.

TSA Saves Country from Diabetic, Pregnant Terrorist

A pregnant woman who suffers from diabetes got into trouble with the TSA in Denver. They allowed her to take through her needles and syringes. But they confiscated her insulin, claiming it was an explosives risk.

The woman and her husband have filed a formal complaint with the TSA. She spoke to Denver’s ABC affiliate on condition of anonymity; as a frequent traveler, she fears retaliation.

Keeping the Skies Safe

Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade was detained by the TSA for 40 minutes and patted down twice on his return flight from last week’s all-star game in Phoenix.

This Brewer fan has little love for the Cubs. But even I don’t think their manager is a terrorist.

I Couldn’t Agree More

Art Carden in Forbes: Time to Close the Security Theater

Regulation Roundup

With the unemployment rate still over 9 percent, regulators have been very busy tending to their own job security. Here are some of their more recent make-work programs:

-In King County, Washington, swimming without a life vest is punishable by an $86 fine.

-New food regulations in New York would make it illegal to cut cheese in farmer’s markets.

-A new California regulation would require retailers to provide seating for cashiers.

-The Consumer Product Safety Commission adopted voluntary new standards for cribs in 2008. Now it has decided to make them both mandatory and retroactive. That means that roughly 100,000 unsold cribs currently sitting in stores will have to be thrown away. Hopefully smaller retailers can survive the hit.

San Francisco is poised to ban goldfish.

-New EU regulations would require farmers to look after their pigs’ emotional well-being.

A weakened version of Texas’ TSA pat-down ban passed both houses of the state legislature. TSA agents found guilty would face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The loopholes in this version appear large enough that it would do little to stop the pat-downs. Other states are considering similar measures.