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Welcome To The Security Circus!

securitycircus.jpg

"Your boarding pass and your fake I.D., please?"

Let's hope the terrorists put the bomb in their toothpaste in their carry-on (and the toothpaste isn't 3 oz. or packed in a Ziploc sandwich baggie) -- because it's probably the only way the TSA toons at the airport are going to find it.

It turned out the TSA missed 90 percent of the bombs in a test at the Denver airport. From Colorado's 9News.com:

"It really is concerning considering that we're paying millions of dollars out of our budget to be secure in the airline industry," said passenger Mark Butler who has had two Army Swiss knives confiscated by screeners in the past. "Yet, we're not any safer than we were before 9/11, in my opinion."

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners failed most of the covert tests because of human error, sources told 9NEWS. Alarms went off on the machines, but sources said screeners violated TSA standard operating procedures and did not hand-search suspicious luggage, wand, or pat down the undercover agents.

"The good news is we have our own people probing and looking and examining the system," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat in the 7th congressional who sits on the House Homeland Security and transportation committees. "The bad news is they're finding weaknesses."

Oh, please. Speak human, not politician, asshat. Here's an example of how that sounds, from the guy whose team snuck all the bombs through the checkpoints:

"There's very little substance to security," said former Red Team leader Bogdan Dzakovic. "It literally is all window dressing that we're doing. It's big theater on TV and when you go to the airport. It's just security theater."

Dzakovic was a Red Team leader from 1995 until September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attacks, Dzakovic became a federally protected whistleblower and alleged that thousands of people died needlessly. He testified before the 9/11 Commission and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the US that the Red Team "breached security with ridiculous ease up to 90 percent of the time," and said the FAA "knew how vulnerable aviation security was."

Dzakovic, who is currently a TSA inspector, said security is no better today.

"It's worse now. The terrorists can pretty much do what they want when they want to do it," he said.

Well, at least they confiscated my itsy bitsy teenie weenie (2.5 inch) scissors!

Also, a Denver woman who carries a Taser for personal protection, told 9NEWS she carried it on board airplanes last year six times. Her Taser shoots 500,000 volts of electricity. She says the TSA never caught it and stopped her.

What's the most outrageous thing you've had missed by the TSA?

via Consumerist and BoingBoing

Posted by aalkon at April 5, 2007 9:18 PM

Comments

I have wondered what is the use of airport security hassling mothers with infant children, and feeble people in wheelchairs. I think there is a sense of security in hassling the innocent: if the innocent are getting such scrutiny, the guilty must really be getting an anal probe.

Posted by: doombuggy at April 5, 2007 5:39 AM

I brought pepper spray on an airplane. They caught my cigarette lighter but missed the spray. Heh.

Posted by: Dot at April 5, 2007 6:02 AM

All well said... But I think we need to pick a direction for our complaints. Either we want airport security to be more effective --meaning intrusive and expensive-- or we want these people to stay out of our way and let us deal with the boxcutter-wielding monsters on our own.

I choose the second option. It's more dignified on its face, and it presumes that the average American is a personally courageous and thoughtful participant in his own life, which are the core values contested in this "war".

Mostly, I fucking hate, hate the TSA. And the Homeland Security department. I park at an underground lot near LAX and ride the private shuttle into the terminal, and the TSA seems to have contracted with this company to haul their employees in as well. These people have dead eyes. The problem isn't even their age (which is always older than you wanna see in a security functionary). The problem is their WEIGHT. And their lackluster comportment. And the way they seem to be clutching at their diabetes emergency kits as they get on the bus. (I made that last part up. These people show no animation at all.)

I don't want to pay for their health insurance, I don't want to pay for their corn chips, and I don't want to be responsible for their gawdawful sweaters. Mostly, I don't want them to pretend to be responsible for me.

Posted by: Crid at April 5, 2007 6:06 AM

They should take the money from baggage screeners and buy more air marshals in street clothes.

Posted by: Crid at April 5, 2007 6:09 AM

The best defense is a good offense

Posted by: Jon at April 5, 2007 7:11 AM

They should take the money from baggage screeners and buy more air marshals in street clothes.

Absolutely right.

The best defense is a good offense

A pity we don't have one.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 5, 2007 7:24 AM

They should take the money from baggage screeners and buy more air marshals in street clothes.

Totally agree. The manual baggage checks are a joke.

Last time we went through airport security, they made us pass through a machine that closed you in with glass doors on either side, blew puffs of air at you, and then you had to stand stock-still for 30 seconds before the doors would open and let you out. Have no idea what that was supposed to screen for, and the TSA guys wouldn't tell us. They let our developmentally disabled son go through with my husband after we warned them we'd be here all day if they insisted he go through by himself, but even so he freaked out and started shrieking, much to the annoyance of the screeners. Well, we'd warned 'em.

Posted by: deja pseu at April 5, 2007 7:37 AM

... and let us deal with the boxcutter-wielding monsters on our own.

I choose the second option. It's more dignified on its face, and it presumes that the average American is a personally courageous and thoughtful participant in his own life, which are the core values contested in this "war".

Right on, Crid. Who would just sit there and let terrorists take over a plane? Would this ever happen these days? My guess is that passengers would take great pleasure in beating the daylights out of a group of would-be hijackers.

My concern, though, is that we always seem to being trying to stop the last attack. Except, in the case, of the impossible liquid bomb threat (in case you're wondering, TSA frowns upon you using your Ziplock bag to express your feeling that TSA secretary Kip Hawley is an idiot).

Posted by: justin case at April 5, 2007 8:09 AM

> My guess is that passengers would
> take great pleasure

I've been having action-movie fantasies about responding to Atta and his friends for five years now. Gimme a sharpened, #2 pencil and three seconds, babe.

Love that link. It's Alkonesque. It's Alkonian.

Posted by: Crid at April 5, 2007 8:41 AM

I love that link! Wish I'd thought of it (and I'm sure Gregg is relieved I hadn't).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 5, 2007 9:25 AM

It might be worth remembering that these were trained soldiers who hijacked planes, not Arab stereotypes who can be taken out with a Faber Castell. We have the best trained and best equipped fighting force in the world in Iraq right now who are at an impasse fighting against soldiers who fight with improvised technologies.

Posted by: eric at April 5, 2007 10:26 AM

Juxtapose this story with the one about the "flying Imams" lawsuit. It makes the whole thing even more depressing.

Posted by: winston at April 5, 2007 11:06 AM

Love that link. It's Alkonesque. It's Alkonian.

I feel very special today.

Eric, you're talking apples and oranges. A few terrorists on a plane who, once they act are clearly identified are not really a good comparison to a bunch of terrorists hiding in and among the population of a country. A handful of trained soldiers with improvised weapons still can't deal with dozens of people as they would have to on a plane these days. It would be incredibly difficult to pull off the style of attack used on 9/11 again. At that time, flight crews were all trained to acquiesce to hijackers' demands and to keep people on the flight from doing anything. Not anymore.

Posted by: justin case at April 5, 2007 11:10 AM

> not Arab stereotypes who can be taken
> out with a Faber

You don't understand! I am one BADASS video editor! When I've had a full dose of cholesterol and BP meds, and have remembered to pack the eyeglasses into the airliner tote bag, I'm DANGEROUS!

Seriously, point is, we can't count on government to keep us safe, and we sure as hell can't count on the TSA.

Posted by: Crid at April 5, 2007 11:12 AM

This is a while back. Long before 9/11. One of those funny-but-not-at-the-time things.

My nephew used to like to use my briefcase, which sat idle when I wasn't traveling on business, to play "Secret Agent 007". On the occasion of one trip I was somewhat lax in searching the contents for what little Wannabe Bond left in there.

On a flight from JFK to SFO I had to change carriers in Denver, and went through security (again) there. As my briefcase was passing through the x-ray, the attendant was waving me through when a state trooper happened to glance over the shoulder of the TSA person and did a double-take. He asked if I was carrying any "sheriff identification or anything like that"? I was not. When he searched the case, from one of the inside document pockets he pulled out a 6'', hand-made, aluminum 'Ninja throwing star'.

I'm sure the color drained from my face.

Luckily, all we needed to do back in those days was toss it in the 'contraband' box. I shudder to think what they'd have me do today... assuming, of course, that the state troopers (and not the JFK or Denver TSA) are doing the screening.

Posted by: goy at April 5, 2007 11:45 AM

I'll rely on the Air Marshall Service and the TSA Crid. Really, I am amazed that there hasn't been an economy crippling strike using a few of the myriad Stinger type missiles floating around out there. Perhaps those who wait to strike us are counting on our collective frustration with security measures?

And Justin, my point is a well trained (as the 9/11 terrorists were) group of soldiers will take into account the reactions of their hostages, so a 9/11 type of attack will be modified. I think my analogy is valid because our military, like the TSA, has a disadvantage timewise to adjust their tactics. That the TSA employs professionals to get through their defenses gives me even more confidence in the organization. I hope that the findings are utilized for future security measures.

The most outrageous thing the TSA missed on me? Diet coke and Mentos.

Posted by: eric at April 5, 2007 11:57 AM

Those, plus your dignity, Man!

Posted by: Crid at April 5, 2007 12:09 PM

"protection, told 9NEWS she carried it on board airplanes last year six times. Her Taser shoots 500,000 volts of electricity"

Sorry, it's 50,000 Volts. Unless she got a souped up version I've never seen.

Posted by: Texas_Rodg at April 5, 2007 12:31 PM

The night before my last flight, my ID broke in half. I had this cruddy wallet and it got bent around and snapped in half, lengthwise. I didn't have time to get a new one, and I was just about to reschedule the flight for lack of admissable ID, when I remembered what a crop of useless idiots the TSA is. So I got a piece of scotch tape.

I went to the airport with an ID that not only had a fault line running through it and a stray piece of magnetic strip dangling off the edge, but didn't even look like me since I changed my hairstyle, facial hair, and glasses. Three different people checked my ID. Nobody batted an eye.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 5, 2007 2:23 PM

This does not surprise me seeing that most of the TSA screeners are the same mouth-breathing shitheads that were working for the airport security firms pre-9/11.

I've no TSA atrocities to speak of..yet...

Customs though...jesus...

Right after the last presidential election I was returning to the U.S. from a trip to Vancouver. After a few cursory opening questions the crew-cut wearing U.S. customs agent asked me "So, what did you think of the election?" Being a staunch Democrat I replied "I was very displeased."

Without batting an eye he sent me off to a closed room to have both my bags and person "inspected". Not a strip search, but damn close.

I gotta wonder what would have happened if I had been more forthright about my feelings and replied "I think the election sucked because Bush Jr. is a worthless cocksucker."

I probably would have been "disappeared".

Posted by: RedPretzel at April 5, 2007 4:23 PM


I've never had any problems before or after 9/11. TSA or Customs. Mostly in dealing with corrupt Customs officers of other nations. Bring plenty of kickback money when traveling.

My trips in the last 10 years: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Israel, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia and Morocco.

There were plenty of non M.E. nations on the list.

Posted by: Joe at April 5, 2007 6:20 PM

More street-clothes air marshals would be a good idea, except that the TSA doesn't want them in street clothes. They want the undercover air marshals to wear a suit coat and tie. Next time you go to the airport take a look at the vast hordes dressed in suit coats and ties. I don't know if they bother to enforce this silly rule still because it is so counterproductive. (I have family who works for the airlines, security has always been a joke and still is)

TSA let me through with a blatantly expired passport - twice.

Posted by: Elle at April 5, 2007 10:14 PM

Well, my father, who always wears a suit and tie when he flies (and has been randomly upgraded several times), will be happy to know that someone else is doing the same. However, in terms of safety...

"Last time we went through airport security, they made us pass through a machine that closed you in with glass doors on either side, blew puffs of air at you, and then you had to stand stock-still for 30 seconds before the doors would open and let you out. Have no idea what that was supposed to screen for, and the TSA guys wouldn't tell us."
That's to screen for explosives residue on your shoes a la Richard Reid. It's all so you don't have to take your shoes off. Totally ridiculous that they wouldn't tell you - in Houston Intercontinental, they told me not to take my shoes off and instead walk through the machine.

As for being able to overcome hijackers: The United 93 passengers managed to keep the plane from killing anyone else, which is at least partial success. The reaction to any sort of major disruption on aircraft these days appears to involve numerous passengers acting very quickly and forming a fairly effective group. If someone actually said he was hijacking a plane, everyone on that plane would assume that he or she was probably dead, and act accordingly. That having been said, we do have to worry about bombs - which TSA SHOULD be catching, but...

Posted by: marion at April 6, 2007 5:44 AM

RedPretzel - you weren't searched for having the wrong opinion.

You were searched for having AN opinion.

The first rule when dealing with any TSA or Customs personnel: say nothing beyond what is absolutely necessary. And by no means ever display anything resembling humor.

I was travelling back from Sweden, and after going through a thorough security process, and then Customs, they made us go through ANOTHER TSA checkpoint before we could get to the waiting lounge. Being the idiot I am, I remarked "Why are they searching us again? It's not like we have anything now we didn't ten minutes ago".

I was called out of line and searched to within an inch of stripping.

The purpose, near as I can tell, is to make you behave like a good little automaton and not question the nice young men in the clean white coats.

Which is why I have no further plans to travel by plane. Maybe if people stopped flying en masse and the entire industry tanked they'd get the hint.

On the other hand, who am I kidding?

Posted by: brian at April 6, 2007 6:53 AM

Speaking of stun guns, I have a girlfriend here in Kansas City who was flying to Atlanta and then on to Germany. She accidentally left the stun gun she got to use while jogging in her gym bag/carry-on. She didn't realize it until she was already in Atlanta (I feel so much safer flying out of KCI now). So, being the conscientious citizen she is, she went over to the attendant at the gate and tried to explain the situation and ask for advice. The attendant calls security and 10 minutes later she's being escorted to the bowels of the Atlanta airport and being held for questioning. The TSA Nazi is arrogantly posturing and threatening to jail her and make her pay fines in the thousands. They released her when it was patently obvious that it had been a mistake and they'd made her cry sufficiently. The Atlanta cop who was with them even made a point to say that the TSA went overboard and that he would testify on her behalf if it went that far. I mean honestly, what else was she supposed to do?? I personally would have just thrown it away in the bathroom, but what happens when they find it in there? Do they shut down the airport for a security threat? It was a no-win situation that was an absolute and complete honest mistake. If this is how they treat the good guys, why bother trying to do the right thing?

Posted by: Katelyn at April 6, 2007 8:11 AM

I just flew back from Jamaica with my family carrying a 16X0.5 inch pencil in my carryon bag that my daughter bought at the airport. I could easily kill someone with this thing. Yet I have had a pair of nail scissors confiscated after I accidentaly left them in my bag. Sometimes my DVD player gets the going over, sometimes it doesn't. The whole thing is senseless. I'm wondering, has there been ANY successful hijacking of a plane since 9/11? I haven't heard of any.

Posted by: T. Bruce McNeely at April 6, 2007 7:43 PM

I, rather inadvertantly, carried a corkscrew through the DFW security 3 years ago. It had been in my seldom used (years before 9/11) travel carry-on. The problem was it was picked up, "a corkscrew in his bag". Hand search,a second Xray, no result, and pass on. On arrival and unpacking at my destination, surprise, and a nudge to memory. A small, cheap Russian corkscrew, a gift (from a '98 Russian trip) came up.
Now I didn't want to cause trouble again so I gave it away before returning.
A trusted friend purposely 'smuggled' a large knife, 6+ inch blade, through from somewhere in the NW US. A matter, he said, of how you placed it in your carry on.
I think we were quite wrong from the very beginning (long before 9/11) about how inflight security could work effectively. State licensed hand weapon citizens (including flight crews, not to mention police officers) should be given permission to carry inflight to any place in the USA (not foreign, unless treatied), by federal law. No local destination carry outside of temporary lodgings, etc., of course, unless the state jurisdiction in said destination had reciprical laws to that effect.
It's all quite simple, almost all US citizens are to be trusted, especially the licensed to carry, and can keep their heads in tense situations inflight, and can fight back. No bad guys can be sure that any given flight, bus, train won't have such armed citizens aboard. Scary, eh?
And no, almost no gunshots on board will dissable a passenger aircraft, bus, train. Box cutters, fake bomb threats, dedicated suicide 'pilots' will. But you knew that.

Posted by: Gerry at April 6, 2007 9:27 PM

I just remembered a funny story. I believe this happened before 9/11 otherwise the pilot in question may have been fired. "Bob" got searched by TSA and they found a small swiss army knife on him. He didn't want them to confiscate it, but they did because "it's a dangerous weapon." He went to his aircraft, got the fire-axe from the cockpit and stormed back to the security checkpoint and shouted "I am REQUIRED to keep this axe in my cockpit in case of emergency, can I please have my three inch swiss army knife back?"
They did give his swiss army knife back.

Posted by: Elle at April 6, 2007 10:24 PM

Just home from flights from Edinburgh via London Gatwick to Keflavik, Iceland, and back. In my hand luggage I carried a hair brush with a spike handle about 4 inches long. This is in the clear bag used to display liquids and creams, so it was in plain view...

Posted by: Norman at April 8, 2007 2:43 AM

I think the meerkats would do a better job than what is being done now.

A friend who is in the military drove across the Canadian/US border and back again with an uzi in the trunk of her car.

Posted by: Chrissy at April 8, 2007 8:44 AM

Dear sweet Advice Goddess so fair and so true, why would I need to smuggle anything, when all I have to do, is reach out snap the neck and take the gun in hand, of the little unsuspecting marshal upon whose back I land?

Posted by: wb at April 11, 2007 4:54 PM

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