What is the TSA thinking?

tsa_cartoon.jpg The Northwest Airlines Flight 188 debacle gave us the opportunity to examine whether the communications between the air defense officials and air traffic controllers have improved much since 9/11. They haven’t.

What about on the ground?

When we go to the airport, we’ve been taking off our shoes, stashing our mouthwash, and dragging our handicapped parents out of their wheelchairs long enough that the Transportation Security Administration procedures almost seem normal; they almost make sense.


The Atlantic’s James Fallows calls our attention this afternoon to a General Accounting Office assessment of the Transportation Security Administration.

The GAO report found that the security checkpoint procedures don’t match the relative risk, GAO-speak for “they don’t make any sense.”

From time to time, we hear about new technologies to make getting through security easier. In fact, after 9/11, a Minnesota firm’s facial-recognition software was supposed to be one of the next big things. It failed.

In fact, the GAO notes, the Department of Homeland Security has invested $795 million in technologies to screen passengers at airport checkpoints since 9/11. Since TSA was created, 10 passenger screening technologies have been in various phases of research and development.

How many have been deployed over that time and at that cost? None.

“The ongoing impossibility of applying logic to this situation really is discouraging — or, more positively, is an opportunity for someone in government to address,” Fallows writes.

By the way, the TSA has a response to the cartoon above:

The batteries may be more dangerous than a bottle of water, but they are not more dangerous than a water bottle filled with liquid explosives.

Find the whole post here. Feel free to share your going-through-security story below.

Comic: xkcd

  • Tyler

    I’m excited to see the xkcd comic above – I think it’s a great comic. Please link to the actual comic, though, please – you’re missing out if you don’t check out the mouseovers.

    Here’s a link.

    Also, the term “security theater seems to apply here.

    And I swear – if I got through security and my pants fall down because I had to take my belt off…I’m not pullin’ ’em back up until I’m through.

  • Elizabeth T

    Security activities are stupid in general. Let’s see if I get in trouble for this …

    3 weeks after September 11, 2001, I was in New Orleans flying to Detroit, Michigan. I realized that I had forgotten to pack my little 2″ pocket knife. One of those $9.95 things that is pretty much good for opening letters or unscrewing things. it was in my pocket, and while $10 at the time wasn’t a huge amount of money, I didn’t want to give up my knife for a trash can.

    My solution?

    I took my cloth, soft sided brief case, put my knife in it, and then emptied my huge pile of pocket change. When I put the whole on its side on the conveyor belt, I shook it around and made sure the knife was under the pile of coins. I was perfectly willing to lie and say I’d forgotten to unpack it. I watched the scanner as my bag went through.

    Like many things, you pile enough b.s. on something, it becomes invisible.

    I left the knife in the bag while on the flight. No point in pushing luck, eh?

    This was the same day that some dork left (I think) New Orleans with a handgun in his carry on luggage. Who – what an idiot – told the flight crew that he’d forgotten to check it. Plane landed immediately, national news was made, TSA tried to justify its existence (if not their competence).

    My opinion of the whole thing is utterly beyond ridicule.


    2 years ago, while flying to LAX from here (MSP), I was travelling with my 3 year old and a 9 month old baby. OMG. A double stoller that had to go through the scanner? The kids had to go through by themselves. Not easy to get a 3 year old to understand that mom can’t hold his hand? And then what to do with the 9 month old? Can’t exactly put him down? Hand him to a total stranger in the line? Load 3 people’s worth of luggage and diaper bag & toys on the conveyor? All of the “stuff” made it onto the conveyor as a nice TSA person came around to my side and folded the stroller, loaded it & my other stuff onto the conveyor, held my (by this time) screaming 9 mo. old. By the time I go to the Far Side of the Moon (it seems like that with little kids) … my stroller had been re-assembled; my suitcase was next to it; all of the smaller soft-sided bags had been stuffed back into the stroller’s under-carriage — basically, everything completely ready for me to drop the kids in & go.

    I went to the Manager and made a point of profusely thanking her for her staff’s behavior.

    It didn’t work on the way back from LA. Although, on the way back from LA, I managed to get on a plane with an ID that didn’t match the name on my boarding pass.

    Like I said … pathetic.