Travel Tech

Airport behavior detection and security theater

The TSA's "behavior detection" techniques for finding terrorists fit in well with many of the rest of the TSA's policies, in that it provides an excellent example of security theater -- policies enacted more for show than for any real effect.

The TSA is the agency responsible for making your life difficult while you travel. These are the guys that make you remove your shoes, throw away your shampoo, and miss your flight because they're busy confiscating your laptop and looking through the naked photos of your wife. It's the agency whose job it is to ensure your security while you fly -- but mostly just engages in poorly rehearsed security theater. The TSA is, for many, the poster child for why the EFF's Surveillance Self-Defense Project is a good idea.

I've talked about the TSA before, but I haven't really made TSA policies themselves the central purpose of any IT Security articles. Today, we get to examine the TSA's behavior detection policy.

You might have noticed that I'm a big believer in privacy. It's not just because of political leanings and a strong belief in the sanctity of individual rights. It's not just because I believe the most important part of the U.S. Constitution is the Bill of Rights. It's also because I believe privacy is security; without privacy, security is nothing more than an illusion. Privacy is, to a significant degree, exactly what security is meant to protect. Lose sight of that at your peril.

The TSA, along with many other government agencies in the last six or seven years, has repeatedly proven itself an egregious violator of privacy. Its policies not only violate privacy far too often, but are often actually counterproductive. The TSA's plans for the uses of behavior detection techniques are not any exception to this. I'll see if I can explain this briefly for you without eliciting laughter.

The "behavior detection" techniques of the TSA involve having "specially trained" personnel wandering around the airport terminals of the nation watching how people look and act. If that special training makes them think someone is planning a terrorist act (or other violation of the law, one assumes), the subject will probably look "anxious", or so the training claims. Someone marked as looking suspiciously anxious will then be approached and questioned. The specially trained agent will watch how the person reacts to questions, and determine whether the subject is behaving suspiciously enough to warrant detaining, further questioning, and ultimately bringing in law enforcement to arrest the person and investigate further.

The above-linked article about "behavior detection" has this to say about its success rate:

In that time, 43,000 of the millions of travelers watched by crowd-scanning behavior-detection screeners have appeared suspicious enough to warrant a closer look, the TSA says. The closer looks generated 3,100 calls from the TSA to police for further questioning.

The police arrested 278 of those people, none on terror charges. Among the charges described in TSA news releases about behavior-related arrests are immigration violations and possessing guns and illegal prescription drugs.

If you do the math, you'll discover that fewer than 0.65% of the people identified as a potential terrorist were actually doing anything that led to an arrest. One might imagine that most of those were people with bench warrants for their arrest because of unpaid speeding tickets, had a baggie of hydrocodone pills in a backpack, or were otherwise far from being grave dangers to society. Of those arrested, zero were terrorists, according to the article.

There's some question whether the TSA would achieve roughly the same results by picking out 43,000 people at random. In fact, that may effectively be what they're doing. There's not really any good evidence to suggest that these behavior detection agents of theirs are any more effective than picking every seventh person out of line at a security checkpoint to harass. There's talk of further developing the technique, to hone it for greater accuracy, and to automate some of it.

Here's the fun part: I think that "behavior detection" might eventually be a good idea for security purposes. People are walking around in public areas, displaying the equivalent of what poker players call "tells" for anyone to see. It's not a violation of security to look at the way a person acts and make guesses about whether or not that person is thinking about something in particular. I have no objection to trying to analyze expressions for signs that someone is doing, or planning on doing, something that could cause harm to others. In and of itself, the use of such a security technique is actually a good idea.

This marks, for a change, an incidence of the TSA employing a technique that focuses on the real problem -- terrorists. It's not focusing on a specific method for committing acts of terror that someone saw in a movie or that was actually used once in the past, and probably won't be used in the future because everybody's ready for it. It's not trying to randomly choose targets for body cavity searches, resulting in very angry senior citizens and traumatized eleven-year olds. It's not focusing on racial profiling, either. It's an honest to goodness attempt to focus on determining what might make a terrorist uniquely recognizable.

Unfortunately, the TSA is doing it wrong. It's using a technique that hasn't been tested and developed to the point where anyone can say it's better than picking people at random, and it's using it in a way that can lead to invasions of privacy, such as conducting searches of persons and personal belongings without permission. Solve these two problems and I'll be behind the TSA all the way with its behavior detection program.

Until then, you can count me among its opponents.

If you find yourself seduced by security programs that sound good, but for which you have no hard evidence of effectiveness, or it's prone to false positives, consider the case of the TSA's behavior detection techniques. Are you, like the TSA, engaging in security theater, trying to make things seem secure without measurably improving security at all? If so, it's time to rethink what you're doing.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

86 comments
RF7000
RF7000

ha, if the KGB were politically correct they too might have called their activities "behavior detection techniques".

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

If I walked around the airport wearing shades it would be picked up and I would get arrested. You don't need shades indoors...so there must be something up.

Top.Gun
Top.Gun

Forgot to mention I was returning home from a vacation in Florida. Being from 'up north' I haven't seen much sun lately. My face and arms were quite red from sunburn. Maybe that made me look suspicious, although you would think they would be used to that.

seanferd
seanferd

and what sets them off, is people who appear not to be displaying the appropriate respect, fear, and admiration for their security prowess.

pegarner
pegarner

Do I feel more secure flying these days. Hell no! If TSA really wanted security, it would start at the entrance to the terminal building where people would be screened BEFORE they enter the Terminal. My wife, daughter (both born in the Philippines)and I went to the Philippines via Europe 2-3 years back. No particular reason, just wanted to do it. In Newark they spotted the blunt tipped scissors I carry in a GI sewing kit in my shaving kit. After being pulled aside and being made to wait for 10 minutes while this TSA type rummaged through the kit, I asked what they were looking for and was told that it wasn't any of my business. Asked to speak to a supervisor. Told her I had a plane to catch and was trying to be helpful, and was told that it wasn't any of my business what they were looking for. The supervisor took me over to the machine and pointed at the suspicious object. I told the TSA person to look in the side pocket of my kit, pull out the small plastic package labeled "Sewing Kit" and look inside. She did and she found the legal short blunt pointed scissors. The supervisor looked embarrassed , told the agent to pass Mr. Garner (note the "Mr")through and then apologized to me saying that the agent was just doing her job. My only comment after taking a very deep breath was that the agent needed better training since she apparently couldn't tell and blunt legal item from a sharp illegal item. On my return, this time through LAX, I was just passing through the body scanner when an agent reached in the small box that held my pocket change,watch, etc., picked out a small silver antique pen knife that I inherited from my grandfather that I carry for a pocket piece. It is about 1.5 inches long with a fingernail file and a short (1 inch) blade he used for scraping his pipe. I had carried it all around the world that trip. The agent told me that he would have to confiscate it as illegal contraband (isn't that an oxymoron?). I asked for a receipt. The agent replied that He didn't have to give me one. Told him to read the Constitution. Confiscation without compensation is one of the articles enshrined therein (look it up) and I would need the receipt to request compensation from the TSA. Again, I got a supervisor involved. He took one look at the knife, did say that "Yeh, it was illegal but i also realize it was antique and valuable so I would give it to the stewardess and she would return it to me at DFW". This defused a situation that could have been very embarrassing to TSA. I thanked him and passed through. Upon deplaning at DFW the pilot returned it to me saying "Did those idiots really thing that you and your family would try to hijack and aircraft with this?" The bottom line is that there are methods to counter the behavior to the TSA. I think for myself and that makes me dangerous. Paul Garner, USAF Retired (1954-1975) 71 year old Curmudgeon

apotheon
apotheon

Also, willful ignorance, willful negligence, and a lot of other things that are labeled with the descriptor "willful".

apotheon
apotheon

. . . and thanks for putting another power-abusing nitwit in his place, however briefly.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The t-shirt that reads "TSA = Terminally Stupid @$$holes" might be considered suspicious? :^0 Recently, I met my niece at the arrival gate to help her with her daughter (confined to a wheelchair). While clearing security, I was asked to provide an alternate ID to my state driver's license. When I presented my military retired ID, the TSA agent detained me based on suspicion of a false ID. I was escorted into a back room and asked why I though a blue ID would get through when the military only issued green or brown IDs. I pointed to an image of the retired ID on the "Federal Identification Cards" poster on the wall behind him and asked him when he would be competent at his work. His supervisor had to force him to let me through security; he couldn't hold me, but he wasn't going to let me go to the gate. Balloons and egos. It was my turn to be the prick that day! :D

apotheon
apotheon

That may actually be true.

Top.Gun
Top.Gun

Just flew last week. After having to throw out my shampoo (I forgot it was too large a bottle to carry on) and after going through the detector successfully I was picked 'at random' for a further security search. I was given the choice of being 'patted down' or going into one of those round things. I picked the round thing. It only took maybe 8-10 minutes, and I didn't really mind. If it provides for better security for all then it's worth it. I really don't like flying so I probably looked nervous. Did I feel there was an invasion of privacy? maybe, maybe not. They were all very professional, although not quite friendly or courteous. If it actually helps security is another question.

magic8ball
magic8ball

That I don't fly anymore. In an airport you can be detained/arrested for looking suspicious, even though you are doing nothing wrong, not to mention having your private property rummaged through by TSA thugs.

supramanblue
supramanblue

This program's success cannot be compared to something like the work of a traffic cop, where more tickets equals better performance. The numbers of arrests are low, and convictions even lower as is expected in the U.S. legal system, but these numbers are not what determines the behavior detection program's success. If being compared to math, I would liken it more to abstract math than concrete math. This method has been tested for years at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and professionals from Israel are among those who teach instructors and even themselves teach the officers how to use the methods they are instructed on. I am well aware of the "Israeli aviation is different" argument, but the fact is that this method of security is more than useful, across the law enforcement board, for securing any public area or place, mass transit or not. As a great example, visit this link for New Age Security Solutions, a private company that specializes in behavior detection and recognition. http://www.nasscorp.com/article.php?id=1 After some searching, I have found that this site explained the basics of the science quite well, and that the methods are used in many other places other than airports, including well-established police departments in major U.S. cities. On a side note, who is an IT consultant to determine the credibility, reliability and/or suitability of a program for physical security? If he has any kind of physical security work or experience, I would imagine he would list that first in an article discussing this kind of issue. Being a frequent flier or advanced professional does not mean you are highly knowledgeable or "in the know" with issues of physical security. Until I see an article from someone with the proper background, I'll take articles such as this one about as lightly as the water in the bottle that some TSA screener just tossed in the trash can.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

You joined on 1 April 2009, you only posted to this thread, and you've provided no rational discourse. GREAT JOB!

apotheon
apotheon

Well . . . I was US Army Airborne overseas for several years, and spent a fair bit of time seeing to the security and disposition of explosives and ammunition. I've also done (physical) security in the private sector before I got into IT security. That ignores the fact that I've had friends working for the TSA who told me all kinds of interesting stories that basically left me feeling severely lacking in reassurance. . . . and the TSA is basically the Theater of Security Administration. Does that suit your requirements? If you can't do basic math with statistics, can't determine the difference between "tested" and "guesstimated", and don't know how to follow a logical argument, I guess you don't deserve to understand the problem at issue here. Appeals to authority (like demanding that someone produce some kind of mickey-mouse credential) don't make for valid arguments.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Who is not up to their eyeballs in the profession of physical security in that they make their living by keeping their ass intact.

Maevinn
Maevinn

Flying is a privilege you pay for, which means if they expect you to wear a tutu and do the hokey pokey as you board the plane, they can. You, as a consumer, can refuse to fly. No one is making you. Flying is the quickest means of getting from point a to point b when there's more than about 100 miles between them, though, so most people will learn the rules to flying and play the game their way. Are current security measures more effective than previous ones? I don't really think so. However, this is a learning process. Look at the security for most any installation, and you'll find ways around it or through it. The bigger the installation, the more people passing through the gate, the more likely that someone or something will get through. And the simple truth is that even people who are trained in security don't always learn how to apply that training to RW situations. But whining about being inconvenienced? Really? I'm pretty sure that even with the 5 minutes or 30 minutes or 10 hours of 'security theater' related delays, flying STILL gets you to your destination faster than walking it, driving it, or taking a boat. If not...you made a bad choice.

apotheon
apotheon

My significant other and I took two trips more than 100 miles away from home in the last month: 1. The first trip was about 2,000 miles (each way). We drove in part because, after counting the increased cost of flying (all that security theater ain't free, y'know) and car rental at the other end, we found out it was cheaper to drive. The other part of the reason was the fact we were both pretty well fed up with airports and airlines in a post-9/11 world. 2. The second trip was across two midwestern states. We drove that trip as well. It turned out to be about a 5.5 hour drive (each way). Flying, when you count time spent at each airport, on the flight, sitting on runways, and getting to and from airports, would have taken longer -- and it would have been more expensive. . . . and this isn't just about "inconvenience". Go read the article again.

Maevinn
Maevinn

I'll be flying next month, from California to Colorado. 4.5 hour flight time, hour layover in LA each way, 30 minutes before the flight here and 2 hours before in Denver. That's 14 hours. To drive it would be about 20 hours one way. To spend 2 days there, I need 6 days. Cost is NOT just about the $$$.

apotheon
apotheon

I just pointed out the right answer.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

"Responsible decision making" has been engineered out of the system in the name of "fairness". And since it's in the nature of most organisms to grow and propagate, expecting the government to say "no" to any problem is simply not realistic. In fact, can anyone site an example of the government saying "no" to any problem in the last 70 years or so?

apotheon
apotheon

Yes, I absolutely agree that the airlines are getting what they deserve. The problem is that the rest of us are getting what the airlines deserve, too -- and I'm willing to deny the airlines the punishment they deserve if it means (relatively) innocent travelers like myself don't get punished along with them. If there were any responsible people in government with any kind of decision making power in that case, when the airlines asked for "help" the gub'mint would have said "no".

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...that the airlines used to be responsible for security at their terminals. After 911, they didn't want to deal with it anymore because they saw it as a major pain, expense, and liability. So they were happy to toss it back to the federal government, which itself was happy to take it over because it allowed for the creation of yet another mega federal bureaucracy. (Remember Tom Daschle? "You don't professionalize until you Federalize." It's just as well as he got tossed as HHS Secretary; I doubt that he'd run health care any better than his child the TSA turned out) Now the airlines (and their customers) are paying the price for that poor decision. At their gates, airlines now receive pre-harassed and ill-tempered customers. Flights are frequently delayed and schedules fouled up because of security delays, costing them more money. And they've lost billions in business because driving long distances is now more efficient. They did it to themselves.

apotheon
apotheon

Who said that the airlines had any kind of sacred duty to do things the way we like? You're responding as though someone said that, and you're trying to dispute it. All anyone said is that, basically, a government agency (the TSA) is doing it wrong -- and because it's a government agency stepping in, the airlines don't really have the option of doing it better to satisfy their customers. Frankly, I'm of the opinion that government should stay the hell out of it. Let market forces encourage the most effective, least invasive security measures, rather than setting a minimized standard for security and a maximized standard for security theater through bureaucratic government mandates.

seanferd
seanferd

If airlines do not give customers what they expect, they tend to fail. They fail due to other bad business decisions as well, but that is one of them. TSA is a government agency. Any citizen has the right to expect proper and effective performance, and that their rights are not violated.

Maevinn
Maevinn

You pay the airline for the privilege of flying, you have no reason to expect anything specific in terms of security.

apotheon
apotheon

So . . . flying is quicker sometimes. That's not exactly a counterargument for my disputation of the fact that you basically said flying is quicker all the time (for trips more than 100 miles).

seanferd
seanferd

Screening is screening. There is nothing really new here, except an increase of screening, and a lot of pointless rules and expensive programs and annoying behavior by poorly trained people. The knowledge base for everything they do is out there, and has been extant for a very long time.

GSG
GSG

"Flying is quickest means... when there's more than 100 miles between them." To drive from here to Chicago, including stops is 8 hours. I've flown there and back about 10 times, and each time one way, including all the waits in the airport was never less than 10 hours. My favorite is when they canceled the flight due to bad weather. I asked where the bad weather was as it was sunny in Chicago. The gate agent told me it was the destination, so I got on my cell, and right in front of her asked my Dad how the weather was. 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky. So, I asked her if she wanted to try again. I also explained that I had a very close relative who worked for the FAA and who told me that you can't cancel a flight "just because". She refused to answer, then 10 minutes later, our plane was miraculously ready for us to board.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

It seems that many people are refusing to fly. It's no longer the fastest way to travel 100 miles. The radius where it makes more sense to drive than fly is now closer to 1000 miles. All things being equal, I can be 120 miles away from anywhere before any flight I've been on for the last several years ever leaves the gate, counting the time it takes for me to get to the airport, through "security", and to the gate. The airlines bear a certain level of responsibility for this. They never really wanted the "security" role at airports, and after 9-11, they were happy to turn it over to the federal government. Now their customers are discourage, harassed, frazzled and annoyed before they're even on the plane. It did't have to be that way. Now, nearly a decade later, traveling through an airport still resembles security amateur hour, especially when compared to how it's done in Europe, for example. Exactly how long is this "learning process" supposed to take? (I hope it doesn't take as long for them to figure out how to run the auto industry) Of course, the first priority of the TSA wasn't security at all, but was political correctness; making sure that nobody felt any more or less harassed than anybody else. This meant that instead of giving second looks at males holding foreign passports between the ages of 16 and 40, instead spending extra time doing strip searches of my 96-year-old aunt. This senseless approach not only gave anyone of intelligence further reason to conclude that the people behind security in our government were complete morons, but must have given the terrorists great satisfaction in knowing that every American citizen would end up being tortured by their own government just because of the implicit threat they provide, without actually doing anything. Of course, those with wealth and power had an out; they could take private aviation. But do not fear; the TSA is now moving to make sure that those traveling by general aviation get to suffer just as much as those who travel by airlines. Such is the net effect of socialism; it seeks to spread misery as equally as possible. Very often, when I see something really stupid happen, I'll say out loud, "I can't wait until the people responsible for this are running health care too". The irony is that since traveling by plane is a multitude of times safer than traveling by auto, the next effect will actually be more lives lost.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

In LAX, when you fly in from out of country, you have to have your bag rescanned by the TSA (even though it goes through customs and is scanned there). Anyway, you have to leave your bag in a pile by the security scanner....you can guess what happens next...that's right...My bag gets "lost" in the pile. The screener just sits there and does nothing all day and god forbid he move 2 feet and tell people to place their bags in rows... Another time I'm going through security at DIA and I'm pulled aside because "organic" material was "found" in my bag. I have to pull EVERYTHING out...ya thanks. Turns out the "organic material" was my external hard drive with about 300GB worth of proprietary company information. Why it scanned as organic material (whatever that means), I'll never know. Yet another time I get stuck in the line with the sniffer machine (IIRC it was Philly). I walk into it and wait. The machine apparently doesn't get a good read and they do it again. I then walk out of the sniffer machine and I'm escorted to go through the metal detector...AFTER the metal detector I'm escorted to the side and wanded. AFTER THAT...I'm then forced to sit through the TSA DUMPING my bag out an asking me things like "Why do you have so many USB cables?" and "Why do you have so many of these Enteo CDs?" Why is it their business? I could go on and on...

seanferd
seanferd

With a slight chemical treatment, which I will not reveal here due to national security issues, USB cables can be transformed into jet cord.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Goodbye common sense, hello TSA

seanferd
seanferd

We have reason to believe that there are USB cables aboard Air Force One. We will be landing at the nearest air base, where we must exit the plane as quickly as possible...

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Fortunately, I'm unusually early for the flight. Good thing, because after being randomly pulled aside for the wand treatment, I'm turned back because one of the TSA drones has discovered a Cat-5 crimp tool in my carry-on. Seems that they now consider these a weapon. Okay, so back to baggage check-in I go and hand off the bag. 2nd time through security, the same guy pulls me aside for a second wand treatment. 20 minutes or so later, it's usually the moment where I finally get to relax after a long week on the road; that moment where I'm secured in my seat and I've got my magazine pulled out for the home stretch. All of a sudden, a flight attendant rushes down the isle, yelling "Mr. McGrew? Is there a Mr. McGrew here?". When she gets to my row I look up and says "Yes?". She says "The TSA needs to see you at check-in. They say there are explosives in your luggage!" Talk about getting the undivided attention of a planeload of people! All of a sudden, you could hear a pin drop. Okay. She tells me to hurry as the plane is due to leave in 15 minutes. I collect my belongings and proceed against the ceaseless flow of people trying to get to their seats as the entire cabin of the 767 watches me quite carefully. As we finally make it into the terminal, she tells me to rush to the baggage check-in asap, which I do. When I arrive there, a TSA guy greets me and asks to see some ID. I give him my driver's license and he disappears. About 3 minutes later, he comes back and says my bag is okay. Strange. So now I have to go through security again (at least this time a TSA person lead me to the front of the line) where THE SAME GUY pulls me aside to give my crotch the wand treatment for a 3rd time! Back through the terminal I run only to find that they've closed the doors and will not let me back on, even thought the plane continues to sit there an additional 10 minutes. (this way they get to say the plane left "on time", even though it hasn't moved an inch) So I get to stand there and watch my plane with an empty seat just sit there, while a gate agent proceeds to type away at her terminal as though she's writing a novel about the incident. Finally, the plane pulls away, ironically with my formerly suspicious bag on board without me. Fortunately, I do get booked on the next flight and I'll only be home 2.5 hours later than my bag is. Such is life as a player in today's "Security Theater".

apotheon
apotheon

Did you ever find out what the "explosives" false alarm was all about?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...that there was some sort of residue present. By the time I had arrived, they had already run multiple tests to decide that there was no such hazardous material present.

pgit
pgit

Just beware there was a lot of controversy surrounding that film. First off, there was a huge debate as to whether it was exposing communist tendencies in society, or was itself communist propaganda. The latter was held by "silent majority" types who saw proto "tolerance" in the message. More direct was the controversy over lyrics to one of the major (somewhat of a 'hit') songs in the film; "me and my arrow." A lot of prudes saw a not-so-veiled phallic reference, which actually may have been the intent of the author(s) as it turned out. As for the TSA, the real theater is observing just how much mindless BS the American people will put up with. The answer, apparently, is "all of it."

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I'm not sure but I think that happened a long time ago. People don't want to think about it. It's not happening to me. Their hitting the other guy. I think the answer is Nobody & Everbody Just my 2 cents

apotheon
apotheon

He must be talking about all the supposedly "small government" Republicans who voted for McCain and Bush. Yeah, I agree -- there seems to be a lot of that kind of nonsense going around. I didn't catch the meaning at first because I know so many libertarians that reference to people who talk about small government didn't make me think of Republicans right away.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]In my personal travels, it seems that many of those who are most vocal about "big government" and "government interference" are also quite likely to exhibit an authoritarian mindset, and support expansive authoritarian powers in government. Bit of a puzzler, to me.[/i] It's only "big government" when you disagree with what it's doing. I've noticed that too, lately. I'm in a very conservative area of the South and many of the people in my area who now decry the intrusion of the Obama presidency into commerce had no problem with the TSA, Homeland Security, or other 9/11 consequences intruding into their privacy. I think it's related more to ideology than to any specific action, though. Go figure. I've noticed something related to that: it's the tendency to believe government is engaged in certain activities because that's what you would do if [u]you[/u] were in charge. edit: clarify

apotheon
apotheon

Now I want to see that movie! It even appears to be relevant to this discussion, judging by the synopsis.

apotheon
apotheon

I'd like more detail on these observations -- perhaps some specific examples. I feel like I'm missing something.

seanferd
seanferd

In my personal travels, it seems that many of those who are most vocal about "big government" and "government interference" are also quite likely to exhibit an authoritarian mindset, and support expansive authoritarian powers in government. Bit of a puzzler, to me.

seanferd
seanferd

"Nice one, Centurion." :D

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

It's amazing that anyone would buy into this tripe. If the magical sniffer box can't tell the difference between an oil based cologne and a bomb, we are in deep trouble. If the TSA can't tell the difference between a bomb and a Mac Book Air (http://www.macnn.com/articles/08/03/10/macbook.air.confusing/) and a bomb, we're in deep trouble. What really gets me going is that the TSA actually has the guts to pull out grandma or that little kid from the line because, you never know....they might be packing... bah...

apotheon
apotheon

The point is security theater. Just sit patiently, like a good little subject of your government, and clap when the Applause sign lights up.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Those sniffers aren't worth a dime then...if they can't tell the difference between an oil based cologne and an explosive, what's the point?

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

I had a similar experience once (except, I did make it back on board the plane) a couple years back. It turned out that the cologne I brought with me managed to set off the detectors; being that it was oil based. The TSA agent actually said that it wasn't the first time the particular brand of cologne (Helmut Lang) had set off the detector. Now when I travel, I bring cheapo after shave with me.

apotheon
apotheon

In response to LocoLobo in particular: The answer in today's authoritarian culture is "Nobody." The answer envisioned by the founders of this nation was "the people", but increasing bureaucratic insulation and decreasing willingness of voters to think for themselves has allowed an awful lot of cruft and secrecy to accumulate in the system, preventing "the people" from exerting any kind of control or providing any kind of oversight worth a damn.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

It's still relevant today

apotheon
apotheon

People think the rules make everything okay, but the truth is that the rules are subject to the vagaries of human nature because a bureaucracy is run by bureaucrats (who are, contrary to popular belief, technically human). The idea of trusting power over our safety and privacy to a bunch of people who can't get better jobs in private sector security, with the knowledge that the rules are only as good as the people enforcing them, is downright frightening.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Also an aspect of "security theater": Millions of dollars of property are lifted from people's luggage each month. If the people working behind the secure lines are that compromised, then what is the point of the rest of the act?

seanferd
seanferd

I don't feel like hunting for the story I'm thinking of, but there was more than one report of missing or mangled underwear or T-shirts (with no explanation forthcoming). But definitely Scummy, yes. And thanks. :D

seanferd
seanferd

Did you still have all the underwear you left with?

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

play dough rubbed up against your bag at some point

sidekick
sidekick

"Attention everyone. I have hijacked this plane. Just remain calm and stay in your seats, and no one will get crimped. You! I said stay in your seat. I'll throw this crimper at you, I mean it, now get down!!" Seriously.....