TSA Misses the Point, Again
They're checking IDs more carefully, looking for forgeries:
Black lights will help screeners inspect the ID cards by illuminating holograms, typically of government seals, that are found in licenses and passports. Screeners also are getting magnifying glasses that highlight tiny inscriptions found in borders of passports and other IDs. About 2,100 of each are going to the nation's 800 airport checkpoints.
The closer scrutiny of passenger IDs is the latest Transportation Security Administration effort to check passengers more thoroughly than simply having them walk through metal detectors.
More than 40 passengers have been arrested since June in cases when TSA screeners spotted altered passports, fraudulent visas and resident ID cards, and forged driver's licenses. Many of them were arrested on immigration charges.
ID checks have nothing to do with airport security. And even if they did, anyone can fly on a fake ID. And enforcing immigration laws is not what the TSA does.
In related news, look at this page from the TSA's website:
We screen every passenger; we screen every bag so that your memories are from where you went, not how you got there. We're here to help your travel plans be smooth and stress free. Please take a moment to become familiar with some of our security measures. Doing so now will help save you time once you arrive at the airport.
I know they don't mean it that way, but doesn't it sound like it's saying "We know it doesn't help, but it might make you feel better"?
And why is this even news?
So Jason -- looking every bit the middle-aged man on an uneventful trip to anywhere -- shows a boarding pass and an ID to a TSA document checker, and he is directed to a checkpoint where, unbeknown to the security officer on site, the real test begins.
He gets through, which in real life would mean a terrorist was headed toward a plane with a bomb.
To be clear, the TSA allowed CNN to see and record this test, and the agency is not concerned with CNN showing it. The TSA says techniques such as the one used in Tampa are known to terrorists and openly discussed on known terror Web sites.
Also relevant: "Confessions of a TSA Agent":
The traveling public has no idea that the changes the TSA makes come as orders sent down directly from Washington D.C. Those orders may have reasons, but we little screeners at a screening checkpoint will never be told what the background might be. We get told to do something, and just as in the military, we are expected to make it happen -- no ifs, ands or buts about it. Perhaps the changes are as a result of some event occurring in the nation or the world, perhaps it's based on some newly received information or interrogation. What the traveling public needs to understand the necessity for flexibility. If a passenger asks us why we're doing something, in all likelihood we couldn't tell them even if we really did know the answer. This is a business of sensitive information that is used to make choices that can have life changing effects if the information is divulged to the wrong person(s). Just trust that we must know something that prompts us to be doing something.
I have no idea why Kip Hawley is surprised that the TSA is as unpopular with Americans as the IRS.
EDITED TO ADD (1/30): The TSA has a blog, and Kip Hawley wrote the first post. This could be interesting....
EDITED TO ADD (1/31): There is some speculation that the "Confessions of a TSA Agent" is a hoax. I don't know.
Posted on January 29, 2008 at 3:13 PM • 51 Comments