Bypassing Airport Checkpoints

From a reader:

I always get a giggle from reading about TSA security procedures, because of what I go through during my occasional job at an airport. I repair commercial kitchen cooking equipment -- restaurants etc. On occasion I have to go to restaurants inside a nearby airport terminal to repair equipment, sometimes needing a return trip with parts.

So here's the scene. I park inside the parking garage area in my company truck. I carry my 30 pound toolbox and a large cardboard box, about 2 1/2 feet long with parts for a broiler to be repaired. I go to a restaurant outside the security zone and pick up an "escort", typically a kid of maybe 25 years old. I obviously can't go through the TSA checkpoint, as they'd have absolute conniptions about my tools and large parts. So, without ever having to show ID, or even looking at what I may have in the large cardboard box or my large metal toolbox, the escort takes me down an elevator, out onto the tarmac, past waiting planes pulled up to the terminal, back inside the terminal building and coming out on the other side of the TSA checkpoint, then off to the restaurant to be repaired. Then, when I'm done, they escort my out the normal way, past the TSA screening area, with my toolbox and large cardboard box in hand. No one bats an eye as to what might have transpired or how my stuff magically appeared on the "secure" side and is now leaving right in front of them

And people wonder why I call it all security theater?

Posted on December 18, 2008 at 10:19 AM • 79 Comments

Comments

HJDecember 18, 2008 10:39 AM

I'd like to know more about what is going on in the background. Did the restaurant make the call, and was the escort expecting the repair man?

I'd like for somoene here to try it and let us know how that works out for you.

CmosDecember 18, 2008 10:50 AM

I've often wondered about this myself- looking at all the work that goes on in an airport. It is no surpise though- the purpose of TSA is not so much to FIND weapons, but to be a deterrant. With $12/hr security guards, thats about all they can be expected to do.

Pete AustinDecember 18, 2008 10:51 AM

This is slightly unfair. I've done a little bit of technical work for banks in the past and they used a very similar "escort" system to cope with the fact that I only had guest ID and was basically a stranger. I don't see what the alternative would be.

HJohnDecember 18, 2008 10:59 AM

@cmos: "It is no surpise though- the purpose of TSA is not so much to FIND weapons, but to be a deterrant."

True. Airports can go years without ever detecting a gun with a metal detector. But if they say "they never detect one" and stop using them, it wouldn't be a day before there was a gun going through.

I kind of see both sides of this. On one hand, you don't really want the TSA wasting any more time than they already do over tools. On the other, you don't really want just anyone to walk in. I think a lot of this is contigent on the procedures working behind the scenes that we don't have a way to know about. We do know he didn't go around security without an escort, but we don't know what the escort knew.

NMI, need more info.

Jeremy PyneDecember 18, 2008 11:01 AM

The point is there there is no validation of the worker. Anyone with malicious intentions impose as a repair man and get right in with what ever goods he has. Granted he has an escort, but how hard would it be to convince someone they are expecting you, or worse find a real repair request and pretend to be the work for that job.

There is no validation that the workers being let past security(inside, or on the tarmac) are valid.

MichaelDecember 18, 2008 11:14 AM

You wouldn't even need to pose as anything. It can't cost too much to get a low-wage worker to open a door for you or walk you to a destination.

It wouldn't take much more to overpower the person and assume his or her identity either.

It's security theater because it's a show being put on for the public. People on the inside often have little security at all.

ChrisDecember 18, 2008 11:16 AM

Airports can't provide internal staff to deal with every need. They have to bring in untrusted workers. They need to pair them with trusted minders, but in this situation, who's the minder?

TSA officials are trusted because there's no real alternative. Restaurant workers should not have that level of trust.

JeremyDecember 18, 2008 11:44 AM

Why can't they require the escort to be a TSA employee? Bill the expense to the restaurant.

SwedeDecember 18, 2008 11:48 AM

My friend worked at the Arlanda airport in Stockholm, Sweden, actually he would be one of those 25-year old kids mentioned above. :)

He has outlined to me several paths that are possible to walk straight through all security even without an escort if you only know which doors to take. According to him, unguarded and unlocked doors can take you directly to the planes or to the boarding area or whatever. You *may* need to look official enough in one away or the other just in case someone sees you entering, but generally it is assumed that if you go through the private door, you have access.

On top of that, there's a fostered environment that staff that challenge other staff for ID or similar, are "trouble makers" and hinder people from doing their job. So, since local social rules says "do not question other workers" you are very unlikely to be challenged once inside.

But of course, the up front dog-and-pony show is as retarded and inconvenient as in any other airport in the world these days.

I would assume that this is par for just about any airport. If bad guys do want to cause trouble, they would have no problem whatsoever, but regular passengers have a load of trouble at every check-in.

Oh, and if you are even the least bit of a celebrity or have some money, you are escorted beside all security both ways as well. So that may also be an easy way in.

Yay security.

anonymous canuckDecember 18, 2008 11:49 AM

Ooo more movie plots.

1. get someone inside
2. break something in a simple but non-obvious way
3. call repair
4. call/head off repair guy
5. present fake repair guy
6. smuggle in stuff
7. fix tampering

BTW. 6 can be anything not just stuff the TSA is interested in.

But there is probably an easier way if 58 gangs were operating in airports
http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=1064464

anonymous canuckDecember 18, 2008 11:53 AM

@Swede this is one of the tough things about security. People generally don't like to challenge people. I've seen it time and time again even in what woudl be considered reasonably secure areas. It comes down to: it's unpleasant, they were let in, not their job, not trained to handle it, etc.

PeteDecember 18, 2008 11:58 AM

You don't event need to intercept anyone. Get a sympathizer working at an airport restaurant, and an operative working at the repair shop. Have sympathizer break stove, and operative take the call. Everyone is who their documents say they are, and nobody spares a second glance.

periDecember 18, 2008 11:59 AM

I just realized that "security theater" suggests that there is some plot to the play and I really don't think that is the case. I think "security magic show" is much more appropriate; especially since instead of conjuring up images of Shakespeare we are reminded, at best, of Penn and Teller.

It's hysterical to imagine the TSA agents checking people's shoes because they have the public convinced that they will pull "security" out of their shoes just like a tacky magician would pull a rabbit out of a hat.

jas88December 18, 2008 12:07 PM

Back in 1999, I took a wrong turn in O'Hare - I had a domestic connection, so I should have stayed airside without going through security, but went to find a bathroom, exiting the "secure" area in the process. I then returned by the same route - but approaching from the other direction, I saw that I was walking past a security checkpoint. This didn't appear to worry anyone, though.

An airline pilot friend-of-a-friend refers to these airport obstacles as "insecurity". I feel he has a point: cumbersome security doesn't just inconvenience people, it results in people having to find a way around the "security" system - whereas a more sensible system would either have someone check the repair guy's ID, look in his tool set and let him in properly, or escort him.

Michael AshDecember 18, 2008 12:28 PM

For anyone who thinks that this escort system is sane, consider this: why didn't his escort simply take him directly to his destination?

Escorting outsiders makes a lot of sense. Having that escort take you on a bizarre and circuitous route to avoid passing through security makes no sense. THAT is the WTF of this story.

ThortonDecember 18, 2008 1:26 PM

If it were that simple don't you think it would have already been exploited?

It may seem like a seamless and easy process to you, but I seriously doubt that it was to the people behind the scenes.

andrewDecember 18, 2008 1:31 PM

Likewise I watched a bakery cart in the Oakland ariport bypass security past a single policeman and appear on the other side. It was a large cart filled with boxes of some baked goods. Or a hundred hand grenades...

Michael AshDecember 18, 2008 1:41 PM

@Thorton

"If it were that simple don't you think it would have already been exploited?"

Well, no. A major (but certainly not the only) source of our lack of terrorism is simply a lack of terrorists. Lack of exploitation doesn't necessarily prove that the system is secure, it could simply prove that few people are trying to exploit it.

Furthermore, how do you know it hasn't been exploited? Not every security breach is discovered, much less makes the evening news.

anonymous canuckDecember 18, 2008 2:32 PM

@ Anonymous 12:30 - that's exactly what the 58 gangs in the National Post story were doing (they probably had a simpler way in though).

@Thorton - please read the National Post article - it is being exploited just not for terrorism

SkorjDecember 18, 2008 3:41 PM

jas88 says: " I feel he has a point: cumbersome security doesn't just inconvenience people, it results in people having to find a way around the "security" system - whereas a more sensible system would either have someone check the repair guy's ID, look in his tool set and let him in properly, or escort him."

I think this is *the* key understanding in designing all security, whether physical or electronic, where people are involved. "Security" is not an absolute measure of how difficult it is for the bad guy to gain entry, it's the *ratio* of easy for the good guy to difficulty for the bad guy.

Anything that makes it harder for an insider to gain entery *reduces* security, because insiders will always develope work-arounds that attackers can exploit.

HughDecember 18, 2008 3:50 PM

I concur, it’s a security theater. Especially when TSA ask a little kid to take off their shoes who is crying and don't want to part with his/her shoes. This shows a whole lot of inconvenience not an effective security control, in other words a security theater.

http://blog.deurainfosec.com/...

HJohnDecember 18, 2008 4:06 PM

@Hugh: "Especially when TSA ask a little kid to take off their shoes who is crying and don't want to part with his/her shoes."

Two points that seem contradictory.

1. I do agree that the shoe issue is a bit of a waste, so my next point isn't to defend a poor measure.

2. The age (or other characteristic) of the person subject to the screening isn't really important. I'm not saying a little kid can be a terrorist, I'm saying that if you make an exception for the child, then the child will be used. Someone previously quoted "when you make an easy way and a hard way, attackers will use the easy way." They are correct.

I feel bad for children who go through the check points. I hate to see a 90 year old person confined to a wheelchair checked out. But I also have no doubt that if we start making exceptions based on characteristics, attackers will exploit it. They'll use the trust afforded the individual to smuggle something through.

That's part of the problem with this escort posting. While I've been careful to say we don't know enough about the behind the scenes procedure to know if it were indeed a big weakesses, if we assume it is, then an attacker can go through security and pass that test, then obtain weapons from someone who smuggled them through in a tool box. They will use the trust afforded one class of people, be it a child, repairman, or frail grandmother.

Merry Christmas

ElliottDecember 18, 2008 6:03 PM

What gets me, as a former airport employee (disability assistance contractor, O'Hare), is this: what on earth was a restaurant employee doing with tarmac access?

At O'Hare there are three grades of badges, coded red, green, and blue. Red is what the restaurant employees had: it means "you can be in the concourse and go through security, but if we find you anywhere near a plane your ass is grass." Green badges, which is what I had, were allowed to go down jetbridges (and had codes to unlock the doors at the top to do so) and into the planes. Blue badges (which pilots had, and presumably other people; I only saw the pilots) could go down onto the tarmac.

Anyone found anywhere their badge wasn't color-coded for -- and this is a blatant color-coding, it's the whole badge -- was immediately whisked off to explain themselves to the in-house cops. For hours.

AndrewDecember 18, 2008 9:40 PM

From a straight physical security perspective, airports are hideously unsecure by their nature. You have enormous perimeters (both building and site), very high cost pressures, politicized work environments and government budget processes, arcane FAA regulations which privilege nominal compliance over real physical security, and airlines who are indifferent to security except when it interferes with business. Did I mention the cost pressures?

Technology can only go so far. CCTV can help reconstruct what happened after the damage is done. Reaction has to be swift and decisive if technology is to help; but the very bureaucracy that is intended to assure redundancy instead creates paralysis and hinders swift decision making.

There are also a large number of stakeholders, many of which are outside the practical reach of the security organization. If the Mc'Ds assistant manager gets recruited and allows an outside worker to smuggle in a pile of boxcutters, security will get blamed but the real fault lies with the contract administration who didn't enforce the background checks.

TSA makes matters worse, not better, because they perceive their mandate as security theater for the traveling public, not solving the very real problems of uncontrolled tarmac access and in-house security. In an environment where baggage handlers routinely steal whatever they can lay hands on, you tell me if they can't also sneak something in for enough money.

@Cmos "With $12/hr security guards, thats about all they can be expected to do."

Please forgive me for pointing this out, but intelligently deployed and well led security guards can do excellent physical security for a prevailing wage. $12 will get you farther in Texas than it will in San Francisco.

Stop blaming the guards. Start blaming the management. "The buck stops here" for physical security is the CEO of the activity . . . not someone in the facilities department.

WarLordDecember 18, 2008 10:30 PM

Greetings

I worked construction and we often ended up on the tarmac among the planes with no more vetting then the article discussed. Thats with a big gang box of tools and full tool pouches.

I've always assumed that a van marked with a contractor name and a shirt that matched with a name over the pocket was a magic door key even if nobody onsite knew who the hell you were or that you were coming or what you were there to fix...

Justsaying76December 19, 2008 1:05 AM

HJ,

More then likely yes they were contracted by the resturant and yes they knew they were coming. I noticed some other comments and I'm always somewhat surprised by them.

TSA, and all governement and private security agencies and law enforcement agengies, have limited roles and duties. The fact that a "contractor" could carry a 30lb toolkit into a resturant is no big deal. Any "contractor" can carry a 30lb toolkit into millions of resturants in the United States.

What is the point here? A bomb in a toolbox could be deployed tens of thousands of places without going throgh any securty at all, so what does this prove or not prove? TSA's job is to protec air travel. This "incident" did not allow this person on the tarmac, close to airplanes or anyting else. He got to go to a resturant. Congradulations to him.

Justsaying76December 19, 2008 1:09 AM

Opps,

I missed it for a minute, he got to walk by the airplanes on the tarmac,. I'm sure his 25 year old escort would have yelled if he tyred to throw his toolbos in the cargo hatch of a plane. Ha.

dcposchDecember 19, 2008 4:55 AM

I'm sure that security-nullifying attitudes vary widely from airport to airport, and even from employee to employee. I'm referring to bad habits that become part of the work culture -- like not asking for unknown people's ID (@Swede) and letting vans onto the tarmac with nothing more than a contractor logo (@WarLord).

Here's what I wish the government would do -- not just the TSA, but the NSA and others as well: pen-test national security. Send security contractors posing as contractors to airports and see if they can get in. Pay them extra if they can get a piece of unchecked luggage onto a plane and leave without getting caught.

Clearly, there would need to be a robust vetting process to avoid costly lockdowns when the intrusions do get caught. Perhaps the first thing airports would do with a suspected breach would be to call directly to a national authority (TSA, for example) and check if it's a test. This extra complexity would add some cost and some potential security flaws.

Still, I think it would be a vastly better use of money than most of what the TSA is doing now. It would decrease overall risk significantly because airports would have a real, month-by-month financial and legal incentive to ensure real security. Most importantly, it would bring some accountability to airports and to the security programs that operate in them. There would be actual data on how frequently and severely trained, funded attackers can compromise various systems at airports. Security performance could be compared between airports, between security programs, and over time.

Nothing screams "wasteful theatre" louder than a $4.18 billion (FY2008) TSA budget and no real, quantitative evaluation of its effectiveness. Let's pen test airports and find out how well the security systems work ... or if they work at all.

peteDecember 19, 2008 7:28 AM

Youre an idiot for your course of thought. Tsa has no responsibilty here, as THEY werent the ones who let you in; the tenant unit, or as you so elliquently cal him, "the 25 year old kid" is responsibile for your actions. He took you through a SIDA door, and hes responsible for everything you do and everything you bring. He is your babysitter.AS you were preannounced, scheduled, and expected, its no surprise that you actually showed up for a legitimate reason. TSA is busy screening passengers, not worrying about the maytag repairman and how unscrupulous you may be. They (TSA) do perform reandon checks at bypass doors, obviously you werent selected at that time, because they exercised some common sense. TSA is responsible for what goes through the checkpoints, not the sida doors. The badge holder opening that door is responsible for you and what you leave in the sterile area. Maintinence people work in sterile areas everyday, all across the country. What do you think would happen if TSA screened everyone of them and told them they can go ahead and bring in theire knives and tools? "Its ok, youre a Maytag Man, so we trust you". NOT!!! As far as leaving through the designated exit lane, sure, why not? they dont really care whose leaving, although you bet they pay attention to it. Its called domain awareness. Your complaint is way off base; you're complaining about the wrong people, and it sounds to me like everyone IS following the right proceedures, even though you arent aware of the requirements, they are doing the right things. There are security experts who anaylize threats full time, and undergo years of training to do it. I don't understand how you, with your extensive background in oven repairs, feel qualified to degrade and question the integrity of aviation security. It amy be a hassle for you to go through a back door to get into a sterile area at an airport, but you know what? Its a hassle for me when my oven breaks down and I have to wait two weeks for you to "work me into your schedule". Every one of those people at airports do a great job dealing with variables and unknowns, and reacting to them appropriately. From the airlines and TSA all the way to the guy driving the snowplow on the runway, they are dedicated professionals going the extra mile to keep us all (you included) safe. How ignorant for you to make such an irresponsible statement.

peteDecember 19, 2008 7:40 AM

Oh. btw everyone. I guarantee that the contractor being escorted never got near a plane as the writer suggested. Sida doors dont just open a majical hallway straight to the Tarmac. Hed have to go through a series of locked doors and ID verifications, and I doubt that nay restaraunt worker would have airport access approved for areas other than his own direct work area. After reading some of the comments, its amazing how ignorant the public really is. There are many security measures in place in AMERICAN airports that restrict access. Sweden obviously trusts the whole country. There isnt a US airport anywhere, where you can just walk down a hallway and open a door with only a sigh posted, and "look like you belong there" and not be challenged. There are "invisible" parameters and safeguards in place at every commercial US airport that observe and react to this illogical though process. Its easier to get into most US prisons than it is to penetrate multi layered security at US airports. It may seem senseless to you, but there hasnt been a hijacking in the US for HOW MANY YEARS? Not since TSA. Do weapons REALLY go into airports? You bet your ass they do. Are they caught? Yes, by those "$12 an hour security guards" then they are arrested. Is the system perfect? No. But it DOES work, and thousands of people, from $7 an hour restaraunt workers to $150 grand a year airport executives work day in and day out, to protect the integrity of where they work and where YOU travel. Some of the rules may seem stupid to you, but then you dont read thing like "Richard Reid, the shoe bomber" or "Liquid explosives plot folied un UK", "Elderly targeted as suicide bombers" "Weapons smuggled in toddlers Diaper"... it happens all the time. Wake up america.

ModeratorDecember 19, 2008 9:40 AM

Pete,

Bruce's correspondent is a reader of this blog. You're welcome to disagree with him or her, but please do so civilly, without namecalling.

And if you would throw in a paragraph break now and then, my eyes would thank you.

a traveller December 19, 2008 10:05 AM

@pete
"Tsa has no responsibilty here, as THEY werent the ones who let you in;"
It is not about tsa or not tsa. It's about the supposed "security".
I don't care who's responsible. If you are saying that I have to suffer the searches because of "security" then make bloody sure that nobody else can care similar things into the secure area which you confiscate from me!
Or alternatively don't confiscate them from me either.

"Do weapons REALLY go into airports? You bet your ass they do. Are they caught? Yes, by those "$12 an hour security guards" then they are arrested."
I wouldn't be that sure.
I had an issue when I tried to carry on a 3cm blade letter opener in my swisscard (http://www.victorinox.ch/index.cfm?site=victorinox.ch&page=190&lang=E)
and it was confiscated.
When I questioned it at the department of aviation I got this as an official answer:
"passengers are prohibited from carrying knives and letter openers through UK airport security search points. These measures are contained in restricted documents and thus can only be disclosed to those parties responsible for implementing them."
In other words: you can't carry them on and you have no right to know what else we will confiscate now or in the future.
The funny thing is that I had 2 batteries and 3 SD cards in my pocket when I went through the metal detector which surely is more metal then 3cm of steel, so I could have the blade in my pocket (actually that was the place where I used to "smuggle" on tweezers when they were still dangerous). They left the 1.5 cm scissors which are obviously not as dangerous as well as a 3cm blade nail file.
Also I was flying with the same tool set for several times before it was discovered, and once more after I had it confiscated and replaced it.
So this is called security?

a traveller December 19, 2008 10:10 AM

@pete:
"Oh. btw everyone. I guarantee that the contractor being escorted never got near a plane as the writer suggested."
He doesn't have to. It is enough if he carries bombs/restricted objects into the secured area and hides them.
From then on somebody else can get into the waiting room, pick up the items and board a plane.
And exactly at that moment your guarantee wanishes in thin air...

ThunderbirdDecember 19, 2008 10:17 AM

You talk a great game, BS, but exactly what does a part-time kitchen worker do to earn the sobriquet "security guru". Apart from talk, exactly what is it you do? Say what you will about the people at TSA, at least they're working the problem. You do what, exactly?

ModeratorDecember 19, 2008 10:43 AM

a traveller,

Please hit return twice between paragraphs. It will make your comments much more readable. Thanks.

ModeratorDecember 19, 2008 10:58 AM

"You talk a great game, BS, but exactly what does a part-time kitchen worker do to earn the sobriquet 'security guru'."

Is the formatting of blockquotes on this blog breaking down on some browser or other?

ThunderbirdDecember 19, 2008 11:09 AM

Kill the messenger? C'mon, paul - get real. Bruce Schneir is nothing more than the Paris Hilton of the security world. One of many, I might add.

My question is valid - what exactly has he done to be a guru of any type, apart from take faux-tough guy pictures for his book jackets?

People might actually take this guy seriously, and in today's world, that could be deadly.


MailDeadDropDecember 19, 2008 11:46 AM

Anyone wanna take my bet that "Thunderbird" is posting from a TSA IP address? Anyone?

Moderator, please investigate & report.

Merry Christmas!

ThunderbirdDecember 19, 2008 11:48 AM

Something else occured to me.

It's easy to play Devil's Advocate. Someone like Bruce Schneir can easily come across as a 'guru' by simply questioning what other people do, or even better yet, by ridiculing what other people do, particularly if what they do is unpopular. Jay Leno and Johnny Carson made millions by doing just that.

People like Bruce, on the other hand, bring nothing to the table EXCEPT smart-alec questions. They offer nothing EXCEPT ridicule and back-biting.

I repeat my original question - Apart from talk, exactly what is it you do?

ThunderbirdDecember 19, 2008 11:55 AM

I'll take your bet, MailDropDead.

Someone doesn't have to work for TSA to recognize they've been handed an impossible job. Prevent another 9/11 but put up with crap from self-styled 'experts' like you and Bruce.

If either of you think you can come up with a better system, then go for it. Until then, at least have the decency to support the people who are trying to do something concrete.

Exit14December 19, 2008 12:38 PM

@Thunderbird
... what exactly is it you do?

BS is not a guy who needs defending.
Just from reading the blog, and a book or two, never actually meeting or speaking with him, I see that --

BS does:
...writes neat software, including free stuff (PasswordSafe) and algorithms for NSA challenges
http://www.schneier.com/essay-249.html

...suggests cost-effective ways to protect oneself from ID theft
http://www.schneier.com/essay-222.html

...offers advice to minimize risk from burglary:
http://www.schneier.com/essay-173.html

... and generally writes a whole lot of useful stuff, from books on Applied Programming to periodic Wired articles.

Exit14December 19, 2008 12:41 PM

@ me
.. of course, after I see just how bad the '60 Minutes' interview goes, I might just remove my last post.
:)

HJohnDecember 19, 2008 1:15 PM

@Exit14: "BS is not a guy who needs defending"

@Exit14: "of course, after I see just how bad the '60 Minutes' interview goes, I might just remove my last post."

So you're saying you may regret defending BS? :D Just a little friday humor.

In all seriousness, I agree with your first post. I don't know how someone could question Mr. Schneier's credentials with a straight face. Sure, I disagree often and say so, but a great deal of his advice has been a significant help to me, and I'm just one person. How anyone can say he isn't a credit to the security industry is beyond me.

Merry Christmas

ThunderbirdDecember 19, 2008 1:36 PM

@ Exit14/HJohn, et al.

Exactly my point. He talks... a lot!

Those who can, do... those who can't, teach.

"BS is not a guy who needs defending"
Give me a break! Boy, you two have really drank the koolaid!

BS takes it on himself to criticize and question and trivialize. Since you two, and doubless others, have anointed BS a Diety, and He is such an expert, maybe He should go to work for TSA and improve things. Kip Hawley's job will be opening soon, so there you go.


a travellerDecember 19, 2008 1:39 PM

@Thunderbird:
"at least have the decency to support the people who are trying to do something concrete."
Something must be done.
This is something.
So, we must do it, and you have to support us no matter if it makes sense or improves security at all.

Is this what you're saying?

BDecember 19, 2008 2:06 PM

I got tired of the spectulation going on about half way through this thread. As is usually the case the insider has some stuff right but most of it is exageration or outright falsehoods. It's not a perfect system but it's not that easy either.

AndrewDecember 19, 2008 2:34 PM

At the risk of interjecting some sanity into the discussion: both B and pete have a point.

Good physical security makes use of layered access control. No individual layer can be 100% effective. So to some extent, making fun of the fact that people can and do get past individual layers is unfair at best and dangerously deceptive at worst.

Given that we have drugs and knives in prisons, I have to laugh not only at the idea that an airport is more secure than a prison, but that an airport need only be as secure as a prison. No one is going to fly a prison into a building.

However airports and prisons do have one thing in common -- people who are actively working to evade security layers, either for their own convenience, because they think they're doing their jobs (to get the $*@% oven fixed!), or because they are engaged in illicit activities (drug smuggling, baggage theft, etc.)

The challenge is to identify what vulnerabilities are intolerable, which are undesirable but not catastrophic, which should be discouraged but not a priority, and which are tolerable.

For example, I can't think of a way to defend a United States airport from a standoff heavy weapons attack. We'd have to completely redesign the physical infrastructure of most of the airports in America. Some would simply have to be closed; no way to do it.

So you do what you can, which isn't all that much, and focus on the threats which you can stop. Bombs on planes can only kill those on that plane. A hijacked plane can kill a lot more people.

If TSA really wanted to prevent weapons transfers, they'd have to surveill the living daylights out of the sterile area restrooms. The only practical way to do it -- bathroom attendants. Probably save a few lives each year from heart attacks, too.

Do we really want to live in fear so much that we have to have guards watching us in the toilet? Or close perfectly good airports just because some numbnut manages to lay hands on an RPG?

No? That means a willingness to accept risk. I think the American public would be comfortable with a lot more risk than the powers-that-be credit them with. Let people fly with boxcutters; as long as the majority of the people on the plane know the score, maybe some people will get cut up but America will be safe.

Michael AshDecember 19, 2008 3:22 PM

@Thunderbird

"People like Bruce, on the other hand, bring nothing to the table EXCEPT smart-alec questions. They offer nothing EXCEPT ridicule and back-biting."

Wrong. Bruce has consistently discussed his ideas for airport security (and security in general!) which are concrete and, in my opinion, would be vastly more effective and significantly cheaper than what's being done now. It's hardly his fault that the people in charge don't listen to him. He does *far* more than simply criticize others, and that you think he has no positive contributions is only a commentary on your lack of familiarity with the person you're attacking, and nothing more.

ThunderbirdDecember 19, 2008 3:35 PM

@ a traveller

"So, we must do it, and you have to support us no matter if it makes sense or improves security at all."
"Is this what you're saying?"

In a word, yes.

The officers at TSA fulfill the role that our Congressional "leaders" have mandated. Out of idle curiosity, have you actually read ATSA - the law that created TSA? No? I thought not. Interesting reading, that. As is usual with reactionary law-making, it mostly deals with things as they were on 9/10. TSA appears to have gone way ahead of that mandate and is trying to deal with what will exist next year... or at least to the extent that a whining American public will stand for, which doesn't appear to be much.

But I digress. Question - do you blame the military for the war in Iraq? Of course not, or at least I would hope not. That sort of stupidity should have died in Vietnam. Why, then, do you blame TSA for trying to shore up at least one part of a falling wall? From the tone of your comments, and your stage name, I'm guessing you are the sort who wishes things were the same as they were in 1970, back before there was any airport security at all. I know I do, but then the world was a different place than it is now.

Either support TSA and its officers, or some up with something better.

Either way, get off their backs.

Fed TechDecember 19, 2008 5:00 PM

@Thunderbird

And for that matter, you too... I like the stirring debate and conjecture, but I certainly don't agree with the blatant "what do YOU do?" line of questioning. So, in all fairness, T-bird, what do YOU do? Obviously, you have marked BS as someone who makes smart-alec remarks, and talks a lot. Yet you seem to disregard his physical works (as mentioned earlier) regarding software, and other applications requring a "do" versus a "teach" approach.

however, I think you fail to grasp that in order for someone to "do" they need to be taught. BS and many others in his field fulfill a crucial part of the security process by posing what-if scenarios for general discussion and debate. Appearing before congressional and/or senate committees to comment upon weaknesses/strengths of security programs I would hardly declare someone who simply poses as a figurehead of security (a "Paris Hilton", as you stated).

So... we have seen evidence of what BS does... now, what do YOU do? Just curious.

AnonymousDecember 19, 2008 5:38 PM

From the original post "No one bats an eye as to what might have transpired or how my stuff magically appeared on the "secure" side and is now leaving right in front of them"-- as a person who works at an airport, I can tell you the reason "no one bats an eye" is because the repairman is under escort.

Unless the airport is completely violating the regulations, the 25 year old man escorting the repairman is supposed to be close enough to control the repairman's actions at all times.

Michael AshDecember 19, 2008 5:40 PM

@Thunderbird

"I was just following orders" is never an excuse. TSA's actions are unsupportable regardless of congressional mandate. They should be speaking up to talk about how ridiculous their mandate is. Instead they seem to relish it and seek to expand it to new heights of ridiculousness.

"Either way, get off their backs."

Why? It is right to criticize those who misuse tax money, waste resources, and make our country less secure. If you disagree, then when exactly *is* it right to criticize somebody?

ModeratorDecember 19, 2008 8:45 PM

MailDeadDrop, I'm afraid you lose your bet. Lucky you didn't actually agree on any stakes.

And I know I'm the one who started it, but let's not turn uncovering TSA commenters into a witch hunt. I suspect that the publicity over the 60 Minutes story will continue to bring in people who -- to put it gently -- aren't well acculturated to this forum. Not all will be TSA employees.

Sunday evening should be interesting.

Mike BDecember 19, 2008 10:27 PM

Whoa. As an airport employee, I know that I can't get anyone around security or my career is gone and I'd probably get arrested. If we need a repairman, we have to let TSA know about the situation ahead of time and then bring him through security.

I'd hate to travel through this guy's airport...sounds dangerous.

WarLordDecember 20, 2008 12:50 AM

Greetings

Be serious, its a game that nobody on the clock wants to play.

The magic wand is a service truck with a logo, same logo on work shirt with name stitched over pocket.

See the servive van parked in red zone, see me filling up 2 wheel cart. See security guard holding door.

This is simple stuff, I could be hauling a hundredweght of contraband into the security bubble but luckily me and my peers are just there to fix shit quickly and leave just as quickly.

But make no mistake if a person offered a repair guy serious money to deliver an item inside the airport behind the TSA screen - it would be EASY!!

A porous pointless system is really not to be relied on, its merely that the folks who need that "service" are so few and far between, its not that airport security would ever catch the illiciit delivery

PeteDecember 20, 2008 9:13 AM

You people are unreal. It seems that unless someone gives you a personal tour and explanation of everything that happens in a US airport, you dont understand and feel the need to criticize. Do you really want to know how tough airport security is? Get a part time job at your local airport and experience firsthand what thousands of airport employees do. Most have to go through security screening to go to work. Some can bypass it, by using a SECURED backdoor, which access is given to only after a very stringent background check and constant scruitiny. Airport workers get arrested, fined and go to jail for violating security measures. It better be A LOT of money for that 25 year old kid to risk letting him bring bad stuff in.

Just like you and me, these guys work for a living. to support themselves and their families. They have a passion for what they do or they wouldnt go through the hassles; theyd just go work at walmart or something. They do care. No system is perfect. Im sure there are hazzardous flaws in YOUR work enviorment too.

Fact of the matter is, without full cavity searches, things in the airports are pretty secure in the US overall. Theres always room for improvement, but then travelers will complain about constitutional rights and privacy. They already complain constantly that theres too much security.

Think for a moment what security at airports would be like without TSA's "gestapo tactics"? Was anyone at louis Armstrong airport after Katrina? Thats a pretty good idea of lax security. Assessing prioritys. Moving people at any expense. Keeping you happy.

Personally, I dont want to sit on a plane with some jerk holding a big kitchen knife to cut his apple up. I dont want to sit next to a hunter carrying all of his unused ammo back home. And I certainly dont want to sit next to a gunslinger who feels that his CWP allows him to carry a pistol anywhere, even on a plane.

I applaud airport security. Shore it up and make it stronger. Enhance it where you can. As the threats change, so should security measures. Many of you here cite pre-9/11 thought processes and unrealistic expectations. You never know who youre dealing with; thats why cops carry guns. Thats why airline passengers get screened. Thats why that 25 year ld kid STAYED with the kitchen maytag repairman the whole time, and escorted him out when he was done.

Theres alot more that goes into airport security than you or I will ever see or hear. TSA siezes hundred of thousands of "weapons" and prohibited items every year, and prosecutes thousands of them, many of them for violations of security by other than passengers. I bet they (or someone else at the airport) are indeed watching every dooray, hallway, and parking lot. Where do you think that "9-11 fee" on your ticket price actually goes?

If you have a better idea, take it to your congressmen, your local airport, or TSA.
But stop beating up airport employees for doing their jobs. Experts in the industry have dictated their directives, and they are following them, and sometimes exceeding them.

And next time you fly, stop whining about removing your jacket and your shoes. You asked for them to make you safe, and they are. And theyre doing it very well.

John ScholesDecember 20, 2008 10:28 AM

@Pete

You are half right. Most terrorists are bizarrely incompetent. So measures which an expert could easily circumvent work surprisingly well against most terrorists. They are often much better than nothing.

But that is not a reason for not trying to do better. I am in the UK. We have always had a major problem here because "security" issues are off-limits for serious political discussion. The consequence is that the security organizations are more incompetent than they need be. That is the problem with inadequate oversight.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 20, 2008 1:11 PM

@Pete
"I applaud airport security."

Do not mistake your opinion for a fact.

There was a previous article about how baggage handlers were stealing items from luggage. Lots of items.

"It better be A LOT of money for that 25 year old kid to risk letting him bring bad stuff in."

Or the kid has a drug problem or gambling debts or whatever. We've been over that also in these discussions. That has also been discussed here. And that's not even considering whether he was sympathetic to a terrorist cause.

"And next time you fly, stop whining about removing your jacket and your shoes. You asked for them to make you safe, and they are. And theyre doing it very well."

I guess that's your definition of "very well". But the facts don't support it.

Every time anyone tests the system, the system fails. People can get guns onto planes. That has been covered here as well.

Not to mention the dreaded 3 oz. rule. Because multiple terrorists will NEVER fly together.

The only reason that it appears to be working is because there are so few terrorists capable of carrying out that same attack again.

And I'm not even going to go into the "logic" of "collecting" whatever "forbidden" materials are discovered in your luggage ... and then allowing you to fly anyway. Take away my tube of toothpaste because I might be a terrorist with a gel explosive ... but let me on the plane anyway after you've taken away what you believe to be my only weapon?

Never mind the ease of which anyone can drive a van filled with explosives right up to the terminal and kill a few hundred people during the high traffic periods (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc).

Even without the high explosives, a few people armed with guns can do a lot of damage. Look at Mumbai.

No, the TSA is all about making people who do NOT understand security FEEL safer by making their trips more arduous. The real terrorists won't care about the extra time or extra effort. They'll have scouted a way around it.

BobDecember 20, 2008 11:35 PM

@Pete


>Personally, I dont want to sit on a plane with some jerk holding a big kitchen knife to cut his apple up.

I don't either, but only because I think he'll cut himself and bleed on me. That's just me, assessing his common sense based on choice of knife size. If I recognized him as Gordon Ramsey or Tony Bourdain, then my fears are assuaged.


>I dont want to sit next to a hunter carrying all of his unused ammo back home.

You're right. It should be stored safely in the cargo hold, where it is on more flights than you realize. That's always been where I've stored my ammo: in my checked luggage.


>And I certainly dont want to sit next to a gunslinger who feels that his CWP allows him to carry a pistol anywhere, even on a plane.

I think that was already taken care of in the 60's or 70's, what with all the hijackings to Cuba. There were walk-through metal detectors in airports for a long time before 9/11. And there were X-ray machines, too.

It's all the EXTRA stupid crap that's been added that has travelers thinking the TSA is nuts. Like getting stopped because I had a bottle of wine in my carryon, or making me walk through spilled soft drink in a metal detector wearing just my socks. And I used to always carry a small pocket knife, but not now, because IT'S A FELONY.

Overall I don't feel any safer, just more harrassed.


Anne O'NymousDecember 20, 2008 11:47 PM

@Mike B

"I'd hate to travel through this guy's airport...sounds dangerous."

No more than any other airport. Remember that getting inside the secure perimeter of any airport is equivalent to getting inside the secure perimeter of EVERY airport. Once you're in (or the materials you have are in), you are "Free to move about the country" as the Southwest Airlines slogan put it.

Because the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And you ARE the weakest link. Goodbye.

a travellerDecember 21, 2008 5:07 AM

@Thunderbird:
"Out of idle curiosity, have you actually read ATSA - the law that created TSA? No? I thought not."
No, You't right I didn't read it.
However I tried to read the regulations which control what I can and can't take onboard.
The answer is "These measures are contained in restricted documents and thus can only be disclosed to those parties responsible for implementing them."

"TSA appears to have gone way ahead of that mandate and is trying to deal with what will exist next year."
But unfortunately they do it in secret, meaning everybody else have to adapt to them without knowing what to adapt to. Are you saying that this is how it should be?

"do you blame the military for the war in Iraq? Of course not, or at least I would hope not."
Yes I do blame them! Don't forget military includes not only the foot soldiers but the "big bosses" too.

"Why, then, do you blame TSA for trying to shore up at least one part of a falling wall?"
Once again. I had a 3cm letter opener confiscated, because it is dangerous.
OK, I might understand this, but why didn't they confiscate it the previous 5 times and also the next time I was flying? Was it only dangerous that one time?
When I asked them how much more dangerous it is than say a broken bottle, I got the answer that "a knifi is a knife so it's forbiden, while a bottle is a bottle so it's OK".
This is NOT security!!!

"Either support TSA and its officers, or some up with something better."
I don't support TSA, and here is something better:
Weld the cockpit door shut. This way the plane can't be hijacked wihout the
pilots being involved.
Install bottles of sleeping gas in the passenger compartment which can be remotely opened from the cockpit in case of trouble.
Install a lockable box where all the questionable objects can be put during the flight. (by questionable I mean if any passenger or flying crew doesn't like it, it goes into the box, you can have it back at the destination)
Remove the "shoes off-belt off" checkpoints, spend the money on inteligence.
The worse it can happen this way is the plane being blown up, but this can happen now anyway, so we wouldn't lose anything on security, but winn a lot in convenience.

@Mike B:
"I know that I can't get anyone around security or my career is gone and I'd probably get arrested."
And I know that this would be the least of your problems if you were a terrorist aid!
In other words this will hold back the good but not the bad guys.

@Pete:
"Do you really want to know how tough airport security is?"
I know how tough it is. I know of several ways to smugle in a box cutter.
And what if I get cought? Nothing! They confiscat it or give it back to me
to check it in (meaning go back and try again).
And don't tell me a box cutter is no security risk, because exactly the TSA is telling me that it is!

"It better be A LOT of money for that 25 year old kid to risk letting him bring bad stuff in."
So tell me how much would be that sum so that a well organised terrorist group can't afford to pay it. 10 years salary of that 25 year old kid? 20 years salary? 200 years salary? That's peanuts for them!

"TSA siezes hundred of thousands of "weapons" and prohibited items every year"
Judging from the fact that when I tryed to carry a knife onboard 9 times out of 10 I succeded, how many millions of items are let through?
This is not security, it's a "show".

"I applaud airport security. Shore it up and make it stronger. Enhance it where you can."
It doesn't need enhancement, it needs a completely new approach!

"If you have a better idea, take it to your congressmen, your local airport, or TSA."
Unfortunately we have no right to know what exactly they are doing as it is confidential.

@Bob:
"And I used to always carry a small pocket knife, but not now"
That's if they find it. Which is not the case most of the time.


AnonymousDecember 21, 2008 5:50 AM

@Michael Ash

Well, no. A major (but certainly not the only) source of our lack of terrorism is simply a lack of terrorists. Lack of exploitation doesn't necessarily prove that the system is secure, it could simply prove that few people are trying to exploit it.

Far more common are people wanting to smuggle goods or steal the property of passengers/air crews. Of course making a big fuss about "terrorism" may result in systems which are easier for "regular" criminals to exploit. e.g. preventing luggage being locked with secure locks.

Thinking Outside of the BOXDecember 21, 2008 8:32 AM

What is with the comment about the 25 year old? What does his age have anything to do with it? There are many more that are serving America (In the Military) and are much younger. Are you saying that the only old people should be serving and sealing with Security. Think before you imply!

Michael AshDecember 21, 2008 11:07 AM

@ Anonymous

An excellent point about making the system easier to exploit by regular criminals. This comes up frequently for me when I travel to China. In China you lock your luggage, period. Not doing so is like having a gigantic "steal me" sign attached. In the US, you can't lock your luggage. When taking a flight from one to the other, it gets annoying. I've used TSA-approved locks with success, but I'd much rather be able to use something that many thousands of people didn't have the keys to.

dctDecember 21, 2008 10:16 PM

Forget knives, the last flight I was on they were handing out soda cans as part of the drinks service, i.e. the ones you can rip up with a little effort and get lots of very sharp, jagged edges very easily.

JimFiveDecember 22, 2008 2:00 PM

@a traveller

re: Shoes off, belt off checkpoints.

I agree, the shoes off is stupid. But the belt off is expediency. Some belt buckles set off the metal detector. It speeds up the screening process if they don't have to rescan or wand all of those people.

I have no problem with procedures designed to speed up the process at such a minor cost. And I don't think anyone is claiming that this is anything else.
--
JimFive

a travellerDecember 22, 2008 4:36 PM

@JimFive:
"I agree, the shoes off is stupid. But the belt off is expediency. Some belt buckles set off the metal detector. It speeds up the screening process"
When I asked at the checkpoint last time I got the explanation that they need to xray it because I could hide a knife in it.

But anyway, why do we need metal detectors? We don't have them on trains, busses and tubes.
Weld the cockpit doors shut and give the pilots the possibility to put to sleep everybody in the passenger area in case of trouble.
I can't see any way of hijacking a plane in these conditions, unless one of the pilots is involved.
There is still the chance to explode the plane, but there is the same chance now.

Clive RobinsonDecember 23, 2008 10:58 AM

@ a traveller,

"...give the pilots the possibility to put to sleep everybody in the passenger area in case of trouble."

It sounds like a nice idea but it will not work.

There are no gases that can be released into the air that causes people to just go to sleep. Most used for anisthesia are also respitory depresents that means you will be killing some whilst others are still awake (this is something the Russian's discovered in a well publicised hostage case a few years back).

A secondary problem is,

"Weld the cockpit doors shut"

Most modern airframes are made of light metals as are the majority of the passenger compartment bulkheads (and even the floor). They will not actually withstand a determined attack by a couple of individuals.

Although it would be possible to make the required modifications to prevent it this would mean a significant loss for the Airlines. And as the debacle over smoke hoods should this is not going to happen, the incidence of hijacking etc is to low to justify the cost.

And as has been suggested in the past the fastest way to get rid of the TSA is make the airlines pay for it...

JimFiveDecember 23, 2008 11:35 AM

@a traveller
And, In fact, I've seen ads for belt buckle knives. My point was that it is more convenient overall to have everyone remove belts before the checkpoint instead of slowing down the line everytime a buckle sets off the metal detector.

Re: I can't see any way of hijacking a plane in these conditions [Secure door/gas]
A gas mask and a lot of bullets (or, if the gas is really effective, a sharp knife.)
Terrorist on intercom to pilots, land in Cuba or I will start shooting passengers. The sleeping gas just helps the terrorist out as he doesn't have to keep control of as many hostages.
--
JimFive

TruePathDecember 27, 2008 2:49 AM

@Clive Robinson


@ a traveller,
"...give the pilots the possibility to put to sleep everybody in the passenger area in case of trouble."
It sounds like a nice idea but it will not work.
There are no gases that can be released into the air that causes people to just go to sleep. Most used for anisthesia are also respitory depresents that means you will be killing some whilst others are still awake (this is something the Russian's discovered in a well publicised hostage case a few years back).

Yes, but it's still better than killing everyone on the plane.

Still it's equally silly and unnecessery as most of the TSA procedures. The prepared terrorist would use medical conditions to bring oxygen bottles past security and provide their own air supply. Or simply seize the bottles already on the plane before the gas was released.

Moreover, we can achieve the same goal more effectively by modifying planes so that someone on the ground (president? Top generals?) has secret codes allowing them to seize control of any plane chaging it's course without proper justification.

Sure, it's expensive but we could then hugely scale back airline screening to where it was back in the 70s or reduce it even further. At this point trying to take over an airplane and demand it do as you request becomes simply impossible and airplanes make no better targets than subways.


"Weld the cockpit doors shut"
Most modern airframes are made of light metals as are the majority of the passenger compartment bulkheads (and even the floor). They will not actually withstand a determined attack by a couple of individuals.

One might also point out that placing several strong bars across the inside of the cockpit door would probably be more effective at keeping out attackers than welding.

-------

However, in terms of the larger picture adding any security to airplanes after 9/11 was a mistake. We should have reduced the resources we invested in airline security Instead we should have used those resources to protect chemical plants and other currently vulnerable targets. It's counterintuitive but the 9/11 hijackings themselves did more than anything else (including reinforced cockpit doors) to decrease the chances of any subsequent hijackings. Knowing what happened in 9/11 airline passengers will fear any hijackers mean to kill them anyway and hence will resist the hijackers even at a grave risk to their own lives (as we saw with United flight 51). Not only does this mean succesfull hijackings will become much more infrequent but potential hijackers themselves realize this and will thus be much less likely to attempt hijackings.

What charachterized the 9/11 attacks and made them so effective was not the use of airplanes per see but the use of a novel tactic we had not defended against or planned for. Hijacking airlines is no longer such an attack so it's stupid to spend money on it in the name of defeating terrorism.

------

This having been said establishing a federal organization to do security theater at the airports wasn't such a bad idea. The public was afraid of air travel and needed to be assured that something was being done. They likely would not have felt safe flying even if they intellectually believed the explanation I gave above. The problem with the TSA is that they took their job too seriously, used too much money and actually started inconvieniencing us instead of merely reassuring us.

Allan DyerJanuary 15, 2009 6:01 AM

Two personal anecdotes:

The first time I flew to the USA, pre 911, at the end of the trip I had a connection in San Jose. Got off the domestic flight, followed the signs, reached the gate for the international flight, no sign of immigration, customs or security. My main concern was that I might be labelled as overstaying if I didn't hand my departure card in.

Airport security can be done right. For a short time, I was a contractor in a non-USA airport. Everyone had to pass through the security checks to go airside - employees & aircrew get their own channel, but that just shortens the queue length, it doesn't bypass the metal detector or x-ray machine. Getting out, a guard checked your ID and you passed through a one-way gate. If I needed a screwdriver, there was a form, checked in and out.

My impression is that USA airports are about as secure as a shopping mall, and the restaurant equipment repairman's story confirms that. Talk to the airport architects, tell them to put a "wall" between airside and groundside!

TexJanuary 16, 2009 2:02 AM

@Pete & Thunderbird

Look, I've invented "anti-elephant spray." It works great, and I can prove it! You haven't seen any elephants around, have you?

There are lots of people who don't agree with the war in Iraq. However, they don't hold the individual soldiers in low regard. Likewise, I don't think most people feel animosity towards the individual TSA employee. However, we are frustrated at the TSA as an organization. They are the 'face' of the regulations and other stupidity (aka insecurity theater) so we use their name as the name of the problem. This is the same as saying 'the war in Iraq' when we really mean that we don't like the decision that our 'leaders' in Washington made.

As far as suggestions of what we should be doing ... I think the following is simple, inexpensive, and much more effective.
1) Eliminate all current airport security checkpoints and personnel.
2) Put an umbrella can next to each jetway and fill it with short swords. Any passenger that wants one can pick one up as they board the plane (please return them to the can at your destination).

As TruePath pointed out, hijacking a plane ceased to be a threat after 9/11 simply because the passengers will not stand for it. They will rise up and overpower a hijacker. And, BTW, if the FAA had not lied to us for years starting in the 1970's about 'cooperating with the hijacker is the best course of action,' 9/11 would NEVER have happened.

Let's examine the odds here. Assume that hijackers want to take over a flight for some reason. Given a plane with say 200 passengers on-board what percentage of them are hijackers? 10% would be a huge number, but let's go 'all in' and assume 25% of the passengers on the flight are hijackers. That means 50 hijackers and 150 'good guys'. Further, assume there is a rule in place that prevents passengers from carrying so much as a pair of nail clippers. That means that you have 50 armed hijackers (since they do not abide by rules) and 150 unarmed victims.

On the other hand, if EVERYONE (instead of just the bad guys) is permitted to carry whatever they want, the 50 hijackers have no idea who might be armed and with what type of weapon. I like the odds in the second case much better! I'd rather have everyone armed because I know that hijackers are a very small percentage of the population (much less than 25%).

If the purpose of the TSA is to 'protect us' or to 'secure air travel' or 'make me feel warm and fuzzy' or anything remotely similar then they are doing a staggeringly poor job of it. I feel MUCH LESS secure today than I did on 9/10. I feel it is perfectly appropriate for us (as in "We The People") to voice our opinions and concerns. I am very grateful for people like Bruce who stand up and say what needs to be said. Someone has to be the rally point for any movement and I'm very happy that Bruce is willing to do that. Pete and Thunderbird are welcome to continue to shove their heads in the sand, but the rest of us would like to eliminate the stupidity. Discussion is the first step.

SommerfeldtFebruary 10, 2009 6:42 AM

I have a bit of a hard time believing the original post here - or rather, the quoted person in the original post.
As a rule, any airport is divided into a "green zone" and a "red zone". The red zone being the "airside", i.e. where the planes are and people have been screened, and the green zone, where the public enters the terminal and everything before the checkpoint.
Now, anyone - that always includes airport staff, aircrews, TSA officers for that matter and outside contractors - that wants to enter the red zone has to be screened, and anything they are bringing with them.
Escorts are used, of course, but if they are to escort a contractor bringing in tools, they have to be cleared to do so, and in most cases their ID badges will show that authority.
Also...if you're a dishwasher repairman - like the original quoted person - you would never ever be allowed onto the tarmac. Except, perhaps, on Hicksville Airport, Haircare and Tire Center. Which is most likely the place where this person works.

And Bruce... you know as well as anyone that a security theater isn't your term. It's a general classification of a security operation that plays on the "see and be seen" scheme, i.e. a deterrent function. That doesn't mean the operation doesn't have other sides to it.

JustLaughingJuly 21, 2009 6:28 PM

What's even worse though is that it wouldn't matter much anyway as all the TSOs I've seen so far are not armed anyway so if they found out someone had an MP5 under their jacket and some C4 they would just drop to the floor and bleed out, while the bastard arms and or sets off the C4, so I fail to see the point.

Reminds me of going to my local grocery (Kroger) or department store (Wal-Mart) with their un-armed security, WTH are they gonna do for me, I wonder as I walk past them with my legally concealed handgun, plus thirty rounds of .40S&W and a can of pepper spray, ohhh, they have a cell phone, yeah, well me too and the cops are always late, so that's why I have the Glock and the pepper spray as well as a lot of training in defensive tactics, including ground combatives. I'm so glad they have such high security looking after us all in these places it makes me feel much safer and they wonder why they have so much crime in their parking lots. Well, here's a tip it takes big brass balls to go ask some punk what he's doing hanging around on the property when you know he probably has a weapon and you know damn well you don't. ;)

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