TSA Aiding Luggage Thieves

In this story about luggage stealing at Los Angeles International Airport, we find this interesting paragraph:

They both say there are organized rings of thieves, who identify valuables in your checked luggage by looking at the TSA x-ray screens, then communicate with baggage handlers by text or cell phone, telling them exactly what to look for.

Someone should investigate the extent to which the TSA's security measures facilitate crime.

Posted on December 2, 2008 at 2:15 PM • 61 Comments

Comments

Dave AronsonDecember 2, 2008 2:46 PM

And they want us to leave our bags unlocked, or locked with locks that are TSA-approved (read: baggage handlers will get the keys from their TSA partners). Riiiiiight. If they want to look in my luggage, let 'em call me on the PA system, or break the lock -- at least then I'll know to check all the valuables!

RalphBDecember 2, 2008 2:57 PM

This just happened to me on a recent flight. Everything of value was removed from a checked bag en route. Some of the stolen items were pretty deeply buried so they seemed to know exactly where to look. Luckily, almost everything of value was in my carry-on so I didn't lose too much.

sbrDecember 2, 2008 3:10 PM

Seems to be SOP. Happened to me as well a few years ago at Frankfurt.

If you look at the facts realistically, you'll realize that your biggest threat is the TSA (and their foreign counterparts). We'd be much safer without them.

AlexDecember 2, 2008 3:12 PM

I'm not convinced. Usually the set-up of the screening points does not allow you to stand close to the screener - at least not for longer than a very short time.
Besides, I really can't remember the last time I put anything valuable in my check-in luggage. Luggage theft is nothing new is it?

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2008 3:12 PM

The implication of the paragaraph is that those employed to do the X-Ray screening are part of a gang of thieves...

So either the TSA employee screening is compleatly inadiquate, or screened employees are easily co-opted to work with a gang of crooks.

Therefor the TSA need to actually examine the CCTV footage of who is on or adjacent to the X-Ray machine when a bag goes through (in the same way dealers at tables in casinos are monitored).

Further to limit or stop fraudulat claims by passangers they need to "video record" what the operator actually sees on the screen.

It would then require only releativly simple tying together of employee deployment logs and the video footage.

Although not perfect it would significantly reduce the incidence of thefts/claims.

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2008 3:19 PM

I forgot to mention that all the TSA employees should not be allowed to take mobile phones etc on shift with them.

Simply making all of them and the bagage handlers walk through a metal detector at the begining and end of their shift as well as random screenings on every shift would make this type of activity considerably more difficult as well as increasing passenger safety.

But of course that involves spending money on an activity that is not a core TSA interest as unlike a casino or store they bear no loss from the thefts...

Bryan FeirDecember 2, 2008 3:21 PM

@Clive Robinson:
Except that reducing the incidence of thefts probably isn't a high priority to them, as long as they can keep claiming that any particular theft is an isolated incident. After all, actually doing something about it would (A) require work and (B) probably make the systemic problems even more public in the process.

If there's one thing that should be obvious from history, especially to this crowd, it's that any sufficiently large organization will treat security problems as PR problems as long as they can get away with it.

Mace MonetaDecember 2, 2008 3:21 PM

How hard would it be to put fake valuables in luggage with exploding dye packs (like the ones banks use)?

Weeding out the criminal handlers is trivial. That the TSA hasn't done this makes them culpable.

Adrian LopezDecember 2, 2008 3:23 PM

"And they want us to leave our bags unlocked, or locked with locks that are TSA-approved (read: baggage handlers will get the keys from their TSA partners)."

I wouldn't mind using TSA-approved locks as long as the TSA is held financially responsible for each and every item stolen from luggage that is so protected.

GeorgeDecember 2, 2008 3:30 PM

The opportunities the TSA creates for facilitating crime are pretty obvious. Besides the chain of custody problems created by inspection of baggage away from passenger view (and the requirement to keep bags unlocked to compensate for the indequacies of the scanning machines), there's the confusion factor at passenger screening checkpoints. The continual stressful distractions of separating laptops, freedom baggies, and shoes; the metal detectors, and the need to put shoes back on while balancing on one foot all create golden opportunities for thieves. The TSA may insist that they only protect against terrorism and it's the passenger's job to protect his belongings against theft. But their procedures make that nearly impossible.

While Michael Chertoff and Kip Hawley would surely disagree, "security" means more than the very narrow mission of preventing one specific terrorist threat. A 9/11-style terrorist attack may be spectacular and devastating, but it's exceedingly rare. Conversely, airport thefts may not be a threat that merits the attention of Mssrs. Chertoff and Hawley, but they are threats just the same. Arguably, the threat of theft may be more devastating in the aggregate than terrorism simply because it's so common and affects so many people. A "security" regime that myopically focuses on the former while ignoring (or perhaps even facilitating or encouarging) the latter is by any definition a failure. And that pretty much sums up the TSA.

Brad HicksDecember 2, 2008 3:31 PM

Yep. At the top of the list of reasons I stopped flying: they won't let me carry some of my valuables with me in carry-on luggage, and they won't let me lock my checked bags? Screw that.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 2, 2008 3:34 PM

In the 1970s and 80s this used to be the norm and thus a stereotype in "third world" travel. The joke was that valuables in bags were like gifts to the customs handlers. As time goes by it seems the US increasingly resembles countries like Nigeria rather than Canada, and not because things are getting any better in Nigeria.

StanDecember 2, 2008 3:44 PM

For those who don't like leaving their bags unlocked - buy some colourful zip-ties (not the standard black or white ones) and use that in place of a lock on your bag. Put a pair of snips in one of the outside pockets so you can open it up at the other end of your trip. When you get your luggage, check the zip tie. If it is gone, head directly to baggage services and inspect the contents.

Since I started doing this, I have not actually had a single bag opened (maybe 40 flights without a single extra inspection, where before I would get the "TSA Note" about 10% of the time.)

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2008 3:47 PM

I suspect if immunity was removed from the TSA and passengers / airlines / airport operators where allowed to sue for compensation then the situation would change almost over night.

Would messers Chertoff and Hawley realy want to stand up and defend >20% of their budget going in "lost lugage compensation" to a pannel of congress men in open hearings?

Probably not, and this would help "focus their attention".

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2008 3:56 PM

A random thought,

It does present a business oportunity...

Would UPS/TNT etc like to do a "to your hotel" valuables service.

That is they simply set up a booth in the airport where you can have your valuables carried by them to your hotel for say 40USD...

ScaredDecember 2, 2008 3:57 PM

@Stan: that's exactly what my brother did when traveling to the former USSR on business. They didn't even have standard tie-wraps over there, and it kept the luggage safe.

Anyway this whole story shows we have to have someone who watches the ones who watches us, and then someone who can watch them. This is how they achieved full employment in the former East-block, and very soon in the US as well.

JasonDecember 2, 2008 3:58 PM

What do you expect of an agency that has nearly unlimited power to harass and detain people yet has no oversight into their day-to-day practices.

These employees are only human. You can't expect all of them to be honest when there is no system in place that actually requires it or verifies it.

Who would the "authorities" believe? You? Or the employee who's job it is to handle your baggage?

fRISBEEDecember 2, 2008 4:35 PM

It would be easy to rig your suitcase with a small digital recorder, so that when the case is open, it records the theft. Then you could bait the luggage with fake jewelry.

Seems the TSA might want to run some stings.

Also--I have a hardtime believing that that X-Ray inspector can identify a bag for pilferage later. Most people can barely identify their own suitcase at baggage claim, let along singling out a specific suitcase that could be on any of a hundred flights (unless it's being done immediately after xraying, right behing the wall).

edDecember 2, 2008 4:35 PM

@Stan

I've been using colored cable-ties for many years, even when I'd also use a padlock (the tie was my tamper-evident seal). Before 9/11, I never once saw my colored ties removed. After 9/11, twice. Once, my ties were replaced with clear ties, and there was an inspection notice inside. Once, it was left with no locks or ties at all, and the inspection notice.

nacho December 2, 2008 4:37 PM

Mace Moneta, the last thing i would like to do is putting intentionally some explosive inside my luggage, but it wasn't a bad idea.

Tony H.December 2, 2008 4:37 PM

@Stan:
"For those who don't like leaving their bags unlocked - buy some colourful zip-ties (not the standard black or white ones) and use that in place of a lock on your bag. Put a pair of snips in one of the outside pockets so you can open it up at the other end of your trip.
When you get your luggage, check the zip tie. If it is gone, head directly to baggage services and inspect the contents."

Nail clippers work well for cutting the tie, and they can be carried on. On the other hand you have to keep your tie(s) for the next leg of the trip handy, and it's not clear to me if those can be carried on. "Plastic handcuffs", you know.

"Since I started doing this, I have not actually had a single bag opened (maybe 40 flights without a single extra inspection, where before I would get the "TSA Note" about 10% of the time.)"

They probably think it's their tie-wrap, and your bag has already been inspected...

edDecember 2, 2008 4:45 PM

The difficulty with videotaping the xray screeners and correlating it with what's on-screen is that the assigned screener isn't the only TSA person who can see that screen. Supervisors can walk in and out. Probably multiple other TSA low-levels can also move in and out, glancing at the screen. It might even be set up so other airport personnel can see the screen without anyone especially noticing it.

It all comes down to one thing: who watches the watchers?

Oh, and one other thing: because public confidence is a crucial part of TSA's performance, any misbehavior must be dismissed as an isolated event. There is no way that Kip Hawley or anyone else in TSA is gonna admit there's any problem worth adding any safeguards for. Doing so is antithetical to the whole of its theatrical performance. It destroys the willing suspension of disbelief.

marijaneDecember 2, 2008 4:47 PM

@Stan

I used cable ties on a bag once. When I reached my destination, the tie had been snipped, the bag was partially open (which was precisely what I was trying to avoid) and there was the note from the TSA inside. Thankfully, nothing was taken.

ReynoldsDecember 2, 2008 5:18 PM


`
[ "Someone should investigate the extent to which the TSA's security measures facilitate crime. "]

.

Warrant-less general search of travelers' baggage "is" a crime... of vast extent !

Such searches are expressly prohibited by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Just who is this "someone" you hope will enforce the law ??

GeorgeDecember 2, 2008 6:26 PM

@ed: Oh, and one other thing: because public confidence is a crucial part of TSA's performance, any misbehavior must be dismissed as an isolated event. There is no way that Kip Hawley or anyone else in TSA is gonna admit there's any problem worth adding any safeguards for. Doing so is antithetical to the whole of its theatrical performance. It destroys the willing suspension of disbelief.

You're right that public confidence is a crucial part of the TSA's performance. Public confidence that the TSA is honest, effective, rational, competent, and no more intrusive than necessary will result in public cooperation that makes the TSA that much more effective. Conversely, when the public perceives the TSA as ineffective, dishonest, arbitrary, incompetent, and overly intrusive, whatever effectiveness the TSA might have is undermined (whether as security theater or as actual security). The latter is what we now have in the TSA.

Kip Hawley and his bosses are inherently unwilling to add safeguards against theft for several reasons. First, their mission is to prevent a repeat of 9/11 by closing the barn door after the horses escaped. Theft is outside their jurisdiction and "mission," so safeguards to protect baggage against theft would be a pointless distraction from their primary task of keeping contraband water and lip gloss off of airplanes.

Second, Hawley and company are loyal appointees of an administration that considers itself completely infallible and inherently incapable of error. A fetish for secrecy ensures that anything that might be misconstrued as a mistake by the liberal media gets covered up as much as possible. And any allegations of misbehavior, incompetence, or other problems that somehow evade the blanket of secrecy must be dismissed as the unpatriotic ranting of liberals who hate America and who want to aid the enemy. If that doesn't work, issue an official press release on Fox News declaring the misconduct an isolated incident perpetrated by a rogue agent who has been summarily dismissed, therefore the problem has been solved. The primary goal is to insulate Bush, Cheney, and the loyal inner circle of the administration from any accountability or responsibility so there are no valid grounds to challenge their infallibility.

Unfortunately, too many people are no longer willing to suspend their disbelief. That's why the TSA has a public relations problem so severe that even Kip Hawley can't ignore it or dismiss it. Unfortunately, his loyalty to his infallible bosses means that whatever he attempts to do to solve that problem will only make it worse. If you are incapable of admitting to problems that would cast doubt on the administration's infallibility, you can't even begin to solve them.

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2008 6:34 PM

Bruce,

It's off topic but you might want to have a look into the latest bad idea out of the EU.

It makes the TSA's demands to "examine your laptop" on US entry/exit look tame.

The initial statment about the plan was made on the 24 Oct by Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for freedom, security and justice. Who made it appear as just a reporting or alert system with,

"We fully support the initiative to set up the alert platform at Europol"

However the details of what the new funding to Europol and additional undisclosed funding to member states will be used for are starting to emerge and they are quite different.

Apparently the EU Commission has signed off on this plan to tackle hi-tech crime, because they belive,

"half of all internet crime involves the production, distribution and sale of child pornography"

The five year plan will,

1, Alow EU Forces to take part in "remote computer searches" to track down criminals.

2, Encorage information sharing between police forces in EU/EEA member nations and private companies.

3, Create "cross-border investigation teams" and "virtual force patrols" to "police the net".

Have the Commission been reading to much Tom Clancy...

Seriously though point one is possibly the biggest call for unwarented access to inoccent peoples computers I have heard of.

What has not yet been indicated is how they will gain "remote access" whilst only "searching for criminals"

What price human rights when we can claim to "save the children" with the Vice-President making statments like,

"the fight against child sexual abuse material on the Internet is an absolute priority for me and the Commission."

You can read a little more at,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7758127.stm

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2008 6:56 PM

@ kme,

"Clive: What, and concentrate all the most attractive theft targets in one place?"

Yes but with a very experianced organisation in who's interest it is to ensure your valuables arive safely.

More importantly from the "terrorist threat" issue, as the likes of UPS/FedEx operate their own planes, it does not represent any more of a terrorist threat than UPS/FedEx already present...

Which gives me another random thought 8)

Once upon a time, when you traveled by train all your bagage etc was put in the Guards van which was at the end of the train. One advantage of this was that if it was attacked or the lugage contained dangerous materials there was a reasonable safety gap between the passangers and the van.

In the same way perhaps it would be better if all passangers lugage was transported in a seperate airframe.

Afterall towing secondary unpowered airframes behind powered aircraft is not new technology ;)

AndrewDecember 2, 2008 7:13 PM

@ Michael Ash

"And we think these people would be immune to a bribe for letting a bomb get through?"

Actually, yes. I am not downplaying the seriousness of theft, but mass murder is on a whole different level. Even crooks have a conscience.

One reason to make sure that TSA doesn't screen for drugs, etc. is precisely to make sure that a TSA employee won't take a bribe to let "drugs" through . . . when the drugs are really a bomb, without the employee's knowledge.

You can't secure against all threats, after all, and the catastrophic threat of dropping a jetliner is much more serious than the minor threat of a pound of coke.

It is worth remembering that even criminals are essentially part of society, and that they don't like terrorists either.

andrewDecember 2, 2008 11:18 PM

Would we really be worse off if we simply eliminated the TSA and passenger security entirely and instead focused on cockpit and baggage security? If you can't steal the plane and you can't blow it up, why bother getting on?

MathFoxDecember 3, 2008 4:07 AM

andrew, doing a simple metal detector/X-ray check prevents most of the hijackings of planes. Before they were standard it happened several times per year that a pilot was asked by armed passengers to divert the plane to an other airport. (In most cases the hijackers just wanted to flee their country.)

So, the security checkpoint has value in preventing some kinds of attack.

Porlock JuniorDecember 3, 2008 4:30 AM

When thinking of sending your luggage by FedEx or UPS to avoid the spies and thieves working for the Government, you may wish to think about those two entities of Private Enterprise. Here is something that, though three years old, may clarify your thinking: http://porlockjr.blogspot.com/...

FedEx thinks it's a police agency. In fact, per the state of Tennessee, the FedEx security operation *is* a police agency. Their databases are open to search, not by warrant or by request, but at will, by Homeland Security.

UPS hands over information as required by law. The same, it appears, applies to the US Postal Service.

Choose your shipping agency on whatever grounds interest you.

JuanDecember 3, 2008 5:03 AM

The same happened in Argentina International Airport (Ezeiza).
A news channel uncover that the air force police and the handlers (is a private company) were in some kind of network, doing the same Bruce told.

Nomen PublicusDecember 3, 2008 5:09 AM

You have to remember that the TSA does not exist to protect passengers. They serve a political role as government ass-coverers.

The only reason[*] why they exist is so when the next plane is hijacked and passengers killed, the government can claim to have done what the could to prevent it.

[*]Apart from being a cash river for certain friends of the current administration.

Michael SeeseDecember 3, 2008 6:02 AM

This was touched on, but bears repeating. The TSA can demand that you fire up your laptop and let them inspect it upon entering the U.S. The privacy implications -- both for personal and corporate data -- are huge. I am employee of a financial institution. I have no way of knowing who will look at my computer, and who could make copies of my data. If I ever need to travel abroad with my laptop, I will make sure:

1. It is encrypted;
2. All of my data is backed up; and
3. There is nothing proprietary on it.

Then, if asked to produce the encryption password, my answer would be, "I'm sorry sir, but our corporate policies prohibit the sharing of passwords with anyone."

And, I would make sure I have the cell phone number of our best corporate attorney.

Michael Seese, Author of Scrappy Information Security

CalumDecember 3, 2008 6:25 AM

@Michael Seese

Michael, they can detain you indefinitely until you choose to co-operate. This is generally, perfectly legal. Your 4th amendment rights (even assuming you are an American) don't cover crossing the border.

Look into solutions which involve imaging your hard disk and downloading it and replacing it once you are across the border. This is what my company does (also financial services).

mcbDecember 3, 2008 8:07 AM

Nacho responded to Mace's idea about exploding dy packs...

"[T]he last thing i would like to do is putting intentionally some explosive inside my luggage..."

If their publicized test results are any indication, putting a simulated bomb in your checked bag makes it surprisingly certain the TSA won't take any interest in its contents.

Clive RobinsonDecember 3, 2008 8:15 AM

@Michael Seese,

You are a US citizen (I presume) and are making your comments with regards the US, have you considered the other end of your journy?

You say,

'...if asked to produce the encryption password, my answer would be, "I'm sorry sir, but our corporate policies prohibit the sharing of passwords with anyone."'

In the UK you would be looking at significant jail time for just saying that...

It is a criminal offense under RIPA to withhold a password or encryption key upon the legitimate request of an apropriate authority (signing keys are supposadly not covered by RIPA but you would need to convince a judge).

"And, I would make sure I have the cell phone number of our best corporate attorney."

Again in the UK this would not help you firstly it is an offense to operate an unortherised mobile phone in the customs and immigration areas.

Secondly under RIPA you would be committing another criminal offense if you spoke to your attorney about the request for your keys. Even for a UK solicitor they would be prohibited about talking to a third party (supposadly to stop other guilty parties being warned off).

So damed if you do and damed if you don't and upto five years in jail (possibly in solitary confinment) to think on it.

Then assuming you did not have the encryption key on you or knowledge of what it is (the only defense under RIPA) the minute you retrieved the key on a public communications network or a private one connected to a public network anywhere in the world you are required to hand it over to the UK authorities or go to jail for a lengthy period of time...

Oh and the UK does not care where you are landside, airside, on a plane or in another country this is blanket coverage...

Oh and assuming you retrieved the key in the EU then under the European Arrest Warrant back to the UK you go to sit and think on your own.

Thankfully some other nations take a slightly less liberal view of your liberty and would require an extradition hearing.

But then again some countries would just pop you on a plane to some country with little or no concern and extract the password along with your toe nails, teeth or other body parts (welcome to rendition air and for your comfort please put on the orange jump suit)...

The reality is if they want it you are going to give it up or spend time in a world of hurt, such is the reality of our current world situation.

IntelVetDecember 3, 2008 8:56 AM

"... doing a simple metal detector/X-ray check prevents most of the hijackings of planes."

Wrong! Adequate hijacking tools can be routinely made of materials transparent to "metal detector/X-ray check" devices. (A snapped CD has easily been shown to cleanly slash eight pig throats before the degraded edge requires more than one attack.)

Until shortly after the TSA was established, "security" required a laptop user to turn on their machine. (looking for?) Ignored in all that action was that a battery supply and an initiator were guaranteed. Not one agent ever looked in my spare battery slot, where they could have found (up to) four pounds of C4, making a more than adequate bomb.

It is far better to arm and secure the cockpit accompanied by FAMs in the cabin.(Although that FAM murder of a passenger in Miami was pathetically stupid for any number of reasons.)

BenDecember 3, 2008 2:32 PM

Instead of finding out how TSA policies help people commit crime why don't we do one better. How about finding and firing criminals in TSA's employ. Best to just get to the root of the problem. Then we also reduce our exposure to people trying to do bad things to us.

radicalthinkerDecember 3, 2008 3:36 PM

@Ben:

Why don't we go one better than that. Really go to the root of the problem. Get rid of the TSA and Homeland Security, and go back to the security checks we had in 1999.

Michael AshDecember 3, 2008 5:31 PM

All this talk of border crossings seems to be missing the point entirely. Yes, policies there are not good, but it has nothing to do with the TSA, which does not handle border crossings. Customs are done by the aptly-named Customrs and Border Protection. While both part of DHS, they aren't the same agency.

Laurie MannDecember 3, 2008 8:41 PM

I don't fly often, but I never put anything I care about in my suitcase, just clothes. I always carry on my laptop, camera, cell phone, medicines, toothbrush and one change of clothes. In 34 years of flying, usually with an unlocked suitcase, I've never had anything stolen.

I've worked in an airport, part time, for over a year, I usually don't see TSA down in the baggage area (where baggage is transferred onto carts to take to the planes) for other than inspections. I've never seen an airline or TSA employee open a suitcase away from the X-ray machine area. I'm not saying thefts never happen at the airport, but it just doesn't look to be very common.

I also wonder about security cameras, which are all over the place at most airports. If a theft ring is of any size, that mean the people who watch the monitors have to be in on it.

MarkDecember 4, 2008 3:57 AM

@Clive Robinson
So either the TSA employee screening is compleatly inadiquate, or screened employees are easily co-opted to work with a gang of crooks.

Probably a combination of both.

It isn't as if it is possible to keep criminals, even criminal gangs, out of regular law enforcement.

MarkDecember 4, 2008 4:04 AM

@Mace Moneta
How hard would it be to put fake valuables in luggage with exploding dye packs (like the ones banks use)?

If anyone tried this they'd probably wind up arrested for putting "a bomb" in their luggage. One of the ways in which law enforcement often reacts to "crooked cops" being outed by members of the public is to persue those members of the public.

@Mace Moneta
Weeding out the criminal handlers is trivial. That the TSA hasn't done this makes them culpable.

I don't thing it's likely to be that easy. Especially once you already have criminal gangs well established. Even dealing with "rogue individuals" requires the issue to be addressed at all levels of management.

Unfortunate LAX TransitterDecember 4, 2008 7:34 AM

I flew from Auckland to New York last year via LAX, and had a brand new wallet stolen. The wallet was a gift and had no currency in it.

kDecember 4, 2008 9:59 AM

at the bottom of the news story linked to in the OP there is a link to form on the news station's web site where one can search a database of claims made to the TSA for lost or stolen items. Where did they get those data?

I was wondering if anyone knew of link to the raw data? I want to draw some maps.

thanks.

gggDecember 4, 2008 11:31 AM

"Passengers at LAX say they are missing 645 digital cameras, 451 pieces of jewelry and 389 laptops. "

I'm surprised that so many people check these things. Electronics (especially laptops), jewelry and other valuables should always be carried-on. Don't have enough room in your bag? Go ahead and check the clothing and toiletries and stuff.. the less expensive items that are more easily replaced.

gggDecember 4, 2008 11:38 AM

"They gave us a surveillance video showing a woman taking off her jewelry at the checkpoint and putting it in one of those plastic bins. She then comes through the metal detector and forgets to pick it up, but the next passenger did! She dumps the contents in her own purse."

And again, common sense.. don't wear jewelry to the airport, or carry more in your pockets than you absolutely need to. All these things should be packed away in your carry-on beforehand. You'll have plenty of time to retreive them while waiting for your plane.

Plus this makes it easier to gather your stuff after screening, even if there wasn't a risk of theft. It's bad enough that you need to grab your carry-on, personal bag if you have one, shoes, ziplock baggie and laptop. Don't make it more complicated by throwing a bunch of loose stuff in the bin.

HJohnDecember 4, 2008 12:01 PM

@Clive: "Further to limit or stop fraudulat claims by passangers they need to "video record" what the operator actually sees on the screen."

I would think video is under utilized. I know they can't have every activity viewed, but the presense of video is often a powerful deterent.

I wonder if there would be a way that bags screened could enter the screening area and have the TSA unlock them if necessary, have a different person screen them, then have a different person ensure they are locked when they exit the area, all with cameras rolling. Perhaps they could use the barcode scanners to keep wndow of time when the bags are in a screening area. If theft is reported, they know what part of the video to look. Granted imperfect and not without problems, but the mere presence of such controls may deter the perpetrators.

I'm sure others can think of problems with my thoughts, but brainstorming may help find better ways.

BillDecember 5, 2008 5:48 AM

@Clive

In broad terms I agree with your rant about insane British laws.

However you can *always* talk to your legal council, in private, and the details are not subject to disclosure either.

At a minimum this would be to assess the veracity of the request for the keys. If the police (or others) ever tell you otherwise they are 'trying it on'.

Tell them you do not consent, and insist on your right to legal council.

John David GaltDecember 9, 2008 8:06 PM

And because they're federal officials, TSA screeners have "sovereign immunity" from being answerable after they steal from you. Sweet.

This is why I will not fly until the Keystone Gestapo are pulled out of the airports. (And if they have the nerve to show up on local buses and trains here as they have in some parts of the US, they'd better be prepared to use force.)

Old grey wiskersDecember 15, 2008 2:16 AM

The little "your bags have been searched" have no reason or tracking number associated with them. The constitution implies that reasonable searches are OK but searches without a reason do not appear to be covered. Each search needs a who why, when and where. I guess a random search is an OK reason but who searched the bag, where and when seem to be a minimum required audit trail. Since some will say that the why is classified -- OK it can be encoded to a relational data base.
Who flagged the bag for search, who opened it... when and where.

Without a "reason" anchored process the search and seizure are unconstitutional. As for the seizure part... the current procedure (no audit) is indistinguishable from theft.

As a minimum video audit should be done off site -- modern internet makes it easy to do from another state. Bar code read the audit tag, bar code the ID of the staff opening of the bag.. any bag opened without following a remote audit process -- well -- we may need a law but at a minimum it is abuse of authority and power.

PeterDecember 15, 2008 6:59 PM

My carry on bag was forced to be checked at the end of the Jetway because US Airways was full of travelers who carry on large rigid luggage on wheels that can only fit in overhead compartments. My softside leather bag was checked because I wanted to keep my Laptop with me. So at my destination, the bag came down the bagage claim zippered shut but without my valuables that were inside. It could have been stuffed under my seet with the laptop but they would not permit me to do it. They won a big one and I lost quite a bit + the aggravation of trying to recover from all this.

OutspokenDecember 19, 2008 11:00 AM

Like any organization there is good and bad in everything. As part of the TSA I know that the majority of Officers do there very best to show integrity ethics and dignity while doing their job. I do not believe what we do is theatrics and I take my job quite seriously. We ARE a deterent. We thrive to stay diligent and if we are aware of wrongdoing within it does get reported Like it should in any workplace. Do not stereotype those that truly thrive on a daily basis with the few that have not yet been weeded out. No organization is without issues The majority want you to land safely with all your property intact

Thinking outside of the BOXDecember 21, 2008 8:06 AM

Here are my thoughts:

1) How does or better yet how will TSA know you actually had that item in your bag that was reported stolen?

2) A forced carry-on bag being placed underneath the aircraft, does it get passed thru security again? Hmmm, maybe there is another player that is stealing the stuff from your bag...

3) Why search my bag, hmmm, here is the deal, if you want to fly you will consent to it if you don't want to fly, no problem and no bag search. It's as easy as that, forget about your rights for a minute and think about the bigger picture. I rather have every bag searched, every person searched that is on my flight and I gladly give up my right to have that done in a respectfull and professional manner.

4) THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!

AndresJanuary 4, 2009 11:18 PM

Today (January 1 2009) someone opened my checked luggage and stole a CD of Kaspersky antivirus and a 4 GB SD card from Miami International Airport!!

Dunmore ThroopOctober 21, 2009 2:15 PM

After losing some not-very-valuable items from my checked luggage last year I began packing some D-Con in old Vicodin prescription bottles I have. Only one has disappeared so far, but I'm hoping...

ajJanuary 24, 2010 10:12 PM

A brand new box of cell phone was stolen from Seattle. What makes you think they will be honest at the salary that they are living at. Most of these poeple are poor .I saw them smoking outside the building and bringing their lunch box at work .They are so many of them.The only way is to become high tech and check luggage without opening the luggage.This routine of hand inspection is BS. It is simply inviting them to steal anything from the luggage. I think we should show our frustration to our congress.I also learned not ever put anything that they will easily steal.

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