Another Scene from an Airport

I’ve gotten to the front of the security line at a different airport, and handed a different TSA officer my ID and ticket.

TSA Officer: (Looks everything over. Reads the name on my passport.) The Bruce Schneier?

Me: (Nods, managing not to say: “No no, just a Bruce Schneier; didn’t you hear I come in six-packs?”)

TSA Officer: The security expert?

Me: Yes.

TSA Officer: (Takes off his glove. Offers me his hand to shake.)

Me: (Shakes his hand.)

TSA Officer: I read your stuff all the time.

That’s twice in a row, after years of not being recognized by any TSA officer ever. This is starting to worry me.

Posted on May 28, 2010 at 12:00 PM108 Comments


Andre LePlume May 28, 2010 12:08 PM

Yeah, but did he pronounce “Schneier” properly? I have been surprised that some people think it rhymes with “skier”.

QnJ1Y2U May 28, 2010 12:22 PM

I’m telling you, Bruce, it’s the new photograph! It must be facial-recognition-software friendly.

just some guy May 28, 2010 12:25 PM

Hm, I wonder if this is a coincidence or if there is some sort of social network inside the TSA through which information about you has been propagated suddenly.

david May 28, 2010 12:33 PM

“No no, just a Bruce Schneier; didn’t you hear I come in six-packs?” Here’s you sign.

thomasb May 28, 2010 12:33 PM

Wow. Good news that front-line TSA employees are reading your stuff.

Maybe people higher up in the organization will start!

scared May 28, 2010 12:37 PM

I bet it’s like the Michelin star restaurants where they got pictures of the restaurant reviewers in the kitchen. I wonder why they have a picture of Bruce Schneier?
To be nice to him? Or……?!!

robert b May 28, 2010 12:38 PM

simple explanation: the TSA has informed all of its staff to watch out for this troublemaker! 😉

Rich May 28, 2010 12:41 PM

Me: (Nods, managing not to say: “No no, just a Bruce Schneier; didn’t you hear I come in six-packs?”)

Surely you’re not implying that the TSA is as obstinate as the receptionist at Megadodo Publications?!

Martijn Wismeijer May 28, 2010 12:42 PM

ha ha ha! LOL! I found that a lot of TSA employees have at least some interest in (IT)Security so it should come at no surprise that they recognize you. I once met one that was really knowledgeable in the Microsoft and Cisco fields and wondered why he was not working in IT but at an airport instead.

Besides, it’s a lot better if a TSA employee recognizes you than the staff at a local fast food outfit. 🙂

Erin May 28, 2010 12:51 PM

The paranoid part of me wonders whether this is some kind of hearts-and-minds campaign that they’re trying to wage through you…

Eric Thomas Black May 28, 2010 12:52 PM

Worry when they start putting on the gloves and ask you to step into the next room…

Milan May 28, 2010 1:04 PM

Maybe some information about you – or something you have written – got circulated as part of some sort of internal TSA bulletin.

If it included a photo, that could explain the sudden jump in recognition frequency.

B. D. Johnson May 28, 2010 1:05 PM

Nice to hear that there’s at least some line-level TSA out there who, judging by the fact that they recognize you, are at least reading (and hopefully learning).

Or TSA just put out a BOLO to keep you from getting any personal TSA “stories”

Embarassed May 28, 2010 1:22 PM

Okay. I’ll bite. I’m one who thought Schneier rhymed with liar. 😉

What is the proper pronunciation?

dlg May 28, 2010 1:25 PM

Maybe an internal memo had a link to one of your essays and some people picked up on it. In any case, it’s somewhat hard to think of this as a bad thing.

Andreas May 28, 2010 1:27 PM

I think the pronunciation tip was ambiguous

I think Bruce’s last name rhymes with “Higher” rather than “Beer”. The previous poster meant “Skier” to rhyme with “Beer”

Bruce can you provide a correct example so we can make sure we’re not killing your name

spaceman spiff May 28, 2010 1:37 PM

It’s probably Bruce “I don’t care what you call me, as long as it isn’t late for dinner!”… 🙂

William Beem May 28, 2010 1:37 PM

Go to Downtown Disney in Orlando with a camera on a tripod. I’ll guarantee that the security guys there either haven’t heard of you or don’t believe you.

Lee May 28, 2010 1:47 PM

They must be playing ‘Security Guru Bingo’.

These things tend to come in threes, expect another…

LeBleu May 28, 2010 1:49 PM

I thought the person who said about it rhyming with “Skier” did not mean rhyming with “beer”, but pronounced more like “Schnee-er” (ʃniˈər), two syllables.

kvenlander May 28, 2010 1:53 PM

I would expect that a year and half after a new administration starts, changes in hiring practices and personnel training could realistically start to trickle to the front line.

But then I’m a practising O-bot.

derf May 28, 2010 1:53 PM

“No, not THAT Bruce Schneier. I’m the one that tests TSA screening accuracy…ooops!”

John May 28, 2010 1:55 PM

You Sir, are today synononmous with IT security, so I’m not at all surprised that you are so recognized and treated with so much respect.

You bring so much thought leadership to the field and totally deserve all the recognition you get!

I’m a fan!


Sean May 28, 2010 2:01 PM

You know, Bruce, it might be that they’ve alerted everyone in the TSA to who you are, so they know they better be extra careful what they do in front of you.

GSE May 28, 2010 2:16 PM

Perhaps the second one read your previous post on being recognized and was inspired to speak up, as if to say “there are actually some intelligent people in the TSA” or maybe just mess with your mind. I’m sure that there is some sort of protocol about not acknowledging celebrities that they have followed in the past, in spite of recognizing you.

Harrkev May 28, 2010 2:19 PM

Now I need to get a job with TSA just to have the opportunity to meet the most famous Bruce since Bruce Lee and Bruce Campbell.

Nick P May 28, 2010 2:19 PM

@ Bruce Schneier

Hehe, I think you’re on a list now Bruce. A few of the watchers admire you. The others secretly long for you to make one wrong move. Too bad they weren’t watching when you pulled that saline stunt. 😉

David Donahue May 28, 2010 2:32 PM

Actually I think it’s a sign that the higher-ups in the TSA are supporting efforts to increase actual security by encouraging job skill improvement in TSA screeners.

I’d bet that more and more of the screeners are reading security books and security related articles on the Internet (including Bruce’s) and that’s a good thing.

If they can get trained on actually effective threat profiling and do discretionary additional screening without penalty, then the TSA screeners could become a useful tool in increasing on-board security.

Imagine that, go to the airport expecting security theater and end up actually being slightly more secure. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Dave May 28, 2010 2:36 PM

Ah ha! The next movie plot exploit — where the evil mastermind meticulously disguises himself as the foremost expert of the airport security; is recognized and then whisked right through (signing autographs as he goes).

His plot goes awry when one of the security guards realizes the autograph is not authentic!

Musashi May 28, 2010 2:37 PM

If the TSA are reading you, I certainly hope life will improve for the rest of us travellers.

tlb May 28, 2010 2:58 PM

Wouldn’t it be depressing if it turns out they recognized Bruce Schneier not because of any internal memo, but because the economy has caused a lot of people to work where ever they can?

Phillip May 28, 2010 3:01 PM

They have your picture behind their podium. The leadership has asked them to make special note and alert their supervisors when you walk through. A sort of watch list if you will, but your name is the only one on it. 😉

Clive May 28, 2010 3:34 PM

To state the obvious, if the second TSA officer reads your stuff all the time, he’ll presumably have read the story about the first TSA officer.

Perhaps TSA officers have been quietly recognising you for years and it’s only your previous posting that encouraged this second incident?

The next TSA officer who recognises you will probably explain this, having seen the second posting. (-8

Mike May 28, 2010 4:39 PM

It’s those 3170 results on google for


Even 83 for

schneier farce

NE Patriot May 28, 2010 5:05 PM

Now we know that the TSA is profiling for security theatre-aware travelers.

Oh wait. They don’t engage in profiling…

Tom T. May 28, 2010 6:05 PM

The upside is that you might actually get on the “Trusted List”, and get whisked through rapidly on future flights. There’s a “No-Fly” list; isn’t there a “Yes-Fly” list? If not, should be…

(Before someone says, “But what if he’s testing us?”, the answer would be that with Bruce’s reputation, he’s not going to do any actual harm with the bazooka or whatever that he sneaked through.)

Dave May 28, 2010 6:35 PM

My wife works for TSA and had heard of you. I work in IT, so I probably heard of you first. 🙂 I doubt she’d recognize you though.

Brian May 28, 2010 7:10 PM

After the Kip Hawley interviews, I’m not surprised you’d be more well known among TSA folks.

In any case, I’m always encouraged when government security people listen to to private citizens who are also experts in the field. That kind of thing fosters positive dialog between “protectors” and “protectees”, which is a vital part of good security.

GreenSquirrel May 28, 2010 7:20 PM

@ Mike at May 28, 2010 4:39 PM

That strikes me as a resonable explaination! 🙂

It seems the TSA are almost a link farm to this blog … 🙂

David May 28, 2010 8:36 PM


I will answer your question with another question: Which is more sincere? A gloved handshake or an un-gloved one?

gawaine May 28, 2010 10:53 PM

As long as he’s taking off the glove, and not putting on a latex glove, I wouldn’t sweat it.

Noggin May 29, 2010 12:03 AM

Around a year ago, I was flying out of a smaller airport on a 6 am flight in the middle of the week. There weren’t too many folks in the security line and as I presented my ID to the person at the front, she remarked to me in an excited tone that Serena Williams had just gone ahead of me, to the screening section. I subsequently noticed that Serena, by the way she was dressed and the glasses she sported, had taken reasonable efforts to not stand out — indeed no one else seemed to notice as she sat in the waiting area to board the flight we both were on. The security lady was good natured, but it made me wonder how anonymity can/will be easily blown away through these intentional name-picture checks at the head of the security check line.

RonK May 29, 2010 4:46 AM

This is starting to worry me

I think it’ll be mainly harmless until one of these TSA guys wants you to taste his new, terrific squid recipe. Which he’s been taking to work every day for the last year hoping he’ll chance upon you.

anon May 29, 2010 7:01 AM

“What is the proper pronunciation?”

Like Schneider without the ‘d’, I think.

Luke Morton May 29, 2010 9:17 AM

I would suggest they have always known who you are. Just after you made the post about the first TSA guy who actually had the courage to say something, now you have given them all free reign to do the same.

Redrobes May 29, 2010 11:39 AM

My experience has been that the people on the bottom rung of an organization know what sucks and applaud people to tell it like it is. Whether faking it or not, the two guys either slated their management or offered respect. That doesn’t seem as bad as it could have been.

Personally I think it might have something to do with that stars and stripes thumb and ass logo recently…

Lamont May 29, 2010 2:45 PM

next time bust out some rap…

‘Cause I’m Bruce Schneier, yes I’m the real Schneier,
All you other Bruce Schneiers are just imitating
So won’t the real Bruce Schneier please stand up,
please stand up, please stand up?

‘Cause I’m Bruce Schneier, yes I’m the real Schneier,
All you other Bruce Schneiers are just imitating
So won’t the real Bruce Schneier please stand up,
please stand up, please stand up?

Guess there’s a Bruce Schneier in all of us
F— it, let’s all stand up

Groucho Marx May 29, 2010 5:21 PM

Next time, wear a fake beard and moustache … oh, wait … well, shave or wear a fake non-beard, non-moustache. Borrow one of Donald Trump’s wigs. Put a fake scar on one side of the face, and a wash-off tattoo on the other. See if you get through unrecognized.

(Let’s also see how good their “facial recognition” — both electronic and human — really is. 😉

BF Skinner May 29, 2010 5:51 PM

Bruce gets fan boys

Always felt sorry for the blue hands people. The skin on their hands must get sick after hours a day.

anna May 29, 2010 8:02 PM

That’s it, the next time I’ll print a boarding pass as Bruce Schneier if that helps not getting the “SSSS” in the ticket 🙂

alt bob May 30, 2010 12:13 AM

@ Dave at May 28, 2010 2:36 PM
“His plot goes awry when one of the security guards realizes the autograph is not authentic!”

Highly unlikely. I have several real Schneier autographs (book inscriptions), and they’re all illegible scrawls.

JardaP May 30, 2010 2:45 AM

The TSA simply distributed your photos among the security officers with a comment, that this is a particularly dangerous guy. The security officers are required to show maximal efficiency and high ability to handle any situation in order to salvage the TSA image. When a security officer spots any of the six Schneiers, he raises an alarm, the others are paged with a Schneier alarm notification in order to be warned and the work ferwor increases to make it look like everything is under control. Shaking hands is a part of the procedure – it serves to encourage all Schneiers to switch to traveling by train, boat and other means of non-flying transport.

Bruce Schneier May 30, 2010 5:14 AM

“Highly unlikely. I have several real Schneier autographs (book inscriptions), and they’re all illegible scrawls.”

Yep; that’s authentic.

Bruce Schneier May 30, 2010 5:15 AM

“I would suggest they have always known who you are. Just after you made the post about the first TSA guy who actually had the courage to say something, now you have given them all free reign to do the same.”

Interesting theory. I’ll be next going through airport security in the U.S. on Tuesday. We’ll see what happens.

Bruce Schneier May 30, 2010 5:17 AM

“Which is more sincere? A gloved handshake or an un-gloved one?”

Ungloved, of course. Skin to skin is more sincere than keeping a barrier in place.

Clive Robinson May 30, 2010 12:33 PM

@ gawaine,

“… and not puting on a latex glove”

Hey it’s not the latex glove that wories me (as long as there is time for lubricant)

It’s those black elbow or shoulder length numbers made with 2-3mm thick rubber that you see vets shoving up the back end of cattle that kind of make me nervous especialy if acompanied by one of those colonoscops that look like nine feet of garden hose pipe…

Especialy if held by someone who looks like a close relative of “Rosa Kleb”.

Jon May 30, 2010 1:32 PM

In the travels of a Bruce Schneier
Security’s theater was dire
Yet late one day
Drew a smile instead of his ire.

Jon May 30, 2010 1:36 PM

I’m not very much of a flier
My socks belong on a pyre
But with the smell
They wish me well
‘Cause my ID says I’m a Schneier

(Okayokayokay, I’ll shut up now) J.

moo May 30, 2010 2:51 PM

Its not that unusual. I flew through a small city once — one I had never lived in — and the security guard recognized me by name. I’m not famous or anything, neither is anyone in my immediate family. Turns out he had gone to university a few years earlier with my younger brother. Small world!

Bill June 1, 2010 5:11 AM

Maybe a tactic to modify your ‘errant behaviour’ but doubtful – Any ‘Freak Out Bruce’ TSA conspiracy needs management competence.

The TSA officer did not claim to agree with ‘your stuff’ but the indicators were positive. Next time ask?

However, glove off with five extra words could change all that:

TSA Officer: I read your stuff all the time, now step this way please…


AppSec June 1, 2010 8:55 AM

Next you’ll be followed around by the paparazzi.. Harassed at restaurants.. Unable to go to the movies…

It’s all downhill from here.

Preston L. Bannister June 1, 2010 10:10 AM

Based on the many mentions in the TSA weblog, and the weight placed on those mentions, I would guess rather a lot of folk at the TSA know your name. Makes you a bit of a celebrity.

Wonder if they do an internal announcement when you pass through security at their airport?

Also some clearly, some folk respect you, and others at the TSA … not so much. Should make your trips through airport security more interesting.

To make this more interesting, how about we come up with a new movie-plot security threat? Terrorists use decoy celebrity security expert to distract TSA folk, then slip through airport security! (We need a cartoon of TSA folk shaking Schneier’s hand, while AK-47s and dangerously sharp tweezers roll through the scanners.)

Kingsnake June 1, 2010 10:16 AM

First time I read it as “putting on the glove” (prepatory to a vigorous probing) , not taking it off. Good thing I re-read the paragraph …

Matt from CT June 1, 2010 10:23 AM

I just keep looking at Bruce’s new photo, and this one of Terry (Oklahoma City Bombing) Nichol’s brother:

And think someone at TSA could have fun mis-programming some facial recognition software…

Bruce: “I have never been arrested as a material witness in a terrorist bombing…”

TSA: “Errr, the ‘puter says you have, you look like the pic to me, and your real name is James…”

Jim June 1, 2010 11:29 AM

This doesn’t worry me, this makes me a little more optimistic. If TSA workers are starting to read your work, then maybe at a ground level some of them are starting to take an interest in real security rather than the theatre, and will propagate that learning throughout the organization.

Winston Smith June 1, 2010 4:41 PM

But did they ask you to autograph the printout of your naked body from the body scanner (backscatter x-ray machine) they wanted you to walk through? That’s a whole different level of celebrity, I think. 😉


Arancaytar June 1, 2010 7:33 PM

One day it may be time for a new addition to the Facts list (right under “can factorize integers in constant time” one):

“Bruce Schneier can carry more than 3 ounces of liquid on a plane.”

A poor Francophone June 2, 2010 6:39 AM

@Bruce Schneier

“What is the proper pronunciation?”

Rhymes with “tire,” “flier,” “liar,” and “dire.”


That’s (American) English pronunciation, I assume.

After all, in French ‘tire’ and ‘dire’ would be pronounced differently to the English ‘tire’ and ‘dire’ (and also differently to ‘flier’ and ‘liar’). A reasonably possible French pronunciation would be ‘Schnay-iyay!’

Hans Gruber June 3, 2010 10:09 PM

They’re starting to teach the TSA “grunts” how to read…


Sean June 4, 2010 8:06 AM

What government employee doesn’t read up on the critics after a particularly mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly bureaucratic day?

Everyone needs a little comfort and common sense now and again. This story and the warm handshake don’t surprise me in the least.

Bownse June 4, 2010 2:26 PM

just be glad that, when he removed his glove, it wasn’t followed by a “please bend over.”

kmself June 4, 2010 6:50 PM

@erin: wouldn’t that be a heart and mind campaign?

Or do you know something about a Bruce Schneier that we don’t?

Brian June 6, 2010 10:32 PM

In all honesty, Mr. Schnier, you should have corrected the TSA employee – “No – I’m the security author who tries to cover all manner of security topics under the sun, and consequently gets some of them completely wrong.”

Jack of Spades June 9, 2010 3:01 AM

I’m encouraged by this; perhaps awareness of your writing will bubble up to someone with the power to cut the crap and put resources where they’d do some good.

Billy June 13, 2010 3:49 PM

Now how will you feel if they all know you so well they stop checking your ID? Will you be happy, or cite their lax conduct?

Will terrorists disguise themselves as the great Schneier in order to get preferential treatment?

I know what mask I’m getting for Halloween…

nomek June 15, 2010 4:13 AM

@Bruce: Do you got a german herritage?
Sounds like ‘Schneider’ meaning ‘Tailor’ in english. And for english native speakers its pronounced like “Shniar”

Your Airport Story is quite interessting. Makes me think about several funny border adventures at an airport…;.)

Robert Beverly June 15, 2010 5:59 AM

Probably someone just reads CRYPTO-GRAM at one of their offices and started forwarding it to colleagues. Or one of your books has been passed around. I doubt you’re on the “watch out for this guy list” or anything like that. But it does make sense for people who work in “security” to read what you write. Most of the ones with aspirations of any sort probably do. Perhaps it is a sign that there is a cheerful future for the TSA 😉

jimmy June 16, 2010 2:11 PM

I hope its a sign that some TSA reps are actually taking an interest in security and studying the topic.

mad dog July 14, 2010 12:56 PM

Listed on the TSA blogroll:


* Above the Capital
* Airplane Geeks Aviation Podcast
* ars technica
* Cranky Flier
* Dipnote DOS
* DOD Live
* Fast Lane DOT
* Flying With Fish
* Greenversations
* Homeland Security Watch
* In Case of Emergency, Read Blog
* Middle Seat Journal
* Rick Seaney
* Schneier on Security
* Security Debrief
* Security Director News
* Stuck At The Airport
* The Blog @ Homeland Security
* The Beacon (USCIS)
* Things With Wings
* White House Blog

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.