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Subject:  My TSA horror story Date:  6/30/2012  5:23 PM
Author:  salaryguru Number:  43825 of 75100

I am generally supportive of strict airport security. I believe that full body scanners are a good thing and wish they were in more widespread use. Although I consider web sites leaving cookies on my computer or screening employees for AIDS an invasion of privacy, I am comfortable with TSA running full body scans of everyone who is going to board a plane with me. I feel this way because I know that there really are people out there who want to terrorize America and who have focused on airplanes as a significant part of their weaponry. As TSA has developed new screening techniques, they have developed more sophisticated ways to bring weapons on-board. They've moved from box-cutters to shoe bombs to underwear bombs and are working on bombs that cannot be detected by full-body scanners. The people who want to inflict terror on America have been persistent in their attempts to kill innocent travelers. Making things more difficult for them by requiring me to submit to inspections and screening is a trade-off I'm willing to accept.

But, I really do think we need some sort of check-and-balance to keep TSA from abusing their power. Here's a story of what happened to SGSpouse and me yesterday.

SGSpouse and I arrived at Logan airport in Boston significantly early for our 7:00 PM flight. We got back from sight-seeing early and decided we might as well wait at the airport rather than in the lobby of the Westin.

SGSpouse has seriously injured her knees and currently wears knee braces on both legs. Seeing the braces, a TSA agent signaled for us to come around to a shorter line for security screening - the line they have for crew and for 1st class passengers. We are both thinking that this is a good thing. But the crew line does not have a full body scanner like the other lines. Instead, they have only the conventional metal detector, an X-ray monitor for baggage and belongings, and a machine that swabs belongings and analyzes trace chemicals for explosive residue. So here's what happens: SGSpouse's knee braces, of course, trigger the metal detector. In the absence of a full body scanner, this marks her for swab and analyze. Apparently they also decided that all of her carry-on and belongings needed to be re-X-rayed. I can see no obvious reason for this. The swab and analyze machine indicates a positive response. The woman running it then tests a rubber glove fresh from the wrapper and finds that the machine also indicates a positive. She tests every item within her reach and each one triggers positive. She, the last sane person we are to encounter during this ordeal, recognizes that something is wrong with the machine so she calls her supervisor over. He goes away and supposedly consults a procedure manual. He shuts down the swab and analyze machine since it obviously is not working correctly, but tells us that SGSpouse has triggered a new level of security procedure and must wait for a higher level supervisor to come and conduct a strip search. Meanwhile, all of SGSpouses belongings have been routed back, not to the X-ray machine we came through, but split up and routed through 3 different X-ray machines. They all, again, show no problem, but some of our belongings have been spilled and scattered all over the inspection station. We are not allowed to go back and collect these items, but are forced to watch as TSA agents wad and stuff things back into our luggage in random fashio