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 fashion. Twenty or thirty minutes after our being sent to the head of the line, a female TSA agent with enough rank to conduct strip searches shows up and takes SGSpouse into a room to examine her. She, of course, finds nothing. She discusses the swab and analyze machine and agrees that it should remain off-line until they can get it repaired. They have a second machine in another line, but it started producing false positives earlier in the day and has not been used for awhile. The TSA supervisor decides that they have to turn it on and swab and analyze SGSpouses bag with the machine that was previously found to be faulty in order to clear her. . . It tests positive again, as does a sterile rubber glove and everything else they test. But now we have triggered another level of security inspection and they begin to unpack every item in SGSpouse's carry-on and swab it individually. Everything is testing positive, which spirals us deeper and deeper into more detailed inspection procedures. I try to point out that the only thing that has gotten us to this point is two machines that TSA clearly knows are not working and have now taken off-line. I ask if we can leave and go back into the normal line for security to submit to full body scans which will clearly show whether explosives are on us or not. They have a solution that they are using on passengers while we are being held hostage, but they won't use it. Each appeal to common sense is met with anger and threats to arrest us. There are about 4 or 5 TSA agents who are clearly getting off on treating us like terrorists and being verbally abusive and condescending. I get the feeling that at least two or three of them are trying to provoke us so they can arrest us. Keep in mind that SGSpouse and I were born and have lived our entire lives in the US. We are not exotic looking in any way. We are in no way imposing. We are in our late 50's. I'm 5'8" and SGSpouse is 5'6". Both of us have worked much of our engineering careers with security clearances. After a little over an hour, someone shows up at the gate who actually knows how to use the swab and analyze equipment. They re-calibrate one of the machines and after re-swabbing every item in SGSpouse's carry-on, we are cleared to go to the gates. Total elapsed time to get through security was 1 hour 20 minutes. SGSpouse started making some calls today to report the incident and suggest that if that really was "procedure" then we had uncovered serious flaws in that procedure, and if it were not "procedure" then someone should be disciplined and corrected. You can guess what she was met with. We are the enemy. By definition, we are wrong and TSA was correct and only making America safe. If we get abused, it is a small price to pay for airline safety from terrorists. There is no place to appeal - no authority that checks TSA abuse. They could have arrested us, made us miss our flight, and cost us thousands in legal fees and transportation back to Boston to fight it in court. We are supposed to feel lucky that this did not happen.Somehow I don't feel that lucky.
salaryguru,SGSpouse started making some calls today to report the incident and suggest that if that really was "procedure" then we had uncovered serious flaws in that procedure, and if it were not "procedure" then someone should be disciplined and corrected. You can guess what she was met with. We are the enemy. By definition, we are wrong and TSA was correct and only making America safe. If we get abused, it is a small price to pay for airline safety from terrorists. There is no place to appeal - no authority that checks TSA abuse. They could have arrested us, made us miss our flight, and cost us thousands in legal fees and transportation back to Boston to fight it in court. We are supposed to feel lucky that this did not happen.</snip>If you're represented by a Tea-Bag savvy Republican in Congress (likely in Arizona), isn't this the kind of story they'd like to run with?intercst
Yeah. Jeff Flake, my tea-bagger Congressman might have an interest in this story. I suggested that to SGSpouse. I would also write to Senators Dumb and Dumber if I were fighting the battle, but SGSpouse will go straight to Obama. She has gotten good results in the past from White House intervention, so she's inclined to go with someone she supports rather than someone she opposes.
Another episode of "Airport Security Theater."PF
I never really enjoyed flying. But post-9/11, I fight tooth & nail against flying.--FY
You were kidnapped into playing roles in the TSA security theater.
You can guess what she was met with. We are the enemy. By definition, we are wrong and TSA was correct and only making America safe. If we get abused, it is a small price to pay for airline safety from terrorists. There is no place to appeal - no authority that checks TSA abuse.Who watches the watchers? History repeats...
If the GOP doesn't discourage enough Democratic voters with their current methods, I expect we'll have security lines at the voting booth in the near future--if Romney and GOP House and Senate are elected <shudder>.SG, on behalf of your sane fellow Americans, I'm so sorry :-(
As a Bostonian, maybe you could write to the Boston Globe so they focus public attention on this. I apologize that you had these difficulties in my city.Mara
To the original OP. You may file a complaint directly to the TSA via: http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/civilrights/filing_a_complaint...You may contact the TSA via e-mail at: http://www.tsa.gov/contact/index.shtmGood Luck,Donna
Thanks, Donna.SGSpouse has filed a complaint and contacted TSA via both e-mail and phone. I will give her these links too. So far, everyone she's spoken or written to has been rude and unreasonable. Their only goal seems to be to silence any questions and blame the victim.It really is absurd. They abused a 57 year old female with two knee braces and crutches for over an hour because they didn't know how to run their own machine. And they blame her. I've actually suggested to SGSpouse that she drop this. I get the feeling that TSA may retaliate and put her on a "no fly" list. I have a friend whose 6 year old son got placed on the "no fly" list because of some sort of TSA bureaucratic royal screw up. He and his wife were unable to fly with the family without spending hours arguing with TSA before each flight. This happened for over a year. No one had any interest in listening to reason or correcting the problem. Several times during the ordeal they spoke with someone or received a letter indicating the error had been corrected, but the next time they tried to fly, they were stopped because their 6 year old son was on the "no fly" list.I feel the same way about police. I will walk out of my way or change my plans to avoid even crossing paths with police. I similarly try to minimize my contact with TSA agents. My experience and the experience of many others I know with our police state indicates that you are better off avoiding even the possibility of interaction.
I feel the same way about police. I will walk out of my way or change my plans to avoid even crossing paths with police. I similarly try to minimize my contact with TSA agents. My experience and the experience of many others I know with our police state indicates that you are better off avoiding even the possibility of interaction. ==================You are luckey to live in America. In most of the world your experience is typical. I would not like to argue with Russian, Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Israeli, Mexican police or security. I wouldn't want to be a black man in Alabama (or any other southern state) and argue with the police. In 1968, after graduating from UCLA, a buddy and I drove to Mexico for a surfing adventure. We crossed the border in Nogales and about 10 miles into Mexico we were pulled over by the police. We asked what was the problem, but the would not say and just kept us waiting in the 110F sun. We knew they wanted money, but we were not not eager to give them any. Finally we gave them $10 each and they let us go. The fear of being in a Mexican jail made it easy to give them the money.
In 1968, after graduating from UCLA, a buddy and I drove to Mexico for a surfing adventure. We crossed the border in Nogales and about 10 miles into Mexico we were pulled over by the police. We asked what was the problem, but the would not say and just kept us waiting in the 110F sun. We knew they wanted money, but we were not not eager to give them any. Finally we gave them $10 each and they let us go. The fear of being in a Mexican jail made it easy to give them the money.In the 80's and 90's I spent quite a bit of time crossing back and forth into Mexico - also traveling to South America. Based on my experience, the Mexican police would probably have sent you on your way if you simply tipped them each $1 and thanked them for doing a good job protecting you. I had government access for my work on spy satellites at the time. I found that when I was crossing into Mexico, simply placing a $1 bill in my passport would move me to the head of the line and get me on my way. I didn't hide it and when the Security officer would take it and slide it into his desk, I would thank him. I always looked at it as a $1 fee to enter Mexico on the fast track. Once I crossed with a friend who had never been to Mexico before. I explained that he should put a $1 bill in his passport and thank the officer for his service. My friend got all self-righteous and said he wasn't about to offer a bribe to cross into Mexico. We ended up waiting about an hour to get cleared. Other than that one time, I never had any problems with police in Mexico. Once, I had traveled a long way to get to a remote archaeology site and just short of the site I got to a river where the bridge had washed out. I couldn't cross into the town on the other side where I knew I could get gas. I had to head back and was running very short on gas when I came to a police check point (it was marijuana harvest season). I explained my problem to the police and they stopped the next car and talked the guy into siphoning a gallon of gas from his car and selling it to me so I wouldn't have any problems. I left all the police officers a cold drink and paid the guy who sold me the gas $10. Everyone was happy and we all smiled and waived and moved on.On the other hand, whenever I crossed back into the US back then, I got a major ration of rudeness from US boarder agents. I had a Chevy Blazer that was taken apart and re-assembled at the boarder check point at least a dozen times. That probably had a lot to do with my government access level at the time, but they still didn't have to be rude about it.I have also traveled quite a bit in Egypt, Israel and India with nothing but positive police experience. The last trip I took to Egypt I spent a couple of weeks visiting archaeology sites between Cairo and Luxor - where it was required that I have a police/military escort with me at all times. Even with the serious language barrier, I enjoyed a very congenial relationship with my escorts. I was in India during the Mumbai attacks several years ago. Whenever I was out in public, the police were very anxious to make sure I understood their desire to protect and serve me. It was almost embarrassing. I spent several weeks in the Palestinian Quarter of Jerusalem and traveled around Israel quite a bit. The police there were certainly no-nonsense types, but I never had a problem. They were clear about what you could and could not do. I obeyed the rules. And they were happy.I can't really talk about China. I spent some time in Hong Kong and in Macau, but have never been to the mainland. I might get to Bejing next year.But here in the US I have been abused by blowhard police officers with more testosterone than brains on many occasions over a period of several decades - not because I've broken any laws or shown any disrespect - but simply because they can do it. My experience is that police in the US tend to be insecure types who want to wield power. There is something about the way police are recruited that favors the asshats. Our police departments are filled with them and those that are there to actually protect and serve are mostly outsiders. We see the stories of police abuse and corruption in our newspapers almost weekly. We see the stories in our literature, movies and TV programming. Even in stories that celebrate police we see the police lie to citizens to get what they want, make arrests of innocent people and never acknowledge how unfair that is when they have to release them a few days later, break laws because they're sure they know whose guilty, etc. Police officers have a code that they never expose the corruption or abuse of fellow officers. They hate IA and see it as "the enemy". We live in a very corrupt police state that has been made far worse since 9/11. Americans may want to believe that it's worse in places like Mexico or Egypt or India or Israel, but it doesn't seem that way to me.
<< Americans may want to believe that it's worse in places like Mexico or Egypt or India or Israel, but it doesn't seem that way to me. >> Very interesting post. And your observations about the United States are very sad.Seattle Pioneer
SeattlePioneer laments,<< Americans may want to believe that it's worse in places like Mexico or Egypt or India or Israel, but it doesn't seem that way to me. >>Very interesting post. And your observations about the United States are very sad.</snip>Would it have been better if salaryguru ignored the police abuses and talked about the importance of American Exceptionalism?I bet there were a lot of American Exceptionalists in the Penn State hierarchy, smoothing the way for Jerry Sandusky to butt-fk yet another little kid.intercst
<<I bet there were a lot of American Exceptionalists in the Penn State hierarchy, smoothing the way for Jerry Sandusky to butt-fk yet another little kid.intercst >> So you woke up this morning inspired to do something ugly and vile, intercst?Seattle Pioneer
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