“The TSA: Or How To Feel Unwelcome In Your Own Country”

Karl Kasarda, who along with Ian McCollum, produces InRange TV had an “interesting” experience with the Travel Security Administration on a recent trip. He had been selected for special security screening on a trip home from Scandanavia. He was screened twice – once in Stockholm and once in Chicago. You can guess in which screening he was treated with respect and courtesy. I’ll let him finish the story.

I think I’ve made my feelings about TSA known over the years so I’ll just leave it at that.

Did They Really Have To Tell You This?

I’m reading over the list of items that are prohibited in your luggage when flying. I was trying to decide whether my camera batteries needed to be in my carry-on or checked luggage. In the category of things I learned while looking for something else come this from the TSA.

Can you believe that? Hand grenades are banned on planes even if they are in your checked luggage. They also listed dynamite as being banned. No word on C-4 or Claymore mines but I’m assuming they are a no go as well.

What Can I Bring?

Planning ahead and packing properly can facilitate the screening process and ease your travel experience at the airport. Know what you can pack in your carry-on and checked baggage before arriving at the airport by reviewing the lists below. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. Read about civil penalties for prohibited items.
For items not listed here, simply snap a picture or send a question to AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter. We look forward to answering your questions, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.

The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.

Flammables 


Hand Grenades



  • Carry On Bags: No
  • Checked Bags: No


Cops Sure But TSA? WTF?

A number of firearms companies have programs that offer those in law enforcement a substantial discount on their products. This would include FNH-USA which allows a once-a-year discounted purchase in each of three categories – pistols, rifles, and shotguns.

I think this is a worthwhile idea. It allows a company to show its support of police and first responders. It allows a company to get its product in the hand of law enforcement which in turn becomes a marketing and word-of-mouth referral tool. And while I can’t speak for areas outside the South, many law enforcement officers in small communities have fairly low salaries.

FNH-USA’s definition of eligibility for participation in their Individual Officer Discount Program is fairly broad compared to other companies. Perhaps, too broad when you look at their list.

  • All sworn local, county and state law enforcement officers
  • All federal law enforcement officers (i.e., officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, etc.)
  • All corrections officers, including parole and probation officers
  • All retired federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers with “retired” credentials
  • Employees of state licensed security companies
  • State/city-licensed security officers
  • Active duty military personnel, all branches
  • Reserve duty military personnel, all branches
  • Honorably retired military veterans with “retired” military I.D.
  • All Transportation Security Administration employees
  • Licensed paramedics and emergency medical technicians
  • Firefighters, including volunteer firefighters, with appropriate I.D.
  • Federal flight deck officers
  • Court judges
  • District attorneys and deputy district attorneys

 All Transportation Security Administration employees? TSA? Really? You mean people like Pythias Green who was convicted of stealing more than $800,000 from travelers should be allowed to buy firearms at a discount? You mean people like George Hristovski who was arrested by the FBI in Northern California on charges of attempted production of child pornography? You mean the people who grope us repeatedly, who share pictures of us going through the NudieScope, and who want us to respect “their authoriteh”?

I understand that FNH-USA was trying to have as broad a list as possible and to be inclusive but this is ridiculous. What the hell were they thinking? TSA employees no more deserve a discount than does the man in the moon.

TSA Needs Some “.347 SIG” Training Ammo

The Transportation Security Administration issued a solicitation on Friday for training ammunition. This solicitation is a Request for Proposal for the following:

3,454,000 rounds of .347 SIG Caliber Training Ammunition including shipping (See specifications attached.)

It seems that the TSA in addition to not catching any terrorists can’t catch typos either.

They do clarify in the next paragraph that they are seeking 115-130 grain .357 SIG training ammunition.

Given that the Federal Air Marshal program is under the auspices of the TSA, I presume this ammo is for them. I certainly hope the TSA doesn’t have any intention of arming the gropers at airport gates with anything more than nitrile gloves.

About That Ban On Knives On Planes

The Transportation Security Administration had planned to remove its ban on certain knives on planes. However in the face of criticism from certain politicians and flight attendant unions, they caved in.

Politics and arrogance likely scuttled the plan by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow small knives back on planes, but it’s not clear that fliers are any safer for it.

Last week, the TSA announced that while the agency’s “top priority continues to be expansion of efforts to implement a layered, risk-based security approach to passenger screening while maximizing resources,” it was putting aside a proposed plan to allow passengers to take small knives, toy bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks and other currently prohibited sports equipment on board as carry-on items.

The revised list of allowable carry-on items was supposed to go into effect at the end of April, but received strong opposition from flight attendants, pilots, law enforcement, airlines and bi-partisan group of legislators concerned that knives, especially, could be used in attacks on flight crews and other passengers.

The flight attendant unions even had their own webpage devoted to the issue. They celebrated their “win” by saying, “We promised ‘No Knives on Planes Ever Again,’ and today that promise was kept.”

This lead paragraph in an AP story on the crash of the Asiana Boeing 777 yesterday illustrates why the TSA’s capitulation in the face of opposition was such a mistake.

Police officers threw utility knives up to crew members inside the burning wreckage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 so they could cut away passengers’ seat belts. Passengers jumped down emergency slides, escaping the smoke. One walked through a hole where a rear bathroom had been.

It was a miracle that the plane was evacuated before the fire spread to engulf the plane. Imagine if the airport cops hadn’t given knives to the crew members struggling to get passengers loose from their seat belts. Instead of only two young passengers killed in the crash, the news would have been about all those who burned to death while trapped in the plane.

It certainly does make the case for allowing knives of some sort back on planes. I wonder how many of the co-sponsors of HR 1093 – No Knives Act of 2013 – as well the co-sponsors of S. 1008 – Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act – are willing to retract their sponsorship of the respective bills in light of this.

54% Of People Surveyed Don’t Have A Clue

Gallup recently polled 1,014 Americans over age 18 living in the United States on their view of how good a job TSA is doing. Unbelievably, 54% of those polled think TSA is doing either an excellent or good job.

I knew there were a lot of stupid people but I never realized the numbers were that high.

It gets worse. Of those who have flown at least once in the last 12 months, 57% think they are doing a good or excellent job.

If there is anything encouraging about this poll is that less than half of all those surveyed – 41% –  believe that the screening procedures are either extremely or very effective. That said, only 13% of those surveyed don’t think the TSA is “not too effective” or “not effective at all”. I guess I should be happy that at least 13% of those surveyed have a grasp on reality.

Cutting The Federal Flight Deck Officer Program Because TSA Is So Good?

In the FY 2013 Federal Budget, the Obama Administration proposes to cut $13 million from the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. This is the program which trains those airline pilots that volunteer and qualify to be armed in the cockpit. The current funding for FY 2012 is $25 million.

The justification for this cut is that improvements in TSA procedures have “enhanced” airline security to the point where the FFDO program is barely needed.

Justification

The Administration proposes to reduce funding for the FFDO program (i.e., deputized, armed pilots) in 2013. As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) focuses its aviation security activities on programs that mitigate the highest amount of risk at the lowest cost, the Budget has prioritized funding in the same manner. The voluntary FFDO program was created as a “last defense” layer of security at a time when comprehensive aviation screening and other physical security measures were not fully developed or deployed on a system-wide basis. Since 2001, however, there have been a number of enhancements to aviation security. TSA now conducts 100 percent screening of all passengers and their carryon items, has overseen installation of reinforced and locking cockpit doors on aircraft that operate in U.S. airspace, and has increased passenger and flight crew awareness to address security risks. Combined, these improvements have greatly lowered the chances of unauthorized cockpit access and represent a comprehensive and redundant risk-mitigation strategy that begins well before passengers board the aircraft.

Are we talking about the same TSA? The one that engages in security kabuki theater while a number of its agents have been found to have been stealing from checked luggage including firearms. If they are corrupt enough to steal, they are corrupt enough to be able to be bribed by terrorists.

If TSA has really made flying so safe, then why not go the whole distance and discontinue the FFDO program entirely? Either the program is needed or it isn’t. I, for one, think having armed flight crew is an excellent idea and more cost effective than many of the procedures currently used by TSA.

Back From Baltimore

Sorry for the light blogging for the last couple of days. I had to attend a company regional meeting in Baltimore.

With Maryland’s uber-restrictive carry laws, I knew concealed carry was out. Moreover because I only had carry-on luggage, the next level of protection – a knife – was out as well. Thus, I was restricted to a tactical pen that I thought I could get past the oh so vigilant eyes of TSA.

I went with one of the new Sharpie stainless steel bodied pens. They are a bit slimmer than their markers but still seem substantial enough without screaming tactical. I have a couple of pens marketed as tactical but wasn’t sure they would get past TSA. I’d rather lose a $4.57 pen to them than one that cost $25 or more.

The Sharpie pen actually writes fairly well and is comfortable for writing. Some tactical pens in my opinion are just too heavy for constant use.

As to TSA, they were actually easier to deal with in Baltimore than in Asheville. In Asheville, I had to go through the screener 3 times stripping off my belt and then my watch before I didn’t set it off. I guess I should be thankful that I wasn’t groped. The one thing that did creep my out a bit was seeing Big Sis Janet Napolitano playing on a video over the “security” check-point in Baltimore. A little bigger screen and it would have been right out of Apple’s 1984 Superbowl ad.

In Dealing With The TSA, It’s Time To Look To The Amish

In Amish society, those who have sinned against the community and its values are excommunicated and then shunned. Shunning is the practice of social avoidance or rejection. The offending person is avoided socially and members of the Amish community have nothing to do with this person. The goal of shunning is to show the person the error of their ways in hopes that they will reform, seek repentence, and become a member of the community again.

From AmishAmerica.com on the practice of shunning and the thinking behind it:

As this Amishman explains, shunning is done out of concern for the deviant member. Shunning is also done to protect the body of the church. Shunning in some ways is a fence that keeps the wolves away from the flock. Amish often point out that an individual can’t sit on the fence. Were Amish to accept any practice or belief that came along, the body of the church would be in danger of being corrupted and members led astray spiritually.

How is shunning practiced in reality? With the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, there is a recognition that all social contact with the shunned person is not feasible:

Actually, shunning does not mean total avoidance. Restricted interaction is permitted. For instance, spouses may continue to live together but they may not engage in sexual intercourse.

Also, shunned members may attend family gatherings. However, on such occasions they are required to sit at a separate table to symbolize their exclusion.

Usually, active members can not engage in business transactions with shunned members. However, if such a transaction is unavoidable, a third party must handle the exchange of money.

The word shun comes from the Middle English shunnen and the Old English scunian meaning to abhor. To abhor is quite appropriate.

How does this relate to the Transportation Security Administration, its agents, security officers, and employees? Hardly a week goes by without another story of an elderly person humiliated, an attractive woman felt up, an amputee belittled, a parent made to feel helpless, a child molested, privacy invaded, or some other event evidencing stupidity, malice, and abuse by a TSA security officer all in the name of “security”.

Everytime it occurs, you get a spokesperson for TSA saying procedures were followed or that no abuse occured. Or now that TSA security officers are allowed to be unionized, a spokesman for the union who insists “the TSA are comprised of workers just like you.” There is also “Blogger Bob” on the TSA Blog who rivals Baghdad Bob in his propensity for denial.

Admittedly, there are good TSA officers and bad TSA officers. There are those who abuse their authority as well as passengers and those who don’t. That said, so long as the TSA officers who perform their job in a just and nonabusive manner countenance those who don’t, then they all will be tarred with the same brush and deservedly so. As the quote attributed to the British statesman Edmund Burke goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

What made me think of the practice of shunning and the TSA was seeing a TSA security officer in uniform one day at a local Walmart. This sighting was just after another of their egregious acts was reported in the news. I wondered at the time what would be the best way to make my displeasure known about the behavior of TSA agents as they go about their security kabuki dance.

While a violent or confrontational response to their abusive behavior might feel good for all of a minute, it would be counter-productive as you would have the full weight of the government and the law come down upon you. Moreover, it might even engender sympathy towards TSA.

Likewise, forcing delays on busy travel days by requesting a pat-down would fail because it requires enough people to make the request for it to work, it requires one to actually be flying, and it would cause resentment among those delayed along with some amount of sympathy towards TSA.

Shunning has many advantages and one major disadvantage. First, it is non-violent. Not speaking to or associating with a person is not against the law and you can’t be forced to do it. It is an act of omission rather than an act of commission.

Second, it can be practiced by anyone regardless of whether they are a traveler or not.

Third, social avoidance and social ostraticism are very powerful forces.

Fourth, shunning hits the TSA employee outside of the workplace. While they may be mentally prepared to deal with confrontation on the job as well as having their agency’s resources behind them, being avoided socially while off the job is unexpected.

Fifth, their agency and the government can do nothing to stop it.

Finally, my guess is that TSA employees will begin to have a bunker mentality which may well cause them to either quit or become more outlandish in their abuse. The more outlandish the abuse, the greater the pressure for the agency to be abolished or, at the least, be reined in by Congress.

The major downside is that shunning requires the buy-in of the public. Unlike the Amish community where those who don’t shun the outcast are themselves subject to excommunication and shunning, there is nothing to force you to shun the TSA employee. It is a voluntary action with no adverse consequences if one doesn’t shun the TSA employee. Frankly, the only way that shunning will work is if enough people are angry enough to do it and to continue doing it.

I am not saying that shunning will work but that it has the potential to work. I plan on doing it and would call on all those who are outraged by the continued assault on our civil liberties by the TSA and its agents to say enough is enough and to social ostracize those who are a part of that agency.

Brilliant Move, TSA

In what can only be described as a brilliant diplomatic move, TSA agents at Jackson-Evers International Airport in Jackson, Mississippi pulled the sari-clad Indian Ambassador to the U.S. out of line for a pat-down. Her Excellency Meera Shankar was in Jackson to deliver a speech at a local university in conjunction with its international studies program.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the incident happened this past weekend and the Indian Embassy plans to make a formal complaint to the State Department. The incident is a big story back in India according to reports. The Indians consider the pat-down a breech of diplomatic protocol.

Department of Homeland Security officials said the TSA agents made “right call when they patted down Ms. Shankar.”

There is no word on whether the TSA agents or the DHS officials performed the pat-down in retaliation for being switched to a call center in Mumbai regarding their past due credit card bill.