I think most of us here aren’t fans of the Transportation Security Administration (from my viewpoint, I’ve had some of my luggage luggage destroyed by them and repaired with TSA sealing tape more than once)

Now some of us deal with them with sarcasm, entertainment, anger, disgust, “meh” and other methods (for example stripping at a checkpoint), but Matthew over at Live and Lets Fly  (http://upgrd.com/matthew/a-thoughtful-conversation-with-the-tsa-in-honolulu.html) engaged a TSA member of staff… with a debate.

Makes for interesting reading, with the arguments used.


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Adding to the list that make the TSA go a bit giddy are Futuristic design awards it seems.

Juraj Hlaváč had won an Apple Designs Award at the recent Apple  World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco for the educational game called “Bobo Explores Light” developed by his company, Game Collage.

The award itself is a small silver cube that glows from within akin to the picture below.

Cute and Futuristic eh?

However, this was enough to make the TSA go slightly bananas when they saw this when Jurji begun the trip back to Seattle.

In his own words:

 The backpack went through the x-ray machine and (the award) showed up as containing a perfect, black square.

The guy watching the screen from the x-ray machine called for another guy, and another guy, and pretty soon there was small crowd scrutinizing the image.  The backpack came out, I sheepishly admitted to being the owner, and I was taken aside.  When the TSA folks pulled the cube from my bag, it glowed.

Whispers passed over the crowd

That’s what you not call “a good start” in my book.

Jurji was taken aside by the TSA staff who after some explanation, rescanned the award on its own, with the cube glowing as it went in the X-ray machine, and glowing as it came out, drawing in a crowd in the process.

Well, those of you with PowerBooks/iBooks/Macbooks/Air’s/Pros will know what your scree does when its on – the Apple logo glows – and the award was cleared as safe to travel.

Eventally Jurji was allowed to pack his glowing cube up and go and catch his flight.

So remember, don’t take any glowing cubes through a TSA security point as it tends to spook them.

At least I’m not writing about the TSA’s “few bad apples”. Others are making the point pretty well for me…

Sometime, it’s enough to make you want to stay at away and take a (home) advantage of the situation

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Once again, one apple spoils the entire TSA Crop – this time with a fake drugs incident at Philadelphia International.

A TSA agent decided to play a joke on a passenger on a Rebecca Solomon as she was travelling back to college

After pulling her laptop out, through the scanning machines, and walking through a detector, she went to collect her things and a TSA agent motioned her toward him, where a small, clear plastic bag from her carry-on. Inside the bag was fine, white powder – which is the sort of power that drugs could be in for example.

The TSA agent seems to be their usual caring self, saying

Answer truthfully, the TSA worker informed her, and everything will be OK.

Of course, this complete axehole of a TSA agent started to smile and said

Just kidding, he said

He waved the baggie. It was his.

I’m sorry. COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. Security Theater is a Joke as it is. Adding this little twerp into the mix with this action is UNACCEPTABLE.

Security was called and the incident reported

In the first instance, the TSA knew nothing. Shortly after the first inital statement was released.

“The TSA views this employee’s behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional,” she wrote. “We can assure travelers this employee has been disciplined by TSA management at Philadelphia International Airport, and he has expressed remorse for his actions.”

Remorse. REMORSE! That it? No other penalty of acting like a complete numbskull?

But wait – there’s more!

It seems the young lady’s father is a Litigator. Now there is a shame. And in later a later comment the idiot of a worker is no longer employed.

This is why people don’t trust the TSA. Idiots like this who take their powers, exercise them to beyond the limit and then giggle about it afterwards.


The TSA have responded in it’s Blog, showing minimal remorse (which about right for the TSA Blog)

Rebecca Solomon also has published her comments too http://michigandaily.com/print/52118

Source: The Philadelphia Enquirer .

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It seems with bomb threats that the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security has something better to do – harass Bloggers and pump them for information.

Both Christoper Elliot and Steven Frischling have had visits from TSA and DHS  “Homeland Security Special Agents”, issuing subpoenas on disclosure of the actual source that these bloggers got their information from.

In the case of Christopher Elliot – the exact wording from his blog is:

“So if I’m reading this correctly, the TSA wants me to tell them who gave me the security directive.

I told Flaherty I’d call my attorney and get back to him.”

With Steven Frischling, the TSA seems to have gone one better, by threatneing to use a criminal search warrant if he did not reveal the name of his source, as well as threatening to get him fired from his job blogging for KLM – and indicated they could get him designated a security risk, which would make it difficult for him to travel and do his job.

In addition, the agents then said they wanted to take an image of his hard drive. Frischling said they had to go to WalMart to buy a hard drive, but when they returned were unable to get it to work. Frischling said the keyboard on his laptop was no longer working after they tried to copy his files. The agents left around 11 pm but came back Wednesday morning and, with Frischling’s consent, seized his laptop, which they promised to return after copying the hard drive, even though the mail was received from a Gmail address, and thus in the cloud. 

The TSA confirms it is investigating how this security directive was leaked.

Quote  “The Office of Inspection is investigating how the security directive was published by parties who shouldn’t have been privy to the document”

This smacks of heavy handedness of the TSA, and a reaction to the wrong problem – rather than dealing with the leaks internally (of a document that has gone worldwide), it has gone after bloggers who received it in good faith and published it when there was nothing but confusion over what directive was in force at that juncture by what airline.

Coverage on this is growing on web, and I can only urge you to read and support these bloggers who it seems the only thing they have done wrong is to post a document (which Air Canada did in the first play as well as WestJet and JetBlue)

I’ll be monitoring this over the next few weeks – suffice to say more directives will head our way, and hopefully the TSA might learn something about themselves in the meantime.

Or not.

Sources and References:
Wired: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/12/dhs-threatens-blogger/
Gadling: http://www.gadling.com/2009/12/29/government-harassing-blogger-for-source-of-tsa-directive-leak/
Airline Reporter: http://www.airlinereporter.com/?p=2677
Runway Girl: http://www.flightglobal.com/runway-girl/2009/12/paying-a-price-for-setting-the.html
Seattle PI: http://blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace/archives/189547.asp
Upgrade: Travel Better – http://www.upgradetravelbetter.com/2009/12/30/the-chilling-effect-tsa-tries-to-plug-a-leak-by-slapping-travel-bloggers-with-subpoenas/
One Mile at a time: http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2009/12/29/blogger-gets-subpoena-for-posting-security-directive/

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Well with the massive changes happening, it seems that now this could hurt operators, with shares in Delta and AMR (American) dropping by about 4%, UAL (United) down 3.4% and US Airways down 6.7%, with fears that this incident will depress air travel further than it is at the moment, and that the extra costs of implementing security changes will affect the back pocket – let alone the experience in the ground or the air.

Meanwhile there seems to be some libraliation of the knee jerk reaction, with the following in the TSA Directives:

  • Extended security wait times, allow at least two hours for security at the gate.
  • A physical pat down by security at the gate prior to boarding all flights to the United States
  • A complete physical inspection of all bags being carried on flights to the United States
  • Flight crew may make no announcements or reference to position or landmarks while flying over US airspace

Maddening things like:

  • IFE shutdown T -1 hour before landing
  • Access to carry on items T -1 Hour
  • Blankets

have been recinded, pending further decisions by the TSA, however

  • Satellite Phones
  • Moving Maps

Are still awaiting clarification.

TSA Directive SD-1544-09-06 has been posted at  http://www.elliott.org/blog/full-text-of-sd-1544-09-06-authorizing-pat-downs-physical-inspection/ which is the initial response.

President Obama has requested a full review of airline security. In other words, Napoli and the DHS/TSA will have to get their ass out of gear and work for once.

The message for travellers alas is clear as crystal. Arrive early, Expect delays and expect everyone to be twitchy.

More advice and commentary:

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… Well someone has to do a good job… I mean to say what next – asking for manual scans of film may cause offence? ;)

Source: http://icanhascheezburger.com/2009/11/01/funny-pictures-unattended-at-any-time/

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From the highly entertaining and geek friendly xkcd.com – it’s view on the war on liquids, laptop batteries and a few other wonders that keep us travellers in constant pain…

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