TSA: Dumb as Ever

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.

In addition to keeping with its usually tradition of making policy on a reactionary basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.

Also, if the goal was to bring the plane down from the air, why add restrictions for the last hour of the flight?

Seems to me that what this, Flight 93, and the Richard Reid incident have shown us is that the best line of defense against airplane-based terrorism is us. Alert, aware, informed passengers.

TSA, on the other hand, equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.

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110 Responses to “TSA: Dumb as Ever”

  1. #1 |  blakenator | 

    Your assessment is correct. We have security theater. Of course, the cost goes up every time it is exposed as a sham.

  2. #2 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Not to defend the TSA, but this wasn’t exactly their failure – the guy boarded at Schiphol. Still, all the stupid policies in the world aren’t going to stop this.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and all day today, and I was telling my wife that if the TSA really wants to make a good safety poster, dump all the stupid crap they have at the airport and put up posters to the effect of:

    “We do our best on the ground, but in the air it’s up to YOU to keep the plane safe. If you see an attack in progress, work with the other passengers and crew to stop the attack, defend the plane, and protect others. Be vigilante for suspicious activity. Try to not kill the perpetrators as they may have valuable information.”

    I’m thinking of even going simpler. Let’s call this dweeb “Smokey the Terrorist” and make a simple “Only YOU can prevent terrorism” poster. It worked dramatically well for forest fires, might be just the thing in this case.

  3. #3 |  Reggie Hubbard | 

    I flew on the 23rd.

    I’m thanking whichever deity is on duty that I don’t have to fly right now.

  4. #4 |  Don K | 

    I can’t wait to see the lines at the lavs as the minutes tick down to the one hour mark…

  5. #5 |  EH | 

    I can’t wait to read what Bruce Schneier has to say about this.

  6. #6 |  Lior | 

    The main function of the TSA is to create panic among the public, thus justifying its own existence. The point of the new restrictions is to have them, not any gain in safety. What’s so special about the last hour of the flight? (except for the single terrorist who decide to wait for landing)

  7. #7 |  Don K | 

    Oh, and didn’t I read that the passengers used blankets to put out the fire that the guy caused on himself? Real bright. The FA’s will be coming through confiscating extinguishing devices.

    And what’s special about the last hour of a flight? Yeah, this guy decided he wanted to bring down the plane over U.S. soil, but what’s stopping someone from trying something two hours before the end of the flight, or six hours, or…

  8. #8 |  Paul | 

    According to the article, this isn’t posted yet on the TSA site, so maybe Air Canada is over reacting to something they misunderstood.

    Yes, I’m an optimist.

    I fly a lot for work, and every trip it gets a little more miserable – the distance I’ll drive keeps getting a little longer.

  9. #9 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, join the Dept of Homeland Security and try and suppress those who can.

  10. #10 |  tim | 


    I fly a lot too but I don’t get it when someone bitches about getting through security checkpoints. Its called being prepared and knowing the airport. If it takes someone more than 5 minutes to get through security its your own damn fault.

    (and yes the TSA is a complete failure but at least the agents speak English as their first language now)

  11. #11 |  Dan Z | 

    In reality there is never going to be an airplane hijacking in the sense people are familiar with ever again. After the events of 9/11 people arent going to sit back and think things are going to be ok if the people get what they want, as this incident and others have shown passengers are going to take steps to eliminate threats in the air now which is something that in the past no one would do. All the rules about no blankets and no moving arent going to stop anyone from trying to blow up a plane just as they arent going to stop anyone on that plane from attempting to prevent someone from blowing up the plane.

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken

    That applies to politicians and the security bodies that we now see emerging on a ridiculous scale. The threat of terrorism can never go away, it can never be defeated because if it is than those people will be out of jobs and the government will be out another power source over the people.

  12. #12 |  Chris Mallory | 

    I thought it somewhat odd that last night one of the news channels was reporting that Obama (hallowed be his name) had ordered new measures put into place. Does the blessed one have some new skill in preventing hijackings that we didn’t know about? Did he just say “Do something!!!!111!!!”? Or were there new measures in waiting just for the next false flag to take place?

  13. #13 |  Mattocracy | 

    Not to get all conspiracy on everyone, but restricting and hassling travelers is just another way to control the masses. “Wanna fly somewhere for vacation? No I’d rather stay home than deal with the TSA.” I’m not sure how else to rationalize these irrational policies. This kind of stupidity isn’t incompetence, it’s on purpose.

  14. #14 |  IPv6Freely | 

    @Chris Mallory: You are an idiot.

  15. #15 |  M. Zinnen | 

    “Also, if the goal was to bring the plain down from the air, why add restrictions for the last hour of the flight?”

    Radley, kudos for blogging on the day after Christmas, but since I have nothing constructive to add to the discussion, I’m going to nitpick. I don’t think the terrorist was trying to bring “an extensive area of level or rolling treeless country” down from the air.

  16. #16 |  Jeremy L. Gaddis | 

    You’re 100% right, Radley. The TSA is too worried about keeping up the appearance of security instead of doing anything that might actually contribute towards increasing it.

    Hello from Bloomington, by the way. =)

  17. #17 |  Dave in MS | 

    +1 to both Michael Chaney@#2 and Dan Z@#11.

    When I read stuff like this report, it just reinforces my opinion that

    1. The terrorist have already won
    2. Every bureaucracy, but especially our Federal Government, is NUTS.

    I mean, how are these regulations going to make anyone safer? They’re not. The only thing they’re going to allow is the Gov’t to fine somebody because some little kid has to get up and go to the restroom. Yet another law that will only impact law abiding citizens.

    If the gov’t really wants to prevent incidents like this, issue every able-bodied adult a knife or a club as they board and make ’em read Michael’s notice above.

  18. #18 |  Brad | 

    @M. Zinnen then why did he wait until he was over Detroit?

  19. #19 |  gDavid | 

    The TSA needs to be disbanded and saleries paid to such idiots be used to pay down the deficit, they are such ignorant morans!!!!

  20. #20 |  Elroy | 

    The reports I read said there was a muffled pop and then the passengers subdued the guy. The passengers acted heroically but it sounds like the device failed and sheer luck prevented a disaster.

    No doubt the TSA will redouble its efforts to screen grandmothers and presbyterians.

  21. #21 |  EH | 

    elroy: none of us can be sure yet whether a disaster was even possible.

  22. #22 |  Ken Hagler | 

    “If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. ”

    I’m really cynical, and I would argue that the Terrorist Safety Administration is primarily interested in making air travel such a horrible, demeaning experience that only brainless sheep would subject themselves to it–thus ensuring that future terrorists won’t have to worry about anyone on the plane foiling their plans.

  23. #23 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety.”

    Well, I am really Cynical.

    And I don’t even believe they’re interested in the illusion of safety.

    I think they’re interested in making as many people as possible uninterested in flying.

    Back in the early days of air travel, flying was glamourous, expensive and a privilege of the wealthy. Pilots were rock stars and flight attendants were glam girls.

    Nowadays, flying is roughly one order of magnitude more glamourous than riding in a livestock car. I don’t mean to impugn pilots, but they’re more like bored babysitters now and flight attendants are like waitresses on the graveyard shift at the diner. I couldn’t imagine the hell of being one of them, let alone being a passenger, which is like spending 5 hours at the post office without the freedom to leave. At least the crew is getting paid for their trouble, barely.

    The advent of mass commercial travel and its unholy alliance with the federal government and the government’s State and Defense Dept. misdeeds worldwide brought us all the misery we experience today.

    Congratulations fascist air industry, I and many others like me will grant you your wish and never fly unless we absolutely have to. I hope that air travel once again becomes the province of the wealthy and privileged. You can have it.

  24. #24 |  Will | 

    Can’t have people thinking for themselves.

  25. #25 |  Mister DNA | 

    …but it sounds like the device failed and sheer luck prevented a disaster.

    The TSA will soon be requiring that all passengers wear four-leaf clovers on flights and a horseshoe be nailed above the doors of all airplanes.

  26. #26 |  adam | 

    When someone with a bladder problem, whips it out in the last hour of a flight, in a desperate attempt to piss in a one ounce bottle, will they be charged with being a terrorist or a sex offender?

  27. #27 |  Michael Chaney | 

    I was listening to the radio while ago, and someone said on the news that they’re thinking about full-body scans now as the only way to stop this attack.

    I’m dumbfounded. The people on the plane stopped the attack.

    This is so blatantly stupid. We’re doing fine, we just need to make sure people are vigilante. The problem, of course, is that the government doesn’t want you taking care of yourself, because then you don’t need them.

  28. #28 |  Agile Cyborg | 

    This is called inverse nation-building. Tiny terrorism is sculpting Stupid Sam back into the middle ages.

  29. #29 |  roy | 

    The other passengers should be comended for their response, but passengers can’t put planes back together, and their ability to put out fires is pretty dodgy. If the “bomber” had had a little more technical skill, the outcome would have been much worse. We’d be talking about a succesful attack as evidence that security measures are inadequate, not a bungled attempt as evidence that they’re excessive.

    He got explosives aboard, demonstrating an imperfection in the system. If we want to keep explosives off, security needs to be more effective, which very likely means more annoying. If we aren’t willing to put up with that or to force other travelers to put up with that, we should acknowledge that people will continue to get explosives aboard occasionally, not necessarily in a way that can be countered in mid-air. Be realistic and acknowledge tradeoffs.

  30. #30 |  Andrew Williams | 

    When dealing with threats of violence, first step is to handicap law-abiding citizens.

  31. #31 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Re above: See Sullivan Law.

  32. #32 |  Andrew Williams | 

    “Please, Officer, may I register my legal and legally-obtained firearm with you?”

  33. #33 |  Andrew Williams | 

    #14: I think Mr Mallory was being sarcastic in his praise of Pres. Obama.

  34. #34 |  Guido | 

    Agree 100%. It’s mostly for show with TSA.

  35. #35 |  Guido | 

    Not sure what the Sullivan Law has to do with this. The last thing you want is cabin full of armed passengers. That would be the surest way of bringing down a plane.

  36. #36 |  Paul | 

    I would choose the plane full of armed passengers anyday.

    @tim – it’s not the security at the airport, which is at this point a minor inconvenience and irritant to liberty minded people; it’s the entire experience, from making sure I have my toothpaste in the right size to paying to check a bag to taking my shoes off to dealing with shrinking seats (and all the people who chose not to pay to check their bags to now not being able to get up and pee an hour before the flight lands.

  37. #37 |  Alaska | 

    Yes, TSA is inefficient and ineffectual. Yes, air security is just kabuki theatre designed to make everybody feel better.

    So here is the question: how can we fix the situation? Refusing to fly is simply not an option for me. It would take me damn near a week just to get to Seattle. Voting certainly does not work. Rational discussions do not work. Any suggestions?

  38. #38 |  Tim C | 

    I hate saying it, but this year has been a downward spiraling pile of crud; seems it’s just gotten nearly unbearable just in the last few days even – TSA, Obamacare, etc…SIGH.

    Fingers crossed that the new year brings some better news, but by that I hardly mean a bunch of Republicans replacing a bunch of Democrats.

    Argh! Sigh! I’m an eternal optimist but man, stuff like this really pushes it…oh – and, back on the current topic, yes, TSA is a joke and stuff like this just sends me straight up a tree – and yes, it’s sickening that each time anything like this happens we give the terrorists another victory in the process, and yes, indeed I did lose ANOTHER Swiss Army knife (Tinker model, hardly a threat) the last time I WAS forced to fly – remembered to put it in my checked baggage, but forgot for my flight back.

  39. #39 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    Ever notice how no one ever tries any shit on an Israeli plane or at Tel Aviv airport? Ever wonder why?

    Because they racially profile. And it seems to be working pretty damn well for them.

    The terrorists are using our obsession with political correctness against us.

    This bullshit has to stop before we all end up having to strip naked and wear paper muu-muus on the plane and they ban carry-ons entirely.

    Flying used to be fun. Now it’s basically a bus with wings.

    TSA agent: Excuse me sir, would you step over here?

    Passenger: Why?

    TSA agent: Because you look like fucking terrorist that’s why, now shut the hell up and get over here before i tase your turbaned ass.

  40. #40 |  Carl Drega | 

    “#10 | tim
    I fly a lot too but I don’t get it when someone bitches about getting through security checkpoints. Its called being prepared and knowing the airport. If it takes someone more than 5 minutes to get through security its your own damn fault.”

    You’re absolutely right tim I could get through the security line in 5 minutes if I went to the airport at 5AM for my 8:30 domestic flight. It’s entirely my fault for wanting to arrive only 1 hour in advance for a 45 minute flight.

  41. #41 |  Matt | 

    The Israeli’s use behavioral observation techniques in general not racial profiling.

  42. #42 |  Dan Z | 

    “Ever notice how no one ever tries any shit on an Israeli plane or at Tel Aviv airport? Ever wonder why?”

    Because Israel is a police state that practices apartheid and classifies an entire subset of its population as below a second class citizens. See residency restrictions, property confiscation, separate licenses, constant ID checks, different license plates etc. Lets not confuse Israels success with the type of system that is needed or necessary, you are also referring to a transportation system in Israel that sees less traffic through it than most major US airports. Israel is a perfect example of how terrorism springs forth, the heavy handed militaristic approach simply increases the number of the enemy. The terrorists dont hate us for our freedom, they hate us becuase we dont mind our own fucking business.

  43. #43 |  Oh. Yeah. « scalability.org | 

    […] but I think its worth saying it publicly. Some of these things are simply security theatre. As the referenced post notes If you???re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they???re really only […]

  44. #44 |  Kranky | 

    “Because Israel is a police state that practices apartheid and classifies an entire subset of its population as below a second class citizens.”

    Calling you an idiot would be unfair to real idiots.

    Israel is the only democracy in the middle east. Its arab citizens have exactly the same rights as its non-arab citizens. The ID checks are to make sure terrorists don’t get in and blow up their children at Sbarro or cafes or on buses. That seems to be working pretty well for them.

    Blaming Israel for terrorism is the most grotesque misrepresentation of history imaginable. You can dislike and be critical of Israel all you wish, but don’t distort reality and history. Arab terror predates the creation of the state by almost half a century. The massacre in Hebron in the 1920s, the riots in TelAviv near the turn of the century, the riots in 1936-1939, including the massacres in Jerusalem, … the list is too long to go into. Israels response to this was Irgun and other defensive organizations, that eventually became the IDF.

    Whats sad, what is so incredibly ridiculous, is that when Israel finally defends herself against the 8000+ rockets and mortars falling in and around Sderot from Gaza after 8 years … when they finally own up to protecting their citizens … every damned anti-Israeli out there froths at the mouth, equating their defense with a war crime. How dare the Israelis defend themselves against attacks. How dare they.

    How dare they point the finger of likely terrorism at those most likely to commit terrorism.

    Yeah, Dan Z, its that simple. It really, really is.

    I’ve been through Ben Gurion airport, I’ve visited Israel for conferences. An arab cab driver took me around in both cities I spend time in. I was looked as as closely as he was, as were the other people around there.

    You obviously don’t have a clue about what you write. The terrorists hate us because of who they are, and what their religion/culture compels them to do. And if you don’t know or understand that this very non-PC statement is, sadly, in fact correct, then there is little hope for you understanding the true dimensions of this conflict.

    Let me guess … wild guess really … you voted for the big O man. Right?

  45. #45 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    @#41 You are correct. However it would be interesting to see whose behavior they observe. I’d wager it’s people who look as if they are likely to cause trouble. Now who might they be?


    Point taken, but are we really that much different? Think about it. Almost everything you mentioned about Israel we have here.

    Residency restrictions: Yep, if you end up on a sex offender list.

    Property confiscation: Oh yeah.

    Constant ID checks: It sure seems as if we are headed that way.

    Different license plates: Yep, if you are convicted of DUI in some states.

    Second -class citizenship: We have this too, only we call it ‘being a convicted felon’.

    Heavy handed police tactics abound in the U.S. as Radley reports to us on a nearly daily basis.

    I’m not suggesting we should be exactly like Israel when it comes to security, however one cannot ignore that whatever they are doing works and it couldn’t hurt to take a lesson from them.

    Part of their success may stem from their using Mossad agents as airport security instead of the rent-a-cops and prison-guard rejects that we have here.

    I do agree with your last statement. We would likely be better off if we would mind our own business.

  46. #46 |  Dan Z | 

    Steamed McQueen:

    I dont want to turn this into a Israel v Palestine issue, but none of the issues you raise with the US doing the same thing Israel does, property confisctaion, second class citizenship etc exist in this country as a matter of birth. There is no way for a palestinian to shake off the yoke of their parents and their birth. While the US system isnt perfect and inequalities do exist most of those points you made require a concious act and a conviction to occur. The system isnt perfect in that regard, but at least there is some degree of due process and ability to contest those actions, there isnt any in Israel.

  47. #47 |  Dan Z | 

    I will agree with you on one point, using the Mossad is key to their success. The US use of oorly trained and motivated people for airport security is a big problem and one there is no excuse for. I don’t know that youi can ever fully prevent aterrorist threat, but there has to be a way that doesn’t involve sacrificing so many of the rights that made the idea of the US so great to begin with.

  48. #48 |  Stephen | 

    TSA is a joke. They could easily be replaced by just handing out baseball bats to the passengers that are willing to carry them.

    Homeland security is a joke. They are already trumped by deer hunters. No army is going to be stupid enough to invade the USA unless they can disarm the deer hunters first.

  49. #49 |  Fatwa Arbuckle | 

    Perhaps preventing airline passengers from moving during the last hour of their flight is actually:

    a) a cunning plan to force would-be terrorists to piss themselves, thus ruining any incendiary devices strapped to their thighs.

    b) part of a new stimulus package which would encourage the purchase of highly-taxed underwear and trousers from airport kiosks.

    c) to provide amusement for our diligent, dedicated, overworked and underpaid TSA drones as they giggle over passengers with soiled pantaloons.

  50. #50 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The bad news is that the TSA’s security measures are largely ineffective, but the good news is that they are extremely aggressive in instituting more of them.

    I just watched an interview of Janet Napolitano on CNN. I’m surprised the White House allows that woman out in public. She came across as totally incompetent and CNN isn’t exactly known for asking the tough questions. Paraphrasing: “If the fact that the terrorist’s father contacted the government fearing that his son is becoming radicalized and might do something doesn’t qualify him for serious scrutiny at the airport, just what the fuck does it take?”

    After watching her, I can only conclude that the reason we haven’t had more terrorist attacks isn’t because of anything Homeland Security has done, but because the terrorists just haven’t really been trying.

  51. #51 |  MassHole | 

    I am so fucking bummed my family and I are flying tomorrow.

  52. #52 |  mark robbins | 

    “I’m dumbfounded. The people on the plane stopped the attack.”

    No they didn’t.

    If they heard a pop and then reacted as is being described, they’d all be dead if the terrorist didn’t fuck up somehow. Luck prevented the disaster.

  53. #53 |  perlhaqr | 

    MassHole: Let us know how it goes. I have a flight on the 9th, and would like to know what level of asshole inspection to look forward to. Should I acquire a speculum and pre-dilate?

  54. #54 |  Highway | 

    #52 mark robbins

    That might be true, but neither would any stupid restrictions the TSA is proposing have made any difference. That’s the whole point of Radley’s post: The TSA puts in stupid-ass restrictions that are meaningless, and wouldn’t have changed the outcome, just to look like they are ‘doing something’.

  55. #55 |  CK | 

    Simply require all passengers to disrobe completely before boarding.
    No nudity, no fly.
    Save oodles of stolen money on Terrorist security.

  56. #56 |  ProfessorBainbridge.com | 

    TSA: The Stupid Agency…

    Predictably, TSA is responding to the most recent airplane terrorism incident by piling on even more stupid and ineffectual restrictions on passengers: In the wake of the terrorism attempt Friday on a Northwest Airlines flight, federal officials on Sat…

  57. #57 |  Elroy | 

    While we are all getting ready to bend over for the new inspections to be implemented, I can think of relatively simple ways terrorists could kill the same amount of people that don’t involve airplanes at all.

    We can’t guard every mile of train track, every gasoline truck, every school, mall, movie theater, hazardous material shipment etc. Our immigration policies are suicidal. We need to halt immigration from any country that poses a terrorism risk and closely scrutinize any visitors from those countries. It is probably too late for this as evidenced by the Fort Hood massacre.

  58. #58 |  Billy | 

    I don’t think it was luck, but sheer stupidity of the bomber that saved the flight. He is said by another passenger to have spent about twenty minutes in the head just before attempting to detonate the bomb (probably arming it, mixing chemicals, or something like that). One wonders – why didn’t he also try to set it off in the privacy of the lavatory??

    And, why isn’t the TSA putting a limit on the time spent in the toilet? I think most people would welcome something like that. Heh.

    And then, as for full-body scans, if I still flew I’d be worried about the risks of radiation. For example, when I was flying, some airports (Kai Tak being the classic example) were known to really pour it on the checked baggage, such that the chances of one’s film surviving were slim and none…

  59. #59 |  Elroy | 

    “One wonders – why didn’t he also try to set it off in the privacy of the lavatory??”

    Just speculation but he had a window seat, maybe the explosive was more effective from his window seat than if it was detonated in the lavatory.

  60. #60 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

    Billy said:

    I don’t think it was luck, but sheer stupidity of the bomber that saved the flight. He is said by another passenger to have spent about twenty minutes in the head just before attempting to detonate the bomb (probably arming it, mixing chemicals, or something like that).

    That’s somewhat right. We’ve known for decades (or perhaps centuries) that mixing chemicals to create an explosive is incredibly difficult. It takes a highly controlled environment and the proper tools to keep the mixture (generally done via slow, tedious titration) from failing completely. It seems to me that this joker did about as well as it’s possible to do in such an environment. And instead of burning his crotch he only burned his legs.

    So, now we get more security theatre…

    The answer, of course, is to completely privatize air travel. Airports and airlines should be completely private endeavors. They would have their own security procedures and would be liable for any damages. So, we’d probably see a standard security procedure that actually had a purpose beyond the psychological effect that our current security theatre provides now. And different airlines would have varying procedures, so those procedures would become a selling point for the airlines. “Hey, our security check is fast and unobtrusive!” or “You’ll never be anywhere safer, though we do request you submit to a full-cavity search.”

  61. #61 |  PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Responding to the Terrorist Attempt | 

    […] Radley Balko:  TSA: Dumb as Ever […]

  62. #62 |  xxx | 

    Schneier: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/12/separating_expl.html

  63. #63 |  Lorraine Sumrall | 

    You are completely right on with “the appearance of safety”. Corrections, probation, and parole are all part of this same type of sham, and entire industries have been created to support it.

  64. #64 |  Frank | 

    #56 Quite true. A diffuse threat requires a diffuse response. Anyone who has ever heard of “asymmetric warfare” understands this.

    The problem is, the very methods of diffuse response against terrorism can also easily be used against a tyrannical government. The Second Amendment exists for a reason and it ain’t hunting.

  65. #65 |  Devedander | 

    @tim post #10: That is just not true.

    The TSA is so sloppy and knows so few of their own rules that often it’s THEM who causes the slowdown because THEY don’t know how to make it go quickly.

    I had my mother with an artificial hip go through security… had a note from the doctor noting it, told TSA to expect it, they needed to do a manual search anyway. Needed to get a female agent, that took almost 10 minutes only to find out they needed a female level 2 agent (not sure it’s level two but more trained than normal agent) who took another 5 minutes, then that agent didn’t even know what to do so tried to look it up (took 5 minutes) then did the pat down and test and a supervisor was called to make sure she did it right, she didn’t, another 10 minutes… finally cleared… All on the TSA.

    I was in line behind a lady with tall lace up boots… they wanted her to put the shoes on the xray belt… she explaind they had no metal and were a pain to take off and put on and didn’t want to. TSA told her it was mandatory and she told them it was not.


    “Loy said screeners are being instructed to encourage passengers to remove their shoes and submit them for X-ray examination. Passengers will not be required to take off their shoes before going through metal detectors”

    TSA heald up the whole line because they didn’t know their own policy.

    So sorry… the problem is not always on the passenger.

  66. #66 |  Woody | 

    For all you who are so negative towards TSA, go fly “Unsecured Airlines”. Have a nice flight!

    Extremist are out to kill you. Do you not understand this? TSA Officers work with whatever tools available to accomplish its mission. It sure isn’t for the pay. All you passengers want to do is bitch and complain about those who are willing/dedicated in keeping you and your family safe.

    The extremist failed this time. Next time, they may be successful. What can you do? Comply with the rules. TSA.gov website will tell you everything you need to know about going throught the checkpoint. I fly a lot with my job and I have no problems going through the checkpoints. If I surrender my shampoo for being over size, that’s okay because I know others are not allowed to take their liquids geater than 3.4 oz through the checkpoint. It’s better than surrendering my life or the life of a love one, because I felt my constitutional rights were violated. Grow up!

    If your not part of the solution, go fly “Unsecured Airlines.” I think they’re still waiting for their first passenger.

    If you have a better way of conducting the screening, be active. I think TSA.gov website has a link for comments.

  67. #67 |  Matt I. | 

    STEAMED MCQUEEN you are a fucking neocon facsist idiot, probably one of those moron conservatives who’s now looking to be labeled as a ‘Libertarian’.

    Yeah I bet you love racial profiling. I wonder how you’d feel about it if YOU were in the group constantly harassed and pulled aside.

    Hurr durr the US is getting more facist, so we should racially profile. Do you even understand what this site is about?

    Seriously, GTFO.

  68. #68 |  SusanK | 

    Since no one else has said it…
    Really? DETROIT???
    If his goal was destroy a manufacturing mecca, his intelligence is out of date. If his goal was to clean up the city, maybe he should get a “keep america beautiful” award instead of going to prison.
    Someone had to say it.

  69. #69 |  Moe Lane » Word of advice for 2012 convention planners? | 

    […] more, see The Agitator, via RS McCain; and Hot […]

  70. #70 |  Word of advice for 2012 convention planners? - Moe_Lane’s blog - RedState | 

    […] more, see The Agitator, via RS McCain; and Hot […]

  71. #71 |  Beniamino | 

    @ #44 (“Kranky”):

    Obviously, this isn’t the place for a lengthy discussion about the political legitimacy of the state of Israel. But I would like to correct something in your post. You claim that “Arab terror predates the creation of the state [of Israel] by almost half a century,” and you invoke the “massacre in Hebron in the 1920s,” the “riots in 1936-1939,” et al. In fact, “Arab terror” predates the creation of the state of Israel by approximately thirty years. “Arab terror” began to occur when the British drove the Ottomans out of Palestine in 1917, obtained a “Mandate” to govern the territory from the League of Nations, and almost immediately set up a “Zionist Commission” and began cooperating with confidence tricksters like Weizmann to disenfranchize the indigenous population and flood the territory with foreign Jews. You apparently believe that Palestinians were under some kind of moral obligation to passively submit to this invasion. By virtue of what, exactly, were European Jews entitled to this territory? By virtue of the fact that they had a demographic majority there at one point during the Roman Empire? By virtue of the fact that the fictional god of the Old Testament said so?

    What about “Jewish terror”? What about the kidnapping and summary execution of British soldiers in Palestine after the end of WWII, when the British government was no longer viewed as being compliant enough with the Zionist agenda? What about the bombing of British headquarters at the King David hotel? You don’t think there’s something obscene about the fact that the state of Israel was founded by people who were so busy planning a takeover in Palestine that they couldn’t be bothered to actually fight Nazis in Europe and try to prevent the Holocaust – by people who in fact sought to lay the groundwork for a Zionist state by manner of terrorist attacks against the nationals of a country that actually did fight the Nazis?

    Spare me this self-righteous crap about “Arab terror.”

  72. #72 |  André Kenji | 

    I don´t recall a single incident where someone managed to blow up a plane(Or *anything* else) using explosives that requires fire. It´s almost impossible to do it without calling the attention of other people. It´s also true that it would be very difficult to kill a big number of people on the ground. We aren´t talking about people using plastic explosives. And most American cities have a very sparse population. Even when a plane fell in the middle of the city of São Paulo, Brazil, ten years ago, we did not have a high death toll.

    Maybe it´s because I don´t fly and I´m not an American, but I don´t understand the panic.

  73. #73 |  Elroy | 

    “We aren´t talking about people using plastic explosives.”

    Andre – according to the news reports the explosive was PETN.

    Assuming no one on the ground was killed, 286 people on the plane is still a pretty high death toll.

    I don’t know if anyone is panicking but the incidents like this can have far reaching effects.

  74. #74 |  BP | 

    TSA does exactly what the terrorists want — which is to take freedom away from us. Therefore, TSA works for the terrorists. TSA = Terrorist Services of America.

    My child was “randomly” pulled out of line for a near strip-search a few days before Christmas. The search lasted a long time, so I had a lot of time to watch who the TSA pulled out of line for “random” searches — and I can tell you it was the elderly, children, and the innocent — while letting dangerous looking types cruise right on through. What does a terrorist look like? Take a look at the ones we’ve identified and see if there might be any common traits.

  75. #75 |  Kristen | 

    This is why I drive anywhere east of the Mississippi. Vermont in January – driving is only one hour longer than flying.

  76. #76 |  dick | 

    There’s no need for full body scans, anal cavity probes, or whatever other inconveniencies our beloved administration has planned for us.

    Just stop letting KNOWN religious fanatics on airplanes.

  77. #77 |  JS | 


    rofl! brilliant!

  78. #78 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    @Matt I:

    Racist? No. Realist? Yes. Neocon? Not even close. As far as I’m concerned, ALL of politics and politicians are bottom feeders who shouldn’t be trusted to run a lemonade stand, let alone set policy for the country.

    W/R/T being pulled over and hassled: You might be surprised at how often something like that does happen, simply because no one wants to be accused of profiling, yet it is necessary to keep up the appearance of ‘doing something’. So yeah, I, an average American white guy has been pulled out of line at the airport while more ethnic-looking types pass right through and grandmothers get strip searched.

    I stand by the crux of my original statement: The terrorists are using the American obsession with political correctness against us. Until we dispose of this absurd idea that we can’t hurt anyone’s feelings it’s only going to get worse.

  79. #79 |  Lobsang Rampa | 

    Damn you TSA dumbasses. Flying was once a thing of joy and pride. Now it’s a constant harassment.

    As a terrorism deterrent, I suggest we fire all TSA agents and cut all the checkpoints. Allow only naked people on planes and give a machete to each passenger. Presto! No more terrorist attacks (I bet you).

  80. #80 |  Matt | 

    Dude political correctness has nothing to do with it. Up till 9-11 the biggest domestic terrorist attacks were executed by “whites”…

    Just cause you don’t like certain skin colors or “ethnic” backgrounds doesn’t mean they are all terrorists..

  81. #81 |  Marcus | 

    The new regs, if followed, would possibly allow a similar attempt to be successful (assuming the firecracker would have blown the plane up if not for the blankets.) This being so obvious, that the regs are immaterial at best and counterproductive at worst, why assume that the TSA is incompetent and not ponder the notion that they don’t want future plots to be foiled?

    Do only muslims have something to gain from exploding planes over the USA?

  82. #82 |  nyambol | 

    What’s amazing to me is that not one of the people involved in this commentary, including the author of the original article, bothered to research and find out exactly what new security measures were implemented by TSA. Is that an indicator of the level of IQ? Is the laziness quotient high? Or, contrary to the recent remark by Al Franken, do you all believe that you’re entitled to your own facts?

    Out here in fact-based reality, the TSA has implemented a set of security enhancements, the nature of which has not been released to the public in order to prevent terrorists from anticipating them. In addition, the implementation of these new enhancements is random, meaning they won’t be applied all the time everywhere, so at any given airport or flight, terrorists won’t know exactly what to expect.

    Finally, the TSA has implemented new requirements about inflight activities on inbound international flights. That last section of the previous sentence, starting with the word “on,” is known as a qualifying prepositional clause. It restricts the meaning of the sense topic proper to a subset of the possible applications. In this case, it means that domestic flights (i.e., flights that originate and end within the United States) are not subject to this rule. You could see why this rule was devised simply by applying intelligent analysis to a reading of the original incident. Hmm, I can see the problem there for you: “intelligent” modifying “analysis” and applied together to problem solving.

    The TSA looks a whole lot smarter than this lot. We might think that their conclusions are goofy, but at least they have a chance of getting it right. They’re starting with real facts rather than made-up “facts.”

  83. #83 |  Bill | 

    Wow, nyambol (#82), clearly more “research” should have been done to determine “exactly” what these new measures are , though “the nature of which has not been released to the public”, as you say. That way, we could “research” till hell freezes over, which would avoid the annoying complaining people are doing about the parts which ARE publicly available.

    In my “fact-based reality”, terrorists don’t obey rules like staying seated during the last hour of the flight…otherwise, we could just have a rule against hijacking or blowing up planes, and all would be well with the world. Further, your “intelligent analysis” fails to note any trade-off between comfort, freedom and (the false sense of) security that these measures create.

    Further, briefly skimming through the posts, I don’t see anything that would indicate that the posters didn’t know everything you posted–unless YOU are assuming that flights they mention having taken are domestic. Perhaps you’d like to cite an actual comment as incorrect, rather than making pointless generalizations.

    By the way, Franken was far from the first person to use the “you’re not entitled to your own facts” thing.

  84. #84 |  Jim Collins | 

    Do you happen to have a website address for “Unsecured Airlines”? I’ll fly them anytime. Just don’t ask what that bulge is under my jacket.

  85. #85 |  Michael Chaney | 

    For all you who are so negative towards TSA, go fly “Unsecured Airlines”. Have a nice flight!

    Not sure about others here, but I definitely had and the flight was great. Going from Cataclan to Manila in the Philippines, there was no security. We could carry anything on the plane, and, guess what? no problems.

    Yeah, I know, maybe it’s not a target and all that. But the bottom line is that people had knives and likely guns on there and all hell *didn’t* break loose.

  86. #86 |  muffler | 

    I for one find this whole affair troubling and a distraction from real issues. Air travel is still safer then the odds of getting hit by lightening even with the “terror” threat. I fly regardless and really don’t worry about it. It is more probable that a plane will crash due to reduced maintenance and other profit raising efforts then a terrorist. So in the last decade (removing 9/11) we have had 2 attempts to blow up an airplane (1- that we know of or 2) that I can remember). This isn’t exactly outside the normal curve for nuts and wackos.

  87. #87 |  Delta Flight 253: We Love to Freak and It Shows : Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits | 

    […] from relieving himself) has led to sustained outrage from numerous individuals. Some sensible souls have observed that secure cockpits and the wisdom of passengers have proven more reliable than draconian TSA […]

  88. #88 |  Billy | 

    By the way, Franken was far from the first person to use the “you’re not entitled to your own facts” thing.

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
    — Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

  89. #89 |  CK | 

    So where does some lame politician get off deciding what kind of facts I am entitled to? Fact entitlement programs indeed. Damn socialists.

  90. #90 |  joev | 

    hunh. the authoritarian comments comments amusingly boil down to “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”

    oh, sorry, the amusing part is liberal or conservative, both seem just as happy spouting that tripe when it comes to overbearing big brother for their particular bias. of interest, both seem to think it’s just dandy and peachy keen to harass citizens in the name of “security”.

    i know i know…

    joe, why do you hate america?

  91. #91 |  Ken Hagler | 

    “For all you who are so negative towards TSA, go fly “Unsecured Airlines”. Have a nice flight!”

    I’d love to, but such things aren’t allowed to exist in the Land of the Fee and the Home of the Slave.

  92. #92 |  MassHole | 

    Just flew domestically today with my wife and small child. No new protocols in the air or on the ground that I could sense. I was actually impressed today by the courtesy of the TSA screeners. Maybe it was because it we had the chicklet with us or because it was an early flight and they had just started their shift. Either way, a pleasant surprise when I was expecting an anal probe. Aside from the planes being filthy as usual, it was not a bad experience.

  93. #93 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Not that I think much of it as a paper, but the New York Post has some great headlines on this story:

    Homeland chief an airhead

    Flipping Janet forced to concede security flopped

    It’s the incompetence, stupid

    Napolitano immediately took back her praise of “the system,” in a tacit acknowledgment that its only success was in demonstrating its own industrial-scale irrationality. At a cost of $30 billion since 2004, we’ve implemented security procedures ideally suited to harassing innocent passengers who only want to travel from Point A to Point B with minimal inconvenience. It’s only the terrorists we have trouble handling.

  94. #94 |  Inside Our OODA Loop | Financial and Economic news | 

    […] happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes. So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new […]

  95. #95 |  Inside Our OODA Loop | Financial and Economic news | 

    […] happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes. So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new […]

  96. #96 |  Guido | 

    Due to the lack of written responses to my previous post left with 15 thumbs down I ask this:
    Explain, in detail, how a cabin full of glock wielding passengers is somehow safer.

  97. #97 |  Stump Lane — Conservative Approaches to Terrorism | 

    […] instead. No walking about the plane, or covering up with a blanket for the last hour of a flight. Really? No watching live television news on board? Come on, you authorities aren’t even trying […]

  98. #98 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Re #32: Sorry. Guess I should have marked that comment as follows:

    “Please, Officer, may I register my legal and legally-obtained firearm with you?”


  99. #99 |  Andrew Williams | 

    #55: Good to know someone else here has read Robert A Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS.

  100. #100 |  Good thing they were keeping a close eye on the libertarians « Blunt Object | 

    […] Radley Balko echoes the theme that smart, determined passengers are a more effective counterterrorism method than body-imaging scanners or carry-on liquid restrictions (weren’t those supposed to have prevented devices like this one?): Seems to me that what this, Flight 93, and the Richard Reid incident have shown us is that the best line of defense against airplane-based terrorism is us. Alert, aware, informed passengers. […]

  101. #101 |  Brent | 

    What we need to do is improve the system to reduce the likelyhood that someone like the shoe/underwear bomber doesn’t even show up to the airport, much less the airplane. This guy was on a terrorist watch list but yet still had a visa to enter the country. How hard is it to create a filter to automatically reject people who are on the terrorist watch list?

    I can’t think of a reason so important that we let the fact that someone is a suspected terrorist slide and let him come into the country. If they really do need to enter the country then I have no problem with them needing to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops to get a visa and agreeing to extra, extra security checks (the type where the nice lady puts on the latex gloves). 99.9999% of travelers are not on a terrorist watch list so why do we need to go through all this extra security when the governments of the world could be doing so much more to ensure that a terrorist doesn’t even make it to the airport?

  102. #102 |  Tut | 

    The only way for the TSA’s to do there job is to profile. It is not that difficult. There is a need to check and recheck all people of middle eastern decent and people that look like it. I have had it with political correctness.

  103. #103 |  Whim | 

    Radley is exactly correct. The TSA wants travelers to FEEL safer.

    Not BE safer.

    The passengers are the key, of course. Due to the extremely close quarters on a passenger airliner, a terrorist sitting next to even a semi-alert fellow passenger isn’t going to get away with ANYTHING.

    And, the terrorists are severely outnumbered, and in a several passengers vs. ONE terrorist fight, the terrorist is severely outmatched.

  104. #104 |  If the terrorists don’t kill off the airlines, the TSA will « Quotulatiousness | 

    […] Radley Balko joins the chorus of protests about the latest set of how-stupid-can-you-get “security” rules from the TSA: […]

  105. #105 |  sebastian | 

    I just got back from the airport. It was awful. I flew CVG-ORD-LGA yesterday and JFK-SFO today and I was searched and searched. I was treated like a criminal. I am latin american but I have a beard when I’m on vacation so it makes me look middle eastern. A passenger this morning said I looked suspicious so I got doubly searched and interviewed and they didn’t care that I was an airline pilot. I am not kidding. It was demeaning.

  106. #106 |  Dave Krueger | 

    TSA Going After Bloggers Who Wrote About Directive to Increase Security After Terror Incident

    The government says the directive was not supposed to be disclosed to the public.

    Typical government strategy. It’s always easier to target the innocent. They’ll get back to chasing the terrorists as soon as they’re done harassing ordinary citizens. Of course, had they been doing their jobs to begin with, there would never have been a need for the new directive…

  107. #107 |  Kat | 

    “If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.”

    It’s hardly cynical to think this. Given the reactionary and counter-intuitive nature of pretty much all of the TSA’s restrictions, it strikes me as the only logical conclusion!

  108. #108 |  Gordon | 

    Actually, if you are REALLY cynical, you might think that they don’t have a plan at all, other than knee-jerk reacting. Oh, wait, they’re civil servants, doesn’t that go without saying?

  109. #109 |  … and don’t make any sudden moves | 

    […] fly has increased steadily with each new regulation requiring the violation of personal space, but this one really takes the biscuit. “…during the final hour of flight passengers must remain […]

  110. #110 |  Mills | 

    The TSA are stupid thugs, nothing more. They must be beaten down as they deserve. Wake up America! Of course their new child molesting policies are just part of their huge power trip, nothing more. The government wants to show you sheep who is boss. That is exactly why we have the 2nd amendment. Perhaps soon we will use it! We need to copy the Israelis and do airport security with discrimination. Leave the innocent children alone, stop fondling the genitals and breasts of innocent American women, or face the wrath of true Americans. F**k the TSA and all who support them.