Moment of TSA surrealist zen @ LAX: Xeni

UPDATE (08-30, 12pm PT): Ryan Singel at Wired News Threat Level blog suggested filing a FOIA request around this incident, and I plan to do so with his kind assistance (Link to his post). Will post what I learn here on BoingBoing.

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I flew from JFK to LAX today, and something really weird happened when I arrived (at about 230PM local time).

I walked from the arrival gate towards baggage claim, and when I was about halfway there, all of a sudden about a dozen or more TSA personnel and private security staff appeared, shouting STOP WHERE YOU ARE. FREEZE. DO NOT MOVE. Not just at me, but all of the travelers who happened to be wandering through the hallway at that moment.

Some of the TSA guards then backed up against walls in the hallway, and sort of barked at anyone who tried to move a few feet away from their "spot," like towards chairs to sit down or whatever.

One TSA guard jogged ahead, back towards the arrival gates (United, this was Terminal 7). At first I assumed maybe it was some weird security drill? A few of us asked what was going on, and got terse answers, like, "Security review." WTF? 5 minutes passed. 10, 15, 20. The two teen Japanese tourists about ten feet behind me looked utterly dazed -- welcome to America, guys. I was really jetlagged and cranky, wanted to move a few feet and sit down, but the TSA lady nearest me kind of snapped at me to stop and stay frozen where I was when the order went out.

After 30 minutes, the TSA people said, okay, you may leave now. And everyone unfroze, and went and got their bags. No explanation. I guess I should have pressed for an explanation, or demanded to know why we were being held without our consent and without a provided reason, but I was really tired and just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home. Perhaps I was wrong to have just walked away.

Has anyone else out there experienced this kind of thing in a US airport? Was this some sort of weird TSA fire drill, or was there an actual security incident with a perceived imminent threat?

The guards were all just sort of standing around scratching their heads, looking bored, I definitely didn't have the sense there was any urgency. But they held us there, standing, frozen, for 30 minutes. I felt like we were in an undiscovered Godard movie or something, and some Parisian babe with heavy eyeliner was going to burst in any moment and start reciting poetry. Totally surreal.

Love to hear anyone else's first-hand accounts of anything similar in the comments, if you've experienced it lately.


  1. Did they give you any explanation when the game of armed freeze-tag was over, Xeni? Even if there was a valid reason (which, as a frequent traveler sick of TSA Security Theatre, I tend to doubt), it seems that they could give some explanation, however cursory … how weird … hope I don’t encounter this one ever (especially not when I’m in a hurry, which is most times that any of us are in airports, after all).

  2. This happened to me when i was in PDX a few weeks ago. I was leaving the secured area after getting off a plane, i was near the screeners but not yet through. The TSA people started yelling and did the same thing you described and had everyone freeze.

    It only lasted a few minutes for me.

  3. Yes, the same thing happened to me last spring, coming in on a flight that landed in Nashville. No explanation, just lots of orders by folks w/ guns; both TSA and local police. The whole process took about 30 minutes. No one seemed to know exactly what was going on – even the police.

  4. The airport security racket is a multi-billion scam, designed to enforce fear in the population. It’s a sham, nothing else.

    (By the way, I registered for your account, but couldn’t sign in and had to comment anonymously.)

  5. No, B-Trom, that was the weirdest part. After a half a frickin hour, they were just like, “o, hai, nm u guys kthxbi.” And as I said, I feel a little guilty for not having pressed for an explanation (I believe we were owed one!) but I really really needed to be home quickly and didn’t have it in me for a fight at that moment. If I were, say, John Gilmore or Bruce Schneier and not a total pussy, I’d have done more.

  6. @Gregjsmith, I think the staff at LAX is just dumber and slower. I honestly wonder if this isn’t just some kind of drill they do, periodically, and never tell the passengers what’s up.

  7. Once when I was flying from Seattle to Birmingham, AL, something kind of like that happened to me. Birmingham is a small airport, and theres only one security entry point with two metal detectors that everyone has to go through to get to to the one long hall of gates branching from the right and left. As I arrived to go past the security area towards baggage claim, apparently someone had tried to go through security by going around, instead of through, that is to say on one side there are people exiting, with only one TSA employee making sure no one goes in that way. Well in any case, I saw a couple of guys run past saying something about catching a person who didn’t go through the detector, and a security guard tell everyone who was exiting to stop, and they taped off the only area to exit out of, and stopped anyone from going in through the metal detector, which is completely insane. It took about 15 minutes or so before we could move, I assume they got whoever they were looking for. I hung around a little while to see if they were going to bring whoever it was up to the front to go through the metal detector the normal way, but apparently they must have taken him/her to one of those special room. Like you said though Xeni, we couldn’t move or go to sit anywhere, as there were several TSA people as well as the x-ray and metal detector people around, who had left their post to make sure we didn’t. SO maybe this is what happened to you, maybe someone got loose.

  8. On the opposite end of L.A. flying, Burbank Airport for quite some time now has a sign up saying cars are subject to searches upon entering. I’ve never once seen it happen despite being a relatively frequent traveler.

  9. It seems to happen all the time at LAX (I fly in and out of there, the Southwest terminal, about once a week). Generally, it’s considerably faster than 1/2 hour, though, at most a minute or two.
    I always assumed it was yet another Totally Silly Absurdity, something they do To Seem Acceptable.

  10. Most likely they “lost” a person of interest at one of the checkpoints. Couple of years ago a passenger walked thru the TSA checkpoint leaving behind a bag with a loaded gun in it. They never found him.

    Guess they developed the freeze procedure after that.

  11. This exact thing happened to me early April in the Tom Bradley terminal @ LAX. Roughly 22:30.

    Flex JFK to LAX and transferred from terminal 4 for my international connection. Walking past the security checkpoint on the sterile side – it’s roughly opposite where the bus drops you – and one of the TSA operators screams “STOP! DO NOT MOVE!”

    A good dozen more TSA guys materialize out of nowhere and I get to play statues with 20 or so people from my bus, and everyone in the queue for security.

    There was no explanation – in fact we were forbidden from talking.

    After about 5 mins some shouts “CLEAR!” and everyone gets back to business.

    As you said – surreal.


  12. Power trip. Too much authority and self-importance.

    It’s now clear that once you step into an airport you are no longer a US citizen and have no rights – and they’re not going to let you forget it.

    I can’t think of a better way to promote rail travel, can you?

  13. Xeni, you just described exactly what happened to me at LAX in December on the way to Oahu. We didn’t get an explanation; they just kept yelling “freeze.”

    I was already running late for a flight because my travel partner was pulled aside for a special security check in that consisted of them barely looking at her passport (from the Netherlands) and stamping her boarding pass after making us wait in an hour-long line.

    Since we were running late, I picked up her bags after they’d gone through the X-ray, since she was busy being frisked and having powder rubbed on her shoes. Since I had touched her bags, they had to go through the X-ray machine a second time … in case I had somehow slipped something in even though a TSA person had been watching me the whole time.

    If weren’t in danger of missing our flight (which we miraculously made), I would have asked for an explanation.

  14. @Flying Squid– I’ve had my car searched a few times at Burbank, but not regularly, and not for at least 6 mos. OTOH the security checkpoint was back at the LAX entrance when I was there a couple days ago, to my surprise.

  15. That happened to me at LAX a few months ago while going through security.

    After it happened, we were told it was just a drill.

  16. Yeah, wow. Didn’t realize this procedure was so common. I think what really felt so surreal here was the duration — half an hour, man.

  17. I’m trying to remember . . . when we played freeze tag as kids, was there a “jail”? What happened to the kids who didn’t stay frozen?

  18. So, why didn’t anybody sit down? are they gonna arrest the entire goddamned plane full of people for being tired? I wonder what the law requires, actually, in terms of obeying these people. Most of the screeners do not look like they are trained in law enforcement.

  19. Is there anywhere that describes what a traveler’s rights are in this situation? I’d really like to know the details. As I understand it, one still cannot be detained arbitrarily in this country. Of course there are probably special (secret?) regulations that apply in airport secured areas…

  20. Last week a similar thing happened, but I got a bit more information out of it. I was beyond the gates at LAX when several TSA folks rushed toward the passenger terminal. One yelled out something cryptic (like “Code Chartreuse”, I couldn’t quite make it out even when every other TSA person yelled it back TSA then demanded that everyone near them stop and stand still while they handled the situation. After about 30 seconds, the all clear was called out and folks could continue on.

    More than likely, this was probably a case of someone doing something like walking back into the TSA area or being a three year old or maybe having oddly colored socks. No explanation was given, and frankly, I was just happy that they didn’t decide to clear the airport.

  21. Had this happen at Orlando a few months ago. I sat for 20 minutes on one of the monorail trains that shuttle you from check in to the gate while security locked down everything to track down someone who allegedly had slipped the screening process.

  22. Does anyone else thing that there are no real policies and procedures for these TSA folk, and that each airport’s TSA office is run in a different way – but you can’t know what way, because it would “compromise security” for you to know what’s going on?

    It sounds to me like the LAX TSA office is run by Skroeder (if you’ve seen the movie you’ll understand) or the Chicago SWAT team from the Blues Brothers movie “hut! hut! hut! hut!”

  23. Freeze tag by the TSA.

    Because a real terrorist wouldn’t know how to stand still. Because real terrorist would cause a scene and want to sit down.

    Maybe next time it will be Red Light, Green Light, 123!

  24. Sometimes I think it’s a social experiment. They do all kinds of crazy shit. Making people sit in planes while landed for hours on end because of “security concerns”. Making everyone leave the airport and then re-enter security because someone might have gotten through unscreened. Stopping you to ask some stupid question, just to see how you will respond.

    They’re looking for people behaving oddly. Or they’re testing how plastic we’ve all become. Baaahh.

  25. I fly united a lot. this has happened to me at LAX at least 3 times. Whatever people; want to see some real weirdness? check out the white house…

  26. I’ve seen stuff like that happen in the streets of NYC…
    Weird and terrible times lie ahead.

  27. Anyone recall the 20,000 passengers detained at LAX earlier in August due to a stupid TSA computer malfunction. They wouldn’t let anyone off the planes, even though all were screened before boarding their flights.

    The TSA like to yell at everyone, as if to keep all travelers in a constant state of fear. They have no signage detailing certain search procedures, then when you’ve failed to place your laptop in it’s “own” bin they yell some more. If you apologize & explain that you didn’t know the procedure, they yell again.

    I recall the dopey TSA had an unannounced red alert stage going on at SFO last month one night for no particular reason, recorded announcements repeatedly stating obnoxious paranoid orders & requests, and alienating passengers. In Seattle recently a TSA girl sat at a desk just repetitively yelling something unintelligible every 30 seconds at a long line of passengers sweating while struggling with their shoes, bags and IDs. It was like a scene out a Woody Allen @ Auschwitz flick.

    The TSA gladly confiscate “verboten” everyday items, but offer no envelopes to mail them back to yourself or perhaps check them. Huh?

    Disabled & retarded people have their medications taken, seniors wobble as their walkers are taken’s nuts, stupid and ridiculous. Any terrorist worth a salt would just wear a bomb into a TSA screening line and blow up hundreds like they do in Iraqi job lines.

  28. They’re just fucking with you. It’s a game one of the bored TSA guys (or girls) thought up in the break room, and now it’s spread to other airports.

    Either that, or it’s a government test to see how their sheep breeding program is getting along.

    Apparently, it’s a success.

  29. I ran into similar at LAX.

    I was lucky enough to overhear some of the radio chatter, and it was because someone got a bottled water past security.

    That was it.

    Same barking, same “don’t move”.

  30. This happened to me right after going through a departure checkpoint in MCO (Orlando). Sudden yelling, everyone freeze, although they didn’t stop people from sitting. Then a TSA guard jogged ahead and got someone who had apparently slipped through the checkpoint by accident without getting his bags x-rayed. (Some clueless foreign tourist.) After he was screened, all-clears and thumbs-up all around.

  31. Why are you people STILL FLYING with this nonsense going on? No job is worth this kind of indignity, and I’m sure your families will understand why you shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of crap to visit them.

    I haven’t been able to lower myself to fly publicly in years. There’s a lot of the country I still want to see, but I’m holding out hope that one day again I’ll be able to do so without having to be treated like a parolee.

  32. Happened to me going through LAX at about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday the 25th. Only lasted a couple of minutes. Never found out what it was. The lady behind me in the queue to get our bags X-rayed was not amused (she had a very young child with her).

  33. This happened to me a LAX in like ’97 or 98. We had de-planed and were walking out. We had to freeze just before passing the metal detectors on the way out. I’ll never forget it. When we were allowed to ‘unfreeze’ (after only about 3 minutes – an extremely long three minutes) I said to a woman next to me exiting the passage by the metal detectors, ‘WTF was that’ and she nonchalantly said, “It’s an Isreali thing” and then disappeared.

  34. I guess the pause is needed to change the tape on their surveillance system, and they don’t want any jumps in the picture — maybe their automated “threat detection” software shits bricks if there’s a gap in the tap.

    As for the half hour pause — I guess the guy in charge of changing the tape was doing a Sen. Craig in some airport stall.

  35. The most disturbing part of this for me was how everyone comments that they were just happy to make their flight, or were too tired and just happy to leave. These actions are unacceptable! When will we start holding people responsible for these sorts of shenanigans?

  36. This happened to me in may of this year in Atlanta as I was returning to LA. Several yells of “NOBODY MOVE!!” But it only lasted about 3-4 minutes, not long, just long enough for everybody to get over being scared and see that it was just the same overweight TSA screeners trying to do their job (read: piss everyone off). About half of them looked nervous, the other half looked smug at having kept the old ladies in wheelchairs from putting their shoes back on with some semblance of dignity.

  37. happened to me also, coming back from tampa last December. Lasted about ten minutes, and they started to yell at the wife and I for trying to sit down, but we sat anyways. I tried asking what happened and they used the same term ” security review” and wouldn’t elaborate.

  38. “It’s high time more citizens learned to say those three simple words “kiss my ass”.”

    -such people get shot.

    this is just a mindgame, they’re just playing with your psychology, because you know that if you break the line, you’re in for a rubber glove exercise… with a gun to your head.

  39. My God…

    I’m an American, but your guys’ comments REALLY make me glad I’ve lived in Japan the last 7 years…

  40. About a year ago, flying out of Paris. After having gone thru security, people at the gate are asked to go into two lines: one for men, one for women. People are asking about kids and the airline people rudely answer (security reasons, blablablahhh…)

    Too close to other “lines” to my taste and I was not the only to think that.

  41. Why does everyone keep talking about terrorists? We still have normal criminals that are dangerous and actually exist.

  42. Makes me wonder what would actually happen if you just sat down or walked a couple of steps to a chair. Would they tackle you? Shoot you? Say “I SAID FREEZE!!!” and then when the see you’re not going anywhere keep standing around with their fingers up their noses? Either way, scary.

  43. Here’s a thought, what if they just want to see who looks guilty? Perhaps they’re not looking for anyone in particular, they just walk out, shout “freeze!”, and then wait for someone to make a break for it thinking they’ve been busted. Sort of like a fishing trip, waiting for someone to bite…

  44. previous comment

    “Why are you people STILL FLYING with this nonsense going on?”


    if no one flew for a day, the shitheads would have to stop this kind of shit.

  45. My guess is that they are using some sort of facial recognition software to check the faces of all people there, but that it’s badly configured and that they need the people that are being scanned stand completely still, otherwise the scan fails.

  46. Even though I have a good friend who worked for the TSA and tried to explain some of their reasons, I still think they’re a bunch of underpaid/overpowered people who like bossing people around. I was at the airport dropping off a relative at the international terminal and because they have the giant glass panels blocking the entire bag check the glare was making it hard to see if my relatives (who don’t speak english) made it through. I made my way to the side where one of the unused doors was in order to get a better view, keeping mindful to stay outside of the line area, and what do you know, I get yelled at by a TSA goon cuz apparently I was too close to that door… which was locked… and guarded… by him. Paranoia doesn’t even begin to describe this whole TSA mess.

  47. This is how police states star. People sit back and take it.

    Tell them to fuck off. Demand to leave. Fight this bullshit.

  48. Speaking as a Canadian, this is EXACTLY why I refuse to go anywhere near the United States.

    I know the average, day-to-day American is still the generally nice person I used to encounter but there’s a large group of people down there that are seriously screwed up.

    What was that: a game of Simon-Says with guns and security guards?

  49. The mention of ‘conditioning’ (comment #4) reminds me of the scene in “The Great Escape” where the Gestapo officer at the train platform yells “halt” at Ashley-Pitt (David McCallum) and all the German citizens reflexively stop, stoop and lick boot while the escapee is filled with holes.

    Coming soon to an airport theater near you!

  50. Too bad I have to fly to the US twice next month for work. Additionally, as an EU citizen, I now have to fill in an extensive APIS form with all my personal information before I can even check in for the flight.

    It’s really getting ridiculous. Makes me glad the company’s adopting a travel restriction (for budget reasons actually) so that I have a good excuse to do more over video conferencing.

  51. Once in Atlanta I saw something similar. On my way to my terminal, inside the ‘secure’ area, an alarm klaxon went off, complete with yellow flashing lights. TSA agents ran past me – sadly, one of the saddest attempts at concerned running I’ve seen. One of them looked downright bored, which is amazing considering it was the most action they were likely to see, unless you call squeezing my toothpaste into a trash can exciting. Anyhow, they ended up blockading an entrance to the series of gates I was interested in.

    They stood around insisting no one enter or leave while the siren sounded and the lights flashed. They refused to answer any questions about what they were doing, and this was the only, of several, entrances they were guarding. It lasted long enough for a decent-sized crowd of people had shown up on both sides, trying to get into or out of their gate. Eventually, the lights and siren went off, one listened to something on his radio, and they just wandered off without offering us any explanation.

    Seriously, what’s with these guys?

  52. O.K. it sucks but does anybody have any suggestions to change this situation? It’s obvious this absurd, but who is doing this for “our own good”? If we knew could we do anything about it? Interests are bought and sold by those with means, and it seems society is too self absorbed now to allow for effective grassroots efforts. Maybe it’s all to overwhelming and we’re all just happy it’s not “that bad”. Bad exists on a continuum and sooner or later things could be really unbearble.

    oh well apathy’s a B.

  53. Similar thing happened to my wife and I in LAX in late June 2007 — a crew of them came through and told everyone to leave the shops and move into the terminal. It took a while to herd everyone over to the gates, must have been about 2,000 passengers or so there.

    Pretty dumb to crowd everyone together as close as possible if there was ever a real threat.

    After about 30 minutes, no explanation, no nothing, they just left.

  54. Just wanted to agree with the Canadian earlier. I’m English and there’s no way I’m ever visiting America even for work. No job is worth that shit.

    I wonder do Americans still think they’re “free”?

  55. I say we need a new meme for responding to the ‘TSA FREEZE’ orders.

    • How about everyone lay on the floor spread eagle, maybe making imaginary snow angles
    • We could all start singing, few choices there macerana, YMCA, of course with hand gestures or maybe just something like America the Beautiful.
    • We could slowly all begin to strip, that would be good it anyone asks why just tell them its always good to be prepared.
    • There is always Break dancing or a good Pop and Lock routine in place.
    • How about a game of Marco Polo with no one moving

    Basically we need a flash crowed that is waiting to happen and let the TSA trigger it, I figure come holiday time with all the college kids on flights there will be a few chances for a good display.

    I guess we can always just plugin the head phones at all times and ignore the commands. If an ipod is a get out of freeze tag free card then I will have one surgically implanted.

  56. This same thing happened to me last year in Orange County. There were a lot of coded conversations on walkie talkies for a few minutes, and then it was back to normal. The TSA folks I asked about it had nothing enlightening to say at all.

  57. It’s very important, in these situations, to offer the following reasonable exchange:

    5 Minutes:
    Explain you have been on a long flight and need the bathroom. This will probably be denied.

    10 Minutes:
    Give fair warning that you are in great urinary distress. Again, this will probably ignored.

    15 Minutes:
    Whip it out and piss on the floor.

  58. As other posters have mentioned, this is just another example of what Bruce Schneier calls “Security Theater”. The idea that it may also be some form of planned conditioning is very frightening…almost as frightening as the fact that there is no real dissent from everyday Americans.
    Have we all become such sheep?

  59. Land of the Free, my ass!
    I’m quite happy I don’t have to go to the USA – why travel such a long way when I can have all the fun I want at Heathrow airport. True, they didn’t play Freeze! whith me yet, but everything else is just perfectly posh – double or triple security check including shoes (Ah! The aroma of long distance travellers!), tearing the batteries out of the notebook and announcing your gate only minutes before the flight is suppposed to start!

    This rediculous”terrorist threat” is so Orwell 1984 and noone seems to notice. Or to care.

    And we all play our part because we want it to end and it ends much sooner when we keep quiet.

  60. Judge Dredd, America is ready for you.

    I feel really sorry for you – America has some of the nicest people in the world, and some of the biggest arseholes in charge.

    I figure that up in heaven,they’re using George, Ben, and Thomas as fans.

  61. yes, people who still go to airports and fly on airplanes are sheep who will put up with anything

    i haven’t been inside an airplane since 1987 or an airport since 2000 or so, and have no plans to do either in the future … if i need to get somewhere i’ll take the bus with the real human beings

  62. I had the same thing happen to me in Atlanta, back in 2003… I had just gotten thru the metal detector / x-ray funtime… All of the sudden I hear “Every freeze. Don’t move.” Then the SWAT team runs out. We stood there for about 15 mintues, then a guy in suit came out of an office and said “This has been a drill, thank you for your cooperation”… Yep, the terrorists are winning.

  63. So, Bruce Schneier has had an interview with Kip Hawley Can he get us, or does he have his own, comment on this?

  64. Well, that is why I think I will avoid the US when I fly back to Canada from Australia next time. Unfortunately the US is exporting this paranoia to other parts of the world as well. What a bunch of bull shit.

  65. But Xeni, at 2:30pm local time, weren’t there more passengers approaching your spot, from both directions? Like, *lots* more? What happened to them? I mean, stopping traffic in an airport concourse (or hallway, as you said) would cause a seriously huge people jam. Can you explain a bit more about the layout of the event? Or what happened to people who weren’t in the immediate area at the time of the freeze, but approached during that 30 minutes? Thanks.

  66. Somebody asked if there are any lawyers out there.

    I happen to be one, also a former judge.

    What makes you think the law has anything to do with it? It is the suspension of the law that is in action here. So, lawyers, courts, law, constitution, etc. have nothing to do with it.

    I haven’t flown for years, for this very reason. A good boycott of flying would be something to consider. But, no, everyone flocks to the airport like sheep – to a someday slaughter?

  67. You know those “flash mob” things that were all the rage a few years back? I think it’s about time for another one, only at an airport, just to f*ck with those lardass numbnuts at the TSA. Imagine, all walking through the airport and then everyone, of their own accord, just grinds to a halt….slo-mo style.

  68. Now you know how dogs feel. Atleast they didn’t throw a stick, and make you bring it back to them over and over.

  69. To me, the scariest part is not so much the question of whether or not this is secretly a conditioning exercise… as much as that regardless of its intent, it functions perfectly as one.

  70. This was around 2003, I think.

    On the way from Dulles (IAD) to Jacksonville (JAX?). My brother in law had become very ill, and we had to go see him. My wife left a few days before I did via car, and I was going to meet her there via plane.

    I am an American citizen with blond, blue-eyed Swedish ancestry. But I was born in a British Hospital in Cyprus while my father was stationed with the British Government as a US contractor. Thus my passport says, “Place of birth: Dhkelia, Cyprus.”

    So, there I was, going through the TSA, with a passport, one way ticket, and not much luggage. Fingerprint for a bomb-wielding madman, because, as you know, all the guys who tried to blow up or hijack planes were overweight third-generation Swedes born on British soil. I totally look the part.

    They weren’t subtle about it, either. The second they saw my passport and tickets, they waved them in the air at a group of uniformed guys who met me right after the metal detector.

    They sat me in a taped-off square on the carpet (there was a common stacking chair there), among several other taped off squares. First they told me to stay there, and since my flight was 2 hours away, I felt I could be patient. I only had to wait a minute until some large guy with disposable latex gloves came up to me. He wasn’t facing me, he was facing someone he was talking to a few feet away.

    When he faced me he told to stand. I did. He told me to untuck my shirt. A second man with latex gloves arrived. That man asked me to remove my shirt. Keep in mind, I was probably 10 feet away from a line of people leaving the metal detector area. So I took off my polo shirt, and felt the cold hands of one of them lift up my stomach flab around my belt, while another wanded me. Then they asked me to lift up my man-boobs. This was humiliating!

    That’s when three of them, in tandem, asked me a lot of questions. Who was I? Where was I going? Could I name my last two addresses? Where was my wife staying, how come I didn’t know my brother-in-laws address and phone number? Had I passed a security clearance? (Yes, I had) What is in my backpack? Why was my passport stamped for Sweden and Mexico? What was I doing there? (relatives and Cancun party time) Could they search my backpack? How long was I going to be in Jacksonville? Where did I meet my wife? A science fiction convention? What is a science fiction convention?

    Oddly enough, the science fiction convention seemed to be some answer that satisfied them. Like I couldn’t be a terrorist if I knew about comic books and Star Trek (?!). Or maybe they got bored. The questions ceased, and they asked me to put my belt and shirt back on. As far as I know, they only unzippered the main chamber of my backpack and didn’t look too far past the first layer of clothes.

    I sat in the chair for another 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a taped-off square next to me, the guard was screaming questions at an Asian man who must have been about 80. He was terrified. And he didn’t seem to understand why he was being yelled at. “I don’t think he speaks English,” I tried to say to the woman yelling at him, and she snapped, “STAY IN YOUR SQUARE AND STARE STRAIGHT AHEAD. THIS IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS!”

    After about 3 minutes of listening to this woman scream at this guy (who, honestly, did speak English, but was stuttering in fear), one of my guards gave me my tickets and backpack. “You may go,” he said.

    The person who replaced me in the chair? An 11 year old blond girl. No parents.

    I was shaken by the experience. All I could think, in bitter anger was, “Papers, please?” from the old Soviet Block. I have flown through Dulles and DCA since then, and while I get flagged almost every time, none of them have ever been that bad. I haven’t seen taped off carpeting anymore.

    I hate security theater. I hate the TSA.

    And the thing about this is, and this scares me just as bad, let’s say a terrorist decided he wants to suicide bomb in the US. Where can he blow himself up… in a place where there’s hundreds of people lined up and trapped in a tight group… controlled by power-hungry people who don’t know a terrorist from anyone else… and easily accessible from the outside…?

    Yeah, this security theater is going to kill people one of these days. :(

  71. we are all getting too used to not having any ‘rights’, it’s depressing.

    just a couple weeks ago i was questioned by a cop who had to run a background check on me after i gave him my name, ssn and address. i didn’t argue with him because it all seemed so surreal. apperently someone called the cops on me for walking through the suburbs…

  72. Before anyone runs out to watch that Zeitgeist movie, you should read this first to get some perspective.

    I’m not saying that shady stuff isn’t going down, but to watch that movie and swallow the whole hook line and sinker would be quite ignorant given the lack of actual evidence provided. It would be somewhat akin to reading the bible and then believing in god.

  73. Jesus. Makes you wonder what would happen should you be Deaf–get plugged full of holes because you can’t hear their ranting and keep on walking?

    I would have spent the entire 30 minutes wishing I had the guts to announce loudly “I have some place to be. I am no threat. I am now going to walk calmly out of the Airport.” And then (try to) do it. But even as I sit here typing this, my pulse has elevated. We really are such sheep.

  74. My mom was a cold war kid and she was just telling me the other day that all of the wiretapping and detentions that our government is so fond of these days sounds like what our propaganda machines were claiming the Russians were doing in the 50s. It’s not just that the terrorists are winning, it looks like the Comunists have won too.

  75. So, you stood there for a full half an hour without any explanation because someone yelled “Freeze!” at you?
    For anyone who has been in a similar situation (or anyone who wants to wax hypothetical), what would happen to someone who walked 3 feet to a bench and sat down?
    Did *anyone* even try? Did anyone say “tell me why, or I’m leaving?”
    Or did every person in the hall just freeze and stand there like sheep because someone with a badge on their sleeve said to?
    I don’t know what bothers me more, that the TSA treat people like this, or that people will accept being treated like this without any pushback at all.

  76. I won’t fly anymore either…
    Besides having a fear of heights and flying, the nonsense at the airports these days just puts a capper on it. I don’t need hassle when I’m already dealing with panic attacks from flying.

    If I can’t drive somewhere, I won’t go.

  77. I’m going to be flying in October, and I *really* hope this happens to me then. I will not comply to an order to “freeze” unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so. If I am just getting off a plane and going to get my luggage, that’s not a legitimate reason to detain me. If provided with a reason why I should comply, a COMPELLING reason, I might be inclined to stick around.

    I don’t know about the sheep-like masses in this country, but I simply refuse to let someone trample on my rights.

  78. This happened during a TSA screening, while I stood there with my shoes off, having my water taken (packed for the purpose of being confiscated), there was a whoop and a holler and TSA flunkies scrambled to block the doorways separating the screening area from the secured terminal area.

    It was very early in the morning so I (we, actually, w/wife and kids) just stood there and watched. The whole think lasted less than a minute and apparently pleased the clipboard carrying supervisor, who announced it was a drill.

    Relating to Xeni’s experience, I would suggest sitting on the floor instead of standing, and if the “drill” took more than a couple minutes, lying down for a nap.

    There’s a difference between “freezing” and “staying put”.

  79. S’funny how Bushes attempts to free the rest of the world from tyrany have made the USA more oppressed than ever before.

    My girlfriend wants to go to the states for a holiday, after reading crap like this I’d rather holiday in the EU where there’s less of this silly nonsense (though we’re getting that way too, at least our private security don’t have guns).

  80. My wife put one of our bags on the conveyor, went through the metal detector, which went off. While she was being wanded, I grabbed the bag. TSA went nuts “Sir, do not touch that bag.” Uhhh, it’s my bag. “sir, did you pack that bag?” Yes. “She said she packed that bag.” Uhhhh, that’s my wife. It is our bag. We both put stuff in it. It hurt my head to try to even fight their logic.

  81. I don’t live in the States anymore, but accounts of the brilliantly-named “security theater”, whose influences seem to include Ionesco’s theater of the absurd, remind me of my experiences at school in the 80s, during the last years of the Cold War.

    Despite the fact that we were hundreds of miles away from anything more strategic than a dairy farm, school ritual included periodic air raid drills. At an announcement over the PA, we would clamber under our desks, curl into balls and shield our arms with our heads as though the evil Commies were coming to nuke us. In retrospect, this rigmarole would have been totally ineffective at protecting our lives, but it was extremely effective at instilling and maintaining a primal Red phobia in a school full of children.

    Does anyone else remember rituals like this?

  82. Oh, you may think I’m a coward, but they didn’t find that giant brick of heroin in my water bottle!

  83. John W, suuure you will. And you will enjoy a nice a$$-raping in one of the special rooms. If you dont follow their orders, you are considered a threat. They dont have to prove anything to you.

  84. Does anyone know what our rights are in a situation like this? When can and can’t we be legally detained?

  85. I love all the “eff you, I won’t do what you tell me” posters on here. It’s a simple formula: Don’t do exactly what they say = detention for hours (at least) or incarceration (at worst).

  86. Will get an account shortly, but wanted to thank you for helping me make up my mind about whether I want to connect in LAX or Denver. Denver it is.

  87. Following cousin’s graduation in June, large family departing at different times from the Southwest Terminal at LAX. The situation you described happened to the first group departing. I was in the last group. Luckily, my family all eventually ended up together on the late flight. The terminal was a mess though, crowded with people who’d missed connections and were unable to get on the later flights. Never heard what it was about.

    @Xeni Jardin: How did you get a water bottle on a flight?

  88. Seriously, does anyone (Lawyers) know if we have the right to keep walking in this situation? Do we give up all civil liberties in the airport? I know they have the right to search us, but I had no idea they could order us to freeze for 30 minutes. What’s the legal consensus?

  89. A number of commenters have asked about whether screeners, aka Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), are law enforcement. The law enforcement officers of the TSA are Air Marshals, not TSOs. Air Marshals have all the authority of federal law enforcement, and exceptional levels of authority and discretionary power in airports.

    Individual rights exist in a tension with collective rights, particularly when it comes to matters of safety and risk. For example, the well-known restriction on free speech: “No shouting fire in a crowded theater.” Secure airports arguably protect individual rights (to be free from harm, to travel), social interests (reduce crime, promote travel and commerce), and national security interests (prevent terrorist attacks, etc.).

    That said, the TSOs are non-critical sensitive National Security personnel, and they also have a pretty wide swath of authority and discretionary power, particularly as regards security screening, entry into the airport secured area, and related issues.

    As I routinely tell law students, you can challenge these public policies and laws, and arguably you should if you believe them to be unconstitutional, but you should recognize that part of that process is probably your arrest, detention, being charged with a crime, multiple (and likely expensive) public criminal trials, and then, if you’re really lucky, a Supreme Court review that goes your way, vindicates your position, and presumably springs you from jail.

  90. “Oh, you may think I’m a coward…”

    Your word, not mine.

    I just find it ironic that BB posts so much about the TSA and how they do ridiculous things, but when it actually happened to a BB person… nothing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I here because I love BB, not to be a troll. I’m not calling anyone a coward. I’m just, well, disappointed.

    Xeni, have you called LAX or the TSA to follow up? Or is this blog post the extent of and end of the story?

  91. Sad that poor Richard Jewel died of a normal health issue, had that bomb in Atlanta gone off post 9-11 he would have never been seen again and died on a waterboard in Syria minus his toe and finger nails.

    Security at John Wayne is so bad I was asked, no shit, if I “had any gum?” I am sure it was just to take it away since the “screener” looked so bored and yet with a hint of sultry hot anger in her deep empty eyes. No gum sorry for you, lucky I wasn’t cavity searched for some Juicy Fruit.

  92. @aaronz, no, actually, we have followed up before — to the point of actually meeting with TSA directors. I am in the process of pursuing this one, too.

  93. It amazes me that you Americans actually put up with some much from your own government and agencies that are funded by, well, you. Are these people not answerable to anyone ?

    I’m from the UK. I have been for many years quite happy to not visit your country, the reason being this kind of intimidation… it quite frankly scares the bejesus out of me. Why on earth would I want to go to America ? It sounds an awful lot like Nazi Germany…

    I will admit that after the shotting of Charles De Menzes (after we followed your path on the war on terrorism) we are obviously no better, but I wonder what would happen to you if you decided nopt to stand still for 30 minutes… what if you had decided to ask for an explanation and if none were forthcoming to continue your way out ? would you have a gun drawn on you ?

  94. This was well predicted by “Minority Report”. Recall the scene in which robot “bugs” were unleashed on an apartment building. The announcement was made that the police were conducting their search, and everyone, regardless of whether they were in the midst of a screaming fight or the throes of sex, went all docile and compliant.

    The lesson was that this behavior was so ingrained through conditioning that it could even put primal emotions on pause — instead of the search messing up whatever activity was going on, the players went back to their fights or sex or whatever as soon as it was over with no break in intensity.

    All this stuff is not so much a sinister conspiracy as much as the worst aspects of an officious bureaucracy taken to an extreme. There is no available negative feedback mechanism for the TSAs utter disregard for people. It’s policies are secret. Its tactics beyond scrutiny. So they get lazy and treat people any way they want because all the avenues for them to suffer consequences for it have been cut off.

    For instance, here in Cook County (Chicago), they used to treat people on jury duty like prisoners. Because the public began to revolt by ignoring jury summons and generally resisting the system, they had to revamp the system and start treating people with respect because jurors are performing a public service (not that it’s perfect, but they do treat jurors much better). The negative feedback loop worked because the public had enough power to screw up the system if something wasn’t done about it.

    With the TSA, even small amounts of resistance can be threatened with indefinite detention. The average person isn’t going to risk entering some Kafka-esque maze because someone made them play freeze tag or took away a nail clipper. Which means that this will continue to brew. While people are behaving quite compliantly, the tension is sitmmering just below the surface and it will eventually boil over. The TSA is setting itself up for a major passenger revolt. One of these times they try to bully 5, 10, 20 thousand passengers over something stupid, there is going to be an outbreak of resistance that they cannot contain. Obviously it will be big news, and suddenly everyone will be putting the spotlight on the TSA and all its secrets and thuggish practices, there will be congressional investigations or lots of leaks and revelations and who knows what will happen then. The TSA will have to deal with it because like a prison riot, it will spread and passengers everywhere will be inspired to resist, especially because any heavy-handed quelling by TSA will confirm the story of TSA abuse.

    The TSA is basically like a humongous DMV with the power to arrest people. Remember the saying, “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.”

  95. Last September, I flew back to the US from Ireland. The screeners were positively apologetic, saying they didn’t want to bother us, but the Americans were insisting on it. They were courteous, even smiling at my smuggled Guinness glass from the pub the night before. No doubt in Amerika I’d be detained for posessing interesting glassware…

    I’m reminded by all this of a sci-fi story I read in the 1970s – howI wish I could remember the name – where several teens found themselves in a strange space, a very large room, with different colored lights on a big panel. They learned through error and trial that when they were in certain places doing certain things they could get the lights (red, green, etc) to light up, and some event would follow (food drops, mostly). Eventually, they found their way our or were released; but when several, still in a group, found themselves on a city street corner, faced with the suddenly red traffic light, they all started doing their weird movements and dances. Pavlovian conditioning was complete.

    Let us also remember God Emperor of Dune, where Leto has forbidden nearly all mechanized travel, including space flight. “A population on foot is easier to control”, he notes. Hmm…

  96. I’m not positive about this, but I think after 9/11 all airports in this country were branded as a different type of property/land and that lets the Government apply a whole different type of laws/rules just so they can get by with holding people for no reason without explanation. (and god knows what other loop holes it opened up for them)

  97. Yes the terrorists have won the battle so far. I’d much rather keep our freedoms and risk people dying in terrorist attacks rather than lose freedoms while tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians die in the “war on terror”. One plane a year would be a huge net savings in human life wouldn’t it? Is this a sick perspective? –Tony

  98. two words: security theater.

    i have no good stories but i did want to comment that LAX TSA has become noticeably more surly and cranky over the past year. they used to be reasonably polite (considering their job function) but no longer. i wonder if it’s because of the purported higher volume of travel or maybe a new boss. maybe they’ve realized that their jobs are stupid and meaningless and are collectively in the middle of a existential crisis (unlikely).

    igvig, i’d be interested to hear your thoughts, as i too frequently fly in and out of southwest’s terminal so my comments are based upon my experiences there.

  99. He didn’t say “Simon says FREEZE” did he? No? Geez Xeni, you totally could have kept walking!

  100. > Sounds like the TSA is ‘conditioning’ US public to obey orders at any time.

    Heh. I’d agree, and it sounds like it’s working quite well.

  101. The conditioning has worked. We’re scared to speak up, we’re scared to speak out, and we’re scared to disobey orders no matter how absurd, no matter how wrong, and no matter who the orders come from.

    Why are we scared? Because we know that even the most minor functionary has the ability to punish us in a wide variety of ways. In an airport, any TSA employee can threaten you, seize any of your property, detain you, force you to miss your flight, or have you arrested. And that’s nothing compared to what a police officer can do. We know that we keep our liberty only at their discretion, so we don’t want to take the risk of making trouble for ourselves by disagreeing or disobeying.

    On a day-to-day level, it doesn’t matter what our Constitutional rights are. It doesn’t even matter that many TSA employees and cops are decent people. On a day-to-day level, what matters is that we know there are a lot of people who have the ability to punish us, that the punishment is arbitrary and unpredictable, and that we don’t know whether the particular TSA employee or cop we are facing is a decent person or even rational.

    And the result is a cowed population.

  102. It doesn’t matter why they stopped you. The point is, didn’t it make you feel safer! (read with intense sarcasm).

  103. I’m sure that facial recognition software from a security camera got a “hit”, but rather than detaining one person they just froze the whole group while somebody did a manual comparison against watch lists. After they made a determination they let everybody go and can grab the suspect later if required.

  104. I think it’s a TSA tactical effort to try to make it clear to people/potential “bad guys” (I have my definition; insert yours here) that they’re “there”, and ready to pounce on anyone (culpable or otherwise), at any moment, for any reason or none at all.

    It’s purely a message they’re sending, and even though we can all agree that the TSA is bumblefrekked out the ying-whazoo, what the hell else can they do?

    We normal, “just want to get from here to there” folks unfortunately get caught up in the bumble-shmegma that is their tactics.


  105. @JAwasnack — you are correct. I’m fumbling around for the url, but there was a slew of (largely ignored) news about this a few weeks back. New laws that basically mean we surrender a lot of rights after we enter the security screening area. If you refuse a screening, you’re in deep shit, and once you’ve passed through (as I did, because I was landing), you’ve surrendered various rights.

  106. Freeze tag—another awful thing I didn’t know about.

    My plan would be to FALL DOWN and say I had a dizzy spell (I’m in my early 60s, nobody would question it)and see how it plays out. It would really be passive resistance.


  107. I’ve never experienced anything like that, but I have come across TSA workers who have certainly let the power go to their heads. I had this one guy yelling instructions in my face like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. And he made sure to tell me what to do while I was already doing it.

    I was removing my shoes and he screamed “you MUST remove your footware, ALL FOOTWARE! I DO NOT CARE IF WHAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR FEET ARE CALLED SHOES ARE NOT, TAKE EM OFF!!! TAKE THEM OFF NOW!!!” and as I placed my shoes on the conveyor belt “you MUST place your shoes ON THE CONVEYOR BELT!” and as I removed my jacket “you MUST REMOVE YOUR JACKET!!!! IF YOU ATTEMPT TO WALK THROUGH WITH YOUR JACKET ON YOU WILL HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM!!” Even as I tried to fumble to make sure I didn’t lose my boarding pass in the shuffle, he yelled in my face “I DO NOT NEED TO SEE YOUR BOARDING PASS, I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR BOARDING PASS!! PUT IT AWAY NOW!!!”

    I swear it was really hard not to knock the guy’s teeth out. I went to the police and complained. They told me they get tons of complaints daily and can’t do anything. The TSA is giving us a nice taste of what martial law is like.

  108. I’ve had the exact same thing happen at LAX. It was like a lock-down; they wouldn’t let us through the doors to get to our gate. I almost missed my flight to Tokyo. Really strange and annoying.

  109. This is what happened to me at LAX yesterday, August 29th. Seems the TSA didn’t like my elastic leg support, and instead of asking me to remove it, a TSA man loomed up in front of me and put it as a question “do you want to take that off?”, to which I responded, “not really, it supports my leg”….he kept repeating it as a question, and when I didn’t take the support off, he told me to go stand over in a dead end area. They didn’t like the DVD in my pack, so had to remove it and send it through in a second dish. When they let me out of “jail”, a woman approached me with her hands raised up with plastic gloves on and asked if I would let her “perform the procedure”. By this time I was flustered and kept asking “what procedure” (I envisioned some kind of body cavity search), to which she responded “would you like me to get a supervisor”, to which I responded “why do I need a supervisor”…this went on for a while…the only two sentences she repeated over and over were” “would you like for me to perform the procedure”(with her hands raised up in front of her) and “would you like me to get a supervisor.” She finally got a supervisor, who said I had refused to take off my elastic leg support and that made me a suspect. I told him I hadn’t refused, I didn’t know it was a requirement. Turns out all the girl had to do for “the procedure” was to wipe my leg support with something and put it under a “reader”. However, nobody would explain this to me ahead of time. All in all, it was a very unnerving and intimidating experience. I felt I had been tricked into being a “victim”. Since I’m an old lady, I ended up in tears, and behaved just like a victim. I hated myself for it afterward, but I was genuinely afraid.

  110. The problem isn’t that people, the common people, aren’t concerned with and complaining/standing up to this stuff. It’s that NO ONE, not government or media, is LISTENING to this sheeple movement. Bush and his government shrugged off a 6 million people demonstration across the globe against the starting of the Iraq war as “just a marginal group”.

    Just goes to show that the government in this country no longer (if it ever was, and there is some debate there) for and by the people. It is patently for and by the corrupt People in Power and their Corporations of Substance. Us little people? yeah, we get to shut up and sit down and freeze whenever they tell us to. If we try to fight them legally we gt shut down by the state and federal judges. If we try to appoint new government leaders, well, they just steal the elections to keep those in power that they want to be in power. And until SOMEONE with money and influence does something, no one is going to listen to the millions of people protesting in this country. That’s the sad fact.

    So it does no good to stand up in an airport. Because no one will listen anyhow. Your story won’t move to the papers. No one in power gives a shit about the mewling of their caste class.

  111. Still, the resulting court preceedings would be interesting. Do they have the power to arrest you? If not, what are they going to do, shoot you? That’d be a fun lawsuit.

    When my boss recently flew cross country, security dumped out his expensive cologn and everything else in his “shave kit” like toothpaste, aftershave and nail clippers. The pocketknife and lighter made it through until he had to recheck baggage for a connecting flight.

    There’s a LIGHTER in your bag!
    I don’t know…I didn’t know there was a lighter in there…
    I’m TELLING you there’s a LIGHTER in YOUR BAG! WHERE IS IT?
    I don’t know. If you know there’s a lighter in there you tell me where it is.

    Yeah, they didn’t like that at all….LOL. ^-^

  112. I think it would be great if everyone forced to freeze all broke into song…

    ” … I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free … ”

    repeat chorus

  113. I’m afraid of what might happen to a Deaf person should he/she keep walking because of not hearing the “orders” and not understanding what was going on.

    I think I would have spent that 30 minutes hating myself for being afraid to say “I have somewhere to be. I am not a threat. I am now calmly leaving the airport” and doing so. Even sitting here the thought of doing that has made my heart rate go up. We are truly cowed.

  114. Exact same thing happened to me in LAX in July of this year. But we weren’t frozen for 30 minutes, more like 15. Other than that, exact same scenario. No explanation either.

  115. Man, you read thousands of pages, and you still forget the truth. I will spell it out for you:

    Harry Potter, Hermione, and Ron were under the Invisibility Cloak, attempting to enter the airport to locate yet another Horcrux, in the battle against He Who Cannot Be Named. Being modern and intelligent, HWCBN chose not to hide these partitions of his Soul in easy to find locations. Instead they are being moved around the country in standard Muggle Aircraft, being protected by Military Aircraft and Dragons.

    Harry, Hermione, and Ron accidentally triggered a protection charm, so the TSA (Death Eaters) knew they were in the room but couldn’t see them. By making all you Muggles hold still until any possible PolyJuice potions wore off, they could be sure HP, H and R were not in disguise. This also allowed them to send invisible dogs through the room to sniff out the Wizards hiding under the cloak.

  116. Unbelievable, just 6 years after terrorists hijacked ordinary planes from ordinary airports, and killed thousands of ordinary people like yourselves on an ordinary day and you already forgot. Do me a favor, take the train, God forbid you are inconvenienced.

  117. If you don’t want to be a guinea pig in the utter and complete submission game — divorced from all your traditional rights, in the name of freedom — don’t fly.

    Airlines have operated on thin margins for decades. If revenues dropped precipitously, attitudes would change. So long as people submit to these procedures, there’s no reason to review and change them.

    Your choice, your vote.

  118. I’m with bxrguy – just this morning I suggested to my wife that we could use some frequent flyer miles to visit Chicago. After reading these comments, I think I’ll just avoid unnecessary trips to or via US airports.

    I wonder what the TSA goons would do if somebody fainted or had a heart attack. Would anyone be allowed to help? What if everybody in the freeze zone just collapsed to the floor…?

  119. I have a bad back. I wouldn’t be able to stand more than 15 min. in one place. I would probably get tazered then taken for a strip search because I would have to lay down or sit down.

    America! Fuck yeah!

  120. This may have gotten you into trouble (or more trouble, depending on your point of view), but if you have your NPR credentials or ID card or whatever, after they refuse to tell you what’s going on, etc., show them your NPR badge and say, “You’ve just bought yourselves into an expose, not only on National Public Radio but on one of the most popular websites on the Internet.”

    Make is scathing and make every word the true facts, and all they can do is dig themselves deeper.

  121. aw come on… I’m sure it’s to take a 3dimensional picture to store into the Great Database for reference.

    Besides, I’m pretty sure that TSA agents are allowed to do whatever they want (short of the obvious offenses) as Airports are their own jurisdiction with their own laws. I’ll hunt for that link if anyone is interested.

  122. UPDATE: I’m filing a FOIA request around the incident, with help from Ryan Singel at Wired News.

  123. This isn’t my realm of legal expertise but I see a problem with TSA security telling people to freeze: They generally don’t have law enforcement powers.

    The TSA secretary can GRANT law enforcement powers to TSA agents (letting them carry guns, arrest people, etc.) but, absent such a grant, I don’t believe that a TSA agent has anymore power to detain a person in an airport than would a food court waiter.

    I imagine a good test of this process would be to sue for false imprisonment by fraud. That is, (tacit) representations by the TSA were calculated to mislead you into understanding that you were subject to their restraint. See Scofield v. Critical Air Medicine, Inc.

    The fun part is, the victim does not have to have any minimum amount of damage to make a false imprisonment claim.

    Call a lawyer. Sue. Have fun :)

  124. Well, I will be the only one to say it. I probably would have stopped and waited. You know why? Because I know that the TSA morons are untrained buffoons, I will not create my own distraction for them by “asserting my rights.” It makes no sense, and is likely to take even longer.

    As for the conditioning, whatever. People are always inclined to follow authority. All of the keyboard heroes here are beyond that, but people like to follow badges. It makes them feel secure.

    Choose your battles. The airport is not a good battle. It was always a highly-regulated environment and continues to be one. Let the airport be the airport and fight better battles.

  125. Ever think that we are participants in one huge “Stanford Prison Experiment?”
    U.S. population=prisoners.

  126. Not to come off as a complete contrarian, bt th cmmnts hr smck f sm lw ky lfty hystr.

    I travel frequently within the US and have never been yelled at or made to feel fear. Yes, they are immensely irritating, frequently incompetent and largely ridiculous, but the rhetoric here gets a little high handed.

    Consider instead the security I just cleared at Hyderabad’s Begumpet Airport. Two bombs in the city killed 41 people last week and the local officials placed public facilities on high alert.

    The consequence: a few security guards lazily eye our car as we drift through a set of gates wide enough to plow a truck through.

    Upon arriving at the airport, I throw my bags on an “xray” machine while the guys watch cricket.

    Can’t wait to jump on the plane!

  127. As was posted above…

    Everytime the TSA pulls crap like this, it’s a victory for the terrorists, not a victory against them.

  128. Hypothesis: flow control? The actual interceptors for a security check are farther away, perhaps out to the parking lot or elsewhere in the pathway people take from plane to security to baggage to next-destination.

    By playing ‘freeze tag’ with a mass of people near baggage-claim, they remove/reduce the pressure of people claiming taxis, etc. … reduces the chances of missing the actual person they want to follow, detain, etc.?

    Just a hypothesis, and probably gives TSA more forethought than they deserve.

  129. Being a German citizen means that occasionally people walk up to me and ask something like “How come you guys didn’t overthrow the Nazis back then?”

    Well, now you know what it’s like. While they can’t yet shoot you on the spot for no good reason, there is a whole world of pain that TSA can bring upon you, both short term and long term. Of course, nobody objects. No one wants their cavaties searched, be sued, or have their right to fly revoked. Imagine what the compliance level will be once people start to disappear (not there yet, but could happen eventually).

    And that’s how it works. Not because the Hitlers of this world make crazy rules. Totalitarianism works not only because mean-spirited people like to work for organizations like the Gestapo or the TSA. It works because everybody else has a lot to lose.

  130. I haven’t been anywhere near Canada or a Canadian airport for some time, but this makes me wonder what conditions there are like.

  131. Yeah, all you europeans with CCTV blanketing your cities for the good of Prothero are so unlike the American sheep.

    I’ve been searching for the actual law on this.

    Can the TSA legally detain you if you’re not in a screening area, and can you leave a screening area if you decide not to through the checkpoint?

  132. I would like to know if passengers can sue TSA agents and airports for harassment. Even though this country seems to be full of fear, we’re also full of lawyers. Seems like we should be able to start suing airports and airlines for treating us like criminals without a trial. Even the police have to offer an explanation when they arrest you.

  133. Canadian here – travel lots, in the US around 40% of the year – it has gotten to the point where i think my number is going to be up – i see more and more of this kind of thing happening before my eyes every time i fly, rather on occasion – I have had the freeze thing in Dallas, LAX and Detroit – i have witnessed the TSA types take walkers, meds all that kind of thing – I could go on and on – i hope we the people speak out, fear of stepping out of line, the ‘just keep quiet’ attitude worked all too well for the Nazi’s –

  134. I am a female and always seem to be the person “randomly” selected for additional screening at TSA security check points. I’ve been felt up by TSA agents at several US airports. Now, when I’m selected, before the female TSA comes near me, I clearly state, “I don’t have anywhere I have to be today, If you touch me in a private area I will have you arrested for assault”, and let the look on my face let them know I’m serious. I’ve received shocked looks, had someone else called over to witness, been told to calm down but since I started this no one has touched me inappropriately.

  135. this happened to me at LAX a few months ago. It was it was at the security checkpoint. One TSA dude yelled some command I did not catch what he said. The rest of the guards lined up at the exit, forming a barrier keeping us in. An elderly couple looked frightened. I saw one of the guards smirk and the frightened old lady. I sat down in a chair and waited. It was only 1-2 minutes when the same guard who ordered the “barricade”, barked another command and the guards moved back to their positions and resumed screening baggage like nothing happened. TSA is just trying to scare travelers.

  136. Another Canadian…very frequent traveler. Oddly enough, I haven’t seen anything that has been described here. Its not for lack of travel…I had 32 hops last year, almost all in the US.

    One thing I will say: I work for a European company, and we have a development office in Canada, and other offices in the states. Most of our European colleagues *refuse* to fly through the US to get to the office here in Canada (London to NY to Toronto is an option). In addition, the same European colleagues will insist on meeting in the Canadian office, not in the US…meaning that all of the US attendees have to travel up.

    This entire thing is sad. I agree with another poster: the only remedy is to hit them in the pocketbook. Swear off air travel until things improve. Perhaps start with boycott days. Look how quickly things like curbside check in returned when the airports realized they were tied to revenue.

  137. I’m reminded by all this of a sci-fi story I read in the 1970s – how I wish I could remember the name

    @111 this was :House of Stairs: by William Sleator.

  138. stirboo got it right. Anyone moving after the ‘Freeze’ order must be a terrorist and will be dealt with accordingly. Still, after a long flight, can they make you stand still for 30 minutes? Seems like that could contribute to a DVT. If you sit down on the floor, will TSA make you stand up again?

    I think I would sit down and see what they do. Either that or tell a TSAer that I am late for an important meeting with a senator in the men’s room.

  139. Perhaps the LAX TSA has a lot of people transferred from the immigration authorities? This is very much how the USCIS (formerly INS) conducts itself.

  140. I always flash my military ID, they ask me what branch, I tell them marines. Nobody fucks with me in airport security, because they either A) Respect that I am in the military or B) Know I will choke them to death with their own taiser wires….not.

    But luckily there have been enough hollywood movies made about us that people believe that kind of shit.

  141. TSA, modern day equivalent of; Chicken Little.

    And as for those flapping about does anyone have a better suggestion, um yea I do.


    Design a security method to prevent actions from occurring, regardless of what people are involved.

    – Seal the cockpit.
    – No carry one luggage. (Note regulation or laws would need to created to SEVERELY punish Airlines for losing luggage before this could even be palatable)
    – No selling of passenger airlines unused cargo space.

    The real goal here is to prevent the plane from being used as a missile. Individual planes crash for easily preventable reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism, simple inerting system for example, but you don’t used that as a real to group old ladies?.

    I’d rather deal with the risk getting blown up then the risk of civil rights being suppressed.

  142. Up to this point, I haven’t yet heard anyone discussing the people who actually do the screening. What makes them tick? We could logically assume that there are a fair number of sadists and sociopaths among this group, as I’m sure it’s an attractive job for them (and one which doesn’t seem to include much accountability review). However, due to the low average numbers of these groups of people among society, we must surmise that most of these screeners are “normal” people. This leads me to two conclusions that might explain their behavior.

    1) They have fallen into a kind of play-acting, comparable to those portraying guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment ( These people have been given free reign to do pretty much whatever they need to do to enforce a concept (“security risk”) that is vague, at best. There are almost no boundaries. They are not held to levels of basic human decency and politeness to others, and therefore disregard those social conventions which help maintain comfort in an awkward situation. With those taken-for-granted procedures stripped away, travelers are constantly in a state of general and confusing unease while these employees play a part in the infamous “Security Theater”.

    2) All personal motives of the screeners aside, it is probably safe to say that they are being trained to act in these ways. They are told it is for The Greater Good, and they act accordingly. Imagine: if you were told that Anyone could be a terrorist or have a hidden agenda, and that people are constantly trying to sneak things past you (innocently or not), would it not be easy to slip from a state of constant vigilance into outright paranoia? Not to mention that these people seem to be too concerned about turning a set of nail-clippers into a “terror-inducing device” to see real weapons right in front of them (big scary knives, etc.).

    I want to know what these employees are being spoon-fed to keep them attached to this machine. If we get down to the bottom of this, we might actually make some headway in diffusing this nonsense.

  143. Do you think that half an hour is time to quote the entire Constitution from memory, if I memorize it before next Thursday?

  144. My husband has a balance disorder, as a result of a brain tumor that is currently in remission, and can’t he walk through one of those security arches without bumping the side, because his walking cane has to go through the xray machine. At Dulles, they snatched his cane but then yelled at him every time he bumped the arch while trying to walk through it. After multiple attempts, they eventually pulled him to the side and wanded him instead.
    Another time we were travelling from Columbus, OH. At that airport he ran into the same problem but after the first bump on the arch, the security guard held out her hands, said “take my hands” and guided him through the arch. Now why couldn’t those jerks at Dulles have done that, instead of yelling at him and making him try over and over, humiliating him and making many other people wait in line behind him?

  145. could it be that it is a way to scare the shit out of someone who might be upto no good?

    Randomly scare, hoping if someone is upto no good will run?

  146. Same thing on the layover at LAX (from Hawaii) and walking from the arrival terminal to our connecting flight – there was a perimeter of security guards with a small group of statues in the middle of them. We diverted our path thinking it was either some kind of gang or terrorist activity or something. Before the scene was out of sight, the security people dispersed. This was at roughly 1 a.m.

    Seemed like something out of a Dr. Who episode and had us too edgy to sleep the next 5 hour leg.

  147. Ahhhh, yet another Fascist Fire Drill to welcome visitors to the United States of Amnesia.

    So, if someone doesn’t understand the word FREEZE in English…. or is completely deaf, they’ll get shot on the spot because after all, we are a Christian nation of compassionate killers!!!

  148. Sometimes I think it’s a social experiment. They do all kinds of crazy shit. Making people sit in planes while landed for hours on end because of “security concerns”. Making everyone leave the airport and then re-enter security because someone might have gotten through unscreened. Stopping you to ask some stupid question, just to see how you will respond.

    exactly, it’s a social experiment — like Stanley Milgram’s. the government wants to know how compliantly we’ll be loaded into train cars and sent to detention centers. I know it takes “balls” and your emergency ration of energy, but this is also exactly the time to stand up and shout I’M MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE THIS ANYMORE!

    “Citizens! Please wait while the local IntSec surveillance system experiences a temporary shutdown.” — Paranoia RPG

  149. That is a shocking story you have.

    Recently I was stopped by security when I went to pick up my brother from Perth Domestic Airport, Western Australia.
    I was entering the Arrival Lounge and passed through a metal detector. The alarm did not sound, but a security guard said ‘Hey stop’.
    He had a hostile look on his face and said ‘take your hands out of your pockets and go back through again’.
    My hands had been in the front pockets of my jumper when I first walked through the metal detector.
    I walked back out and came through again with my hands by my side. The alarm did not sound, and the security guard, a tall solid man with Middle Eastern looks, gave me an angry stare.

    What’s all that about!? I didn’t see a ‘no hands in pockets’ sign.

    Maybe he had had a bad day/didn’t like the look of me/wanted to assert his ‘authority’/had a flare for the dramatic and the need to be the centre of attention/wanted to focus the currently tense security check/or just pissed that he looked more like the stereotypical terrorist than me, but there is no excuse.

  150. When I was in junior high school, there were two bells that rang after recess. The first was called a “freeze bell” – when it rang we students were supposed to stop whatever we were doing (talking, eating…) and freeze in place until a second bell would ring to signal us to return to class.

    I think the TSA is conditioning us.

  151. I have a niece that works for TSA.She said it was a drill for Airport personnel,and they never explain to the civilians becuase it would tick them off.

  152. “This proves it; the terrorists have won.”

    Amen to that.

    Last time i checked the freedom of speech was still among those we enjoyed.

    See you all in DC in the 15th.

  153. I had a stroke in 2000 and spent three years in a wheelchair. These days I manage to walk slowly and for reasonably short distances with a cane.

    At the Philadelphia airport, on the way to a Continental flight bound for Houston, after struggling out of my shoes and handing off my cane, I carefully made it through the metal detector arch in only two tries.

    When I asked for my shoes and cane, I also asked for assistance – I needed the only seating in sight for me to put my shoes back on cleared.

    TSA refused. :o(

    I haven’t run into a freeze, but If I do, I WILL end up on the floor, and probably need assistance to regain my feet.

    This sort of random BS is NOT what I risked my life to protect while in the military.


  154. This reminds me of the Bavarian Fire Drill from Robert Wilson’s Illuminatus Trilogy. It’s beginning to feel like real life is becoming more like that book, because the people designing this sort of craziness are copying it!

    Just a thought. What if when confronted by TSA people shouting “Do Not Move” you immediately sit down? “Just Sitting” protest can be surprisingly effective.

  155. “I walked from the arrival gate towards baggage claim, and when I was about halfway there, all of a sudden about a dozen or more TSA personnel and private security staff appeared, shouting STOP WHERE YOU ARE. FREEZE. DO NOT MOVE. Not just at me, but all of the travelers who happened to be wandering through the hallway at that moment.”

    You would expect a large weather balloon to suddenly materialize and start bouncing around looking for someone to suffocate.

    The airport has become The Village, and all who enter its gates its prisoners.

  156. on a flight from indy to vegas earlier this year, i had some macaroni and cheese dinner in my carry-on. the tsa agent almost didnt let me take it on, since the cheesy packet (technically, it was a gel, and therefore liquid) was over the 3 or 5 or whatever ounce limit. it was just barely over, so he was nice and let it slide

    and thats how i got my weapon of MAC destruction on an airplane

    bada bing!

  157. I just returned from Europe. I started taking off my shoes at the Heathrow security gate and was laughed at by the British officers. They seem to think the shoe thing is very funny and totally useless. I never had to take my shoes off anywhere I flew in Europe.

    I expect to see some US company come out with a very expensive “shoe scanner” and I expect TSA will insist that all airports buy this very expensive machine. Then …profit!

  158. Vun line for ze men, one for ze vimmen. Iff you moof, ze dawks vill bite you. Now vere iss your armband?

    For Chrissakes, people, nobody even got upset twenty years ago when our military started wearing Wermacht helmets.

    Frikkin’ SHEEP!

  159. I work at an airport and the TSA people are very friendly. I will see what can find out and this and will report back if it is not classified. With that said, I would not be surprised if it was a practise drill, which they are told in advanced or not, but if they were not screening the stopped people in a secure area section of the airport, then I have no idea their motive.

  160. It would have been nice for them to tell us this would be the endpoint in 2007 when they were funding all those nasty people back then.

    Okay, that’s impossible.

    For one thing, nobody in the position of making these rules would ever get stuck in them.

    Just another American guy who’s been in Japan for a while and considering going home. This took care of that bout of homesickness.. it’s getting to be preemptive even. suxxors

  161. To those from other countries whom I constantly see saying “I don’t know why you Americans put up with this crap, we’d never allow it in our part of the world, we’d refuse… etc.”

    I’m sorry, but I must call BS on quite a bit of it. I’m not saying that it is right that we do put up with it, or that we shouldn’t protest in some fashion. However, when you’ve been conditioned as we have post 9/11, have people carrying guns doing the ordering, yelling loudly and so forth, and had your own courts say they’re allowed to do it, you too would most likely “act as sheep.”

    Not many people, on this side of the pond or the other, can afford to be arrested, separated from their jobs, friends, and families perhaps for years, let alone pay for a decent legal defense that could still lose in the long run, because we honestly can’t say WHAT the supreme court will consider to be okay these days.

    I will admit that I am just as guilty of the “we’d never allow it” attitude as the people I’m chastising; for example regarding the many laws under which a person in the UK can have their home searched without a warrant, or the surveillance EVERYWHERE you go, and not to mention the stories I’ve read about people being detained in the subway systems because of ‘suspicious activity’.

    So let us not point fingers and thus feel better about ourselves, let us not use other people as an example to forget about whatever tyranny we may face in our individual countries. Rather, let us share what knowledge we have that we can fight this the best way we can, and hopefully not sacrifice someone’s freedom by letting them martyr themselves in this cause to bring it before the supreme court (which could take years, and again, ultimately fail).

    I liked the suggestion of singing America the Beautiful during one of these extended freeze moments. It is a protest that would (hopefully) get other people involved (I would love to see the TSA try to detain an entire terminal of people for singing) and would have hopefully lighter consequences than more aggressive forms of protest.

    I would like to think that, if and when the time comes I can follow my own thought on this, but honestly who can say how they would react in this type of situation, had they not been through it before?

    On a last note: these TSA guys are basically trained to think of everyone in the airport that’s NOT in the TSA as a terrorist suspect until proven otherwise. In other words, they are trained to be the way they are, and I can imagine how sooner rather than later that would utterly suppress whatever soul they had. Nothing they do is good enough, and all they ever catch is hate. I’ve seen the same thing with retail workers who have been treated like the scum of the earth one too many times. They stop caring what other people think, otherwise they would have to consider themselves to be, in fact, the scum of the earth. To make a long story short: we as a people need to go after those that are truly responsible for creating this type of environment, and that is those whom actually make the policy.

    Thank you for your time and consideration, as always.


  162. I agree the TSA is power-mad and utterly out of control. This situation is reprehensible and frightening — it puts you in a situation where it genuinely feels like you have no recourse.


    Who, exactly, is forcing you to fly? Yes, air travel is often the most convenient way to get from place to place. But convenience is not a right.

    “But I have to travel for my job!” So drive.

    “No, I mean I have to fly for my job!” So get a different job.

    “But I like my job!” Do you like it enough to put up with this crap? Yes? Then shut the hell up. No? Then get a different job.

    “But my relatives live too far away!” So move.

    Look, I’m not trying to make light of this, but I think sometimes that people completely lose sight of the fact that freedom from unreasonable search and seizure is a right, but FLYING IS NOT.

    Yes, by all means, let us all do whatever we can to make air travel a more pleasant experience. But right now, the goon squad has been well and truly let in, and so you must — you must — expect this kind of absurdity occasionally. If you don’t like it, don’t fly. You are aware of what airports are like these days. If you choose to use one, you are choosing to put up with this kind of absurdity.

    In this country our most powerful means of expression is money. Signal your disgust with the situation by using your money for some other form of transportation. If you don’t do that — at the very least — then you have absolutely no grounds for complaint. It’s like bitching about Bush when you couldn’t even get your lazy ass to the voting booth.

    Meanwhile, stop pretending that convenient transportation is a right. It just isn’t. And getting up in arms about what is essentially an issue of convenience just leaves less time and energy to fight the genuine transgressions against our genuine Constitutional rights.

  163. TSA is ridiculous, but come on… Power trips happen everywhere and in every country!!! Night club security, police, customs, government officials, bureaucratic officials… Most of supervisors do that! So, don’t give me this I-am-so-happy-I-don’t-have-to-visit-USA crap…It happens everywhere and every day…

    One advice: When something like that happens, just pretend it doesn’t bother you…It undermines their ego… If you try to be a hero, it will only excite them more…Psychology 101…

  164. @190: Freedom to travel is a right. Thanks for playing.

    The kind of police state tactics described here and in the Circuit City article frighten and dismay me, but at the point of the offense is not the place to fight them. (Except at Circuit City, where I think the best response is to return everything you bought, and make a fuss about it.)

    The TSA is different. Travelers do have a lot to lose, and almost nothing to gain, by resisting the TSA _at the airport_. Witness the case of John Gilmore, who has a ton of money and time on his hands to assert his rights in court, and still got shut down by the appeals court.

    No, the way to do this is to organize. Pick up that first amendment and start swinging it at them. I think an organized boycott would be something. Pick a date in the future (how about Sept. 11, 2008?) and no one flies.

    That’s a long way off, you can work around that. No one flies ANYWHERE for one day. Don’t send any Fedexes either, for good measure. Demand that Congress enact a passenger’s Bill of Rights, and let’s have some oversight into this TSA business.

    And if they don’t do it, a month later, no one flies for two days. Or three days.

    You may think it’s not possible, but don’t be too sure! The Montgomery bus boycott went on for months and months, proud black women walking to work in defiance, inconvenience be damned. And they won.

    Let’s stop crying and stop flying.

  165. @121: Well, I’m a terrorist with The Intarnets privilege. Lots of my comrades have no media contact while undergoing training. By the time they are ready and assigned targets, they’ll never have heard of this.

    @165: That’s why I carry several forms of government ID, military, Treasury Dept., Air Marshal, whatever. I flash some ID and TSA gives me carte blanche.

    @190: Kill yourself now before I do it for you.

    @BoingBoing: Please end the anonymous commenting.

  166. Anonymous #135:

    Unbelievable, just 6 years after terrorists hijacked ordinary planes from ordinary airports, and killed thousands of ordinary people like yourselves on an ordinary day and you already forgot. Do me a favor, take the train, God forbid you are inconvenienced.

    Oh yeah? Where were you on the day? Because I’m real tired of having 9/11 thrown in my face, and being told We Must Never Forget It, when, thank you very much, there is no chance in hell of my ever forgetting it.

    I’m even more tired of being told that because 9/11 happened, we have to give up all hope of normal law and normal civil rights and be grateful for it, because we aren’t stupid, and we know that what’s happening to us isn’t doing squat to make us or anyone else safer.

    Anonymous #190, I’ve got to agree with Mister Boy, #193: freedom to travel is a right. Besides, what’s next after not flying? If they put up checkpoints on the roads, do we struggle cross-country on foot? If they build intrusive surveillance into the tubes, do we go back to running off our little manifestos and newsletters on mimeograph?

    That’s a brilliant strategy you’ve got there: cede the fast, powerful, effective travel methods and the fast-moving jobs to the people who think oppression is okay, while we encumber ourselves with with the poky old time-intensive ones. It’s a great way to work for change, you betcha.

    Freedom to travel. We used to have it. Now we have a system where our ability to travel is contingent on the whims of an ill-conceived badly-run wholly unaccountable federal bureaucracy. Its front-line workers aren’t a highly trained corps with good leadership and a strong sense of mission. They’re whoever got scooped up when George & Co. decided to create the TSA, and they know it. On top of that, they’ve got power without accountability, and there’s nothing more corrupting.

    So don’t tell me that the freedom to travel isn’t a basic right, and that I ought to sit home and languidly signal my displeasure by depriving the airlines of my travel dollars. They won’t even notice, and it’ll do SFA toward getting our freedoms back.

    Anonymous #189, I’d say you have the right of it. We go along with this crap because we have no idea what will happen if we don’t. Are we risking a half-hour’s unpleasantness, a cancelled trip, a week and a half in the bowels of the TSA’s terrorist assessment system, or years in prison without a trial or an attorney? We might fight back more often if we could judge the tradeoff, but we can’t.

    I liked your last bit about the TSA workers and how they’re treated. You’re right, of course; they’re taught to suspect everyone, and they’re put in a position where everyone regards them with fear and loathing. You do that to anyone and they’ll take revenge in a thousand little ways.

  167. There’s another mode of response, if people can’t/won’t engage in civil disobedience in situations such as this (and I admit from the get-go that I might insist on sitting down or getting more comfortable, but I probably would not pester or question the TSA-ites too closely).

    Talk to the media. Forward these stories to them. Ask them to investigate. Insist that they report on it.

    I think I’m pretty well informed, but had never heard of these situations until today. I know some of you will say “the media’s in on it” or “the media doesn’t care”, but I disagree. There should be stores on 60 Minutes, on Dateline, etc., about this sort of thing. Only by informing Ma and Pa Kettle in middle America will anything ever be done. The average person has no idea that this stuff goes on, and they won’t unless the media bring it to their attention. It may take a while, but eventually some 21st-century Woodward or Bernstein will take the story and start the process of shedding light on what’s going on.

  168. Just a small comment on #196 here…wasn’t this a member of the media who was involved in this in the first place?

  169. After reading about this, I got to wondering how horribly wrong things could go in the worst of all situations. I wrote a short story called “Incident on Concourse B” to dramatise it, and posted it on my blog. It starts like this…

    Lendon Forrester, clattering bags of jumbled canned goods, ran up the steps and opened the door. “Did I miss it?”

    “No,” Frannie Jurdens called from the kitchen. “They’re still in a holding pattern.” She capped the jug she’d been filling, and placed it beside the others on the counter.

    Len glanced at the reporter on the living room TV in passing. “…the ticket counter behind me, air travel in our city has ground to a halt. This same ‘ghost-town’ scenario is being played out at airports across the country, in the wake of this morning’s thwarted terrorist attack in Cincinnati.”

    Frannie looked up as he entered. “I don’t know, Len. The media’s crawling with rumors.”
    If you want to read the whole thing, go here:

    P. Orin Zack

  170. It would be interesting if people started a movement with some sort of shared image, could be put on buttons or stickers so folks could recognize each other, pass it off as a fandom perhaps, and whenever this sort of thing happens members of this movement would record the event on tape.

    And/or resist. I love the idea of a bunch of random people bursting into song.

    Perhaps something like “We’ve Only Just Begun” or “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” or something else annoying as hell yet sort of fitting….

    sorry not to login, only have a moment, don’t usually comment.

  171. Have fun at your security check-in.

    Arrive early as the following can eat up some of your time.

    1. Wear lace-up boots and forget to take them off until the last minute. Since you take a few minutes to unlace the boots to get them off, you will cause a log jam at the check point.

    2. Have lots of loose change in you pockets. Leave some in your pockets so you can go through the scanner again. And drop some on the floor too.

    3. Put something interesting in your carry-on that will ensure you get your bag checked – portable typewriters are good for this – even better if they have some non-latin characters on the keys like Cyrillic, Farsi or Hebrew. They are not a laptop or electronic so it confuses the hell out of them when it shows up on the X-ray.

    TSA: “Sir, can you please remove your electronic devices.”
    ME: “I don’t have anything electronic in my bag”
    TSA: “Yes you do. Your laptop”
    ME: “Nope. Don’t have one… oh, this old thing?”
    TSA: “What’s that.”
    ME: “That my friend is a typewriter, made before you were born.”
    TSA: “What’s that strange looking language on keyboard.”
    ME: “It’s the language of the Old Testament.”
    TSA: “Uh?”

    4. Have a Playboy in the luggage sitting right on top so when it gets opened, you can say, “Great articles.”

    5. Leave a MacDonald’s Cheeseburger or some type of smoked meat product in one of the outside pockets, make sure you get some of the grease on the fabric. The dogs will love this by the time they catch you.

    6. Carry an old WWII military vacuum tube radio with you. The old-timers will oh and ahh, the younger ones will be mystified and will want to inspect the device and swab it down. It’s even better when you get to plug it in and tune something in.

    7. Go to your local magic store and buy a “flaming wallet.” Use it, then forget it’s your now regular wallet instead of your regular one. The TSA guy will inspect it and think it’s a money clip inside… “Yes sir that’s what it is, but don’t ask me why it smells like lighter fluid.”

    8. Finish a large coffee with a third of it milk about 15 minutes before you get to the security. Dangerous business if they decide to check “under the hood”… hehehe.

    Yes, this is all true.

  172. This is a late comment. Sorry.
    July 27 at LAX flying to Frankfurt, going thru Security, suddenly someone yelled “Bravo” and we were all made to freeze on the spot. No explanation but was clearly a security exercise and no threat existed. I didn’t look at my watch, but when it ended I saw a guy sliding around a corner in his socks, holding his shoes. I felt sorry for him.
    More stories from same trip:
    Flight from Florence to Frankfurt — all passengers made to wait in a crowded shuttle with few seats, sun blazing thru the windows, before transporting us to the plane. After about half an hour later the shuttle started, moved forward about 20 yards, and stopped. I thought the engine stalled but actually we were already at the plane. Ahh, Italy. What’s good for the unions is fine with me.
    At LAX again were “detained” 5 hours on our plane because of the customs service computer failure. It was made clear that if anyone protested they’d be arrested and everyone would be punished by moving the flight back in the line of planes waiting to disembark passengers. There was no definitive information given to the pilots at any time. Because customs makes international flights, before landing, lock all the cabinets with customs’ supplied locks, there was not even water, which might have been lucky because the bathrooms became increasingly gross. When they let us out we were made to line up near a wall, guarded by some kind of police, every few feet, with guns ready. It took two more hours to go thru immigration and customs and to get our luggage. Peoples’ rides had left by then and getting a taxi and getting home was more fun.
    I thought that in the US one is innocent until proven guilty, but that was another time. It also made a terrible (but in my opinion accurate) impression on the many travelers from other countries that the US is unnecessarily paranoid and sadistic, which we are forced to tolerate in the belief that this behavior and approach is necessary to national security. There was no reason not be communicative and sympathetic to the tens of thousands of “detained” passengers,the vast majority, if not all of whom, were not security risks. I was ashamed to be a US citizen. I would otherwise give my name, but I have to get a new passport.

  173. Rather than carping here, how’s about writing your elected representatives. Registering complaints in writing with the airline, demanding financial compensation, etc. Surely the airline industry employs lobbyists.

    –another Canadian who maybe doesn’t get it

  174. We’ve become the good Germans, I guess. The good thing is, the “War on Terror” has an expiration date: January 20, 2009. Inauguration Day. On January 21, I propose we surrender to Canada, learn French and submit to de-Bushification. I’d love to live in Baja Saskatchewan.

  175. This all made for some nice reading.

    And some of my US friends wonder why I won’t come and visit (being French)… I don’t want to potentially subject myself to this on top of having some randomly anti-French (oooh, you didn’t go to Iraq, ooh, you hate America !) bigot with an agenda have his fun with me (tip for people with a French passport, do not have a connecting flight in the US, there is a fair chance you will miss it thanks to the nice people working in the airport security).

    I used to enjoy visiting the US in the past, its wackiness (as seen by a European) being part of the charm and for its great sceneries. I’m glad I did it before all of this mess. However that’s now behind me for good most likely. When was a law last passed that *restricted* some established “security” power ? It’s a fair bet that things will steadily get worse from here, to the indifference of the majority.

    A poster above said in response to the usual “why don’t you do anything about it” remarks that once you daily have armed people yelling at you to stand in line, you soon learn to comply. Which is of course most likely the purpose of all this circus. Of course it also means that you’ve now accepted to be sheep. You are no longer citizens. Maybe consumers in the best case (“I’m a paying consumer of the US, I have rights !”, will that be the new revolt cry ?

    I fear not, this will soon come to Europe full fledged, we’ll have sheep on both sides of the ponds.
    Then the children will be safe.

  176. I thought for sure I would provoke one of those incidents earlier this summer at Phoenix Sky Harbor. My 14-year-old daughter was pulled aside by security for having more than four ounces of lotion in her purse. After the TSA goon lady kept berating her for not following the rules and telling her she’d have to go stand in the lengthy security line again, I’d finally had enough. I grabbed the offending lotion from the guard, threw it in the trash and said “This is a 14-year-old girl, not a terrorist and not a criminal and we’re not standing in your stupid in line again.” I pulled my daughter by the hand and walked to the boarding gate. My daughter was almost in tears, and she thought for sure I was going to get us both arrested. But they never challenged me and we made our flight without incident. On the way back home though, my wife and I both got the extra search treatment, and we wondered if it was because we were both wearing T-shirts with peace signs on them.

  177. For about the past year I’ve started carrying a fairly large folding knife in my carry-on. If asked about it, I just ditch it if they find it (cheap ass hunting/fillet knives aren’t that expensive). I have made it onto the plane with it 4 out of 10 times. I do this to remind myself that this is All A Silly Show.

    It’s all a bullshit doublebind. Do I have to give you my name? Why, do you have something to hide? Are you detaining me, or can I go now? Should we be detaining you? blah blah blah.

  178. It’s funny. So many people commented so angrily here about pointless, humiliating power-grabs by the TSA; but when Boing Boing has an entry about the police grossly exceeding their authority and in the process hurting or seriously inconveniencing people, we inevitably get a bunch of commenters explaining that anyone who doesn’t do exactly as the police tell them is obviously an idiot or trying to make a scene.

    They’re wrong. The police can exceed or misuse their authority just as readily as the TSA can. Apparently there’s something about police-related stories that makes some commenters feel entitled to play tough guy and lecture everyone else.

  179. One poster above hinted at it, adn after research, I find it is true. there are seperate rules for freedom in secure airport areas. (but not for trains or buses, go figure)

    As I understand it from my lawyer, all civil liberties have been suspended at airport screening areas. And, even your right to leave rather than submit has been errradicated. Used to be if you got to the airport and decided not to stand in the screening line forever, you could get out of line, cancel your flight and leave the airport. Not so anymore. Once you get into the security line, leaving will subject you to detention by whatever supposed authority there is; private secutiry, TSA or local police.

    I think the only solution is total civil disobedience. This IS a civil rights issue. TSA exists only to provide security theater. I MIGHT understand if any of this made any difference whatsover, but it does not. We are less safe now than after 9/11. The minute they hassle you, go limp, sit or lie on the floor, refuse to move, scream “police brutality” or whatever else you like. Eventually, they will have to stop the fascist tactics or arrest every traveler. Whatever you do, do it slowly and deliberately. Don’t raise your voice to them or become agitated, or you’re just asking to be Tasered or choked out. Remember, most of these people are minimum wage drones who can’t speak English that well, are badly trained, if at all, have limited intelligence, and can’t get a real job.

  180. hi, I just wanted to say I work for TSA and I think that by and large, you are a bunch of pu**ies, and I really enjoy my job. Yes, I would like to taser you all, but there has to be a reason, so I can’t just do it whenever.
    I do notice, however that many of you have strange ideas about what you can or cannot do.
    First remember this: you never have to step foot on an airport. If you are hung up on your “rights”, remember this: flying is not one of your rights. It is a service provided by civilian companies. Even if TSA says you can fly, the airline might not. If you step foot in an airport, it does not mean you cannot leave, Unless you have begun the screening process. I would tell you when that begins, but that would spoil the fun.
    However, even if you cut and run, it is unlikely that anyone would shoot you. They already have plenty of video of you from all kinds of angles, and they know what plane you came off of, etc, IF THEY WANT TO. But they may not ever even decide to follow up. They know the difference between a scared sheep and a terrorist. Face it, you aren’t worth the effort.
    Yeah, sorry, Hate to burst your bubble, but as they say, paranoia is just a form of egotism.
    Just as an act of momentary kindness, though, I will tell you this:
    They will never tell you why the lockdown happened, and if they tell you its just a “drill” they took the easy way out. No one just has a drill. Its just like when they get a bomb threat against a flight, they always say its “mechanical” sure, ever seen a bomb dog who went to mechanic scchool?
    (No, Fido, I said 9/16ths cresent, not socket! Bad dog!)
    Keep up the good work, and keep flying, and for god’s sake, don’t make it easy for us, because (serously) if it goes too good, they cut our staff. Also, on a serious note, there are TSAholes out there, we all have a few. But there are far more who just want to help out, and will go out of their way to be nice. (not at LAX, obviously, and also, remember not all airports, SFO, for example, are TSA. Some are private security.)

  181. I had this happen semi-recently in January on a trip out of the US at LAX – I heard sudden loud yelling from a guy, something like “BOMB!” or something, and everybody was very much WTF and scared. We assumed it was a drill, since nobody was being moved or restrained, and no object was being inspected. Cute.

  182. one day,when the TSA is just a memory,some former insider will leak a list of all the names of TSA staff onto the web

    Wonder how old Stasi find work in Germany?

  183. Has anyone considered ‘small claims court’. In most states, this allows you to file up to $500 (some are higher) ‘lawsuits’ that are heard by just a local judge (who probably have been through these problems as well). I don’t think you can sue a federal agency through this, but I believe you can many private entities (airlines, etc). Most of the entities won’t even try to fight something ‘small’, but if one (ie the American people, singly and multiply) can find a way to cause enough ‘disturbance in the Force’, maybe policies can change…?

  184. Maybe we should follow the Geneva Convention and, whenever asked any question, answer with name, rank, and serial number:

    “What is your name?”
    “Joe Blow, U.S.citizen, 123-45-6789”

    “Where are you going?”
    “Joe Blow, U.S. citizen, 123-45-6789”


    Hmmm…Amazing! P.O.W.’s don’t have to answer as many question as American air travelers…

  185. Hey, Xeni!

    Did anything ever become of your plan to proceed with an FOIA request about this?

    (Just wondering as this particular Boing Boing item was mentioned in a comment over at the TSA blog today…)

  186. ok, let me clear things up. first of all you wont ever miss a flight because of a code bravo, whenever there is a “bravo” it means nothing moves at the checkpoint or passed the sterile area, not even the airlines. Second of all you can talk, just keep from moving a lot. and third, there is a Bravo drill at every terminal every day. usually lasting from 1 min. to 2 min. if its longer, then its no drill.

  187. They electrocute us if we smart off, treat us like sheep at the airport, allow us “designated free speech zones”, bust down our doors without warrants, and do whatever they want because they (the authorities) are a group, and we are all individuals.

    There is nothing “we” can do about it, because there is no “we”. Civilians are a bunch of individuals.

    As long as we remain separate individuals, and they are a “coherent” group (with weapons and radios and special badges) they can pretty much treat us like cattle.

    So they do.

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