This week in TSA awfulness: a recap of recent American airport atrocities

Cue up the Yakity Sax! In case you missed it, there have been a number of Boing Boing posts of late documenting outrageous TSA incidents:

• A terminal in Newark airport was evacuated because the TSA forgot to screen a tiny baby.
• TSA agents discovered an "anomaly in the crotchital area" of a 79-year-old woman.
• TSA agents at JFK harassed the family of a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and developmental disability.
• TSA screeners in LA ran a drug ring and took bribes from drug dealers.
• The TSA's anti-hugging squad caught a terrorist masquerading as a 4-year-old girl who loves her grandma.
• A 95-year-old US Air Force veteran from World War II and his 85-year-old friend were humiliated, searched and robbed at a San Diego TSA checkpoint.

Did we miss anything else in the past week or so? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: Carolina K. Smith, M.D. /


    1. “We’re fighting terrorism, not cavities.” – said by a TSA worker while confiscating toothpaste which my mom had accidentally brought in her carry-on (my mom hadn’t flown since 1999).

  1. Atrocity?  You mean like Rwanda or Darfur?

    Hyperbolic much?

    Yes, TSA is terrible and ineffective, but the last time I checked, they weren’t eating babies.  Of course, that could be because they hadn’t thought of it yet….

    1. If you can’t handle hyperbole, then you shouldn’t use it. 

      >>”Hyperbolic much?”
      >>>”but the last time I checked, they weren’t eating babies.”

    2. Ed, stop being a schmuck. The TSA & the ridiculous regulations they are charged to enforce were created in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. It almost made sense then.  But 10 years later TSA checkpoints have been proven to have stopped nothing, step on the basic freedoms of others, annoyance at least, and a reason to harass at most.  What in $!%’s name do small children & the elderly have anything to do with airport safety.  It’s a huge scam.  It’s a huge waste of tax payer dollars in a global recession.

      FWIW, I live and work in NYC. You know what?  I virtually have to deal with the TSA every day.  Not NYPD or transit cops but the TSA working with NYPD.

      Every day I ride the subways to get to work, there is a small group of NYPD guys there to do random bag checks.  I—an average guy going to work—have had to had my bag inspected for no valid reason on multiple occassions. Mostly, it’s just opening the bag, a guy looks through it and I go on.  Once I had a guy do the explosive check where they swipe the bag with some tissue, stick it in some overpriced machine, tell me I have no explosives in my bag and then let me go to work.

      Now, you know what is really crazy about this past the obvious? The NYC subway system is one of the least secure places in the world.  It’s porous as heck and it takes very little effort to get into the system & even avoid paying your fare in that process.  So what do these TSA checkpoints do? 100% of nothing.  My tax dollars are being wasted on one of the largest pork barrel projects this country has ever seen.  And why?  And for what?  Maybe some security theater discourages some schmucks, but recent reports have shown subway crime on the rise and more than a few people ALREADY IN THE SYSTEM have been caught with guns & other weapons on them.

      Yeah this is rambling, but geez louise… I welcome inconvenience if there were some logic behind it.  This is 100% B.S.

  2. TSA has a pretty tough job… right? I mean, that’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it? Somebody has to at least try to keep weapons off of planes… or no?

    1. Which the metal detectors have done a fine job of for quite some time, without all the abuse. Two things have made flying safer since 9/11. Passenger awareness (passengers caught both the shoe bomber and underwear bomber. They made it through TSA’s “multiple layers of security [theater]”) and hardened cockpit doors. Why are we spending on so much money and sacrificing so many liberties when the TSA has done nothing to improve security.

    2.  Go ahead.  Sneak a weapon onboard a plane and pull it out.

      I hope you like that blue stuff in the toilets, because the PASSENGERS are going to rip you apart and flush the pieces.

      No plane will EVER be hijacked again, and it won’t be because of the Testicle Sucking Assholes.

  3. I went through Newark last Sunday, and an agent pushing a hand trolly dropped someone’s confiscated glass Coke bottle. I got showered in glass and then agents started yelling at me to both get out of the way and not move.  It was startling how fast they turned on the passengers, acting as if we were idiots for being there at the wrong moment.  I felt a shard bounce off my forehead but wasn’t cut, but one got inside my shoe as I was trying to get my stuff and get out of their way.  Small cut, but no big deal.  The funny thing about this was, I had been scolded by an agent just seconds before because I left my iPad in my bag.  When I told him that I flew 28 times last year and that no one ever asked me to take it out before, he said, “Well, on time 29 you’re going through Newark, and at Newark we do things right!” Cue a shower of glass.  Woo!

    1. Just think, for that, we could fund a Stargate program. That’d only cost $7.4B a year, according to my reliable sources at the pentagon- And it’d give Cheyenne Mountain a reason to stay open!

  4. The cover photo of an agent searching a bag on the sterile table made me gag.  I have gotten secondary searches many times with either a breast pump or a CPAP (sleep breathing device) along and the TSA agents act as though I am ridiculous for asking them to put on clean gloves and use a clean surface to paw through my *medical devices.*  No, I don’t want to spend the night breathing the bacteria of every person you have groped today.  Ugh.

    1. I’ve never noticed the so-called sterile table before. That is yet another joke of the system. He’s not even wearing a mask. What in the hell is supposed to be sterile about that table? What situations call for it? Do you, as a passenger, ask for them to check your things there since you have your equipment with you? What a weird deal. You have to tell them to change their already used, sneezed on, breathed on, crotch scratching gloves? Is there even a can of Lysol in the vicinity? Jeebus.

  5. I guess if you’re honestly listing things you missed, it would be context. Tens of thousands of people went through with no problems. And I may be wrong that it is only in the tens of thousands. It’s only fair to mention.

    1.  Millions went through before 9/11 without any problems OR the TSA touching their junk.  It was peaceful, orderly and cost taxpayers a hell of a lot less.

    2. Nope.  Pretty sure those tens of thousands that got only the routine violation (rather than the extra special violations mentioned) got fucked in the wallet too.  You actually get to pay to have your have your fourth and fifth amendment rights pissed on.  Isn’t that great?  Nothing puts a smile on my face like paying out my cash to have someone grope me or run me through the porn scanner after first getting my papers checked.  

      The TSA is worthless and an affront to this nation.  It presupposes that the Americans are complete fucking cowards and are so scared shitless of a one in a few million chance of a terrorist attack, that we need to spend a few billion dollars on worthless security just theater to make them feel better.  The fucking security doesn’t even work.  Every single thwarted airline terrorist attempt, literally without exception, has been thwarted by passengers and law enforcement.  Every.  Single. One.  Yet we still piss away our civil liberty and a pile of cash on these ass clowns.

      The only people who made it through the TSA without problems are fucking cowards who need a good ball squeeze or tit grope before they can muster up the courage to face the “scary” threat of terrorism.  These people, one assumes, also soils themselves at the thought of swimming in the ocean due to scary shark attacks.  I would like to encourage the cowards who made it through a TSA check point “without a problem”, to refrain from eating.  If they find air terrorism scary, they most soil themselves at the thought of choking on their own food.  Hundreds of Americans die to choking each year making it WAY scarier than terrorism!  So scary!

      Only a coward would considers paying a bunch of money to have their civil liberties pissed on to be going through a TSA checkpoint with “no problem”.   Those chicken shit people should do the rest of the nation a favor and stop flying and voting. You know… “it’s only fair to mention.”

  6. The TSA God bless them, saving me from the terrors of old men and women… and let’s not forget those wicked children.
    I only wish I could shake their hands and grovel at their feet.

    1.  Don’t give Congress any ideas, Blake.  I’m sure after the election they will pass Patriot Act III: The Electric Bugaloo and it would be easy enough to hide the requirement in the bill.  After all, no one voting on it will ever take the time to read even the Executive Summary.

  7. I flew from Ft.Lauderdale to Laguardia in december and again this week; both times, TSA agents stole my prescription pain meds…..I bet they are part of the ring busted in LAX.

  8. How many of you have forgotten a blade (a pocket knife, basically) and it WENT THROUGH security without them catching it.   Did I know it was there?  No, I forgot… some road trip in state or something.  We all agree, they’re idiots.  
    I remember travelling to the UK (I’m an ex-pat) just after the Lockerbie explosion.  Men in uniform, with large machine guns….but none of this screening bullshit.  And Harry Block?  Mail yer shit in future.

  9. In 2001, one man – Richard Reed, tried to set blow up an airplane with a bomb hidden in his shoes. Since then, 800 million passengers a year have to take our shoes off before we board an airplane. In 2009 another man – Umar Farouk Abdoulmutallab – tried to blow up another airplane with a bomb hidden in his underware. Since them, 800 million passengers a year are (virtually) undressed by the TSA each time we fly. Neither terrorist was caught by the TSA. What is next??

    1.  Southpark answered that already, with the “Toilet Safety Administration”.

      “Ahhm sarrahy sir, ah jes gotta check ya @$$#0[3…”

  10. TSA
    Terribly Stupid Assholes.
    Tolerated Sexual Assault.
    Thieves Scoundrels Assailants.

  11. So are we still the land of the free and the home of the brave?  Christian country singers keep telling us it is, but I think they are full of shit know-nothing, chicken-shit hicks.  If you are American and you aren’t PISSED… then you’re ignorant, weak or both.  If fighting for “our freedoms” in other lands is so God DAMN important, then why isn’t it important for us to keep our freedoms here at home?  AAARRRgGGGhhh!!!!!!

  12. Last week at O’Hare, a TSA Agent informed the line that we had to make sure our pockets were empty, including items such as hard candy.  Hard.  Candy.

    1. How about those multi-million dollar x-ray machines that can’t even distinguish a PIECE OF PAPER (i.e, your boarding pass) – that has to be held in your hands separately.  

    2. You laugh, but what if the next attack is with POISONED BUTTERSCOTCH?! *dun dun dun!*

  13. The TSA perfectly represents the current state of our piece of shit government. People we don’t trust or respect failing at jobs we don’t want them doing. I trust and respect McDonald’s employees far more than these clowns.

  14. Thanks again George Bush, we really appreciate your converting America to a Fascist state.

    1. “Blame Obama” and “Blame Bush” people are all the same in that they are not smart enough to know that all politicians are the same and want the same thing – to keep their power, status and money by pitting people against each other.

  15. In the last seven times I have flown, I have had no bad experiences with TSA, and encountered several genuinely helpful people. One TSA agent personally took my suitcase (which turned out to be 3 inches too wide to fit the X-ray) back to the counter and got it registered and put on my plane, after observing that I was running late for my plane (my fault for getting distracted at the book store).

    I have never seen anyone having trouble with TSA in the past few years. In the immediate time after 9-11, things were awful, but this is probably to be expected. However I keep hearing these reports and wondering exactly how much of a problem this is. I understand the plural of my anecdotes are not “data”, but neither is this selective gathering of the most egregious, headline grabbing transgressions of a massive government agency.

    Now I completely agree that the majority of the newer security measures are wasteful, time-consuming, invasive and almost certainly ineffective. If I were Dictator for a Day, I would roll back the vast majority, cut and retool the TSA down to a more sensible yet effective system in whatever ways possible. But this situation seems the classic security dilemma in action: no matter what consequences politicians and bureaucrats face in setting security measures: all the bad press, complaints, ethics violations and examples of small-scale tyranny that these security measures cause, the incentive will ALWAYS be stronger to never roll these measures back. One genuinely hostile terrorist or even backwater malcontent who makes it past security with a weapon, harmful object, or simply an oversize quilting needle? That is enough to instantly end or ruin the career of a TSA official, airport official, or associated politician. “WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE?” will be the public outcry, with huge media coverage and resulting outrage. “WHO cut corners or judged that the latest million-dollar-machine wasn’t cost effective? These are our children’s lives you risked, and our national security!”

    Stupid, short-sighted and irrational as this is, we live in America; a country so self-traumatized by fear and injury that it has invaded numerous countries in the past decade, sent assassins mechanical and human into others to wreck vengeance and preemptively kill those who have any intentions to hurt us, no matter how ineffective those enemies may be. Where is the public outcry over the drones in Yemen? Where are the Senators and Congress-members standing up and actually pressing the Administration and bloated security apparatus? As far as I can tell our Senate and House have essentially forfeited their Constitutional duty to decide when this country should go to war, and they have done it out of fear and cowardice that they may be blamed as being “soft” on our enemies. That *Obama*, a president who has authorize unprecedented measures of covert and unconstrained attacks against (the admittedly non-traditional, guerrilla style) enemies of the US is STILL attacked by the Republican Party should give us pause at how little our public officials are pressured otherwise. It took Nixon to go to China, but I doubt even Ron Paul could muster the political capital and support in Congress to roll back this idiocy.

    I know that few will care or listen to my comment, but I don’t really find any of this outrage very important or useful. I completely understand the various motivations BoingBoing has to prioritize this subject, but aren’t we missing a chance to discuss the underlining problems that cause this clusterf#$% of security and invasive government? These “shock-and-outrage” articles may be effective to marshal public attention, but this seems like just fighting a single symptom of a much larger problem: our Constitutional limits are so outdated that instead of guaranteeing our rights, the public as a whole implicitly allows them to be ignored rather than modified in a rational manner. How long has it been since the 4th Amendment was seriously upheld? How long since “due process” has been a serious consideration in the trials of suspected terrorists, or drug offenders, or protesters, or anyone without a few thousand dollars of discretionary money to hire a competent lawyer? How long since there was any serious push to cut the largest defense budget in all of history?

    Perhaps this “shock and outrage the privileged and tech-savy” strategy is more politically effective; I am certainly not equipped to know either way. But I believe it is inherently dishonest, short-sighted, myopic and downright dogmatic. I like BoingBoing, and respect its writers and authors. But this ideological attitude does a disservice to their integrity.

  16. Sing it loud and proud:  Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, Over the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    Now answer the question. It IS a question. It demands our attention and vigilance and consideration. Is this TSA stuff truly necessary? Does it diminish us? Is it really American? Why is it here? Whom does it serve? Why are American people being trained to suspect and search others?

    If you get a chance to watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s/Clint Eastwood’s HOOVER, have a look. Paranoia and the Lindbergh baby created the FBI. The TSA is just another FBI, but not as effective or disciplined or coordinated. The US has local police, state police, national police (FBI), and the NSA, CIA, and all of that underer Homeland Security.  So what does TSA really do? If it truly prevented a single jet going down every year, would that be worth 8 billion dollars and the millions of wasted man-hours?

  17. Here is another case…..

    13 year old mechanically ventilated, Quadriplegic girl in a motorized wheelchair(Obviously a threat), en route to a camp for kids in similar medical scenarios, needs to be hand searched by TSA in the most recently nominated WORST airport, LaGuardia in NY. The TSA agent asks her dad if the wheelchair can be put into manual drive mode. He responds with “Yes, but it takes some doing”. Before he has the chance to take the steps necessary to switch it over to manual, the TSA agent decided she had the authority to move the chair herself using the drive control WITHOUT approval from either of the parents or the nurse traveling with the family. WELL………………..Not being familiar with the controller, the wheelchair lunged forward, and she managed to run the little girls leg into a stationary metal table thereby creating a large bruise and a 7 inch bleeding gash from the front of the knee running upwards. The impact was so hard it ripped the pants she was wearing easily exposing the wound. If this child had the ability to feel pain in her leg she would have screamed. Thank the lord for this fact. Also, The agent who just slammed this little girl could not release her hand from the controls such that the father who is witnessing this has to grab the TSA agent’s hand and PRY it off of the controls as the chair is still lurching forward. The agent asks if we would like her to call medical personnel to attend to the injured. The dad, furious, states that the only thing he wants is to keep is daughter safe and to get as far away from TSA and LaGuardia as possible, and that the nurse can tend to the wounds far away from TSA. Before leaving security this person was asked for her name… Instead of just giving up her name a second douche of an agent decides to be a mediator, “O.k. just calm down…..” “We just need her name”…. Agent:”there is no need to…. “Just please give me the name so we can catch the plane…..” “Sir, BLAH BLAH BLAH…” “Why is this so difficult?, Just give me a name….umm, first AND last thank you…
    The female agent Finally writes her full name on a piece of paper and just before I step away she states “The dad gave me permission to move the chair.” This statement is obvious bullshit as there is nobody he lets move the chair and just a feeble attempt to cover her own actions. A short time later while waiting to board, a “supervisor” comes to meet us and asks some questions, but of course, her first words were “The agent stated she had permission to move the chair” Again obvious bullshit, and we let her know it. When we finally arrived at the target airport we passed another mechanically ventilated child sitting ON THE FLOOR of the airport off on the side. It turns out the TSA BROKE his motorized wheelchair, and he was stuck there awaiting someone knowledgeable enough to fix it. Something needs to be done about these wannabe Law Enforcement officers that have an over exaggerated sense of authority.

    1. And now the dad is guilty of “assault” for removing the agent’s hand from the control. Or do they only claim assault when it’s a congressman who touches them?

  18. At SFO they took my white cane away (I’m legally blind) before putting me in the Porn-Box. Ok, fine, I dealt with that. But then I was chosen for a gropefest. Wearing a skirt and tank top, there wasn’t much I could possibly be hiding, but my boobage got a thorough rubdown, as well as my waist, hips, and thighs, by an awkwardly smiling TSA agent. I wasn’t sure if I should have been insulted, flattered, or if I should have tipped for the massage.

  19. The human brain is a marvelously contradictory thing, is it not? It’s primed to recognize patterns, yet we cannot recognize our own patterns of stupid behavior. I mean, humans are so predictable it’s just pathetic that people don’t recognize this as history repeating itself AGAIN. For pete’s sake, by this point it’s FORMULAIC.
    1. Something bad happens
    2. People experience fear, anxiety and even panic
    3. Much like a person with OCD washing their hands 20 times in a row, the people latch on to ANYTHING that will help quell their fears, even if there is absolutely no rational reason behind the behavior they choose
    4. The government knowingly steps in with its “Never fear, citizens! Trust us, we know what to do!”
    5. People, in desperation for a concrete solution to external situations over which they have NO control, believe any b/s they’re fed by someone with perceived authority (ie, a nice suit and a glib personality), because admitting that life IS chaos and that nothing the politicians can do will have any real effect on that is far too anxiety-provoking for the average joe
    6. Politicians, realizing the carte blanche of power they’ve just been handed, fan the flames of fear and create more and more external “enemies” and “threats” to keep people from realizing what’s happening
    7. People willingly give up every bit of power they had so that they can regress to a child-like “SAVE ME MOMMY” state rather than facing things head-on.
    8. By the time people realize what’s happened, it’s too late and they no longer possess the power to change the situation.

    1. Rome, 509 BC: The Roman Republic is seized by a series of civil wars following the defeat of Antony & Cleopatra, throwing the provinces into chaos. People freak out and consul/military leader/really rich guy Augustus and his loyal team of generals, who had already been attempting to seize power for some time, stepped in and said “what we need is order. Tell ya what – you elect me princeps and I’ll let the senate keep their power.” The senate, loving the wealth and resources dear Augustus brings to the table, say “Sure! Extra-constitutional powers? You got it!” The people, meanwhile, do not question the wisdom of the senate, especially considering Augustus’ generals made it clear that there would be more civil wars otherwise. And voila! The republic becomes a principate, then a dictatorship, and the Roman Empire we all know and love, leaving the people with nothing.

    2. Germany, 1930: After having their butts handed to them in WWI and taking the blame for the whole debacle, Germany was forced to pay reparations to the world, the amount of which were ludicrous for the time. After surviving a bout of hyper-inflation and finally starting to revalue the mark, the Great Depression struck. Unemployment went to 30%, American loans that had been used to rebuild following the war were called in, and panic gripped people. More and more people started listening to young Adolf Hitler’s insane ramblings about how it’s all the jews’ fault, and if we could get rid of them things would get better. By the 1930 election, the number of Nazis officially in the government went from 12 to over 100. It spreads until Hitler is finally elected Chancellor in 1933, but he’s still just an elected official at this point. Then, however, the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament, is burned to the ground in an arson attack. Hitler had been trying to control his political enemies for some time at that point, but when the people were made aware of this vicious, heinous attack on their democratically elected government, Hitler and his boys were able to get the Reichstag Fire Decree passed, which in essence suspended the civil rights of anyone who belonged to any political party other than Nazi. Gleichschaltung began in full swing from this point forward, with Hitler declaring himself Fuhrer after the German president under which he served died in 1934, all the while the people just smile and nod and give away more and more of their rights in some misguided attempt to reclaim stability. We know the rest.

    3. United States, 1950: Having been elected to the US Senate through dirty politics in 1946, a wiley young Republican by the name of Joseph McCarthy was re-evaluating the tactics that had made him unpopular with both his fellow senators and the public on which his re-election hinges. Joe wonders, how did I go from Tail-Gunner Joe to the Pepsi Cola Kid? That’s it! Fresh from the war, he was a hero, because the enemies were OUTSIDE of the country! What we need is something new to focus on INSIDE the country to distract people from questionable political practices and decisions. What luck we happen to be in the middle of a cold war! And considering a poll just revealed that he was thought of as the “worst senator serving,” it had to be done quickly. So in 1950, while giving a speech to a Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, McCarthy releases a list of “known communists working for the state department.” In reality, his list was the Lee list created by the House Appropriations Committee to judge the efficiency with which money was being spent by the state department. McCarthy took this list of “loyalty risks” and the stories of what these dangerous spies were up to got bigger and more dramatic with every speech. And of course the people were up in arms – there was already a climate of fear perpetuated by the government, and this guy was just piling on top. The government backed him up and started calling all sorts of committees , from the Tydings committee to the utter usurpation of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for the purposes of communist witch-hunting, McCarthy profited off of ruining the lives and reputations of the innocent until his death in 1957, dying while still in office, despite the fact that the army exposed him for blackmailing them into giving preferential treatment to one of his now enlisted former aides. One can only imagine how much worse the state of politics would have gotten if he hadn’t died when he did.

    Reading human history is like watching the same really bad movie over and over again.

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not certain about the universe.” ~ Albert Einstein

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