/ Cory Doctorow / 8 am Wed, Jul 3 2013
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  • TSA's new Instagram shows all the dangerous items that presented no danger

    TSA's new Instagram shows all the dangerous items that presented no danger

    The TSA has launched an Instagram account, showing all the "dangerous items" they steal confiscate from air travellers. The message is clear: we are keeping you safe from in-flight danger.

    But what they don't show is all the grand-jury indictments for conspiracy to commit air terrorism that they secured after catching people with these items -- even the people who were packing guns.

    That's because no one -- not the TSA, not the DAs, not the DHS -- believe that anyone who tries to board a plane with a dangerous item is actually planning on doing anything bad with them. After all, as New York State chief judge Sol Wachtler said (quoting Tom Wolfe), "a grand jury would 'indict a ham sandwich,' if that's what you wanted." So if there was any question about someone thinking of hurting a plane, you'd expect to see indictments.

    I had this discussion with a TSA agent at LAX last week. He asked me why I'd opted out of the pornoscanner -- he'd been my pat-down assistant that day -- and we got to talking. I said that as a frequent flier, I was very interested in safe airplanes, but that I didn't think the TSA contributed to that. He disagreed and cited all the stuff he confiscated, but admitted, when I asked him, that he didn't think that anyone actually planned to do anything bad to airplanes with the stuff he took away, nor did he think they'd do something unplanned and dangerous to the airplane with it.

    "But," he said, "maybe someone who did want to crash the plane might take the bad thing away from them and attack it."

    "That doesn't sound like a very reliable plan," I said. "If you were a terrorist and that was your plan, you'd have to spend a lot of time in the air waiting for someone to open his laptop bag and show you that he forgot to take his handgun out of it before he boarded."

    "Yeah," he said. He thought for a moment. "This is really above my pay-grade."

    (via Cnet)

    / / 26 COMMENTS

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    Notable Replies

    1. What's absurd is thinking that a terrorist would submit to a search willingly. If your intent is to do harm, how is the TSA screen actually stopping you? How would they screeners address an actual threat? It's not as if they are trained to handle an actual confrontation.

    2. Level 1 argument: The TSA confiscates a lot of weapons, so they're keeping us safe.
      Level 2 argument: The weapons they confiscate aren't going to be used for bad things, so the TSA doesn't keep us safe.
      Level 3 argument: The weapons that the TSA confiscates are a red herring. The weapons that bad people WOULD have brought on board, if there were no TSA, are actual benefits of having a TSA.

      Really, I'm just calling out your strawman/exaggeration:

      I said that as a frequent flier, I was very interested in safe airplanes, but that I didn't think the TSA contributed to that. He disagreed and cited all the stuff he confiscated, but admitted, when I asked him, that he didn't think that anyone actually planned to do anything bad to airplanes with the stuff he took away, nor did he think they'd do something unplanned and dangerous to the airplane with it.

      I think you're both wrong - the TSA does improve safety, but not for the reason that this guy says. But really I'm assuming you're just exaggerating here, because it's hard to imagine anyone could believe that x-rays and metal detectors don't make flying safer. http://boingboing.net/2013/05/03/when-all-the-cool-kids-were-hi.html

      If you said "the TSA pornoscanners" instead of "the TSA" then I'd agree - but then that has nothing to do with a confiscated gun.

    3. rpbo says:

      Right, and wouldn't long security lines be a better target anyway?

    4. I don't think Cory is making a real case against a minimal TSA presence. For example, not many people would argue against a basic metal detector to weed out the occasional gun or knife (though many studies have shown those don't get caught that often anyway.)
      It is the post 9/11 security theater that is the issue, a lot of hand waving for what is at best a waste of time/money and invasion of personal space and at worst a distraction from real threats.
      The simple step of locking the cockpit door is probably the most effective thing we could have ever done in response to 9/11. But even that is solving yesterday's problem.

    5. This seems to miss the point. If there is a reasonable expectation that an obvious and easily obtained weapon like a gun or a large knife is going to be detected, then intentional attackers are forced to chose other targets or resort to more exotic and harder to obtain weapons.

      In fact, as Boing Boing has already reported, the introducing metal detectors and X-ray machines resulted in a massive reduction in the number hijackings:

      That means most of the guns and knifes seized are going to be from forgetful idiots. I am sure said idiots were subjected to some uncomfortable questioning and had their backgrounds checked before they were released, sans weapons. This would appear to be the system working as intended.

    Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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