Jetsetting Terrorist: Blog from a guy who is branded "SSSS" by the TSA

Jetsetting Terrorist is a fascinating blog written by a guy who was once convicted of an activist property crime and as a result must undergo enhanced screening every time he flies.

I’m not an actual “terrorist,” but years ago the the government convicted me of a property crime it deemed “terrorism,” and since then, life has been interesting.

Especially flying. Since 2009, I’ve been on the TSA’s “terrorist watch list.” Not quite the “no fly list”, but close.

This means that when I fly, the TSA goes crazy. At various times, I’ve been refused entry to planes, tailed through airports, and told my Starbucks coffee might be a bomb. What the TSA does when someone like me flies

Here’s the abridged protocol:

  • I obtain a boarding pass. It is emblazened with four large S’s. Like this: “SSSS.”
  • At security, the TSA sees the S’s. Their eyes get big. They turn between 90 and 180 degrees, lean into their radio, and whisper for backup.
  • A senior officer approach, announces I have been “selected” for special screening. I am told to follow them.
  • I am escorted to the front of the line (this is the good part). My carry-on items are placed in a bright red bin.
  • I am shadowed through the body scanner.
  • I receive what I will euphemistically call a “thorough pat-down.”
  • My luggage is ripped apart, swabbed for explosive residue, my computer turned on, and everything generally put under a microscope.
  • TSA takes my ID into a back room and calls the FBI to report my travels.
  • Meanwhile, TSA mobilizes a “random security audit” at the gate, re-checking IDs and searching luggage of everyone on my flight.

Other:

  • I am not allowed to sit in an exit row.
  • I am not allowed to check in from home.

If this doesn’t exactly sound like high drama, just wait. The TSA is so disorganized and arbitrary, the results are a pure comedy of errors. Each time I fly the TSA manages to get something wrong, display some level of colossal incompetence, and generally make themselves worthy of being made fun of on the internet.