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.

TSA demands to search man who's already flown

Minnesota's Kahler Nygard drew a Spirit Air boarding car with the dreaded "SSSS" extra-search marker, and halfway to Denver, Spirit and/or the TSA decided he hadn't been searched properly (he says he was), so they panicked and dragged him off the plane in Denver for another search because he might have been a time-traveller who could harm a plane after getting off of it.

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TSA: "please verify that your used cane is not a sword before flying"

Kevin Underhill nails it: "Anyone who does not know their cane conceals a sword or dagger (almost certainly an elderly or disabled person with a second-hand cane) poses no threat, while anyone who does know it will not need, want, or follow this advice."

Security researchers buy pornoscanner, demonstrate how to sneak in guns & bombs


(Rapiscan images showing a subject carrying no weapon (left) versus a .380 ACP pistol sewn to the side of his pants leg, (right) which is practically invisible in the scan)

Researchers from UCSD, the U Michigan, and Johns Hopkins will present their work on the Rapiscan Secure 1000 at Usenix Security tomorrow; the Secure 1000 isn't used in airports anymore, but it's still in courts, jails, and government security checkpoints (researchers can't yet get their hands on the millimeter machines used at airports).

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Where do bags go after the TSA takes them?

They go to Alabama, writes intrepid and daring sock smuggler Dan Lewis.

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FBI and AG sued by American muslims over no-fly list


Four of the plaintiffs are US citizens, the other a permanent resident, and they say that their rights have been routinely violated by a secret, unaccountable terrorist watchlist system that impairs their ability to travel and subjects them to "the unimaginable indignity and real-life danger of having your own government communicate to hundreds of thousands of federal agents, private contractors, state and local police, the captains of sea-faring vessels, and foreign governments all across the world that you are a violent menace."

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TSA employee to security theater skeptics: "You don't have shit for rights"


A person who "works for the TSA" accidentally posted a public comment to Facebook excoriating Rebecca Hains for expressing skepticism about the TSA's efficacy.

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Fake TSA screener infiltrates SFO checkpoint, gropes women


He was allegedly drunk, and had at least two victims before SFO's crackerjack private aviation security outfit, Covenant, noticed (they're the same ones who smashed my brand new camera some years ago and refused to take responsibility for it).

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Yet another TSA screener doesn't know that DC is part of America


An Orlando TSA screener told a DC-based reporter that he'd need a passport to fly, because DC isn't a state, so a DC driver's license wasn't valid ID.

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TSA's Instagram

Tsa

The TSA's Instagram continues to be a real hoot. Below, see a grenade-shaped vape, comb daggers, and Batarangs!

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Have your say on TSA tax-hike

If you'd rather that the cost of US airline tickets not rise an average of 5% to pay for additional invasive and largely pointless TSA screening, you can tell them so. (Thanks, Dwen!)

TSA tells UK airport security: confiscate broken and out-of-battery gadgets


The TSA has demanded that overseas airports, like London's Heathrow, should require travellers to turn on their electronics before flying to the USA, and ban any broken or out-of-power devices.

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Pornoscanners head to prisons

Normally technology migrates from prisons to schools to airports -- think CCTVs and Pre-Check -- but for the late and unlamented radioactive pornoscanners that the TSA had to give up on, the technology path went the other way -- if you're lucky enough to be incarcerated in the USA (which incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth), you may be treated to one or more TSA-surplus pornoscans.

TSA agents demand bag-search to look for "Bitcoins"

Davi Barker was flying from Manchester, NH when, he says, he was stopped by two men who identified themselves as "managers" for the TSA, who claimed they had seen Bitcoins in his baggage and wanted to be sure he wasn't transporting more than $10,000 worth. When he asked them what they thought a Bitcoin looked like, they allegedly said that it looked like a coin or a medallion. (via Hacker News) Cory 63

TSA not sure if DC drivers licenses are valid ID

DC resident Ashley Brandt was surprised to meet a TSA agent at Phoenix airport who didn't think that DC drivers' licenses were valid ID, because DC isn't a state. Cory 42