We all know that the TSA maintains a secret watchlist of suspected terrorists who are somehow suspicious enough that they can be denied the right to fly or be subjected to humiliating screenings (but not suspicious enough to charge with any crime), but it turns out that that TSA has another watchlist of problem fliers -- people who've complained about TSA screeners, as well as people who are accused of having "assaulted" screeners (the definition of "assault" includes women who've removed screeners' hands from their breasts).
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This baggage handler looks like she's been at her job for a long time, effortlessly tossing luggage down the slide as if they were bags of marshmallows. Hopefully, marshmallows are what's in that luggage because anything else is likely to break.
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The project of making planes secure from terrorist attacks is an inescapable nonsense: nonsense because there's no way to screen millions of people to prevent a few dedicated ones from bringing down a plane (no, really); inescapable because no lawmaker or policymaker will ever have the courage to remove a measure that has previously been described as "essential for fighting terrorism" even if it was only ever security theater intended to assuage low-information voters.
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The folks who make every visit to the airport intolerable are doing it without providing any results. ABC once again finds that the TSA nearly unable to stop folks from illegally carrying a handgun on to an aeroplane. The TSA does, however, make life miserable for breast-feeding mothers, and diabetics who need to travel with fluids or die, and pretty much everyone else.
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In recent undercover tests of multiple airport security checkpoints by the Department of Homeland Security, inspectors said screeners, their equipment or their procedures failed more than half of the time, according to a source familiar with the classified report.
When ABC News asked the source familiar with the report if the failure rate was 80 percent, the response was, “You are in the ballpark.”
In a public hearing following a private, classified briefing to the House Committee on Homeland Security, members of Congress called the failures by the Transportation Security Administration "disturbing."
People flying home from San Diego Comic-Con yesterday got a rude surprise when they spotted signs at the United check-in warning them not to put comics in their checked bags -- and most assumed it was the TSA's doing, a reasonable assumption given that the agency has been repeatedly trialling programs to search passengers' literature for exploding words for some months. Read the rest
The U.S. government's ban on laptops and other large electronic devices in the cabins of flights from Saudi Arabia to the United States has been lifted, Saudi Arabian Airlines confirmed today. Read the rest
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration today said it was lifting a ban on carry-on electronics such as laptops for passengers on Saudi Arabian Airlines flights headed to the U.S..
This is the last carrier under the restrictions to have been permitted to now ignore those new restrictions. Somehow this is apparently all making America Great Again and So Safe. Read the rest
Paul Bennun writes, "The incomparable Sarah Warren, (creator of feminist slapstick spy caper MLE) has launched a brand new tragicomedy web series called LAX on YouTube, keeping with the TLAs. Read the rest
The TSA will be testing out expanded screening for carry-on electronics larger than a phone and certain food items at selected airports around the country. The new rules come just two days after a major terrorist attack in Manchester, UK, and stepped-up security in response.
The TSA says they're “testing security screening procedures for carry-on bags at 10 U.S. airports” only, and “There are no changes to nationwide procedures.” Read the rest
Sometimes, in the course of his work, University of Florida molecular geneticist Martin Cohn must travel with unusual items like a 3D-printed mouse penis. Similarly, University of Massachusetts biologist Diane Kelly totes around anatomical models like a mold of a dolphin vagina. They're not alone in the odd science-related items they must fly with, from bottles of monkey piss to a stash of 5,000-year-old human bones. At The Atlantic, Ed Yong explores what happens when objects of science meet airport security:
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The TSA once stopped Michael Polito, an Antarctic researcher from Louisiana State University, because his bag contained 50 vials of white powder. When he explained that the powder was freeze-dried Antarctic fur seal milk, he got a mixed reaction. “Some officers just wanted to just wave me on,” he says. “Others wanted me to stay and answer their questions, like: How do you milk a fur seal? I was almost late for my flight.”
Airport security lines, it turns out, are a fantastic venue for scientists to try their hand at outreach. Various scientists are said to have claimed that you don’t really understand something if you can’t explain it to your grandmother, a barmaid, a six-year-old, and other such sexist or ageist variants. But how about this: can you successfully explain it to an TSA official—someone who not only might have no background in science, but also strongly suspects that you might be a national security threat? Can you justify your research in the face of questions like “What are you doing?” or “Why are you doing it?” or “Why are you taking that onto a plane?”
Cohn did pretty well to the four assembled TSA agents who started quizzing him about his mouse penis.
Akal Security Inc is the TSA contractor that screens passengers at Kansas City International Airport under a $108m/5 year contract; earlier this month they began abruptly scanning all paper products in carry on luggage, requiring passengers to pull out their books, papers, even post-it notes for secondary inspection. Read the rest
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)'s Instagram account is a real hoot, featuring weird, ridiculous, and sometimes helpful images of items that are prohibited and permitted to bring on flights. Apparently Jeremy Bentham's mummified head, above, "is allowed in carry-on as long as it's properly packaged, labeleled, and declared..." Also, who knew that Batarangs and Krull Glaives were so popular. From National Geographic:
“It almost looks like we’re in the entertainment business at times,” says Bob Burns, lead social media specialist with the TSA Office of Public Affairs and the man behind the account’s cheeky posts. After leaving his rock band in 2002, Burns originally joined TSA as a screener and later started the Instagram account in 2013—his idea to educate the public in a more engaging way.
“Everyone’s had that teacher where you’re afraid to ask questions because you’ll get criticized or yelled at. The human tone of our Instagram account makes us more approachable,” Burns says. “The majority of our photos are prohibited items and strange things … we try to use that as a teaching moment: A chainsaw is not allowed in your carry-on bag.”
Talk about deadheading... This crusty ol' chap is actually a prop from the #TexasChainsawMassacre movie. He was brought through a checkpoint at the Atlanta (#ATL) International Airport, where as you can see, he was screened and sent on his jolly way. #TSAOnTheJob
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Some might find this nanner knife appealing. I’m guessing you have a bunch of them?
"Can I bring my rechargable power bank the shape of the greatest orc warriors Orgrim's Doomhammer on a plane?" asks Itaku on Twitter.
"We're glad you asked," replies AskTSA, an official account of the Transportation Security Administration. "Replica weapons, even those belonging to Horde Chieftains, must be packed in checked bags."
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If the TSA thinks that you're suspicious -- or if you opt out of the "optional" full-body scanner -- you get a junk-touching "secondary screening" in which the screeners "pat you down" by rubbing the backs of their hands on your genitals and other "sensitive areas" (they can be pretty rough -- a screener at ORD once punched me in the balls to retaliate for me asking him not to rest the tub containing my bags on top of my unprotected laptop). Read the rest
The AP reports that an 80-year-old South Carolina woman had no idea her cane contained a sword until she attempted to board a plane and it was inspected by TSA staff.
News outlets report that Transportation Security Administration regional spokesman Mark Howell recounted the incident Thursday at Myrtle Beach International Airport as part of an effort to highlight examples of dangerous items recently carried by passengers departing the airport.
Howell told reporters secret swords are not actually that uncommon a discovery for TSA screeners since people sometimes buy the canes at thrift stores without realizing there's a sword inside.
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In 2013, the TSA blew $1B on "behavioral detection," which would allegedly train agents to spot potential terrorists by looking for a hilariously stupid list of "tells" including "a bobbing adam's apple," "arriving late," "trembling," "yawning," "excessive throat clearing," "improper attire," "gazing down," and "wide open staring eyes," Also: "being in disguise." Read the rest
Actor Judge Reinhold was flying out of Dallas Love Field on Thursday and his bag set off an "alarm" on a TSA scanner, so security personnel demanded to pat Reinhold down; Reinhold objected that he'd already passed through the naked scanner and didn't believe he should have to get a government-mandated genital massage as well. Police were called and he was arrested. Read the rest