TSA recent failures

Homeland Security Advisory System - Threat levelsThe TSA (or Transportation Security Administration) is in charge in the US of the organization the safe transportation of people in planes and through airports. Unfortunately, either they have a lot of other responsibilities (which is true) and fail at this one (which is also true), or they utterly incompetent at insuring the security of the passengers (true again).

I have been amazed at the number of horror stories that I could find lately about their abysmal track record, so here is a short compilation I made just for your your laughs (or cries).

  • TSA has opened a blog web site. It was supposed to help passengers. It has been the focus of a lot of attention from Internet users. They recently apologized to the blogesphere (sic) for arbitrary gadget screenings (at least in San Francisco SFO, they required all electronic devices and cable to be removed from bags for screening)
  • TSA has a no-fly list of people who should not board airplanes for fear of terrorism. This list is a shame since it contains tens of thousands of names remotely linked to terrorists (if they are dead, like Mohamed Atta known for dying on 9/11, they do not even get removed from the list) and even very common names are included making the life of thousands of innocent people impossible in airports. Like Sam Adams, 5, probably very dangerous despite his nice smiling little face.
  • Speaking of faces, TSA started to train its screeners with some facial expressions that are considered ground for additional screening and interrogation (in a program called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) probably only a thin veil on “let’s stop this guy because I don’t like his face“). Unfortunately, they would not say if you should avoid smiling or making faces to the TSA personnel. After that, you immediately think about George Orwell’s 1984 (“facecrime”) and Kafka’s Trial (not to speak of Stalinist behavioral crimes). And when you see how untrained the screeners are…
  • Speaking about training, should I mention the cases where the agents are so unable to handle your belongings that they drop them on the floor. Don’t mention dropping a T-shirt. Think about pro-photo equipment like here or here.
  • TSA and some English goons decided that transporting liquids was a major terrorist danger. Even if it is the milk bottle of Junior, the Coke for Dad or the Perrier for Mom. So, now, liquids in more than 100ml are prohibited from your carry-on luggage (even though it is more or less admitted that the threat was exaggerated). Except if they are in a clear plastic bag. What has this to do with security? Does it make a difference between the following two eye mascara sticks?
  • Terror Mascara Safe Mascara
    Images copyright of Crazy Aunt Purl

  • Even pilots are annoyed at bullshit “security” procedures that the TSA has put into place. [The linked article has interesting references to British Security officials admitting that the “liquid bomb plot” public statements were overcooked, inaccurate and “unfortunate.”
  • In the spotlight:

  • The TSA web site supposed to help people request their removal from the no-fly list has been demonstrated as a major Internet security risk, it looks more like a scam with all the security errors/snafus than an important US national asset handling personal data.
  • Sometimes, you can get stuck on the no-fly list for non-obvious reasons. Like artist Ramak Fazel or singer Cat Stevens.

After that, would you be surprised if I told you that: