The TSA is Security Theater: They can’t protect you from a 6 year old with a water balloon

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Freddy’s Note:
I have written about my six month experience as a TSA Instructor, in three posts. Start here if you want to read it. This recent post by the ex-chief of Israeli airports confirms something I have been saying for over 10 years. That is the entire TSA and what happens at airports is “Security Theater” It is designed to make us feel better, but accomplishes very little. The TSA is all about Perception not reality.  Here is the truth.

Before 911, airline pilots had been told to give hijackers control of the airplane and to fly them where they wanted to go.

After 911, the pilots will never give control of the airplane to Hijackers. They will use guns, explosice decompression, and many other tactics rather then give up the plane.  And this is if the passengers, don’t beat the hijackers to death. Many times on planes, the passengers have subdued hijackers or unruly passengers since 911.

You see if even we had the current level of TSA security on 911, it still would have happened, because the hijackers didn’t need weapons, They could have threaten to break the necks of one of the flight attendants and the pilots would have given them the plane.

Here’s the the most qualified expert in the world on talking about the TSA.

Rafi Sela, the former chief of security for Israeli airports says the TSA Sucks

In a blistering take-down of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s approach to airport security, the former chief of security for Israeli airports described an agency riddled with incompetence and wastefulness and that, despite large infusions of government money, may never have actually stopped a single terror attack. The TSA may even be inviting a deadly attack on airline passengers due to poor planning, he charged. He detailed serious flaws in American airport protection, ones he contrasted starkly with his own experience in Israel.

Sela described one scene in Newark when a TSA agent found a laser pen Sela had received as a gift.

“They told me they had to confiscate it, because apparently laser pointers are just a couple hundred degrees away from being the new box cutters. Many of you have probably lost trinkets and gadgets in the same way,” Sela told Cracked, then described the clever way he got it back:

I tell the handler, “OK, take it. But that pen is company property, so I’m going to need some sort of receipt.”

He says, “What?”

“This pen isn’t owned by me. My boss is going to need to see some proof that you took it.”

So he calls a supervisor and asks, “Where do we keep the receipts?”

His supervisor says, “What the f*** are you talking about, we don’t give receipts.”

He explains the situation, and his boss asks, “What’s the contraband?”

“A little laser pointer.”

“Give it the f*** back! What do you care?”

Two seconds go by and he hands it back to me. It’s as easy as that.

And here’s the rub: “The TSA treats each traveler the same because of some stupid idea that everything needs to be fair.”

Airport Security

Security needs to be done due to risk

Risk means that in Israel we don’t check luggage, we check people. And I’m not talking about racial profiling here; that’s a product of poor training. Regardless of race or creed, people with bombs strapped to their body behave in similar ways,” Sela said.

Instead of checking intent, they check luggage. And they don’t even do it well,” he said of the TSA. “I have orthopedic insoles in my shoes made from composite material. On the machines, that composite looks identical to plastic explosives. I put them on the belt every time, and no one — NO ONE — ever questions my shoes. Some security experts suspect that the TSA has never once caught a terrorist at a checkpoint.”

Eye contact

Sela believes eye contact is one key behavior to examine: “Someone with something to hide, a bad conscience, will cast their eyes away much more quickly. That’s what our security guards are doing: We watch the way you move your eyes.”

Of Israeli screeners, he explained, “We interview every single customer several times, but we don’t really care what you have to say. We’re paying attention to your behavior.”

“At Ben Gurion Airport, we get travelers from their car to their gate in 25 minutes. When was the last time that happened to you in an American airport? Probably never, because a dozen 747s worth of cranky travelers can’t take their shoes and coats off, pull their laptops out of their luggage, and queue up for pat downs without chaos,” he said.

“It’s different in Israel” where passengers are not required to take off their shoes. “You come in, we ask you questions, and we have well-trained people determine if you have any harmful plans. They look at your eyes and your body language, not your loafers. We have threats in the airport, but nothing deadly has happened to us, thank God, in the last 40 years.”

The scary thing about lines

Chillingly, Sela described how easy it could be for a terrorist to attack the actual security lines meant to be screening for bombs. He told Cracked:

In security, if the target is moving, you have to move with the target. There is one place for security in an American airport, and it’s that long line where you wait for Larry, a TSA worker from Des Moines with exceptionally coarse hands, to fondle you. Everything past that line is a lawless free-for-all of Sbarros and tacky souvenir shops.

Sela expounded on the theme: “The TSA conveniently packs hundreds of travelers together in cramped security lines. Terrorists love crowds because they can inflict the most harm that way … So what does American airport security do? It gathers folks together in long lines BEFORE they’ve been scanned at all.”

That’s also why he gets nervous waiting for his luggage at the baggage carousel: “[T]here’s no sort of scrutiny around who gets to walk in there. It’s like the TSA thinks the terrorists have some sort of death grudge against planes. So if we can keep them from getting on one, they won’t bother murdering a bunch of people clustered around baggage claim.”

Airports made of Glass look pretty but are Death Traps

He took issue with the copious amounts of glass used in the construction of U.S. airports, including Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport in the nation’s capital.

“Now all that glass is lovely, and it saves a bundle on lighting, but have you ever wondered if it’s all … y’know, explosion-proof? Because it totally isn’t. Which makes each of these lovely airports a build-your-own shrapnel bomb kit (just add gunpowder!),” Sela said. “In Israeli airports, the security checks are done in a small, blast-proof area with a few people in it at a time. So if there’s a bomb, we only have to evacuate one room. Not an entire terminal full of drunken businessmen and sleep-deprived families on vacation.”

For one thing, Sela said the notion that standing in a security line and stripping off one’s shoes is a “necessary precursor to safe flying” is “bullsh**.”

“The TSA couldn’t protect you from a 6-year-old with a water balloon

He said that after years of “trying to get the attention of the U.S. Senate … White House, airlines and airports,” he has decided that “the USA is no longer a leader in security.”

’Hiding things is so easy to do, it isn’t even funny’

Security Israeli Style

Ben Gurion [International Airport, near Tel Aviv] is probably the most threatened airport in the world. It has between 50 and 70 incidents every day. Nobody hears about those because we handle them.”

While the Israeli airport drills its screeners seven times a day, Sela said TSA agents are drilled only once or twice a year. With the high turnover rate in the agency, many operate without having been tested.

“Security can’t be treated like a fast food company. These people are tasked with finding bombs, not flipping burgers,” he told Cracked.

Sela made a strong case for profiling – not racial profiling, but behavioral profiling.

“[I]f you only check luggage and you don’t check the person behind the luggage, how do you know he hasn’t camouflaged something into the luggage that you can’t find? Trust me: Hiding things is so easy to do, it isn’t even funny,” he said.

TSA releases cartoon animation to introduce kids to warrantless checkpoints

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I have already written 3 posts on my experiences as a TSA instructor back in 2002.

I saw this cartoon about introducing kids to the TSA experience and it just feels wrong to me.

In an effort to condition children to accept the police state, the TSA has released a cartoon depicting an animated family enduring a warrant-less federal checkpoint at an airport.

The video casts the the travelers and government agents as cute doggie characters that show how fun it can be to go through a checkpoint.

From http://www.policestateusa.com

Animated travelers show how easy it is to comply with federal checkpoints. (Source: YouTube) Animated travelers show how easy it is to comply with federal checkpoints. (Source: YouTube)
“Its not scary,” explains the father, as he hands his papers to the blue-shirted sentry.  “TSA officers are here to keep us secure!”

The children are taught the phrase, “Stop, Screen, and Go!” as their persons, papers, and effects are searched without cause.

“Vrrrrroooom!” exclaims the child as he excitedly steps through the TSA scanner.

“Thank you TSA!” the family praises, as their baby’s milk bottle is returned to them after a search.

According to the TSA, “passengers who know what to expect during screening will benefit from a more positive screening experience.”  After all, those who expect to be treated with dignity and in observance to their rights are unlikely to have a pleasant experience getting groped, scanned, and searched.

The cartoon is part of the launching of a new page called “TSA Kids” designed specifically to propagandize children about government checkpoitns.  It includes coloring book activities, word searches, pictures, and the first cartoon episode.  The TSA Blog explains how much fun checkpoints can be:

TSA’s new website for kids offers children and parents of young travelers important security information in a fun and engaging way and encourages children to learn more about TSA procedures prior to traveling. The website features travel security activities as well as security related videos and information to teach children and their parents about the security process. This website will not only keep young travelers informed, it will make traveling more enjoyable for the entire family.

One might wonder why the video avoids mentioning the manual pat-downs which travelers frequently endure.  One might also wonder why some more fitting species were not chosen to represent the characters, such as sheep and swine.

Children exhibiting signs of Stockholm Syndrome. (Source: TSA Blog) Children exhibiting signs of Stockholm Syndrome. (Source: TSA Blog) Its unknown how many tax-dollars were spent on improving the image of the unconstitutional federal checkpoints.

Children who grow up in this age are exposed to police state activities on all fronts.  They witness warrant less searches in schools, during travel, on television, at public events, on the streets, and more.  When an entire generation has been brought up to accept these behaviors as normal, they are conditioned to offer no resistance in the face of the police state as an adult.

I was a TSA Instructor Part 3… Actual Work

Read part 1 and 2 first.  Recap: So I spent one week training in Denver.  Then 5 weeks at home doing nothing and getting paid. Then I spend a week at luxurious Las Vegas Resort on the government’s dollar and did about 3 hours of training that week. Maybe an hour of that was useful. I spend a few weeks more at home and then on a Friday Morning, get an email. I am being deployed to an Airport tomorrow. No problem. I was getting bored staying home. The next day I am on a plane to the West Coast.  We are instructed to report to a meeting on Sunday morning at 8am in the Hotel.  Turns out I know several people who are there from the week in Vegas. I bonded with a ex-US Custom’s officer in Vegas. We had hung out there. He was here as well.  We wait for 20 minutes and then a blond perky thirty something shows up and I immediately know this was an ex cheerleader.  It was like she was trying to rally the high school crowd for a pep rally.  Her attempt to infuse us with enthusiasm did not succeed. She and another guy were our team leaders. We would each manage a team of brand new TSA staffers who just got out of training 2 days ago.

This is how it would work.  Each of us would get a different airline screening area.  The new Potential TSA employees would report to each of us on there first day. They would work for me. Each team would have 12-15 people. This would be the first time, these newbies would be scanning real luggage that would be going on planes.  I would teach and coach my team, until everyone on the team got 45 hours of supervised on the job training.  The new TSA people would get time off.  I would not. I would work the airport open to close for 1.5 weeks until everyone got their 45 hours. Then I would test each person. If they passed, they would officially become part of TSA. If they didn’t pass the test, then they would get some remedial training, then I would re-test them. If they didn’t pass then, they would never become TSA agents.

Because I felt personally responsible for the luggage that these people were screening, I would watch everyone like a hawk and personally supervise everything. If I went on a luggage break, my friend would cover for me and I would cover for him.

Some people were really good. These were people with military or other government service. Some people were not that good. And I am not just talking about the students.  Some of the instructors were tremendously horrible as well.
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These are some of the things I saw or did not see that week:

Our Team Leaders. It turns on the blond cheerleader started an affair with the other leader and they doing each on the hotel most of the 1.5 weeks we were in this city.  I never saw them in the airport. The two married supervisors spent their 1.5 weeks in the hotel. The OJT instructors at the airport got together and managed outselves.

I saw a 400 pound female instructor, sexually harassing her trainee’s for sexual favors.

I saw several instructors drunk during the day and the night, and several all the time.

Because 18 hour days, I saw instructors sleeping while they should have been supervising their trainees.

I saw trainees choose not to inspect luggage, because they were hungry and wanted to go to lunch.

I saw hookups ( both parties actually consenting) in every option. Instructor-Student, Instructor/Instructor, Passenger -Student, Passenger Passenger in the baggage screening rooms.

In passenger’s luggage I saw guns, and drugs. Back in 2002, passengers had to drop their luggage off at the screening stations and then wait for us to clear them.  (We were not allowed to open bags without the passenger or a Policeman there). So if something did not look right, then the passenger had to open the bag. Can’t find the passenger, then we had to get a cop to do it. The law changed in Jan 1 2003 and then TSA could fondle your luggage and belongings, and person, any time they wanted to.

Gun: Some special forces types (hopefully ours)  checked some luggage with the special tag designed for checked weapons. On the exray/cat scan. I saw multiple machine guns. T They had the necessary documentation so I waved it through.

Drugs: we found drugs multiple times. We called Police. Smugglers ran and were caught.

I saw other things in luggage that I still can’t erase from my mind.

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I saw a famous person. Willem Dafoe. The original Movie Green Goblin and the original Mr Clark from the Jack Ryan movies checked his bags. No goblin devices or guns. He was allowed through.

After 1.5 weeks We all tested our people. We then signed off on the trainee’s that passed and then for no apparent reason, we stayed there for 3 more days doing nothing but group site seeing before we were sent home.

I was a TSA Instructor Part 2: Vegas Baby

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TSA Vegas Training

After 6 weeks of staying home and getting paid. I got an email that said, I was being sent to Las Vegas for more training.  Here’s a hint, if you want your students to actually learn something, never hold the training in Las Vegas. We were staying in a hotel outside of downtown Las Vegas about 20 miles away.  I guess they put us there, because there would be no distraction.  No distraction except for the huge Casino that was in the hotel. Plus the golf courses. We met our training leader for the first day and he said we would be trained on new scanning machines that were being installed in the Las Vegas Airport. Except they were not ready yet.  So We should meeting each morning at 8am and he would tell us if any training was going to go on that day.  We met every morning for 4 days. Everymorning he said not yet.  So basically we were having a free vacation in a Nevada Resort and were being paid $55 a day for our meals, whether we spending that or not. I lost money in the casino. That’s what I do. When I am in a Casino and I put money into a Soda machine, nothing comes out, never mind a Slot Machine.

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original treasure island pirate battle

On the 5th day, we said we would have training tomorrow morning at 3am in the Las Vegas Airport.  The machines were working, but they were being used by actual screeners except for 3am to 6am.  Most of us drove to downtown Vegas and killed time until 3am. Saw the original Pirate Battle in front of Treasure Island (much better then the sexy version there now). Took the monorail. Lost money at a bunch of casinos. and Went to 3 different Las Vegas Buffets for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  At 3am. They took our ID pictures.  And we all looked horrible and drunk.  I was just tired, Many others were tired and drunk.  It was the worst ID picture I ever had. A few weeks later, we got our ID’s. These ID’s could be used to get into any airport in the country.  When I left the job, they never asked for it back. I found it a few years later underneath the seat in a car I was selling.  Whoops. newark-tsajpg-2a760db5403ae3ae Anyway, we went to the baggage screening machines and we got a 30 minute lecture and we each used the machine for 10 minutes and then we went back to the hotel.  2 days later, without any other training happening, we got sent home.  So I got 1 week in a Vegas resort. Got paid my weekly pay and got $55 per diem. I worked approximately 2 hours that week.  Government work is fine if you can get it.

I was a TSA Instructor in 2002

TSA Screens Passengers At Denver International Airport

TSA Gate Screener

Now let me explain my credentials.  I have spent the last 16 years teaching computer Security.  I worked for several companies that had the word “Security” as part of the company name.

In 2001 a few weeks after 9-11, I was laid off. I went on unemployment . A Year later, I still had no job and my unemployment checks were about to run out.  I saw small ad in a newspaper and applied. I got a call back immediately with in 2 hours. They set up an interview for the next day. I had a 45 minute phone interview and they hired me on the spot. They sent me a one way Ticket to Denver for two weeks of training.  I was to be, a On the Job (OTJ) instructor  for a new government organization, called the TSA. I was a temporary full time employee for a contractor who was a contractor for a contractor who was a contractor for Boeing Corporation who had the contract to train the TSA Baggage Screeners.  I would teach TSA staff who would examine all the baggage. At the time, a different organization had the contract for gate screeners.  You were either gate screen or baggage screener, not both).

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TSA Bag Screening Machine

I was given One week of training. Both classroom and training in the Denver airport. Class was interesting, because we (the new OTJ instructors) were not allowed to write in our training books or take them back to the hotel) We were given sample test at several times by our instructor. These sample tests were actually the final instructor exam. At the end of the week we took the test and all passed.(We took the same test 3 times before in the week as sample tests). Then we went to the airport and I had to find a bag using the screening machines that had explosive residue placed on it.  I passed. So then I was sent home.

Where I would get paid to wait to see if I was going to be deployed.  I got full pay for doing nothing. On Friday Morning I would get a email and possibly a travel ticket to go to a city if I was being deployed.

I waited home for six weeks and nothing happened..and I got paid. And played with my new Blackberry and my T-mobile Smartphone. Both which were supposed to be only used for work.  I played a lot of Jazz Ball. The only game on the blackberry back then.

Oh my pay level was $60K. Plus $55 a day per diem when on the road.