I Have a Question.

Oct. 23, 2019

Two, actually.

1.    When was common sense removed from the TSA screener training curriculum?

When was familiarity with US geography banished from TSA screener’s requirements?  Both are addressed below; answers to both have apparently challenged the policy making abilities of 13 (sic) previous TSA  Administrators in the 17 years since 9/11.

The first is personal, illustrated here:  my money clip in the center of the photo is about 1-¼” x 1-¾”  inches, plus a 1-3/8” blade, confiscated from me as “prohibited - too dangerous” to fly.  It is flanked by the two stainless steel 10-inch knives handed to me and virtually every other passenger on the same two flights that day.

I will concede that for the balance of 2001 and most of 2002,  we  really didn’t know what we were facing, although the generic term “knives” was probably a mulligan.   But in the ensuing 17 years,  one might have thought TSA could have narrowed down the threat. 

They did -  sorta – in March of 2013, when they announced approval of folding blades up to 2.36 inches after an “overall risk-based security assessment in order to focus on higher threat items such as explosives.”  In June 2013 -just 90 days later, that was rescinded, although inexplicably they left 40% larger (4 inches) scissors on he approved list (which by definition are two blades), and apparently 10-inch stainless steel knives are OK  if provided in bulk.  So, what changed in 90 days, and why does TSA tout the value of a risk-based assessment if it doesn’t assess risk?  It occurs to me that maybe they ban the little ones because they’re harder to find when TSA continues to fail its own Red-Team testing and inspections at the checkpoint.  If you’re as confused as I am, be sure to check the TSA official A-to-Z  list here.

We now move on to my related Item 2 regarding US geography.  The website states: “The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”  This applies to the agent checking your ID document as well.  There has been a noticeable uptick in travelers from my neighboring jurisdiction of Washington, D.C. because many TSA agents from all over the country apparently do not recognize the driver’s license which clearly states its issuer is “District of Columbia”.  (Hint: our District of Columbia is spelled with a U”; the Colombia  in northwestern South America is spelled with an “O”)

It doesn’t happen a lot at DCA/ IAD/ BWI, since most local TSA folks know where they live.  But there have been a disturbing number of TSA/airport stories popping up.  A few examples:

San Antonio:  TSA told him he needed a passport to be in the US; there’s no way he could have flown to Texas without a passport.

 O’Hare: TSA agent kept insisting that a foreign driver’s license is not valid ID and that he needed to show his Colombian passport.  

Seattle: TSA  was convinced the ID wasn’t good because “D.C. isn’t a state”

Hilo, HI:   TSA: “Why are you showing me a foreign license? Where’s your visa?”  

Numerous airports:  Supervisor called for “fake ID”.

Credit where due:  None of the stories (so far...) involve CBP. Maybe they could offer to  cross-train everybody.