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The price of security
July 25, 2013 9:59 AM   Subscribe

PreCheck, a new program instituted by the TSA, will allow passengers to keep their shoes, jackets and belts during screening, as well as allow laptop computers and approved liquids to remain in bags for a fee of $85.
posted by Omon Ra (216 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Step 1: Install security theater.
Step 2: Make taxpayers pay twice to bypass it.
Step 3: PROFIT!
posted by xingcat at 10:01 AM on July 25, 2013 [83 favorites]


Just goes to show that for any rule there is a way to pay to get out of it.

If it was a straight up bribe, I might go for it but they want my fingerprints too!

as long as they pay $85 for a five-year membership, provide identifying information, pass a background check, and undergo fingerprinting.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:02 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a significant improvement on the current arrangement, wherein the program is open only to those who can afford to fly constantly.

I am not sure I have ever loved and hated anything so much simultaneously.
posted by eugenen at 10:02 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a perfectly reasonable idea, since we killed the only source of funds for terrorists. Now they won't be able to afford the $85.
posted by Etrigan at 10:02 AM on July 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


If his estimates are accurate, the TSA will reap about $255 million from the program in 2013.

And with their workload accordingly diminished, what will TSA do with this money?
posted by cribcage at 10:07 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck this with my banned grandmothers knitting needles.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


"I am not sure I have ever loved and hated anything so much simultaneously."

I tend to grind my teeth when going through security - I fly only when its absolutely imperative to do so any more. This (since I'm already fingerprinted in numerous places) doesn't seem like a bad deal. I might actually find flying more tolerable if it wasn't started with the equivalent of a rectal exam.
posted by JB71 at 10:09 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


FANTASTIC IDEA! I'm implementing this for anyone that rides in my car, should pay for my gas.
posted by HuronBob at 10:10 AM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


And with their workload accordingly diminished, what will TSA do with this money?

And with all the coke gathered in from the amnesty bins, I guess it will all go towards hookers.
posted by ocschwar at 10:10 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Step 1: Install security theater.
Step 2: Make taxpayers pay twice to bypass it.
Step 3: PROFIT!


Except that they could already skip step 2 by selling lucrative contracts to their cronies, now they can profit twice.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:10 AM on July 25, 2013


And with their workload accordingly diminished, what will TSA do with this money?

I'm sure they will use it in a responsible way as befits their long and proud history of haha no i can't even
posted by elizardbits at 10:10 AM on July 25, 2013 [80 favorites]


And with their workload accordingly diminished, what will TSA do with this money?

Add even-more-invasive ways of "catching terrorists" which are (purely coincidentally) even more expensive to bribe your way out of bypass, of course!

Me, I'm gonna start saving my pennies so I can get in on the ground floor of the TSA's IPO in a few years, that oughta be a winner!
posted by mstokes650 at 10:11 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


We regret to inform you that your PreCheck application has been denied for the following reason:

NAME 23% TOO MUSLIM-SOUNDING
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:11 AM on July 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, it's a good thing terrorists don't have any spare cash.
posted by jonmc at 10:12 AM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I fly, almost entirely for business, just below the frequency required to qualify for the existing program. 85 bucks for 5 years is a freaking bargain.

Also, I'm assuming that the 85 bucks is to offset the cost of the background check and fingerprinting - that certainly sounds about right. I don't think any government agencies are going to be socking away a hookers-and-beer slush fund on this.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, it's a good thing terrorists don't have any spare cash.

"It would be so easy if only we had that extra $85.00!"
posted by the_royal_we at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


as long as they pay $85 for a five-year membership, provide identifying information, pass a background check, and undergo fingerprinting

So now for the low price of $85, potential terrorists can find out if the feds are on to them. Good job, idiots.

The reality is that this is the government admitting that the security system is flawed, but since actually dismantling it is politically infeasible, we each get to pay $17/year so the TSA can save face.
posted by jedicus at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2013 [44 favorites]


I'm going to keep right on making their process as slow, inefficient, and unpleasant as possible for the people who have to enact their bullshit policies. Making their nonsense expensive seems to be the only tool I have to fight back, so I'll use it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:14 AM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Such an American Republican solution to the problem. Of course giving folks who pass a background screen expedited check-in makes sense. And of course you should bill them for the cost of the background check. It's all perfectly logical.
posted by Nelson at 10:16 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah the real issue is what kinda background check do you get for $85 bucks. You know this aint the FBI interviewing your neighbors.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:16 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the fingerprinting and background screening are done by private companies? And that the contracts to do so just... might... go to some old friends? Maybe?

Seriously though, does anyone know?
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:18 AM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm gonna go with "intern halfassedly googles your misspelled name while surfing /creepshots in another window".
posted by elizardbits at 10:19 AM on July 25, 2013 [30 favorites]


It's a nice way to bulk up the FBI's citizen dossiers, convenience aside. You have to imagine that the results of the background checks are going to end up in the same place as all of the NSA wiretapping stuff. Now you can pay for the convenience of a nice and up to date citizen profile.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:19 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is this new? I signed up for TSA's pre program last year and I think it cost me $55, but required the use of the worst .gov site/app I've ever encountered, and I had to do an interview with a TSA official in another state (outside of Seattle, about 4hrs from where I live), and then I'm supposed to get my retinas scanned at a larger airport someday to add to my file in their database.

It sounds pretty crazy, but I have gone through the Pre-screen line at Portland airport a handful of times, and let me tell you how amazing it is. Imagine it is 1983. Imagine you go to an airport in 1983. That is what it is like. It is really incredible that you don't have to do the whole demeaning strip down, you aren't being yelled at for liquids you didn't pack, and you don't have to spend 25 minutes pushing through one of the dumbest processes in modern life.

I've thought about taking video on my phone of the entire procedure because the last time I did it the time from where I walked towards the security queue (which I got to jump by going to the special line), to walking down the path, putting my bag on the belt, and walking through a quick x-ray while still wearing a jacket, belt, and shoes and ending up inside the terminal holding my bag was just a tad over 30 seconds.
posted by mathowie at 10:19 AM on July 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm sure terrorists have $85 to spare. What they really would hate to do is waste that $85 by disrupting their own flight.
posted by ardgedee at 10:20 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, I believe you already buy your way into PreCheck using Global Entry.
posted by hoyland at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a nice way to bulk up the FBI's citizen dossiers, convenience aside. You have to imagine that the results of the background checks are going to end up in the same place as all of the NSA wiretapping stuff. Now you can pay for the convenience of a nice and up to date citizen profile.

That's a really good point I didn't consider. Plus, this specifically targets the people it isn't easy to keep profiles on (because it's harder to bring them in on spurious charges or for small things): people with money. Instead, just make them pay to avoid an inconvenience! If this is intentional citizen data gathering, that's pretty Evil Genius.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, another way to restrict the middle class from air travel... the airlines and government want to return to a time when only the wealthy and those on business traveled by air, and they're going to do it by nickel-and-diming those who can't afford first class or have a company book their travel for them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:22 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Remember those "fingerprint your kid in case they get abducted" drives they used to do in school? yeah same thing.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:22 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, this is not really new - Global Entry automatically enrolls you in TSAPre for domestic flights. It only applies to airports that are participating in TSAPre.
posted by borges at 10:23 AM on July 25, 2013


And for the privacy minded, when you sign up for this, they do a deep background check on you, and your in-person interview with a TSA official covers anything weird they found in your background check. I'm into my own personal privacy, but after I saw what Aaron Swartz got from his own FOIA requests about his travel, the gov't already had every browser and IP address that he used to access every travel site on every flight he ever took, so I figured the privacy invasion has already taken place on us all, and it was worth it to me to get the chance to travel through security and especially customs in other countries much faster.

I forgot to mention I've never been through other countries' customs in airports in less than 45min before, and I've watched friends I traveled with that were pre-screened get through in about 5min.
posted by mathowie at 10:23 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I intentionally opt out of the pornoscanning because I figure: why should I make the violation of my privacy any easier on the TSA and its slack-jawed minions? When I get the rare apologetic plastic-gloved groper, I make a point of looking him in the eye and saying, deadpan: "It's just nice to be touched, you know?"

Why would I pay $85 and allow myself to be fingerprinted only to give that up?
posted by R. Schlock at 10:23 AM on July 25, 2013 [41 favorites]


I'm just going to have to give up my dreams of a life of crime and instead focus on making money by exploiting the masses through tap shit and wait cell phone video games. Because I want this. I want to be able to fly again.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:24 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


FBI beefed up the fingerprint database quite a bit when they decided to get Sweden's too.
posted by dabitch at 10:24 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can I pay with Iraqi dinar?
posted by three blind mice at 10:25 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sigh. I won't lie, with the amount of flying I do 85 bucks for 5 years seems like it would be worth it to me. I know, I suck.
posted by Windigo at 10:25 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah, I see I guess I signed up for the Global Entry program last year and this TSApre thing was a part of it.
posted by mathowie at 10:25 AM on July 25, 2013


Came here for the weak-ass rationalizations and was not disappointed.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


User fees instead of tax-funded security? Why do you people all hate freedom?
posted by GuyZero at 10:28 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remember those "fingerprint your kid in case they get abducted" drives they used to do in school? yeah same thing.

Once it became apparent that this was opt-in, neither I nor most of my friends in elementary school were permitted (by our parents) to do this, as there was a high percentage of first gen eastern europeans in the parent pool.
posted by elizardbits at 10:28 AM on July 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


How much to bring a bomb on board?

If I'm not allowed to bring a bomb on board for a fee what makes it different from a bottle of water?

If the answer is "it might explode" then there is a bit of a problem...
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


a loud knock on Artw's door follows

he is never heard from again
posted by elizardbits at 10:29 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sigh. I won't lie, with the amount of flying I do 85 bucks for 5 years seems like it would be worth it to me. I know, I suck.

It's totally worth it. Are you kidding? That's a good 40 minutes saved on every flight, plus all the shuffling around taking shit out of your bag and taking off your shoes and sweatshirt.

If this gets airport security back to some semblance of sanity I actually don't give that much of a shit if they extract some rent in the process. And, as I said, it's way better than the current system which basically restricts access to wealthy businesspeople.
posted by eugenen at 10:30 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


If only there were some other option for improving airport security. But nope, paying fees is it!
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Fuck this with my banned grandmothers knitting needles.

They banned your grandmother?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:32 AM on July 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


So, R. Schlock, absolutely no circumstances under which you might of necessity become one of the slackjawed minions? Like an incovenient bout of unemployment?
posted by hwestiii at 10:32 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Came here for the weak-ass rationalizations and was not disappointed.

I don't disagree, I really hate that the TSApre even exists. The whole way we handle security at airports is stupid, pointless, and time-consuming. I knew a friend and watched him glide though this for a small fee and tried it myself.

It's a lot like those airport executive lounges that cost $50 to get in once, and about $500/yr to access all the time. They're great, quiet, restful places where people treat you like adults, but when I first got into one as a perk I wondered why airport terminals can't all be one big lounge. There are a few airports that come close (Vancouver's international wing is pretty amazing), but it sucks that most airport terminals are loud (hello CNN news at 100dB!), crowded, and far from relaxing.
posted by mathowie at 10:32 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like an incovenient bout of unemployment?

You act like meth labs aren't a perfectly respectable alternative option.
posted by elizardbits at 10:33 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


"We regret to inform you that your PreCheck application has been denied for the following reason:

NAME 23% TOO MUSLIM-SOUNDING"

Hahaha try it with a name that is actually Muslim!!! And being Muslim!!! hahaha!!!

...i hate flying.

Also "If this gets airport security back to some semblance of sanity for some people I actually don't give that much of a shit if they extract some rent in the process."

FTFY. Hope it gets better for the rest of us, too. And soon.
posted by raihan_ at 10:33 AM on July 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


I use pre-check as often as possible, I did it as part of the global entry program when I was going back and forth between Australia constantly. The background check is reasonably thorough that I went through and I had to meet with a US Customs/Border patrol officer in Los Angeles in order to get the paperwork done.

Totally worth it to me as a frequent traveller.
posted by iamabot at 10:34 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Global Entry is where the real value is, it has saved me hours of time.
posted by iamabot at 10:36 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't tell AMTRAK ... for the first time in over a year of riding (and regular riding all summer) I got ID checked boarding at my whistlestop by a newbie in training. The one day I didn't carry my state ID with me though I had three credit cards, six business cards, and a tween-year old accomplice vouching for my legitimacy ...
posted by tilde at 10:36 AM on July 25, 2013


When I first saw Pre-Check advertised, I was somehow supposed to type a ✓ into the URL for the TSA's official site. I'm glad they're easing up in a variety of ways with this program.
posted by knile at 10:37 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It looks like you need to be at Dulles or Indianapolis to enroll any time soon: those are the only places you'll be able to get your fingerprints taken once it starts up this fall.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:44 AM on July 25, 2013


wtf, Indianapolis?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:46 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


It sounds pretty crazy, but I have gone through the Pre-screen line at Portland airport a handful of times, and let me tell you how amazing it is. Imagine it is 1983. Imagine you go to an airport in 1983. That is what it is like. It is really incredible that you don't have to do the whole demeaning strip down, you aren't being yelled at for liquids you didn't pack, and you don't have to spend 25 minutes pushing through one of the dumbest processes in modern life.

Gee, all I have to do is get my fucking iris scanned?
posted by odinsdream at 10:47 AM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm torn. On the one hand, this is a great price for the convenience, and the government already has my DNA /and/ a background check on me. On the other hand, I don't like people having to be fingerprinted to avoid being groped for travel.
posted by corb at 10:48 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was that TSA, tilde? The last few times I took Amtrak from NY Penn Station, there was a TSA security trio with an Amtrak cop swabbing bags at random.
posted by dr_dank at 10:48 AM on July 25, 2013


wtf, Indianapolis?

Andrew Luck has always looked a little... shifty.
posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2013


Can you buy a half-way trip: half price for taking off belt but not shoes?
posted by Postroad at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This "let an organization fingerprint your kid" with no explanation of where that data would be kept, and that would keep your kid safe is just illogical that I can't resist challenging the tableful of people pushing this idea who set up all over town. It doesn't keep your kid safe; it helps identiy the corpse.
posted by etaoin at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It doesn't keep your kid safe; it helps identiy the corpse.

Even as a kid I never knew how having my prints would help them find me.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:52 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heh. All that data, including your fingerprints, will be very useful to the comrades come the Revolution!
posted by allthinky at 10:55 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last time I was going through airport security the metal detector beeped. The agent motioned for me to go back and walk through again. I followed his instructions with the same result.

"Maybe my belt?" I said as I mimed removing it.

"No,"he shook his head, "it's just the random screening alert. We're short people today so please go back through until it doesn't sound."
posted by ODiV at 10:55 AM on July 25, 2013 [45 favorites]


I can't wait to use this to get through security all the things they've pulled me aside for in the past five years: an mp3 player in my bra, a bra with too many wires, a Lush bath ball, and a baby-food jar snowglobe of evil.

This is going to be the best trip ever!
posted by jenlovesponies at 10:55 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even as a kid I never knew how having my prints would help them find me.

Kid-me took this in and transformed it into a vague idea that if I were ever kidnapped I should just smack my hands against every surface I could reach so that the police could follow me to the kidnapper den breadcrumb-style.
posted by heyforfour at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2013 [44 favorites]


Doesn't this literally obviate the entire purpose of airport security? The only people who are going to not pay the fee are people who 1) are obviously not carrying something dangerous and 2) don't want to spend an extra $85.

Like, what terrorist is going to think, "Man, I'm carrying dangerous and illegal objects on board...but $85 strikes me as a bit much...eh, I'll just risk it!"
posted by adso at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


If TSA removes the inconvenience of security theater for frequent travelers (the set of which, obviously, includes those who can afford to fly frequently), there will be no influential constituency for getting rid of security theater for everyone else, despite the tacit admission that said security theater isn't really necessary.
posted by Gelatin at 10:57 AM on July 25, 2013 [31 favorites]


So a single-link Russia Today post is considered a good FPP now? They didn't even mention that this is an expansion of an existing program.
posted by aught at 10:58 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a NEXUS Pass, which is to get preferred treatment when crossing between the US and Canada. It also required fingerprinting, an iris scan, and a personal interview (and payment).

My husband and I had appointments on separate days. He was interrogated in a small room by two border officers for an hour and repeatedly asked in different ways if he was a marijuana smuggler. When I went in the fellow at the counter asked me if I liked shopping in the US (I don't, particularly, but I said yes because I find it wise to agree with border officers) and that was the entirety of my interview.

I hated on principle going through the process, I hate having a card in my handbag that must be kept in a special copper sleeve so the RFID can't constantly track my every move, and I every time I use the iris scan fast lane at the border I feel like I'm doing a replicant test. On the other hand, it has saved me hours and hours and hours of my life. Grr.
posted by jess at 10:59 AM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Doesn't this literally obviate the entire purpose of airport security? The only people who are going to not pay the fee are people who 1) are obviously not carrying something dangerous and 2) don't want to spend an extra $85.

Or, y'know, 3) can't pass a background check.
posted by kafziel at 10:59 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gee, all I have to do is get my fucking iris scanned?

...when the feds caught the terrorist, he had one of my eyeballs in his pocket.

I'm glad this whole thing brings a measure of convenience to somebody.

signed: Slack-Jaw, the minion.
posted by mule98J at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I forgot to mention I've never been through other countries' customs in airports in less than 45min before, and I've watched friends I traveled with that were pre-screened get through in about 5min.

Wait what?!

This isn't just a security pre-screening for US airports, you're of the view that it also helps somehow when entering another country? How does it do that? Which countries do you suspect factor it?

I'm guessing it's a correlation-not-causation - until now, the pre-screen was effectively invitation only, perhaps customs was using similar criteria as that which gets someone an invitation?
OTOH, Canada and Mexico are pretty coordinated with US border security, so if it's one of those countries, it wouldn't surprise me.
posted by anonymisc at 11:01 AM on July 25, 2013


Iris scanning is only required as part of NEXUS, which is a joint US/Canadian border program.

The way it breaks down:
  1. NEXUS: $50 per 5 years. Iris, fingerprints, interview, background check. Faster, mostly automated clearance at border crossings between the US and Canada.
  2. Global Entry: $100 per 5 years. Fingerprints, interview, background check. Faster, mostly automated clearance at US border crossings.
  3. Pre-Check: $85 per 5 years. Fingerprints, interview, background check. Chance of faster screening for domestic flights, on a flight-by-flight basis. Not required to remove shoes, coats, laptops, or liquids. Not required to go through a nude-scanner or have a pat-down.
Each tier grants all the privileges of the tiers below it. Effectively, NEXUS is a superset of Global Entry, Global Entry is a superset of Pre-Check.

There are also things like SENTRI (US/Mexico + vechiles) and Privium (US/Netherlands), but I haven't looked into those.

(I'm currently waiting for my NEXUS background check to clear. Going on 4 weeks...)
posted by SemiSophos at 11:02 AM on July 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


So a single-link Russia Today post is considered a good FPP now?

Yes, that's the rule now! You can post literally ANY single article from Russia Today, and everyone will cheer and call you a rad dude! You've discovered the New Metafilter Official Rule!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


TSA will grope you less for $85

That headline seems awfully misleading. This program will not affect my pat-down procedure at all, will it?

And I too am baffled why anyone would pay for this.

You're still going to have to go through a security line, and those "special lanes" are about to get a lot longer.

I'm going to keep right on making their process as slow, inefficient, and unpleasant as possible for the people who have to enact their bullshit policies. Making their nonsense expensive seems to be the only tool I have to fight back, so I'll use it.

Exactly. Use whatever rationale you need to feel better about it, but if you buy into this (which a lot of people will because the cost is trivial for frequent flyers) you are directly funding the multibillion dollar security industry. It is (ALL) your fault.

PreCheck does not guarantee expedited screening, and all travelers are still subject to “random and unpredictable” security measures

Yeah.

Why would I pay $85 and allow myself to be fingerprinted only to give that up?

Well, if this allows me to carry weed through security in my pocket again, it's worth it. Will it do that? That's really the only question here.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:09 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The tiered pricing is a feature not a bug. They take your time and dignity away from you and then sell it back for as much as you're willing to pay. Welcome to capitalism citizen, now touch your toes.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:09 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


dr_dank

I don't think it was TSA, he had an Amtrak shaped hat (I was trying to track bags and kid and kid bags, and my AMTRAK app wasn't loading (but I had a screenshot of my QR/itinerary from email)) and scanned my smartphone image of my boarding ticket.

He was wearing a red sweater, I think, which was unusual. Was being instructed by someone who might have been in a blue but not AMTRAK uniform ... CSX person from the CSX hut they have on site? This stop has a shelter, electricity, signs, but no "manned" station. Just a hut that I think belongs to CSX and sometimes has someone come out and declare that "yes the train is coming, it's just late".

After a couple of minutes of me searching for my ID (ultimately in my "big" wallet at the bottom of the purse I rarely carry, but on me), he or his trainer waved me on anyway. The train was about 20 min late and they wanted to make the remainder of their stops on time (they had been pre-scanning us to save time scanning us once on the train which made no sense - around here there's hardly more than 30 people boarding at my stops).
posted by tilde at 11:10 AM on July 25, 2013


I am glad to see some of this discussion move past the points that the TSA sucks, this is all theater, only the rich have privileges, this is a capitalist conspiracy and the US exploits the poor gain. Many countries (including the most egalitarian) are moving ahead with ways to expedite intra/inter national travel while attempting to maintain some modicum of security, passport cntrol and border integrity. I do wish on these particular issue posters would acknowledge the global scope of the the problems and that most countries are struggling with security, screening, passport control, illegal immigration and terrorism.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:11 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dudes. RABC CANPASS. $30 (Canadian) with photocopies of your passport, a short questionaire (address, birth date/place) and I can cross the USA/Canadian border without stopping at customs at all.

Of course, that's only in the "Remote Area" between the Lake of the Woods and Sault Ste. Marie and it's only if you are in, like, a boat or on a snowmobile.

What, you want to go to POPULATED areas with, like, people and civilization and airports? That's silly talk.
posted by jillithd at 11:12 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wondered why airport terminals can't all be one big lounge. There are a few airports that come close (Vancouver's international wing is pretty amazing), but it sucks that most airport terminals are loud (hello CNN news at 100dB!), crowded, and far from relaxing.

My friend, you need to see Chiangi Airport. If forced to go to Singapore again, I'm gonna spend my whole fucking trip at that airport.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hong Kong International is pretty awesome, as is the one in Tokyo which I am pretty sure is not called Naruto but I'm too lazy to google it.
posted by elizardbits at 11:15 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is both hilarious and tragic that the United States government is unintentionally running a money laundering business for terrorists, for whom $85 is hardly going to operate as a rational deterrent.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on July 25, 2013


What I find funny is that if you already have a security clearance from another Fed department, you apparently (do I have that right?) have to apply and pay $85.
posted by pointystick at 11:18 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not worth losing the free massage. Global Entry or whatever they're calling it now, on the other hand, would be totally worth it. Immigration and Customs make the TSA process seem downright speedy sometimes.
posted by wierdo at 11:19 AM on July 25, 2013


This program will not affect my pat-down procedure at all, will it?

It will. Pre-Check lanes go through magnetometers, not nude-scanners. When patted down, it's the same deal, but the chance of needing to get patted down is significantly reduced.
posted by SemiSophos at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2013


mrgrimm: " Exactly. Use whatever rationale you need to feel better about it, but if you buy into this (which a lot of people will because the cost is trivial for frequent flyers) you are directly funding the multibillion dollar security industry. It is (ALL) your fault."

I dunno, the whole rationale of being employed and needing to go places quickly on the other side of the country or planet seems like a pretty solid rationale to me. I feel great about it, btw.
posted by iamabot at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds pretty crazy, but I have gone through the Pre-screen line at Portland airport a handful of times, and let me tell you how amazing it is. Imagine it is 1983. Imagine you go to an airport in 1983. That is what it is like. It is really incredible that you don't have to do the whole demeaning strip down, you aren't being yelled at for liquids you didn't pack, and you don't have to spend 25 minutes pushing through one of the dumbest processes in modern life.

I don't understand why a tracking collar isn't also required to experience such luxury. How else can the TSA ensure you don't go to any terrorist training camps after you qualify for pre-screening?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans: "Fuck this with my banned grandmothers knitting needles."

Security Porno Theater!
posted by symbioid at 11:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


SemiSophos: "Each tier grants all the privileges of the tiers below it. Effectively, NEXUS is a superset of Global Entry, Global Entry is a superset of Pre-Check."

But NEXUS is cheaper than Global Entry? Or is that a typo?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:25 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, if this whole economy thing doesn't work out so great, the elite few of us could get jobs as mules for the people who want to bring a normal size tube of toothpaste when they go on vacation.

Heck, if they can do it at Disney...
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:25 AM on July 25, 2013


The way it breaks down:

NEXUS: $50 per 5 years. Iris, fingerprints, interview, background check. Faster, mostly automated clearance at border crossings between the US and Canada.
Global Entry: $100 per 5 years. Fingerprints, interview, background check. Faster, mostly automated clearance at US border crossings.
Pre-Check: $85 per 5 years. Fingerprints, interview, background check. Chance of faster screening for domestic flights, on a flight-by-flight basis. Not required to remove shoes, coats, laptops, or liquids. Not required to go through a nude-scanner or have a pat-down.

Each tier grants all the privileges of the tiers below it. Effectively, NEXUS is a superset of Global Entry, Global Entry is a superset of Pre-Check.


Wait, What? The cheapest option is the one with the most privileges? How does that work?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2013


PreCheck, a new program instituted by the TSA, will allow passengers to keep their shoes, jackets and belts during screening, as well as allow laptop computers and approved liquids to remain in bags for a fee of $85 gas, grass, or ass.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gas, grass, or ass, no one screens for free.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:27 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Last spring called, wanted to know if you were interested in some old news:

$100 to Fly Through the Airport
posted by trackofalljades at 11:27 AM on July 25, 2013


I travel a lot and stand in a lot of security lines. Some are fast, and some are slow, but the fact remains, I spend all of that time at the airport. The only way this would have any value to me at all is if it could also teleport me directly to my gate at that instant boarding begins. Otherwise, hey, I'm still at the airport.

I also get a little irritated at the "slack-jawed minions", but until they are guiding us into gas chambers instead of metal detectors, I'll be able to keep that mostly quiet.
posted by hwestiii at 11:28 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how this would affect my chances of not being stuck into every long line containing brown people from undesirable countries upon returning to the U.S. because of my history of international travel (Mali, Yemen, Algeria)...
posted by mykescipark at 11:29 AM on July 25, 2013


NEXUS is indeed half the price of Global Entry. The only catch is that you have to have your iris scanned at a major Canadian airport. But if you're going to Canada frequently anyways, that's a sunk cost.
posted by SemiSophos at 11:29 AM on July 25, 2013


What a bunch of complete fucking bullshit.

America, we're screwed.
posted by chillmost at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I flew out of LA a couple months ago and got to go through Virgin's speed line (which wasn't that fast but faster than the general line), and once again I got no crap. Maybe being a fat white guy in his 40s gets me into a "yeah, he's no threat to anyone" demographic.

Flying in three weeks, Seattle to Newark. That might be dicier.
posted by mephron at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2013


Global Entry is better than Nexus if you're traveling to/from a country that isn't Canada. I don't think Nexus lets you bypass immigration lines coming from elsewhere.
posted by hoyland at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2013


hoyland: NEXUS automatically grants Global Entry privileges. Edit: citation
posted by SemiSophos at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2013


Still paying for Terrorist prevention Fee-$85 on top of the 9/11 fee -$5, Screening fee-$15, baggage fee- $45, extra baggage fee-$95, bottled water purchased after security check- $7.5. Still waiting for my state to offer the TSA insurance you must purchase before you fly that will be mandated for the NSA and IRS to review for the annual $5770 "Silver" frequent flyer option, or face the ever increasing refuse to fly fee, currently 2% of your additional driving miles along with the thanks for nothing fee, 4.5% of what the average US flyer would have been charged to make up for the empty seats you didn't fill, 8.75% for international flights.
posted by brent at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be honest, $85 seems nominal for a government administrated 5 year service (less than both my driver's license at $75/3 years and passport at $120/5 years) - I can't see how there is there too much left over after paying overhead and administrative costs.

However, as other's have raised, what is the privacy/sharing policy on those fingerprints? And are such policies worth anything in the age of Snowden?
posted by sloe at 11:33 AM on July 25, 2013


And yet republicans complained when we wanted to monetize a tonne of carbon emissions in the same fashion.
posted by boo_radley at 11:35 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think any government agencies are going to be socking away a hookers-and-beer slush fund on this.

Maybe not beer but they already get wine. This week at LAX I saw a TSA agent pull out an expensive looking bottle of wine from someone's carry-on and casually walk it over to a podium where there were a couple of other bottles of wine just hanging out on the bottom shelf. Big bottle of cologne went in the trash, though.
posted by mattbucher at 11:43 AM on July 25, 2013


I've had pre-check for a little over a year and the annoying thing is that you randomly don't get it from time to time. I assume this is some kind of security feature, but it sucks because you can't assume that you will speed through long lines because you don't know for certain if (1) they will be staffing the pre-check lane and (2) if you are permitted to use it on this particular trip. When it works, it is great, however. Global Entry is full-tilt awesome, unless you travel with people who don't have it. It does seem like once I got Global Entry I was getting pre-check way more often, but maybe they have just stepped up their game and the timing was a coincidence. I feel cheated when I use an airport that doesn't have pre-check now! Also, certain credit cards will cover the cost of Global Entry applications (Amex Plat, for sure, maybe others).
posted by Lame_username at 11:44 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


DHS already has all my biometric data from getting a UK visa a couple of years ago, so I guess this isn't so much more invasive on that side, sadly. (Favorite yes/no question: "Have you ever been a terrorist?") It would be really great to not have to strip to a thin shirt every time I go through security; I don't think they've ever let me keep even a thin cardigan over a sheer tank top on before.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:49 AM on July 25, 2013


the one in Tokyo which I am pretty sure is not called Naruto but I'm too lazy to google it.

Narita.
posted by axiom at 11:49 AM on July 25, 2013


(Favorite yes/no question: "Have you ever been a terrorist?")

Also a trick question. You are not cleared to know whether or not you have been designated a terrorist. Answering either yes or no flags you as suspicious and escalates you for additional scrutiny.
posted by Naberius at 11:51 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also a trick question. You are not cleared to know whether or not you have been designated a terrorist. Answering either yes or no flags you as suspicious and escalates you for additional scrutiny.

I think the reason given is that if you violate the law in Britain as part of terrorist activity, they have the ability to snag you because you lied on the form as well. I know it's a trick question, it's just a funny moment in the depths of bureaucratic form hell.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:54 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Favorite yes/no question: "Have you ever been a terrorist?")

Ever? Look, maybe I experimented a little in college--didn't we all?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Answering either yes or no flags you as suspicious and escalates you for additional scrutiny.

"By reading this sign, you have denied existence of the [object/person/message/location] and implied consent."

Don't let that fucking otter get you!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2013


Man I wonder how many people just got flagged because of this thread.

I kinda hope there is an analyst somewhere whos job it is to pass on choice comments up the chain. Tomorrow and the daily briefing Obama will be like "Wow, they sure do like that porcupine!"
posted by Ad hominem at 12:09 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Imagine it is 1983. Imagine you go to an airport in 1983. That is what it is like

Your family and friends can go to the gate with you and smoke while they're doing it?
posted by thecjm at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


You are wearing high-waisted acid-wash jorts.
posted by elizardbits at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


We live in a Candy Crush Democracy. What, this needlessly complicated and deliberately esoteric interaction with your government sucks and makes you sad and angry and frustrated? Well hey, a little baksheesh will open that pinch point right up.

Might as well just codify Citizenship Tiers like the airlines do with their loyalty programs.
posted by milquetoast at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


You are wearing high-waisted acid-wash jorts.

Stone washed, but yes, and not in an ironic way! Also, your hair has wings.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:23 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "You are wearing high-waisted acid-wash jorts.

Stone washed, but yes, and not in an ironic way! Also, your hair has wings.
"

Everything has wings. Hair, suits, pants, pantsuits, everything. It's like angels pukes all over everything constantly. It's impossible to not have wings in the 80s.
posted by boo_radley at 12:25 PM on July 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Short Review: Bob Weir's Shorts
posted by mrgrimm at 12:35 PM on July 25, 2013


Ever? Look, maybe I experimented a little in college--didn't we all?

The term I think you're looking for is second-semester freedom fighter.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:37 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there any other minor annoyance of modern life that people routinely exaggerate to the same degree as airport security? To read this thread you would think that getting through airport security is something like making it through boot camp with a side-order of sexual assault. An endless, gruelling round of people yelling at you and probing your various bodily cavities. Here's a list of average security wait times at the nation's 25 busiest airports. The typical wait is about 10 minutes. The vast majority of passengers are not subject to so much as a pat-down. Yes, it's a drag to have to take off your shoes and your belt and your coat; but it's hardly torturous (and people forget that back in the pre-9/11 days coats still had to come off to go through the x-ray machines, as did belts with heavy buckles and various other metallic items you might have in your pockets: otherwise you'd be wanded and, quite often, frisked).

I have been, at times, a pretty frequent flier, but if I try to imagine what is a realistic amount of money I'd pay to cut out the minor annoyance of airport security, it's well below the amounts suggested here.
posted by yoink at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was reading the TSA Wikipedia article to clarify what exactly this program is, since it seems to exist already, but people (including the TSA webpage) are talking like it's something new being rolled out in the fall. It appears that the program currently exists at no cost for high-milage members of frequent flier programs, NEXUS participants, and Global Entry participants. The change coming this fall is that everyone will be able to buy into it. Though it seems that since you can get NEXUS for $50, why not just do that?

Anyway, in reading the TSA Wikipedia article, I found this gem, which I was previously unaware of:

After the October 2010 cargo planes bomb plot, in which cargo containing laser printers with toner cartridges filled with explosives were discovered on separate cargo planes, the U.S. prohibited passengers from carrying certain printer cartridges on flights.[39] The TSA said it would ban toner and ink cartridges weighing over 16 ounces (453 grams) from all passenger flights.[40][41] The ban applies to both carry-on bags and checked bags, and does not affect average travelers, whose toner cartridges are generally lighter.[41]

C'mon. Everything about that is just ridiculous.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:43 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Average wait time is not representative of actual wait time, as people come in clumps with big empty stretches in between.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:43 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Imagine it is 1983. Imagine you go to an airport in 1983. That is what it is like

I haven't called and asked, but dude I'm pretty sure mom's not gonna let me crawl back into her womb just for a plane ride.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:45 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, so no poors are bombers?

I recognize bribes for better service when I see them.
posted by Dreidl at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2013


a loud knock on Artw's door follows

he is never heard from again


I wish to point out that it is in fact a comfort bomb.
posted by Artw at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2013


I consider myself pretty staunch on civil liberties, but out of all the ridiculous security theater bullshit, pat-downs seem like one of the few measures that, for all its problematicness, actually could potentially prevent terrorist attacks. What's the point of having any security at all if some people can just pay a chunk of change to not be checked? It's like the government thinks there's some sort of terrorist gene you can check for: either ya got it or ya don't. ...Actually, that would explain an awful lot of US foreign policy.
posted by threeants at 12:56 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man I wonder how many people just got flagged because of this thread.

Zero.
posted by eugenen at 12:56 PM on July 25, 2013


Devil's advocate (not the pinball machine): Would this be a cheap way to see who was probing the system, slam their data into Prism and voila!

I am not for any of this stuff but I have really come to believe that NOTHING that the TSA does is really what it appears to be doing, at face value. It must feel banal. I feel that every airport screening area is the byproduct of years of studying institutionalized behavior. What makes people really agitated? What makes them go over the edge?

I do not believe that much comes from their techniques however.
posted by zerobyproxy at 12:59 PM on July 25, 2013


The way it breaks down:

NEXUS...
Global Entry...
Pre-Check...


Don't forget the passport fees. Anyone remember passports? That special government ID program that's specifically for international travel? The one with the background checks? What is the point of those again?
/grumble
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:00 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I make it a habit of running into the naked scanner line and dancing when it's my turn, complete with a "wheeee!". Because otherwise it's like sneering at the footmen of the people you despise and from what I understand the TSA type workers are marginally only less unhappy to have to professionally fondle people than the passengers. I can't think of a better way of saying fuck you, without saying fuck them in the process.
posted by Phalene at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2013


I guess what you can infer from this is that the TSA believes it's backend databases and authentication of flyers schemes to be sufficiently robust to negate the value of 1 on 1 screenings for some subset of passengers every flight. The fees are likely geared toward financing the background checks yes, but also the development of additional databases containing credentials and history...and of course the costs of maintaining the databases used in the background checks. The fee as pointed out above isn't prohibitive to someone with ill intent, however the screening and background checks likely are.
posted by iamabot at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Is this new? I signed up for TSA's pre program last year and I think it cost me $55, but required the use of the worst .gov site/app I've ever encountered, and I had to do an interview with a TSA official in another state (outside of Seattle, about 4hrs from where I live), and then I'm supposed to get my retinas scanned at a larger airport someday to add to my file in their database.

I don't think you did PreCheck, was it GlobalEntry? GlobalEntry is the interview with a person thing, PreCheck has been "you've randomly be vouched for by your airline of choice you're not a terrorist".

Most of the travelers at my office have paid for global entry, and getting status with an airline that lets you cut the snake (still have the normal screening process as everyone else) still saves about 80% of the wait time going through security.

As someone pushing 40,000 miles of travel since Jan, I just want to spend slightly less percentage of my life in the security line.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:03 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Average wait time is not representative of actual wait time, as people come in clumps with big empty stretches in between.

That varies quite a lot by airport/terminal; if a wide range of airlines are being served by the same security gates and the airport has flights coming and going pretty constantly then the demand is more constant. Smaller, regional airports will often have marked peak times; but then they're also less representative of the average traveler's experience overall. Those average wait times jibe pretty well with my own experience. In the last couple of years I wouldn't ever have waited more than 30 minutes to get through security on a domestic flight, and usually nowhere near as long as that. The worst experiences I've had have been on international flights and those not at US airports (except for one time at LAX right after they'd installed the bomb-sniffers for checked luggage after 9/11; man, THAT was an epic clusterfuck).
posted by yoink at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why should I make the violation of my privacy any easier on the TSA and its slack-jawed minions? I make a point of looking him in the eye and saying, deadpan: "It's just nice to be touched, you know?"

Similarly, whenever I get upset about my government force feeding those prisoners being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, I kick a puppy--just to make sure Obama knows how upset I am.
posted by straight at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not required to remove shoes, coats, laptops, or liquids.

So... A fella with this card could, theoretically, bring a few bottles of choice beer back in his carry-on, just as (I hear) one could do back in the Go-Go Nineties when I used to tote along a large spinach/garlic pizza and six or twelve long necks on every flight back from MSP to BOS?

*strokes chin* You don't say.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:09 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there any other minor annoyance of modern life that people routinely exaggerate to the same degree as airport security?

It's not in the same category for many. Maybe you've had the luxury of never discovering that.
Most other annoyances are different in that they both 1. exist for a legitimate reason such that eliminating them would cause problems (eg traffic congestion is the price of me being able to drive when and where I like), and 2. are only minor annoyances. (Traffic congestion means I arrive an hour late, while security theatre can mean missing a flight, arriving a different day, and it pretty much always means have to choose between not having the tools I might need vs further delays and costs at baggage claim, which can cascade into more missed flights simply because of what used to be an actual minor annoyance like a plane being delayed. Sometimes I end up wasting hours at my destination because I gambled and lost about not needing tools for this or that task, and naturally it's now a lot harder and more expensive to work around that because I'm now in an unfamiliar place with additional barriers for me to language, travel, connectivity, transactions, etc. I don't want to be wasting my time and money on that shit.)

That's not even touching on the "annoyances" that happen to the people who attract the Eye of Sauron, yet already it's not in the category of minor annoyances, it's requiring me to shoehorn my travel into its whims. Sometimes that's trivial, sometimes it's a nightmare, but either way it's defining things it has no business defining.
posted by anonymisc at 1:23 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


> (Favorite yes/no question: "Have you ever been a terrorist?")

If you're deemed a terrorist but haven't actually done anything yet, you could at least be busted for lying under oath, I guess.
posted by ardgedee at 1:28 PM on July 25, 2013


(Perhaps a better analogy: if driving along and then pulled over by a police officer, that only becomes a minor annoyance 1. after it is over, and 2. if didn't go as badly as it could have. Up until that point of after-it's-finished, I think you would be wrong to dismiss it as a minor inconvenience.)
posted by anonymisc at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Favorite yes/no question: "Have you ever been a terrorist?""

I have been known to bomb the bass.
posted by klangklangston at 1:33 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess what you can infer from this is that the TSA believes it's backend databases and authentication of flyers schemes to be sufficiently robust to negate the value of 1 on 1 screenings for some subset of passengers every flight.

A less charitable inference is that the TSA doesn't understand how to make risk assessments and is willing to make widespread changes to its processes without any oversight or justification.
posted by odinsdream at 1:39 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


security theatre can mean missing a flight, arriving a different day

It can, sure, but it virtually never does. I mean, it simply is not the case that a significant portion of people fail to board their scheduled flights because of delays at security. And that's a pretty good example of what I mean about the weirdly routine way in which a petty annoyance is spun as if it were a serious inconvenience. I mean, it would be easy to conjure a scenario in which a traffic jamends up causing your whole life to be ruined, but people don't talk about traffic jams in the same way they talk about security lines; despite the fact that traffic jams must cause orders of magnitude more real wasted time to people than anything that happens in airports.

and it pretty much always means have to choose between not having the tools I might need vs further delays and costs at baggage claim, which can cascade into more missed flights simply because of what used to be an actual minor annoyance like a plane being delayed. Sometimes I end up wasting hours at my destination because I gambled and lost about not needing tools for this or that task, and naturally it's now a lot harder and more expensive to work around that because I'm now in an unfamiliar place with additional barriers for me to language, travel, connectivity, transactions, etc. I don't want to be wasting my time and money on that shit.

Well, sure; there are people in specific trades/occupations (professional musicians) or people with specific problems (surgical implants etc.) for whom these things are more of a pain than others. If you have tools that you aren't sure you can take in cabin luggage, I can see that that's a pain; it's especially a pain if you don't want to risk them in checked luggage for some reason. But, again, that is not the situation for the vast majority of people going through the security lines.
posted by yoink at 1:45 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am flabbergasted at the number of posters who seem to consider themselves experts in airport security and immigration/passport control. It does make me wonder how many of you/them have had the responsibility for assuring the safety of other persons let alone millions of travelers. Of course it is an imperfect system but the imperfection certainly is not US centric nor in anyway limited to the TSA. And the TSA is just a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things--and if you have missed a flight because of security you have no one to hold responsible but your self. I fly regularly and frequently and have yet to see or hear of a person who arrived at the airport in reasonable time and failed to make a flight because of security. Other reasons yes--security no. It is just one of those things that so many seem to whinge--it is either complaining about delays, lines, violations of privacy, costs etc. When I think about the incredible human, engineering and logistic complexity of getting a millions of people safely around the globe I truly think we should be amazed rather than dismayed. If you have concrete thoughtful comprehensive proposals on how to handle potential terrorist threats for airlines please feel free to email them to me. Ones that will handle millions of persons a year. Do not tell me to look at Israels because it is of a whole different scope and not without its own inconveniences, delays and privacy considerations.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:57 PM on July 25, 2013


It does make me wonder how many of you/them have had the responsibility for assuring the safety of other persons let alone millions of travelers.

I used to be a Skycap at the airport back in pre-9/11 days, and would have to ask people if they were carrying bombs or anything suspicious. People would say "no", or sometimes they would say "yes" as a joke, and then I'd give them Mad Teacher look, and then they'd sort of shuffle and say "no. Sorry. Actually, no."

Of all the people I then let onto the plane, a grand total of zero blew anything up.

If you have concrete thoughtful comprehensive proposals on how to handle potential terrorist threats for airlines please feel free to email them to me. Ones that will handle millions of persons a year.

How about a simple return to pre-9/11 standards of airport security, back in the days before we built a customer-screening system built on cowardice and superstition?
posted by Greg Nog at 2:05 PM on July 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


So you are willing to assume the executive responsibility for having (only)Skycaps/equivalent do the screening for the airlines. This is not pre 9/11 but it was pre 9/11 when European airports used dogs, soldiers, thorough checks. etc to assure the safety of passengers. I continue to find it interesting that so many think this is a United States issue and screw up. And I can also only assume that you think pre-9/11 security in Europe was built on cowardice and superstition.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:15 PM on July 25, 2013


people don't talk about traffic jams in the same way they talk about security lines

Traffic jams aren't deliberate. A closer analogy might be checkout lines, but the difference there is, you can leave and shop at a different store. If you're flying for vacation, you can opt out, take the train, go somewhere else. But often, people need to fly. And this is government intrusion.

The fact that it's government intrusion is part of why people get so upset. It's counter to the premise of our society, which is that we're "free." Police don't get to bother you unless you've hurt someone else, and we don't allow them to check randomly to see if you might be planning to hurt someone else. This is how most people interpret the concept of our free society. It's how it's supposed to work.

And the other part is that it's farce. Many of the security precautions installed after 9/11 had zero relation to what happened on 9/11. Moreover, we've all seen their holes. We've seen countless examples of TSA incompetence, buffoonery, and downright criminal behavior. But our government continues to force this on us, and now they tell us, "For a nominal fee, we'll let you skip past." That reinforces, for many people, that the whole thing is a joke; and it becomes, in a sense, extortion. "Sooo...really, you just wanted to impose an $85 tax on air travel?"
posted by cribcage at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


So you are willing to assume the executive responsibility for having (only)Skycaps/equivalent do the screening for the airlines.

Sure, why not. Vote for me.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:39 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, this isn't the "rant about TSA and call them names for lulz" thread, act like grown-ups please.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:57 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is just one of those things that so many seem to whinge--it is either complaining about delays, lines, violations of privacy, costs etc. When I think about the incredible human, engineering and logistic complexity of getting a millions of people safely around the globe I truly think we should be amazed rather than dismayed

I can tell from your superfluous consonants that you are a Brit and hence a member of a society that has long since made its peace with creeping totalitarianism. Orwell weeps, my friend. I recall fondly a pasty-faced security drone at Heathrow telling me once, when I objected to her pawing through my luggage, "You don't want the terrorists to win, do you?" To which I muttered, "I think they already have, ma'am."

To the substance of your question, I fly in and out of Germany fairly frequently and am always amazed at the speed, efficiency, courtesy and all around decency of German airport screening. Things move quickly. Nobody is made to feel like a criminal and/or piece of meat. And, wondrously, it seems like the security personnel do an adequate job of guaranteeing security.

You know, for that matter, Ben Gurion airport, which is probably the most secure airport in the world, and which has an extremely stringent set of security protocols, at least has the benefit of appearing functional rather than theatrical. I mean, it sucks to have your luggage actively hand-scanned and to be interrogated multiple times by an attractive Israeli woman in her late 20's (okay, the last one not so much, maybe), but it's clear at every stage in the process that the security personnel are well-trained, competent and meaningful in their intrusions. Not to say that their process is just or fair. It sucks for people with dark skin and the intimate touch I received upon telling them I was living in East Jerusalem will remain in my memory for a long time. But there's a purpose behind it. With the TSA? It's just spastic thrashing around in the effort to justify budgets and cover asses.
posted by R. Schlock at 3:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


[T]he annoying thing is that you randomly don't get [Pre-Check privileges] from time to time....

When the Pre-Check line screener rejected me, for the first time since I was so designated thanks to my frequent flier cred, I inquired. The TSA agent replied that there's an algorithm that looks for "suspicious" behavior, like last minute changes. That made sense since I had switched both the departure city and the date of travel.
posted by carmicha at 3:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


if you have missed a flight because of security you have no one to hold responsible but your self.

You're not thinking it through. The traveler is not responsible for when their plane actually reaches the airport. Were they supposed to override the booking agent and request another few hours added to each layover Just In Case? That quickly adds up until it's no different from missed flights!

And that applies to the first leg too - the suggestion that security theatre isn't a big deal because the missed flights usually only occur if the traveller didn't show up several hours early Just In Case. Ie it's not a "10 minute average wait in line", but rather "It is strongly recommended to show up 3 hours before departure time". That recommendation is not possible for me to meet for evening flights after work, so I have to arrange/lose extra vacation time off work or go a different day, or gamble, so again my travel plans have to be shoehorned into the limitations being imposed by security theatre. It's not "minor" inconvenience.
posted by anonymisc at 3:57 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeahhhh, I think I'll just stick to my current plan, which is to never travel to or through the states or through any countries that allow U.S. Customs to run their airports (at least, not since the heat-of-a-thousand-volcanoes-anger-inducing layover in Newark last year, which, fuck you U.S. for forcing transferring passengers to "enter U.S. territory" and run through customs again just so you can feed our fingerprints to your database. /rant!).
Luckily, a lot of countries fly direct to and from Canada.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:09 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ever? Look, maybe I experimented a little in college--didn't we all?

So you were a TUG? (Terrorist Until Graduation)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 4:11 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


a bra with too many wires

The number of times I've had a bag pulled because apparently multiple underwire bras look JUST LIKE BOMBS...
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:13 PM on July 25, 2013


Traffic jams are impersonal. Airport screenings are a little too personal.

Plus I never heard of someone being extra jammed because of their race. Or having a traffic jam take away their water and then sell them new, more exploitative water.
posted by windykites at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sorry, I meant more expensive water


Also when was the last time a traffic jam looked at you naked against your will or groped you?
posted by windykites at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


All else aside, I never quite understood how concentrating large numbers of people in one place, without easy escape, BEFORE security clearance, was meant to be effective prevention of terrorism rather than, frankly, a sign that the Terrorists just don't care anymore if they haven't targeted these lines of sitting ducks.

In other news, I am now no longer eligible for these services.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:22 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


So why is there no TV show where one of the characters is a TSA screener?
posted by Wild_Eep at 4:26 PM on July 25, 2013


and if you have missed a flight because of security you have no one to hold responsible but your self.

Ah, right, all those times I missed a connection because even though I had a three hour layover expressly so that I'd have time to get through security and/or immigration control going between different terminals at poorly-laid-out airports, but my first flight was delayed by an hour and a half to two hours merely because airlines are now scheduling so tightly that there's no slack in the system in the entirely forseeable and probabilistically likely event that something will go wrong somewhere - that's clearly something I should have planned for ahead of time. Probably I'm especially to blame for miscalculating on those trips that pass through airports or countries that I've never been to before, I suppose. At least I've always had the foresight to travel while white and female - such good planning on my part; I think I'll pat myself on the back for that!
posted by eviemath at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I fly regularly and frequently and have yet to see or hear of a person who arrived at the airport in reasonable time and failed to make a flight because of security. Other reasons yes--security no.

Now you've heard of some. My family arrived in "plenty of time" with our baby, who was still taking bottles. We had a thirty-hour trip from the USA's eastern coast to Australia, so we brought long-life UHT milk that would survive on the plane. The TSA weren't happy with that and wanted to open it. We explained that this would actually obviate the point of having brought the milk. They had some bullshit test that is supposed to magically detect explosives but they weren't very sure how to use it. Time went on, and they gave us the impression we had to stay there while they got their senior staff to come and say OK, you can go. We went, but got there just as the door closed.

We missed our flight, which meant we missed the flight back to Australia, which meant we had to stay in the USA for an extra week because there was no capacity at the time without paying an extra $6,000 per person (no exaggeration).

So screw you and your "have yet to see or hear of a person" pontification.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


I fly regularly and frequently and have yet to see or hear of a person who arrived at the airport in reasonable time and failed to make a flight because of security.

I also fly regularly and frequently - over 400k miles on Delta in the last 6 years alone, and I have. More than once, in fact. For a long while, you could bank on a 90 minute wait on the security line at the Atlanta airport, especially on Monday mornings. (To the TSA's credit, they've gotten better at this lately.) Generally, I'll try to get to the airport 2 hours before my flight, but once in a while, that's just not enough.

My personal record on this one is the time I got to Newark airport at 5:55am and missed my 8:45am flight - and that was PRE 9/11 to boot.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now you've heard of some. My family arrived in "plenty of time" with our baby, who was still taking bottles. We had a thirty-hour trip from the USA's eastern coast to Australia, so we brought long-life UHT milk that would survive on the plane. The TSA weren't happy with that and wanted to open it. We explained that this would actually obviate the point of having brought the milk. They had some bullshit test that is supposed to magically detect explosives but they weren't very sure how to use it. Time went on, and they gave us the impression we had to stay there while they got their senior staff to come and say OK, you can go. We went, but got there just as the door closed.

We missed our flight, which meant we missed the flight back to Australia, which meant we had to stay in the USA for an extra week because there was no capacity at the time without paying an extra $6,000 per person (no exaggeration).

So screw you and your "have yet to see or hear of a person" pontification.


This situation is 100% your fault, for bringing what you knew to be disallowed material onboard and then refusing direction to open it.

So, yeah, this is still "have yet to see or hear of a person who arrived at the airport in reasonable time and failed to make a flight because of security", because the reason you failed to make your flight is your own bullheadedness.
posted by kafziel at 5:43 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people are between a rock and hard place there's nothing like siding with the rock, eh?
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


This situation is 100% your fault, for bringing what you knew to be disallowed material onboard and then refusing direction to open it.

New parent angry!! New parent SMASH!!!
posted by R. Schlock at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


for bringing what you knew to be disallowed material

Wait, what do you suggest, that they let the baby starve? Babies don't like that much.
posted by windykites at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


So, yeah, this is still "have yet to see or hear of a person who arrived at the airport in reasonable time and failed to make a flight because of security", because the reason you failed to make your flight is your own bullheadedness.

Or, "have heard hundreds of accounts of molestation, corruption, stolen goods, and inconvenience at the behest of TSA agents despite a complete absence of any economic, regulatory, or security related justification for the existence of their occupation."
posted by clearly at 6:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Traffic jams aren't deliberate. A closer analogy might be checkout lines, but the difference there is, you can leave and shop at a different store. If you're flying for vacation, you can opt out, take the train, go somewhere else. But often, people need to fly. And this is government intrusion.

But this is responding to a different point than the one I was making. If you want to say "these regulations are a waste of time and the fact that they are a waste of time drives me batty" I've got nothing to say about that (well, other than that the argument about whether or not they are in fact a waste of time is a philosophically and practically difficult one to answer accurately). What I was commenting on was people's urge to wildly overstate just how much of a waste of time and general all around hassle they are (at least, for the great majority of travelers the great majority of the time; horror stories like Joe in Australia's, above, notwithstanding).

I think, in particular, I find the implied comparisons between the prelapsarian world before 9/11, when our path through the airport was strewn with rose-petals and the hellish abandon-all-hope-ye-who-enter-here world of savage abuse and Sysiphean labor we have supposedly now fallen into seems to me bizarrely overblown. I don't get to the airport any earlier for a domestic flight now than I did before 9/11; getting through security doesn't take markedly longer than it did then; I was frisked at security about as often before 9/11 as since, which is to say once or twice (and pretending that getting frisked is sexual assault strikes me as trivializing sexual assault). In many ways I dread flying, but on the list of things I dread about it (cramped seats, crying babies, lousy food, catching every cold/flu going, time wasted in boring airport lounges etc.) "having to take my shoes off once and then put them on again" (which is the major difference between pre and post 9/11 security) is so low on the list as to be negligible.

By the same token I have not found any marked difference between US airport security and airport security overseas. I've flown in and out of a lot of countries and the experience seems roughly the same in all of them, minus the shoe thing.
posted by yoink at 6:31 PM on July 25, 2013


This situation is 100% your fault, for bringing what you knew to be disallowed material onboard and then refusing direction to open it.

simmer down stalin
posted by elizardbits at 6:37 PM on July 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


So you are willing to assume the executive responsibility for having (only)Skycaps/equivalent do the screening for the airlines.

Sure, why not. Vote for me.
posted by Greg Nog


Security theater swept over the land,
airport terminals became a great slog.
Now it's time for the reins to be in a new hand
Vote Former Skycap Greg Nog!

or was that the other thread?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:03 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


a loud knock on Artw's door follows

What a quaint notion. SWAT teams have long since discovered that it's more fun and convenient to just blast the door open with a BR 35 Battering Ram.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:14 PM on July 25, 2013


This situation is 100% your fault, for bringing what you knew to be disallowed material

You have that backwards. The situation is 100% the fault of security theatre for disallowing harmless and important materials.
posted by anonymisc at 7:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


You people are all complaining now, but wait until computers become sentient and try to take over the world. All we'll have to do is tell them about the TSA and they'll melt right down. That trick should last a couple centuries at least.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:18 PM on July 25, 2013


I've certainly noticed a difference flying between non-North American countries versus flying to, from, or within the US. Many other countries were slower to adopt the security theatre than the US, and have acceded to it for economic reasons because they wouldn't be able to host flights to the US if they didn't. "Other countries do it too" isn't the argument you seem to think it is given the economic power that the US can potentially exert in this area.

Also, certain amounts of breast milk or baby formula are allowed beyond the normal liquids regulations, but the exact rules about quantity and packaging are not as widely advertised (for domestic flights within the US, let alone for international flights). I don't offhand recall anything about packages of milk or formula being opened for inspection either, though admittedly I've never paid close attention to those rules.
posted by eviemath at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2013


I forgot to mention: when we flew out of the same airport a week later they took one look, said "Oh, that's for the baby" and waved us through.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Food for babies is specifically excepted from the liquid regs, per the signs I see in the airports.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I once saw the TSA actually triage the one and only checkpoint at MSP Terminal 2. The line snaked a few dozen yards back out of the concourse and into the parking garage. It was surreal. So they gave up, closed the line, and just started calling out flights in order of departure.

It was super great. Everyone was able to chill out, and when it was time to fly, they'd all walk up to the checkpoint, clear it, and march straight onto the plane.
posted by SemiSophos at 8:54 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I think, in particular, I find the implied comparisons between the prelapsarian world before 9/11, when our path through the airport was strewn with rose-petals and the hellish abandon-all-hope-ye-who-enter-here world of savage abuse and Sysiphean labor we have supposedly now fallen into seems to me bizarrely overblown.

Well, for those of us who are targets for one reason or another, nostalgia for the relatively rose-petal-strewn past is all we've got to cling to, until you start selling yoinkpasses allowing us to get the "minor annoyance" level of airport security that you typically experience.
posted by desuetude at 9:09 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: I am not sure I have ever loved and hated anything so much simultaneously
posted by pwnguin at 9:30 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently arrived in San Francisco from Hong Kong. After de-planing, we all had to stand in line for over an hour to get through customs. I pointed out that I hadn't had to take off my shoes before getting on the plane in Hong Kong, and neither conceivably had anyone coming from hundreds of other cities, and it seemed to make pointless the need for people inside the US to take off their shoes.

I was literally shushed by people around me, who were afraid that not only would I get taken away by security, that they would also get taken, just because they were near me in line. I laughed and pointed out that, were I one of several terrorists, we probably wouldn't stand in line next to each other. Instead we'd spread out. Eventually we all got through customs and nobody died. IT WAS A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

The whole thing was just sad. It's obvious bullshit security theater, but everyone is too frightened to point out how absurd it is.
posted by nushustu at 10:19 PM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


^It can, sure, but it virtually never does. I mean, it simply is not the case that a significant portion of people fail to board their scheduled flights because of delays at security.

A tiny proportion of the whole population can be the entirety of a subpopulation. If you're not in that subpopulation, you will likely never have the opportunity to observe a phenomenon. I daresay you are not brown, you are not Muslim, and you aren't in a high-scrutiny profession that puts you On The List. (And once you get On The List, you get stopped nearly every time you fly in the US. You and everyone who shares your name.)

Also, leaving aside whether Joe was a villain for planning to feed his baby, until one's travelled for more than 24 hours just to reach the US, never mind what the connections in the US look like, one really needs to pipe down about what sort of gratuitous delay constitutes an inconvenience and what's hellish.

^I am flabbergasted at the number of posters who seem to consider themselves experts in airport security and immigration/passport control. It does make me wonder how many of you/them have had the responsibility for assuring the safety of other persons let alone millions of travelers.

Health care professionals (of which MeFi has many) have a professional responsibility for the safety of others, and for the past thirty or so years, there's been a concerted effort to shift the decision-making process from anecdote, hopeful guesswork, superstition, and prejudice towards clinical models based on scientific evidence. I have never seen a rationale for airport security that cited a whit of evidence, and some of those who study security as a science - Bruce Schneier comes immediately to mind - have presented rigorous arguments to us laymen that US airport security measures are worse than none at all.
posted by gingerest at 10:38 PM on July 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Minipax is not obliged to explain its workings. Our system is supported by demonstrable axioms, the ongoing threat from, and perptual war with, Eurasia, for only one doubleplusgood example.

I am confused. I should have thought you'd all have this straight by now.
posted by mule98J at 8:02 AM on July 26, 2013


Food for babies is specifically excepted from the liquid regs, per the signs I see in the airports.

Sometimes they test it with strips.

Here's a list of average security wait times at the nation's 25 busiest airports.

Average wait time is not representative of actual wait time

Well, it's one representative measure. What do you prefer? I bet median wait time isn't much different.

I would like to see SDF on there. It's the fucking worst, by which I mean, "usually 30 minutes." JFK has always been super fast for me. Curious it's that high.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2013


The single number that's likely most significant for passenger wait time is probably "90% percentile wait time". A full histogram would be really lovely.

I was struck by how burdensome the US airport process is in Hawai'i. The only practical way to travel between the islands is by commercial flight. 20 minute flight turns into 2 hours when you factor in the recommended time to get through security. Makes a day trip to the town next door much harder. Maybe locals know how fast they can actually get through security, but as a visitor I just gave up on the idea of visiting Honolulu for a day.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes they test it with strips.

Again, back to the issue of a complete lack of an evidence-based approach to security. We have a small child and I've flown with baby stuff many times now. The people who run the mass spectrometry device have wildly different approaches, running the gamut from trying to load sopping-wet samples into the machine to, my favorite, just bringing the sample paper somewhere in the vicinity of the test material, waving it like damn fools a foot above a sealed thermos of water.
posted by odinsdream at 9:43 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


A tiny proportion of the whole population can be the entirety of a subpopulation. If you're not in that subpopulation, you will likely never have the opportunity to observe a phenomenon. I daresay you are not brown, you are not Muslim, and you aren't in a high-scrutiny profession that puts you On The List. (And once you get On The List, you get stopped nearly every time you fly in the US. You and everyone who shares your name.)

Yes, and may I once again patiently explain that I am talking about the average case, not those particular cases. Yes, the arbitrary nature of the terrorist watch list sucks. Yes, being a brown/black person in a racist world sucks donkey balls. Yes, having special equipment or a particular profession that draws extra scrutiny sucks. I am not surprised that those people complain about the very real hardships and very real delays that they routinely face.

My comment, however, was not "nobody ever gets inconvenienced in any way by airport security." My comment was that very large numbers of people who are not in fact, greatly inconvenienced by it talk about it as if it were the most appalling ordeal they could imagine facing, and that those comments are wildly overblown.
posted by yoink at 9:50 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've certainly noticed a difference flying between non-North American countries versus flying to, from, or within the US. Many other countries were slower to adopt the security theatre than the US, and have acceded to it for economic reasons because they wouldn't be able to host flights to the US if they didn't.

This isn't really true, except for the liquids and shoe things on flights to the US originating in other countries. Actually in my experience, pre-9/11, airport security was rather tighter in most non-US countries than it was on domestic flights in the US. I think a lot of the people who romanticize about the gay freedom and wondrous efficiency of air travel in pre-9/11 days weren't really old enough to experience much of it.
posted by yoink at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tighter, but generally in a way that made sense. The US was late to airport security, and remains spectacularly bad at it - the problem being not so much security theatre but reactiveoverspecifc gibberish like banning cockscrews and the 3oz thing. We should be thankful they didn't ban shoes and underwear.
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think most of us get your point, Yoink. Yes, when talking about TSA people's emotional reactions dial up to ten, whereas most of us react calmly to longer delays in other contexts—waiting to exit the parking lot after a Taylor Swift concert, or finding a parking space at the mall during Christmas. But what several of us have explained is, the context makes the difference. It's compulsory; it's feeble; the black traveler is delayed longer than his white coworker; etc.

You're right, the emotional proportion is different. That's an accurate observation. But it shouldn't be a surprising one. There are plain reasons.
posted by cribcage at 10:13 AM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


My comment was that very large numbers of people who are not in fact, greatly inconvenienced by it talk about it as if it were the most appalling ordeal they could imagine facing, and that those comments are wildly overblown.

Just how do you know that those large numbers of people were not greatly inconvenienced?

As somebody who is, in fact old enough to remember flying way back in the '60s, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop belittling people who don't like the way things have changed.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


We should be thankful they didn't ban shoes and underwear.

Commando Airlines: "When you have to fly, fly Commando!"

Corkscrews actually weren't ever banned; it was the foil-cutting knife on some corkscrews that was banned. Similarly knitting needles and nail clippers were never banned, despite many claims to the contrary. The TSA tried a little while back to reintroduce small knives, but the public and, particularly, flight staff complained vociferously.

The widespread belief that corkscrews, nail clippers and knitting needles were ever banned, by the way, is a good example of the kind of routine exaggeration of the CRAZY burdens imposed by the TSA that I'm talking about.
posted by yoink at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2013


Just how do you know that those large numbers of people were not greatly inconvenienced?

Simple logic? LAX, for example, processes something like 174,000 people per day. If the TSA was in any way seriously inconveniencing anything like even a significant minority of those passengers, the entire airport would grind to a halt.

But then there's also "participant observation." For my work I have gone through phases where I've flown frequently domestically and I've also, for various reasons, flown internationally quite a lot over the last several decades. I go through the regular screening every time. Either I'm a wizard who manages, without my knowledge, to change the process from the grueling, abusive torment some are describing in this thread into a minor inconvenience for me and for all the people ahead of me in the line and in the other lines, who I see steadily moving through the lines, or some people are grossly exaggerating what the average person typically experiences on these flights.

As somebody who is, in fact old enough to remember flying way back in the '60s, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop belittling people who don't like the way things have changed.


Things have certainly changed drastically since the 60s. They have not, however, changed drastically since before 9/11. The major features of airline security were all in place pre-9/11 (from the point of view of user-experience). Adding "taking off your shoes" and "not being able to bring a bottle of water or a pocket knife with you" to that typical experience do not strike me as drastic, abusive or particularly onerous changes.
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get your point, yoink, but the difference between "banned everywhere" and "You might not be able to take these on the plane depending..." as far as the inconvenience factor isn't that different. Knitting needles have been restricted in the past meaning that some people haven't been able to get them through security. Nail clippers that included the file have been restricted in the past. Add to this that TSA does not really keep a historical record of the ongoing changes to its own policies that it makes and just staying on top of what is and is not allowed is itself an inconvenience.

I travel a lot. I remember when traveling was significantly easier and you could get on planes being absolutely sure that no one would yell at you or give you a hard time about not wanting to go into the x-rays/millimeter wave machines. On balance, I tolerate this and I still fly. My wait times are usually not terrible but occasionally they are meaning I'm always cooling my heels in the airport more than I'd prefer. And if I felt that I was also safer as a result, I'd be more chipper about dealing with it. I don't, so I speak up when the topic comes around.
posted by jessamyn at 10:30 AM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


yoink: "Things have certainly changed drastically since the 60s. They have not, however, changed drastically since before 9/11."

I'm in my 40s. I never flew in the '60s, but I did fly in the '70s and beyond. Things have changed since before 9/11 and after. Dramatically. Drastically, if you like.

I suppose anyone can claim words like "drastically" mean different things to different people in various ways to prove this point, but I totally disagree with the point you're trying to make.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:33 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I also disagree with yoink. And I'm someone who experiences current airport security theatre as an inconvenience rather than a major hassle most of the time (yet who is not unaware or dismissive of the greater difficulties experienced by others), which I do in fact minimize somewhat by my packing and clothing choices when flying. I particularly don't appreciate being told that my personal experiences and empirical (if anecdotal) experiences are somehow imaginary.

yoink: I do not have to take my shoes or belt off when flying between some non-US countries, can take more liquids, do not have to worry so much about how I pack my electronics, and have never (personally) encountered a full body scanner when traveling between non-US countries. As well, reporting requirements for customs and immigration vary, and are generally more lax in the particular non-US countries that I've traveled to. I don't have extensive pre-9/11 flight experience, but do have some, and oh boy were security procedures at my local regional airport at the time much more pleasant and non-intrusive than they are nowadays. I also remember picking people up at airports and meeting them at the gates at three or four different major airports as well as one or two regional airports. Going through security to get there was not a big enough deal to be a memorable experience. So don't tell me there's no difference, or no noticeable difference, or however you want to equivocate your statements after the fact.

(Heathrow, of course, is a pain in the ass; but was a bit less so when I was flying within Europe/UK than when I've flown into or out of Heathrow from North America. Part of this seems to be differences in the different terminals at Heathrow - terminal 5 is actually not that bad, for example.)
posted by eviemath at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2013


Well it is pretty obvious that rich people aren't the ones trying to blow up planes so why should they have to suffer so much? I think $85 is too low though, it won't keep out all of the riff-raff.
posted by JJ86 at 12:03 PM on July 26, 2013


The widespread belief that corkscrews, nail clippers and knitting needles were ever banned, by the way, is a good example of the kind of routine exaggeration of the CRAZY burdens imposed by the TSA that I'm talking about.

I've had such items confiscated. Maybe the public aren't the only ones who are unsure?
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Passenger Volume--All in All I think security, passport control and immigration
are well done for this volume:
United States 2012 Totals
Domestic 642,202,749
Intern'l 171,039,012
Total 813,241,761

Atlanta 92,389,023 (through ATL) or 45,000,000 (boarded at ATL)

Heathrow 70,000,000

Schiphol 51,000,000

I think one can reasonably expect some problems and screw ups.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2013


They have not, however, changed drastically since before 9/11. The major features of airline security were all in place pre-9/11 (from the point of view of user-experience). Adding "taking off your shoes" and "not being able to bring a bottle of water or a pocket knife with you" to that typical experience do not strike me as drastic, abusive or particularly onerous changes.

There are only two actual improvements that were made post-9/11: Hardened cockpit doors, and the knowledge that every passenger now has that hijackers must be stopped by people on-board the plane. Everything else is theater, including checking for pocket knives and water bottles.
posted by odinsdream at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


The big reason that 9/11 can never happen again is nobody assumes hijackings are for the purpose of hostage taking and demands anymore.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2013


jessamyn: Anecdote only, last year we were traveling with our best friend who is a serious knitter--Boarded international flight Detroit no problem, passed through security at Heathrow no problem, domestic flight Paris no problem, security at CDG--the security agent insisted that our friend must give up her knitting needles which had made them through in carry on at all previous screenings. The security agent (female) then started crying/tears welling as our friend pulled the needles from her knitting and it started to unravel. Inconsistent but very human and touching
posted by rmhsinc at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


TSA Is Making Airport Valets Search Your Trunk - And legal experts say the searches may violate your Fourth Amendment rights.
posted by homunculus at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well it is pretty obvious that rich people aren't the ones trying to blow up planes so why should they have to suffer so much?

I realize you're being ironic, but I can't stop myself from pointing out that Osama Bin Laden was very wealthy, as are his surviving relatives.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:07 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also disagree with yoink. And I'm someone who experiences current airport security theatre as an inconvenience rather than a major hassle most of the time (yet who is not unaware or dismissive of the greater difficulties experienced by others),

If you agree with me that it's not "a major hassle" then you agree with the whole point I was making. I'm not saying it's not any inconvenience at all. I'm saying that people who go on and on and on about what a "nightmare" it is and seem to think it's roughly equivalent to being in a German concentration camp are wildly exaggerating both how bad it is absolutely AND how much worse it is than either pre-9/11 or 'non-US" security.

Again, the differences you site between US and elsewhere are "I do not have to take my shoes or belt off when flying between some non-US countries, can take more liquids, do not have to worry so much about how I pack my electronics, and have never (personally) encountered a full body scanner when traveling between non-US countries." That's quite a lot of words to say "there's some very minor added inconveniences at worst."

Seriously, has anyone who is reasonably hale and healthy ever considered "taking off their shoes and putting them back on again" a "serious inconvenience"? Ditto belt? Ditto carrying fewer liquids (although my own experience has been that all the airlines overseas seem to have adopted that rule, regardless of whether they're flying to the US)." You're listing very minor annoyances that people talk about as if they were the Bhutan death march.

And none of them except the shoes even hold up as hard and fast differences between the US now and either pre-9/11 US or non-US flying. Pre 9/11 outside the US I often had to remove my belt to go through the metal-detector. Different airports all seemed to set them to different sensitivities so sometimes a belt buckle was o.k., and sometimes it wasn't. Usually I took to just removing the belt as a precaution. It hasn't been my experience that other countries uniformly fail to ask you to remove laptops from your bags (which is what you're talking about, I assume, with "packing your electronics"). Here, for example, is the security screening FAQ from Stansted airport in the UK. It has pretty much the same restrictions on liquids as the US; it demands that laptops be pulled from your bag for separate screening etc. etc. It's basically the same. Actually, my experience has been that the US is a little more lax on this issue that many other countries. In the US you can leave an iPad inside your carry on; I discovered the annoying way that that is not widely accepted at many other non-US airports ("Sir, you'll have to go back through the metal detector and piss off all these passengers behind you..."). As for the full body scanners, anyone who is seriously concerned about going through them is almost certainly sadly misinformed either about the health risks or the risks to their privacy. I can't seriously entertain the idea that those are a significant added burden to the security end-user experience any more than I can seriously entertain the idea that people are being endangered by smart meters or cell towers. YMMV.

Does all this security stuff serve a purpose? I don't know and neither do any of you unless you're actually experts in the field. Is it annoying? Sure; it would be lovely to just be able to show up at the airport 5 minutes before your flight is about to depart and wave your ticket airily at scanner as you run down the jetway--but nobody much actually wants that little security. But it's not a harrowing nightmare that should significantly factor into anyone's decision as to whether or not to bother taking a flight somewhere.

Oh, and can I once AGAIN patiently explain that I am well aware that very serious and real problems are being caused to certain small segments of the population by some aspects of the changed security regime post-9/11 (people on the terrorist watchlist, people who are subject to various kinds of dumb profiling, people who engage in a certain range of trades etc.). I fully understand and empathize with their complaints and their very real hassles. All I am talking about is what the ordinary, everyday traveling experience is like for the vast majority of air travelers, which I think people bizarrely exaggerate.
posted by yoink at 5:45 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's stressful and tiring to walk outside to a different terminal and go back through security and risk missing your domestic connection at LAX after you've travelled all night from Asia. That describes several hundred people a day at LAX alone.
posted by gingerest at 7:50 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


yoink, I absolutely disagree with you that security protocols haven't changed significantly pre- to post-9/11, that security protocols aren't significantly different anywhere else in the world than in/to/from/through the US, that either of us have the perspective or data to make any pronouncements on the average experience of hassle of other air passengers, that the distribution of hassle or average experience of a sub-population doesn't matter greatly for this debate, that some of the differences in security I mention don't cause undue difficulty for even any subset of the population ('cause apparently differently-abled people never fly, in your world, just for one example), and that the negative experiences that people have at airports are entirely preventable and entirely their fault.

Does all this security stuff serve a purpose? I don't know and neither do any of you unless you're actually experts in the field.

As it happens, one of our fellow commenters noted that an actual expert in the field, Bruce Schneier, says that the answer to this question is a definitive no. Studies agree.

Oh, and can I once AGAIN patiently explain that...

Perhaps if you feel that you are repeating yourself it is because you are not listening to nor responding to the substance of other people's comments.


Oh, and about those full body scanners and privacy concerns....

posted by eviemath at 8:02 PM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Also, you, yourself, are exaggerating in your characterization of other people's (at least here in this thread) concerns as, eg., "annoyances that people talk about as if they were the Bhutan death march".)
posted by eviemath at 8:07 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, when did Bhutan get a death march? I predict they're going to be receiving a cease and desist order from Bataan's intellectual property attorneys any minute now.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:25 PM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


> I forgot to mention I've never been through other countries' customs in airports in less than 45min before,

What?! What?!?

I've visited, oh, easily 30 countries since 9/11, perhaps as many as 50, some several times. I've NEVER, never once, had to wait even 10 minutes to go through customs - except in the USA.

What are these countries that took you 45 minutes to get through customs? I'm really curious...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:08 PM on July 26, 2013


After conferring with my wife, we recalled that it once took us about 20 minutes to go through customs in Australia, but aside from that we've never had a hitch.

A lot of our travelling was to EU countries but we've also gone to south-east Asia and I've been to various places in South America, Korea and Hungary. Nothing over 20 minutes, nearly all less than 10.

Yesterday, Kennedy was very fast, though RUDE as always - why must they be rude each and every time, particularly when I go out of my way to be polite every time? - but usually it's 30 minutes or so. Even there, I don't remember having to wait 45 minutes... and those of you who know me, know I'm an impatient sort more likely to overestimate my wait than underestimate...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:16 PM on July 26, 2013


Six trips to China; never even 10 minutes getting through Customs there.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:04 AM on July 27, 2013


Seriously, has anyone who is reasonably hale and healthy ever considered "taking off their shoes and putting them back on again" a "serious inconvenience"?

Lots of people aren't "reasonably hale and healthy". Or they're travelling with kids. I note that the rules were recently changed to allow elderly people and children (under 12?) to keep their shoes on. To me, this underscores the stupid and arbitrary nature of these rules, but it's something of a convenience so I guess I should just shut up. I mean, now all I have to do is remove the kids' toys, promise them that they will get them back, put them down on the ground (at 2 AM East Coast time, after six or eight hours' transit) so they can walk through the metal detector unescorted, fold up the pram for the TSA, wait for them to discover that it will in fact not fit through the X-ray machine, rescue the children, gather everything up including my shoes and belt, rescue the children again, hop around trying to get my shoes back on, wait for some minimum-wage petitfuehrer to pretend that he's conducting a chemical test, get the pram back, unfold it, get the baby in the pram, get all the kids' toys ...

Seriously, you do not know how hard the TSA makes it for so many people. You're judging it by the standard of a wealthy, healthy, non-minority single traveler who has been lucky enough to avoid bad experiences. The impact of this program needs to be evaluated by its effect on the weak, the poor, the people travelling with kids, the minority travellers and so forth. It is crippling. It makes travel a nightmare. It makes us hate the people responsible, as well as people like you who know they are in a privileged position but say "Oh, how bad can it be?"

It is bad. Very bad.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:29 AM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


> Seriously, has anyone who is reasonably hale and healthy ever considered "taking off their shoes and putting them back on again" a "serious inconvenience"?

I personally don't like to shuffle across a dirty floor in my socks. I sometimes have back problems too, which makes bending over from standing to get my shoes off painful.

But these pale compared to having to whip your shoes (and belt) off with a line of people, all in a hurry, with unsympathetic and armed guards hanging over your shoulder, with no place to sit down - or worse, the other side, when you have to put them back on again when people are in an even greater hurry and there is, again, no chair (sometimes there are one or two chairs, which people have to compete for).

Even as a childless couple in pretty good health, this is upsetting and stressful. I can't imagine how bad it must be for a person with disabilities or travelling with children.

I wouldn't mind this so much - except that the whole "taking off your shoes" thing is worse than worthless. By selecting one specific item of clothing to examine - and by announcing that in advance - they are simply wasting their resources, because the ones they should be worried about are not really stupid terrorists who would persist in hiding something bangy in their shoes after all this, but the slightly less stupid ones who would hide then as a backbrace, as the sides of a briefcase or simply as side panels under their arms (because they aren't even seen on the rapescanners).

When I flew out of Korea, they let us know that we had to take our shoes off by presenting us with a little box with (reusable) slippers in it, in a room with seats. Really, how hard would that be to implement?

Above and beyond that is the extremely poor attitude evidenced by the TSA. They treat each and every person as if they're a criminal, or at the very least like an annoyance. I'm a very cheerful person - I'm particularly cheerful when doing things like this because they're a drag and being cheerful speeds it up - but they always treat me like three-day-old meet.

And again, this is not only personally offensive, it impedes their mission. By treating everyone threateningly, they get everyone to tense up, to look guilty and nervous. If they were cheerful and friendly by default, most innocent people would relax, but at least some of the terrorists and smugglers would still look guilty and nervous - because they had something to be guilty and nervous about.

Oh, and the TSA people would simply have a better life, if they weren't being confronted with resentful, frightened people eight hours a day.

The El-Al flight screening uses this technique, to great effect. The reason that the US security doesn't use this technique is dead simple - they aren't really interested in doing a good job, but rather, in pretending to do a good job - security theater.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:08 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oops, that's "three-day-old meat".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:04 AM on July 27, 2013


What are these countries that took you 45 minutes to get through customs? I'm really curious...
posted by lupus_yonderboy 9 hours ago [+]


Last time I entered Italy, via Malpensa airport in Milan, it took me at least that long. I've stood in some pretty long lines at Heathrow as well. Oddly enough, customs at Narita airport in Tokyo tends to be hit-or-miss. I've had times there where I barely broke stride on the line, and other times where I was standing there for the better part of an hour.

None of those, though, are as reliably and regularly crappy as ICE in Atlanta. hour-long waits are the norm there, and that's for a US citizen. The visitors line looks far longer to me.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:08 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even as a childless couple in pretty good health, this is upsetting and stressful. I can't imagine how bad it must be for a person with disabilities

TSA routinely violates own rules and the law to discriminate against people w/disabilities
posted by homunculus at 10:11 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


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