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X-rays for naught
December 19, 2010 3:07 AM   Subscribe

The TSA let a loaded gun get on an airplaine. (also, also, also)
Experts say every year since the September 11 attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert tests of airport security.

A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports. Two weeks ago, TSA's new director said every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners at some airports.
A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago's O'Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.
posted by knz (136 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
As long as humans are involved, it will happen occasionally. As long as poorly paid, poorly motivated humans are involved, it will happen a lot.

Coincidentally, Israel's pay rate, screener education level and detection rates are a lot better.
posted by jaduncan at 3:11 AM on December 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Since the TSA's mandate seems to be "distract the American people by pissing them off," I hardly think "failure" is the word to apply to them this year. They are doing swimmingly. Hmmm. No body checks for swimming yet...
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:20 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


As long as humans are involved, it will happen occasionally. As long as poorly paid, poorly motivated humans are involved, it will happen a lot.

70% is not 'occasionally'.
posted by delmoi at 3:22 AM on December 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


It is, however, 'a lot.'

(I mean, you quoted it and everything...)
posted by Rhaomi at 3:26 AM on December 19, 2010 [51 favorites]


So I was scanning bags on the X-Ray machine, and then Keith elbows me, and he's like `DOOOOOOD, check out this guys micro-penis!' and we totally had to snap a pic and upload it to the TSA subsite on the cheezburger network. I guess that's when the bag came through, but you totally would have missed it 'cause this guys penis, it was hilarious, I mean like 1/4 inch long in the body scan.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:30 AM on December 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


A former co-worker/acquaintance posted this as his status earlier today:
F*!K I just realized that after my bag went through extra screening my $500 ultimate ears headphones are no longer in it. That makes the 5th time I've been robbed by these great people protecting us from terrorism! Oh and they totally missed the knife in my bag while busily robbing me.
So yeah... if that's true, and with the FPP links, then basically the TSA is little more than a socialist job-works program for kleptomaniacs and sex offenders, with free reign to thieve, fondle, and molest a spineless American flying public.
posted by hincandenza at 3:33 AM on December 19, 2010 [27 favorites]


Not only do TSA employees steal shit from people, they don't always go to jail for it:

TSA Worker Avoids Prison After Stealing Travelers' Laptops
posted by Mikey-San at 3:39 AM on December 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


"basically the TSA is little more than a socialist job-works program for kleptomaniacs and sex offenders, with free reign to thieve, fondle, and molest a spineless American flying public."
Hyperbole like that doesn't make a compelling argument.....
posted by HuronBob at 3:41 AM on December 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


That's what's called a 40-caliber fuckup.
posted by bwg at 3:46 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Proving once again that Bruce Schneier was and is right: "Counterterrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better," he said. "Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers."
posted by Zonker at 3:52 AM on December 19, 2010 [49 favorites]


Coincidentally, Israel's pay rate, screener education level and detection rates are a lot better.

Yawn. It seems ridiculous to compare a country of 6 million people and a half-dozen airports to a still somewhat free country of 300+ million.

As intrusive as physical searches are, I will be damned if I would subject myself to an "interrogation" demanding that I explain why I am going to Pittsburgh, who I am going to meet there, and for what purpose. Touch my junk if you must, but stay the hell out of my personal business.
posted by three blind mice at 3:52 AM on December 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


three blind mice: "Touch my junk if you must, but stay the hell out of my personal business."

I mean, you're kidding, right?
posted by dancestoblue at 4:07 AM on December 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


Touche my junk if you must- the new hit song by DJ Spin-0-Za!
posted by nola at 4:29 AM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, and is Obama doing anything to stop it? It's not like we need Congress to approve an end to security theater, right?
posted by JHarris at 4:39 AM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Touche my junk if you must- the new hit song by DJ Spin-0-Za!

touch my junk if you must
but you better not ask me why
i'm going to pittsburgh or kalamazoo
you gotta just let me fly
you can put your hands between my legs
but i ain't saying a word
cause the country is still at least somewhat free
at least that's what i heard
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:45 AM on December 19, 2010 [69 favorites]


JHarris, was the introduction of the new scanners ordered by congress, or was it a TSA decision? I understood that it was the latter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:47 AM on December 19, 2010


Yeah, 3bm, that is an awfully strange scope of "personal business".
posted by cavalier at 4:56 AM on December 19, 2010


Separately, if you can "forget" you have a loaded gun, maybe you shouldn't have a gun.
posted by Shebear at 4:58 AM on December 19, 2010 [31 favorites]


"As intrusive as physical searches are, I will be damned if I would subject myself to an "interrogation" demanding that I explain why I am going to Pittsburgh, who I am going to meet there, and for what purpose. Touch my junk if you must, but stay the hell out of my personal business."

What do you think is involved in paying smarter people well that would entail this? Whatever system you have, it will work best if the people involved are high quality. Paying high turnover staff low wages to review images will result in the people who cannot get a higher paid job staying.

Please also note that the Israeli system is not based around the specific questions asked, it is based around your reaction to the questions, and being placed in a stress situation. Much the same thing happens when luggage+people are passed through the scanner. Having a smart person watch the behaviour of others at that point would add no questions.
posted by jaduncan at 5:00 AM on December 19, 2010


TSA has nothing to do with security, and everything with security theater.

No surprise then when it appears they don't actually provide any security, right? The theater bit seems to be doing fine..
posted by DreamerFi at 5:08 AM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is it too late to say the TSA can kiss my arse? After they've finished feeling it up, naturally. I like a bit of foreplay.
posted by Decani at 5:15 AM on December 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Freud was a prophet.
posted by telstar at 5:26 AM on December 19, 2010


Thanks flapjax at midnite. That was good.

I don't mind being frisked. To me this is no big deal at all. It takes 15 seconds and I am on my way. Sure I was pissed the first time when I was 15 and the security guy

Being forced to explain to some government stooge why I am traveling, who I am meeting, what credit card I used to pay for my hotel room, etc. - by some amateur sleuth "to test my reaction" seems far more intrusive and time consuming and irritating and useless.

"I get nervous when I talk to the police."

"Of course you do, George. You know who doesn't get nervous? Criminals."

As long as I am permitted to reply "None of your fucking business" without being hauled into the backroom for three hours of more intensive "questioning" I guess I could live with it. But that's not how it works in Israel is it?
posted by three blind mice at 5:35 AM on December 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Hyperbole like that doesn't make a compelling argument.....

Which is why those who defend pornoscanning and shampoo-confiscating as the only line of defense between us and the slavering Muslim hordes who hate our freedom, never use hyperbole to make their case.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:36 AM on December 19, 2010 [19 favorites]


Yeah, and is Obama doing anything to stop it?

This is a virtually unstoppable machine now. The President of the United States of America is simply not powerful enough to stand up to the beast.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:37 AM on December 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sure I was pissed the first time when I was 15 and the security guy at the old Spectrum in Philly found the flask I was trying to sneak in under my shirt, but I got over it.
posted by three blind mice at 5:38 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Look, this is simply human error," Conway said. "When something like this happens, it's human error. I mean, these folks are doing the best job they can."

And that, sir, is just the problem.
posted by Skeptic at 5:40 AM on December 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is a virtually unstoppable machine now. The President of the United States of America is simply not powerful enough to stand up to the beast.

This is.. alarmingly self defeatist... unless you were intending this as a parody? It's a federal program. He's the POTUS. He has the authority to do this, if he has the stones of course.
posted by cavalier at 5:40 AM on December 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thus spake jaduncan: "As long as humans are involved, it will happen occasionally. As long as poorly paid, poorly motivated humans are involved, it will happen a lot."

And adding automation and technology will not change this.
posted by sidereal at 5:49 AM on December 19, 2010


Look at the big picture.

As I've said in other threads, these measures are not effective against terrorists, but they are very effective in controlling the movement of large groups of people, and getting them used to subservience in the name of security.

If you look at what they're actually doing, as opposed to what they're saying, and presume that the authorities are at least minimally competent, the conclusion is an easy one to reach.

It's not about stopping terrorism, it's about stopping you, should you step out of line.

Think about how frightening a US airport would be if you were Julian Assange.

Toe the line, citizen.
posted by Malor at 6:06 AM on December 19, 2010 [67 favorites]



Think about how frightening a US airport would be if you were Julian Assange.


There's a joke to be made there about groping, I think.

The whole security theater thing makes me really angry. It's so obviously not functional as security, but the theater is incredibly powerful and I don't see a clear endpoint to the escalation.
posted by Forktine at 6:14 AM on December 19, 2010


"Authorities tell ABC News the incident is not uncommon, but how often it occurs is a closely guarded government secret."

... and that's why we need wikileaks, in a nutshell.
posted by mhoye at 6:20 AM on December 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'll just leave this here...
posted by dougrayrankin at 6:21 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe all those TSA agents are just looking for the remnants of what America used to be. No one else has been able to find it, so checking suitcases and underwear can't hurt.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:30 AM on December 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports.

Okay. So, the TSA isn't very good at keeping firearms off airplanes. Also, checked bags are inadequately screened, ground crew aren't screened at all, and we have about 30000 flights a day in the US. Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years? No hidden agenda here; I'm genuinely mystified.


Think about how frightening a US airport would be if you were Julian Assange.

Proposal: a new metric for FPPs, based on the number of comments before Julian Assange is mentioned.
posted by steambadger at 6:33 AM on December 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Maybe all those TSA agents are just looking for the remnants of what America used to be.

We've all come to look for America.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today

Oh my god, quick, find the person and arrest them for leaking Sensitive Government Documents!
Also: It shows how lousy CNN etc is now when USA Today is the preferred choice.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


As long as I am permitted to reply "None of your fucking business" without being hauled into the backroom for three hours of more intensive "questioning" I guess I could live with it.

Something tells me you've never told a TSA agent anything like that.

Have you ever been pulled aside for random screening by TSA? They ask you questions like that. Once when that happened to me I told the guy, "None of your business." The TSA people really do not like it when you tell them that, and I didn't say "fucking." I didn't get hauled into a back room, but I did get checked far more thoroughly and spent quite a bit more time with the infuriated agent, who now wanted to make a point with me and teach me a lesson. If I didn't apologize, I imagine I would have gone into a back room somewhere.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:47 AM on December 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


Coincidentally, Israel's pay rate, screener education level and detection rates are a lot better.

All of the airports in Israel, combined, get less commercial passenger air traffic than Portland International Airport in Oregon.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 6:50 AM on December 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


This OMG FAILURE GUNS KNIVES SLIPPING THROUGH is actually part of the plan. Did you know that? True story. Because all these weapons are slipping through the already absurd levels of security theatre, clearly we need more security theatre! Who the fuck is going to argue against even more redongulous intrusive and bullshit inspections infections and rejections at the airport and other transportation centres because oh my god guns knives and look at that guy's tiny penis.

Enjoy the show, folks! You're paying for it, might as well.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:52 AM on December 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


why we have not had a successful attack Perhaps because a would-be perp did not realize how easy it would be to pull off an attack because he had not read these stats. Additionally, perhaps, with covert spying on the net, emails, etc potential crazies have been either scared or tracked or caught. If we look to jihadists caught in various European countries, we can assume that one or more of them just might have tried to hit an American bound plane.
posted by Postroad at 6:53 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


All of the airports in Israel, combined, get less commercial passenger air traffic than Portland International Airport in Oregon

It's a matter of proportion. Are you telling me that we have enough resources to throw all this money at the problem, to put up scanners and hire fleets of incompetent thugs to grope us at will at airports all over the country, and we don't have the resources to instead hire less people who would be fully qualified as screeners, and who would do their jobs efficiently and without pissing everyone off? I don't buy it. I think they know what they're saying when they're telling us we're doing it wrong, and to dismiss it is willful ignorance.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:05 AM on December 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


why we have not had a successful attack Perhaps because a would-be perp did not realize how easy it would be to pull off an attack because he had not read these stats. Additionally, perhaps, with covert spying on the net, emails, etc potential crazies have been either scared or tracked or caught. If we look to jihadists caught in various European countries, we can assume that one or more of them just might have tried to hit an American bound plane.

Or perhaps the threat is not as big as we've been led to believe.
posted by mazola at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2010 [30 favorites]


.
So the moral of this story is that if you want to get a BOMB onto an aircraft, best to hide it inside of a GUN.
posted by DavidandConquer at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


My husband's Droid has image detection. It knows what a cat looks like. Why on earth can't they have image detection in the TSA machines? You'd still have human eyes on everything, but if an alert goes off, a human has to double-check the bag.
posted by desjardins at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


It seems pretty obvious at this point that the National Security State totally owns the political system. About the only difference in attitude coming from pols is cheerleading or sullen silence.
posted by warbaby at 7:21 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


This OMG FAILURE GUNS KNIVES SLIPPING THROUGH is actually part of the plan. Did you know that? True story.

While that may be the case, there is nothing to be gained by never testing the effectiveness of this system, to see if the measures we're using are working. Just because it can be twisted into an unhelpful mandate is no reason to pretend like it doesn't matter whether TSA works or not, or if their goals are even achievable given their methods.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:21 AM on December 19, 2010


All of the airports in Israel, combined, get less commercial passenger air traffic than Portland International Airport in Oregon.

So you're saying that we should train and pay TSA people even more than their Israeli counterparts.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:22 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


We have not had a successful terrorist attack on board an airplane since 9/11 because they made their point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:25 AM on December 19, 2010 [28 favorites]


Maybe all those TSA agents are just looking for the remnants of what America used to be. No one else has been able to find it, so checking suitcases and underwear can't hurt.

a nation surrounded by oceans and thus invulnerable and able to use it's vast military might without any fear of consequence for it's citizens?
posted by ennui.bz at 7:26 AM on December 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Postroad, even before this report came out, it was no secret that our airport security was pathetically ineffective. I don't think it's likely that a man who was prepared to blow up a plane and kill himself in the process would be terrible frightened by the prospect of getting caught; and while we've arrested or killed a number of jihadis, we're told there are thousands more of them out there, waiting for the chance to do us harm. Why are almost none of them successful? Israel has tighter security than we do, and they couldn't stop the Palestinians from setting off suicide bombs during the second Intifada; nor could the Brits stop the PLO during the Troubles. Given that one well-timed airline disaster (or half-a-dozen mall bombings) would likely bring our economy to its knees, I'm really mystified that we seem to have had so few serious attempts.
posted by steambadger at 7:33 AM on December 19, 2010


Being as all the fuss and money and technology stops neither weapons nor small explosives onto planes, why can't they just ratchet security back 80% or more and have air marshals on a greater margin (perhaps all) flights? I wonder how many salaries one of those x-ray machines would cover.

Even a 50% chance of armed resistance on a plane would be a decent deterrent, I'd have thought.
posted by Brockles at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2010


Malor: "As I've said in other threads, these measures are not effective against terrorists, but they are very effective in controlling the movement of large groups of people, and getting them used to subservience in the name of security.

If you look at what they're actually doing, as opposed to what they're saying, and presume that the authorities are at least minimally competent, the conclusion is an easy one to reach.
"


And it's *MALOR*, in for the win! As usual...
posted by dancestoblue at 7:39 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was it maybe because the undercover agents didn't have boobs that they weren't searched. If so, there's at least something to be said for consistency. What it says, I do not know...
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2010


Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years?

Maybe the threat is exaggerated.

Maybe there aren't that many people who are so into blowing up American airliners as we think.

Maybe there ARE as many people who are into blowing up American airliners as we think, but they aren't so into it as to actually DO it.

I think the fact that we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in 10 years, despite the fact that (as this report proves) it's easy to smuggle guns and weapons onto planes, demonstrates the absence of any significant threat.
posted by Faze at 7:49 AM on December 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years?

Alright I realize this line's been thrown around a lot in the thread already, but are you serious? I have no way to explain this other that suggesting you watch the episode of The Simpsons about the Bear Patrol.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years?

Why do they need to put the time, effort and money into it? Why do they even need to bother when every single time someone gets on a plane and every time something hits the news with the TSA bullshit, people are actively thinking and being scared about a terrorist attack. It's remained in the forefront of the nation's conscious.

The impact of a terrorist attack is just as valid if the majority of the populace is scared that it may happen to them. 9/11 was, from a terrorist perspective, an extremely efficient investment as it not only caused a massive impact at the time but the fear from it has prevailed for the best part of a decade. I'm sure the result has exceeded their wildest dreams.
posted by Brockles at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years?

My guess is that there is no need so it would be a waste of resources for terror organizations to dedicate their best people to successfully pulling off another 9/11 at this point. It's much easier and plenty effective to occasionally provide one of their dumb-but-dedicated members instructions and materials. The US and its allies will be terrorized whether or not the plots succeed, so mission accomplished. If anyone does manage to blow up a plain, the terrorist leadership probably see it as a bonus.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:21 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


All of the airports in Israel, combined, get less commercial passenger air traffic than Portland International Airport in Oregon.


I want to point out that the Israeli screening takes place at the origin airports as well. When you fly to TLV from JFK, you'll be questioned in JFK. This means that the security provisions aren't local and straightforward to manage, but a complicated international operation that the US could try to imitate.
posted by milestogo at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really mystified that we seem to have had so few serious attempts.

I'm not, because the threat is bullshit. Terrorism is an infinitesimal blip in the lives of Americans. The government pimps terrorism because Communism is gone. It needs a new other. Any halfway competent terrorist group could cripple the US economy in an afternoon: send suicide bombers into the security lines at airports. Because this hasn't happened, nor anything like it, the only conclusion I can come to is the terrorist threat is complete and utter shit.

Let's look at the excuse presented for using the AIT machines. A man tried to blow up a plane using a bomb sewn into his underwear. I suggest everyone reads the Wikipedia article. Our intelligence system massively failed. Again. And again, anyone who travels in the US now has to put up with this absurd security theater because our intelligence system failed.

A man whose father had turned him into the US embassy as an Islamic radical and who was placed on a secret terrorist watch list was allowed to board a plane without a passport, paying in cash for a one way ticket to the US with no luggage. Are you fucking kidding me? All we need is a neon sign flashing "terrorist" while the guy screams "death to America" and then the FBI, CIA, and TSA can just say "mistakes were made."

This isn't security. It's a make work program incompetent people and a way to pacify the American people.
posted by ryoshu at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2010 [42 favorites]


...are you serious?

Pretty serious, yeah. I think the people who've replied so far are probably right, and there really aren't thousands of people out there with the kind of dedicated fanaticism required to commit mass murder. But I wanted to see if anybody had another plausible explanation.
posted by steambadger at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2010


Hmm. This TSA thing is really getting out of hand, and it's hard not to see that, from where I sit. Can the genie be put back in the bottle now? I dunno.

The TSA was created through an act of congress (history here on their own site). They operate under the authority of the creepily named Department of Homeland Security.

Congress has at least in some cases apparently given DHS broad discretionary authority to supersede existing state and Federal laws (for example: see here). As I understand it, that means the executive isn't solely in charge of DHS. In fact, I don't know how this turned out, but this analysis on the DHS site of some legislation under consideration in 2002, specifically warns that if the measure passes (don't know if it did or not), the office of the President would not have the same amount of authority over the Department of Homeland Security that it has traditionally had over national security:
Both the original Lieberman bill and the Breaux-Nelson-Chafee proposal significantly weaken the President's existing national security authority as it would apply to the proposed Department of Homeland Security -- the very department charged with helping to ensure the security of the American people. Simply put, the President would have less national security authority in the Department of Homeland Security than he has in every other department and agency.
Any of you diligent Civil Rights activists out there know whether or not in fact it is the case that the president doesn't in fact have less authority over DHS than over any other department or agency?

Or do you not really care or think it matters either way when it comes to the decision of how much we heap our scorn on the POTUS?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, anyway, anybody know what happened with the legislation described above back in 2002?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2010


Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years? No hidden agenda here; I'm genuinely mystified.

It's been said by now, but the reason is that there is a vanishingly tiny number of suicidal terrorists in the world with the wherewithal to get themselves on a US airliner at all, and most of them are incompetent boobs. The threat doesn't really exist, in a meaningful way.
posted by rusty at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2010


urk... "that the president doesn'tdoes in fact have less authority over DHS than over any other department or agency?"
posted by saulgoodman at 8:44 AM on December 19, 2010


Given all that: does anybody have a good guess why we haven't had a successful attack on an airliner in ten years? No hidden agenda here; I'm genuinely mystified.

Because there actually aren't all that many people who are both willing to blow themselves up in the name of Global Jihad or whatever, and also capable of obtaining, smuggling onboard, and successfully detonating a bomb in the US. I'd argue that the two factors tend to have a negative correlation: people who want to blow themselves up probably tend to not be into a lot of long-term planning or probably very stable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:52 AM on December 19, 2010


I've unintentionally flown with a box cutter in my bag like 3 times now. Security never caught it and I didn't realize it until I was at my destination and changed my pants the next day. They did confiscate a bottle of smart water from me (unopened) and some suntan lotion.
posted by youthenrage at 8:57 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, did that legislation only relate to collective bargaining, or did it nominally relate only to collective bargaining rights but in practical effect, essentially make the DHS an autonomous, functionally independent entity within the executive?

My point really is just this: how much authority does the POTUS currently have over DHS? I mean, obviously he gets to appoint the nominal head of the agency (subject to congressional approval). But how much power do the congressional committees have in practice? And to what extent is DHS authorized to act autonomously or independent of executive oversight? I don't know, but if we really want to fix this, it seems to me we need to have a clear understanding of how exactly this knot is tied. I think DHS may be a special case in any number of respects in terms of how the authority over it is structured and exercised.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:58 AM on December 19, 2010


The US is clearly not, right now, a dictatorship. However, as Malor correctly points out, it has installed every possible modern convenience for such a dictatorship. Complete information awarenesss, subservient telcoms, media and banks, and above all a population who have willingly surrendered their fourth amendment rights. Should someone decide to flip the switch tomorrow, they're gonna find the house all warmed up and the fridge full.
posted by unSane at 8:59 AM on December 19, 2010 [44 favorites]


I have a colleague who carries a lighter with her every time she flies. She just sticks it inside a pack of cigarettes.
posted by steambadger at 9:04 AM on December 19, 2010


Like others here, I've accidentally flown with knives many times. Before 2001, they were never noticed by security. Since 2001, my experience has been that the accidental knives are found about 50% of the time. That's better than the 70% failure rate listed above, but then again I wasn't trying to sneak the knives on board, they were just left in backpack pockets and the like.
posted by Forktine at 9:14 AM on December 19, 2010


It's not about stopping terrorism, it's about stopping you, should you step out of line.

This, a million times. It is intended to retrain the social underclass, ie. you and yours.

Those with their own aircraft, ie. not you do not put up with this shit.

If your wealth isn't in the eight figures, you are a piss-poor lower-class peon. In the eyes of those in power, you're indistinguishable from the tattered homeless begger you pass on the way to work.

Learn your place in this society. Get in line, get groped, and stay silent. Do not protest, do not cause upset, do not dare to seek change.

It's the new caste system.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:21 AM on December 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


How do we know this even happened. This guy called the TSA afterwards and said "hey, i brought a gun on the plane". Maybe he did, maybe he's just looking for some fame. There are lots of problems with the TSA and what's being done in the name of security, but I don't find this story particularly credible.

If it really happened, why didn't he get in trouble for carrying a firearm on a plane. That's not legal, is it? I mean, shouldn't he be in the clink even if it was an accident? I thought that ignorance of the law was no excuse.
posted by askmehow at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2010


I have a colleague who carries a lighter with her every time she flies. She just sticks it inside a pack of cigarettes.

You aren't supposed to have lighters? I carry one every time too, how else would I light up after going through all the bullshit. They get my toothpaste every time though, I like to think if they catch you with something they feel superior and don't mess with you anymore.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I try really hard to avoid the airport when at all possible. I always seem to be the one they pick to fuck with. Recently flying out of O'Hare, I was pulled aside, my cell phone and kindle were taken and wiped down with something, I had to take all of the hairpins out of my hair....because I have waist length hair that I'd put into a bun for travel. Even though nothing was confiscated, and I had done nothing wrong, they fucked with me for 20 minutes trying to find something, I guess. "Why was I in Chicago, why was I flying today, what did I intend to do once I got to DFW"...it was crazy.

In the end, I had to wear my hair down; they kept my little bejeweled hair pins. I guess my threat vector is so high because middle aged housewives from the prairie are likely to take down a plane using nothing but the Mom Voice and a deadly pair of bobby pins.

Fear me and my 1337 accessories.
posted by dejah420 at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


You aren't supposed to have lighters?

Apparently, that's been changed -- lighters are no longer dangerous, for some reason. My friend has been carrying them on the whole time, though. There was a period when you couldn't bring lighters, but you could bring matches. Go figure.
posted by steambadger at 9:49 AM on December 19, 2010


I'm the first to notice: airplaine?
posted by mnemonic at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The TSA seems to devote a disproportionate amount of energy to lighter-related policy (note that torch lighters are still banned).
posted by box at 10:00 AM on December 19, 2010


There's been a lot of obstruction of appointing leadership at TSA, so that's probably part of the problem: Until June of 2010, Republicans were still blocking the appointment of anyone to lead the TSA.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:02 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those of you who were caught accidentally carrying knives: were you ever charged with a crime? Someone I know was charged with a felony for carrying a ceremonial knife on a plane (he got a suspended sentence, but it's on his record and affects him getting a job).
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2010


undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts

Hmm, they should have been more careful about that job ad: "Officers needed to enforce LAX security".
posted by logopetria at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


@ dejah: I too have waist length hair. When I traveled by plane, I used to braid it either in micro braids or anywhere from 5-7 big braids. No bejewed hair-pins. I have never even been told to take my scarf off! I bag all my bling, and since my earrings and ring are silver, same goes for my nose ring, I usually coud keep them on. Now my RFD blocking wallet always sets off the detector.

TSA people have been suspicious of the Chill Pad for my lap top, once I explained what it was they were o.k. about it. I just don't carry stuff like toothpaste or shampoo anymore. I get travel sizes when I get there instead.
The worst part of travel for me is the fact most of the available food in flight is terrible for me. Not tastewise but it has stuff I can't eat. I usually order Kosher.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:26 AM on December 19, 2010


steambadger: [...] nor could the Brits stop the PLO during the Troubles.

What were the Brits stopping the Palestine Liberation Organisation from doing during the Troubles in Northern Ireland? Or do you mean the Irish Republican Army (in its various guises) or IRA?

(I mean, the PLO wasn't founded until 1964, at which point the British Mandate in Palestine was history, so there's no beef there, and I've never heard that particular conflict referred to as the Troubles...)
posted by Dysk at 10:49 AM on December 19, 2010


I have a friend who did this. He realized it while at the gate and went back and told security. Yes, he got in big trouble for it - I think fines were invovled. He should have just walked away like nothing happened.
posted by tomplus2 at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


dejah wow I would be so pissed! those little sparkly hairpins are not cheap, what a ridiculous thing to focus on, you sound like a very very dangerous mom!!
posted by supermedusa at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2010


"Who the hell carries around a 40 caliber Glock for 'protection'?" I thought to myself. "Farid Seif better be a character out of some long lost USA Network show."

Turns out, Farid Seif is the CEO of an energy-industry corporation called DuTemp, whose motto is "We manage the world." Seems they do business in Iraq, Panama, and Colombia.

So, carry on, Mr. Seif. Just do a favor, and let me know when your episode of Burn NCIS Psych Notice is going to air.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:12 AM on December 19, 2010


Have you ever been pulled aside for random screening by TSA? They ask you questions like that. Once when that happened to me I told the guy, "None of your business." The TSA people really do not like it when you tell them that, and I didn't say "fucking."

Yeah, they tend not to like it if you do anything out of the ordinary. I'm pretty sure using a profanity is a surefire recipe for "extra-special" consideration. That could be anything from missing your flight to, hey, who the hell knows?
posted by blucevalo at 11:37 AM on December 19, 2010


Since 2001, my experience has been that the accidental knives are found about 50% of the time.

I once had a forgotten Leatherman Wave in my briefcase during a trip to Amsterdam. They found it on the way back, but not on the way out.

No charges were brought, but I had to dump it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:53 AM on December 19, 2010


The folks at the Flyertalk security thread are on top of this issue, know their rights, and our at the forefront of trying to get us out of security theater and into something that actually works.
posted by Xurando at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apparently bear spray is OK. I've accidentally left it in my purse for my last three flights and no one has said anything at security. I did have my NyQuil tossed, however.
posted by Kloryne at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, they take away my toothpaste because....
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:09 PM on December 19, 2010


What were the Brits stopping the Palestine Liberation Organisation from doing during the Troubles in Northern Ireland? Or do you mean the Irish Republican Army (in its various guises) or IRA?

Yes, sorry, brain fart. IRA.
posted by steambadger at 12:11 PM on December 19, 2010


Who wants pancakes?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:18 PM on December 19, 2010


There is zero evidence that any of this is meant to be security theater.

Snark and conspiracy theories aren't evidence.
posted by gjc at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2010


The is zero evidence that this is supposed to improve security; indeed, there is evidence that it harms security.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:54 PM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


While the United States remains a police state, "the terrorists" have little reason to strike. They hate your freedom, but you don't have any right now so you're fine.
posted by doublehappy at 1:07 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


When you have a massive terrorist action, like 9-11, and you make massive, decades-long, intrusive, expensive security measures mandatory, and if none of those security measures would have stopped the original attack that caused the furor then the true object of the whole effort seems pretty questionable. Or seems more theatrical than serious.

I have lots of republican friends (tea party even, but mostly regular conservative folks) and I have TONS of whacked out leftie friends, and NONE of them supports the build-up of security theatre. Who, exactly, is in favor of this? I know a fairly broad spectrum of people, and I don't know anyone who even pretends to think it's a good or effective idea. Everyone thinks it's fake and useless and stupid. Who supports this?
posted by umberto at 1:23 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The terrorists don't give a shit about your freedom. They would like you to get your tanks off their and their friends' lawns, mostly.
posted by unSane at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've been really disappointed at the lack of imagination the terrorists have shown lately. I mean, hell, all you have to do is leave an empty box lying around in an airport, and they'll shut the whole thing down. Do it once or twice a week in major airports, and you'd bring the West to its knees - or rather, the West's own security would.
posted by Xoebe at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've accidentally flown with knives many times

Why is it always people like you who are in line ahead of me at the security screen? You and the people wearing 10 lbs of jewelry.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2010


My family has a dog named Sadie. Every day the postman comes and Sadie barks at him. Sometimes door to day salespeople, or evangelists, or whoever else come and Sadie barks at them, too. It works: the postman, salespeople, and evangelists always go away. The house is protected.
posted by NoraReed at 2:13 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The TSA is who supports this; I am sad that this secrit project has been uncovered so soon. I just haven't yet figured out if it was the left or right plan.

(L)
Dear America, we tried to make all you guys like art. We tried to show you how cool it was, and we even embedded it in a control freak set of circumstances- for those who hate sitting in a theatre, but love trading security for a free groping and freedom.
Sorry you guys couldn't just wait it out till all the right wingers started to understand how awesome the theatre is... see, the theatre was not getting many Right Wing supporters; so we tried to make a Theatre space that they could dig... thanks for ruining everything lefties.

(R)
Dear America, we tried to make theatre and performance art as repugnant as possible to people on the left, they were always spending lots of money on NEA, and things like that, and, as people who prefer military spending to creativity spending, we wanted to fully wed these two fields... we were trying to create a military-security-theatrical industrial complex that the "progressives" would have to support. We also wanted to destroy all support for all things "theatre" in exchange for security theatre. Thanks for ruining everything and teaming up with the Lefties in anti-TSA sentiment, Teapartiers.

We were so close to succeeding; Sincerely,
Theatre and Stage Agency of America
posted by infinite intimation at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2010


Seriously tsa? So your imagination that people might manage to compress something other than pure air in a cartridge (that they put in a life vest!) is that limited? Under "Disabling Chemicals & Other Dangerous Items"
Small compressed gas cartridges
(Up to 2 in life vests and 2 spares. The spares must accompany the life vests and
(sic) presented as one unit) carry onYes checkedYes

I won't rest easy till no one can bring neat stuff on planes!
posted by infinite intimation at 3:04 PM on December 19, 2010


TSA is the macrocellular equivalent of an autoimmune disorder.
posted by Eideteker at 3:16 PM on December 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


milestogo: "
I want to point out that the Israeli screening takes place at the origin airports as well. When you fly to TLV from JFK, you'll be questioned in JFK. This means that the security provisions aren't local and straightforward to manage, but a complicated international operation that the US could try to imitate
"

El Al security is like this. I have flown between the UK and Israel a number of times recently. Generally I have flown El Al, which was as you describe. Most recently I flew EasyJet. I was not subject to any questioning on the UK side and only perfunctory efforts on the Israeli side. I guess terrorist don't fly pleb class.
posted by Jakey at 3:28 PM on December 19, 2010


The TSA seems to devote a disproportionate amount of energy to lighter-related policy (note that torch lighters are still banned).

From the FAQ:
Q. Does your lighter need to be in a baggie since it contains liquid?
A. No. TSA's common-sense approach harmonizes with worldwide standards for lighters.

bwhahahahhahahahha.
posted by zephyr_words at 3:28 PM on December 19, 2010


"All of the airports in Israel, combined, get less commercial passenger air traffic than Portland International Airport in Oregon."

Yes! And that is why we must claim that security screeners must be less well educated and well paid! By the same logic I would expect that the mechanics in the USA would be paid almost nothing and the planes keep on falling out of the sky. But wait, no, they are paid well and work to a high standard because...mmm, people actually care. It's not that the TSA has to be underpaid and high-turnover, it's just that nobody really cares about the standards attained.
posted by jaduncan at 3:44 PM on December 19, 2010



Why is it always people like you who are in line ahead of me at the security screen?


You would think discovering a Dangerous Bladed Weapon at a security checkpoint would be a big deal, right? Like, you might want to add that person to your database of Possibly Dangerous People who attempt such things, or take them off for questioning, or something.

Instead, my experience has been that I look embarrassed, they laugh, and the knife is taken away to wherever it goes, and on to my flight I go.
posted by Forktine at 4:13 PM on December 19, 2010


Touch my junk.
Feel the purple headed trouser snake
that dangles down my pant leg.
See my club card and my one k status
I've got a big swinging dick to pound that stewardess' ass
I've been all around the world from LAX
And this enourmous purple monster is bigger than the rest
Touch my junk mr TSA,
tell your cousin all about it
While you blow him in the driveway.
Now I ain't saying there anything wrong with that
I'm just saying you'll want to remark
That you'd rather have my dick behind you in the dark
Touch it, Yo, come here and touch my junk. Feel it.
posted by humanfont at 4:16 PM on December 19, 2010


Deviant Ollam, you might know him from the infosec / security community, gave a good talk at the recent Dojocon conference on security theater, security in general, and how badly the TSA is doing it wrong. Here's his talk. Warning: He curses a lot, but it's a good talk. I've already made most of my family and friends watch it.
posted by cloax at 4:33 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've lost two pocket knives to the TSA so far. Both times I flew out of the NYC area with no issues and it was picked up in a smaller airport on the way home. I think that has something to do with volume. Newark and JFK are never not crowded, and they need to get people through. I time my home flights for the least crowded time possible, and they're smaller airports, so...

I usually put my hair up with metal sticks, except when I fly, and I do braids. I just didn't want to deal with some minimum wage drone not being able to get why I need metal to hold my hair. They're like short, thick knitting needles - they have to be legal, but why argue. (For those of you who don't have long hair - wood and plastic tend to break after being used for a while.) My hairsticks make it through x-ray in my bag fine though - I bet they look like pens.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:38 PM on December 19, 2010


So yeah... if that's true, and with the FPP links, then basically the TSA is little more than a socialist job-works program for kleptomaniacs and sex offenders, with free reign to thieve, fondle, and molest a spineless American flying public.

They stole copies of my books (i.e. books I wrote, not books that merely belonged to me) from my luggage on the way to a tradeshow cross-country. Books I NEEDED in order to conduct business.

You have never had a longer or more pointless conversation with anyone, EVER. They can steal with impunity because they know no one's going to go through the ridiculously long and drawn out process of filing for a reimbursement. It took me nearly the entire drive from LAX to San Diego just to get the stupid ass on the other end of the phone to allow that perhaps, in fact, they HAD stolen my stuff and she might possibly be persuaded to send me the proper paperwork to file a complaint.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:02 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


What will it take for the TSA to start letting us keep our shoes on again? That particular security charade drives me up the fcking wall.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:18 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


indeed, there is evidence that it harms security.

Cite?
posted by gjc at 6:55 PM on December 19, 2010


Bruce Scheiner. Inform yourself.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:01 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems pretty obvious at this point that the National Security State totally owns the political system.

I don't think this is the case. However, once set in place a security apparatus like TSA is pretty damn hard to remove. Even if you could make the case that we need something like that, surely it would only be necessary for a temporary period. Instead, it's been in place for nearly a decade, and it gets worse by increments. Worse yet, the rules for what is allowed and what is verboten are the very definition of Kafkaesque. It's almost as if it's set up as an impossible obstacle course, where almost everyone eventually inevitably fails to follow some facet of the rules as precisely as was necessary at that time according to that particular TSA agent, and how the rules are enforced is always determined on the fly by people who are poorly trained at best.

So, we have a system where arbitrary justice is meted out by people who shouldn't be making those types of decisions at all, but somehow they are given this latitude and regularly abuse it. But instead of treating the issue of terrorism like an intelligence problem, our government approached this like a police/military issue to placate people's fears, and so we get "cops" who act with impunity instead of real "agents" who are paid well and act in the interest of the people, no matter what title they give them. I don't think they own the system, but it's the nature of power to protect itself, and a security apparatus like that is not going to be dismantled easily by anyone who could make the difference right now, even though it would totally make sense economically and be a no-brainer, bi-partisan political win. It always seems like a great idea for the would-be hero running for office to say we should dismantle the police state powers, until she is given the choice to use it or put it down.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:28 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


gjc; your posts in this thread are indistinguishable from irony. Please do some basic reading to answer your questions. Bruce Schneier is an excellent place to start.

In short, security theater is not hyperbole, it's a technical term for the class of activity that TSA happens to be involved in - doing something for the sake of doing it when it's been proven ineffective.

This is harmful because it's a waste of resources that could be used on more effective activities.
posted by odinsdream at 7:33 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This may be useful (disclaimer: I made it): http://bit.ly/tsarights (pdf)
posted by saizai at 10:49 PM on December 19, 2010


This is a virtually unstoppable machine now. The President of the United States of America is simply not powerful enough to stand up to the beast.

I honestly can't tell if this is supposed to be serious or sarcastic. I hope it's the latter.
posted by John Cohen at 10:53 PM on December 19, 2010


No, John, it's serious.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:41 AM on December 20, 2010


This may be useful (disclaimer: I made it): http://bit.ly/tsarights (pdf)

That's not really a disclaimer... more a "claimer".

posted by doublehappy at 3:17 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


gjc; your posts in this thread are indistinguishable from irony. Please do some basic reading to answer your questions. Bruce Schneier is an excellent place to start.
Bruce Schneier's website appears to be a blog containing rants about technology. There is nothing on there that shows that airport security has reduced security aboard aircraft. Again, cite please. All you have to do is link to a study.
In short, security theater is not hyperbole, it's a technical term for the class of activity that TSA happens to be involved in - doing something for the sake of doing it when it's been proven ineffective.
Proven ineffective how?

A 70% failure rate is not ineffective, it is 30% effective.
posted by gjc at 4:06 AM on December 20, 2010


gjc, a friendly word of advice. If you are going up against Bruce Schneier on security matters you are doing it wrong.
posted by unSane at 4:30 AM on December 20, 2010


unSane, I can't believe you stopped that. It was about to be somewhat amusing.
posted by jaduncan at 5:13 AM on December 20, 2010


A 70% failure rate is not ineffective, it is 30% effective.

ergo, we have foiled 30% of the terrorist attacks on aircraft for the past decade...soooooo, what does that make the "real" threat?
posted by DavidandConquer at 5:27 AM on December 20, 2010


Forktine writes "Like others here, I've accidentally flown with knives many times. Before 2001, they were never noticed by security. Since 2001, my experience has been that the accidental knives are found about 50% of the time. That's better than the 70% failure rate listed above, but then again I wasn't trying to sneak the knives on board, they were just left in backpack pockets and the like."

And

Forktine writes "You would think discovering a Dangerous Bladed Weapon at a security checkpoint would be a big deal, right? Like, you might want to add that person to your database of Possibly Dangerous People who attempt such things, or take them off for questioning, or something. Instead, my experience has been that I look embarrassed, they laugh, and the knife is taken away to wherever it goes, and on to my flight I go."

This of course is one of the problems. If you are not trying to make a big splashy multi plane hijack effort and instead are just trying to hijack a single plane (assuming that would even be possible with knives which is pretty obviously not the case), all you have to do is keep trying until all your co-conspirators manage to "accidentally" sneak their knives on the plane. If this actually gets attempted and the hijackers used frequent flier miles to purchase the ticket where they make the attempt I'm going to ROFL.

Xoebe writes "I mean, hell, all you have to do is leave an empty box lying around in an airport, and they'll shut the whole thing down. Do it once or twice a week in major airports, and you'd bring the West to its knees - or rather, the West's own security would."

Last weekend they shut down half the local downtown for what turned out to be discarded stolen geotechnical survey equipment. Admittedly some of the wait was getting the bomb squad in from four hours away but it still fucked everyone shopping on the second to last Saturday before Christmas.
posted by Mitheral at 8:01 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


A 70% failure rate hardly qualifies as 'effective'. It barely passes muster as 'partially effective'.

Look at it this way: if condoms had a 70% failure rate, would they be an effective contraceptive? 30% success is ineffective.
posted by Dysk at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2010


A 70% failure rate is not ineffective, it is 30% effective.

You're a glass-three-tenths-full kinda guy, are you?
posted by steambadger at 10:05 AM on December 20, 2010


To those talking about success in terms of %age rates:

PLEASE PAUSE

Now, go grok this: http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes

Once you are done, please resume, in a more enlightened fashion.
posted by saizai at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2010


saizai, relevance? We are told that there is a "70 percent failure rate". How this is measured (i.e. what this figure is actually a percentage OF) we are not told. The following sentence (something along the lines of "all test bomb parts and guns went through at some airports") suggests that the 70% refers to the proportion of guns and bomb parts purposefully put in luggage that weren't detected. This is a 30% success rate - 30% of the times when there was a gun or bomb part, they found it. We aren't looking at false positives anywhere - we aren't concerned with those cases where there was no bomb part or gun. Where the fuck does Bayesian logic come in here, again? This is single-variable.

Granted, this is all conjecture. But given that we are not told explicitly what these statistics are it doesn't seem like performing complex statistical calculations on them is a brilliant idea.

Also, I feel my condom analogy stands. If condoms broke 70% of the time they were used, they would not be considered effective. Calling a 30% success rate 'effective' in this context is equally misrepresentative.
posted by Dysk at 12:02 PM on December 20, 2010


Dysk: relevance is simple: what's the base rate? Is 70% false positive or false negative? What are the rates of competing techniques?

Without those numbers, knowing that one of them is 70% tells you *nothing* about whether the technique is effective.
posted by saizai at 12:52 PM on December 20, 2010


Also: "typical use condom failure rate" is 15% per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods (21% for female condom).
posted by saizai at 12:55 PM on December 20, 2010


Ne touchez pas mon junk!
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:23 PM on December 20, 2010


Dysk: relevance is simple: what's the base rate? Is 70% false positive or false negative? What are the rates of competing techniques?


It's pretty clear from the context that the 70% rate is the complement of the sensitivity, the rate of false negatives among all true events. 70% of the times an attempt was made to smuggle a weapon on board, it succeeded. The screening procedure only caught 30%. If there are many, many terrorists trying to smuggle things on board planes, then 70% of them would probably have succeeded (assuming they are as intelligent as those conducting the test). In that case, we should have seen many, many events. We've only seen a few, all thwarted either by intelligence/police work or passenger intervention. You can be that if screening found something, it would be trumpeted to the high heavens.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2010


Also: "typical use condom failure rate" is 15% per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods (21% for female condom).

That's a different type of failure rate. It's not a single-use rate, but rather the pregnancy rate in a year of using condoms between a presumably fecund couple. The rate in the report on TSA screening is per event.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:59 PM on December 20, 2010


Proven ineffective how?

A 70% failure rate is not ineffective, it is 30% effective.


I don't really know what to do with this. It's been proven that the new scanner technology can be defeated by standing a certain way or by taping a pancake over items you want to hide. It's been proven that items they're checking for* are routinely passing through the checkpoints.

What this means is that we are wasting money on things that don't work. Since money is both fungible and limited in supply, funding these things means limiting funding for other things, like scanning all cargo for explosive residue, creating better systems for tracking cargo associated with passengers, doing thorough background checks on people working at airports, and other much more important security problems. These things are being underfunded as a direct result of spending lots of money on fancy machines that do not improve security.

None of this seems very complicated to me. Where are you not connecting these same dots?

* Note that I'm not suggesting the items themselves are threats, just that TSA has claimed they are, and is missing them.
posted by odinsdream at 3:52 PM on December 20, 2010


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