Chattin' With Kip
July 30, 2007 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Conversation with Kip Hawley, TSA Administrator (Part 1) Part one of five, Bruce Schneier chats it up with Kip, TSA Administrator. The TSA and airport security have long been hot topics on Metafilter; here is a chance to read some hard questions put to the man himself and his answers.
posted by Bovine Love (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I hope in one of the ensuing four parts he talks about what matters, things like the no-fly list, and not stupid crap like shoes and liquids. Admittedly, the liquid thing has led to insanity like people having to drink their own breast milk (hope he goes there too) but for truly fucking up people's lives gratuitously on provably bad assumptions, you can't beat the list.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2007

Actually the liquids and other item bans really show the contempt that these people in government really have for the individual. How hard would it be to allow people to ship their items home after confiscation? Probably not that difficult, but instead the TSA requires you either dump your item or not fly. Pretty obnoxious. I think in some cases they might let you check your items.

Simply shipping people's items would go along way to alleviate some of the annoyance people deal with going through security.
posted by delmoi at 9:20 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

How hard would it be to allow people to ship their items home after confiscation? Probably not that difficult

Nope, not that difficult at all.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:25 AM on July 30, 2007

Kip Hawley is still an idiot.
posted by scblackman at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2007

Oh, and here's another intresting story with the liquids ban. My sister was flying back from NYC with a bottle of 'body gel' she had gotten for a wedding gift for a friend, it cost $15 and the TSA screeners nabbed it. But, if it had been in a plastic bag, it would have gone through. So why not just hand out clear plastic bags for people to put their stuff in so they can be 'legal'?

My theory is that the liquids ban is just a way to give screeners something to actually look for, keep 'em alert.

(Oh, and my sister had a lot more liquids and gels in her second carry on bag, that no one found. Very reassuring, eh?)
posted by delmoi at 9:29 AM on July 30, 2007

If a TSO finds you or the contents of your bag suspicious, you might get interviewed and/or have your bags more closely examined. If the TSO throws your liquids in the trash, they don't find you a threat.

WTF? If they don't find you a threat, why do they insist on trashing your stuff? "We can see there is no risk posed by your various bottles of liquid, and so we will trash them."

"Office for Annoying Air Travelers" indeed.
posted by splice at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

delmoi, I've been at a few airports where they actually DO hand out clear plastic bags for people. SJC is one where I've seen it done consistently. The key, though, is remembering if you have any liquids with you when you get to the person handing the bags out.
posted by zsazsa at 9:36 AM on July 30, 2007

Splice, I read this as, 'once we've taken your liquids, you're no longer a threat.'
posted by miniape at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2007

I haven't flown since early 2001, mainly because I rarely fly anywhere anyway. But I also know that if I had to put up with the in(s)ane "security" at the airport, I would blow a gasket.
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2007

miniape, he is answering Schneier's assertion that you can just keep trying to bring a dangerous liquid on board a plane until they miss the bottle, since there seems to be no repercussion to having your bottles trashed. Kip the idiot's answer can be interpreted, in context, to mean that there are repercussions, if you're suspicious you can be pulled out of the line and/or searched, but if you're no threat, that means they can trash your bottles without worry and let you go (eg. since you're not a threat they don't need to log the incident in case anything happens later).

Twisted logic, that, and I hope I'm just misinterpreting the message. But considering that this came from Kip Hawley...
posted by splice at 9:57 AM on July 30, 2007

His attitude seems to be "I can't tell you, it's too secret, but if you knew all the stuff I knew, you'd agree with me".

No I wouldn't. Security through obscurity doesn't work, and if you're that dependent on obscurity, I don't believe for a second you're adding any security.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:07 AM on July 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I fly every damn week between NYC and Chicago. I've had tube of hand cream in my laptop bag for the last 8 months or so, its greater than 3 ounces and its not in a zip-lock, although I keep one in the same pocket in the bag should the need arise.

I have been stopped exactly twice, in 8 months (both times in Chicago) and asked why it wasn't in a plastic bag, to which I responded "Oh, it must have fell out," and pulled out the zip-lock. Both times I walked away with my safer, more inspected cream.

I feel so safe.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:09 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ah, I get it. It's a limited mindshare thing. Very clever, that TSA. Or as William Wallace cried, "they may take our freedom, but they can never take our hair gel!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:11 AM on July 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

'once we've taken your liquids, you're no longer a threat.'

Funny, that's the same m.o. that Fremen and spiders use.

Metafilter: Once we're taken your liquids...
posted by kid ichorous at 10:35 AM on July 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

God, how I hate airports. The liquids thing is stupid. You have 4 three ounce bottles, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, and hair gel. Whatever, it doesn't matter, because you could fill them with Drano, bleach, ammonia, and battery acid, put them all in a little baggie, and get on the plane and play walk-down-the aisle chemistry.

And metal detectors? Really? Nothing says post 9-11 air travel like Boker.

The purpose of this and other measures is to institutionalize us, not to protect us.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:44 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've often wondered if the TSA isn't some scheme by disgruntled IRS agents to create a government agency that's more hated than the tax collectors.

If that's the case, they're doing brilliantly.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:46 AM on July 30, 2007

The purpose of this and other measures is to institutionalize us, not to protect us.

Really, you've overestimated the intelligence level of the TSA. Conspiracy would imply that there is planning and foresight involved. TSA's actions are purely reactionary (in the litteral and figurative sense).
posted by Pollomacho at 10:50 AM on July 30, 2007

Couldn't you have waited until the other four parts had been posted?
posted by Drexen at 10:53 AM on July 30, 2007

Drexen, that would have been better, but I figured it would get posted sometime before the fith came up, so might as well get people started at #1. Besides, it lets people argue about the questions and answers that haven't come up yet, which always adds a good element. Well, "good" used kind of like "interesting" or "funny".
posted by Bovine Love at 10:59 AM on July 30, 2007

I'm taking your word for it that there is an actual threat -- lots of chemists disagree -- but your liquid ban isn't mitigating it.

This is something I've long been curious about. Does anybody know if the "liquid attack" is even possible? It's always sounded rather suspect to me.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2007

Afroblanco: Based on the interview, and a little of my own theorizing, I think their thinking is this:

You can bring down down an airplane with gel-based explosives, like semtex, but you need more then 3 ounces of it, so letting people take less then three ounces of liquids isn't a problem. Their research shows that if you take a bunch of some liquid or gel explosive onto a plane in separate containers, it won't work very well. Rather then forcing screeners to count the bottles, they simply figured to let people take as many as they can fit into a standard sized ziploc bag.

That seems plausible, I know a lot of people thought the London plot was bullocks, but there could be other chemicals that could be used as gel-based explosives, but they can't take a plane down unless there is enough of it, or enough in one container, or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 AM on July 30, 2007

“...I have the sinking feeling that you're defending us against a terrorist smart enough to develop his own liquid explosive, yet too stupid to read the rules on TSA's own website”

Don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know I'm training to be a cage fighter.

“Does anybody know if the "liquid attack" is even possible?”

Been through that a few times on MeFi already.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2007

It's all "security theater"--the long lines and taking off the shoes and liquid restrictions and everything--it's all supposed to make the govt look like it's on the ball, when it's totally not. And adding new restrictions after things happen (or don't in most cases when the truth finally comes out) is just asinine.
posted by amberglow at 5:15 PM on July 30, 2007

(personally, the worst thing is to get on and off a flight within Europe where you're allowed to take water bottles and contact lens stuff and everything--like normal countries do--and then transferring to a flight to here, where you have to dump it all, but you can't put stuff in your checked bags because they've gone thru before)
posted by amberglow at 5:17 PM on July 30, 2007

Part 2 is up and goes into the liquid explosives a fair bit. Bruce puts it to him fairly strongly I think.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:50 AM on July 31, 2007

Thanks for that, BL. Yeah, Hawley has definitely been hiding behind a lot of security-through-obscurity. Which is ironic because the whole point in this interview was to bring some transparency to the TSA.

Still, it's good to see Schneier do such an effective job of taking on Hawley. Seriously, compared to Schneier this guy is such a total lightweight.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:40 PM on July 31, 2007

The TSA exists for the sole purpose of enriching Bush-administration cronies. All else stems from that plum contract.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:18 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

TSA -- and Homeland Security too.
posted by amberglow at 7:43 AM on August 1, 2007

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