Sunday, November 21, 2010

TSA: Tough Shizzle for All

Edit Update: I've just had clarified that the TSA requires either the Full Body Scan OR the Pat Down but not both. So all of the below was my personal delusion. It was fun while it lasted even if it wasn't based in any kind of reality !

This past week I flew out to see my nephew in his school's production of West Side Story. Aware that the airports were now host to the latest round of more stringent 'TSA Quality (of the passenger) Assurance' tests I arrived at the airport at what I assumed was a ridiculously long 1.75 hours before my flight was scheduled to take off. I was right and I was wrong. I was right to arrive that early, and I was wrong that arriving that early was crazy. By the time I got through security my plane was in line to take off in 5 minutes.

While waiting in line I mused at how progression of TSA procedures seems to have been totally and only reactive..

What ? people used box cutters as weapons ? OK, from now on no more blades.
What ? someone got explosive liquids on the plane ? OK, from now on restrict and inspect the liquids.
What ? someone had shoe bomb ? OK, from now on off come the shoes
What ? someone stuffed explosives in their underwear ? OK, from now on 'enhanced' search.

Now, what would the future hold if someone makes use of a 'false eye bomb' ? 'OK, from now on an opthamologist's inspection ?'

One poor woman waited her hour+ in line only to have her CA driver's license ID rejected because it had expired a few months ago.. So despite the facts that it likely was a valid license until recently AND the picture looked like the (maybe) passenger: REQUEST DENIED. Seriously, if I were to make a fake ID in order to slip past security, wouldn't I be careful to make the counterfeit appear to be valid ? I wished that I could have stuck around to see the outcome, but I was getting close to missing my own plane so I didn't.

I knew that I'd be in for the full body scan but I wondered if there was anything I could do that would decrease my chances of getting the 'pat down' treatment. We don't know (and shouldn't know) the methodology by which the TSA agents decide who gets it and who doesn't. It might be a blind sequencing algorithm or it might be up to the agent's discretion or a combination of both. Since I can't influence any machine like algorithm, the best I can to is to look as much as possible as the opposite of a threat. One would think that this would mean to look as ordinary as possible, but isn't that exactly what a 'threat' would do ? To try and be inconspicuous ? So I decided that since most of the people flying will probably be dressed in every day drab clothing or in business attire, I would be conspicuous but not over the top.. to look like I'm on vacation (which I was) and obviously NOT trying to hide something that I don't want people to see.

I wore the bright clothing seen in the photo above.

Yes, after going through the scanner, the man in the three piece suit ahead me got the pat down. When I stepped up after him, the TSA agent barely looked at me gave me the weary wave 'go on your way'.

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