TSA Agent Reduces Coed To Tears With Fake Drug Prank
January 22, 2010 at 2:57 PM
It seems like only two days ago when we were insisting that TSA's problem isn't a lack of resources but a waste of resources. And that they don't need flashier technology but better people and new screening regulations. Wait. It was two days ago! And now comes this story out of Philadelphia International, where 22-year-old coed Rebecca Solomon was plucked out of a security line and pushed to tears by a TSA agent who planted fake powder in her luggage. As a prank.
At first we actually thought we were getting punked by some kind of local Philadelphia Onion, so perfectly does this story wrap up the problems and controversies that swirl around TSA. But NBC's local affiliate confirms that it happened. Solomon was in line 90 minutes before her flight to Detroit. She walked through security and was taken aside. She had her carryon opened to reveal a small baggie with white powder. Then for the next 20 seconds she stood there trembling in confusion and fighting back tears while the TSA agent looked down at her and sternly instructed her to tell the truth. Then the agent broke into a big smile. Because it was all just a really funny joke, you see.
So if you think that TSA agents (a) don't take their jobs seriously, (b) wield random screening for their own amusement, (c) don't adequately use the technology they already have and (d) aren't supervised by the people hired to make sure that (a), (b), and (c) don't happenwell, this would be the kind of incident you'd point to. The specific agent behind the prank has been fired, but that doesn't do anything about the culture that make him think his little stunt was the height of hilarity.
The natural question is "what could he possibly have been thinking?" And the answer is "he thought it would be funny, because he works around people who made him think it would be funny." This trick only works if you go to coworkers beforehand and say watch this.
The TSA is undoubtedly filled with lots of good and hardworking people. But it's now undeniable that many airports have an institutional culture that lacks seriousness. Instead of targeting that culture, though, they're investing billions in security theater that papers over the problems. Throwing billions at flashy technologies can't be anything but a distraction from underlying security gaps. That these new technologies increase the potential for arbitrary and invasive pranks is just the icing on this less than yummy cake.
[Photo: Crashworks / Flickr]
· No Joke: TSA Uses Gag Drugs at Security Gate [NBC]
· PHL [Jaunted]
· TSA [Jaunted]