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These days, when the TSA announces a new security measure, we are ready to be confused and inconvenienced by it. Their "Secure Flight" program began in much this way as well, with the TSA frustrating travelers with demands for complete names on tickets and a disclosure of birthdate and gender.
But as Secure Flight progresses, we've barely noticed the changes as we fly about the country, and nothing has tripped us up quit yet. Nonetheless, it's important to know what airport security is doing when they scrutinize your ticket and how to handle any possible issues as Secure Flight zeros in on whether or not you are possibly terrorist.
After the jump, the basics of what you need to know about Secure Flight.
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We sure hope there's going to be an "all of the above" choice come tomorrow's new institution of TSA "Secure Flight" procedures, which involve disclosing your full name, birthdate, and gender when booking airline tickets.
It's all a part of the TSA's campaign to further root out the terrorists from the average Joes just trying to get to business meeting in Dubuque. Once the new information requirements go into effect tomorrowAugust 15you're full name on your ID will need to match up that that printed on the ticket, along with birth date and gender. Say so long to the mistaken identity stripsearch!
For those fretting about how closely the TSA will police the spelling of your middle name, thankfully the New York Time has an excellent article full of possible passenger questions and TSA responses. Just remember that the whole reason for giving the TSA this information is to keep you in the skies and off the No-Fly List. And if this doesn't work? Maybe they ask us our mother's maiden names or our Catholic confirmation names? What about our Kabbalah names? Madonna could then board her flights with tickets sold to "Esther." We suppose we'll have to wait and see.
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Full-body airport security scanning: apparently great for the TSA but not for your self-image. Debunking the idea that the nearly-nude pictures that the scanner produces of you somehow are like porn, the TSA Blog links to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article that tells the sad truth regarding this new technology: it's not porn because the resulting images aren't appealing.
In fact, full-body scans at Cleveland airport, where the machines are being tested, are apparently the opposite of porn becauseand we aren't making this upAmerican travelers are ugly. Now for an obnoxious argument to what should have always been a non-issue:
Today In stupid TSA happenings, the TSA Blog answers a question which, we're sure, is on the mind of most travelers: "can I take my hand grenade on the plane?" Way to be irrelevant again, TSA.
Now being the TSA blogger is probably not the most creative of jobs, and we don't even want to imagine some of the idiotic questions that get asked of TSA agents, but anyone who can't figure out for themselves why a hand grenade shouldn't be on a planefilled as it is with innocent people and fuelneeds to be rocketed straight to the top of the "No Fly" list.
To answer the question at hand, the TSA "Blogger Bob" states that no, hand grenades are most certainly not allowed, but neither is anything that even resembles a grenade:
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Big Brother is watching you, and he is in league with the TSA to discover your real first name, or that middle name you've been hiding since middle school; we're talking to you Blandinas and Michael Adolfs out there.
On Friday, the TSA instituted a part of its "Secure Flight passenger vetting program," whereby people purchasing tickets must use the exact names found on their form of identification. Already the first commenter on Today in the Sky voices our thoughts on the effectiveness of this extra wall: "Yet any kid with MS Paint can continue to change the name on the boarding pass after an online checkin - go TSA!"
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In deference to this week's thing that will kill us all, the TSA added a nifty little box to its Website about H1N1, aka swine flu, to let travelers know what they should do to stay safe. (Short summary: Wash your hands, stay away from sick people.)
One would think this would be the perfect place for the TSA blog to step in and reassure readers how careful workers will be and how the utmost precautions are being taken -- but there is no mention of the flu anywhere. In effect, the "Evolution of Security" exists in a pre-Monday world in which the swine flu does not kill us all. Ah, those were the days!
Boy, are y'all feeling punchy this week, or what? Two episodes just this week of passengers with major weaponry -- one the TSA caught pre-flight, one they didn't -- have us wondering if all of America doesn't need a little ice cream, lollipops and sunshine.
A US Marine was arrested Monday for, as we mentioned earlier this week, checking explosive-filled bags from Las Vegas to Boston. The funny part of this story, if by funny you mean horrifying: 22-year-old Justin Reed wasn't even supposed to get his bags re-screened in Boston because he was just on a layover en route to Charlotte, except a baggage handling error sent them to baggage claim. No wonder our bags keep getting lost.
Reed also had an undeclared checked semi-automatic as well as bullets and model rockets, and was charged with "possession of an infernal machine," a phrase we plan to appropriate for those danged kids on their cell phones.
A lot of what the TSA does makes us itchy, and this week their blog gave us even more reason to be paranoid: The Evolution of Security blog took on several recent cases of scabies at Boston's Logan Airport and, um... can you come over here and look at this rash for us?
Scabies is caused by a parasite and can be passed on easily through whatever the infected person touches (ticket counters, X-ray bins, security screeners' gloves... ick!) Containment and cleaning is really the only prevention for the bug, which once caught can be treated topically. The slightly-less-horrible news is that only five cases coming out of Logan have been confirmed as scabies, and the Boston Public Health Commission is on the case to help keep that number down.
Still, we are not reassured by the blog's mention that while screening areas at Logan were professionally cleaned, TSA employees were just told to wash their work clothes and belongings themselves at home. Anyone could have brought in the parasite, but it's up to those who get the closest to the most passengers to keep the problem from getting worse.
April Fool? If only. When the TSA promised that its full-body scanners would only be used for secondary screening, it must have had its fingers crossed: Joe Sharkey reports in the New York Times that all metal detectors will be replaced with the clothes-penetrating devices because of good results from airports like Tulsa's, where they were offered as an alternative to the classic detectors.
TSA acting CTO Robin Kane even told Sharkey the agency got positive feedback from passengers, probably the ones who were standing behind the scanners looking at naked people.
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As they are so apt to do, the TSA took an opportunity to publicly obfuscate an issue on its Evolution of Security blog this week. The topic: Photography at airports -- can you do it? The answer: Well... On one hand, it's okay if you don't bother anyone or slow down the checkpoint line; on the other hand, you should not "be surprised if someone (TSA, airport police, or a curious passenger) asks you what you’re up to."
Also, the state, city or airport may have its own rules, which apparently TSA can't override despite being a national agency and the First Amendment and can't you just wait to take that profile picture till you get home, Ansel Badams?
Things up in the sky have seemed to level off. Besides Virgin America and their sneaky new fee for your first checked bag, we’ve grown numb to all the hassles up in the sky. We’ve also gotten somewhat accustomed to the whole TSA security dance—shoes off, jacket in the bin, liquids in a baggie. They’ve excited us by letting us keep our laptops warm and snug inside their bags, and even tried a little image makeover. Too bad they now want to add one more thing into the mix—there goes being a TSA line expert.