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Bad Ideas / Hawaiian Airlines / SJC / Travel News / Airport Security / Airline Security / → All Tags
We weren't going to blog this story because there's not much to convey beyond what you already know. A 16 year old teenager fought with his parents, ran away from home, jumped the fence at San Jose International, climbed into the wheel well of an Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Maui, and then somehow lived to tell the tale.
Hiding in wheel wells is the kind of thing that almost always kills people, which we know because their bodies then fall out of the sky. This kid somehow survived and is now being cared for by child services, so it's a kind of bittersweet thing.
That's really all that can be said about the incident, unless you want to talk about how no one in this country bothers to secure airport runways any more, and you don't need to hear that rant again. Except: it turns out that a 16 year old runaway is newsworthy enough for CNN's Anderson Cooper to devote a 90 second segment to it. And not just any 90 second segment.
Last fall the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study showing that TSA's behavior profiling program - creatively named "SPOT" - was useless. The technical language was that the project succeeded in catching bad guys at a rate only "slightly better than chance," but that's GAO code for "worthless."
Naturally people assumed that the program would be scaled back. Instead - per a Washington Times report from last week that made its way around the Internet - TSA has expanded the program to BWI. Because why should a failure, especially a failure that members of Congress blast as "an intrusion into the privacy of the flying public," prevent programs from steamrolling forward?
Apparently there's a debate happening on the Internet - so says the LA Times - over whether the 14 year old Dutch girl who tweeted a terrorist threat to American Airlines was "a victim of security excess" or an "idiot." To which we answer, why can't it be both?
You'll recall that Sarah - of the now-deleted @QueenDemetriax_ Twitter account - tweeted to @AmericanAir over the weekend that "hello my name's Ibrahim and I'm from Afghanistan. I'm part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I'm gonna do something really big bye." The social media mavens at American responded exactly 6 minutes later (faster than they've ever done when, say, we've had a flight canceled) by publicly informing her that her "IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI."
Airport Security / Terrorism / Travel News / Airline Security / San Francisco Travel / SFO / San Francisco / Congress / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / → All Tags
This is a downer of a Friday story, but it's already getting some traction on travel sites. Plus it's going to be airport security news for the next few weeks. Plus it's probably going to affect your actual, physical airport experience. So you might as well get it on your radar now.
The short version - and you can read longer takes with details and videos here and here - is that the spring issue of Al Qaeda's lead magazine Inspire had a picture of the SFO AirTrain, which they captioned "Stand up, pack your tools of destruction, assemble your bomb, ready the detonation." You can understand why some people are talking about this.
TSA / PHX / Bad Ideas / Airport Security / Airline Security / → All Tags
It's been a week since we've had a post describing some potentially stupid TSA confiscation - the last one involved Lena Dunham and something shaped like a cat - so we're practically overdue. Meet country music promoter, PreCheck member, and perfume wearer Lois Lewis. Two Saturdays ago, she tried to get a 2 ounce bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume through security at PHX. The perfume comes in a case shaped like a grenade.
Cue "womp womp womp" music. The security lane was closed for an hour, bomb experts were called in, and so on. We've embedded a news report at the bottom.
Celeb Travel / Lena Dunham / TSA / LAX / Airport Security / Airline Security / Celebrities / → All Tags
This is a story about Lena Dunham, the TSA, and cats. The only way we could cram more Internet-friendly content into this thing is if we added some kind of Upworthy-style headline - "I Thought I Understood Airport Security; But Then I Saw This Outrageous Tape of A Celebrity Telling Her Brave Story" - but our blogging software won't let us use titles that long.
"Girls" star Lena Dunham was trying to get through airport security at LAX when she was pulled aside for what she later described to Seth Meyers as a "self-defense keychain" in the shape of a cat. Apparently it's the kind of thing where you slip your knuckles into the metal (maybe the eyes?) and then use the sharp bits (maybe the ears?) to stab another human being. The Seth Rogin Twitter feed subsequently tweeted an illustration for viewers who might have been struggling to form a mental picture.
TSA / Bad Ideas / Airport Security / Airline Security / PHX / → All Tags
You guys know our stance on TSA, and our basic frustration with people who knock the airport security agency just for kicks. You know it because we've repeated it endlessly to the point where we asked you to incorporate it into your New Years resolution for 2014.
If you're going to complain about how much TSA employees suck, you need to choose one of two options: either support more funding for agency, so it can hire better people, or elect lawmakers who will dismantle it, which will never happen because no politician wants to get tagged for the next terrorist attack. Anything else is just complaining for the sake of complaining.
Recent assessments from the CIA indicate that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists are creating new shoe bombs that have the ability to generate multiple casualties on airplanes. Reports of the new threats came alongside other warnings - specifically but not entirely related to the Sochi Olympics - that terrorists are seeking to hide explosives in toothpaste and cosmetic tubes. Happy middle of the week everyone!
Putting aside the crazies who say that news about terrorism is designed to scare the American sheeple into letting the United Nations inject our kids with vaccinated fluoride (or whatever) there are usually two ways that people react kinds of stories of heightened threats.
Valentine's Day Travel / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / TSA / Airport Security / Airline Security / → All Tags
TSA recently blogged a list of tips for traveling during and around Valentine's Day. Yes to regular and even liquid-filled chocolates, but no to flower vases with water in them, plus a reminder that there are special rules for traveling with wedding dresses. Because wedding dresses and flower vases with water in them could be used to compromise the security of aircraft, you see.
In other news, engineers have discovered a way that hackers can hijack TSA scanning machines to remotely overlay what screeners see with arbitrary images. So if you're a terrorist smuggling a gun through security, and you've got a friend who has gained access to the computer linked to your checkpoint, your friend can cover over the image of your gun with what looks like a pile of socks.
Last week saw a good deal of travel politics news - we'll unpack most of it as the dust settles this week - but there was something in particular we wanted to post today, if only because it's kind of aggravating.
The end of last week saw a back-and-forth in Politico between TSA and a TSA ex-agent who wrote an expose confirming every bad stereotype people have about the agency. Neither side comes off particularly well, but what got our attention is how even at the top levels of public debate, people still don't get a very, very fundamental point: you can have lots of very specific rules, and then you get TSA employees who implement stupid regulations, or you can empower TSA employees to 'use common sense,' and then you get douchebags who use the wiggle room to abuse travelers.
It can be one or the other, but - unless you're going to get better TSA agents or abolish TSA completely - you have to choose one.
Airport Security / Airline Security / TSA / Congress / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / → All Tags
Not to beat a particularly stupid dead horse, but just one more thing about that silly hearing that Congress held last week with TSA officials. We've repeatedly covered how the overarching debate over airport security is broken: politicians attack TSA for cutting corners, but those same politicians aren't willing to either change the rules (so there are no corners to cut) or increase the agency's funding (so it wouldn't need to cut corners).
We've already posted on one aggravating part of the hearing, which had Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) declaring that TSA agents don't say "please" and "thank you" enough, and so he's going to write legislation sending them to politeness school. He saw security officers telling travelers to do awkward things like take off clothing, and stand in line, and assume various positions, and he thought it would be better if they were nicer about it. But the problem isn't whether agents are polite when they implement poorly conceptualized and even more poorly executed security policies. It's that the security policies are poorly conceptualized and executed.
TSA / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Congress / Bad Ideas / Airport Security / Airline Security / Rants / → All Tags
The Jaunted policy on travel politics is very straightforward: there is nothing so broken about the experience of getting from one airport to another - whether it be picking a seat or paying for baggage or going through security or even taking off - that Congress can't make it worse.
TSA, for example, is a disaster in hundreds of ways significant and incidental. But give an elected official a chance to address even the smallest of the agency's problems, and they're bound without fail to come up with legislation that falls somewhere in between useless meddling and genuine damage. We actually had to check today's story multiple times before we could convince ourselves it wasn't a parody.