Tag: airline security

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For Valentine's Day, TSA Focuses on What's Important

February 11, 2014 at 3:53 PM | by | Comments (0)

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.

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Newest Debate Over TSA Still Not Taking Into Account Very Basic Things About TSA

February 3, 2014 at 2:09 PM | by | Comment (1)

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.

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Last Week's TSA Hearing In Congress Was Even Sillier Than You'd Expect

January 20, 2014 at 5:01 PM | by | Comments (0)

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.

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There's a Decent Chance Congress is Just Trolling Us with Stupid TSA Ideas

January 17, 2014 at 4:26 PM | by | Comments (0)

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.

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Cross-Dressing Man Scales Newark Airport Fence, Hangs Out for a While

December 27, 2013 at 8:30 AM | by | Comment (1)

Roughly a year ago some poor soul got lost jet skiing in Jamaica Bay, and ended up shivering wet outside the fence at JFK. He proceeded to scale the airport's 8-foot fence, make his way across 2 runways, and enter Terminal 3. Good for him - how else was he expected to get warm - but bad for the Port Authority. The organization is ostensibly responsible for security at the airport, which presumably includes not letting a random guy in a neon yellow life jacket wander around runways and terminals undetected for hours at a time.

This year, there have been no life jacket-wearing New Yorkers embarrassing the Port Authority by effortlessly defeating one of their airport's security system. Instead it's a cross-dressing Jersey City resident. Airport security you guys; gosh we just don't know.

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TSA Now Using Cartoon Dogs to Explain Airport Security to Kids

December 20, 2013 at 6:23 PM | by | Comments (0)

Is there any chance that TSA is just trolling us now? Earlier this week there was the thing with the sock monkey, and him having a gun, and his gun getting taken away at security. We theorized at the time that it might be because the screeners were just fucking idiots, but now we're not so sure. Maybe they're just very, very clever about doing ostentatiously stupid things.

Before we go on, let's remember that TSA is an airport security agency that coalesced in the aftermath of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks. There is something of a debate over whether it needs to exist, but one way or another it's the result of terrorism. Justified or not, the fact that TSA had to be invented kind of sucks. The way that security officials have to go about their business - what with the whole patting down Americans like criminals routine - also sucks.

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TSA Confiscates Toy Gun from Sock Monkey Cowboy

December 17, 2013 at 9:50 AM | by | Comments (0)

There are times when we try to defend TSA for mindlessly enforcing its rules rather than following 'common sense.' Yes it's absurd to pat down grandma after she triggers a scanner, for instance, but once an alarm goes off TSA agents are obligated to go through a very specific procedure. Do you really want them making their own decisions on when it's OK to believe the machines? Keep in mind how we recruit some of them.

But this is just fucking idiotic. The story reads like something we'd invent if we were trying to imagine a really stupid instance of TSA security theater. Seriously. We can actually imagine ourselves saying something like "next thing you know, they'll start taking away toy guns from hand-woven stuffed animals." And yet here we are.

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Researcher Builds Deadly Weapons from Things You Can Easily Buy in the Terminal

November 29, 2013 at 10:04 AM | by | Comments (0)

We know that some of you will ignore our advice and spend today and tomorrow traveling long distances. You'll go to airports, wait in security, and get filmed by news crews with grumpy looks on your faces. There's not much we can do about that.

If it makes you feel any better though, you should know that a lot of the security that's holding you up is totally useless. So at least there's that. Last week we covered how and why the TSA's behavior screening program - which brings security to you in line, rather than waiting for you to come to security - is statistically useless. This week comes news that all of the x-rays and scans people go through might be kind of silly, since it's possible to build an array of deadly weapons with products you buy past the terminal.

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How to Experience TSA PreCheck with Nine US Airlines

November 25, 2013 at 12:39 PM | by | Comment (1)

Even if you only fly every once in a while you’re probably somewhat familiar with TSA PreCheck. It’s the program that allows for speedy screening, and you can even leave your shoes on, laptop in the bag, and keep your belt around your waist.

It’s an option for those who are on the list for existing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI programs. However, not so fancy flyers are also eligible—and often just by opting-in through their frequent flyer number. Here’s the scoop on the nine domestic carriers that are doing the TSA PreCheck—assuming you’re at an eligible airport:

· Alaska Airlines
The information from Alaska Airlines seems a little outdated, as they still reference the whole TSA PreCheck thing as a “pilot.” It seems like eligible frequent flyers would have received an email inviting them to opt-in, but if not head into the My Account section of your profile on alaskaair.com. Once there—assuming you’re eligible—you will you will see a link across the top of the page inviting you to opt-in for shoes on screening.

· Allegiant Air
Nope—if you’re flying with Allegiant you’re going to need to do the security screening thing the old fashioned way

· American Airlines
Like most carriers you need to be a member of the airline’s frequent flyer program, so go ahead and sign up if you haven’t done so already. Next head over to aa.com, and make your way into the My Account section of the site. Check your personal information and password, and then go ahead and check the box to opt-in to participate in the TSA expedited screening program. When you check-in you’ll see whether you made the cut or not right on your boarding pass.

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Holy Cow, Does TSA's Behavioral Screening Program Have Issues

November 18, 2013 at 4:11 PM | by | Comments (0)

Stories in travel journalism - in any kind of journalism, really - begin as news, then migrate over to commentary, and then eventually become meta-commentary. Sufficiently vicious and prominent meta-commentary gets treated as news, and thus does the circle of life turn.

So for instance, coverage of the recently published report on TSA's behavior profiling program began as news. More specifically, it began as news that the program spectacularly sucks. You'll remember this as the system that sought to supplement pat-downs with "chat-downs" in which screeners would ask you really specific questions and then guess - based on your reactions - if you were doing something suspicious. TSA called it Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques - SPOT - and they spent roughly one billion dollars on it. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office indicated that it works only "slightly better than chance." Opps.

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Southwest Adds TSA PreCheck Just in Time for Busy Holiday Travel

November 18, 2013 at 8:38 AM | by | Comments (0)

Good news for frequent flyers, as another carrier has joined in on the TSA PreCheck fun. In case you’re not familiar with the system, basically you consent for the airlines and TSA to know a little bit more about you through your frequent flyer number. Then at the airport—if selected—you can go through an expedited screening line. Here you usually get to leave your shoes on and keep your laptop in its bag, so it’s win-win for frequent travelers.

Now things are a go for the flyers over at Southwest Airlines, as the carrier is the latest to adopt the TSA PreCheck procedures. This is kind of big news, as Southwest is the country’s biggest domestic carrier. All those travelers should go along well with the system, as TSA PreCheck has made its way to around 100 airports. Those lucky enough to get the go ahead for the better security line will get confirmation within their boarding pass, as the text "TSA PRE" will appear in the upper left corner the paperwork.

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Europe On Track to End Air Travel Liquids Restrictions, While USA Shuffles Feet

November 11, 2013 at 4:35 PM | by | Comments (0)

In 2010, the TSA was actually putting up signs at security checkpoints promising that "future advances" in x-ray technology would let them play around with the restrictions on the amount of liquid travelers can carry on board planes.

Fast forward to 2013 and we still have liquids restrictions on U.S. flights. Meanwhile the EU regulations which were set to expire in 2013 are - wait for it - actually expiring. We don't know if the decision is deliberate or the result of laziness, but either way European airports will now let you carry shampoos onboard airplanes. Small victories, ladies and gentlemen, small victories.

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