Tuesday, August 17, 2010

T.S.A.=This Stuff's Asinine?

First of all, a correction. The other day I wrote about three Florida kids, aged 15, 13 and 11, who went on a lark and flew, without any I.D.s, to Nashville -- without telling their parents. Without I.D.s.

Made fun of the T.S.A. for that, I did.

Turns out T.S.A. policy allows people under 18 to fly without having identification. Thanks to Joe Brancatelli for reminding me of this policy. Read that again. If you're over 18, you need to have a government-issue ID, which then becomes part of the process of checking to ensure that you are not on a terrorist watch list. Under 18, no prob.

Time and again, we are confronted with T.S.A. security rules that, upon examination, simply don't add up. Here's one example: The 3-ounce liquids/gels carry-on rule goes into effect and after a while it becomes the 3.4-ounce rule.

That's because the T.S.A. decided to change the chemical calculation. Initially, it had been decided that 3 ounces times the number of 3-ounce containers that can be fitted into a zip-locked quart baggie does not add up to a sufficient volume of potential explosives to blow up a plane.

But then it was changed to 3.4 ounces, to conform with European Union standards, 3.4 ounces equaling 100 milliliters. (To be more precise, 100 milliliters equals 3.3813793525499998 fl oz.)

But OK, maybe the chemistry concerning explosives still works (if it ever worked at all, that is) -- but I had to wonder about the abrupt change in formula, evidently for the sake of international comity. Granted, x-amount of volume still has to be contained within a one-quart bag, but as we all know, few screeners still insist on the zip-lock bag, and instead look only at the containers of liquids or gels.

There're also bizarre exceptions in the T.S.A. regs concerning liquids and gels. As noted, the chemistry, as the T.S.A. had laboriously had it analyzed, says that x-amount of liquid or gel is safe and anything above that is not. However, after a furor was raised by lobbies for the disabled and others, exceptions were quickly put in allowing unlimited amounts of gels to be carried on inside things such as medical seat cushions and bras -- either prosthetic or cosmetic.

The science, assuming we are not in Tea Party land here, remains the same.

I'm not arguing here for more hassling of passengers, but just pointing out that some T.S.A. regulations don't stand scrutiny, and that a conclusion that many of them are in fact just "security theater" is hard to avoid. At what age does a passenger become a potential threat? Eighteen, says the T.S.A. Here is the regulation:

Effective June 21, 2008, adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID that contains the following: name, date of birth, gender, expiration date and a tamper-resistant feature in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight.

Passengers who do not or cannot present an acceptable ID will have to provide information to the Transportation Security Officer performing Travel Document Checking duties in order to verify their identity. Passengers who are cleared through this process may be subject to additional screening. Passengers whose identity cannot be verified by TSA may not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint or onto an airplane.

Acceptable IDs include:
Acceptable Documents

Photo of acceptable documents
Click here to view a
full-size version.

* U.S. passport
* U.S. passport card
* DHS "Trusted Traveler" cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
* U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians)
* Permanent Resident Card
* Border Crossing Card
* DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
* Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) that meets REAL ID benchmarks (All states are currently in compliance)
* A Native American Tribal Photo ID
* An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
* A foreign government-issued passport
* Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
* Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)



Anonymous said...

The fluid limits are nuts. All you would need is a couple of conspirators to also bring in the max allowed amounts and put them together to get things to the dangerous volumes they are trying to prevent.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget that airline and ground crew aren't subject to the same liquid restrictions. I regularly see crew carrying through huge cups of coffee, water, etc. that was purchased outside security. Of course, we all know that there is *no way* the highly-paid and highly-satisfied airline and airport employees could ever be involved in any sort of security incident .

Dave said...

By the way Joe, the standard for bag size is also 1 Liter, for the sake of international comity.

I have a Delta bag I use that came from Germany, and it's the larger size. TSA doesn't blink an eye...

Anonymous said...

The TSA has never limited the liquid brought thru the checkpoints to 3 ounces. Originally there was no limit. Then, four years ago, the liquid ban took effect overnight in response to the threat across the pond. Shortly after that they began to allow 3.4 ounce containers. The 3-1-1 was due to a marketing ploy that was hatched by TSA HQ. It's more catchy than 3.4-1-1 and thought it would be easier to follow and cause less confusion.