Thursday, July 05, 2012

TSA 'Business As Usual," Defending the Indefensible. Again

I bend over backwards at times giving the TSA the benefit of the doubt, including in its remarkably timid responses to the guns that more people are trying to bring through checkpoints because those people think they have a God-given "right to carry" their firearms anywhere they choose, including onto an airplane.

TSA=We're vigilant about old ladies in wheelchairs, but we're terrified about upsetting the gun lobby.

Now here, as if to prove that the TSA just doesn't make sense many times, is the agency's intrepid mouthpiece, "Blogger Bob" Burns, defending the indefensible -- that is, he airily waves off protests about TSA agents waylaying passengers as they queue to board airplanes, and "testing" whatever beverages they have in hand.

Now, it's a given that if you have a soda or a bottle of water in hand at the gate, you have purchased or obtained that drink within the secure area of the airport, because they wouldn't have let you carry it through the checkpoint in the first place. The TSA says, as a matter of optics and a tactic of preemptively covering its butt, that of course nothing is "100 percent secure," yada-yada. Yes, that is correct. Except when the TSA has some asinine gate-theater to defend, and then it's "CSI Airport."

"Blogger Bob" is correct in saying that this is nothing new, despite the current outpouring of online protest about the agency testing drinks at the gate. And, let note here the absolutely predictable response from the Brigade of Official Reassurance on public radio that there's nothing to see here, folks. Why, silly, the government told us so!

Yes, they have had this ludicrous procedure in place for a while -- but my guess is that they've stepped up the performances lately of this particular comic act on the security-vaudeville playbill.

Agents waylaying passengers at the gate may be designed to present "another layer of security," as "Blogger Bob" says, but in fact what we, the public, see is another ridiculous manifestation of make-work for a vastly bloated federal jobs program, the TSA -- which is without doubt the most hated agency of the federal government. The most hated, yes. The possibly also the least trusted. And lack of trust in your security is a basic security flaw, as any expert in the field will tell you.

Here's "Blogger Bob" on the TSA blog today, pooh-poohing objections to this nonsense by insisting that this all is "business as usual." Business of security theater as usual, I would add.

Emphasis is mine:

"While browsing the web this morning, I saw that the topic de jour was that TSA was now screening liquids at the gate. We've talked about random gate screening here before, and if you travel frequently, you've likely experienced a gate screening. Not a big deal really... Heck, even I have been pulled aside for random gate screening.

So, the most popular question that comes up with this topic is: "Isn't this redundant?" On the surface, it does seem that way, and it's the first logical thought that many have. However, any security expert will tell you that nothing is ever 100% secure. So, gate screening is kind of like our safety net to keep up with anybody who might be trying to get things past conventional screening.

We stay away from static security tactics. Layered security is common practice, providing the necessary unpredictable measure that makes it more difficult to do malice to the transportation infrastructure. If everything we did was always the same, it would provide a checklist for people to know exactly what to expect. While this would be extremely helpful for passengers, it would also be useful to those wishing to do us harm. ...

As far as the testing of liquids at the gate, this is just one of the many options we have to choose from when deciding what additional tactics to use each day. We started using test strips back in the summer of 2007 and continue to do so. The test involves a test strip and a dropper containing a nontoxic solution. In case you're wondering, our officers don't place the test strips in your beverages/liquids. They simply have the passenger remove the cap/lid and they hold the strip over the opening of the container. Procedures call for moving the test strip to the side and applying the solution from the dropper to test the strip. If the test results are positive TSA will conduct additional testing to make a final assessment.

In a nutshell, liquid screening at gates is random and it isn't happening at every airport every day. So other than possibly taking a few moments of your time before boarding your flight, it's business as usual."


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