Reader Mail : “Why does it seem you hate the TSA?”

Sometimes I get reader mail that causes me to stop and think a few minutes beyond the airline knowledge I have in my head or at my fingertips. This week’s reader mail is the kind that makes me stop and really think about my answer.

This week’s reader mail comes from Joyce in New York City. Joyce asks this “Each time you write about the Transportation Security Administration you paint the agency in an unflattering light. With all the changes in the agency why does it seem you hate the TSA?”

Joyce you pose a very interesting question … and in fact a question that caught me off guard. While I do question various aspects of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) somewhat often … I actually do not hate the TSA in any way shape for form.

The actual primary driver for creating the TSA, which was to create standardized airport security screening process, is something I support. I also, in theory, believe in the TSA’s Mission “The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce,”  and the TSA’s Vision “The Transportation Security Administration will continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security through its people, processes, and technology.

If you read the Core Values of the TSA it is hard to not support the agency … in theory … however my issues with the TSA arise in the way the agency has been ineffectively managed and become a fairly bloated agency that is often unaccountable for its actions.

The reasons I began writing about the TSA’s need for a permanent administrator months before the main stream media was not because I was seeking to be critical of the TSA, but because I believe the TSA needed a long term leader to give the agency new direction.  A 60,000 person agency needs a strong leader, especially when it is floundering.

I have written about a number of positive things within the TSA, such as the TSA’s Self Select Lanes. This initiative was very forward thinking of the agency, and once the kinks were ironed out it appeared to be working quite well at many airports.

On many occasions in various forums I have pointed out that the TSA has many professionally minded agents in place.  I have seen a lot of excellent front line TSA agents in terms of the human element of the TSA. On two occasions TSA agents at Tweed-New Haven Airport (HVN) have helped me catch a flight when I was late and should have missed my flights. When I look at TSA TSO & DFS agents I see them for who they are and do not judge them on poorly executed TSA policy.

While I may not have agreed with policy decisions created by former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, he was forward thinking in engaging his critics directly. Mr. Hawley in the process of engaging TSA critics would personally enter forums, often in the middle night, and respond to people directly. In the process of engaging TSA’s critics, Hawley pushed the TSA into being the first major Federal Agency to establish a Blog and Twitter account.  In the process of establishing a direct personal link between the TSA and those traveling in the United States, Mr. Hawley also brought Curtis Burns on board to create the “Blogger Bob” content on the TSA’s blog … this I believe was a genuinely brilliant move by Mr. Hawley.

On many occasions I have praised the former Acting Administrator Gale Rossides, now the Deputy Administrator, and pointed out that I believed she had the potential to be an excellent Administrator, but her hands were tied by being in limbo as the Acting Administrator. A day ago I even praised the newly appointed TSA Administrator, John Pistole.

…so, while I have been critical of the TSA on many occasions, and believe the agency needs a sweeping overhaul, budget revision and a hard definition of its scope of jurisdiction to avoid furthering its mission creep … in fact I don’t hate the TSA.

Even in the worst of situations I have encountered when dealing with the TSA, this past December when two TSA Special Agents (ie: Federal Agents who carry guns) showed up at my house multiple times over a  two day span and served me a subpoena (that was outside the scope of their Jurisdiction), I wrote this “I hope 2010 is the year the TSA can find a permanent Administrator the agency can find its defined focus to become a shining star within the Department of Homeland Security.

So Joyce, hopefully that explains why I don’t hate the TSA.

Happy Flying!

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Comments

  1. Funny, everyone sees things differently. I’ve been following your posts and over time I’ve felt that you’re in fact sometimes a bit too forgiving of the TSA, especially in regards to some of the situations you’ve reported and behavior that agents have widely been reported to engage in.

    It’s not something that has prompted me to write in since I understand your need to walk a fine line between criticism, praise and access.

    Don’t fret it. There will always be some people that see any well reasoned criticism as being too hard and hateful.

  2. Why should every patriotic American despise the TSA? First – the agency is grossly inefficient and grossly ineffective – just stand in any TSA line across America and watch your tax dollars at work. Second, the agency’s “screening” arguably violates the Fourth Amendment rights protecting from unlawful search and seizure. Third, the latest background scatter screen effectively sanctions child pornography. Fourth, the TSA has demonstrably lied to the America people about a number of topics, most recently the storage of background scatter images. Fifth, many TSA employees demonstrate just enough cognitive ability to qualify for the quarter-pound grill @ McDonalds.

  3. You have to seriously question what we are getting for $6 billion with the current TSA program. The current TSA program is Security Theater (a term coined by Bruce Sneier who also covers security questions).

    I agree with Bob Crandall that we should “Find people, not things”. How often do you get pulled out of line to check your bag and they never ask any questions about who are you? Where did you come from? Where are you going? What is your purpose?

    No, it is, “the rules say you can have this here big can of shaving cream, sir.”

    If we were serious about security, it would be done differently than how it is done today. (I still shake my head every time I see the old man going through the full body scan because his hip replacement set off the metal detector). It just makes me want to go MOO every time I go through an airport.

  4. Some of this nonsense has me laughing out loud. You just have to trust me on this ok? I work very closely with these people There are no armed TSA officers. They do not have authority or arrest or to detain a person trust me. That is left up to the local airport police. TSA are not law enforcement they are security. There is an obvious difference. TSA is but a small part of DHS. And some other agencies under DHS do have armed personnel. But TSA does not have any officers armed in any way. And TSO’s have no jurisdiction outside of their assigned airport. I must inform you that although I don’t doubt you were visited by some armed men about your issue, they did not represent the TSA. Take a look at DHS some time and you will see how many agencies are under them . . . a lot more than you may realize my friend.

  5. EasyPie

    No, TSA TSO’s do not have law enforcement powers nor are they armed, but the TSA does indeed have armed officers. While a TSO may not arrest people, those with the Title of Special Agent, Inspector or Federal Air Marshal, under the TSA’s Office of Law Enforcement and Federal Air Marshal Service do have the ability to arrest.

    So … given that the TSA has publicly stated that I was in fact visited by two TSA Special Agents (Federal Agents), their badges were from the TSA and their business cards state the TSA … I am pretty sure I was visited by two agents from the TSA.

    You might want to do some more research on this subject … I’d suggest starting here : http://www.tsa.gov/lawenforcement/index.shtm

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

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