Let’s Not Forget The TSA Front Line Successes…

With all the negative press related to of aviation security and by extension the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) over the past week, today I’d like to step back and discuss what the TSA is doing to make air travel safer … taking a look back over the month.

The TSA’s primary mission, in response to terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, has been the threat against air travel in the United States. Since the creation of the TSA, the agency has frequently been criticized … and yes I take them to task on issues on Flying With Fish fairly often … but more often than not, the successes of the TSA’s front line agents are over looked.

It is easy to overlook the positives within the TSA because TSA agents doing their job done does not make a good sound bite and it does not draw readers in the same way a negative story does.

In the past month, October 2010, TSA agents have identified and stopped guns, drugs, swords prevented people from flying with fake IDs and helped apprehend those in the commission of a crime or traveling with a warrant for their arrest.

The following is a by the numbers look at success of the TSA’s front line agents in October 2010, having stopped 98 guns from passing through security checkpoints, identified and prevented 15 “artfully concealed” items forbidden from passing through security checkpoints and blocked 63 would-be passengers from attempting to travel with fake documents or while wanted by law enforcement.

So … what is an ‘artfully concealed’ item? It’s a term somewhat unique to the TSA, but essentially is it an item disguised as another item in an attempt to bring it on board a flight.  “Artfully concealed” items include passengers inserting a box cutter inside their shoes , a sword hidden inside a cane, 14.3lbs of cocaine inserted into the lining of a purse and (my personal favorite from the TSA archives) a gun hidden inside a teddy bear that was placed inside a diaper bag.

In regard to the 63 would-be travelers who were arrested, some of those stopped were nabbed while attempting to cross through checkpoints with bogus documents, primarily fraudulent identification.  Others were stopped based on their behaviour, and when questioned by law enforcement were arrested as they were traveling in the commission of a crime or traveling while there was an outstanding warrant for their arrest.

So, while changes do need to be made within the TSA, many of the agency’s front line agents are doing their jobs and doing their jobs well … and this does need to be kept in mind because it is easy to lose sight of.

Happy Flying!

Pingbacks

  1. […] Coté passager le besoin de faire face à une menace réelle est bel et bien compris. Par contre on sent poindre un agacement croissant face à l’empilement de nouvelles mesures sans cesse plus contraignantes à chaque fois que l’actualité remet le sujet au goût du jour sans que pour autant on ait l’impression que cela serve à quelque chose (et sans enlever à la TSA ses succès bien réels). […]

  2. […] So … what is an ‘artfully concealed’ item? It’s a term somewhat unique to the TSA, but essentially is it an item disguised as another item in an attempt to bring it on board a flight.  “Artfully concealed” items include passengers inserting a box cutter inside their shoes , a sword hidden inside a cane, 14.3lbs of cocaine inserted into the lining of a purse and (my personal favorite from the TSA archives) a gun hidden inside a teddy bear that was placed inside a diaper bag. via boardingarea.com […]

  3. […] BoardingArea.com, another blog dealing with airline transportation outlined the recent successes of TSA. Please note that all of these “successes” have been outside of their area of responsibility. In fact, TSA is not even a law enforcement agency. In the past month, October 2010, TSA agents have identified and stopped guns, drugs, swords prevented people from flying with fake IDs and helped apprehend those in the commission of a crime or traveling with a warrant for their arrest. […]

Comments

  1. Not one of those 63 is a would-be terrorist. Is that what we’re spending billions and the flying public is being inconvenienced for? Nabbing petty criminals?

  2. Ben

    To date, the TSA has not stopped any terrorists and the Federal Air Marshal Service has not prevented a hi-jacking. This is an agency and policy issue … not a front line issue. I will be addressing some of this later in the week, regarding the costs of the Federal Air Marshals.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  3. David,

    the people who were stopped and arrested may not have been stopped as the TSA “SPOT” program was not in place.

    In fact, as I have written about here … http://bit.ly/8Z6fMa … prior to the formation of the TSA, the FAA required a 95% weapons detection rate from airport security contractors. The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office currently believes that TSA stations are operating at only a 75% detection rate.

    Today’s blog post is really just a reminder that there are good people within the TSA. The majority of the problems within the TSA are management/administration issues. Yes there are a number of front line slackers, I hear about them from passengers as well as TSA staff and witness them myself, but when all the TSA bashing goes on I tend to feel badly for those on the front line who simply go to work to do their job, do it well, then get branded with the same stamp as the administration and those not pulling their weight.

    Happy Flying!

  4. In the past month, October 2010, TSA agents have identified and stopped guns, drugs, swords prevented people from flying with fake IDs and helped apprehend those in the commission of a crime or traveling with a warrant for their arrest.

    We can all agree guns and swords don’t belong on an aircraft, but checking for drugs and fake ID’s is scope creep. Neither effects the safety of an aircraft. If you agree with such policies, logically checking each and every laptop going through a checkpoint for child pornography would also be allowable, etc etc.

  5. Will

    I have significant problems with the TSA’s “Mission Creep,” which again goes back to my issue with the Management & Administration … not the front line TSOs. I have stated this in various places time and time again.

    The travel document checking falls under security, but identification verifying the person with the boarding pass is one-in-the-same person is closer to airline revenue protection. The TSA should not be in the business of airline revenue protection, that is something the airlines need to do on their own … but it is a fine line.

    Additionally, the TSA, a private security company, an airline employee, that spots drugs in transit should report it to law enforcement for it to be addressed, which is what the TSA does. If it spots it, then it contacts the PD.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  6. I have no promblem with the TSA they seem to doing a good job keeping skies safe from people who shouldn’t even be flying if some people don’t like it well they should vote for someone who get rid of the TSA. But I guess that won’t happen as the TSA like or not is part of the war on terror and who would vote against that ? Keep up the good work mate

  7. Still feeling sympathetic? Read on:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/stupid/memos-detail-tsa-officers-cocaine-pranks

    In addition to the story, the comments are priceless!

    And to our good friend, Glen, above, “I have no promblem with the TSA they seem to doing a good job keeping skies safe from people who shouldn’t even be flying” – note some of the comments above – the private security firms prior to 9-11 (yes, box cutters were legal to have on board then) were doing at least the same or better job than the TSA is doing now – for less money – with more dignity – will better results – for less money – without being institutionalized.

  8. Erndog,

    Have you read my blog post entitled – What Is The True Cost Of U.S. Airport Security? – http://bit.ly/8Z6fMa ? I detail the actual costs of current US commercial passenger security compared to pre-TSA security costs (using adjusted inflation) … as well as comparing the weapons detection rate.

    As stated previously … I don’t take out my issues with the TSA management and administration on the front line agents.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  9. Fish –

    Love your blog and I get your point – but when the front line agents behave badly – and I’m not saying they ALL do – but there seems to be quite a bit behavior that is “unbecoming” and it seems to be increasing.

    Now, whether there are more reports of bad behavior on the part of front line agents (because the TSA is becoming more and more vilified) or there are more agents behaving badly – I don’t know.

    I just wanted to point that out. It isn’t hard these days to flip through a newspaper to read something about an “incident” regarding the TSA screeners.

  10. TSA by mandate from Congress can only check for weapons and explosives. That is why they always lose the cases concerning fake passports, drugs, etc. Do an google search and check for yourself. So it is interesting that you fell for their “expanded, we want you to believe we can do this other stuff hyped up mandate.” Again, do the search and you will see that their congressional mandate has not changed.

    “prevented people from flying with fake IDs and helped apprehend those in the commission of a crime or traveling with a warrant for their arrest.”

  11. Bill,

    I have my eye well on mission creep … which goes back to my other replies here that my issue with the TSA is with the management and administration … not the front line agents. TSA front line agents tend to do a pretty good job as locating weapons and banned items … and items such as drugs when spotted by TSA are then searched and seized by law enforcement. There has been a shift in the TSA related to turning specific law enforcement tasks to the proper authorities.

    ID checking for me is a fine line between revenue protection and security. Anyone on a no-fly list should be caught in the system when a ticket is purchased, not at a podium. The scope of the TSA has expanded, it needs to be reigned in … but again … that is management and administration not the front line folks.

    By the way … if you read this site in more depth, you’ll see I rarely if ever let up on the TSA.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

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