The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has long since done away with the redundant process of requiring passengers to present their boarding pass to a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) before passenger screening, after they have already presented their identification and travel documents to the TSO acting as a travel document checker.
The process of double checking already verified travel documents just a few feet from where they had already been checked was proven to not enhance security, slow down the passenger screening process, and tie up a TSO’s attention in the screening area. Now, following the domestic act of terrorism in Boston this past Monday, on the 15th of April, certain airports have adjusted their own security procedures in what the TSA refers to as “random security” to “throw off the routine of potential threats.”
This morning while on my way to catch a flight from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) I was caught off guard after I had presented my identification and boarding pass and proceeded towards to passenger screening. I was approached by a TSO who informed me that she needed to inspect my boarding pass. I enquired as to why and was told “this is a new procedure,” and that she knew nothing more. I handed the TSO my boarding pass then after clearing security approached a Supervisor Transportation Security Officer (STSO) and enquired about the reinstitution of checking of checking boarding passes, as I did not encounter this while flying yesterday from Providence’s T.F. Green Airport, and was informed “The FSD [Federal Security Director] has ordered the double checking of all boarding passes following the events in Boston this week, ensuring better security for passengers.” I was also told that these changes to passenger screening procedures are occurring on an airport by airport basis, it was not a policy change from the upper management at the TSA.
I understand the theory behind random security changes to break up a person’s routine as an immediate threat deterrent, however I am once again stumped as to how this security procedure would ever deter a threat.
If we use the two brothers who set off bombs in Boston as an example, no one knew who they were, no one knew their names, and TSOs do not have a ‘watch list,’ so if they were planning an attack on an aircraft, how would double checking their boarding prevent their actions? The second check of travel documents is not to check identification, just travel documents.
Does the TSA not trust their initial travel document checkers? What intelligence are these second document checkers looking for? These TSOs are not Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) looking for microfacial tell-tall-signs … a technique that has never been proven to work or be effective in a real world airport environment with TSA trained agents.
Aviation security must be proactive, not reactive. The Transportation Security Administration’s front line Transportation Security Officers are not law enforcement nor are they charged with any law enforcement investigative tasks. Transportation Security Officers are not airline revenue protection agents. Transportation Security Officers and their immediate superiors are not able to change Standard Operating Procedure on a whim. So in the wake of the terrible acts of terrorism Boston the TSA should be more focused on their task at hand.
The task at hand for the TSA is to look for threats to aviation security using what is available to them. Security is enhanced when the agency stays on mission and sticks to procedures that are effective, rather than reviving older procedures that are proven wholly ineffective.