Reader Mail & Comments : I Got Detained By The TSA

Yesterday I wrote about being briefly detained by the Connecticut State Police, at the request of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and that once detained I was informed that I was not free to leave Bradley International Airport.

Since my post went up I received both comments on the blog and in my email that appear to miss the point of my post … and thing I have mentioned in my post.   Rather than bury my reply in the comments section, I decided to just make another post.

1)  I did not dial a private number at the TSA to resolve my issue of being detained. The TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications (Public Affairs) phone number is easy to find using any search engine in a matter of seconds. The number is +1(571)227-2829.

2) As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am lucky in that I know a  number of people in the TSA’s Public Affairs unit.  I know these people because I call  this TSA number often and these are the people responsible for handling the media.  My relationship with this unit is at times strained because of what I write, which is often not favorable, but it is always courteous and professional.  Being courteous and professional goes a long way when you need help … and quickly.

3) I am well aware that if I didn’t know who to call in a hurry I’d likely have been held at the State Police station at BDL for a few hours while this was worked out.

4) For people not familiar with the TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications, if you find yourself in this situation, I would strongly suggest contacting the TSA’s Office of Civil Right at +1(571)227-1917.

5)  At no point did I ever indicate that my encounter while being detained by the State Police at the TSA’s request was brief because I was calm and polite. I was calm and polite because being heated and argumentative does nothing.  I did not want the situation to escalate … although quite a few people who have written me appear as if they’d prefer an escalated situation.   Being anything but calm and professional does nothing, other than made a tense situation worse

6) To the three people who said I should have walked out when I was informed that I was not free to leave the terminal … this would have resulted in me being arrested. Had I been arrested it would have been for failure to obey a police officer, rather than because I was being detained on incorrect information.   You may not agree with the law that says a person can be arrested for failure to comply with a direct order from a police officer, especially if you’ve been informed that you’re being detained … but that is the law. This goes back to me not wanting to escalate the situation.

7) “You should be outraged for what happened!” … really?  Well OK, I probably should be outraged, but it isn’t like I don’t know these things happen. I know they happen because I hear about it consistently from not only photographers and travelers, but also from those who work for the TSA. Instead of being outraged, I choose to try and use this situation to bring awareness to the fact that there are thousands of TSA regulations and some of them are unknown or misunderstood.   Being outraged and just yelling will do nothing.   Being upset and using the platform that I have to try and increase a line of communication with the TSA about front line training and education, for both TSA personnel and airport personnel is a far better use of my energy.

8 ) “the TSA office of strat comm that handled the issue not YOU” … yes and no. I did handle the situation. I remained calm and professional, when it became obvious that the State Trooper and TSA agent didn’t know the laws, I made a call to people at the TSA for their assistance.  In every situation in life, no matter what it is, we all need to use the tools and connections available to us.

9) “Clearly you are becoming soft on the TSA!” Well … clearly you are not reading my blog posts, or the comments I have been posting recently from Federal Air Marshals (who are part of the TSA), Department of Defense analysts, Department of Homeland Security experts and Transportation Security Administration analysts … none of what these industry insiders has much to say that is favourable.  The agency has good people trapped in an agency that is in need of an overhaul.  I see all sides of this problem, which allows me to have a perspective that most people simply do not have.

In the end, I am aware that a 20 minute detainment and being unable to leave the airport is minor compared to what could have been. I am well aware that I was in a position many others are not in being able to contact people and get an issue resolved only behalf fairly quickly … but I put myself in the position of being able to deal with this situation quickly.

From here … I’ll take this experience like I have my other TSA experience … stay calm, stay level headed (as I did even when the TSA came to my house almost a year ago to issue me a subpoena outside of their jurisdiction) and move forward to provide balanced coverage and commentary on the TSA.

Happy Flying!


  1. Steven, there’s no better TSA reporter than you. Keep up the good work – and the common sense approach.

  2. I agree being calm and professional produces better results than being loud and argumentative, especially with law enforcement agencies. I like your even handed coverage of the TSA especially the enhanced pat down and the full body scanning issue which is a personal and emotive issue.

  3. This is a great post on so many levels. People could – and should – learn from you.

    I see so many people everywhere – in stores, airports, train stations, even my school – who think that screaming their way out of a potential misunderstanding will get them somewhere. Anyone who has watched an episode of Cops should know that yelling at the police and resisting their commands leads to no good.

    I think it’s awesome that you kept your cool, used the resources that you had, and worked your way through a misunderstanding without having to yell / scream / be arrested. These rules should be taught to people who have issues keeping cool when confronted – rightly or wrongly – by people in authority positions.

  4. I was looking at the TSA website to find out which airports have the backscatter screening (and it’s finally updated to include San Diego now that the “junk” guy made his point) and found the following clearly posted.

    I realize the average screener in the blue shirt MIGHT not be aware of this, it’s beyond my understanding why someone in TSA management/suit wouldn’t know about this . . .

    Q. Is it okay to take pictures or videos inside the airport and at a checkpoint?

    A. TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations; however, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances may. We recommend contacting your local airport authority in advance to ensure you are familiar with their local procedures. While TSA does not prohibit the public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations, TSA may ask a photographer to stop if they are interfering with the screening process or taking photos of X-ray monitor screens in a checkpoint. The same guidelines apply to media. Members of the press should contact TSA’s Office of Public Affairs, at 571-227-2829, prior to filming or taking photographs at a security checkpoint.

    While there is a difference between taking a casual photo and someone conducting surveillance, travelers should not be surprised if TSA or local law enforcement inquires about their actions. This is important to ensure the safety of the traveling public and something our officers may do as part of their security mission.

  5. “This is important to ensure the safety of the traveling public”

    Erndog, You have swallowed the lie they have fed you. Nothing they do makes us any safer – all it does is make someone else wealthier. The illusion of safety for money’s sake. A bomber can easily get into the terminal where there are many more people than on a plane and detonate a device prior to security screening.

    These enhanced security procedures may find the one off whack job that thinks he is going to board a plane with bomb making materials and set it off – but it isn’t going to stop a sophisticated attempt at terror. There are much better targets.

  6. Tyler wrote: “These enhanced security procedures may find the one off whack job that thinks he is going to board a plane with bomb making materials and set it off – but it isn’t going to stop a sophisticated attempt at terror. There are much better targets.”

    These enhanced procedures ARE the terror. They no longer need to evoke terror in our populace; we are doing it ourselves now and they just have to sit back and watch.

  7. I think that outraged comment was mine 🙂

    In all seriousness though, I admire your ability to take everything so calmly. I’m not one to let my emotions get involved, as a matter of fact I would go as far as to say I’m a pretty frigid person. However, I’m certain I would NOT be a happy camper if what had happened to you had happened to me. Does this mean I’d cause a scene and be belligerent? No. Would I want to? Well… I think that’s a different story.

    If anything you model a balanced and civil approach that the rest of us should strive for. It’s only a matter of time before my plane spotting gets me on the wrong side of an uninformed uniform. Here’s to hoping I’ll be able suppress any reaction and “pull a fish”.

  8. I’ve been reading your last few blogs on here and have to say the comments on your last blog are unfair. Remaining calm is not a sign of weakness it is in fact a sign or strength. You are able to control your emotions and use connections to resolve the situation.
    The TSA’s officers can be held accountable for not knowing the rules yet so can their instructors, if they were not informed of the rules then it is the TSA’s lack of education that is at fault. From what I have been reading it seems TSA was in a mad rush to get more people on the front line and have therefore skimped on some of the information.

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