The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) takes a lot of flak on this blog, and rightfully so. Despite my grave consitutional concerns with full body scanners, enhanced pat-downs, and America’s counterproductive airport security paradigm in general, the poor attitude displayed by so many TSOs (Transportation Security Officers) cements in my mind that the TSA is an organization that must be dramaticaly reformed or scuttled.
This story demonstrates my point:
Yesterday I retuned from Miami, but not before going through Miami International Airport security. I decided beforehand that due to the danger of backscatter radiation and the ineffectiveness of body scanner technology that I would opt out of going through the body scanner if I were chosen to do so. I was and here’s what happened.
I shook my head no when the TSA agent on the other side of the machine motioned me through. He then yelled, “she’s an opt out”. When my husband also refused, he yelled, “he’s an opt out”. When my daughter approached the scanner he asked, “ya wanna make it three?” She did.
After passing through the metal detector I was told to stay put. I could not collect my belongings after they went through the x-ray machine. I stood for what must have been ten mins. while an agent stood guard. I was told not to move when I expressed concern about my belongings.
Finally I was handed off to a female agent took who me aside for my “enhanced pat down” and inspection of my carryon luggage…
After I was dismissed, I saw that my husband was still waiting for his enhanced search. One of the eight agents standing around in front of me had on a different colored shirt and I guessed he was a supervisor. I approached him and said, “my husband is still waiting for his pat down.”
TSA supervisory agent Robert Colon responded to my comment by turning around, raising his arms above his head palms of his hands facing forward and yelled at the crowd. “Listen up folks. This is security. It’s gonna to take a long time. Deal with it!” He then walked away.
I was stunned and many in the crowd stared in disbelief at his outburst.
After at least ten mins. more, my husband was searched and let go. By this time there were several other “opt outs” waiting their turn all the while dozens of TSA agents stood around not doing a thing…
Back in December I happened to be at LAX when the LAX TSA Chorus was performing. I captured a lot of it on video and have meant to post for you all to see, to further highlight that attitude makes a huge difference. Here was a group of men and women in the TSA singing Christmas carols for passengers–and singing quite well–on their own time. I was very impressed and at least for that split moment, I thought that maybe I was being too harsh on the TSA.
I quickly returned to reality, but the incident I highlighted above is not a rarirty–a simlar occurence happened to me in Boston and Denver and I hear stories like this all the time. If the TSA wants to win the hearts and minds of the public, the most important priority must be attitude adjustment. Giving TSOs more money will not solve the problem–there needs to be leadership change from the top that begins with an honest appraisal of our passenger screening system and an acknowledgement that our current system is broken.