TSA Somehow Getting Worse

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Heisenberg
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TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Heisenberg » Thu May 03, 2012 1:49 pm UTC

All of these have happened in the past week.
Boing Boing wrote:• A terminal in Newark airport was evacuated because the TSA forgot to screen a tiny baby.
• TSA agents discovered an "anomaly in the crotchital area" of a 79-year-old woman.
• TSA agents at JFK harassed the family of a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and developmental disability.
• TSA screeners in LA ran a drug ring and took bribes from drug dealers.
• The TSA's anti-hugging squad caught a terrorist masquerading as a 4-year-old girl who loves her grandma.
• A 95-year-old US Air Force veteran from World War II and his 85-year-old friend were humiliated, searched and robbed at a San Diego TSA checkpoint.
Links to each one in the article.

How does this keep happening? Is there no one at the TSA who reads the news and thinks "Gee, maybe I should tell my people to stop doing ridiculous shit like this." Or at least give them some advice on how to talk to people without saying "crotchital."

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu May 03, 2012 1:53 pm UTC

Jobs that provide power inevitably attract people who enjoy abusing that power.

I think that it would probably pay dividends to screen people for these positions for power-abusing behaviors, and to incorporate training that diminishes those sorts of behaviors. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that part of the problem with TSAs is we treat it too much like 'a very important job' and not enough like 'a job with a large amount of power, that requires an even larger amount of responsibility and culpability'.

Then again, I think anyone and everyone can benefit from simple training protocols on how to de-escalate a situation (rather than escalate it), etc.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Arrian » Thu May 03, 2012 3:07 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Jobs that provide power inevitably attract people who enjoy abusing that power.


I think you'll get a lot of these kinds of outrageous situations regardless of the type of people you hire and how you train them. The TSA is judged solely by whether or not terrorists get onto airplanes, all their incentives are built from that. So their procedures and policies will be focused around keeping terrorists off airplanes, not customer service: The director will be hauled in front of Congress and fired if one terrorist makes it through to an airplane. Only one out of every hundred? thousand? groped grandmas will make it to the news, and it will take a large number of such incidents in the news to get the director called in front of congress for that. Even then, the director can present it as a choice between groping grandma or letting airplanes blow up. And if an airplane does get blown up, the director can point to the complaints and tell Congress "See! We are doing everything we can do!" Their procedures will also be non-discretionary because the director (and President) would get crucified if a terrorist got on an airplane because someone made a bad judgement call, so you'll continue to see soldiers forced to toss their nail clippers while merrily carrying M-4s onto the plane.

Added to that is the constraint that they can't profile passengers due to equal protection laws, so they're between a rock and a hard place: If they aren't profiling, they'll have to grope some grandmas and let some brown people through unmolested. If they don't grope any grandmas and toddlers, they'll get sued for racial profiling.

So the legal environment and their mandate from Congress means the TSA will be groping grandma regardless of how much training the screeners have. Note that customer service never appears. Take a look at the TSA's mission statement, neither the mission nor the vision says anything about customer service. The closest it gets is saying "We are a people of integrity who respect and care for others and protect the information we handle," under integrity in their core values, but that's pretty vague, and intentionally subordinated to the mission of "The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce."

You'll probably see the same things from a private screening company: Frisking grandma and scanning toddlers and not letting soldiers carry on nail files. But they'll almost certainly not be assholes about it since the folks in charge know they can be replaced if the cause too many complaints. They might also be more careful about providing actual security, not just going through the motions since they'll certainly be sued if a terrorist gets through. So still the random scans and pat downs that have to grope grandma (they've still got to obey the equal protection/anti racial profiling laws) but you'll also be likely to face a little chat on your way through with some serious scrutiny if you get squirrely.

The drug stuff? Meh, is it even TSA's job to stop drug trafficking? You'll get corrupt people anywhere, if it's not TSA agents, it will be baggage handlers or stewardesses or someone.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Griffin » Thu May 03, 2012 3:11 pm UTC

Old people and toddlers aren't races.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu May 03, 2012 3:18 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:I think you'll get a lot of these kinds of outrageous situations regardless of the type of people you hire and how you train them. The TSA is judged solely by whether or not terrorists get onto airplanes, all their incentives are built from that.
I really doubt this--I mean, do we really expect that terrorists will get on planes and successfully hijack them to use them as weapons ever again in America?

The first time someone stands up and says 'this is a hijacking', they are getting fucking piled on. Whether they've got a knife, a gun, or a rusty paper-clip--they're not going to pull it off. The TSA isn't so much a precautionary measure as it is a psychological measure; we need to feel like we're doing something, so this is what we're doing. They are performing a customer service (providing a measure of illusionary safety).

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Griffin » Thu May 03, 2012 3:27 pm UTC

Especially since all the evidence points to it not being any harder to actually smuggle things, including weapons, onto planes. And that, in fact, security in many areas has diminished significantly.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Arrian » Thu May 03, 2012 3:58 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:Old people and toddlers aren't races.


No, they're not. But if you're truly screening randomly, their numbers will certainly come up in proportion to their flying population. Equal protection advocates can then point to that as an indicator that the screening isn't random and therefore is biased. And we live in a country where biased screening, even if it's intelligently biased, is illegal.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Griffin » Thu May 03, 2012 4:08 pm UTC

[citation needed]

Please, cite laws that say age-based screening discrimination is illegal.

Because age-based discrimination is pretty much the major acceptable sort of discrimination, and enshrined in US law in dozens of places, so I'm kind of doubtful such legislation exists.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Falling » Thu May 03, 2012 4:20 pm UTC

I had one of those crotch anomalies.... good times.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 03, 2012 4:26 pm UTC

When I travel by plane I usually get stopped by the TSA agents, being a young male, though I'm classified as "white". I haven't been forced to strip or anything yet, but if I did I would insist on no private room. If I'm going to be abused, I want everyone to see it.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Arrian » Thu May 03, 2012 4:35 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:[citation needed]

Please, cite laws that say age-based screening discrimination is illegal.

Because age-based discrimination is pretty much the major acceptable sort of discrimination, and enshrined in US law in dozens of places, so I'm kind of doubtful such legislation exists.


I'm not saying they're discriminated based on age. I'm saying that if they aren't choosing the very old and very young for enhanced screening, they aren't choosing randomly and therefore are profiling*. Race or religious based profiling IS illegal**, the TSA IS being scrutinized for evidence of profiling, and that's what they're most likely to get sued for (even though intelligent age + race + religion based profiling is likely to be pretty effective means of screening for actual terrorists.)

<*>Why TSA does patdowns:
The TSA Blog wrote:So, what might cause you to receive a pat-down? Passengers may receive a pat-down in a number of circumstances: to resolve an alarm at a walk-through metal detector; if an anomaly is detected during screening with advanced imaging technology; or during random screening. Passengers who opt out of enhanced screening such as advanced imaging technology will receive an equivalent level of screening to include a thorough pat-down.

[Emphasis mine.]
The groped grannies and violated 4 year olds you hear about are often the victims of random enhanced screening. If the screening is truly random, you have to be patting them down. The absence of abusive patdowns of those people is evidence of non-random screening, not enough to get the TSA sued on its own (probably) but certainly supporting evidence in a case of racial profiling. </*>

<Edit to add the link and **>
<**>
TSA Office of Civil Rights and Liberties wrote:Travelers who believe they have been treated differently or unlawfully discriminated(1) against by a Transportation Security Administration employee may file a civil rights(2) or civil liberties(3) complaint with TSA’s Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement Multicultural Division.

1) Discrimination includes treating someone differently or less favorably because of a person’s protected status, such as race, national origin, age, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, parental status, or retaliation as compared to someone else under similar circumstances.

</**></edit>

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Griffin
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Griffin » Thu May 03, 2012 4:53 pm UTC

So there's absolutely nothing unlawful about creating age exemptions, it would just require the TSA to decide it's acceptable to screen based on age. Is what you're saying. Definitely doesn't seem to be what you're trying to say, but it's what you're saying.

The links you posted are entirely irrelevant to anything I've said, so I don't really know why you bothered.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Heisenberg » Thu May 03, 2012 5:21 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:The groped grannies and violated 4 year olds you hear about are often the victims of random enhanced screening.
Nope. This granny simply went through the x-ray and was told she had a "crotchital" anomaly. Same with the 4-year old, who simply hugged her grandma before a pat-down (due to the scanner going off again). These aren't "random" enhanced checks causing these horrible foul-ups, these are standard operating procedure.
Arrian wrote:I'm not saying they're discriminated based on age. I'm saying that if they aren't choosing the very old and very young for enhanced screening, they aren't choosing randomly and therefore are profiling*. Race or religious based profiling IS illegal**, the TSA IS being scrutinized for evidence of profiling, and that's what they're most likely to get sued for (even though intelligent age + race + religion based profiling is likely to be pretty effective means of screening for actual terrorists.)
I agree that they're probably already profiling, but I have no evidence because unlike every other law enforcement agency in the country, the TSA is not required to keep track of who they're targeting. For instance, if the San Francisco PD decides to use their power to stop and ass-grab every 20-something blonde they see, that shows up in the statistics they are required to record. The TSA, on the other hand, is under no such restriction, so they very well could be targeting grandmas, or as many young women have said, young women, and there are NO RECORDS. The app you linked to is evidence that people believe that the TSA are profiling and due to the absolute lack of mechanism to track that, they've tried to create one.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby maxQ » Thu May 03, 2012 6:42 pm UTC

I often carry the most dangerous object to the TSA onboard an airplane: a baby. I have been stopped 100% of the time and subjected to extra scrutiny (including the extra special patdown) due to the exceptions needed to fly with infants.

So I would argue that families with infants/toddlers ARE ALREADY discriminated against due to ageism. They would have to make exceptions to the security rules in order for families with infants to get EQUAL treatment, let alone preferential.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Ben1599 » Fri May 04, 2012 11:18 pm UTC

Some airports I've been at, maybe its all by now, allow children under 4 (I think) to keep their shoes one through security. That seems like pretty blatant (although logical and probably smart) discrimination against those older than 4.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby pizzazz » Sun May 06, 2012 5:18 am UTC

Ben1599 wrote:Some airports I've been at, maybe its all by now, allow children under 4 (I think) to keep their shoes one through security. That seems like pretty blatant (although logical and probably smart) discrimination against those older than 4.


I believe the sign at Laguardia said 12.

Has there ever been an instance where the TSA caught someone with explosives or guns (or even combat knives) in standard security? Random screening is bullshit; no terrorist is going to be deterred because of that small chance. I ask this because I know that at least terrorist got on the plane itself (the underwear bomber) since all this crap was implemented.

In contrast, Israeli security actually did stop an attempt:
[url]
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_ ... urity.html[/url]
A key point: Israeli agents are trained to look for suspicious behavior.

A different perspective and some suggestions (and what look like excuses), including random additional screening for everyone as an alternative to super-extra screening a few people, are offered by the former head of the TSA:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303815404577335783535660546.html

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby CorruptUser » Sun May 06, 2012 6:37 am UTC

Can someone please point out any cases where the TSA has managed to stop any attacks? Because I'm not sure they are worth the cost.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Ghostbear » Sun May 06, 2012 6:48 am UTC

I was actually curious because I've often suggested that it has failed to stop any attacks. So I did a search, and the best I could come up with is an article from Nov. 2010 where the TSA refuses to detail any specific attacks that it has stopped for 'security reasons'. Looking at the article, it appears to me that what the TSA has done is (1) caught more contraband and (2) caught some crazy people that might have comitted a crime somewhere else (aka not on or related to a plane). Basically, it looks to me like the TSA has helped in various non-security policing*, but has yet to accomplish one iota of increased physical safety for travelers.

* Which is a bit of a problem, since they aren't police.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby johnny_7713 » Sun May 06, 2012 9:19 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Can someone please point out any cases where the TSA has managed to stop any attacks? Because I'm not sure they are worth the cost.


Can someone please point out how many burglaries the locks on my doors have stopped? Because I'm not sure they are worth the cost.
I can agree with much of the criticism of the TSA, but this is a bit unfair. It is known that the TSA screening exists and the odds of a gun on your person or in your hand luggage being detected are very high, thus the terrorists are unlikely to try smuggling one through. Thus the mere absence of people being caught trying to smuggle a gun through a TSA checkpoint does not prove they are useless. Maybe they haven't caught anyone simply because the presence of the TSA checkpoints means no one is trying anymore?

The underwear bomber is not a valid criticism of the TSA by the way, since he did not board the plane in the US and thus wasn't screened by the TSA.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby K-R » Sun May 06, 2012 9:53 am UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:It is known that the TSA screening exists and the odds of a gun on your person or in your hand luggage being detected are very high

Is it? Given that nobody's ever bothered to officially test the machines, and that everyone who's unofficially tested the machines has found them to be generally completely useless, I find that hard to believe.

The underwear bomber is not a valid criticism of the TSA by the way, since he did not board the plane in the US and thus wasn't screened by the TSA.

It wouldn't have mattered; it's been said countless times that the TSA would never have caught him (assuming, of course, they missed the one-way ticket purchased with cash by someone who had no luggage, which should really be enough on its own).

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Ghostbear » Sun May 06, 2012 10:05 am UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:It is known that the TSA screening exists and the odds of a gun on your person or in your hand luggage being detected are very high, [...]

Is this known, or just assumed? From some digging around, it appears that they had a detection rate of 30% in 2004-2005, and still had a similar rate as of 2011. The article notes that several airports routinely have had a 0% success rate with convert tests, and in the article it links to it's noted that it is "not uncommon" for loaded guns to make it past security.

johnny_7713 wrote:The underwear bomber is not a valid criticism of the TSA by the way, since he did not board the plane in the US and thus wasn't screened by the TSA.

Wouldn't that actually make it a very valid criticism of the TSA? If the security granted by the TSA can be circumvented by making the point A of your journey a different country, then it's not a very effective defense. To follow your door lock analogy, questioning the value of the TSA when planes flown from a different country can avoid them is comparable to questioning the value of a door lock when your house has a (non-pluggable, human sized) hole in the wall on the ground floor.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby pizzazz » Tue May 08, 2012 12:54 am UTC

Admittedly, just the fact that the TSA has never stopped an attack, doesn't mean that they haven't prevented any number of attempts from even being tried in the first place. It's very unlikely anyone's going to try to use liquid explosives again*, but of course if it was announced that there were no more restrictions on liquids, terrorists might start using them again. However, as we have seen, the TSA can't anticipate every possible avenue of attack. As I recall, it was law enforcement that caught the liquid explosives plot, and the underwear bomber's explosion device failed.

My question is, why do we even have airport security? If someone just wants to kill lots of people, there are lots of public spaces with many people and minimal or no security (like malls or even busy sidewalks). The only difference is that airports have airplanes, which are still only different from just bombing lots of people if they are flown into things. And that's something that we can stop by focusing entirely on the plane itself: indestructible cockpit doors that lock from the inside, air marshals on planes, known procedures ahead of time for passengers and crew. Screening for knives, guns, and explosives might make this part easier, if you can reliably catch them; otherwise, you end up with the exact same situation you do whenever guns get banned: criminals have them and everyone else does not.

*are the current restrictions even effective? If you have several people working together, it's possible to bring quite a significant quantity of liquid on board, but I don't know if any of the explosive ones show up as different in a standard scan, and I know they generally don't even try to confirm if the substances are what they claim to be.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue May 08, 2012 1:02 am UTC

pizzazz wrote:My question is, why do we even have airport security? If someone just wants to kill lots of people, there are lots of public spaces with many people and minimal or no security (like malls or even busy sidewalks).
I'd wager a guess that it's a ritual. We do all sorts of extraordinarily ornate 'dances' to ward off danger, to keep the wolves at bay--this seems like just one more attempt.

Maybe that's a little cynical of me? I don't know a lot about security or terrorism, but I can't feasibly see how TSAs address either issue--not in America, at least. What's going to happen the moment a dude tries to hijack a plane and fly it somewhere? Obviously, not what that dude wants to happen (unless what he wants to happen involves getting violently dogpiled by terrified passengers).

If that's the case--if this is just another ritual we use to keep the imaginary demons away--I can't imagine it's something we'll be rid of any time soon, and I expect it'll only grow more ornate as time goes on.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue May 08, 2012 3:10 am UTC

People are largely reactive when thinking about safety and security. Even though airplane and air-port related attacks make up only a fraction of potential terrorist threats, the most recent and most well known terrorist attack used aircraft, so that's what people are thinking about, that's what they're afraid of and that's where the security gets focused. How do you think people would have reacted if after 9/11, airport security barely changed, but checkpoints and roadblocks were established to stop car-bombs and suicide bombers from attacking public buildings?

Another factor may be that the perception of the level of risk is completely out-of-whack from the actual level of risk related to terrorism, which is miniscule. Highly visible and invasive security could be, at least in part, to reduce people's perception o the terrorism risk, bring that perception closer to reality and make the environment more rational over-all. Though it's clear now that the TSA hasn't even done that job particularly well.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Lucrece » Tue May 08, 2012 5:35 am UTC

The incidents happening all in the same week appear a meaningless observation. I'm sure a lot of illegal shit and abuse of power issues happen just as well with other government/contractor departments. It's not the TSA that gets worse -- it's that people allow government officials to make it worse. The amount of shit Americans are willing to take from so-called authorities is just staggering. But convenience is king and mobilizing to have your will respected politically is too much of a hassle, and so things continue to get worse.

For every person complaining here about the lack of effectiveness and absurdity of the TSA, there are plenty more uninformed sheep out there unwilling to do research for themselves that will take the comfort of assurance from authorities that this is indeed necessary.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue May 08, 2012 6:53 am UTC

From what I've read, which may admittedly be somewhat biased, while much of the public believes that airport security is indeed necessary, there is a significant fraction (possibly a majority) that feels the TSA's implementation is incompetent, and a smaller (but still significant) fraction that are actually unsettled by/afraid of the TSA, and both groups are growing as the TSA implements increasingly ridiculous 'security' measures and utterly fails to manage their crippling image problem.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby folkhero » Tue May 08, 2012 8:55 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Another factor may be that the perception of the level of risk is completely out-of-whack from the actual level of risk related to terrorism, which is miniscule.

People's perception of the risk of terrorism is way higher than reality, and people's perception of the risk of commercial air travel is way higher than reality. Combine the two irrational fears and you have people going a long way to 'keep us safe.'
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Chen » Tue May 08, 2012 12:05 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:My question is, why do we even have airport security? If someone just wants to kill lots of people, there are lots of public spaces with many people and minimal or no security (like malls or even busy sidewalks). The only difference is that airports have airplanes, which are still only different from just bombing lots of people if they are flown into things. And that's something that we can stop by focusing entirely on the plane itself: indestructible cockpit doors that lock from the inside, air marshals on planes, known procedures ahead of time for passengers and crew. Screening for knives, guns, and explosives might make this part easier, if you can reliably catch them; otherwise, you end up with the exact same situation you do whenever guns get banned: criminals have them and everyone else does not.


Even pre-9/11 there was airport security. I suspect it has something to do with being trapped and vulnerable. Someone brings a gun to a mall and starts shooting you can run away. Someone starts shooting on a plan and you're pretty much screwed. Even things like trains/busses there's a decent chance you can jump off/out and be injured but survive. None of that is possible on an plane. Even though aircraft accidents are fairly rare (compared to say car crashes) the catastrophic nature of the accidents makes people afraid and vulnerable. Its part of people's perception. If you're on a bus that crashes there's that feeling that you'll probably be hurt but you'll survive. You don't really have that on a plane. As such they implemented security not only to protect their aircraft and passengers but to assuage the fear passengers have.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby iamspen » Tue May 08, 2012 1:20 pm UTC

Also consider the economic and political ramifications of attacking an airplane. If a plane is hijacked or blown up or whatever the case may be, you're looking at all or some flights grounded indefinitely within a region or country. Flights that aren't grounded are inevitibly delayed and security must be ramped up exponentially, because, as a government, the default assumption has to be, "this isn't an isolated incident." Security at ship- and trainyards must be increased. The cost is simply enormous, and an attack of that manner has the potential to derail the political machines of a country for years.

Consider also that if you jack a plane and have demands, you're not exactly at risk of being picked off by a well-placed sniper. And since Air Force One was an entirely fictitious film, your hostages have no hope of being rescued until your demands are met.

Even the most heinous mall massacre doesn't provide any of these benefits.
Last edited by iamspen on Tue May 08, 2012 9:40 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue May 08, 2012 6:03 pm UTC

Spoiler:
Lucrece wrote:The incidents happening all in the same week appear a meaningless observation. I'm sure a lot of illegal shit and abuse of power issues happen just as well with other government/contractor departments. It's not the TSA that gets worse -- it's that people allow government officials to make it worse. The amount of shit Americans are willing to take from so-called authorities is just staggering. But convenience is king and mobilizing to have your will respected politically is too much of a hassle, and so things continue to get worse.

For every person complaining here about the lack of effectiveness and absurdity of the TSA, there are plenty more uninformed sheep out there unwilling to do research for themselves that will take the comfort of assurance from authorities that this is indeed necessary.


For every person complaining here about the lack of effectiveness and absurdity of the TSA, there are plenty more uninformed sheep out there unwilling to do research for themselves that will take the comfort of assurance from authorities that this is indeed necessary.


lack of effectiveness and absurdity of the TSA, there are plenty more uninformed sheep out there unwilling to do research for themselves


there are plenty more uninformed sheep out there


uninformed sheep

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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Dark567 » Tue May 08, 2012 6:52 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:My question is, why do we even have airport security? If someone just wants to kill lots of people, there are lots of public spaces with many people and minimal or no security (like malls or even busy sidewalks).
Well, I believe its a holdover from day's when planes weren't used to kill a bunch of people, but instead used as an very effective way of hostage taking in which terrorists could make high stakes demands. Hijacking started happening a lot in the late 1960's(89 in 1969, which is a lot considering there aren't nearly as many flights as there are today), so the government and airlines started screening people and it dropped dramatically. The FAA required metal detectors and luggage scans long before 9/11.

That said, I think a successful plane hijacking is probably still a more effective form of terrorism than just about anything that could be done to a unsecured public space.
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Re: TSA Somehow Getting Worse

Postby Randomizer » Fri May 11, 2012 1:51 am UTC

Apparently Canada has naked body scanners and pat downs at airports, too. :shock:

The screening agency is called the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA).
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