TSA needs to take parenting classes

December 26th, 2009 in Travel

The TSA and the airlines need to take parenting classes. The New York Times now says some airlines won't allow us to hold anything during the last hour of some flights:

“Among other things,” the statement in Air Canada’s Web site read,
“during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, will not
be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or
other items on their laps.”

To me this seems like a worried parent. They heard that their kid was drinking beer at a party, so no more parties. They heard that their kid was drinking with their friend Bob, so no more hanging out with Bob. They heard that their kid could buy drugs at school … so no more school? You can't control every detail of other people's lives in order to eliminate a risk. You need to address the risks a different way.

I'm not saying that parenting classes will teach the TSA and the airlines how to deal with the terrorist threat (unlike a kid you've raised, they don't even know who the terrorists are), I'm just saying that trying to lock down everything is overreacting and unlikely to solve the problem.

No more than 3 ounces of any one liquid, taking off your shoes, putting your laptop in a bin by itself, not holding anything during the last hour of flight. That's like saying no parties, no Bob, no school.

Like any high school kid looking for beer is sure they could find some, I am 100% sure I could get on any inter US flight with a ticket under any name you'd like. (Well, maybe not an Arabic name.) I'm sure that any large, organized group could get a bomb on an airplane. I'm sure that anyone who really wanted to could put a bomb in schools or public places.

(I mean, really, instead of taking a 12 ounce bottle, how hard would it be to take four 3 ounce bottles? Or to have all your fellow terrorists carry some of it and combine it in the airport? Sometimes I think this rule was made by airport vendors hoping to sell us more drinks.)

The things that TSA and the airlines are doing are not preventing all the risks of air travel and they are wasting a lot of (our) time and money trying to make us (or them) feel safer without eliminating the risk.

24 Responses to “TSA needs to take parenting classes”

  1. Rodney Dawes says:

    What about flights that are ~1 hour? It means you can’t read a book, or listen to music, or have a drink of water mid flight? It’s less like removing the school, than it is making the kids go to school, but they can’t use any books, or pencils. Of course, you can carry unloaded guns on Amtrak still. Ah what fun.

  2. alex says:

    Uh oh! Subversive writings! How dare you question your government, citizen?
    In all seriousness though, I often wonder if they do these things to desensitize us to oppression. If so, then how long do we have? Troubling questions…

  3. i heart fascism says:

    Is the TSA about safety, or getting us used to getting barked at and losing all privacy and dignity?
    There’s no logic to be found in their rules. If you feel nervous and intimidated when passing a TSA checkpoint, they are doing their job.
    History teaches that this happens in every growing police state.
    Also internal checkpoints:
    https://www.checkpointusa.org/blog
    http://www.aclu.org/national-security_technology-and-liberty/are-you-living-constitution-free-zone

  4. stormy says:

    I’m surprised kids are allowed to take pencils to school – you know they can stab each other with them!
    Seriously, if they want us all to sit there empty handed and watch each other then they should just let passengers be responsible for security. None of us wants to be blown up!

  5. stormy says:

    Very troubling …

  6. stormy says:

    I think they should have two types of airports. Ones for those that want the extra security and those that are willing to skip in it in exchange for freedom and time …

  7. Anonymous says:

    Maybe we wouldn’t have these problems if those stupid middle east muslim extremists stop their anarchy bullshit.

  8. i heart fascism says:

    Yeah, muslims are the problem. Or maybe communists?
    Whatever you do, Anonymous, don’t look behind the curtain.

  9. stormy says:

    There will always be “bad guys” out there. We need to find a way to limit their damage without limiting our freedom.

  10. Jeff Walden says:

    “I’m sure that any large, organized group could get a bomb on an airplane.”
    I think that there are more than a few groups out there who would love to do this — if they could. To an extent I question your certitude on the other points in that paragraph, but on this one I think you are absolutely wrong, given their general lack of success in recent years.

  11. James Henstridge says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get on a domestic flight without ID. If the US is anything like Australia, most of the ID checks get bypassed if you use the online check in web site and have no checked luggage.
    The Australian comedy team The Chaser took advantage of this by booking some flights under the names “Al Kayder” and “Terry Wrist”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FkYPV7Iwu4
    They took a fair bit of heat about it in the media, mostly saying that you shouldn’t point out faults in the security because then terrorists might use them. But three years on it is just as easy to board a flight without ID.
    I guess in a lot of cases the airlines will resist security measures that cost them time (and therefore money) compared to those that don’t. Since the screening is handled by a government body, rules on shoes and liquids don’t cost anything. In contrast online checkin saves the airline staff a fair bit of time, so they’ll fight to allow that.
    While the ban on access to carry on luggage is going to be enforced by airline staff, those staff would be on duty anyway. So there isn’t much incentive for the airlines to fight it.

  12. Rodney Dawes says:

    I always use on-line check-in (as I only ever do carry-on luggage), and I’ve always been required to present an ID, before going through security, so I doubt it’s possible to get on without one. But the IDs certainly aren’t especially difficult to forge. And even if they were, the groups to really worry about, already have the ability to forge them.
    I don’t think they will actually succeed in somehow enforcing this new supposed rule, nor do I see how it has anything to do with safety. If I was going to hijack a plane, why would I wait until the last hour of the flight to do anything? Seems pointless to me.

  13. Paul Johnson says:

    The TSA just needs to be abolished. Security theater doesn’t make us safer, pisses off legitimate travelers and does nothing to impede terrorism. It’s worse than doing nothing at all because of the false sense of security, and because our behaviors have changed in a way that harms us socially and economically, it’s allowing terrorism to win.

  14. stormy says:

    With little thought and no motivation (although lots of time in airports and security lines), I’ve come up with lots of things I could do … so I have to think that someone with motivation, an organization and some funding could really do something if they wanted.
    There are many others who have pointed out how to fly under a different name …

  15. stormy says:

    You present your ID with your (home printed) boarding pass at security. That person does not look up your flight record nor your id in a computer.
    In almost all US airports, your id is never checked again.

  16. stormy says:

    I agree it’s a false sense of security and harms us socially and economically.
    I also agree that the fear we feel is a win for terrorists.
    I flew to Australia shortly after 9/11 and many people were surprised that I hadn’t cancelled my trip. I pointed out that if I had cancelled my vacation, the terrorists would have won once again.

  17. Tonya Winter says:

    My friends and I regularly say “If I don’t -x- the terrorists have won.” Usually referring to having fun or relaxing.
    The TSA problem has become so annoying for us that I am currently trying to figure out alternative transportation to LA and back rather than fly. Maybe the train down and a cruise back up?

  18. On Christmas Day, while being grilled by the first of 8(!) security screenings in Frankfurt alone, one of the last few questions of the 10 – 15 minute ordeal was “do you have anything in your luggage that could be used as a weapon?” My mind immediately thought of how I could use the contents of my luggage to attack people.
    I’m not a violet person by any means, but I must think, especially when bored or put up to a challenge. That’s just the way my brain works. I guess my mind interpreted that question as “Your luggage is mostly harmless. How could you MacGyver it into something dangerous?”
    While I told him, “No, I don’t *believe* so…”, I was thinking that it might be possible to use a pair of jeans to strangle someone, take a tin of gingerbread and hit someone on the head really hard, go Indiana Jones and use my belt as a whip, knock somebody out with the smell of dirty socks (after being delayed for 24-hours and standing in lots of slow-moving, annoyingly long lines), start a countdown timer on my iPod Touch (which comes with the device by default), and intimidate people by pointing my overly large SLR at them.
    Now, after getting my passport asked for several times, having my bags searched a few, going through checkpoints again and again, being asked to go from one redundant line to another… it made all of us passengers feel like unappreciated cattle zombies.
    It was already bad enough that two of the planes on my travel itinerary broke down on runways and needed to be replaced, causing several hours of delays as new planes were prepared… and worse that it caused us to miss later flights… and then get delayed by a day (it was FOUR days at first, but they tweaked my schedule twice to get it down to be “only” TWO days of travel)… and even more frustrating that I had to totally waste both Christmas Eve and Christmas being stuck in lousy airports and airplanes… and it caused Christmas to be canceled this year for my family (I *STILL* haven’t been able to see my family all together yet as a result)… but the absolute worst part of the whole experience was how all of us passengers were treated.
    There’s no room for airline or security people to be nice anymore. They do not — and in many cases cannot — treat people like dignified humans. Plus, it probably becomes like assembly-line processing jobs to most of them. “Next!” Then the same 80 questions, etc.

  19. Michael Smith says:

    Up until July 2008 you did NOT have to have an ID. This was exempted even after 9-11. Granted, you had to go through a LOT of extra checks, but it was perfectly legal. In fact, several reporters did articles on the experience (adding an extra hour usually to their waits.) Now if you don’t have one they take you to their office and have some other ways to try and prove identity (like if you lost your ID). Once verified, you’ll still probably go through extended searches. If you can’t then they MAY or MAY NOT allow you to proceed.
    http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/acceptable_documents.shtm

  20. Michael Smith says:

    I’ve been saying for 8 years the chances of another 9-11 are astronomical. All the additional bomb and checks aside, the passengers will not let it happen. As soon as ANYONE saw something strange, several people pounced and got to the guy. It was a crude amateur device that would have taken more time than the person was likely to get. He would have been better off attempting this in the bathroom than in his seat.
    The only way any 9-11 or bombing type event are going to happen is either an inside job can sneak it on into the cargo area and then use a remote detonator that doesn’t involve fire, or the very very very limited times the cockpit door is opened, a team rushes in and takes control of the cockpit and BOLTS the door. It would take perfect timing to do it. Could it happen, sure. Will it, probably not. I actually feel safer (but more uncomfortable) flying now than at any other time especially knowing that other passengers and myself automatically assume we are DEAD if we do nothing and therefore risk doing something.

  21. James Henstridge says:

    I guess that is a bit better than Australia. Last time I did online checkin with checked luggage, I had ID out when checking in my bag, but all they wanted to look at was the barcode on the printed boarding pass so they could link the bag tag.
    There is no ID checks at the security checkpoint, so the stunt pulled by the Chaser is probably still possible over here.

  22. leighman says:

    Yeh, I’m a big fan of the idea of an ‘I’ll chance it’ aisle at check-in =D

  23. Victor Bogado says:

    This is simply “cover your ass security”, it is not meant to stop terrorists. The value of the norm is to say to the public “we are doing something about, something meaningless, but something is better then nothing, right?”.
    Terrorist will not use the same tactics twice, but every security annoyance^W norm is meant to stop last Saturday’s terrorism attempt. this adds littler to the overall security, but the cost both in money and in passenger’s patience is very high. Security is a trade off, and the flight security seem to be always doing bad trade offs, just so they can cover their asses.
    Bruce Schneier, security expert, talks about this often in his blog, if you’re interested you should check it out. :-)

  24. phil says:

    I’ve already seen this suggested many places on the web, and on a DS9 episode, so I don’t feel bad repeating it, but the ultimate “Movie Plot” way to avoid screening would be an explosive subdermal implant. Nitro-pecs, or plastiq’ man-boobs. All the millimeter virtual nude scanning and sniffing in the world would do no good if you had 6 oz of nitro under the skin, set off with a good hard punch to the chest. Go ahead and shoot him, make his day.
    It’s futile. You have to change the incentives somehow to make it not worth doing in the first place.