Hobbies: picking fights w/ the TSA

ok, so I just realized how much fun having a publishing medium can be. If my blog goes offline after this, you’ll know it’s because of this post.

One of my hobbies is picking fights w/ the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I just have this visceral outrage at being searched and assumed guilty and punishable, all without reason. Silly me. So instead of refusing to take of my shoes (which I did for about 6 months worth of travel) I have started collecting data on the TSA.

As a note, if you refuse to take off your schoes, and do it in a polite way, procedure requires that they wand you over and swab your shoes. I have been yelled at for refusing to take off my shoes, but responded politely–TSA employees are people with jobs too. I hate the job they do and the powers they have but the people–at least during slow periods–are often nice enough. The major exception is at SFO in the Delta Terminal. Here are my notes from an encounter on a trip to visit colleges.


Harassing officer: Ruban.

American woman, screaming baby,

“They’re stupid!”

“What’s stupid, ma’m, what’s stupid? We do this for a reason. Go over there ma’m”.

5:30am November 1, 2006.

Obvious search was *not* because she was suspected or selected for any reason other than her objectionable comfort to her child. Some of the other TSA officers were telling Ruban that he had the right to not let her through. I saw her come out of the search 10 minutes later, with her baby in her arms and her husband holding her hand, so there Ruban’s inquest could not have
uncovered any objectionable materials. When I requested to know the officer’s name who ordered the search, one of the other officers said his name was “Ruban”. No further information was given.

If you have a complaint about the TSA and want to take it further, please see these resources.

1-866- GA SECURE or 1-866-427-3287

Aside from a few rather ghastly encournters with powerhungry little despots in US airports most of my encourters with TSA officials have been relatively tame. So I started collecting information on the third party agencies which check IDs of passengers before they get to the security screening gates. Based on the quick conversations I’ve had with the people who check my ID over the past year I’ve found out that the TSA requires each airline to check Identification (almost always government issued) against the name on the boarding pass that passenger is holding. There are only so many of these 3rd party companies and below are listed first the companies and then which airlines contract their ID checks out to them. I have determined that it is airline-based both based on the comments of the workers themselves and that I have seen the same companies working for the same airlines over and over again.

Prime Flight (northwest, Delta)
G2 (SFO terminal 3)
Aviation Safeguard (Southwest), not part of G2

Because most airports are terminal-based and each terminal has only a few major air carriers in it, all of the airlines in a terminal will contract to the same 3rd party company for their security needs (not just ID checks but also these employees are seen with in terminals, pushing wheelchairs or standing by during boarding).

There is an important distinction between watchmen and guards. Guards carry weapons. Watchmen report problems to their supervisors. Most of these 3rd party companies act as watchmen and do not physically interface with passengers.

The theme here whcih I have been trying not to over state is that our (American’s, Human’s) presumption of innocence is being dragged through the mud like a 1950s victim in a rape trial. Being asked to show ID to *anyone* without just cause is unacceptable. The Supreme Court disagrees with me and sees being asked to provide some kind of ID when requested is not and “unreasonable searches” nor the theft of my sunscreen on my senior trip to Laguna beach “seizure”. But on a high level than even the constitution, whcih you will find I hold in highest reguard, is my personal feeling of violation and revulsion at being prodded and poked and mettled with by a clumsy and over-zealous government agency.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

People don't like

to be meddled with.

We tell them what to do,

what to think.

Don't run, don't walk.

We're in their homes

and in their heads

and we haven't the right.

We're meddlesome.

PS: I see the previous quotation of a non-public domain work as fair use. If the owners of the copyright to Serenity and Firefly and all derivative works disagree or think that it’s use here is not in the spirit of the film, I look forward to the take-down notice.


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