New TSA Rules Actually Make the Liquid Rule Look Rational

I’m back home from my holiday trip, and I have my trip report ready to go, but then someone tried to blow up a Northwest flight into Detroit and the TSA jumped into action. I tried to let my anger cool off for a couple days, but the more I stewed over the changes, the more angry I got. These rules are so absurd that they make the liquid rules look rational.

These rules originally only applied to international flights that are inbound to the US, though I’ve heard they may now also apply to flights going the other way. I’ve heard conflicting reports about how long these will be in place, but some reports have them expiring in the next week. We’ll see. There are really three basic parts to the rules here.

  1. Search the heck out of people before they fly
  2. Make sure people have no idea where they are
  3. Make sure people do nothing for the last hour of the flight


Now, I don’t mind the first part for a short time because it appears this guy was able to easily get onboard with a banned substance in a very small syringe that could have blown up the plane had it worked. So if you need to do full searches of everyone on international flights for a (very) short period, that’s fine. Just figure out a better way to detect it quickly or we’ll end up having to get to the airport 10 hours early. As it is, airlines have started to see massive delays and cancellations because of all the issues.

The second part is where I’m completely baffled. What good is it going to do to keep people from knowing exactly where they are? Airlines are now no longer allowed to show the moving map displays that show where your plane is, and the flight crew can’t let you know where you are during announcements.

What the hell?!? Some airlines have simply had to turn off their entire inflight entertainment system until they can figure out how to simply keep the moving map piece off. Hopefully that happens soon because there are reports of some very unhappy passengers. In short, people need to be completely cut off from the outside world.

The third part is seemingly dumb as well. You basically can’t move during the last hour of the flight. No New Airline Seat Prototypeelectronics, nothing on your lap, and you can’t get out of your seat. Sounds like the rules for flying into Washington/National right after September 11. Rumor has it that they’re going to install electric chairs onboard to keep people from doing anything dumb.

What good is this going to do? I would ask the TSA, but I can already tell you their response. “There is a threat that requires us to do this, but we can’t tell you about it.” So I won’t even bother trying to get an answer. They did finally issue a Q&A for travelers today, several days after the incident, but it is incredibly vague just saying that stuff will be changing and you should leave extra time.

I know that the guy on the Christmas Day flight tried to light the bomb as they began descending, but would he really not just take care of it earlier in the flight if he had everything onboard? Does it matter if you’re at 28,000 feet above Michigan or 34,000 feet above Maine? This rule is stupid, and it brings up a bigger issue.

How the heck did this guy get on an airplane?!? The reports I’ve read show that he was a person of interest, had been shown as having suspected ties to terrorists, and that’s not all. In the most unbelievable admission I can imagine, this guy’s father called the US Embassy in Nigeria a couple months ago to tell him that he was afraid he was going to try to do something bad.

I’ll ask it again. How the hell did he get on this plane?!?

The TSA is trying to get away from incorrect matches on the watch list, so they’ve now required birthdate and sex. How is it that while thousands of people have been incorrectly flagged, this jackass just walks right on the plane.

It’s not like he has a common name. It’s Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Why wasn’t this guy on the freakin’ no-fly list, or at least on the watch list?

There’s not much more to say here except that regular travelers will once again be punished with absurd rules because the TSA can’t do its job right. I try to be level-headed with these things, but this one is just too much.

Update 12/28 @ 341p: It’s my understanding that most of these rules have now been eased, including the “no moving for the last hour of the flight” piece. This tells me that a rudderless TSA made a rash decision that it walked away from pretty quickly. I may write more about this on BNET this week.


76 Responses to New TSA Rules Actually Make the Liquid Rule Look Rational

  1. Evan says:

    It makes you wonder if the people that make these ridiculous rules ever have to fly commercial and put up with them like the rest of us. I mean, now you can’t even read a book for the last hour of a flight? How about we ask the TSA people to do their jobs before we get on the plane, instead of forcing the flight crews to cover for their lack of efficacy? What’s next blindfolds? Hoods? Handcuffs?

  2. Neil S says:

    Agree on all points, though am not sure the question is how he got on. I think the real question is how has the government not managed to integrate all of its databases in the 8 years since 9/11. I think we’re luckier that this has happened before. A lot.

  3. Great – just what we need: another excuse for Americans to avoid traveling. Even the failed attempts from seemingly random nuts sends ripples through our system and make an already laughable TSA situation even worse.

    I agree that the TSA has trouble doing its job right, but shouldn’t authorities in Amsterdam share a fair amount of the responsibility?

  4. JM says:

    TSA is a miserable mess.

    My encounters with TSA while flying to and from Atlanta on domestic flights during the Christmas holidays were less than pleasant.

    The screeners at ATL in particular contain a fair number of individuals who are terribly rude– and everyone seems to just put up with it.

    And what for? Even TSA’s own tests have shown that many of these same rude people are too often ineffective at finding contraband.

    And now the Secretary of Homeland Security said (on Meet the Press on Sunday) that, “the system worked.”?!!

    Typical government bureaucracy– arrogant and dumb, and ineffective.

    We need to take out a fresh sheet of paper and revisit TSA. It isn’t working.

  5. Johnny Jet says:

    I’m with you — the TSA is a complete joke. Most of these rules make no sense and do nothing except make me want to either cancel my Int’l travel plans or buy a one-way ticket out of here.

  6. David SFeastbay says:

    The last hour rule is stupid since the man was sitting in his seat at the time, and wasn’t that shoe bomber guy also sitting in his seat at the time?

    How many crying children will there be the last hour when the evil flight attentants take their teddy bears and dolls away that they are holding?

    Guess lap infants will now need to be stowed in the overheard compartment since you can’t have anything in your lap.

    This would be the time to buy stock in adult diaper companys since their sales should go up. A number of people have control issues and an hour may just be to much for them.

    So what will happen now, will the FA make an annoucement two hours prior to landing to tell everyone they have one hour to pee and poop before seat lock down begins? Oh wait they can’t because then you would know you were over land. Hmmm…..when I’ve returned from Europe to the west coast I knew I was over land the minute we went from only seeing water out the window and then only seeing land, you know about five or six hours before landing in California.

    Another sign TSA doesn’t have their act together. Sitting down the last hour with nothing on your lap will not save America.

  7. Andrew says:

    The most absurd thing is how knee-jerk TSA’s responses are to these things. It’s like they sit around waiting for something to happen, and then as soon as it does, they put some policy in place to try to deal with exactly what just happened. Proactive doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary.

  8. David SFeastbay says:

    Evan wrote:

    What’s next blindfolds? Hoods? Handcuffs?

    Don’t give them any idea…..lol

  9. Greg says:

    From the pilot perspective TSA is an absolute joke. There are many glaring security holes, but TSA is too busy harassing people to actually know about these.

    I have had a plastic butter knife taken from me at a checkpoint while in uniform. What does it matter, I am in the cockpit. I have had TSA agents harass me about several items. In every case I ask for their supervisor and they back off. The agents are often too stupid and lazy to know about or care about their own rules and restrictions.

    Unfortunately, in the pilot’s case TSA has chosen to treat us as the enemy and suspects each of us of being an evil do-er. For this, no pilots I know are ever willing to help TSA. They have chosen to ignore us as the asset we could be.

    It would be nice if TSA had to go through another agency before implementing rules on aviation. There is no one in the agency that has any clue about aviation and yet they are able to make broad, sweeping changes to it with no notice. Maybe take away their direct authority and make it an authority through the FAA. The FAA is also not run well, but at least they have a few people with a small little bit of knowledge about what is going on.

  10. WillinSacto says:

    Brett, you captured my thoughts to a “t.” Nothing more needs to be said.

  11. Stephen says:

    It looks like Cathay Pacific is allowing people to use the in-flight maps now (and people can use the Jetblue TV thing now), link was posted from FT.

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/item.aspx?type=blog&ak=12771.blog

  12. Tommy says:

    As a member of the crew in the cabin, I’m perplexed by rule 2 and ESPECIALLY rule 3, because I just don’t understand what these are supposed to accomplish.

    The only thing I see; as usual, the fall guy in this will be flight attendants, as we are expected to be the on-board “enforcers” of these ridiculous rules, thereby giving the public even more reason to hold us in contempt (which we already know you personally have a lot of contempt for Brett) for upholding ludicrous rules that we didn’t make.

  13. David says:

    Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, this is the stupidest thing yet! None of the new measures would have avoided this situation. The TSA and Homeland Security should be held accountable for their inept and incompetent attitude that allowed someone with a unique name, that they had been warned about, that was on a terrorist watch-list to board a plane. And for this idiocy that stems from bureaucratic incompetence we now cant even read a book for the last hour of our flight? This is @#$%%$##@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. PF says:

    Sixty minute rule on inbound international – so if he did it at 75 minutes before landing, or 60 minutes after take off, would we have a different policy? This one makes no sense to me. . .at least it’s only on inbound international now.

  15. If someone wants to blow up a plane they will be able to. This guy had red flags up and down and he was able to get on a plane. This is the reality of flying and the TSA is not instilling confidence.

  16. Average_Traveler says:

    Pardon my ignorance… Does TSA control aiport security in other countries? I’m not saying they don’t have some serious problems, but why is an American agency taking the flak for something that started in another country?

  17. Greg says:

    @ Average_Traveler:

    Blaming TSA for the inbound security lapse is partly incorrect. However, it appears our homeland security had credible evidence to not allow this guy to come to our country.

    However, where I have issue is TSA’s retarded over-response. And that they will continue to have responses like this.

  18. JayB says:

    We’re in a fine pickle, now! No surpise. I think most of us who fly know there’s a lot of problems here. So many things make so little sense, but how do we make things work?

    TSA is such an easy target. And, government regulations for this type of problem are nigh impossible, as you probably know if you’ve ever been tasked to write such things. Sure, we collect information on everything, but how do we use it. And good old common sense? Well, you and I know what that is, but to others, they just don’t understand! Foreigners, people of different cultures, just plain strange neighbors…they don’t get it! Ahem!

    And, could you imagine what would happen if the airlines did it all? They seem so good at customer relations. And, something “contracted-out,” “operated by,” with perhaps a hundred dollar per-passenger fee! Sure, but who knows!

    All most of us want is not to be blown to smithereens on board some airliner, and not be attacked and maimed, or killed by some demented fellow passenger. And, we are willing to suffer a little, not too much, but a little, for this security. Is it not possible for all us, you and me, the airport, the airline, the government, to come up with something all-encompassing, yet not stifling; efficient, yet not that costly? Given the way things are, probably not, but here’s hoping!

  19. JM says:

    Average_Traveler wrote:

    Pardon my ignorance… Does TSA control aiport security in other countries? I’m not saying they don’t have some serious problems, but why is an American agency taking the flak for something that started in another country?

    Given TSA’s stupid response to this situation (and until they quit hiring screeners who got fired from Burger King because they couldn’t master fries), it is as good a time as any to focus attention on the agency.

    TSA is making us no safer– it’s just reacting for the sake of reacting!

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  21. Jay says:

    TSA is making us no safer– it’s just reacting for the sake of reacting!

    To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

  22. MathFox says:

    One thing we should accept is that there is no such thing as 100% security and any politician who is claiming to provide 100% security is a liar. What governments can do is making it hard to successfully attack some system (an airliner in this case) and looking at the statistics they have been pretty successful in that. (How many people have died in airline terrorism in the last 5 years, how many in airline accidents and how many in car accidents?)
    On the other hand, has all the money spent on securing airports and planes been spent wisely. Security experts have noted for years that metal detectors do not detect explosives carried on the body. (Or in a shoe as Richard Reid demonstrated.) Still, there is no effective check on explosives and the “puffer machines” that should detect them are largely unused.

    Just throwing more money at “airline security” is no answer (and neither are arbitrary restrictions to passengers.) What we need is effective use of the means available… and if the “puffer machines” don’t work, training more sniffer dogs might be the answer. I know that what I’m asking for (effective security) requires a miracle: Sanity striking the TSA.

  23. MathFox says:

    Jay wrote:

    To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

    I am sure that the security measures kept a lot of guns off planes and that a lot of hijackers sought softer targets. (And as I said before: carrying non-metallic contraband on the body is a known weakness in the system.)

  24. Irate Traveler says:

    None of this will ever change until Homeland Security is run by a professional instead of a political hack. Janet Napolitano is now backtracking on her “system is working” statement. Interviewed on the Today show this morning and now says the system didn’t work. News items this morning now indicate he had no luggage and paid for his ticket in cash, both of which used to be red flags.

    I have written my congressman urging him to push for Napolitano’s resignation.

  25. Greg says:

    @ Jay:

    It is very difficult to prove a negative. I have an aviation safety minor tacked on to my degree. And the proving a negative was always a hot topic for us. How can we justify our program when, if we are successful, nothing happens.

    I am sure TSA has lucked out and caught a few would-be harm-doers with their bumbling. Problem is, the agency has little idea what they are doing. And they have been given broad reaching authority with that limited knowledge.

    We often have TSA burger-flippers come on our airplanes between legs for security screening. Most of the time they have to ask the flight crew what each thing is and if it should be there. So, we are ultimately the ones doing the inspection because they don’t know what they are looking for. It is the same vigilance we always use. But, our flight gets delayed 10 minutes so TSA agents can pretend they are worthwhile.

    Or a very good example is the TSA agent who broke several American Eagle RJs early this year in his attempt to make the airline safer. He didn’t tell anyone of his actions. The airline had to catch that the airplanes had been dangerously damaged.

    And as I mentioned earlier I have, on several occasions, had to call for a supervisor because an agent didn’t know the rules of their job and was unnecessarily harassing me.

    TSA focuses so much on specific areas with glaring holes through the entire system. However, the area where they choose to focus is what the public sees. So they can continue to justify their existence.

  26. JM wrote:

    Average_Traveler wrote:
    TSA is making us no safer– it’s just reacting for the sake of reacting!

    Sadly, this is what much of the public demands. I’m all for them going for #1 for a while, but #2 and #3 make just about no sense. Whats to prevent a guy from pulling out a portable GPS receiver to figure out where a plane is at?

    MathFox wrote:

    One thing we should accept is that there is no such thing as 100% security and any politician who is claiming to provide 100% security is a liar.

    Sadly in the US we have gone from expecting things to fail, to expecting them not to fail. This is nicely documented in Mark Eberhart’s book Why Things Break: Understanding the World By the Way It Comes Apart.

  27. Thomas Edward Parody says:

    >Why wasn’t this guy on the freakin’ no-fly list, or at least on the watch list?

    For details on him being on the no-fly watch list, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/26/umar-farouk-abdul-mutalla_n_403943.html. Makes one wonder even more about the TSA!!

  28. Dan says:

    My favorite is the “do nothing for the last hour of the flight.” Flight Attendants, AFAIK, don’t have the authority to physically restrain somebody. I am going to assume that a person intent on blowing up a plane, and in the process, killing himself, is not going to care that he disregarded a crew-member instruction.

  29. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    What about the windows? Can’t you tell that you are over land by merely looking outside?

  30. I took this photo yesterday flying inbound from Mexico:

    http://www.futuregringo.com/index.php/2009/12/27/how-northwest-253-affects-you/

    Remember that BEFORE the Christmas Day incident of Northwest 253 people were told not to congregate in any one area of a plane?

    On this three hour flight the FAs talked almost non-stop counting us down to the “one hour mark” ecouraging us to “make things go quickly” in the restrooms. (no joke.) Thus half the plane lined up to use the restroom, creating a line down to the exit row.

    The fact that four days ago it was BAD for everybody to be up milling about the cabin, but NOW it’s ok provided it ceases 60 minutes prior to touchdown – it just shows how REACTIVE the entire process is… And the people that stopped the potential attack, the PASSENGERS, are the ones being treated like children.

    Oh and I’m a type 1 diabetic – and due to the syringe angle my extra needles were taken away. (I keep about 10 in my bag so I don’t have to pack them each time) Shockingly – they didn’t bother to even GLANCE at the vials of insulin or ask about liquids (or what would go IN the syringles,) – as they were so focused on the actual syringes themselves.

    I explained this all in Spanish to the folks screening U.S. departures, but gave up as I have hundreds more at at home and didn’t feel like arguing.

  31. Al B says:

    Have you ever noticed that when liquids are found in security lines, TSA and pax just throw them into trash bins? Seems like a rather cavalier way of handling potential explosives.

    Shouldn’t bomb squads be on 24/7 call to dispose of these items?

  32. Jim Sack says:

    Fly naked, simple as that.

  33. JM says:

    Jay wrote:

    To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

    Yes, I know for a fact that the current TSA system isn’t effective!

    Check the Government Accountability Office’s reports here:
    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0848t.pdf
    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-128

    Or this on TSA’s own mock test (as reported by CNN):
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/28/tsa.bombtest/index.html

    The flying public deserves better!

  34. David SFeastbay says:

    I do hope that everyone here is also sending your thoughts/comments/feelings to your Senators, Congressperson, and directly to the White House. An uproar by the people seems to be the only way to get things changed. The one hour rule and nothing on your lap sounds like children playing a game.

    TSA and Homeland Security were a joke from the start and it appears TSA still is.

  35. Andrew says:

    Al B wrote:

    Have you ever noticed that when liquids are found in security lines, TSA and pax just throw them into trash bins? Seems like a rather cavalier way of handling potential explosives.
    Shouldn’t bomb squads be on 24/7 call to dispose of these items?

    This made me laugh out-loud. It just underscores the fact that all of this is nothing but security theater, designed to keep the easily-panicked, easily manipulated “flying public” — the ones that timidly step on a plane a couple times a year, if that — thinking their government has everything under control all so they can stay blissfully fat and stupid just a little longer.

  36. JayB says:

    Speaking of security, interesting story this early Monday morning (2:30 am) from Frederick, Maryland Municipal airport, a stone’s throw from Camp David. A homeless man, or at least someone of no known address, allegedly stole a single-engine Piper, crashed it along side the runway trying to take off, or whatever.

    Wonder if he went through proper security procedures. Wonder if he may have had some liquid exceeding TSA limits.

    Makes you wonder even more what trouble someone who knew what they were doing could have caused, particularly is such a sensitive area of the country. Is this airport, home to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, representative of potential security problems at other airports across this country?

  37. Oliver says:

    > So what will happen now, will the FA make an annoucement
    > two hours prior to landing to tell everyone they have one hour
    > to pee and poop before seat lock down begins?

    yes, that’s *exactly* what happened on my UA flight from Europe to the US yesterday. All personal items had to be in the overhead bins for the last 60 mins. However, they didn’t care that I was reading a newspaper, thus effectively covering up my lap and foot area.

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  39. David SFeastbay says:

    Flight Attendents don’t like being considered flying Waitresses/Waiters, and now the TSA has reduced them to Bathroom Attendents and Seat Monitors.

    The airlines CEO’s should like that as now they can get rid of them and just hire low paid Kindergarten teachers to do their job. At least they have training on how to keep children in their seats with their hands folder in their lap. After all that’s how we are being treated isn’t it?

    Remember the movie ‘The 5th Element’? I’m sure TSA and Homeland Security are working on a way to do what they did in the movie, which was put passengers to sleep for their trip.

  40. Oliver says:

    @ David SFeastbay:

    > which was put passengers to sleep for their trip

    Gee, if it actually works reliably, I wouldn’t mind on some flights. Just yesterday I struggled to get some sleep on a domestic 5-hr flight departing IAD at 10pm… even First Class seats are too uncomfortable.

  41. C S says:

    It looks like they are backing off the no maps policy, and the no I-pods policy. I guess the utter brainlessness of the policy, or how easily the wily terrorists could be fooled by, looking out the *%&%^ window, or by using this high tech gadget called a watch (It works like this, you calibrate it by the expected arrival, so if you know you will land at JFK at 3:00 PM, you check your “watch” and then…)

    Watches can be concealed on people’s wrist.

    Agreed 1 might have to be a necessary evil until we figure out how to best screen for explosives, hand searching might be a necessary evil, but as many have asked, how did this guy get on the plane to begin with?

  42. Donald Frank says:

    I was one of the original applicants for the original interview and testing for employment with TSA in Memphis. conducted bt NCS Pearson that was payed over $80,000,000 for the original start up.The whole experience was mind blowing and totally un professional that I would call a cluster x%$ * I had 29 years experience with a major airline in many different areas and was not hired. I also talked to a gentleman that recently retired from the FAA as a special agent and he also did not qualify. I latter learned that the majority of the personal that were originaly hired were ex military of police. If you had participated in this fiasco you would would understand why the TSA still has problems.

  43. Keith Lemick says:

    Obviously more over reaction from the Andy Frain ushers …I mean TSA.

    What happens if a plane is put in a holding pattern by ATC? Is the hour calculated from when the flight was originally supposed to land or will it include the holding time?

    I definitely feel sorry for anyone suffering “Montazuma’s revenge” on a return flight.

  44. David SFeastbay says:

    I was just reading the yahoo news story that things have changed.

    “””””At the captain’s discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.”””””

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091228/ap_on_bi_ge/us_airline_attack_passenger_tolerance

  45. MeanMeosh says:

    This has all pretty much been said before, but I’m so riled up, I feel it’s worth repeating again. I don’t really care about the pat-downs. I don’t really care about having my carry-on sifted through. Heck, I don’t really even care if my flight ends up delayed by an hour because of the extra searches. But the stupidity of the directive that we’re all effectively prisoners for the last hour of the flight that really has me rankled. I mean, do they really think we’re stupid enough to not be able to figure how to extrapolate where we are in the flight based on how much time has elapsed? Don’t even get me started on what happens when the order comes down to strap us into our seats and confiscate our reading materials, only to then have the inevitable 90 minute delay where we circle the airport due to ATC congestion. I have an overseas trip coming up with a return date in mid-February. I sure hope this nonsense comes to an end before that.

  46. Pingback: The Firestorm Continues – Security Screening in the US | Flight Wisdom

  47. IFEGUY says:

    Cranky

    You have hit the nail on the head. But the macro issue is with the explosives themselves, not with the passengers. No matter how many lists there are, someone will always be able to get onboard with an assumed identity. The only true safeguard is being able to detect all explosives, no matter where they are hidden on a person or in what amount. If we can’t do that, there will almost certainly be more explosions on aircraft.

    It was maddening to watch government reps try to reassure the public yesterday while never getting close to this core issue… is there a path for 100% detection of explosives? or will kooks with lumpy underwear always have a shot of making it onboard?!

  48. New TSA rules… Junior Flyer’s new Premium Economy seat could really come in handy for those ‘last hour comfort’ requirements.
    http://bit.ly/4UcNFg

  49. AStabAtEmpathy says:

    I hope this doesn’t mean United is required to turn off their Channel 9. That’d be a terrible shame. I’ve never stop marveling that the TSA essentially immortalized that inept idiot Richard Reid by requiring all U.S. Americans to take off their shoes whenever they want to fly, but taking away Channel 9 now would really ruin my flight…

  50. Yo says:

    Now the entire country can see the incompetent Janet Napolitano! We are damned happy to have her out of AZ where she bankrupted the state and then ran.

    I have bladder issues, it sucks, I get the aisle seat when I fly Int’l, if I have to pee, I will, because you don’t want the alternative. Oh, and when I fly from Cabo to Phoenix, the flight is 90 minutes…so much for service eh?

    TSA = Turkeys Standing Around, incompetent burger flippers in a snazzy uniform, dumb as a box of snakes. There is just no way to make flying 100% safe (well there is…ban all passenger travel).

    Madness from a mad government, how about you screen people who fit into the terrorist profile? That is very un-PC, but guess what? Muslims from the Middle East like blowing things up and killing innocents, how about we extra screen them?

  51. Robert Post says:

    @ Dan:

    These stupid requirements just make everyone look incompetent (the TSA, the airlines and flyers who are willing to endure them). If this adminstration prides itself on “doing what works”, then ignore the whining and start to use the profile/interview system that El Al uses.

    So frustrating

  52. CF says:

    It does appear that some of these rules are now being softened. Sounds like the TSA realizes it overreacted and now has egg on its face. Lame. Anyway . . .

    Wandering Justin wrote:

    I agree that the TSA has trouble doing its job right, but shouldn’t authorities in Amsterdam share a fair amount of the responsibility?

    It’s pretty hard to detect this kind of stuff – you’ve got a minute amount of liquid in your underwear – how do you do it? The puffer might have worked if there were any residue, but if not, well, it’s just not possible without a full body scan – maybe the backscatter? The best way to have prevented this is to have better intelligence. This guy had red flags all over the place and never should have been allowed on that plane without a thorough search (break out the rubber gloves).

    JM wrote:

    And now the Secretary of Homeland Security said (on Meet the Press on Sunday) that, “the system worked.”?!!

    Today she said that she meant the system worked in terms of response when the incident happened. The system failed before. Gotta love political backtracking.

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    The last hour rule is stupid since the man was sitting in his seat at the time, and wasn’t that shoe bomber guy also sitting in his seat at the time?

    Yes, indeed. But this guy had to go to the lav to get everything set up. Granted, he could do that at 2 hours before arrival.

    Tommy wrote:

    The only thing I see; as usual, the fall guy in this will be flight attendants, as we are expected to be the on-board “enforcers” of these ridiculous rules, thereby giving the public even more reason to hold us in contempt (which we already know you personally have a lot of contempt for Brett) for upholding ludicrous rules that we didn’t make.

    Uh, I have contempt for flight attendants? I don’t think so. Please explain that statement.

    Average_Traveler wrote:

    Pardon my ignorance… Does TSA control aiport security in other countries? I’m not saying they don’t have some serious problems, but why is an American agency taking the flak for something that started in another country?

    No, but if the flight involves the US (and in this case, a US carrier), then US rules do apply. They will match passengers to watch lists and all that as well.

    Jay wrote:

    To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

    I seem to recall a couple of times in the past where they’ve announced that they’ve thwarted something or other. The reality is that any serious plots should be caught long before there’s really anything to say they “stopped.” Good intelligence will catch these guys when they’re in the planning phase and not at the airport when they’re ready to get onboard. That’s the last line of defense. (Actually, passengers jumping the guy are the last line of defense, but you get the idea.)

    Irate Traveler wrote:

    None of this will ever change until Homeland Security is run by a professional instead of a political hack.

    The problem is likely more about TSA than DHS. Nobody is running TSA right now, and Obama’s nominee is being held up in the Senate. That’s where they really need leadership.

    Wonko Beeblebrox wrote:

    What about the windows? Can’t you tell that you are over land by merely looking outside?

    Shhh, don’t tell them!

    Al B wrote:

    Have you ever noticed that when liquids are found in security lines, TSA and pax just throw them into trash bins? Seems like a rather cavalier way of handling potential explosives.
    Shouldn’t bomb squads be on 24/7 call to dispose of these items?

    I believe that the issue back when this policy went into effect was that the liquids were dangerous when mixed together but harmless when kept separate. That’s probably why they’re not treating it more seriously.

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    Remember the movie ‘The 5th Element’? I’m sure TSA and Homeland Security are working on a way to do what they did in the movie, which was put passengers to sleep for their trip.

    It’s called Ambien, and I’m all for it. Please, knock me out.

    IFEGUY wrote:

    is there a path for 100% detection of explosives? or will kooks with lumpy underwear always have a shot of making it onboard?!

    Nah, I’d say 100% is impossible, but I’m sure we can do better. It’s not for lack of trying – they’ve used the puffer, the backscatter, etc. They’re looking for better technologies, but so far, they’re expensive and not fantastically accurate. That will certainly change.

    AStabAtEmpathy wrote:

    I hope this doesn’t mean United is required to turn off their Channel 9.

    I thought about that as well. It would seem that Channel 9 would be in serious trouble here, and that would just be awful, I agree.

    Yo wrote:

    Muslims from the Middle East like blowing things up and killing innocents, how about we extra screen them?

    Um, this guy was Nigerian.

  53. LAFlyer says:

    @Robert Post

    I believe you are correct. The only way to realistically gain confidence in security is to adopt the El Al/Israel method, which involves hiring (and paying) competent people to actively profile passengers for any signs of suspicious behavior, including circumstancial evidence (e.g. paying for a one-way ticket in cash with no checked baggage), as well as nervous behavior, hesistancy or inconsistency in answer rapidly-asked questions, carefully screening all baggage before it’s checked in, as well as recognizing who is more likely to attempt to carry out an attack (e.g. a 30 year old single male versus a 70 year old man travelling with his family).

    Unfortunately, adopting this model in the US poses three significant issues:
    1) Israel only has one major international airport, while the US has dozens of big ones and hundreds of smaller ones, all of which are potential entry points for terrorists.
    2) In our PC culture, the lawyers would be tripping over each other racing to file lawsuits.
    3) This doesn’t take into account people travelling into the US from foreign airports, unless American security forces covered flights originating overseas.

    And for the record, you don’t have to take off your shoes in TLV.

  54. NM says:

    Can’t millimeter wave scanners detect non-metallic objects? If they can show a naked body they should be able to show everything worn on that body (like explosive underwear).

  55. Chaplin says:

    Napolitano should resign, that was a sad failure.
    The response is non-sensical, you can improvise a thousand such similar responses until you fess up that the risk factor is young male muslims and address the risk regardless of sensitivities. Be iy Nigerian or Major Hassan.

    The Nigerian was on a US list of muslims connected to terrorism with 550.000 names. This is not a small number, it is more than the size of the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Can we afford to ignore the common factor in that list?

  56. Stephen says:

    As a frequent (>monthly) visitor to the US it’s just getting ridiculous – occasionally more painful than surgery, frequently asinine, often simply burdensome and the spectre of repeated shoutings at by incompetent TSA officials and processes is getting wearing.

    Then this latest attack shows that what is happening is neither intelligent, smart, guilefull or deploying information and computing power to their best use.

    If the fact that someone is on a watch list, buys a ticket last minute with cash, travels for two weeks with no luggage, is reported by his family to US authorities, etc. (and yet still gets to keep his visa) cannot be linked together to at the very least warrant some additional investigation, then the whole process is shot. This is why the only dumb, blunt response is to make every passenger suffer. I mean, how many of those 550,000 people actually travel to the US per annum and how difficult is it to diver some resource to targetting them if they do with additional checks?

  57. garry says:

    New TSA rules seriously make burden on travelers and few of them comes as totally ridiculous

  58. myriam says:

    There’s been a lot written about how profiling can land you in unsafe situations because pyschologically, people can become blinded to any possibilities outside the profile. AKA, you come to rely on the profile too much. It’s not hard to strap some explosives to a woman travelling under an assumed name and voila, you are under the radar.

    The French learned this the hard way when women started blowing up cafes and things in Algeria during their war for independence. If you are seriously intent on committing suicide in the name of a cause greater than yourself, you will do it even if you are a middle-aged mom travelling with your child. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again.

    The best defense is surely tracking / monitoring in advance by the FBI combined with the very best, and most thorough, screening techniques.

  59. Ron says:

    @ LAFlyer:

    A few comments on Israeli-style profiling: it’s not performed only at TLV, but also for all incoming El-Al flights wherever they originate. I believe the Israeli government pays for 80% of security with El-Al footing the bill for the remaining 20%, though this may have changed. As for hiring competent people to do the profiling/questioning, I’ve encountered incompetent ones as well; at least the lower-level screeners are trained to bring in their supervisors whenever they feel they can’t handle the situation.

    @ myriam:

    “It’s not hard to strap some explosives to a woman travelling under an assumed” — remember, it was questioning/profiling that discovered the bomb in the Hindawi affair (carried by his unsuspecting girlfriend), after intelligence and technology failed. The point is not doing a physical search of people who fit a predetermined profile, but interviewing everybody in a manner that takes into account various risk factors. Interviews don’t replace intelligence and technology but provide an additional layer that’s more effective than current TSA screening procedures.

    The downside to this is that the interview process is often unpleasant, especially to people who fit certain risk profiles. Then again, the current process is also very unpleasant to some.

    Incidentally, when El-Al interviews do find something suspicious, it is typically not explosives but rather narcotics. I guess drug traffickers display similar behaviors to terrorists, and are much more common.

    At any rate, it seems fairly clear that the recent incident should have been caught at the intelligence layer, so the most important reaction should be to figure out what went wrong there and how that can be fixed.

  60. MeanMeosh says:

    For everyone who’s advocating profiling – if you’re going to profile, it needs to be done intelligently, using a combination of factors and behavior detection. Got someone who bought a ticket in cash, isn’t checking bags for a 2 weeks trip, and who has recently traveled extensively in Yemen and Pakistan? Absolutely, send them for a cavity search.

    But remember, this is the TSA we’re talking about. Do you really think an agency where competence is in shockingly short supply is going to be able to implement an intelligent profiling system? What you’re more likely to get is something like “send anyone with an Arabic sounding name or that looks Middle Eastern for a cavity search”, which won’t work and will just unnecessarily antagonize a large segment of folks wrongly identified because the average TSA screener can’t tell their elbow from their rear end.

  61. dan powers says:

    The EL AL 80/20 system works well….no incidents in 20 yrs….spend 80% of the time looking for terrorists, 20% looking for IED’s/guns/knives. The TSA system seems to be fliped = they spend 80% of the effort looking for devices, and 20% looking for terrorists….to let a 23 yr old male, on a watch list, on a plane who bought a 1-way international ticket with cash, is simply criminal.

  62. Lets bite the bullet. Simply ban all International flights to the USA.Isolationists will love it.

  63. texassweetpea says:

    What does the TSA have to do with a flight that came from Nigeria anyway? That country has it’s own security, but TSA isn’t it. So stop slamming TSA!!

  64. mark says:

    What I say may come across as callous or indifferent. However, I don’t accept the idea that spending billions of dollars per year and forcing millions of people to endure what is more than minimal inconvenience can be justified by saving one airplane from a terrorist attack.

    I’m fifty years old and I can remember when it was normal for one or two commercial jet airliners per year to crash with all on board being killed primarily because of pilot error. No one suggested than that the whole system of passenger transport had to be radically changed. It was simply a situation where society looked at the benefits of jet travel and concluded that the cost of losing a planeload of people per year in an accident was worth the cost.

    Over 40,000 people die every year in car accidents. No one is advocating greatly restricting automobile travel because of it. Far from it, we simply accept the notion again that these costs are more than offset by the widespread availability of transportation for millions of people.

    I am little sick of the attitude that because one or two terrorist events have happened since 9/11 that we have to keep making it tougher to fly. I have had all kinds of things confiscated from me by TSA. I’ve had to tolerate lengthy waits in airport security lines. Flying is no longer a pleasure for anyone that I know. Its simply an inconvenience that has to be dealt with to travel.

    I wish people would get it through their heads that there is no way to give us a 100% guarantee against a terrorist attack short of ending commercial air transportation. Sadly, this crap is going to continue to go on until a large percentage us do give up flying.

  65. flyguy says:

    Flying is getting back to normal. and security is tighter. I hope we adopt the Canadian system of not allowing any carry on luggage on the aircraft except for a book or meds or baby meals. Could you only imagine what a pleasant experience flying would be then. No boarding hassels, no luggage delays. pleanty of room in the aircraft. Air Canada does provide free checked bags as well. A system we should concider for our airlines. The Canadians are on to something….

  66. Thomas Edward Parody says:

    I agree completely with Mark. As there is for other rules mandated by the Federal government, there should be some cost/benefit analysis conducted. In particular, for the provisions being used for flying, how much is being spent to save 1 life? Knowing this answer, one can make a comparison to other safety programs. For example, how much is being spent on smoking prevention to save 1 life; how much is being spent on roadways to save 1 life, etc. If nothing else, such an unbiased set of calculations can help one ascertain where to spend the next dollar to get the most bang for the buck. Maybe it’s airline screening, but who knows without doing the calculations.

  67. JM says:

    texassweetpea wrote:

    What does the TSA have to do with a flight that came from Nigeria anyway? That country has it’s own security, but TSA isn’t it. So stop slamming TSA!!

    Good question.

    To quote from TSA’s own website: “So while securing U.S. aviation security is critically important, equally important for TSA is working with international partners to secure the global transportation network.”

    http://www.tsa.gov/approach/harmonization.shtm

    Thus, this is a TSA failure, too.

    Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Transportation Security Administration’s work with its global partners is ineffective too, given the TSA’s incompetence here in the USA.

    Let’s start over!

  68. Nick says:

    In regards to who’s responsible for what – the Dutch have just announced that millimetre wave body scanners will be installed and operating in about three weeks time.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article6971582.ece

  69. Michael says:

    Where were the air marshalls on this flight? I did not hear of any marhsall involvement in the news coverage, but maybe that was edited out for security reasons or something? (Though I would think you would WANT terrorists to know that an air marshall was on a given flight.)

  70. COLUMBO says:

    @ Michael:
    IF AIR MARSHALLS WERE ON BOARD DON’T YOU THINK THEY \WOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE THAT TOOK TERRORIST UNDER CONTROLL OR ARE THEY AS INEFFICENT AS TSA.

  71. Allen says:

    @ Tommy:

    These rules do not accomplish anything except paper pushing.

    The problem with rule 3 is that by it’s very nature it breaks rule 2. If you’re an hour or less from landing, you have a decent idea of where you are both in terms of location and altitude.

    As for rule 3, I’m curious if there is an official exception in place for getting out of your seat during the last hour of the flight in case of an emergency, like the plane has to land on water or you’re trying to subdue someone who’s attempting to detonate an explosive. I wouldn’t put it past the TSA to fail to make such exceptions.

  72. Allen says:

    flyguy wrote:

    . I hope we adopt the Canadian system of not allowing any carry on luggage on the aircraft except for a book or meds or baby meals. Could you only imagine what a pleasant experience flying would be then. No boarding hassels, no luggage delays. pleanty of room in the aircraft.

    Why would this make flying pleasant? For example, I’ve had several late night arrivals in Denver where I have had to wait over 30 minutes for my baggage to arrive? And of course, if the baggage is lost then you’re really screwed. At least with carry on even for a long trip I know have a fresh change of clothes onboard with me that won’t get lost. And for short 2 or 3 day trips I won’t have to check in a bag at all and not piss away another 30 – hour wait to pick up the bag, waiting to check the bag in, et al.

    And a lack of carry on doesn’t mean plenty of room on the aircraft. It only means plenty of room in the overhead bins. It doesn’t change seat pitch or width or anything else. And it does mean more baggage under the aircraft. And that could make for marginal decreases in cargo which could affect ticket prices.

    And a lack of carry on does not mean boarding will be without hassels. People will still sit in the wrong seats. And there will still be some carry on items. It just means that someone flying with a baby gets to drag a bag on board where those of use without such a thing, get stuck killing even more time in the airport.

  73. Pingback: Knee Jerk Security Measures are Annoying | Airline Workers Unite.

  74. Ed Kelty says:

    Look at the positive side. After the “shoe bomber,” we had to take off our shoes. Now, logically, we should take off our underware. Due to the recession, sales of underware have been significantly down. Now, people will not want to be caught with old underware. This will be a boon for the garment industry.

  75. David SFeastbay says:

    Ed Kelty wrote:

    Look at the positive side. After the “shoe bomber,” we had to take off our shoes. Now, logically, we should take off our underware. Due to the recession, sales of underware have been significantly down. Now, people will not want to be caught with old underware. This will be a boon for the garment industry.

    How funny I just read something like that over the last couple of weeks. A sure sign the economy is getting better is when the sale of mens underwear increases……lol

  76. silvia says:

    These new TSA rules are making unhappy to air travelers including the “no moving for the last hour of the flight”. It is ridiculous. Now how one will spend time in plane.

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