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.

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