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To fix long security checkpoint lines, kick the TSA out of airports

May 24, 20165 mins
Data and Information SecuritySecurity

The TSA is hiring—the Daily Show even created an ad for the agency—but Rep. Issa says the fix for long lines is to kick the TSA out of the airport screening business

You go through TSA security checkpoints and leave without the carry-on items you sent through the conveyor belt to be scanned.

That happens a lot; things go missing in ways other than TSA confiscating items. Just ask Eric Cheng, a photographer, technologist, drone expert and author, who said the TSA handed his $2,800 MacBook Pro to some random stranger.

“After following TSA security protocols, TSA gave my $2,800 computer away to another passenger whom they were unable or unwilling to identify and track down,” he wrote.

Although Cheng noted that everyone had been courteous to him, the police were not inclined to file a report because “it was probably an accident,” and they didn’t believe a crime had been committed.

Maybe it was an accident, but since the woman to whom the MacBook was given had been seen with another lady causing a scene and distracting TSA agents, it easily could have been a theft. Unless the stranger with Cheng’s laptop also had one and mistakenly took his thinking it was hers, then wasn’t it theft plain and simple?

At least this time it doesn’t appear as if TSA screeners were the thieves. The laptop also wasn’t destroyed by the TSA, which claims it is not liable for damaging items like it did after breaking the locks on Cory Doctorow’s unlocked TSA-safe suitcase.

The moral of the Cheng’s cautionary tale, according to some commenters on Hacker News and Reddit, is to never take your eyes off your stuff.

TSA fired security chief for long lines and excessive bonuses

Last year, the TSA chief was kicked from his job after the whopping 95 percent fail rate for TSA agents finding fake bombs and banned weapons. Yesterday, the TSA fired Kelly Hoggan, who had served as TSA assistant administrator for the Office of Security Operations since May 2013.

Although that might appease some people, since Hoggan had received “$90,000 in bonuses and awards” as if TSA’s security theater was a success, it’s doubtful it will help reduce the nightmarish long lines that are expected to get worse during the summer.

TSA, the agency with the lowest morale, is hiring

There are more people flying than before, and there are fewer TSA screeners. That has resulted in horrendously long wait times at TSA security checkpoints on normal days. (May God grant you an abundance of patience if you are flying over Memorial weekend.) As Trevor Noah pointed out on The Daily Show, those long waits have been called “a national crisis.”

[MORE: An airport artist asking to be TSA’d]

Noah also said 35 percent of TSA agents quit during their first year on the job and 100 quit each week, making it the agency with the lowest morale. The Daily Show proposed an ad, like one the Marines created, to make the job seem cool and lure prospective TSA agents.

The TSA plans to hire 700 new screeners to be on the job by June, but the union for TSA said 6,000 new screeners need to be hired. As one solution to combat the wait lines from hell, the TSA is pushing for more people to sign up for PreCheck—while also denying it is slowing down lines to increase enrollment in the program. The TSA wants you to believe it can speed up the screening process by deploying more K-9 teams.

Don’t be silly by thinking the agency would shorten its list of prohibited items or relax its liquids rule, which even applies to breast milk, as actress Rose Byrne found out and discussed with Stephen Colbert. An e-cig may be considered too dangerous to be carried on without being stowed away, but the TSA let a corpse, a prop from a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, pass through screening at the Atlanta International Airport security checkpoint.

Cuddly unicorns, candy and clowns to keep travelers happy in long lines

You can view the security wait times or heed the new call to show up even earlier for your flight. But when you are stuck in a long line waiting to be patted down or scanned, then you might experience the newest tactics the TSA is trying out to keep travelers happy. Zombie-like corpses are not on the list. NBC reports airports are doing the following:

  • Miniature therapy horses have been deployed at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport have deployed miniature therapy horses to help reduce stress, but it’s only twice a month.
  • Atlanta and Seattle have added extra music performers.
  • Denver International Airport is hoping to calm users in long lines with candy. (Hopefully you aren’t flying with a child because a kid’s sugar rush is usually the opposite of relaxing.)
  • If you are creeped out by clowns, then brace yourself because San Diego International Airport is sending in Pennywise to placate people stuck in long lines.

Will those things satisfy people who miss their plane because they were stuck in security?

Fix for ‘Hate the Wait’ is to kick TSA out of airport screening

If you are stuck in line, then you can tag your photos with IHateTheWait, as some of the related tweets do show atrociously long lines.

“But if we really ‘hate the wait’ and want to fix it, the solution couldn’t be any simpler: let’s get the TSA out of the airport screening business altogether,” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California) wrote on CNN.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.