This Week’s Security Horror Story : The TSA tells us that now they have taken over passenger screening, and now they know our dates of birth and genders, there will be fewer mix-ups with passengers being confused with terrorists and placed on the no-fly list. The TSA also tells us that if such mix-ups do occur, they now have streamlined procedures to resolve the problems for 99% of people so affected.
Maybe that is true. And maybe it isn’t, because how to explain the case of a 6 year old girl now finding herself on the no fly list and not being able to get removed? Details here.
Talking about the TSA (and what else would be be talking about in this section?) here are some interesting statistics. Although passenger numbers are close to the same as what they were prior to 9/11, what were previously 16,500 airport screeners (employed by private companies) have grown to more than 60,000 TSA employees (some have other non airport duties). There are over 7,000 supervisors in the field, and more than 3,500 in the TSA’s headquarters, earning an average salary of $106,000.
But even with such a staggering number of highly paid headquarters staff, a May 2010 GAO study concluded that the TSA spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on insufficiently tested programs.
And now for the real kicker in all of this. Erroll Southers, the first of President Obama’s several choices to head the TSA, is quoted in this article as saying ‘They’ve [ie terrorists have] been more successful every year getting on planes‘. He says he is ‘troubled’ by this.
Which is a bit like saying that a pot of boiling oil is ‘a bit hot’, isn’t it. We’ve almost four times as many screeners as before, a runaway security budget being spent on who knows what, all manner of new intrusive screening requirements and technologies, and enhanced government monitoring and databases, but according to the almost head of the TSA, terrorists are finding it easier, not harder, to get onto planes.
But if you’re a six year old girl……
Am I the only one to feel there is something dreadfully dreadfully wrong with all of this?
Should there be restrictions on the foods that passengers can bring onto planes? It might be thought that a large piece of meat could be hollowed out and used to conceal who knows what, and of course, the DOT recently considered banning peanuts (for allergy not security reasons) – a proposal it had to reconsider after discovering that the peanut ban would have violated a 2000 appropriations act that funds the DOT. The language in the bill specifies that no federal money can be used to ban peanuts or require a peanut buffer-free zone in any air carrier until at least 90 days after Congress and the DOT receive a peer-reviewed scientific study that determines peanut allergy sufferers can get a severe reaction on an airplane.
And if not explosives, and if not containing a potentially harmful allergen, could not a food substance be used as a way of transporting poison or a bacterial/viral infection of some sort? Apparently at present the TSA gives food items not even a second glance, because a container of meat on a plane earlier this week
started leaking maggots into the passenger compartment, causing the flight to be aborted just prior to take-off.
Maybe the meat was bound for an airline kitchen? A recent FDA report on their inspections of airline caterers reported Unsafe and unsanitary conditions at many facilities included storing food at improper temperatures, using unclean equipment, and employing workers using poor hygiene practices. The report also indicated that at some facilities there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control.
More details here.