TSA screening checked bags badly

Old Feb 11, 05, 8:26 pm
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TSA screening checked bags badly

I've always (and always will) locked my checked bags, as there are plenty of people who might steal items otherwise. Not locking bags is, IMHO, as stupid as not locking your car.

When leaving the US, I usually fly out of SEA, which used to have proper TSA scanning in front of the checkin area, but has been moved to some subterranean inspection area so that passengers can no longer see what idiocy is going on. Until last trip, I'd never had a bag opened by the TSA. Putting laptops in checked luggage, however, seemed to cause them to be searched. The searching was stupid:

* They repacked things incorrectly, of course, causing various items to be scratched and bent by other items, which would not have happened as they were originally packed
* Given the corrupted file system on one laptop, they clearly booted it up and then did not shut it down correctly!

... and inconsistent:
* They put a cable tie on one case but simply left the other one unlocked
* They taped one smashed lock to their little "we wuz here" card in one case, but not the other

Quite apart from the obvious world's worst practice here of ever scanning luggage anywhere else other than in front of the owner, the above makes no sense. They don't test laptop functionality at hand luggage screening, so why would they do it for checked luggage? Were they bored and just wanted to play? If they are supposed to tape the smashed lock to their greeting card, why did they only do this in one instance, not both? If they are supposed to cable-tie bag, why did they do this in one instance, not both?
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Old Feb 11, 05, 8:45 pm
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Originally Posted by Kremmen
I've always (and always will) locked my checked bags, as there are plenty of people who might steal items otherwise. Not locking bags is, IMHO, as stupid as not locking your car.

When leaving the US, I usually fly out of SEA, which used to have proper TSA scanning in front of the checkin area, but has been moved to some subterranean inspection area so that passengers can no longer see what idiocy is going on. Until last trip, I'd never had a bag opened by the TSA. Putting laptops in checked luggage, however, seemed to cause them to be searched. The searching was stupid:

* They repacked things incorrectly, of course, causing various items to be scratched and bent by other items, which would not have happened as they were originally packed
* Given the corrupted file system on one laptop, they clearly booted it up and then did not shut it down correctly!

... and inconsistent:
* They put a cable tie on one case but simply left the other one unlocked
* They taped one smashed lock to their little "we wuz here" card in one case, but not the other

Quite apart from the obvious world's worst practice here of ever scanning luggage anywhere else other than in front of the owner, the above makes no sense. They don't test laptop functionality at hand luggage screening, so why would they do it for checked luggage? Were they bored and just wanted to play? If they are supposed to tape the smashed lock to their greeting card, why did they only do this in one instance, not both? If they are supposed to cable-tie bag, why did they do this in one instance, not both?
To be honest, putting laptops in checked luggage isn't the smartest thing to do. If I'm visiting my family's place, i usually take my clock radio with me...and I always take that in my carry-on bag.

The general rule of thumb is no never put anything shiny, with an 'on' switch or of great sentimental value to yourself in your checked bag(s). When I check bags, I only put clothes in there. Not even the toiletry kit -- much lighter, and no reason for the thieves to "search" it.

As for the SEA open-air screening, the bomb-sniffer machine in one of the terminals did not work for a very long time, hence the checking out in front. I know all the DL baggage got the hand-inspection for a couple of years.
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Old Feb 11, 05, 9:37 pm
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Originally Posted by LessO2
To be honest, putting laptops in checked luggage isn't the smartest thing to do.
I don't see why you say that, nor the relevance. Our private property should be treated decently no matter where it travels. The fact that Americans have become used to, and often accept, poor baggage handling, is a problem, not an answer.

FWIW, I had my main laptop with my in hand luggage already. Carrying 2 additional laptops in hand luggage would have been heavy and would not have fitted in my usual bags. It would also have been very slow and tedious at some screening points. (esp. SYD, where there is no table before the X-ray machine, so you have to carry all your items to be screened separately, and I don't have enough hands!)

I also find it interesting that you'd hand-carry a toiletry kit. Mine certainly has scissors, screwdriver and various other items which would not be allowed in the cabin at all these days.
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Old Feb 11, 05, 11:56 pm
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Originally Posted by Kremmen
I don't see why you say that, nor the relevance. Our private property should be treated decently no matter where it travels. The fact that Americans have become used to, and often accept, poor baggage handling, is a problem, not an answer.
I don't disagree with you for a moment reagrding the baggage. I'm just playing with the hand that I am dealt. And with all the rules and "liberties" that are taken, the dealer is definitely crooked.


Originally Posted by Kremmen
FWIW, I had my main laptop with my in hand luggage already. Carrying 2 additional laptops in hand luggage would have been heavy and would not have fitted in my usual bags. It would also have been very slow and tedious at some screening points. (esp. SYD, where there is no table before the X-ray machine, so you have to carry all your items to be screened separately, and I don't have enough hands!)

I also find it interesting that you'd hand-carry a toiletry kit. Mine certainly has scissors, screwdriver and various other items which would not be allowed in the cabin at all these days.
Do whatever you want to do with your laptops....I'm just saying that there is plenty of history in the three+ years of the TSA of stolen stuff. I hope you never run into that situation.

My toiletry kit is not a toolbox. I don't need all that stuff when I travel.
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Old Feb 13, 05, 12:34 am
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For a man with facial hair, scissors and tweezers are almost essential items to have in a toiletries kit. If one does not check luggage, one learns to do without those two items. Thank you, Congress and TSA.
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Old Mar 5, 05, 12:31 pm
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Umm... you guys amaze me.

There are so many instances where airline employees steal items, but yet TSA gets the blame.

No doubt about it, some TSA inspectors got caught red handed.

But do you know who loads the baggage into the bag bins? Not TSA.

Do you know who watches the bags from a EARLY interline when TSA goes home for the night? Ya the airline company.

So if you come in on saturday night, dont pick up ur bags and do a "early check in"... they are left in the bag room off to the side and when TSA goes home, they still sit there with airline employees walking around.

But yea... laptops are not a good idea to pack in checked baggage. As airline employees like to play football and "see if i can get it in the bin from 20feet".
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Old Mar 5, 05, 8:22 pm
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Originally Posted by TSASCRNR
There are so many instances where airline employees steal items, but yet TSA gets the blame.
The TSA gets the blame, but doesn't pay up, so we all lose.

This is the main reason why baggage searches should never be done out of sight of the passenger. It doesn't matter who the passenger blames, because the airline blames the TSA, the TSA blames the airline, and the passenger gets no compensation from either.

If the searches are done where they should be done, at checkin, then we know the TSA hasn't taken or damaged anything, our belongings can be repacked (if necessary) in the way intended (not some random way that may damage them later), and the airline can't evade its responsibilities later if baggage handlers do play footy with the bags.
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Old Mar 6, 05, 1:10 am
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Originally Posted by TSASCRNR
Umm... you guys amaze me.

There are so many instances where airline employees steal items, but yet TSA gets the blame.
I don't really care if it's a TSA employee, airline employee, or a food service worker that lifts something from my bag. it was the TSA who has created the greater opportunity for theft with these stupid lock rules.

Last edited by jplenny; Mar 6, 05 at 1:14 am
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Old Mar 6, 05, 2:58 am
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Originally Posted by Kremmen
The TSA gets the blame, but doesn't pay up, so we all lose.

This is the main reason why baggage searches should never be done out of sight of the passenger. It doesn't matter who the passenger blames, because the airline blames the TSA, the TSA blames the airline, and the passenger gets no compensation from either.

If the searches are done where they should be done, at checkin, then we know the TSA hasn't taken or damaged anything, our belongings can be repacked (if necessary) in the way intended (not some random way that may damage them later), and the airline can't evade its responsibilities later if baggage handlers do play footy with the bags.


Every airport was designed differently.

We have some terminals with inspections directly behind the ticket counter.

Some in the "black square" area.

Some are in the basement "bag room".

Depends which airport you are flying from and how it was designed.
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Old Mar 6, 05, 5:33 am
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Originally Posted by jplenny
I don't really care if it's a TSA employee, airline employee, or a food service worker that lifts something from my bag. it was the TSA who has created the greater opportunity for theft with these stupid lock rules.
EXACTLY. Perfect argument.

- Pat
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Old Mar 6, 05, 5:47 am
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Originally Posted by TSASCRNR
Every airport was designed differently.

We have some terminals with inspections directly behind the ticket counter.

Some in the "black square" area.

Some are in the basement "bag room".

Depends which airport you are flying from and how it was designed.
A counterargument as to why bags need to be routinely searched behind-the-scenes without the the pax's present is the example of the UK. The UK employs 100% checked bag screening on internationally-bound flights, in all airports, some of which have more internationally O (originating) traffic compared to the O traffic in any US airport. Like us, they utilize CTX EDS technology.

If a UK baggage screener wants to search the bag whether it's locked or unlocked, the bag is moved to a bomb-proof room and the passenger is paged. If the passenger doesn't show up after many attempts, then the bag is blown up. It's that simple.

No signs of baggage searches or screenings. No special locks. No cable ties. No tape. You're just asked at check-in what you've packed inside your luggage and if you have any firearms in the bag.

We stole their language. Let's steal their baggage screening procedures too.

- Pat
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Old Mar 6, 05, 6:33 am
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I think that TSA will eventually transition to a different screening methodology with checked bags. Currently, whenever there's a CTX alarm on something as innocuous as a tube of toothpaste, we have to physically open the bag and inspect the item to make sure it is, indeed, a tube of toothpaste. I think we will reach a point when we can resolve this CTX alarm by making an on-screen determination rather than physically inspecting the item. When will this happen? I don't have a clue. Why do I believe it will happen? Because our lexicon is changing and we are slowly adapting different procedures than we had when we first started 100% inspections of checked luggage. I see it on the horizon.

I realize that this isn't quick enough for many of you. I also realize that many of you are skeptics and no change in TSA procedures will ever be acceptable.

As for paging passengers whenever their luggage needs to be inspected, I don't know if TSA will ever do that. I do believe that TSA needs to install CCTV cameras inside baggage pods for many reasons. Chief among them is to put a stop to employee theft. I don't think it is as rampant as some of you claim; however, it does exist and gives the rest of us honest screeners a black eye. Other reasons for having CCTV cameras are more for safety reasons. TSA screeners suffer the highest injury rates among all federal employees. At our airport alone, we've had one incident when a screener fell to the floor while having a heart attack. Our screeners reacted swiftly and the heart attack victim was rushed to the hospital. But had this happened in the rear baggage screening area out of public view, I'm not so sure there would have been the same response time. Also, while there are phones and radios as communications, it helps to have another set of eyes watching over us to prompt a response if it looks on camera like there's a situation that requires assistance. I've had radios drop their charge during mid-shift; I've had to deal with the frustration of busy signals when trying to call the airline; so there have been times when I realized that we were completely without effective communications. For a great majority of the time, this is no big issue; I simply send out a messenger. However, if this ever happened during a real emergency, things could end tragically. This is the biggest reason I advocate CCTV surveillance.

Quick "war story:" when I was deployed in the Balkans, we often received "suspicious" packages in the mail. The SOP was that if a package wasn't claimed immediately or if it wasn't addressed properly (based on certain characteristics associated with mail-bombs), then the package was taken to a field and detonated. The EOD (explosive ordnance detachment) ended up blowing up a lot of boxes of cookies.
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Old Mar 6, 05, 6:51 am
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Originally Posted by TSASCRNR
Depends which airport you are flying from and how it was designed.
I'm afraid that is utterly irrelevant to my comment. Apart from the safety of the people on the aircraft, there is nothing more important than the safety of our belongings on the aircraft. Screening that involves luggage being opened should be done with the passenger present, no matter where that is. What the airport operator and the TSA consider convenient is currently being treated as the highest priority, and it shouldn't be.
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Old Mar 6, 05, 6:51 am
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Originally Posted by Bart

As for paging passengers whenever their luggage needs to be inspected, I don't know if TSA will ever do that.
I don't understand why the TSA doesn't do everywhere what it does in FLL -- give you the opportunity to stand near your checked bags while they are being screened.

This allows you to lock them and then to open them if needed.

The new TLV terminal goes even further: You must be near your bags when they are being screened (and not at a fairly safe distance as at FLL).

I guess TLV figures if the damned thing is going to explode, they want you to go with it.
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Old Mar 6, 05, 7:33 am
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Originally Posted by Dovster
I don't understand why the TSA doesn't do everywhere what it does in FLL -- give you the opportunity to stand near your checked bags while they are being screened.

This allows you to lock them and then to open them if needed.

The new TLV terminal goes even further: You must be near your bags when they are being screened (and not at a fairly safe distance as at FLL).

I guess TLV figures if the damned thing is going to explode, they want you to go with it.
We may have addressed this before, but you always have the right to observe your bags being checked in a public lobby baggage pod. You cannot do the same for baggage pods located behind the counter because they are in a restricted area, and in most cases, at the tarmac where other safety issues such as vehicular traffic become an issue. Can TSA bring the bag out of the restricted area to a location where a passenger can observe the inspection procedure? Theoretically. However, whenever we page passengers just to provide us with the combination or key to a locked bag, it takes a while before they respond, and some don't respond at all. Meanwhile, I have other bags piling up that I need to get screened and processed. I can't afford to lose a screener waiting for someone to finally respond to a page when I could put that same screener to work screening other bags.

Whenever something dangerous or suspicious is found or an alarm cannot be resolved, the passenger is notified immediately. The LEO is dispatched and there's usually an entourage of other law enforcement and security personnel involved. I cannot see this happening each and every time we need to inspect a bag.
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