Better ways to spend security $$

Old Mar 1, 05, 9:30 am
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Better ways to spend security $$

We talk a lot on this board about the TSA policies which we find superfluous, including SSSScreening, shoe carnivals, patdowns, etc. Especially with the formation of this political action committee, is there something that you think the TSA or the airlines should be doing that they're not now? FTers seem to know the system better than anyone else, and we could use that not just eliminate the things that give only an illusion of security, but also bolster the places that really are weak spots. Do any of you have suggestions on ways to make flying genuinely safer?
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Old Mar 1, 05, 12:26 pm
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Originally Posted by rose42
We talk a lot on this board about the TSA policies which we find superfluous, including SSSScreening, shoe carnivals, patdowns, etc. Especially with the formation of this political action committee, is there something that you think the TSA or the airlines should be doing that they're not now? FTers seem to know the system better than anyone else, and we could use that not just eliminate the things that give only an illusion of security, but also bolster the places that really are weak spots. Do any of you have suggestions on ways to make flying genuinely safer?
I don't think it's a matter of making flying safer because I truly believe that if someone is hell-bent on taking a plane down, it's going to be done.

I also think that it's a matter of following policies and procedures that were in place before 9/11. That means that the powers-that-be listen and act when an alert FBI agent informs her superiors of suspicious activity on the part of an individual or when the owner of a flying school expresses concern about why a particular individual is taking lessons; it means eliminating the infighting between and among the agencies who are charged with overseeing intelligence gathering; it means that the INS does the job it is supposed to do; to me, it means dismantling the DHS and funneling the money wasted there to other agencies, such as the Coast Guard, to allow them to do the job they were created to do.

It means Congress admits that the so-called security put in place since 9/11 was a knee-jerk reaction and is all for show.

All that said, I would like to see cargo screened more throughly, unless as Doppy suggested in another thread, it would mean that mail, etc., was opened on a routine basis.
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Old Mar 1, 05, 8:34 pm
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All that said, I would like to see cargo screened more throughly, unless as Doppy suggested in another thread, it would mean that mail, etc., was opened on a routine basis.

How about, in addition to the sensible measures in the preceding post, hardened containers for some cargo, such as mail, that would be difficult to screen individually without being opened?
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Old Mar 2, 05, 12:51 am
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Originally Posted by rose42
We talk a lot on this board about the TSA policies which we find superfluous, including SSSScreening, shoe carnivals, patdowns, etc. Especially with the formation of this political action committee, is there something that you think the TSA or the airlines should be doing that they're not now? FTers seem to know the system better than anyone else, and we could use that not just eliminate the things that give only an illusion of security, but also bolster the places that really are weak spots. Do any of you have suggestions on ways to make flying genuinely safer?
A risk management approach vs risk avoidance. The TSA operates similar to the FAA which has been a failure in several areas.

There is a good book by Ralph Nader & Wesley Smith, Collision Course, concerning the FAA and how they operate. The TSA operates just as the FAA does in a "reactionary" way, but also uses a risk avoidance approach after something has happened such as the shoe bomber incident, which is the result of the shoe carnival or the "grope-fest", which was a result of the Russian airliners which went down despite the fact the security agents were alledgedly bribed.

To improve security, we need common sense practices using risk management. Let's stop the dog and pony show with the shoes and needless secondaries and use that money to screen cargo. Let's use better technology for screening of baggage to free up manpower and reduce costs. There are many loopholes in the system, but yet we focus on risk avoidance with the shoe carnival which results in thousands of shoes being screened which present no threat. Do threats exist? Sure -- but let's be sensible in using our resources, which would improve our security.

Best,

SDF_Traveler

Last edited by SDF_Traveler; Mar 2, 05 at 1:31 am
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Old Mar 2, 05, 3:17 am
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Originally Posted by PatrickHenry1775
How about, in addition to the sensible measures in the preceding post, hardened containers for some cargo, such as mail, that would be difficult to screen individually without being opened?
I believe ElAl uses these. I know they've been around for a while as I saw pictures of some being tested a few years ago.

A quick search reveals that the FAA has been working on and testing such containers since 1991. Details here.

It also looks as if Dupont put out a press release on this in 2002.
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Old Mar 2, 05, 10:29 am
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I guess I'll admit it -- I interviewed for the then-vacant Deputy Associate Administrator for Civil Aviation Security position back in about 1998. The hardened baggage compartment vault was one of the FAA's showcase projects. There were prototypes undergoing testing at one of their two test facilities -- Atlantic City or Oklahoma City (I forget which one). The intent was that aircraft would have these vaults accessible from the passenger compartment. In theory, if a crew member heard a briefcase going "tick-tick" they could grab it and throw it into the vault where it could detonate safely. The big issue, as I'm sure you can imagine, was weight & volume.
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Old Mar 2, 05, 5:14 pm
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Originally Posted by FliesWay2Much
I guess I'll admit it -- I interviewed for the then-vacant Deputy Associate Administrator for Civil Aviation Security position back in about 1998. The hardened baggage compartment vault was one of the FAA's showcase projects. There were prototypes undergoing testing at one of their two test facilities -- Atlantic City or Oklahoma City (I forget which one). The intent was that aircraft would have these vaults accessible from the passenger compartment. In theory, if a crew member heard a briefcase going "tick-tick" they could grab it and throw it into the vault where it could detonate safely. The big issue, as I'm sure you can imagine, was weight & volume.
Why not start slamming the airlines for this equipment rather than have the [kinder and gentler words please] TSA [a kinder and gentler word please] steal your stuff

Last edited by Randy Petersen; Mar 2, 05 at 6:40 pm Reason: a little too harsh use of the English language. Brackets and words within are mine.
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Old Mar 2, 05, 6:47 pm
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Hate to rain on your parade, but FTers are not security experts and from what I've read, there are very few forum members who have any idea of what constitutes good security.

Having said that, and offending the arrogant sensibilities of those who think they know how to secure aircraft, before spending any additional money on security, here is what I think is necessary:

1) A TSA-wide manpower study to evaluate the screener-to-passenger manning ratio. This study should account for peak seasons and off-seasons as well as peak days and non-peak days. For some airports, there will be very little adjustment as they are usually always busy and transition to being busier. For other airports, there will be significant differences between peak and non-peak seasons. Having a temporary screening force (other than the NSF) may be the solution. Weeks before the peak season, TSA may consider hiring a seasonal screener force at these airports with the option to re-hire and re-certify the following year or giving those who are interested first shot at permanent slots when they become available. The point here is that there is no established template for manning these airports; Congress arbitrarily set the overall number at 45,000 which left some airports terribly undermanned and others terribly overmanned. What exacerbates this situation is that no matter how undermanned a particular airport is, Congress is still holding TSA to the overall 45,000-manning standard and ever-so-reluctantly allows additional screeners to be hired.

2) Make better use of current technology before investing millions in more costly technology. ETDing hands, shoes and belt buckles as part of the overall secondary screening, to me, is an effective alternative to the walk-through explosives detection portals. This may be a more cost-effective measure for the Sleepy-Hollow-type airports with peak periods that occur only three or four months out of the year. This will also result in increased "random screenings" of passengers even after they successfully passed through the WTMD for the purposes of ETD screening. You said we don't do a good job of screening people for explosives, then you have to be willing to accept this as an alternative measure. 100% ETD screening of people is not feasible nor realistic, and I don't think you really want to see that happen. If you do, remember to bring a sack lunch to the checkpoint. You're going to be staying a while.

3) Modify the prohibited items list with a definite no-go list of items (firearms, explosives, hazardous materials, knives, martial arts weapons, etc) and a slow-go list of items which allow floor supervisors to use common sense judgments. For example, an arthritic elderly lady who uses her scissors to cut through the bullet-proof Kevlar wrapping for pretzels and nuts served aboard the plane should not be considered a threat to commercial aviation. Tool boxes should not be allowed in carry-on, but there is nothing sinister about a clip-on screwdriver used for laptop computers. A baby Swiss Army knife with a one-and-a-half inch blade is not the same as a Bowie Knife. Supervisors should be trained to make a quick assessment of the situation and make an on-the-spot judgment call on these slow-go items. The problem here is that this will result in more inconsistencies in what is considered a prohibited item and what is not. However, with the proper training, it would hopefully result in more sound judgments based on common-frickin'-sense rather than a universal set of rules that do not always apply equally in all situations. I'm shooting for a less-restrictive list of prohibited items but am holding on to the right to prevent something not specifically listed from being taken aboard the airplane. In my little Bart World, the key question should be: "why do you need this item with you?"

4) Eliminate selectee screening. It's redundant and unnecessary. If someone is deemed a security risk that he or she would require additional screening before boarding a commercial airplane, then don't let that person get on the plane until the matter is resolved.

5) Do not allow unscreened cargo aboard commercial airplanes. This is going to financially hurt both cargo companies and commercial airliners; however, either we screen everything that goes aboard the airplane or we do not. What many of you fail to realize is that the airlines decide what goes aboard their aircraft, and they choose to allow unscreened cargo aboard. This needs to stop.

6) Improve communications all the way around. There needs to be open lines of communication between TSA management and its screener workforce to address employee issues and concerns. There needs to be open lines of communication between the various law enforcement-intelligence agencies and TSA so that focused responses can be applied to specific threats. (I will leave it at that. Experienced members like Dovster will know exactly what I'm talking about.) And there needs to be open lines of communication between a customer advocacy group, such as the one being suggested in this forum, and TSA. TSA needs a direct line with the people most affected by its security policies: the passengers. This is why I suggested that this political action group not be limited to only frequent flyers. This customer advocacy group would also be a good check-and-balance means for following up on customer complaints, claims and other concerns raised through the TSA customer channels. And TSA should, of course, have open lines of communication with the airline industry and airport management across the board. I probably left out some others who need to be in the communications loop, but my point is that communications needs to be improved, and I don't want to use up a whole lot of bandwidth trying to make this one point.

7) Fire the private security companies that currently man the entrances to the checkpoints and give TSA the responsibility for checking tickets and IDs. I, too, am chagrined that we have to check your boarding passes within a couple feet of presenting them to the private contractor who greets you at the checkpoint entrance. Giving TSA full responsibility for the checkpoint (and checked baggage pods) by eliminating the private security companies unifies command and control; a key component to any successful operation. Just remember to increase the manning accordingly.

8) There are other issues that I deliberately omitted because they would reveal vulnerabilities that should not be discussed in a public forum. Suffice it to say, I am an advocate of true Red Team assessments. I used to plan, resource and execute military intelligence red team "attacks" against high-value military organizations and facilities. I am a firm believer in multi-disciplined, traditional/non-traditional methodologies to really shake the trees and find out how solid a facility's security posture is. This is the "forward-looking" aspect of security that TSA is lacking. I'd like to think it's because TSA has yet to mature as an organization; however, I fear that it's mostly due to the political culture of any government bureaucracy. Privatizing airport security would only hide the problem and make it worse. Feel free to disagree with me on this one point, you will only be convincing me of how little you understand security if you try.

I could continue on, but I think I've made my point. Until any of you can address these points without the usual anti-TSA banter and cheap rhetoric, then you really aren't prepared for a true discussion about security.

Have at it.
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Old Mar 2, 05, 6:50 pm
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Originally Posted by tsadude
Why not start slamming the airlines for this equipment rather than have the [kinder and gentler words please] TSA [a kinder and gentler word please] steal your stuff
I'd like to see the same standard applied to non-TSA members whenever they use these same words posted in the original comment.
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Old Mar 2, 05, 10:06 pm
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Originally Posted by rose42
We talk a lot on this board about the TSA policies which we find superfluous, including SSSScreening, shoe carnivals, patdowns, etc. Especially with the formation of this political action committee, is there something that you think the TSA or the airlines should be doing that they're not now? FTers seem to know the system better than anyone else, and we could use that not just eliminate the things that give only an illusion of security, but also bolster the places that really are weak spots. Do any of you have suggestions on ways to make flying genuinely safer?
I suggest using the money for cargo inspection, and turning over the pax security inspection to the pre-9/11 regime?
In other words, use the money for cargo, rather than pax?
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Old Mar 3, 05, 1:54 am
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Talking Red state control freaks

Originally Posted by Bart
I'd like to see the same standard applied to non-TSA members whenever they use these same words posted in the original comment.
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Old Mar 3, 05, 7:00 am
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Originally Posted by Bart
I'd like to think it's because TSA has yet to mature as an organization; however, I fear that it's mostly due to the political culture of any government bureaucracy. Privatizing airport security would only hide the problem and make it worse. Feel free to disagree with me on this one point, you will only be convincing me of how little you understand security if you try.
Bart -

Excellent Post! Unfortunately, like the FAA, I believe the root problem with the TSA lies in it's political culture and government bureaucracy. Until change on this level happens, I don't foresee much (if any) significant change for the better.

The TSA, like the FAA, is reactionary and is boggled down with B.S. bureaucracy. If you look at the history of the FAA, it often takes a major tragedy until a change is made because of the tedious rule making & policies involved. Even after accidents the NTSB would make and push for needed changes which would just take a back seat as a result of the bureaucracy. Sadly, I see the TSA following the same path.

All eight of your points are good, sensible, and I support each one. There are too many loopholes in the system which may be exploited. It's important these loopholes are addressed, tested, and processes are refined based on tests. The TSA also needs to be "forward-thinking" instead of reactionary with it's policies, at a sensible level and apply risk management instead of risk avoidance. If a bank (or other businesses) used a risk avoidance approach with everything, they would be out of business.

Will the system ever change? I certainly hope so, but I am not holding my breath.

As far as going private, I believe it can work under the right circumstances, but with TSA oversight and rulemaking the way it currently works, it would be a disaster the more I think about it.

Thanks for a great post - I just wish the folks in DC would see things differently.

SDF_Traveler (in MEL)
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Old Mar 5, 05, 8:36 am
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I think if we spent ten billion dollars on tracking down the bad guys, instead of kicking back and hoping they just happen to walk into an airport and use their real names, we'd be off to a good start. They supposedly have a list of people considered a threat to aviation and we're just sitting on it? Why don't we spend billions to find and try those people, instead of spending billions of dollars harassing innocent citizens who happen to have metal implants?
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Old Mar 6, 05, 10:52 am
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Originally Posted by rose42
Do any of you have suggestions on ways to make flying genuinely safer?
1) Strict enforcement of racial profiling.

2) Enact something similar to the Alien and Sedition Act.

3) A relocation and detention program for enemy aliens.

4) "Palmer Raids" against the enemy in the U.S.

History has shown that these ideas worked. Embrace the wisdom of Adams, Hamilton, Washington, Wilson, and Roosevelt.
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