Transportation Security Administration: Difference between revisions

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The TSA was accused of having performed poorly at the [[Barack Obama 2009 presidential inauguration|2009 Presidential Inauguration]] viewing areas, which left thousands of ticket holders excluded from the event in overcrowded conditions, while those who arrived before the checkpoints were up weren't checked at all.<ref>{{cite web |title=TSA Helps Secure Inauguration |publisher=Transportation Security Administration |date=January 21, 2009 |url= |accessdate=January 22, 2009}}</ref><ref>{{cite news |title=And Then We Knew It Was Too Late |publisher=Washington Post |date=January 20, 2009 |url= |accessdate=January 22, 2009 | first1=Pamela | last1=Constable}}</ref>
The TSA was accused of having performed poorly at the [[Barack Obama 2009 presidential inauguration|2009 Presidential Inauguration]] viewing areas, which left thousands of ticket holders excluded from the event in overcrowded conditions, while those who arrived before the checkpoints were up weren't checked at all.<ref>{{cite web |title=TSA Helps Secure Inauguration |publisher=Transportation Security Administration |date=January 21, 2009 |url= |accessdate=January 22, 2009}}</ref><ref>{{cite news |title=And Then We Knew It Was Too Late |publisher=Washington Post |date=January 20, 2009 |url= |accessdate=January 22, 2009 | first1=Pamela | last1=Constable}}</ref>
===Unintended consequences of strict security===
Two studies by a group of [[Cornell University]] researchers have found that strict airport security has the unintended consequence of increasing road fatalities, as would-be air travelers decide to drive and are exposed to the far greater risk of dying in a car accident.<ref name="cornell1" /><ref name="cornell2" />
In 2005, the researchers looked at the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and found that the change in passenger travel modes led to 242 added driving deaths per month.<ref name="cornell1">{{cite journal|last=Blalock|first=Garrick|coauthors=Vrinda Kadiyali, Daniel H. Simon|date=February 10, 2005|title=The Impact of 9/11 on Road Fatalities: The Other Lives Lost to Terrorism|journal=[[Social Science Research Network|SSRN]] Electronic Journal|issn=1556-5068|doi=10.2139/ssrn.677549|url=}}</ref> In all, they estimated that about 1,200 driving deaths could be attributed to the short-term effects of the attacks. The study attributes the change in traveler behavior to two factors: fear of terrorist attacks and the wish to avoid the inconvenience of strict security measures; no attempt is made to estimate separately the influence of each of these two factors.
In 2007, the researchers studied specifically the effects of a change to security practices instituted by the TSA in late 2002. They concluded that this change reduced the number of air travelers by 6%, and estimated that consequently, 129 more people died in car accidents in the fourth quarter of 2002.<ref name="cornell2">[]</ref> Extrapolating this rate of fatalities, ''New York Times'' contributor [[Nate Silver]] remarked that this is equivalent to "four fully loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year."<ref>{{cite news|last=Silver |first=Nate |url= |title=The Hidden Costs of Extra Security - | |date= November 18, 2010|accessdate=November 19, 2010}}</ref>
The 2007 study also noted that strict airport security hurts the airline industry; it was estimated that the 6% reduction in the number of passengers in the fourth quarter of 2002 cost the industry $1.1 billion in lost business.
===Covert security tests; gaming and failures===
===Covert security tests; gaming and failures===

Revision as of 19:56, 29 June 2011

Transportation Security Administration
Transportation Security Administration Logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed 2002
Jurisdiction Transportation systems inside, and connecting to the United States of America
Headquarters Pentagon City, Arlington County, Virginia
Employees 58,401 (2011)
Annual budget $8.1 billion (2012)
Agency executive
Parent agency Department of Homeland Security
Website TSA Official site

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that exercises authority over the safety and security of the traveling public in the United States.[1]

The TSA was created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, sponsored by Don Young in the United States House of Representatives[2] and Ernest Hollings in the Senate,[3] passed by the 107th U.S. Congress, and signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. Originally part of the United States Department of Transportation, the TSA was moved to the Department of Homeland Security on March 25, 2003.

John S. Pistole is the fifth TSA Administrator, having replaced former head Kip Hawley.[4]

History and organization

Seal when under the Department of Transportation

The TSA was created in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Its first administrator John Magaw was nominated by President Bush on December 10, 2001, and confirmed by the Senate the following January. The agency's proponents, including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, argued that a single federal agency would better protect air travel than the private companies who operated under contract to single airlines or groups of airlines that used a given terminal facility.

The organization was charged with developing policies to protect U.S. transportation, especially in airport security and the prevention of aircraft hijacking.

With state, local, and regional partners, the TSA oversees security for highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, pipelines, ports. However, the bulk of the TSA's efforts are in aviation security. The TSA is solely responsible for screening passengers and checked and carry-on baggage at 450 U.S. airports.[5][not in citation given]

It also works with local police and other law enforcement official to reduce baggage theft in many airports. In Las Vegas in summer 2007, a sting operation caught two airport employees stealing weapons.[6] However, the TSA does not, as a matter of policy, share baggage theft reports with local police departments.[7]

Private screening did not disappear under the TSA, which allows airports to opt out of federal screening and hire firms to do the job instead. Such firms must still get TSA approval under its Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and follow TSA procedures.[8] Among the U.S. airports with privately operated checkpoints are San Francisco International Airport; Kansas City International Airport; Greater Rochester International Airport; Tupelo Regional Airport; Key West International Airport; and Jackson Hole Airport.[9][10]

TSA security search

Among the types of TSA employees are:[11]

  • Transportation Security Officer: The TSA employs around 45,000 Transportation Security Officers, colloquially known as screeners. They screen people, property and control entry and exit points in airports. They also watch several areas before and beyond checkpoints.[12][13]
  • Federal Air Marshal: A federal law enforcement officer, a FAM blends in with passengers, to detect, deter, and defeat terrorists and other criminals targeting U.S. air carriers, airports, passengers, crew, and when necessary, other transportation modes. The TSA oversaw the Service until December 1, 2003, when the program was transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In the U.S. government's 2006 fiscal year, the Federal Air Marshal Service was transferred back to the TSA.
  • Transportation Security Inspectors: They inspect, assess, and investigate passenger and cargo transportation systems to see how secure they are. TSA employs roughly 1,000 aviation inspectors, 450 cargo inspectors,[14] and 100 surface inspectors.[11]
  • National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program: These trainers prepares dogs and handlers to serve as mobile teams that can quickly find dangerous materials. As of June 2008, the TSA had trained about 430 canine teams, with 370 deployed to airports and 56 deployed to mass transit systems.[15]
  • Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams. They started in 2005 and involved Federal Air Marshals and other TSA crew working outside of the airport environment, at train stations, ports, truck weigh stations, special events, and other places. There has been some controversy and congressional criticism for problems such as the July 3, 2007 holiday screenings. In 2011, Amtrak police chief John O'Connor moved to temporarily ban VIPR teams from Amtrak property. As of 2011, VIPR team operations were being conducted at a rate of 8,000 per year.[16]

The TSA also oversees the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which gives some pilots permission to carry firearms in the cockpit as a defense against hijackers.

TSA has had five administrators. They include John Magaw (2002), Admiral James Loy (2002–2003), Rear Admiral David M. Stone (2003–2005), Kip Hawley (2005–2009) and most recently John Pistole (2010–). Current Deputy Administrator Gale Rossides served as TSA's Acting Administrator from early 2009 until Pistole's confirmation in the summer of 2010.


For fiscal year 2011, the TSA had a budget of roughly $8.1 billion.

TSA officer screening luggage
Budget[17] $ Millions Share
Aviation Security 4,809 71%
Federal Air Marshals 767 11%
Transportation Security Support & Intelligence 524 8%
Aviation Security Capital Fund 250 4%
Checkpoint Screening Security Fund 250 4%
Transportation Threat Assessment & Credentialing 164 2%
Surface Transportation Security 47 1%
Total 6,814 100%

The salary for a TSO is currently $25,518 to $38,277[18] per year, not including locality pay (contiguous 48 states) or cost of living allowance (COLA) in Hawaii and Alaska. A handful of airports also have a retention bonus of up to 35%.[19] Employees receive an annual uniform allowance and public transportation vouchers upon request. Employees are also eligible for medical, dental and vision benefits along with a federal retirement and pension plan.

Policies over time

Behavior Detection Officers

Behavior Detection Officers, or "BDOs," are officers whose primary responsibility is to observe the behavior of passengers going through the security checkpoint. Sometimes police officers are called in to help ask questions or do a background check.


In 2008, TSA employees began wearing new uniforms that have a blue-gray 65/35 polyester/cotton blend duty shirt, black pants, a wider black belt, and optional short-sleeved shirts and black vests (for seasonal reasons).[20] The first airport to introduce the new uniforms was Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Starting on September 11, 2008, all TSOs began wearing the new uniform. One stripe on each shoulder board denotes a TSO, two stripes a Lead TSO, and three a Supervisory TSO.

Notice of Baggage Inspection

Luggage locks

The TSA is allowed to open and search air passengers' luggage for security screening in the U.S.[21] They are also allowed to cut open, destroy, or otherwise disable locks during a search.

The agency has sanctioned two companies to make padlocks, lockable straps, and luggage with built-in locks that can be opened and relocked by tools and information supplied by the lock manufacturers. These are Travel Sentry[22] and Safe Skies Locks.[23][24] TSA agents have these tools, as do certain authorized security agencies such as UK Customs.

TSA agents sometimes fail to replace locks or close them properly. Passengers who find their TSA-approved locks missing can file a claim with form SF-95.[25]

Large printer cartridges ban

After the October 2010 cargo planes bomb plot, in which cargo containing laser printers with toner cartridges filled with explosives were discovered on separate cargo planes, the U.S. prohibited passengers from carrying certain printer cartridges on flights.[26] The TSA said it would ban toner and ink cartridges weighing over 16 ounces (453 grams) from all passenger flights.[27][28] U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the ban would apply to both carry-on bags and checked bags on domestic and international flights in-bound to the U.S.[28] PC Magazine opined that the ban would not affect average travelers, whose toner cartridges are generally lighter, but would affect the importing of laser printer supplies, as many laser toner cartridges weigh well in excess of a pound.[28]

November 2010 Enhanced Screening Procedures

Beginning in November 2010, TSA added new enhanced screening procedures, including expanding the use of backscatter X-ray and millimeter wave detection machines at airports that allow security officers to detect both metal and non-metal weapons hidden underneath passengers' clothing. The agency also modified its existing pat-down procedures to allow officers to more thoroughly check areas on the body such as waistbands, groin, and inner thigh.[29]

As of November 23, the new procedures were implemented at all U.S. airports, with many having added the new Advanced Imaging Technology, or AIT, units. Passengers who enter the AIT unit are directed to hold their hands above their heads for a few seconds while front and back images are created. These images are displayed only to a TSA officer in a remote, secured room. The officer viewing the images cannot see the passengers in person, and the officers screening the passengers cannot see the images. The images are then reviewed for various materials, which typically takes on average 10–15 seconds, then discarded. While the machines can be capable of storing images, the manufactures disable these features prior to delivering them to the TSA.[30] In February 2011, the TSA began testing new software on the millimeter wave machines already used at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport that automatically detects potential threats on a passenger without the need for having an officer review actual images. Instead, one generic figure is used for all passengers and small yellow boxes are placed on areas of the body requiring additional screening.[31]

Passengers who have an anomaly on their person at the AIT unit, decline to go through the AIT unit, or who alarm the metal detector are referred for additional screening, which will include a pat-down search to resolve or detect any concealed items. All pat-downs are conducted by a TSA officer of the passenger's gender, and can be done in a private room if requested, and the passenger may have a witness present as well.

TSA officials said they created the measures in reaction to the "underwear bomber" who smuggled plastic explosives onto an airplane in Amsterdam in December 2009.

TSA officials have declined to provide specific details of the pat-down procedures, as they are classified as Sensitive Security Information. The public learned about the extent of the searches from passengers who posted their stories on the Internet, and news reports providing what information they have.[32][33]

To prevent potential terrorists from probing the security system, U.S. federal law prohibits passengers from withdrawing from the screening process after it begins, thus passengers who decline any secondary screening (including a pat-down search) are considered to be refusing the screening process and can be subject to civil penalties and will not be permitted to board the aircraft. A person though still has the right to refuse any primary search and leave the airport before the screening process has begun.[34]

TSA Administrator John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano meet with President Obama in the Oval Office; October 2010.

On November 23, 2010, TSA officials said that some high-ranking US government officials were being allowed to bypass some security procedures if they were traveling with government bodyguards and escorts. Among the officials are executive-branch leaders such as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and FBI Director Robert Mueller and congressional leaders such as Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. Law-enforcement officials are also allowed to bypass the screening process if they are traveling armed, have the appropriate paperwork, and have completed a training course by TSA.[29]

Concerns about radiation

Some people are concerned with exposure to radiation emitted by backscatter X-rays, and fear being exposed to a "dangerous level of radiation if they get backscattered too often".[35] The backscatter X-ray emits a type of ionizing radiation that damages chemical bonds. Ionizing radiation is considered a non-threshold carcinogen, but it is difficult to quantify the risk of low radiation exposures.[36]

While the most recent studies have deemed the radition risk from AIT units to be trivial,[37] some physicians have voiced concerns about the radiation emitted by the scanners. Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society told CNN that he "takes a pat-down instead of going through a scanner when he travels" because he is "concerned about whether the machines are calibrated and inspected properly."[38] Brawley's deputy, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, does "whatever [he] can to avoid the scanner," since he is "concerned about the cumulative effect of the radiation":[38]

Dr. Dong Kim, chair of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School and neurosurgeon for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, stated that "[t]here is really no absolutely safe dose of radiation. Each exposure is additive, and there is no need to incur any extra radiation when there is an alternative."[38] Dr. Andrew Weil agreed, saying that "All radiation exposure adds to the cumulative total you've received over your lifetime. Cancer risks correlate with that number, so no dose of radiation is too small to matter."[38]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a webpage providing backscatter X-ray scan safety information.[39] However, biochemists and biophysicists at the University of California, San Francisco, in a May 2010 letter to the head of the TSA, raised concerns about the validity of indirect comparisons the FDA used in evaluating backscatter x-ray machine safety, asking that additional data be made public. When the much-redacted report was made public, the same UCSF biophysicists objected in an April 2011 letter that the data could not be independently verified and called for the use of readily-available alternate technologies in preference to backscatter x-ray scanning, which they continue to maintain is dangerous.[40][41][42]

Legal Challenges

On July 2, 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for review of three DHS actions— one failure to act, one agency Order, and one agency Rule—of the TSA, a DHS component.[43] The Petitioners filed a motion for emergency stay, urging the Court to shut down the program as soon as possible in order to prevent irreparable harm to American travelers. On July 15, 2010, the federal agency opposed the motion. On July 20, 2010, EPIC filed a reply to the opposition. On September 1, 2010, the Court ordered the motion be denied, and set out the briefing schedule.

On November 1, 2010, EPIC filed its opening brief, arguing that the DHS "has initiated the most sweeping, the most invasive, and the most unaccountable suspicionless search of American travelers in history." EPIC further argued that the TSA "must comply with relevant law, and it must not be permitted to engage in such a fundamental change in agency practice without providing the public the opportunity to express its views."

On November 5, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security moved to exclude religious objector Nadhira Al-Khalili from the lawsuit. Ms. Al-Khalili is Legal Counsel for the Council on American Islamic Relations, one of the organizations that supported EPIC's petition, which is the basis for the challenge to the body scanner program. Ms. Al-Khalili's claims are based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Islamic modesty requirements. EPIC opposed the government's motion and stated that the agency is "simply afraid to have the Religious Freedom Restoration Act claims heard by this Court." EPIC further argued that "Respondents hope by seeking to exclude Ms. Al- Khalili . . . they will avoid judicial scrutiny of an agency practice that substantially burdens the free exercise of religion in violation of federal law."

On December 23, 2010, Respondent DHS filed its answer brief, again urging the Court to exclude Nadhira al-Khalili as a religious objector in the suit. Respondents also asserted that the body scanner program was not substantial enough of a change in agency policy to constitute a "rule" under the Administrative Procedures Act. EPIC has previously argued that the body scanner program is "the single most significant change in air traveler screening in the United States since the creation of the agency," adding that the agency has considered far less significant changes to be rules, including policies relating to butane lighters and transportation worker identity documents.

On January 6, 2011, EPIC filed a reply brief, arguing that "the TSA has acted outside of its regulatory authority and with profound disregard for the statutory and constitutional rights of air travelers, the agency’s rule should be set aside and further deployment of the body scanners should be suspended." On the same day, EPIC hosted a one-day public conference "The Stripping of Freedom: A Careful Scan of TSA Security Procedures" in Washington, DC. Oral Argument in the case is scheduled for March 10, 2011.[44]

On March 11, 2011 in the DC Court of Appeal lawyers for DHS and TSA alleged the TSA agents believe to have the legal authority from Congress to strip search every air traveler. In addition to replacing local security screening at airports TSA has invested millions of dollars in mobile strip search machines for use at railroads, stadiums, courthouses, etc. in an effort to replace local police.[44]

On May 25, 2011 in Texas House Bill 1937, a bill that would have made it “A criminal act for security personnel to touch a person’s private areas without probable cause as a condition of travel or as a condition of entry into a public place,” passed the House unanimously 138-0. On it's way to the Texas state senate, U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy threatened to shut down all flights in and out of Texas if the bill was passed stating “If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute... Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.”[45]



Measures employed by the TSA have been accused of fostering a false sense of safety.[46][47] This has been described by security expert Bruce Schneier as security theater.[48]

Criticisms have also included assertions that TSA employees slept on the job,[49][50][51][52] bypassed security checks,[53] and failed to use good judgment and common sense.[54][55][56]

TSA agents were also accused of having mistreated passengers, and having sexually harassed passengers,[57][58][59][60] having used invasive screening procedures, including touching the genitals of children,[61] removing nipple rings with pliers,[62] having searched passengers or their belongings for items other than weapons or explosives,[63] and having stolen from passengers.[7][64][65][66][67][68][69][70]

The TSA was also accused of having profited by selling banned items collected from passengers,[71] having spent lavishly on events unrelated to airport security,[72] having wasted money in hiring,[73] and having had conflicts of interest.[74]

The “Terror Watch List” had more than one million names, including the name of a CNN reporter who claims he was added to the terror list while he was reporting critically on the Federal Air Marshal Service. According to the TSA, the watch list, which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice, contains about 400,000 people[citation needed], most of whom are not US persons. The TSA list contains some US citizens incorrectly flagged as suspicious, notably Michael Winston Hicks of Clifton, NJ, at eight years old (in 2010), despite attempts as early as the age of two by his family to have him removed .[75][76][77] The TSA denies Drew Griffin's claim that he is on the list.[78][79] The TSA reacted to complaints of misidentification by saying it would fine airlines $25,000 for wrongfully informing a traveler that he or she is on a government watchlist.[80]

The TSA was accused of having performed poorly at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration viewing areas, which left thousands of ticket holders excluded from the event in overcrowded conditions, while those who arrived before the checkpoints were up weren't checked at all.[81][82]

Covert security tests; gaming and failures

Undercover operations to test the effectiveness of airport screening processes are routinely carried out by the TSA's internal affairs unit and the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's office.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found that TSA officials had collaborated with Covenant Aviation Security (CAS) at San Francisco International Airport to alert screeners to undercover tests.[83] From August 2003 until May 2004, precise descriptions of the undercover personnel were provided to the screeners. The handing out of descriptions was then stopped, but until January 2005 screeners were still alerted whenever undercover operations were being undertaken.[84] Despite the report, CAS was rehired with a $314 million, four-year contract at the airport, and while employees of the firm and TSA were disciplined, none lost their jobs.[85][86]

A report on undercover operations conducted in October 2006 at Newark Liberty International Airport was leaked to the press. The screeners had failed 20 of 22 undercover security tests, missing numerous guns and bombs. The Government Accountability Office had previously pointed to repeated covert test failures by TSA personnel.[87][88] Revealing the results of covert tests is against TSA policy, and the agency responded by initiating an internal probe to discover the source of the leak.[89]

In July 2007, the Times Union of Albany, New York reported that TSA screeners at Albany International Airport failed multiple covert security tests conducted by the TSA. Among them was a failure to detect a fake bomb.[90]

In December 2010, ABC News Houston reported in an article about a man who accidentally took a forgotten gun through airport security, that "the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports".[91]

Employee records lost or stolen

On May 4, 2007, the Associated Press reported that a computer hard drive containing Social Security numbers, bank data, and payroll information for about 100,000 employees had been lost or stolen from TSA headquarters. Kip Hawley alerted TSA employees to the loss, and apologized for it. The agency asked the FBI to investigate.[92]

Insecure website

In February 2007, Christopher Soghoian, a blogger and security researcher, said that a TSA website was collecting private passenger information in an unsecured manner, exposing passengers to identity theft.[93] The website allowed passengers to dispute their inclusion on the No Fly List. The TSA fixed the website several days after the press picked up the story.[94] The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the matter,[95] and said the website had operated insecurely for more than four months, during which more than 247 people had submitted personal information.[96] The report said the TSA manager who awarded the contract for creating the website was a high-school friend and former employee of the owner of the firm that received the contract.[97] It noted:

neither Desyne nor the technical lead on the traveler redress Web site have been sanctioned by TSA for their roles in the deployment of an insecure Web site. TSA continues to pay Desyne to host and maintain two major Web-based information systems. TSA has taken no steps to discipline the technical lead, who still holds a senior program management position at TSA.[98]

In December 2009, someone within the TSA posted a sensitive manual entitled “Screening Management SOP” on secret airport screening guidelines to an obscure URL on the FedBizOpps website. The manual was taken down quickly, but the breach raised questions about whether security practices had been compromised.[99] Five TSA employees were placed on administrative leave over the manual’s publication, which, while redacted, had its redaction easily removed by computer-knowledgeable people.[100]

2010 screening procedures

Srceenshot from an active millimeter wave scanner
X-ray backscatter technology produces an image that resembles a chalk etching.[101]
A backscatter unit.

After the November 2010 initiation of enhanced screening procedures of all airline passengers and flight crews, the US Airline Pilots Association issued a press release stating that pilots should not submit to Advanced Imaging Technology because of unknown radiation risks and calling for strict guidelines for pat downs of pilots, including evaluation of their fitness for duty after the pat down, given stressful nature of pat downs.[102][103] Two airline pilots filed suit against the procedures.[104] A number of publicized incidents created a public outcry against the invasiveness of the pat-down techniques,[105][106][107] in which women’s breasts and the genital areas of all passengers are firmly patted.[102] Concerns have also been raised as to the constitutionality of the new screening methods, with organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union leading the opposition.[108] As of April 2011, at least six lawsuits have been filed for violation of the Fourth Amendment.[109][110][111] George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen has supported this view, saying "there's a strong argument that the TSA's measures violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.".[112]

Some highly publicized incidents around the screening procedures included:

  • Passenger John Tyner refused a pat-down in a videotaped encounter, famously telling security personnel "If you touch my junk I'm gonna have you arrested." This phrase was commonly paraphrased as "Don't touch my junk".[102][113]
  • A breast cancer survivor was forced to remove her prosthetic breast.[114][115]
  • A bladder cancer survivor had his urostomy bag seal broken during a pat-down, leaving him soaked in urine.[116]
  • A woman with a hip replacement was singled out for pat down.[117]
  • A rape survivor was distressed by a pat-down that she described as feeling like being sexually assaulted again.[118]
  • A 3-year-old child was distressed by surrendering her teddy bear and being subject to a pat-down.[119]
  • An eight-year-old boy was patted down on his genital area.[120][121]
  • A woman claims that she was selected for additional screening by a male TSA worker for the size of her breasts.[122]
  • A woman claims to have been harassed and detained inordinately by multiple TSA agents over a container of saved human breast milk, and was told by a police officer that the TSA agents targeted her due to her previous complaints.[123]
  • A woman claims that she was patted down because the body scanner revealed her sanitary towel.[124]
  • A four-year-old boy was on his way to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with his parents when TSA agents forced him to take off his leg braces.[125]
  • Actress and model Donna D'Errico claims that a TSA agent selected her to go through an extra search and justified his choice by saying "Because you caught my eye".[126]
  • On April 27, 2011, Former Miss USA Susie Castillo issued a statement attacking the TSA, alleging that she had been groped and touched inappropriately four times during the enhanced pat-down. She released a blog post and video describing the experience,[127] and created an online petition demanding an end to the "enhanced" pat-downs.[128]
  • On May 7, 2011 an 8-month-old baby was patted down at Kansas City International Airport after traces of explosive material were detected on his stroller.[129]
  • On June 26, 2011 during a pat-down, a 95-year-old leukemia patient in a wheelchair was forced to remove her diaper.[130]

The American Civil Liberties Union has called the scanners a "virtual strip search."[131] United States House of Representatives by Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act (H.R.6416).[132] Two separate Internet campaigns promoted a “National Opt-Out Day,” the day before Thanksgiving, urging travelers to “opt out” of the scanner and insist on a pat down.[133] US. Representative John L. Mica (R-Fla.), the incoming chair of the United States House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, called for refining TSA procedures and for airports to consider private screeners.[131]

On November 17, TSA chief John Pistole defended the TSA's screening policies in a Senate committee hearing, and was quoted as saying "I’m not going to change the policy".[134] TSA also promised to correct issues brought to their attention.[135]

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she personally would like to avoid a pat down but said United States President Barack Obama administration officials were responding to terrorists "getting more creative about what they do to hide explosives in, you know, crazy things like underwear." President Obama said he had asked his counter terrorism team if the measures were "absolutely necessary."[131]

In May 2011, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for Transportation Security Administration officials to touch a person's genitals when carrying out a patdown. The bill failed in the Senate after the Department of Justice threatened to make Texas a no-fly zone if the legislation passed.[136][137]

Public opinion

A CBS telephone poll of 1137 people published on November 15 found that 81% percent of those polled approved TSA's use of full-body scans.[138] An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted by Langer Associates and released November 22 found that 64% of Americans favored the full-body X-ray scanners, but that 50% think the "enhanced" pat-downs go too far; 37% felt so strongly. In addition the poll states opposition is lowest amongst those who fly less than once a year.[139] A later poll by Zogby International found 61% of likely voters oppose the new measures by TSA.[140]

Racial slurs

In a reversal of established public policy,[citation needed] the TSA, defended by US Federal Attorney Thomas Helper, defined the TSA's position on racial slurs in the case Bruno et al v. TSA. The TSA states that a racial slur or racial stereotype is offensive to the victim only if the person making the racial slur intends the racial slur to be offensive.[citation needed]

Baggage theft

The TSA has been criticized[141] for an increase in baggage theft after its inception. Reported thefts include both valuable and dangerous goods, such as laptops, jewelry[142] guns,[143] and knives.[144] Such thefts have raised concerns that the same access might allow bombs to be placed aboard aircraft.[145]

In 2004, over 17,000 claims of baggage theft were reported.[142] As of 2004, 60 screeners had been arrested for baggage theft,[142] a number which had grown to 200 screeners by 2008.[146] 11,700 theft and damage claims were reported to the TSA in 2009, a drop from 26,500 in 2004.[147]

As of 2011, the TSA employs about 60,000 screeners in total (counting both baggage and passenger screening)[148] and approximately 500 TSA officers have been fired or suspended for stealing from passenger luggage since the agency's creation in November 2001. The most affected airports are in the New York area – John F. Kennedy International Airport JFK, LaGuardia Airport LGA and Newark Liberty International Airport EWR.[149]

In 2008 an investigative report by WTAE in Pittsburgh discovered that despite over 400 reports of baggage theft, about half of which the TSA reimbursed passengers for, not a single arrest had been made.[7] The TSA does not, as a matter of policy, share baggage theft reports with local police departments.[7]

Arrested TSA officers

On May 19, 2011, TSA officer Rynel B. Delacruz was arrested at Orlando International Airport for trying to bring a gun through a security checkpoint, and was released the next day after posting $250 bail.[150]

See also


  1. ^ 49 USC § 114(d)
  2. ^ THOMAS
  3. ^ THOMAS
  4. ^ Johnson, Keith "Deputy FBI Director to Be Tapped for TSA",, May 17, 2010. Retrieved on May 17, 2010
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