TSA is getting worse

I’ve been traveling a lot for over twenty years, both domestic and international. Repeat business travel gets old and those of us who have and still do do it know that flow is the best way through. I have over a million air miles on a single airline plus plenty on others.

Early on post 9/11 I felt for TSA agents; they have to absorb quite a bit of nervousness, aggravation, racism, and idiocy from people who don’t flow well. However, lately there has been a change in the way TSA seems to be doing their screening and instead of helping with flow, they’re getting aggressive which is unnecessary and hurts their PR.

I routinely travel with a pack and a camera bag with high end gear in both. When I run this stuff through x-ray (computer out of bag) I like to get through screening so I can be there to pick it up when it gets through the conveyor belt. But, if I’m not, I make mention to the TSA agent that I’d like to keep an eye on my stuff. I make this request politely with a smile on my face and good eye contact. It has never been a problem until now.

On my last four trips the various TSA agents not only became irritated with my request, two of them (two separate airports) walked me over to desks further away from my stuff for no apparent reason just to press the point that they were in control and who was I to make such a request. One of them held me at the desk for 5 minutes for no reason, long enough for many people to paw over my stuff on the conveyor belt.

As many of you know there is no one watching the conveyor belt to make sure that the right person picks up the right stuff. This has always been a logistical problem with air travel (since metal detectors started to be used) and isn’t the fault of TSA. However, because TSA can cause a bottleneck in getting through they can exacerbate the problem. They should at least acknowledge the problem rather than making it worse.

I didn’t make a scene and I eventually got all my stuff but not before it was piled up with other people’s stuff in such a way that someone could have easily walked off with my computer, phone, or camera gear.

This is both a logistical problem but also a social one: two times TSA agents not only failed to acknowledge my concern but made concerted efforts to show they had power by making it harder or me to see my stuff.

That pushed me over the hump and now I’m dead set against TSA unionizing. Frankly I think TSA should be dismantled and redesigned with better logistics, better screening, and better training.

15 thoughts on “TSA is getting worse

  1. Dale Allyn

    I could not agree more, Richard. The TSA is an abomination, and that coming from one who doesn’t mind a strict police force (when appropriate). I’m not anti-authority, I’m anti-stupidity.

    Like you, I don’t allow my bags out of my sight during the screening process. I will politely push back if the TSA agents don’t like my interest in my items. We need to watch our gear to protect from other passengers accidentally grabbing our stuff; having our gear intentionally taken by others; and now, according to reports, we need to watch that the TSA agents aren’t stealing our stuff. Hey, they don’t trust that I don’t have a bomb in underwear, I don’t trust that they won’t steal my iPad.

  2. Scott James

    Just reading your post makes my blood boil. I, too, travel with lots of tech junk and camera gear. The whole idea of not being able to stay with your possessions seems wrong-headed: I thought the TSA was to make us feel more secure, not less. I agree totally with your conclusion to “dismantle and redesign” the bloated beast.

  3. Richard Post author

    Dale: Right, I tend not to worry about TSA even though I’ve read the reports. I figure I can more easily make a claim against them than I can another passenger.

    You and I both have done this enough for many many years so that we have a decent overview of where we’ve come from and I must say and I know you’ll agree, TSA should be completely revamped if not eliminated. I’m for security but this is not the way to do it.

    In other news, Oatmeal has a nice take on travel these days:


    By the way, having now posted this I’m quite sure I’m going to go through the scanner AND have my “junk” inspected on my next trip. No doubt about it.

  4. Scott James

    For sure! We had suitcases filled with junk didn’t we? Oh well, glad I have less to lug around. Still, TSA is a pain no matter how you look at it. Thanks for the post.

  5. Alex Forbes

    I agree completely! What with TSA and other indignities of 21st century air travel, I abandoned my monthly Phoenix round trip flights, and now drive. I have business coming up in SC soon and will drive there too.

  6. Mark

    It has been like this in the UK for a while. I have had the airport security at Stansted refusing to let me through due to carrying cables (USB cables!), as apparently these are a security risk – you might try to tie someone up with them.

    The problem is that there is no argument with the screening people. You argue – you do not fly.

    Fortunately, in Spain and continental Europe, things seem somewhat more relaxed.

    [BTW, I have also had numerous flights to the USA with an Alphasmart Neo, which amazingly enough I never needed to remove from luggage as no-one seemed to think that it was a laptop!].

  7. Richard Post author

    Mark: No doubt certain items are flagged in training so that when they show up in x-ray they set of an alarm.

    I don’t have much problem with them attempting to sort out what’s in the x-ray image, my problem is with the security of my stuff. If they’ll work with me to keep my stuff secure while they check me over, no problem. If they get uppity and separate me from my stuff I’m not going to be a happy and compliant traveler. So far I’ve only had a few incidents but they were enough to make me really mad. All it takes is one stolen laptop and even if they replace it, they’re not dealing with the hassle of the thief doing whatever ID theft related stuff they’re gonna try to do with it.

    I pretty much password protect everything when I travel but still, nothing is impenetrable.

    Yeah, the AlphaSmart keyboard (various vintages is the perfect traveling tool in that they have no clue.

  8. edward

    just got back from Europe and it is a pain to fly really on the way there i had to get the pat down (and I do not mind) because i did not want to go threw the scanner.

  9. Richard Post author

    Edward: What about all your electronic gear? While you were being patted down, where was it? Was it in your control?

  10. edward

    oh i keeped on eye on them and i surely do not like the set up because it is so easy for someone to talk away with some of them.

    and last week an agent got caught stealing an ipad.

  11. Richard Post author

    Right, this is what worries me. That agent should be fired immediately and charged as a thief. I hope he/she was.

  12. Richard Post author

    I read that Edward. One time is excusable, two times is inexcusable. I think they need to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up with better personnel and rules.

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