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One Nerd’s Note To The TSA

Just in case you’ve just run straight to this site from a year-long cryogenic freeze (wobbly, I imagine, from atrophied muscles), a young Nigerian man tried to light up a passenger jet on Christmas. Fortunately he failed. Unfortunately so did the Transportation Safety Administration, who naturally has responded with brand-spankin’ new rules, with emphasis on the “spankin'”. This article is about those.

Let’s be clear. I’m a comedian. I know that makes me no security expert. It does mean, however, that I travel a SHITLOAD and none of these knee-jerk, fear-motivated, reactionary steps make me feel one iota safer. In fact, these measures ensure nothing more than increased discomfort, which gives me more time to think about why I should be afraid in the first place. The system failed and is now inadvertently punishing travelers for its mistake. Air travel is becoming the two most hated things in America: too uncomfortable AND too expensive. True, SOME people have no choice but to fly above the ground to get places, but many don’t have to. How do you think that’s going to affect the industry? My guess is that will bring down more planes than a Nigerian zealot (topical reference), but in the bankrupt-y way.

To speak out against the TSA could be construed “unAmerican,” (which I am certainly not) but I don’t want to feel like a fucking inmate every time I get on a plane, constantly reminded that someone may be on the plane trying to kill me as I sit cold and blanketless with nothing to do but stare at the seat in front of me. And that is EXACTLY where we’re headed. These rules only apply to inbound flights from foreign soil, but I’d bet that domestic implementation is just around the bend. I know the TSA has a shitty job. They do nothing and people complain. They do something and people complain. But surely even they must admit that these new rules are baffling at best.

CONFINEMENT TO A SEAT FOR THE LAST HOUR (WITH NOTHING IN YOUR LAP)
Has the last hour of a flight been designated as “Terror Time” at Jihad-con? If some fuckbag wants to blow up a plane, he’ll now do it in the first hour. Or a middle hour. Or he’ll still do it in the last hour. The only difference now is that everyone is afforded the opportunity of dying miserable. How is this rule even enforceable? How are you going to tell someone with special needs or even just someone who “has to go” they’re shit outta luck?

ONE CARRY-ON
So far none of the terror attacks have been aided by multiple carry-ons. They’ve involved shoes, things that could fit into one carry-on and things strapped to legs. The alternative is checking bags (with an added fee, I’m sure) that will get loaded into the plane with even less screening than a carry-on.

NO Wi-Fi
Even as a cynical asshole who ADORES the use of Wi-Fly, I have to admit that this at least makes SOME sense. Obviously you want to limit the number of DMs that Explodonauts can send and receive to their superiors in-flight.

NO LIVE TV PROGRAMMING
No, fuck that. I need to watch bumbly, greenly-lit meatheads “Oh fuck” their way through abandoned mental hospitals on “Ghost Hunters.” It distracts me from thinking about how much I hate flying.

The TSA is taking steps in every direction that have nothing to do with the attack. Farouk Abdulmutallab was on a terror watch list, had no baggage and paid for a ticket in cash. The only thing he didn’t do was actually carry a red flag onto the plane. Even if he WASN’T on a terror watch list, maybe pat him down for the other two reasons. How does disabling entertainment systems, forcing people to stay in their seats with nothing and bringing one carry-on help this? It doesn’t. The fact is that they need to keep psychotic turdstains from getting onto planes to begin with. Unfortunately, claiming to “beef up security” doesn’t sound like enough of a tangible thing, and the frightened public needs to feel like a thing is happening. Even if that thing is, in reality, useless.

“Well, what’s YOUR suggestion, you whiny dick?” I only got a couple of those on Twitter when I obnoxiously ranted about this a couple days ago. 98% of the responses I got were similarly outraged people. Those are astounding numbers. Much lower focus group stats can get something like “The Jeff Dunham Show” on the air. I’m no geenyus and I don’t claim to know much but I can make a few suggestions that I hope will spark your own ideas in the “Comments” section.

NO CASH FOR TRAVEL
Or at least, make cash-ticket purchasers go through a few extra steps to make them traceable. “Fuck you man! I’m trying to stay off the grid!!!” Too flippin’ bad. We live in a fully gridded society now. Money is dirtier than used toilet paper and smells like copper farts anyway.

MILLIMETER WAVE MACHINES
There are only about 40 MMWs in the US now, but they can scan a person to see what they’re concealing. Privacy groups hate it but his should only be a problem for you if you’re concealing something. Embarrassed about the butt plug you keep in at all times? Think of how embarrassing it’ll be when it blows out of you and through a your seat cushion.

UNIFORMED AIR MARSHALS ON EVERY FLIGHT
You know what I hate paying $20 extra for? Bringing a change of clothes on a trip. You know what I would HAPPILY pay $20 extra for? A uniformed air marshal on my plane. What? Does that feel “too military-state”? Fucking GREAT. A plane cop gives a much more effective appearance of security than not being able to get up to piss.

We all want to feel safe, but at what price? How soon before we can’t bring anything at all on a plane? Or use the lavatory? If the TSA wants to keep us REALLY safe, why not just have passengers fly nude while strapped to a board? Then the airlines could charge our balls as “excess baggage.”

The TSA works for you so don’t be afraid to share your criticism or support at TSA.Civilrights@dhs.gov. And please comment below! Constructive discourse is how positive change begins!

Huzzah! Transform and roll out! U-S-A! U-S-A!

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92 comments

  • For the record, as a single male who travels internationally A LOT with only a carry-on (I pack light and HATE waiting at baggage claim), I get pulled out of the line nearly EVERY time I fly…I don’t take it personally, they are doing their jobs and I understand that I fit some sort of profile…it’s just reality.

    That being said, the TSA still believes that people believe that “slow = safer” and this is very much in line with that theory.

    Also, I personally like the whole, “we’re going to implement a whole bunch of new rules…but not all of them every time…we’re going to surprise you!”

    The fact of the matter is, if the TSA folks do their job the right way, EVERY time, then the systems in place will work. Also, if people are aware of their surroundings, LIKE THOSE ON THE FLIGHT IN QUESTION WERE, then it all works…

    Remember: When the going gets tough, the mediocre get conservative!

  • Some peoples balls would get charged more than others by the way. But I digress. I like the idea of a flying cop on each plane that goes internationally. That’s a good idea. As far as scanning me before I get on plane, who gives a fuck, that butt plug I’m wearing isn’t illegal and hell I might get some action from the hot girl scanning me if she’s into that shit. I don’t care that people see into my luggage and find my 2-liter sized vibrator or my elephant underwear, it’s not like those things are illegal, they’re just sick. As far as I know, being a sick bastard isn’t as bad as being a terrorist.

    Great “article” though. I laughed my ass off at least three times, which is three times more than I would with any other article, so good job man. I am glad that I hate flying and only do it when I HAVE to do it. It’s a shame that someone like you, who has to travel via plane at least a few times a month, has to put up with shit like that. They should know your name by now. I know a guy here in Minneapolis that flies to Chicago like three or four times a week, sometimes just for a 10 hour workday and then back home again. He has more flier miles than the archangel Michael, but he’s not complaining, well not yet at least.

    I hope you get scanned and they find your butt plug before you come here to Minneapolis in a couple of weeks, we don’t like no butt plugs around here, unless you bring enough for everyone.

    Michael

  • AMEN brother! As another premium class flier, you are absolutely spot on. BTW, when was the last time you saw those flight attendants marching up and down the isle actually looking at laps? Does this mean mothers can’t breast feed during the last hour to help their infants with ear pressure? hum… I used to love sneaking in lip balm in my jean pocket when it wasn’t allowed… little did I know I could have slipped in a stick of TNT as long as it didn’t set off the magnetometer. Are you happy to see me or is that to blow up the plane with? My girlfriend was patted down a month ago for wearing a light fleece pull over that was just over a sports bra. I mean really light fleece — but the attendant said it was too bulky and patted her down any way. As for cash, if you have to pay cash, make them first go to the post office and exchange for a money order and show some ID. Let the post office do some screening — like they do with passports. TSA: Terminally Sincere Anarchists

  • I want to be able to carry-on my snow globe if it has less than 3 oz of fluid and if i have a doctor’s note (or other documentation):

    http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm

    I thought the carry-on limit was more due to space in the cabin than being an anti-terror measure. With airlines charging for checked baggage, carry-on space is at a premium. My solution is to use a ScotteVest jacket as a sort of man-purse that i used for all my items i wanted to access during the flight (book, pillow, gum, sandwich, mp3 player).

    The nothing in your lap provision seems goofy. That would involve waking up people who were sleeping with a blanket or other lap object. Even without something in your lap, you could easily have the weapon (or whatever) underneath a jacket. Maybe they should handcuff one (or both) of the passengers’ hands to the cabin ceiling throughout the flight to avoid shenanigans? You can pay extra to get a catheter installed to give you the option to pee in-flight.

    Paying for more air marshals is reasonable. I don’t know if its better for them to be uniformed or plain clothed.

  • Very well put, sir. I’m a Canadian and every time I turn around, I’m less inclined to travel to America at all. Somebody ought to point that out next time people start complaining about low tourism dollars, hmm?

  • I mostly wanted to leave a comment because this is the funniest thing you have ever written, and I wanted you to know that.

    Anyways I completely agree sir, though I do tend to like the surptise of the un-uniformed air marshal so he can come outta no where… but I think there should be one on every flight.

    Keep up the good work you true american!

  • scanning is a great idea. as i recall the privacy concerns were who can see the scan and how long it was kept in the system. i don’t see why the scans would need to be kept past a month of the flight, i’d even say 2 weeks is a bit long. and if the viewing area was set up like these instant photo booths at zoos, then there is limited viewing available. or even have a room off to the side where the viewers are seated that only tsa approved people can enter.

    stop restricting everyone from using objects that haven’t even been used in the terror attempts. my ipod or book? seriously? what does inflight entertainment have to do with terror? and not showing where the plane is is silly, as anyone who flys with any regularity can use a watch and look out the window to gage where they are.

    make people show id again at the gate, make sure the correct people are using the tickets.

    and honestly, we need more openess about this no fly list. i suspect very few people will email the TSA for fear of being flagged for no fly. all this fear around security actually makes us less safe as everyone eye’s everyone else as a suspect. this causes more false positives. the current security process is designed to put everyone under stress. people do and act strangely under stress. i know i get stressed for several days before i fly knowing that i have to go through security.

  • Thanks for doing the dirty work! It does sort of seem like the logical end game to this kind of enhanced restriction in response to ever-developing ways would-be terrorists skirt the system is to keep planes from ever actually being boarded and redirecting passengers back to their cars. Successful enforcement of sensible existing rules would do so much more, and would still slow everybody down as well – so, win-win!

  • People are going to play with what’s in their lap if they don’t have anything else to do during the last hour. The resulting explosions is something I do not want to see, hear, or feel.

    Brilliant essay, Chris. I wish “they” would read it and take it seriously in all its comic form.

  • I always think its funny that airplane security comes from the TSA. I mean, given how much those planes cost, if I were a VP for Delta, I’d put a portable xray scanner on every plane that would be wheeled out at the gate and I would require that my company security guy would scan and pat down every person who boards the plane, because you are not going to blow up one of my perfectly good airplanes and if you want to ride on one of my perfectly good airplanes then you will be xrayed and patted down knowing that every person getting on board had the same treatment, oh, and my armed security guy with the xray machine is going to be riding on the plane the whole trip.

  • Here’s a thought: instead of banning iPods, how about banning matchbooks and lighters from carry on too? Call me silly, but banning devices that actually DO enable one to set fire to things might be useful. Even if I’m a smoker, why on earth would I have ANY need for a lighter while on the plane itself?

  • Well said. I agree with all of your suggestions, however I still think they’re pointless. The best I can hope for from gate security is to keep guns and knives out of the plane cabin. That’s what they were initially for, and that’s what they do best. But when it comes down to people using liquid or plastic explosives that are well concealed, it’s going to be impossible to find them all, even if you seriously inconvenience every single passenger getting on a plane.

    So far, in the attempts that have been made since 9/11, almost all of them have been stopped by fellow passengers and crew members. That speaks volumes about how pointless these security measures have been so far, because all of these people managed to get past them. That is why uniformed security on planes is a GREAT idea. Why this hasn’t happened in the past eight years is beyond me. It’s the most straight forward way to control what happens on a plane. If I’m not the guy trying to hijack the damn thing, then why should I even be bothered? There are armed guards in banks, on subways, at football games and outside of almost every major corporation’s headquarters. Put a couple on my plane when it’s up in the sky and most vulnerable, and you will not hear me complain about a police state.

    And another thing, for every new draconian rule they come up with for what you can and can not bring on the plane, there is always an exception. You may or may not know this, but there is one HUGE glaring exception for the “no liquids over 5oz.” rule, and that is for medical need. It doesn’t need to be prescription medical need either. It can be something as simple as contact lens cleaner, of which you are allowed to bring two 12oz bottles on board. If a person is determined to kill himself and every innocent person on board, is he above lying about needing 24oz of contact lens solution that actually turns out to be TCAP? I’m going to say no.

    It’s all the illusion of security, and all it does is create anxiety, stress, and the impression that there is actually a need for all of this crap when there isn’t.

    The real security is in intelligence. Literal intelligence (like not letting red flags like this guy on planes) and data gathering intelligence. Otherwise we can keep chasing our tails and rewriting the rules after every time something happens.

  • Ya man you are very right, these new restrictions do nothing but make air travel more uncomfortable for everyone without increasing security a fraction. They truly are a cruel joke. There is nothing un-American about pointing out idiocy.
    This was a known risk much longer then 9/11 and they just like to show they are doing something, that something being something so ineffectual and uncomfortable the public will demand a return to the norm instead of demanding answers and real solutions.

  • You nailed it, Chris. My wife is a frequent business traveler, and these new rules are going to suck for her and everyone else like her. Meanwhile, they aren’t going much to stop a serious terrorist network.

  • Funny rant but I disagree about having uniformed air marshals in the plane. How are they supposed to keep an eye on 278 passengers ? How are they supposed to monitor what goes on the bathrooms ? Perhaps they could help if someone tries to take control of the plane but the locked doors have made it much more difficult to gain access to the cockpit.

    I don’t think a marshal could have prevented the incident on flight 253. The system failed when the guy was allowed to board the plane. There is nothing a marshal can do to fix that mistake.

  • The problem is that these “whole body” scan machines cost six figures each and don’t detect explosives in body cavities or that are surgically implanted.

    Bomb dogs would be a lot cheaper and much more useful.

    Politicians don’t sell us on dreams anymore, they get themselves reelected by selling us on nightmares.

  • I fully agree with your sentiment, however I believe that the TSA needs to stop trying to prevent weapons on board, and should have the information to prevent terrorists from being on a plane in the 1st place.

    Not only did this individual visit countries that train terrorist organizations, and not only did he pay in cash but his own parents complained that his travels had radicalized him. This information was not known to the agents in Nigeria or Amsterdam, and even if he was flying domestically I doubt the TSA would have had this information as well. How can we find this information 10 minutes after an attack, but not review it way before it happened in the 1st place?

    After all the scrutiny DHS places on Visas, how in the world did he get his? The TSA is the last part of the terrorist prevention, and they don’t have any of the information to make an informed decision. Not to mention that we pay them on average less then $40,000 a year, and that they are only trained 40 hours before they start. We need to change they way we prevent airplane terrorist attacks – and that happens WELL before anyone even enters an airport.

  • Here’s something that might help: arm the passengers. All of them. Seems like every time there’s a wackjob on a plane, it’s the passengers who end up taking him down. So why not make that easier? I’m not saying give them guns, that’s crazy (and people are usually a little too jumpy when they’re flying for that kind of firepower). But give them billy clubs. Or cattle prods. Or brass knuckles. And give the flight attendants something just a bit more powerful (so they can keep unruly passengers in check, too).

    A well-armed society is a polite society. And the thing is, if terrorists know they can’t succeed with a certain kind of attack, they’ll move on to something else.

  • Damn Straight! Why is it that the governments only response to any issue is to develop new, improved ways to over-regulate something without enforcing the regulations that are already in place? And why hasn’t the one group who is most directly affected by the TSA’s inept enforcement screaming the loudest – THE AIRLINE COMPANIES?

  • Well written, my Son! They are doing everything EXCEPT dealing with the real cause of this…THEY were NOT doing their BASIC jobs! Meanwhile, I am searched and patted down on every flight…I guess because I am the OPPOSITE of any profile and they want to show that they are not checking people who just happen to resemble any ethnic group…like the ones who are doing this! I say check EVERYONE of us…fine with me. Meanwhile, the creep who did this has been allowed to “lawyer up” at OUR expense, and instead of being treated like a terrorist, they are giving him the rights of a common criminal…thanks, ACLU!

  • My solution: chemical-sniffing dogs sniff EVERYONE in line. No super-expensive puffer machines to put a random sampling of people into. No need to remove shoes. No fear of racial profiling.

    And, the dogs aren’t afraid to sniff crotches.

  • Hey Chris.. are they still allowed to bring LIGHTERS on flights? They don’t want you to have a fucking piss during the last hour of the flight but I bet that you can still try to set your balls on fire.

    Don’t ban Wi-Fi.. Ban LIGHTERS.

  • For the record I flew over 44,000 miles this year (tripit sum). I grew up wanting to fly, be a pilot, do anything just to be in the air. First time I flew I though it was the most magic one can get. Over the last ten years air travel has been slowly deteriorating. I don’t feel the need to comment on the different airlines and their way of treating you. I also have a friend who flies to serve people on a daily basis, so i know the other side pretty well, too.

    I AGREE with every word you wrote down here, Chris. Yes, we have a problem. We have already admitted it. Now, let’s find a solution. I think the dogs are a good idea, as well as the “no cash travel” (or make them jump through some hoops), and I’d definitely chip in for uniformed officers. If we can afford ten cops per subway station in Manhattan then we can have two on each flight. They do not make me feel safer, but homicide rate is down in New York, and that speaks for itself. I feel that our rights are seriously violated. I just went through skin-contact body tapping in Montreal entering the US two nights ago, and EVERY passenger got the same treatment. We spent an hour and a half dealing with the effects of the increased security measures; luckily our plane was delayed by 90 minutes. We had to check our backpacks including our camera equipment and notebooks (with customer data on it). They are concentrating on how to make our lives hell as opposed to saving us. I do not feel an iota safer myself; quite the contrary, I am reminded every minute of my flight that this could be the last one. This is not why I moved to the USA, but this might be why I might leave.

  • Excellent article! As a retired business traveler that flew about 40 weeks a year for 5 years, I am disgusted & ashamed at the lack of common sense shown by our government/TSA. The real issue is how the hell did this person get on this flight??!! Our government is asleep at the switch! I am not a fan of government run programs (especially given that they always result in the rights of the greater majority being minimized); but national security is something we should clearly expect that our tax dollars would provide for.

    Should we give TSA agents xray vision goggles? Would that help? But no, these agents would probably use them as excuses to hide their sleeping habits. On the last domestic flight I had this summer, some idiot was somehow able to bring bean soup in a huge Tupperware in a walmart plastic bag onto the plane (which he proceeded to eat with a metal spoon he also brought from home in the middle seat between two other bewildered passengers). How the hell do you get SOUP in a container the size if a large Folgers coffee can past the TSA agents?! I for one, am writing the TSA. Get a clue! Thx for the article.

  • all this pisses me off on so many levels!!!!as a smoker,FUCK!!we just recently got back to being able to bring 1 lighter on the plane!!!NOW??bet thats the 1st to go!!!i have to fly to oahau to see the dr. and the screening is unreal as it is!!!NOW THIS SHIT!!!i say we LYNCH the peckerwood!!!!he has so screwed us!!!!i ask this,”why???”why doesnt the government make a real example of these freaks??EXECUTE them!! they were wanting to die anyway right?so kill em!!!and do it so they cant get into whatever heaven they want in to!!!!also,the tsa could listen when people call and report their batshit son!!!

  • I agree for the most part, though a few exceptions:

    1. MILLIMETER WAVE MACHINES – most countries want to use it, but the US won’t let them on flights going to the US… not sure how the US got the gonads to feel it can dictate the limits of security. IMHO if a country wants to strip search and finger sweep people, they should be allowed without any comment from the US government, after all it is their country. Only time the US should complain is the lack of.

    2. Fingerprinting. The US currently threatens trade with countries that want to fingerprint people coming in/out… despite the fact that the US VISIT program does exactly that. We just don’t want our citizens fingerprinted… something about violating treaties…. when other countries do it… Bush era politics. Totally needs to go. US citizens should be bound 100% to policies of host country.

    3. ID should be checked before boarding against the same boarding pass. That gets rid of the gaping security hole around the no-fly lists that Bruce Schneier keeps pointing out.

    4. Yea, strip searches *should* be allowed. “MILLIMETER WAVE MACHINES ” only search your exterior. Terrorists have already used rectally inserted bombs. That’s a bomb already in use that this device wouldn’t detect. Of course surgical implantation wouldn’t be impossible either. These people are willing to die, a little surgery or discomfort isn’t going to stop them.

    Sorry, but the security policy is just flawed. MILLIMETER WAVE MACHINES don’t solve it either… They are extremely expensive and don’t give us anything a police dog doesn’t already provide us… and the dog is often faster. CT Scans would work, but then you’d be limited to one flight every 2 years because of radiation risks… and it would be extremely expensive and slow.

  • I can see only one reason to restrict passengers to their seats and that would be to allow the terrorist to blow up the plane! Think of it. The absolute stupidity of all the restrictions that the TSA places on passengers should be an absolute embarrassment to them if they actually think that they would help our security. The more of these inane restrictions that do NOTHING to improve security can only reduce security and discourage anyone from getting out of thei seats to PROTECT themselves. The TSA either is shamefully ignorant or they have another agenda. I see no other option. After all, terrorist acts got the nazist patriot act passed didn’t it!

  • You’re a genius. This gridded society IS gettin a little “out of hand”.

    NO CASH FOR TRAVEL
    Or at least, make cash-ticket purchasers go through a few extra steps to make them traceable. “Fuck you man! I’m trying to stay off the grid!!!” Too flippin’ bad. We live in a fully gridded society now. Money is dirtier than used toilet paper and smells like copper farts anyway.

  • its sadly true, the us air flight security sucks more then Jenna Jameson and that’s a whole hell of allot of sucking. what we need to do is make everything like it used to be before all this bs. like some terrorist is going to hijack anything anymore. every time i see some guy from the middle east on a plane everyone else starts to get nuts like they might shank the guy for going to take a leak. its not like any of this will make a difference. if someone wants to take a plane down bad enough they will, end of story get over it and move on. this whole fear jazz is nothing more than smoke up everyone’s butt.