Previous “Security Theater” posts

Your Move, TSA 

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Apparently, the TSA is standardizing their pat-down procedure, with “enhanced” measures. The LA Times has more information, including this note:

Passengers have the right to request a private pat-down screening and ask to be accompanied by a companion of their choice.

“Yes, I’d like to go to a private room, and I’d like Tina Fey to join us. I think she’ll keep things light!”

Previously in Security Theater: Meet the Resistance

They Literally Could Have Just Used Quarters 

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

If you had to guess which awful government agency paid as much as $1.4 million to have computers perform coin flips for them, how many tries do you think it would take you?

So Long, Rapiscans 

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Speaking of the TSA, I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to the (relatively) recent news that Rapiscan1 backscatter x-ray machines are being removed from airports throughout the country. Why? Incompetence, mostly.

Ridiculously, Rapiscan was unable to meet a government requirement which mandated that they integrate Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software, which produces for a much less invasive image from the scanner. The company couldn’t get it done by the original deadline of June 1st, 2012, and even after a reprieve, they can’t get it done by June 1st, 2013 either. As such, their piles of potentially-hazardous-to-your-health electronics are being yanked out of airports. Huzzah!

That said, the safety concerns surrounding the millimeter wave machines which will remain in use haven’t been answered either. The National Academy of Science will be studying both types of machines soon.

The TSA has long maintained both machines are safe, but recently signed an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to study the scanners. The study will continue even though the machines are being pulled, the TSA said, because they could be reintroduced in the future.

Until further information is provided, I’ll be hoping for good old fashioned metal detectors, and otherwise continuing to have the TSA meet the resistance.


  1. Pronounced “rapey-scan”. ↩︎

Five Questions for the TSA

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, Wiffle bats are free to be carried on domestic flights at last.

Acceptable and Unacceptable Bats

This change will come April 25th, 2013, when the TSA implements their updated Prohibited Items List (PIL). One of the many changes is the ability to carry on small and/or light bats. After looking over the full PIL1, I have a few questions.

Five Questions for the TSA

  • How is a box cutter any more dangerous than these knives?

  • Who the hell carries on ski poles, pool cues, golf clubs, or hockey sticks?

  • If someone carries on golf clubs, what the hell good will a maximum of two clubs do them?2

  • What is changing on April 25th to make these items suddenly safer?

  • Setting aside the reinforcement of cockpit doors touted even by TSA critic Bruce Schneier (which were ordered before the TSA was even created anyhow), have any of the changes to airline security the TSA has implemented ever had any impact on our real security whatsoever?

I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that last one.


  1. The revision from the time of this post is archived here. ↩︎

  2. Maybe a perfect golfer could make due with a driver and a putter? ↩︎

The Naked American Hero 

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Back in April, John Brennan stripped naked during a TSA search at Portland Airport. Yesterday, he was found not guilty on indecent exposure charges, with the ruling upholding the right to nudity as a form of protest speech. Brennan’s quote explaining the situation really nails it:

“I was mostly motivated by the absurdity of it all. The irony that they want to see me naked, but I don’t get to take off my clothes off,” he said. “You have all these machines that pretend to do it.”

Banned Booty 

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Ever wondered what happens to all the contraband the TSA confiscates? My pal Kim Lisagor has the scoop on Banned Booty, a set of art works by artist Steve Maloney using confiscated goods. Maloney was able to purchase your items back from the government by the pound.

Confessions of a Former TSA Agent 

Friday, March 16th, 2012

While I’m generally loathe to link to an organization as biased as Fox “News”, this interview with a former TSA agent is quite good.

Well, That’s Pretty Stupid 

Friday, March 9th, 2012

This week, Jonathan Corbett posted a video showing how to sneak metallic items through the TSA’s body scanners. That’s right, the same scanners Europe just banned and Israel refused outright. The TSA has spent over a billion dollars on these offensive machines, and it’s clearer than ever just what a waste that was.

The one thing more pathetic than this security loophole may be the TSA’s official response to it. Using carefully chosen words like “crude” and “allegedly”, Blogger Bob Burns attempts to distract from the simple fact that these scanners are less effective and far more invasive than the metal detectors formerly used.

If you’re interested to learn more, see Corbett’s blog. Its name? “TSA Out of Our Pants”.

Homeopathy Isn’t Even the Dumb Part 

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

When homeopathy isn’t the dumbest part of a story, you know there’s a real problem.

A New York airport screener who removed two pipes from a traveler’s bag and set them aside Monday morning prompted a security scare six hours later when the next shift saw the pipes and feared they might be pipe bombs, local and federal officials said.

Several law enforcement sources told CNN the objects were determined to be homeopathic medical devices.

If we’re really being fair to the TSA though, a lone pipe is just a highly diluted form of a bomb.

Europe Bans X-Ray Scanners 

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Readers in Europe won’t need to have their airport security teams meet the resistance, as the European Union has opted to ban x-ray scanners “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

Meanwhile, the TSA has responded with a fairly meaningless claim:

“Since January 2010, advanced imaging technology has detected more than 300 dangerous or illegal items on passengers in U.S. airports nationwide.”

Would standard metal detectors have found these items? Were these passengers intending harm? Without more details, such a statement doesn’t tell us anything at all.