TSA tussles with airports over security at exits

The TSA has decided to stop staffing airport exit lanes, saving the agency $88 million a year (out of an annual budget of $8 billion). It’s passing on the responsibility to airports. And the airports aren’t happy.

The exit lanes in question are the ones between arrival and baggage claim: you know, the corridor you pass through where you’re leaving the so-called “sterile” area. Up to now, there’s been a TSA agent sitting at a desk there, making sure people don’t inadvertently walk in that way. Remember the hullaballoo that ensued a few years ago when a lovestruck guy bounded past to give his girlfriend a farewell kiss?

Well, now the TSA is abandonding that post at one-third of the country’s airports and leaving it for airport security. TSA deputy administrator John Halinski says, “We firmly believe that exit-lane monitoring is not a screening function, but rather an issue of access control.”

Airport security has a different take:

Airport executives remain opposed to the change for its cost and responsibility. Mark Crosby, chief of public safety and security at Portland International Airport, said there was no collaboration on the rule, which was “crammed down our throat.”

“We disagree on that, and we’ll see where that ends,” Crosby said.

As an example of increased costs, Tim Bradshaw of Eastern Iowa Airport says it will cost that airport an extra $93,000 a year. The airports will pass that cost onto travelers. So not only will you be paying to get your privates poked, you’ll now be paying extra to prevent the privates-pokers from having to sit at the exit lanes.

Here’s a favorite line, from TSA representative John Sammon:

“We want to support travel, and we want to make it more pleasurable and safer over time,” Sammon said.

Oh, yeah, Mr. Sammon, it’s so pleasurable. Especially when your employees are stealing from luggage and sticking their hands down people’s pants.

  • RonBonner

    Mark Crosby, chief of public safety and security at Portland International Airport, said there was no collaboration on the rule, which was “crammed down our throat.”


    Well La Tee Da Mark. Who would have thunk it that TSA would make rules without any input from those impacted by the rules.

    Welcome to the club Mark!

    • Daisiemae

      Pretty much the same way the scanners and the grope downs were crammed down our throats. Pretty much the same way TSA has crammed their hands down our pants. There is no limit to TSA’s arrogance.

  • thajack

    The airport should just tell TSA that if they don’t want to staff it, it will remain unstaffed. Is it really the airport’s responsibility to control access to an area where TSA wants access controlled?

  • Robert Hollis Weber

    Unbelievable. As usual, TSA continues to fortify the locks on the front door (with its pointless hyper-screening) while leaving the backdoor and all the windows wide open. This is in the same category as looking in grandma’s pants yet not completely screening all baggage.

    The forlorn TSA agent at the exit usually looks pretty worthless but if security (the “S” in TSA, as I recall) is really their mission, maybe they should upgrade that person, rather than remove him.

    Perhaps the money could be found by pulling blue-shirts off their ridiculous hunts for terrorists on trains, city buses, sporting events, and the senior prom.

  • Annapolis2

    This one has always confused me. Why don’t they just build those subway-station-style revolving gates that only turn one way? Why is this a full-time person’s job to stand there making sure people don’t go in the out door?

    To clarify: I know that people will have luggage to deal with, but they should have only carry-on sized luggage. The airport could build the circular turn-gates with a large enough circumference that a person and his carry-ons, or a wheelchair user and wheelchair pusher could both fit inside the gate. I have no idea why this hasn’t already happened. Surely building this contraption is cheaper than paying employees to staff the area, right? Like one of these: http://haywardturnstiles.com/ht60.html

    The only think I can think is that a turnstile can’t intimidate and frighten the public. Since that’s the TSA’s job description: dominate, intimidate, control, right?, the TSA would rather pay a thug than build a one-way door.

    That quote is from an excellent James Bovard piece: “In the wake of 9/11, the federal mentality toward air travelers is best summarized by the motto posted at the headquarters of the TSA air marshal training center: “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.” But it takes more than browbeating average Americans to make air travel safe.” at http://reason.com/archives/2004/02/01/dominate-intimidate-control

    • Bettina

      Exactly… in almost all european airports there exist doors like that and thus you cannot go back in once you reach the baggage claim area.

      You have passed immigration, you get your luggage, if you come from a flight outside of Europe your luggage is on a differnent carousel which leads to a customs exit only.

      If you fly within Europe where there are no customs issues, then you can leave without passing customs.

      Simple as pi – but hey, no one ever accused the TSA of logical thinking or of trying to simplify things.