The TSA has formed a Passenger Advocacy Subcommittee of its Aviation Security Advisory Committee. You probably haven’t heard much about this group, mostly because (if we’re being honest) they have little authority to do anything. Still, in an effort to be fair, I wanted to at least congratulate the TSA for taking a step in the right direction.
- According to the subcommittee’s draft charter, as posted by the National Association of Airline Passengers (NAAP), they will “provide to the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommendations to improve the passenger security experience through the use of efficient and customer friendly practices.”
- The co-chairman of the group, Karin E. Glasgow, is only one step away from reporting to John Pistole, according to my analysis of the TSA’s organization chart and press releases.
Unfortunately, that’s about as far as the good news goes. You won’t find any victims of TSA abuse on the committee, nor will you find any security experts or customer service experts. Co-chair Glasgow, the TSA’s Director of Airline Stakeholder Affairs, has no authority to make changes. A former lobbyist for United Airlines, Glasgow is what Washington lovingly calls a “policy wonk.”
And the group is not off to a promising start. Douglas Kidd of the NAAP posted his notes on the first of the group’s meetings online. They are a fascinating read. Among his comments:
The consensus among the TSA staff seemed to be that the proportion of [traveler] complaints to the total number of contacts (less than 8%) was evidence that TSA was doing a good job. Ms. Glasgow and Ms. Heffernan [Acting Director, Disability and Multicultural Division, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement] indicated that TSA Headquarters reviews the video of all incidents; and based on videos that they had seen, they believed most press stories of TSA abuse were exaggerated if not unfounded. [Emphasis added.]
Kidd goes on to describe one point of difference with Glasgow:
I did not wish to be unkind, but I felt obligated to speak the truth: for many people, TSO (transportation security officer) means Thief and/or Sex Offender. I then went on to express my belief that security is enhanced in an atmosphere of mutual respect; and such respect cannot exist if screeners look at passengers as potential terrorists and passengers fear for their safety at the hands of screeners. This did not seem to be a point of view shared by Ms. Glasgow.
I wrote an essay recently in which I proposed seven lessons that the TSA could learn from the IRS, once the most despised of all government agencies. Lesson 3 was entitled “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Kidd appears to get it. If his recounting of the meeting is accurate, Glasgow doesn’t.
Here’s how Kidd concludes:
I mentioned the meeting to my barber. I told him that TSA thought they were doing a great job. He stared incredulously at me and said, “Really? You can’t be serious!” I said I was. He started laughing, controlled himself, and began laughing again.
When he had regained his composure, I asked him if his business could survive if 8% of his customers complained.
He said: “I couldn’t make it if even 2% of my customers complained.”
The subcommittee was due to meet again last Friday. I’m looking forward to hearing what Kidd has to say about that — if he hasn’t been muzzled by the TSA in the interim.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/vitroid)