The Insider’s TSA Dictionary

This blogger has worked for the TSA for many years. So he has the inside scoop.

He’s decided to share his insider knowledge with the general public at his blog called Taking Sense Away.

You can have a ball perusing his many and varied posts — one is better than the next — for instance, “Confession #4: In Memory of Snow Globes Lost (and of All the Idiotic TSA Rules I Refused to Follow)” and an entire series called “Plots We Imagine the TSA Protected Us From.”

But a particular favorite of mine is “The Insider’s TSA Dictionary.”

Here you’ll learn about lots of nifty shorthand TSA agents use to communicate with each other without us peons knowing what they’re saying. The list is long, and fascinating. I couldn’t help but notice that there are many different ways of signaling that an attractive woman is about to step up — fresh meat for the male screeners.

But how could this be?! cry the wishful and gullible. The TSA is here to protect us! I’m sure it’s only a few bad apples who behave this way.

Yeah. That’s why there are so many different terms for the same thing. Because only a few bad apples sat around thinking them up. And because they have so much respect for us.

But that’s okay. Enjoy your fantasies, folks. The TSA is Keeping You Safe in the global War on Terror.

A sampling:

Alfalfa: TSA malespeak for an attractive female passenger.

Code Red: Officer malespeak. Denotes an attractive female passenger wearing red.

Engage!: Flirt with attractive passenger! Pretend to be doing something meaningful with a passenger while bickering with a passenger who has angered you!

Fanny Pack, Lane 2: Code for an attractive female passenger.

Hotel Bravo: Code for an attractive female passenger.

“I sure could go for a Twinkie, right now”: Code for an attractive female passenger.

Xray Xray Xray!: Code for an attractive female passenger, general.

Yellow Alert: Code for an attractive female passenger, yellow clothing.

ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA: The letters which may be involved in TSA malespeak code for an attractive female passenger

Of course, there are other categories as well:

Government Accountability Office: The TSA’s worst nightmare.

“More radiation sitting on your flight than you get from these machines”: Mindlessly repeated information parroted by TSA agents when attempting to convince passengers who are wary of the radiation in backscatter scanners to opt back in. If you then ask the officer “where did you study radiology?” or, “I’m sorry, can you please convert the radiation dose emitted by this machine from Sieverts to Rems for me?“ they will almost never have any idea what you are talking about.

Opt out: A smart passenger.

Permanent Emergency (book): A soul-destroying book by former TSA chief Kip Hawley that ostensibly attempts to score some sort of future political points by portraying Hawley as the head of some kind of exciting and dangerous front line counter-terrorist group, instead of just airport security like it really is.

Pre Check: Pay-per-circumvent security.

Retaliatory wait time: What happens when a TSA officer doesn’t like your attitude. There are all sorts of ways a TSA officer can subtly make you wait longer to get through security, citing imaginary alarms, going “above the SOP” for “a more thorough screening,” pretending that something in your bag or on your full body image needs to be resolved— the punitive possibilities are endless, and there are many tricks in the screener’s bag.

TSO (Transportation Security Officer): An airport-mall-cop who is either 1. just there for the paycheck and the benefits or 2. Just there for the paycheck, the benefits, and the unearned level of authority conferred upon him, her, or it.

Two Striper: These are the people with two stripes on their shoulder boards. Oftentimes they will pretend that they are supervisors when you ask for a supervisor because TSA is chronically understaffed due to the strains of staffing hundreds of mostly-useless full body scanners and sending out teams of roving BDOs (see: Airport Wizards).

This guy is a gem. Go on over to his website and show him some love. You can also submit a proposed entry to the dictionary there.

(Photo: greeblie/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Susan Richart

    Lisa, it’s too bad the dog, the guy and the girl doesn’t have the cojones (in honor of Cinco de Mayo) to publish his/her real name.

    • Susan, yep. It is ever thus.

      All I can tell you is that the two IPs from which he’s writing are in NYC and that his name may or may not be “Frank Ness” or “Frank S. Ness.” At least that’s one of his email accounts.

  • that dog

    Hurry up and delete the comments that don’t agree with your waste-of-time article

    • “Hurry up and delete the comments that don’t agree with your waste-of-time article”

      We don’t delete comments here.

      And if it’s such a waste of time, why are you spending yours reading and responding to it?

  • that girl

    People are stupid and act like sheep. I’m not talking about the “victims” I’m talking about the ones that have nothing better to do than get worked up over this bs. For gods sake do you really think this hotel bravo would really be in there rule book? How stupid are you all?

    • No one’s saying it’s in their rule book. Talk about stupid.

  • that guy

    Worked there for 3 years at the largest airport in the country…. Why haven’t I heard a single one of these? Riiiiiiggghhttt.The only secret I’ve ever seen is the number of hostile intentions are stopped ever week or how many loaded guns are found or how many knives. In the world we live in today it amazes me to see that ANYONE would feel good about no TSA. They must think the majority of evil people in this world wear turbans and wouldn’t put semtex in a cheese container.

    • Shill alert.

    • Susan Richart

      Obviously you don’t read the TSA Blog which loves to tout the number of weapons, loaded and not, and knives they find every week.

      And by the way, the TSA has never stopped any “hostile intentions”. “Halinski was asked directly whether there has been even a single
      instance of an arrest or detention of anyone, in any way, related to
      terrorism… His answer was, “No.”


      “What’s more, as Bruce Schneier notes, it has never caught a terrorist.”

  • Fisher1949

    This confirms what we all suspected ;).

    Now, we need a smart phone app that translates TSA speak in real time so travelers know what these bottom feeder are saying.

  • Susan Richart

    Oh, I am so lovin’ this:

    “Blogger Bob, my insufferably annoying, mediocrity-of-a-counterpart over at the official TSA blog….”

    Something does bother me, however, and that is that the blogger refers to screeners as “officers.” Hopefully, he might read this and explain why he does so.

    • Susan, take a look at his definition of “TSO.” He has no illusions.

      • Susan Richart

        However, he continues to refer to them as “officers” in his posts. IMO, that negates to some extent his definition of a TSO.

  • Chris Bray

    “Hotel bravo” = NATO alphabet for h.b. = “hot bitch.” Feel the government’s love and respect.

  • Gib

    At the supermarket I worked at when I was at high school and university, the announcement for when an attractive female was in the store was “service 30 in aisle 5”, or “..register 5”, wherever she was. I assume a female voice doing the same announcement would signal an attractive male in that location, but funnily enough, I never heard that…..

    I suppose the moral is that men are pigs, wherever they are. Oink!!

    • Sexual harassment isn’t funny or cute, it’s demeaning and scary. I hope you weren’t the one making these harassing announcements in the grocery store.

      But sexual harassment takes on an entirely different tone when your harassers are low-level clerks wearing police-style uniforms and have been given extraordinary authority to detain you, to demand answers to their questions, to demand your drivers’ license which lists your address, to rifle through your belongings, to touch your sex organs, and to take naked pictures of you.

      Sexual harassment isn’t going away anytime soon. The TSA’s official word on this is that its employees always act “respectfully”, which our intrepid Taking Sense Away blogger has exposed as the big fat lie we knew it was. The only conclusion we can draw is that the TSA approves of putting women into positions where they’re vulnerable to sexual harassment and exploitation. John Pistole hearts sexual exploitation – that’s why he’s done so much to promote and multiply sexual harassment in his career.

  • This one brought a tear to my eye:

    “Whenever possible, dear passengers, I was the TSA employee who allowed your snow globes to go through the checkpoint.

    Viva la resistance, I whispered to you, tucking your snow globe back into your kid’s backpack, right where God and Thomas Jefferson intended it.”
    God bless NJR, whoever (s)he may be.

  • Oh, Lisa, thank you for this link! This writer (who will no doubt be sent directly to Guantanamo as a threat to our great nation if his identity is ever revealed) is one of the better satirists a bloated government bureacracy has produced this year!

    He should be a guest columnist on days when Blogger Bob is “10-100”!