On-the-job training, TSA style

I received a troubling email from a Freedom to Travel member today. I have her permission to publish it. So, without further ado, please be informed of on-the-job TSA training.


Last week I flew for work, SMF [Sacramento] to LAX [Los Angeles] and then SNA [John Wayne Airport, Orange County] to SMF. Both times I had new thugs being trained to “pat” down those of us who choose to opt out. On both occasions the trainees were not “patting” me down; it was a full-blown push-down.

After being patted down three times by the trainee in SMF I objected to the supervisor that enough was enough. After two more passes on the front of my body, I reached for my shoes. That almost got me in big trouble. I immediately dropped them as I felt the left hand of the supervising agent near my arm yelling at me to drop the shoes. The agent went to the chemical detection machine and didn’t return. (I’ve been the victim of that tactic previously, as well.) I was left standing until the supervisor saw the trainee walking away from her station and told her to release me.

On the way home, an agent about 6 feet tall and much larger than me began the pat-down. I had all I could do to stay standing. After the agent finished the back and two sides, I told her she was very harsh. She stopped and looked at her supervisor in disgust. That supervisor, Tom Barry, rudely stated that I “asked for it” and that “she is doing her job.” I said, “I did not ask for a push-down.” Barry cited that she wasn’t doing anything harsh. I said that was his opinion, and “yes it was harsh; I am a little person.”

He looked at the agent and ordered her to continue. That led to my hair getting pulled by the trainee. The latex gloves do catch hair.

The information above is not so much about the treatment, although I will be asking how hard they will be pushing in the future; it is about the new training method of teaching new agents to forcefully push on people’s bodies. I equate this to the same tactics the TSA used in past to get people not to opt out. My biggest fear is that they do this to my elderly parents and/or disabled people who will be pushed off balance. God, I hope they can catch themselves. I will be bracing myself in the future by putting one foot slightly in front of the other to maintain my balance.

Ah, the joys (not) of flying.

Sai receives TSA documents through FOIA


At TSA News we’ve written several times about an intrepid, indefatigable young man named Sai. He has been forced to tangle with the TSA more than once, when the agency’s workers have bullied, harassed, and illegally detained him. Here’s the first post we did on him, here’s the second, and here’s the third.

In a nutshell, Sai is disabled — he has a neurological disorder that makes speaking difficult — and requires medication. The TSA taunted him, detained him, and denied him his medical liquids.

Now Sai is once again asking for your help. I’m going to let him tell you in his own words:

I FOIA’d the TSA for all of their policies & procedures (& more) in March 2013. I litigated that starting Jan 2014, and am just now getting (interim) responsive documents on it.

The interim response alone is 1400 pages. I’d like assistance in analyzing & publishing it all.

As a taste, one of the documents I got is TSA Management Directive 100.4, “Transportation Security Searches” version 2012-01-25.

Below are some of the differences between the 2009-09-01 version (disclosed in the Switzer declaration in Bierfeldt v Napolitano), and version 2012-01-25 (disclosed to me per my FOIA litigation — to my knowledge, the first disclosure).

You are welcome to use the [documents] however you like, on the sole condition of clear attribution to me w/link (Sai, http://s.ai/tsa).

Sai sent me the docs along with a series of excerpts from them using different-colored fonts to distinguish between the original versions and the revised versions. But because this blogging platform doesn’t allow for differently colored fonts, I can’t reprint everything he sent me and have it make sense. I’d have to go through every paragraph substituting strikethroughs — like these — in the original versions and then print the new versions, thus indicating which words the TSA had added or subtracted. Sorry, but I’m not as indefatigable as Sai.

So I’ll just point out some examples that caught my eye and leave it to you to contact Sai yourself if you’d like to help him go through the documents.

Here’s the TSA’s old version defining an administrative search:

“Administrative Search: A search conducted as part of a regulatory plan in furtherance of a specified non-law enforcement government purpose, such as to determine compliance with TSA regulations or to prevent the carriage of threat items or entry of an unauthorized person into the sterile area or on board an aircraft.”

And here’s the new version:

“Administrative Search: A search conducted without a warrant as part of a regulatory plan in furtherance of a specified non-law enforcement government purpose, such as to determine compliance with TSA regulations or to prevent the carriage of threat items or entry of an unauthorized person into the sterile area or to screen passengers entering any public conveyance.”

The words “without a warrant” and “any public conveyance” have been added. Our readers already know that the TSA has always claimed the power to search “any public conveyance” (see VIPR), but most people still don’t know it. Now you can see it in black and white. (“Without a warrant” has always been the case since the weasely term “administrative search” was dreamed up by lawyers, because, meh, Fourth Amendment, Schmourth Amendment.)

The TSA is also now claiming the right to search your reading materials. Yep, books, pamphlets, personal documents — no matter how personal those documents are — you name it, the TSA now claims the right to conduct a warrantless search on your personal, private information. This claim is new. Up to this point, though many TSA agents have gone through people’s personal documents, it’s been illegal for them to do so (see Steven Bierfeldt). Now, it would appear, by magic, it’s suddenly okay.

Inquisition, anyone?

Here’s that section, which Sai indicates is new:

“During a search, it may be necessary to read textual materials, for example, any written material or other media that may provide information about potential threats. Searches may properly include the reading of textual materials if necessary to rule out the presence of a threat.”

I would like someone to tell me how TSA clerks are going to determine whether a novel, a checkbook, a poem, an e-reader, or any other “textual materials” we might be carrying could be construed as a threat.

Or how about flashcards? The TSA harassed college student Nicholas George, and with the help of the local police, had him handcuffed and held in a jail cell for nearly five hours and questioned by the FBI, because he had Arabic-language flashcards in his backpack.

He said he was in the secondary screening area for about a half hour before a TSA supervisor arrived and began questioning him in a “hostile and aggressive manner.”

Noting that George had a book titled “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions,” the supervisor asked him a series of questions, including “Who did 9/11?” and “Do you know what language he spoke?” The supervisor then held up the flash cards and said, “Do you see why these cards are suspicious?” George said.

Yeah, just what we want: TSA clerks with an attitude and fake training looking over our reading material and assessing whether we’re fit to fly or not.

The TSA finally settled with Nick George, by the way, after a years-long legal battle. Will that stop them from doing something similar again? We already know the answer is no.

Just ask psychologist Kevin Boatner:

In a formal complaint he filed with the agency afterward, he said he was pulled out of line and detained for 29 minutes as agents thumbed through his checkbook and examined his clients’ clinical notes, his cellphone, and other belongings.

His clients’ clinical notes! Do you realize the personal information that would be contained therein?

Or maybe you could ask Kathy Parker of Elkton, Maryland, who was hauled aside so the TSA could go through her wallet, her receipts, and her checkbook:

Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.
“It’s an indication you’ve embezzled these checks,” she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn’t before that moment, she says.
She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. “That’s my money,” she remembers saying. The officer’s reply? “It’s not your money.”

The TSA continues to harass people and continues to tout its repeatedly — mind-numbingly repeatedly — discredited practices towards that end. And people continue to fly.

Again, contact Sai directly if you’d like to see any of the 1,400 pages of documents.

UPDATE: Sai has just posted the documents with the differently colored fonts at a publicly available Google doc.

BDOs in Motion, TSA back-slapping on display

The Intercept has another article about the lunacies of the TSA. Jana Winter is the reporter covering the TSA over there, and she has an inside track to agency employees who feed her bits of information, including this latest: glossy, bi-monthly newsletters that highlight the yuckety-yuk jokes, clever quips, heartwarming tales, and literary pretensions of the blue-shirted crusaders. And not just any blue-shirted crusaders, mind you, but the hallowed voodoo readers, otherwise known as “Behavior Detection Officers.”

The name of the the newsletter is “BDOs in Motion.”

As you would expect, the pages are full of conformist corporate-speak about “team-building” and “reliability” and “individualized skill-sets” (nobody has skills anymore; they all have “skill-sets”). But also more charming entries such as “Surviving the Snow in Bangor, Maine.”

Hey, baby, your tax dollars at work.

There’s too much idiocy to excerpt; you can take a look for yourself. Oh, and notice how all the names and faces have been redacted. As someone in the comments has pointed out, why? If the TSA is so proud of its workforce and its (zillion-times-discredited) BDO program, why shield these people?

Speaking of comments, go on over to the Intercept and scroll through. There’s the usual complement of TSA apologists — Anything For Safety! — such as “General Hercules” and “Chico” (oy, what a pill). But, praise be, there are also a lot of readers excoriating the TSA and cataloguing its abuses. You might want to chime in.