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Transportation Security Administration

Transportation Security Administration
— TSA —
Agency overview
Formed November 19, 2001 (2001-11-19)
Preceding agency
Jurisdiction Transportation systems inside, and connecting to the United States of America
Headquarters Pentagon City, Arlington County, Virginia
Employees 55,600+ (2014)
Annual budget $7.39 billion (2014)
Agency executive
Parent agency Department of Homeland Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States.[1]

The TSA was created as part of the United States Department of Transportation, the TSA was moved to the Department of Homeland Security on March 9, 2003.


  • History and organization 1
  • Administration 2
  • Employees 3
    • Uniforms 3.1
    • 2013 LAX shooting 3.2
    • 2015 New Orleans airport attack 3.3
  • Funding 4
  • Screening processes and regulations 5
    • Passenger and carry-on screening 5.1
      • Identification requirements 5.1.1
      • Large printer cartridges ban 5.1.2
      • November 2010 enhanced screening procedures 5.1.3
        • Pat-downs
        • Full body scanners
        • Reactions
    • Checked baggage 5.2
      • Luggage locks 5.2.1
      • Baggage theft 5.2.2
  • Screening effectiveness 6
    • Unintended consequences of 2002 screening enhancements 6.1
  • Data security incidents 7
    • Employee records lost or stolen 7.1
    • Unsecured website 7.2
  • Other criticisms 8
  • Public opinion 9
  • Calls for abolition 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

History and organization

Seal when under the Department of Transportation

The TSA was created as a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Its first administrator, John Magaw, was nominated by President Bush on December 10, 2001, and confirmed by the Senate the following January. The agency's proponents, including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, argued that only a single federal agency would better protect air travel than the private companies who operated under contract to single airlines or groups of airlines that used a given terminal facility.

The organization was charged with developing policies to protect U.S. transportation, especially in airport security and the prevention of aircraft hijacking.

With state, local, and regional partners, the TSA oversees security for highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, pipelines and ports. However, the bulk of the TSA's efforts are in aviation security. The TSA is responsible for screening passengers and baggage at more than 450 U.S. airports.[4]

Private screening did not disappear under the TSA, which allows airports to opt out of federal screening and hire firms to do the job instead. Such firms must still get TSA approval under its Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and follow TSA procedures.[5] Among the U.S. airports with privately operated checkpoints are San Francisco International Airport; Kansas City International Airport; Greater Rochester International Airport; Tupelo Regional Airport; Key West International Airport; Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport; and Jackson Hole Airport.[6][7]


TSA headquarters located in Pentagon City, Arlington County, Virginia.

TSA Administrators have included John Magaw (2002), Admiral James Loy (2002–2003), Rear Admiral David M. Stone (2003–2005), Kip Hawley (2005–2009) and John Pistole (2010–2014). In April 2015 President Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to succeed Pistole.[8] On July 6, 2015, Neffenger was sworn as TSA's sixth administrator.[9]


Among the types of TSA employees are:[10]

  • Transportation Security Officers: The TSA employs around 47,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), often referred to as screeners or agents. They screen people and property and control entry and exit points in airports. They also watch several areas before and beyond checkpoints.[11][12] TSOs carry no weapons, and are not permitted to use force, nor do they have the power to arrest.[13]
As of September 2014 the starting salary for a TSO is $25,773 to $38,660[14] per year, not including locality pay (contiguous 48 states) or cost of living allowance in Hawaii and Alaska. A handful of airports also have a retention bonus of up to 35%.[15] This is more than what private screeners were paid.[16]
TSA security search
  • Behavior Detection Officers: In 2003, the TSA implemented the Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT), which expanded across the United States in 2007. In this program, Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs), who are TSOs, observe passengers as they go through security checkpoints, looking for behaviors that might indicate a higher risk. Such passengers are subject to additional screening.[17]
This program has led to concerns about, and allegations of racial profiling.[18][19] According to the TSA, SPOT screening officers are trained to observe behaviors only and not a person's appearance, race, ethnicity or religion.[20]
The TSA program was reviewed in 2013 by the federal government’s Government Accountability Office, which recommended cutting funds for it because there was no proof of its effectiveness.[21] The JASON scientific advisory group has also said that "no scientific evidence exists to support the detection or inference of future behavior, including intent."[22]
The FAM role, then called "sky marshalls", originated in 1961 with U.S. Customs Service (now U.S. Customs and Border Protection) following the first US hijacking.[24] It became part of the TSA following the creation of the TSA following the September 11 attacks,[23] was transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2003, and back to the TSA in fiscal 2006.
  • Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs): They inspect, and investigate passenger and cargo transportation systems to see how secure they are. TSA employs roughly 1,000 aviation inspectors, 450 cargo inspectors,[25] and 100 surface inspectors.[10]
VIPR team working cars waiting to board a ferry in Portland, Maine
  • National Explosives Detection Canine Teams Program: These trainers prepare dogs and handlers to serve as mobile teams that can quickly find dangerous materials. As of June 2008, the TSA had trained about 430 canine teams, with 370 deployed to airports and 56 deployed to mass transit systems.[26]
  • Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams: VIPR teams started in 2005 and involved Federal Air Marshals and other TSA crew working outside of the airport environment, at train stations, ports, truck weigh stations, special events, and other places. There has been some controversy and congressional criticism for problems such as the July 3, 2007 holiday screenings. In 2011, Amtrak police chief John O'Connor moved to temporarily ban VIPR teams from Amtrak property. As of 2011, VIPR team operations were being conducted at a rate of 8,000 per year.[27]

The TSA also oversees the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which gives some pilots permission to carry firearms in the cockpit as a defense against hijackers.


In 2008, TSA officers began wearing new uniforms that have a blue-gray 65/35 polyester/cotton blend duty shirt, black pants, a wider black belt, and optional short-sleeved shirts and black vests (for seasonal reasons).[28] The first airport to introduce the new uniforms was Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Starting on September 11, 2008, all TSOs began wearing the new uniform. One stripe on each shoulder board denotes a TSO, two stripes a Lead TSO, and three a Supervisory TSO.

TSOs are issued badges similar to those carried by police officers, which has led to complaints from the latter group.[29]

2013 LAX shooting

On Friday, November 1, 2013, TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, age 39, was shot and killed by a lone gunman at the Los Angeles International Airport. Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia who was shot and wounded by law enforcement officers before being taken into custody.[30] Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a hand-written note that said he "wanted to kill TSA and pigs". Hernandez is the first TSA officer to be killed in the line of duty.

2015 New Orleans airport attack

On March 21, 2015 63-year-old Richard White entered the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport armed with Molotov cocktails, a gasoline lighter, and a machete. White promptly began assaulting passengers and Transportation Security Administration officers by spraying them with a can of wasp killer, then drew his machete and ran through a metal detector. Jefferson Parish's deputy sheriff shot and killed White as he was chasing a TSA officer with his machete.[31]


For fiscal year 2012, the TSA had a budget of roughly $7.6 billion.

Budget[32] $ Million Share
Aviation Security 5,254 70%
Transportation Security Support & Intelligence 1,032 14%
Federal Air Marshals 966 13%
Transportation Threat Assessment & Credentialing 165 2%
Surface Transportation Security 135 2%
Total 7,552 101%

Part of the TSA budget comes from a $2.50 per-passenger tax. The Obama administration has proposed tripling this fee by 2019, with most of the increase going to reduce the national debt.[33]

Travelers left about half a million dollars behind at airport checkpoints in 2012 and 2013.[34] TSA keeps the money for security operations.[35]

Screening processes and regulations

TSA agent screening luggage

Passenger and carry-on screening

Identification requirements

The TSA requires that passengers show a valid ID at the security checkpoint before boarding their flight. Valid forms of identification include passports from the U.S. or a foreign government, state-issued photo identification, or military ID. Passengers that do not have ID may still be allowed to fly if their identity can be verified through an alternate way.[36]

Passenger names are compared against the No Fly List, a list of about 21,000 names of suspected terrorists who are not allowed to board.[37] Passenger names are also compared against a longer list of "selectees", passengers whose names match names from this list receive a more thorough screening before being potentially allowed to board.[38] The effectiveness of the lists has been widely criticized on the basis of errors in how those lists are maintained,[39] for concerns that the lists are unconstitutional, and for its ineffectiveness at stopping Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate plastic explosives in his underwear, from boarding an aircraft.[40] At the airport security checkpoint, passengers are screened to ensure they are not carrying prohibited items. These include most sorts of sharp objects, many sporting goods such as baseball bats and hockey sticks, guns or other weapons, many sorts of tools, flammable liquids (except for conventional lighters), many forms of chemicals and paint.[41] In addition, passengers are limited to 3.4 US fluid ounces (100 ml) of almost any liquid or gel, which must be presented at the checkpoint in a clear, one-quart zip-top bag.[42] These restrictions on liquids were a reaction to the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.

The number of passengers who have attempted to bring firearms onto airplanes in their carry-on bags has increased in recent years, from 976 in 2009 to 1,813 in 2013, according to the TSA. This is part of the reason security measures, which travelers often find cumbersome, are so thorough.[43] Up to 70 percent of the weapons passengers attempt to bring on-board are never found by screeners.[44] Firearms can be legally checked in checked luggage on domestic flights.[45]

In some cases, government leaders, members of the US military and law-enforcement officials are allowed to bypass security screening.[46][47]

In a program begun in October 2011, the TSA's Precheck Program allows selected members of the American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines, Air Canada, JetBlue Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines frequent flyer programs, members of Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI and active duty members of the US military to receive expedited screening for domestic and select international itineraries.[48] As of August 2015, this program was available at 156 airports.[49] TSA currently allows US citizens to apply[50] for Precheck. After completing a background check, being fingerprinted,[51] and paying an $85 fee, travelers will get a Known Traveler Number. The program has led to complaints of unfairness and longer wait lines.[52]

In October 2013, the TSA announced that it had begun searching a wide variety of government and private databases for information about passengers before they arrive at the airport. They did not say which databases were involved, but TSA has access to past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, law enforcement and intelligence information, among others.[53]

Large printer cartridges ban

After the October 2010 cargo planes bomb plot, in which cargo containing laser printers with toner cartridges filled with explosives were discovered on separate cargo planes, the U.S. prohibited passengers from carrying certain printer cartridges on flights.[54] The TSA said it would ban toner and ink cartridges weighing over 16 ounces (453 grams) from all passenger flights.[55][56] The ban applies to both carry-on bags and checked bags, and does not affect average travelers, whose toner cartridges are generally lighter.[56]

November 2010 enhanced screening procedures

Beginning in November 2010, TSA added new enhanced screening procedures. Passengers are required to choose between an enhanced patdown, allowing TSOs to more thoroughly check areas on the body such as waistbands, groin, and inner thigh.[46] or instead to be imaged by the use of a full body scanner (that is, either backscatter X-ray or millimeter wave detection machines) in order to fly. These changes were said to be made in reaction to the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab bombing attempt.[57]


The new pat-down procedures, which were originally not made public,[58] "routinely involve the touching of buttocks and genitals"[59][60][61] as well as breasts.[62] These procedures were controversial, and in a November poll, 50% of those polled felt that the new pat-down procedures were too extreme, with 48% feeling them justified.[63] A number of publicized incidents created a public outcry against the invasiveness of the pat-down techniques,[64][65][66] in which women’s breasts and the genital areas of all passengers are patted.[67] Pat-downs are carried out by agents of the same gender the passenger presents at the screening.[68]

Concerns were raised as to the Jeffrey Rosen has supported this view, saying "there's a strong argument that the TSA's measures violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures."[72] Concerns were also raised about the effects of these pat-downs on survivors of sexual assault.[73] In January 2014, Denver police launched a sexual assault investigation against a screener at Denver International Airport over what the passenger stated was an intrusive patdown.[74]

Full body scanners
Screenshot from an active millimeter wave scanner
X-ray backscatter technology produces an image that resembles a chalk etching.[75]
A backscatter unit.

In November 2010, the TSA began putting backscatter X-ray scanners and millimeter wave scanners machines into airports. The TSA refers to these two technologies as Advanced Imaging Technologies, or AIT. Critics sometimes refer to them as "naked scanners".[76]

Passengers are directed to hold their hands above their heads for a few seconds while front and back images are created.[77] If the operator sees an anomaly on the scanner, or if other problems occur, the passenger will also have to receive the pat-down.

Full body scanners have also proven controversial due to privacy and health concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called the scanners a "virtual strip search."[78] Female passengers have complained that they are often singled out for scanning, and a review of TSA records by a local CBS affiliate in Dallas found "a pattern of women who believe that there was nothing random about the way they were selected for extra screening."[79]

The TSA, on their website, states that they have "implemented strict measures to protect passenger privacy which is ensured through the anonymity of the image,"[80] and additionally states that these technologies "cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer".[81] This claim, however, was proven false after multiple incidents involving leaked images. The machines do in fact have the ability to "save" the images and while this function is typically "turned off" by the TSA in routine screenings, TSA Air Marshalls and training facilities have the save function turned on.[82][83][84]

As early as 2010, the TSA began to test scanners that would produce less intrusive "stick figures".[85] In February 2011, the TSA began testing new software on the millimeter wave machines already used at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport that automatically detects potential threats on a passenger without the need for having an officer review actual images. Instead, one generic figure is used for all passengers and small yellow boxes are placed on areas of the body requiring additional screening.[86] The TSA announced in 2013 that the Rapiscan's backscatter scanners would no longer be used, due to the fact that the manufacturer of the machines could not produce "privacy software" to abstract the near-nude images that agents view and turn them into stick like figures. The TSA will continue to use other full body scanners.[87]

Health concerns have been raised about both scanning technologies.

With regards to exposure to [90][91][92]


After the November 2010 initiation of enhanced screening procedures of all airline passengers and flight crews, the US Airline Pilots Association issued a press release stating that pilots should not submit to full body scanners because of unknown radiation risks and calling for strict guidelines for pat-downs of pilots, including evaluation of their fitness for duty after the pat-down, given the stressful nature of pat-downs.[67][93] Two airline pilots filed suit against the procedures.[94]

In March 2011, two New Hampshire state representatives introduced proposed legislation that would criminalize as sexual assault invasive TSA pat-downs made without probable cause.[95][96][97] In May 2011, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for Transportation Security Administration officials to touch a person's genitals when carrying out a patdown. The bill failed in the Senate after the Department of Justice threatened to make Texas a no-fly zone if the legislation passed.[98][99] In Congress, United States House of Representatives by Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act (H.R.6416).[100]

On July 2, 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit in federal court asking to halt the use of full body scanners by the TSA on Fourth amendment grounds, and arguing that the TSA had failed to allow a public notice and rule making period. In July 2011, the D.C. Circuit court of appeals ruled that the TSA did violate the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to allowing a public notice and comment rule making period. The Court ordered the agency to "promptly" undertake a public notice and comment rule making. In July 2012, EPIC returned to court and asked the court to force enforcement; in August, the court granted the request to compel the TSA to explain its actions by the end of the month.[101] The agency responded on August 30, saying that there was "“no basis whatsoever for (The DC Circuit Court's) assertion that TSA has delayed implementing this court’s mandate,” and said it was awaiting approval from the Department of Homeland Security before the hearings take place. The TSA also said that it was having "staffing issues" regarding the issue, but expects to begin hearings in February 2013.[102] The comment period began on March 25, 2013[103][104] and closed on June 25, 2013, with over 90% of the comments against the scanners.[105] As of October, 2015, no report has been issued.

Two separate Internet campaigns promoted a “National Opt-Out Day,” the day before Thanksgiving, urging travelers to “opt out” of the scanner and insist on a pat-down.[106] The enhanced pat-down procedures were also the genesis of the "Don't touch my junk meme".[107]

Checked baggage

Luggage locks

TSA lock with symbol and general key access
3D printed master keys for Travel Sentry locks

In order to be able to search passenger baggage for security screening, the TSA will cut or otherwise disable locks they cannot open themselves. The agency authorized two companies to create padlocks, lockable straps, and luggage with built-in locks that can be opened and relocked by tools and information supplied by the lock manufacturers to the TSA. These are Travel Sentry and Safe Skies Locks.[108] TSA agents sometimes cut these locks off instead of opening them, and TSA received over 3500 complaints in 2011 about locks being tampered with.[109] Travel journalist and National Geographic Traveler editor Christopher Elliott describes these locks as "useless" at protecting the goods within,[110] whereas SmarterTravel wrote in early 2010 that the "jury is out on their effectiveness", while noting how easy they are to open.[111]

In November 2014, The Washington Post inadvertently published a photograph of all seven of the TSA master keys in an article[112] about TSA baggage handling. The photograph was later removed from the original Washington Post article, but it still appears in some syndicated copies of the article.[113] On August 22, 2015, Twitter user Luke Rudkowski (@Lukewearechange) noticed the photograph and posted it on Twitter,[114] and from there it quickly spread across social media, gaining the attention of news sites.[115] Using the photograph, security researchers and members of the public have been able to reproduce working copies of the master keys using 3D printing techniques.[116][117] The incident has prompted discussion about the security implications of using master keys.[115]

Baggage theft

Notice of Baggage Inspection

The TSA has been criticized[118] for an increase in baggage theft after its inception. Reported thefts include both valuable and dangerous goods, such as laptops, jewelry[119] guns,[120] and knives.[121] Such thefts have raised concerns that the same access might allow bombs to be placed aboard aircraft.[122]

In 2004, over 17,000 claims of baggage theft were reported.[119] As of 2004, 60 screeners had been arrested for baggage theft,[119] a number which had grown to 200 screeners by 2008.[123] 11,700 theft and damage claims were reported to the TSA in 2009, a drop from 26,500 in 2004, which was attributed to the installation of cameras and conveyor belts in airports.[124] A total of 25,016 thefts were reported over the five-year period from 2010 to 2014.[125]

As of 2011, the TSA employs about 60,000 screeners in total (counting both baggage and passenger screening)[126] and approximately 500 TSA agents have been fired or suspended for stealing from passenger luggage since the agency's creation in November 2001. The airports with the most reported thefts from 2010 to 2014 were JFK, followed by LAX and ORL.[125]

In 2008 an investigative report by WTAE in Pittsburgh discovered that despite over 400 reports of baggage theft, about half of which the TSA reimbursed passengers for, not a single arrest had been made.[127] The TSA does not, as a matter of policy, share baggage theft reports with local police departments.[127]

In September 2012, ABC News interviewed former TSA agent Pythias Brown, who has admitted to stealing more than $800,000 worth of items during his employment with the agency. Brown stated that it was "very convenient to steal" and poor morale within the agency is what causes agents to steal from passengers.[128]

The TSA has also been criticized for not responding properly to theft and failing to reimburse passengers for stolen goods. For example, between 2011 and 2012, passengers at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport reported $300,000 in property lost or damaged by the TSA. The agency only reimbursed $35,000 of those claims.[129] Similar statistics were found at Jacksonville International Airport – passengers reported $22,000 worth of goods missing or damaged over the course of 15 months. The TSA only reimbursed $800.[130]

Screening effectiveness

Undercover operations to test the effectiveness of airport screening processes are routinely carried out by the TSA's Office of Investigations[131] and the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's office.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found that TSA officials had collaborated with Covenant Aviation Security (CAS) at San Francisco International Airport to alert screeners to undercover tests.[132] From August 2003 until May 2004, precise descriptions of the undercover personnel were provided to the screeners. The handing out of descriptions was then stopped, but until January 2005 screeners were still alerted whenever undercover operations were being undertaken.[133] When no wrongdoing on the part of CAS was found, the contract was extended for four years. Some CAS and TSA workers received disciplinary action, but none were fired.[134][135]

A report on undercover operations conducted in October 2006 at Newark Liberty International Airport was leaked to the press. The screeners had failed 20 of 22 undercover security tests, missing numerous guns and bombs. The Government Accountability Office had previously pointed to repeated covert test failures by TSA personnel.[136][137] Revealing the results of covert tests is against TSA policy, and the agency responded by initiating an internal probe to discover the source of the leak.[138]

In July 2007, the Times Union of Albany, New York reported that TSA screeners at Albany International Airport failed multiple covert security tests conducted by the TSA. Among them was a failure to detect a fake bomb.[139]

In December 2010, ABC News Houston reported in an article about a man who accidentally took a forgotten gun through airport security, that "the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports".[44]

In June 2011 TSA fired 36 screeners at the Honolulu airport for regularly allowing bags through without being inspected.[140]

In May 2012, a report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General stated that the TSA "does not have a complete understanding" of breaches at the nation's airports, with some hubs doing very little to fix or report security breaches. These findings will be presented to Congress.[141]

A 2015 investigation by the Homeland Security Inspector General revealed that undercover investigators were able to smuggle banned items through checkpoints in 95% of their attempts.[142]

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have had several joint hearings concerning the cost and benefits of the various safety programs including full body scanners, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), and the behavior detection program, among others.[143]

Some measures employed by the TSA have been accused of being ineffective and fostering a false sense of safety.[144][145] This led security expert Bruce Schneier to coin the term security theater to describe those measures.[146]

Unintended consequences of 2002 screening enhancements

Two studies by a group of Cornell University researchers have found that strict airport security has the unintended consequence of increasing road fatalities, as would-be air travelers decide to drive and are exposed to the far greater risk of dying in a car accident.[147][148] In 2005, the researchers looked at the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and found that the change in passenger travel modes led to 242 added driving deaths per month.[147] In all, they estimated that about 1,200 driving deaths could be attributed to the short-term effects of the attacks. The study attributes the change in traveler behavior to two factors: fear of terrorist attacks and the wish to avoid the inconvenience of strict security measures; no attempt is made to estimate separately the influence of each of these two factors.

In 2007, the researchers studied the specific effects of a change to security practices instituted by the TSA in late 2002. They concluded that this change reduced the number of air travelers by 6%, and estimated that consequently, 129 more people died in car accidents in the fourth quarter of 2002.[148] Extrapolating this rate of fatalities, New York Times contributor Nate Silver remarked that this is equivalent to "four fully loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year."[149] The 2007 study also noted that strict airport security hurts the airline industry; it was estimated that the 6% reduction in the number of passengers in the fourth quarter of 2002 cost the industry $1.1 billion in lost business.[150]

Data security incidents

Employee records lost or stolen

In 2007, an unencrypted computer hard drive containing Social Security numbers, bank data, and payroll information for about 100,000 employees was lost or stolen from TSA headquarters. Kip Hawley alerted TSA employees to the loss, and apologized for it. The agency asked the FBI to investigate. There were no reports that the data was later misused.[151][152]

Unsecured website

In 2007, Christopher Soghoian, a blogger and security researcher, said that a TSA website was collecting private passenger information in an unsecured manner, exposing passengers to identity theft.[153] The website allowed passengers to dispute their inclusion on the No Fly List. The TSA fixed the website several days after the press picked up the story.[154] The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the matter,[155] and said the website had operated insecurely for more than four months, during which more than 247 people had submitted personal information.[156] The report said the TSA manager who awarded the contract for creating the website was a high-school friend and former employee of the owner of the firm that received the contract.[157] It noted:
neither Desyne nor the technical lead on the traveler redress Web site have been sanctioned by TSA for their roles in the deployment of an insecure Web site. TSA continues to pay Desyne to host and maintain two major Web-based information systems. TSA has taken no steps to discipline the technical lead, who still holds a senior program management position at TSA.[158]

In December 2009, someone within the TSA posted a sensitive manual titled “Screening Management SOP” on secret airport screening guidelines to an obscure URL on the FedBizOpps website. The manual was taken down quickly, but the breach raised questions about whether security practices had been compromised.[159] Five TSA employees were placed on administrative leave over the manual’s publication, which, while redacted, had its redaction easily removed by computer-knowledgeable people.[160]

Other criticisms


Common criticisms of the agency have also included assertions that TSA employees slept on the job,[161][162][163][164] bypassed security checks,[165] and failed to use good judgment and common sense.[166][167][168]

TSA agents are also accused of having mistreated passengers, and having sexually harassed passengers,[169][170][171][172] having used invasive screening procedures, including touching the genitals, including those of children,[173] removing nipple rings with pliers,[174] having searched passengers or their belongings for items other than weapons or explosives,[175] and having stolen from passengers.[127][176][177][178][179][180][181][182] The TSA fired 28 agents and suspended 15 others after an investigation determined they failed to scan checked baggage for explosives.[183]

The TSA was also accused of having spent lavishly on events unrelated to airport security,[184] having wasted money in hiring,[185] and having had conflicts of interest.[186]

The TSA was accused of having performed poorly at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration viewing areas, which left thousands of ticket holders excluded from the event in overcrowded conditions, while those who had arrived before the checkpoints were in place avoided screening altogether.[187][188]

In 2013 dozens of TSA workers were fired or suspended for illegal gambling at Pittsburgh International Airport,[189] and eight TSA workers were arrested in connection with stolen parking passes at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.[190]

A 2013 GAO report showed a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, from 2,691 cases to 3,408.[191] Another GAO report said that there is no evidence that the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) behavioral detection program, with an annual budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, is effective.[192]

A 2013 report by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General's Office charged that TSA was using criminal investigators to do the job of lower paid employees, wasting millions of dollars a year.[193]

On December 3, 2013, the United States House of Representatives passed the Transportation Security Acquisition Reform Act (H.R. 2719; 113th Congress) in response to criticism of the TSA's acquisition process as wasteful, costly, and ineffective.[194][195] If the bill became law, it would require the TSA to develop a comprehensive technology acquisition plan and present regular reports to Congress about its successes and failures to adhere to this plan. An April 2013 report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General indicated that the TSA had 17,000 items with an estimated cost of $185.7 million stored in its warehouses on May 31, 2012.[196] The auditors found that "TSA stored unusable or obsolete equipment, maintained inappropriate safety stock levels, and did not develop an inventory management process that systematically deploys equipment."[196]

In January 2014 Jason Edward Harrington, a former TSA screener at O'Hare International Airport, said that fellow staff members assigned to review body scan images of airline passengers routinely joked about fliers' weight, attractiveness, and penis and breast sizes. According to Harrington, screeners would alert each other to attractive female passengers with the code phrase "Hotel Papa" so that staff would have an opportunity to view the passengers' nude form in body scanner monitors and retaliated against rude flyers by delaying them at the checkpoint. TSA Administrator John Pistole responded by saying that all the scanners had been replaced and the screening rooms disabled. He did not deny that the behaviors described by Harrington took place.[197]

Public opinion

A CBS telephone poll of 1137 people published on November 15, 2010 found that 81% percent of those polled approved TSA's use of full-body scans.[198] An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted by Langer Associates and released November 22, 2010 found that 64% of Americans favored the full-body X-ray scanners, but that 50% think the "enhanced" pat-downs go too far; 37% felt so strongly. In addition the poll states opposition is lowest amongst those who fly less than once a year.[199] A later poll by [201]

Calls for abolition

Numerous groups and figures have called for the abolition of the TSA in its current form, primarily persons and groups holding conservative or libertarian views.[202] These include Sen. Rand Paul,[203] (R-KY), Rep. John Mica,[204] (R-FL), The Cato Institute,[205] Downsize DC Foundation,[206] FreedomWorks,[207] opinion columnists from Forbes,[208] Fox News,[209] National Review,[210] USA Today,[211] Vox,[212] and The Washington Examiner.[213]

The TSA's critics frequently cite the agency as "ineffective, invasive, incompetent, inexcusably costly, or all four"[214] as their reasons for seeking its abolition. Those seeking to abolish the TSA have cited the improved efficacy and cost of screening provided by qualified private companies in compliance with federal guidelines.[215]

See also


  1. ^ 49 USC § 114(d)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ TSA Jobs
  5. ^
  6. ^ TSA Announces Private Security Screening Pilot Program, TSA press release June 18, 2002 Archived September 4, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ TSA Awards Private Screening Contract, TSA press release January 4, 2007
  8. ^ Senate committee approves Neffenger as next TSA chief
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Exclusive: TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Please see Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response article for references
  28. ^ TSA Management Directive No. 1100.73-2 – TSO Dress and Appearance Responsibilities Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ TSA Fee Would Double Under New Proposal
  34. ^ Travelers leave $500,000 per year at TSA checkpoints
  35. ^ At TSA, loose change is real money
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ Stuck in line: TSA PreCheck expansion slowing down frequent travelers
  52. ^ TSA Chief John Pistole Gets Into a Knife Fight
  53. ^ Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^ a b
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ Michigan Man Left Covered in Own Urine following TSA Pat-Down Fox News Detroit, November 22, 2010. Archived November 23, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  65. ^ Mike Clary, Full-body scanners trigger concerns for some fliers, Sun Sentinel, November 22, 2010.
  66. ^ Airport screening horror stories: Could a pat-down backlash cripple holiday airline travel?, The Post-Standard, November 22, 2010.
  67. ^ a b Joe Sharkey, Screening Protests Grow as Holiday Crunch Looms, New York Times, November 15, 2010.
  68. ^
  69. ^ Balko, Radley Q: Why Has the ACLU Been Silent About TSA Abuses? A: Because You Haven't Been Listening Reason
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ Rosen, Jeffrey (2010-11-28) The TSA is invasive, annoying – and unconstitutional, Washington Post
  73. ^
  74. ^ TSA Pat-Down At DIA Leads To Sex Assault Investigation
  75. ^
  76. ^ Germany plans lab tests for airport "naked scans"
  77. ^
  78. ^ Jim Puzzanghera, 'Invasive' airport pat-downs not going away for the holidays, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2010.
  79. ^
  80. ^ [1] -Retrieved 2012-09-19
  81. ^
  82. ^
  83. ^ Revealed: How TSA agents 'laugh at travelers' naked scanner images in backrooms while flirting with each other. (2012-12-19). Retrieved on 2014-04-28.
  84. ^ One Hundred Naked Citizens: One Hundred Leaked Body Scans. Retrieved on 2014-04-28.
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^ [2]"TSA dumps near-naked Rapiscan body scanners"
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^ "Thus, it is clear that RF radiation is not genotoxic and therefore cannot initiate cancer... the majority of such studies have shown that chronic exposure of animals to RF in the range of 435 to 2,450 MHz did not significantly alter the development of tumors in a number of animal cancer models... the same acceleration of skin cancer development and reduction in survival occurred in animals exposed to chronic confinement stress in the absence of RF exposure, suggesting that the RF effect could possibly be due to a non-specific stress reaction."
  92. ^
  93. ^ President’s Message, US Airline Pilots Association press release, November 8, 2010.
  94. ^ Steve Everly and Randy Heaster, Airline security gets private, The Kansas City Star, November 19, 2010.
  95. ^
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^
  99. ^
  100. ^ Ron Paul Would Like to Give You Back Your Dignity, New York magazine, November 18, 2010
  101. ^ ARS Technica- Posted August 2, 2012; Retrieved 2012-08-08
  102. ^ [3] TSA Denies Stonewalling Nude Body-Scanner Court Order.
  103. ^ [4] TSA to Ask Public About Naked Image Scanners, Pat-downs
  104. ^
  105. ^
  106. ^
  107. ^
  108. ^
  109. ^ TSA-approved locks don't always keep belongings safe
  110. ^
  111. ^
  112. ^
  113. ^ What happens to baggage at airports?
  114. ^
  115. ^ a b TSA inadvertently shows the dangers of master baggage keys
  116. ^
  117. ^ 3D-printable files of TSA master baggage keys are out for download
  118. ^
  119. ^ a b c
  120. ^
  121. ^
  122. ^
  123. ^
  124. ^
  125. ^ a b
  126. ^
  127. ^ a b c
  128. ^ [5] Convicted TSA Officer Reveals Secrets of Theft at Airports.
  129. ^ [6] Hundreds of complaints filed with TSA over lost items at Hartfield
  130. ^ [7] Passengers lose thousands at JIA
  131. ^
  132. ^
  133. ^ San Francisco International Airport Screening tests were sabotaged, San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2006
  134. ^
  135. ^
  136. ^ Airport screeners fail to see most test bombs, The Seattle Times, October 28, 2006
  137. ^ Screeners at Newark fail to find 'weapons' – Agents got 20 of 22 'devices' past staff. The Star-Ledger, October 27, 2006. Archived March 1, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  138. ^ TSA seeks source of leaks on airport security tests, The Star-Ledger, October 31, 2006 Archived September 27, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  139. ^
  140. ^ Poole, Robert (2011-09-19) Massive firing at HNL Honolulu Airport, CNN
  141. ^ [8] Report: TSA Security Breaches Mishandled
  142. ^ TSA failure: Investigators able to smuggle weapons past airport checks in 95 percent of tests
  143. ^ Joint house hearing- Retrieved 2012-08-19
  144. ^
  145. ^
  146. ^
  147. ^ a b
  148. ^ a b
  149. ^
  150. ^
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  152. ^
  153. ^
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  171. ^
  172. ^
  173. ^
  174. ^
  175. ^
  176. ^
  177. ^
  178. ^
  179. ^ (Registration required). Full text here.
  180. ^
  181. ^
  182. ^
  183. ^
  184. ^
  185. ^
  186. ^ Poole, Robert (2010-04-13) Get the Government Out of Airport Screening: The TSA's conflicts of interest prevent better, cheaper security, Reason
  187. ^
  188. ^
  189. ^ Dozens Of TSA Employees Fired, Suspended For Illegal Gambling Ring At Pittsburgh Int’l Airport
  190. ^ Eight TSA Workers Arrested in Dallas in Stolen Parking Pass Scam
  191. ^ Report: TSA employee misconduct up 26% in 3 years
  192. ^ GAO says there is no evidence that a TSA program to spot terrorists is effective
  193. ^ Audit shows highly paid TSA investigators perform lesser tasks
  194. ^
  195. ^
  196. ^ a b
  197. ^
  198. ^ Poll: 4 in 5 Support Full-Body Airport Scanners, CBS News, November 15, 2010.
  199. ^ Nate Silver, New Poll Suggests Shift in Public Views on T.S.A. Procedures, The New York Times, November 22, 2010.
  200. ^ Poll finds 61% oppose new airport security measures, Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2010.
  201. ^
  202. ^ No, Vox, let's not abolish the TSA
  203. ^ Rand Paul has a quick fix for TSA: Pull the plug
  204. ^ Guy Who Created The TSA Says It's Failed, And It's Time To Dismantle It
  205. ^ Privatizing the Transportation Security Administration
  206. ^ Abolish the TSA
  207. ^ Top 10 Reasons to Abolish the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  208. ^ Full Frontal Nudity Doesn't Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSA
  209. ^ Congress should abolish the TSA -- it's time to privatize airport screening
  210. ^ Abolish the TSA
  211. ^ Abolish the TSA: Column
  212. ^ The case for abolishing the TSA
  213. ^
  214. ^
  215. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • Transportation Security Administration in the Federal Register
  • Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures
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