Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

TSA Patdowns

Here's a short rant I thought I'd share. Every six months or so I visit out-of-state family, and of course I fly. Leaving from Seattle is fine: the security line forks very clearly into a set of paths leading to the naked body scanner, and a set of paths leading to the standard metal detector. You can choose what you like, no fuss. I always choose the metal detector, because it's more secure. I don't care about the radiation, I don't care about naked photos. I'm against those scanners on principle that they're insecure and waste time and money.

On the return trip, however, the Salt Lake City airport has the metal detector and the scanner right next to each other, with a dude blocking the path of the metal detector's exit. You can approach the metal detector, and he might let you through. For me, he has never let me through, and asks I use the scanner. I refuse, and demand a patdown instead. Okay, it's fine.

But here's the stupidity: there's a side-gate he opens and asks me to step through to go to the patdown area. This side gate has neither scanner nor metal detector, so I bypass both. The idea of "security layers" has never occurred to the TSA. Why not make me walk through the metal detector to get to the patdown area? Then you are layering your security and it's harder to get past it. Apart from the lack of layering, here's what really annoys me: the subsequent patdown is a joke. Yes, I'm complaining that their patdown is not invasive nor thorough enough. As has been shouted by nerds ever since 9/11: SECURITY THEATER OMYGAWD!

Posted on 2013-01-24 by Jach

Tags: rant, security, stupidity


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Jach December 31, 2013 07:07:46 PM As an update to this post, Seattle no longer has the choice of metal detectors. (Well, I think you can go through them if you get in on the TSA Precheck stuff...)

Anyway, I finally learned why they don't layer their security. (On my return trip from Salt Lake the TSA agent informed me. In Seattle, the agent didn't know, shook his head, and said "I don't make the policies.") It's actually a pretty simple reason, even if it's still stupid. Basically, when you "opt out" for a patdown, you're opting out of everything, and they don't know your reason why. Maybe you have a pacemaker! In which case you would naturally want to opt out of the metal detector. (I guess? I don't know much about how pacemakers can fail other than people who have them have a fear of microwave ovens and cell phones...) And since the TSA never bothers to ask why you're opting out, they figure it's best to just assume you have a pacemaker and skip the metal detector. But they could just ask...

I think I'm going to give up on the patdown. I've been doing it on the principle of the thing, but that's kind of dumb after a while when it's clear nothing is changing and fliers don't care. It's also wasting some of my time. But maybe I'll get in on the TSA Pre stuff as that would save me the most time and may let me go back to just going through the metal detectors... It's a business, not security. You pay them money for TSA Pre membership (and add your fingerprints etc. to the national databases without you having needed to have committed a crime first), and you get harassed less. Same thing with border crossing Fast Pass.
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