Five billion dollars later airport security still sucks.

The one thing that I won’t enjoy about the travel tech support position, should I ever hear back from the company and actually end up hired by them, will be the need to fly around the country due to the idiotic TSA. Now we get word that for all the money that’s been spent airport security isn’t any better than it was pre-9/11:

Last week, reports from several government departments confirmed what most business travelers and other frequent fliers already knew: after spending more than $5 billion in federal funds on the agency, airport security is hardly any better now than it was before 9/11.

Created to impose tight federal control over commercial airport security after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the agency continues to get failing or barely passing grades. Covert screening tests by the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security showed virtually no improvement in overall screener performance since similarly poor performance reviews last year, said Representative John L. Mica, the Florida Republican who is chairman of the House aviation subcommittee.

“Over the last three and a half years, we have spent billions of dollars creating a Soviet-style centralized bureaucracy that has resulted in great inefficiencies and inflexibility, with little improvement in screener effectiveness,” Mr. Mica, a long-time critic of the agency, said in a statement last week.

In its reply, the agency said that it needed more money to improve performance with better technology, like new machines for detection of explosives.

About the only thing that has come out of this bloated new bureaucracy is honest employment for people who enjoy taking whatever they want from the luggage of passengers with the excuse that it might be used for terrorism. You can’t even be certain you’ve packed properly because the official list of banned items carries a stipulation that says the idiots screening you can decide on a whim to not allow anything they want to go on the plane so the official list is all but useless.

Found via ***Dave’s blog.

12 thoughts on “Five billion dollars later airport security still sucks.

  1. There’s probably more impact than the basic expenditures. I have had two opportunities to make optional trips to the US in the last year (training). Instead, I postponed the training and expended quite a bit of effort to find equivalent training in Canada.

    There was one reason for this: I refuse to be treated like a criminal instead of a money-spending guest.

    Over-reaction on my part? Maybe. But I would be surprised if I was the only one.

    That’s American hotels, restaurants, and trainers that lost cash because of a fucked-up idea of “homeland security”.

  2. Hello, let tell you somethings about the airport security.

    1) Potentially white elephent
    The reason for the success of 9/11 hijackers is because of prevailing policy on dealing with hijacking at that time. The policy was not to put up a struggle and allow them to takeover, and wait for the plane to land and let professionals handle it. It was developed in the 1970s where there was a spate of hijacking.

    But after 9/11 or in fact even during 9/11 itself (for the plane brought down by its passengers) no one is going to allow someone to take over the plane and passengers and crew would fight for control.

    2) “Soviet” Inefficiency
    Just fly into New York and you can see the inefficiency. There were a whole bunch of counters with officials/staff behind them BUT they only opened ONE counter. I should rephrase, they only opened that ONE counter after we stood in line for about half an hour. That one counter could have been justified if the line was moving fast but despite there being only 10 people in front it took almost an hour to clear.

    3) “Drunk on Power”
    Then there was this interesting incident. There was this FEMALE flight attendant who was going through customs and immigration and it was taking quite sometime. Just as the official was to stamp her passport and allow her through, he has already taken up the stamp, the flight attendant’s pilot made a caustic remark on why it was taking so long after all the person was a crew of an airline. Some may consider the pilot to be a jerk others would just see him as making a point. BUT the effect of it is that the official suddenly decide NOT to allow the female flight attendant into the country DESPITE her not actually saying anything and that the official had already decided to approve her entry.

    4) Canada
    I agree with the above poster that it is perhaps more convenient if one has business in N.America to do it in Canada specifically Toronto if perhaps one is arranging to meet a group of people coming in from different cities across N.America.

    One tip on an easier entry into US. Fly to Toronto then fly into US, perhaps NY. The reason is that the US customs and immigration is stationed in Toronto. And upon arrival you can leave the airport immediately. Furthermore, somehow the US customs and immigration officials there, which if I am not wrong are also Americans, seems more efficient, nicer and even sometimes engage in a friendly banter.

  3. Three connected articles for you on immigration rather than customs.
    1) “Every visa officer today lives in fear that he will let in the next Mohamed Atta. As a result, he is probably keeping out the next Bill Gates.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6008-2004Nov22.html?referrer=emailarticlepg

    2) “There has been a 35 per cent drop in Asians coming to our computer science departments… It really is a very bad thing for a very key area,” the FT quotes Gates as saying.
    http://www.zdnet.com.au/jobs/news_trends/0,2000056653,39179292,00.htm

    3) India’s IT prodigals return home
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4447833.stm

  4. Having always been something of a cynic, and being possessed of a “disturbed” sense of humour according to friends, I have (both before and after 9-11) played a little game with airport security: being a techie by trade I’ve always travelled with a toolkit including (amongst other items) a pen-knife. In theory, such a “dangerous” item is not permitted in hand luggage* (okay, it’s got a five-inch blade which could be quite nasty, but let’s face it, no-one’s gonna take a hijacker waving a boy-scout’s pen-knife around seriously!).

    Anyway, as a little test to see whether the airport security bods are awake and/or sober I have always packed this item in my hand luggage. It’s usually quite visible on the x-ray machine used to scan hand luggage (the cork-screw shows up quite well) yet, despite this, it has never been confiscated. Only once in the last ten or so years has a security person even seen fit to mention it (“Is that a pen-knife?”, “Yes”, “Oh well, never mind”).

    Recently, I had my first opportunity to visit the US of A (as luck would have it in the first week of November last year – slap bang on top of the elections – but that’s another story … one of remarkable self restraint!). As usual, I packed my little pen-knife in my hand luggage. At the airport, after enduring a number of pointless security questions from a head-mistress-like security bod who had a surgically neutered sense of humour (in a monotone: “Are you carrying anything which could be used as a weapon?”, “Do my hands count?”, [ice cold stare], “Err … no”), I passed through the remaining boarding checks without a hitch.

    Fast forward a week and I’m back at O’Hare waiting to fly back to Blighty. After queueing for about an hour I made my way through security—only for the pen-knife to be detected! Heavens above! A security bod … awake on the job! (I let them confiscate it as it was a good excuse to get a new one, that one was well over 10 years old and rather blunt).

    Hence, while I can’t state whether or not airport security in America has improved, deteriorated or remained the same post-911 (this being my first visit) I can say it’s the one and only time someone’s picked up on my pen-knife. That said, it was only picked up on my way *out* of the US … about a week too late had I been planning on any mischief whilst airborne. My personal opinion of this was that whilst America seemed to have quite impressive airport security, it was all somewhat undermined because Europe doesn’t give two shits about securing flights going to America wink Oh well.

    * From a notice at a UK airport:

    You may not board the aircraft with any of the following items on your person, or in your carry-on luggage:

    – Knives
    – Pen-knives
    – Scissors
    – Nail-clippers (?!)
    – Cigarette lighters
    – Pressurized canisters
    – Fake guns

    Interestingly, no mention of real guns… Maybe they don’t want to upset any in-bound US air-marshalls wink

  5. There was one reason for this: I refuse to be treated like a criminal instead of a money-spending guest.

    Yeah, ain’t it great?  We’re no safer than we were before 9/11, but we’re definitely being made to feel far less FREE.

    I’ve flown exactly once since 9/11, with hubby and the kid on a three point trip from California to New Orleans to Florida and back.  At EVERY single point of boarding, our bags were opened and searched, supposedly “at random.”  The only reason I can think of is that my husband’s just so damned BIG at 6 foot 6 inches tall, that he can’t help but catch their eye.  He couldn’t be mistaken for anything but the Anglo he is, so it’s not like he fit some racial profile or anything!  As if my trip wasn’t already stressful enough traveling with two whiners. rolleyes

    In any case, the delays and inconvenience were just one more annoying thing that makes me never want to fly again – between Mr. OB’s general ill-humor born of having to stuff his 6 1/2 foot self in a seat built for someone 5’2” and my own feeling of being treated like a goddamned criminal ON MY DIME, I can’t trust myself anymore not to burst into a loud, obnoxious rant at the next person who causes me additional stress.  I’m perfectly aware that such behavior in an airport is now classified as a felony, but I know if someone trips my trigger I won’t be able to stop myself.

    Worse still, now I can’t even carry a fucking lighter to fire up that quick cigarette between planes.  If I happen to miss out on that nic fix and someone pisses me off, I’ve NO doubt someone’ll end up having to post bail for me!

    At this point, I won’t be flying unless someone I love DIES and I have to get across country right away.  The convenience of flying isn’t worth the risk, nor of the depression after the beating my sense of being a free American takes in the name of homeland security.  Fuck it, I’ll drive.

  6. Lest any Canadians start feeling smug, it was in Toronto that my daughter’s fingernail kit (a popular terrorist weapon) was confiscated, not by the friendly American customs, but by the Canadians.  When I asked them pointblank how they could justify letting steelpointed umbrellas through and still confiscate a fingernail file, they simply said they had a list of items that were allowed.  In other words, we’re at the mercy of intelligent terrorists while being jerked around.  Somehow doesn’t make me feel any safer.

    Not to mention the fact that the best defence against terrrorism (to be sure, not a replacement for security measures but along with them) is a foreign policy that works for peace in the world.

  7. There’s probably more impact than the basic expenditures. I have had two opportunities to make optional trips to the US in the last year (training). Instead, I postponed the training and expended quite a bit of effort to find equivalent training in Canada.

    Yeah, one friend also tries to avoid going to US, fortunately he works in company’s computer support so most of the problems can be handled with “remote control”.
    Other reason is that he knows university teachers and some of those have been in US as guest lecturer and they have noticed that there’s people, even highly educated people like university teachers who know very little about rest of the world and its history while being full of US is the center of the world ideology.

    Not to mention the fact that the best defence against terrrorism (to be sure, not a replacement for security measures but along with them) is a foreign policy that works for peace in the world.

    You forgot something, shouldn’t it be peace and equality instead of fascistic exploitation capitalism/corporationism benefiting only rich people.

    http://globalissues.org/
    These western “civilized” nations look really civilized, doesn’t they?

    “We have 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality … we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation.”
    — George Kennan, , US Cold War planner, 1948

  8. You forgot something, shouldn’t it be peace and equality instead of fascistic exploitation capitalism/corporationism benefiting only rich people.

    That’s what I meant, E.T., except I wouldn’t put it quite so harshly- we’re not at that extreme yet in America, but we’re headed in that direction, to be sure.

  9. I’ve also lost some of my desire to visit the US for the forseeable future. Maybe in 5 years or so, once ‘you’ have cooled down…?

    On the other hand, I wanted to state that controls here in Europe are not necessarily lax (though you are not living in fear of being hauled to the brig simply for saying something with an ironic edge on it).

    Two years ago, on a flight to Greece, my bag was very strongly searched (including some embarassing moments when the big salamis I ‘imported’ for my dad – “there are none of those here, bring some!” – were pulled out).

    Turns out that one of the metal tabs of the zippers had irritated the screener. Took us 10 minutes to find out. At least I didn’t feel hassled on purpose.

    Second case: last year I came back from La Reunion (Indian Ocean, but part of the European Union!) with a LARGE (twice fist-sized) decorative stone ball as a gift.

    I kept it in my carry-on baggage (don’t remember why, maybe exactly because I knew they might become suspicious?). Flew with it right halfway over the world for 12 hours in a 747.

    Then was forced to check it in Paris for the connecting flight to Frankfurt. Jeez.

    In the end, its a very haphazard procedure, I guess. The point though, may be that terrorists simply will look for other unsecured places.

    And while we like to bash our governments, before or after, I don’t think we can really reduce the risks to anything approaching security. Though maybe just the chemical plants… No? Oh well.

  10. Last three flights (Hawaii,Costa Rica,St.Lucia) all pre-2001. Each flight worst than the last. After St.Lucia I swore off air travel just because I couldn’t see paying such a high cost for the absolute suckiest form of travel.

    I didn’t always feel this way. I have been travelling by air since I was 6 months old and took my second overseas flight at age twelve alone. It seems like air travel started to suffer in the late 80’s. Instead of being a treated as a customer, people started being treated like an inconvenience.

    After 9-11 there wasn’t a chance in hell I would ever get on a plane again. Not due to fear but due to the metal implant in my face that no metal detector is able to resist. I can only imagine the ruckus it would cause smile

  11. Instead of being a treated as a customer, people started being treated like an inconvenience.

    I got back from Japan, a country where customer service is king (or should I say emperor?), a few weeks ago. 

    Flying home into LAX, I was just appalled at the difference.  While waiting in line to go through customs, a man came out and yelled, “People, form two lines!”  Then, not as loudly but still quite audible, “What a bunch of idiots!” 

    I speak and read English perfectly and understand American mannerisms and customs, and I didn’t see any indication that there was a second line to be formed.

    The woman at the customs desk wasn’t much better.  The signs were confusing (remember, English is my native tongue).  A passenger and I were both confused and didn’t know where to line up.  Finally, the woman at the desk said, “Where do you think you’re going?  Can’t you read?”

    Mistakes and accidents and misunderstandings are one thing—but rudeness is inexcusable. 

    If I had been a visitor coming to the States from Japan, I think I would’ve gotten back on the plane!

    —Joe

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