January 27, 2008

But, But I’ll Bet…

…nobody managed to “slip” through on purpose with a lethal souvenir letter opener or a deadly disposable cigarette lighter

The TSA spokesman said testing shows that the agency has a “very high success rate” in detecting firearms.

by @ 11:09 am. Filed under Homeland Security, Security, TSA Concerns
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12 Responses to “But, But I’ll Bet…”

  1. Gayle Says:

    Or even a can of hairspray, Seth! This is ridiculous and it would be outragous whether the gun was loaded or not. It makes me really glad that unless God grants me the ability to fly without a plane (which would be scary but very cool) I won’t be doing any flying anywhere unless I’m the nut behind the yoke. Oops! I almost forgot. I don’t think I remember how to land. :(

    Off topic, the link to the cat story on my post has been repaired.

  2. BB-Idaho Says:

    I know dang well Gayle can’t fly without a plane…although I believe I recall Gayle suggesting that Hillary routinely does so *heh* As for TSA, they
    need learn from these folks: http://www.worldpress.org/Mideast/757.cfm

  3. Seth Says:

    Gayle –

    The TSA’s greatest problems are that a) they are a government bureaucracy with all the attendant incompetence and idocy of every other government bureaucracy and b) those at the top are there more for political reasons than for any real ability to address security issues from a seasoned, straight talking, front line professional’s experience.

    It seems that no matter what happens, our safety will always remain in the hands of career politicians rather than in the hands of people who are actually qualified to make security decisions.

    The landing bit reminds me of a joke I heard from some 6 Day War veterans when I spent a summer at a Jewish sleepaway camp back then:

    When Soviet pilots were training Arab pilots to fly fighters, they taught them how to take off, maneuver, dogfight, etc, but then simply landed the aircraft without teaching the Arabs how to land them.

    When the Arab pilots demanded to know why this was so, they were told, “We do not need to teach you how to land. That part of your training will be administered by Israeli fighter pilots.”

    I came over and read the cat story link. I agree, that cat deserves the steak, with all the trimmings! :-)

    BB –

    It’s true, when young Hillary Rodham met young W.J. Clinton, she took him flying with her, and that’s how she swept him off his feet. {sorry, couldn’t help it}

    The article you linked was originally published in Nov, 2002 (I didn’t just happen to know this, it was indicated at the top of the column). While I have little good, from a professional standpoint, to say about the TSA, in their defense I will point out that that was a formative time; They were still wrangling with the airports over retraining or replacing passenger screening agents and other protective personnel, over who would be responsible to pay for what, etc, and there was a lot of stress on every level, to say nothing of frantic (recollecting 9/11) “what if it happens at this airport next!?” worries. Then, too, a lot of people were worried about losing their jobs and were reacting thus — most of the pre-9/11 screening personnel at most airports were of the same calibre as minimally educated and minimally trained security guards anyplace else, and their airport employment was probably the best compensated they were likely to find — In short, it was a quagmire that has since been more or less straightened out.

    That is not to say that I have all that much more confidence in the fine folks in the screening areas.

    I don’t believe you visited here back when I posted about my Swiss Army knife affair:

    A friend had given me a Victorinox knife for some reason I don’t recall, and I had tossed it into my computer bag and completely forgotten about it. The bag is always carry-on luggage for me. Over the next couple of months or so, that computer bag took off with me from at least eleven different U.S. airports (Reagan, Dulles, JFK, LaGuardia, O’Hare, Midway, Orlando, SFO and a few others) before the knife was finally discovered when I was preparing to depart from Logan.

    Of course, Logan having been one of the 9/11 departure points, they probably feel a bit more motivated to do a thorough job so as not to have the same thing happen to them again. I imagine Newark Airport’s screening personnel also feel more incentive to perform as such, though I can’t testify to that as I’ve never had a reason to fly in or out of there — for that matter, I avoid anything “Newark” wherever possible. :-)

  4. Shoprat Says:

    They can be 99.99% successful in stopping things but they only have to really screw up once and people will die. They need a continuous improvement program like so many factories institute as the only acceptable success rate is 100% and that will never be reached.

  5. Always On Watch Says:

    It’s pure negligence to miss a gun during an airport security check.

    Of course, can one expect better of some government employees? I think not.

  6. Seth Says:

    Shoprat –

    Problem is, gubmint doesn’t (more’s the pity) think like private industry. A good businessman (or firm/factory management) will be constantly, aggressively looking for ways both to improve his (their) business and eliminate potential costly incidents. A government agency, on the other hand, having no profit/loss concerns, will do the complacency thing and not make any real effort to improve efficiency or safety until disaster has struck, thus informing them of a vulnerability they hadn’t bothered to find on their own.

    Despite over 20 years of anti-America terrorism, it took 9/11 for them to get a clue that our airports needed to be better secured.

    AOW –

    It’s even worse when the guy toting the weapon was not even intending to sneak it on the plane (he did go back and let the TSA folks know he had it, etc, when he was already “home free”). Imagine how things might have worked out had he harbored malevolent intentions. If he could breeze right through like that, one has to wonder how easy it might have been had someone intentionally been smuggling the weapon through the screening area and dealt with the same inept TSA employee.

    I am not a great believer in isolated incidents. If there’s one such employee, there are certainly others, which means that we can attribute, to some extent, the lack of further successful terrorist incidents to luck.

    Most of the screeners are not devoted security professionals, they are people who are only there because it’s a job, and given the skill levels and employment histories involved, many of them would probably be $9.00 an hour rent-a-cops if they weren’t working for TSA.

  7. Angel Says:

    The TSA’s greatest problems are that a) they are a government bureaucracy with all the attendant incompetence and idocy of every other government bureaucracy ..my sentiments exactly my friend!..useless
    idiots scaring old Irish ladies!..pfftt!..nice work Seth~!:)

  8. BB-Idaho Says:

    You always get me thinking off-track. Regarding “I avoid anything “Newark” wherever possible.” I was working in cosmetics science in Minneapolis back in pre-TSA (pre-much of anything, it was so long ago). We sent one of our chemists to run QC tests on a strong oxidizer, sodium peroxide (so bizarre that we
    avoided it in the explosives industry later in my career). Some place in NYC. Na2O2 is a harmless looking white powder which is used in solution in the permanent wave process. As he completed each test series, he placed a few grams in a plastic bag with lot number..standard practice. Upon his return, he was dashing through the Newark Airport when his suitcase burst open, spreading underwear, ties and a large number of plastic bags full of white powder. We learned in a shaken phone call that police appeared in force from nowhere, shouting “Freeze, Sucker” (did I mention pre-Miranda?) cuffed our chemist and began interrogating him on his ‘expensive cache’ of smuggled drugs. Despite his protests and explanations, one of the more knowledgable officers picked up a bag, secured a pinch and placed it on his tongue. As you may suspect, the stuff acted like white phosphorus and burned a hole right through the officer’s tastebuds.
    Our chemist assisted until medical help arrived. We
    called him Scarface or Snake after than…and he, like you, avoided Newark ever after. :)

  9. Seth Says:

    Angel –

    Thanks. :-)

    Often when I consider government thinking, I am reminded of a plaque in the office of the former cage and credit manager of a casino in which I was once employed. It said,

    There’s no reason for it, but it’s our policy

    Well, in government circles, this sort of reasoning and level of intellect apparently trickles down from the top to permeate both middle management and the rank and file.

    BB –

    I know I shouldn’t be laughing, since the “more knowledgeable” officer did sustain what was undoubtedly a grievous injury, but… I’m laughing just the same, both by the way you told the story and at the stupidity of the officer in question.

    I’d like to think that a cop would be smart enough to leave analyzing the suspicious substance to people with the proper credentials and methods, like chemists in a lab, rather than risk poisoning or worse by tasting it — especially when the suspect who had it in his possession has defined it as (I hope your chemist did, at any rate) a dangerous substance. They could have arrested the chemist on a suspicion charge and sent the bags of powder into the lab for analysis, and then, if the substance proved to be heroin or cocaine or some other illegal drug, replaced the suspicion charge with possession and trafficking related charges. And the officer could have saved tongue and taste buds.

    Tasting the substance wouldn’t be any kind of admissable evidence pertaining to probable cause, anyway, unless the cop in question could sit on a witness stand and testify under oath that he is a credentialed chemist — a defense attorney’s inevitable question in response to the officer testifying that he recognized the substance by means of his own field test.

    On the other hand, what if the officer didn’t recognize the taste? Would he have given back the bags of white powder and the assorted ties and underwear and let the subject go?

    No, that cop was a genuine, bona fide, certified, first string mullethead. I’ll bet he became the butt of a generation of station house jokes. :-)

    If such people are paid to police Newark, it’s no wonder the place is a cesspool of crime.

  10. Gayle Says:

    Thanks for the joke, Seth. LOL!

    Shoprat makes a good point regarding there being no incentive for government employees. Having once been a civil servant I have seen it myself. The waste is also above being indecent!

    When Ft. Irwin closed down in the 70’s (it’s open now for training but was closed for years) the government got rid of a lot of stuff by burying it in the ground. Perfectly good chairs, beds, dressers, end tables, mirrors, expensive lined drapes, all out of non-commissioned Officer’s Quarters and Officer’s Quarters dumped in a hole in the ground and plowed over! I was working civil service at the time and it sickened me.

    Working for a government employed agency, such as Lockheed/Martin, is a completely different story. Although there is much deadwood at the top, employees are rewarded with cash bonuses for innovative ideas as to how to save money or improve production, which amounts to the same thing. Perhaps the government should learn from the agencies they employ.

  11. Seth Says:

    Gayle –

    The Ft. Irwin incident you describe is inexcusable, but a perfect example of the total disregard career government bureaucrats have for the taxpayers’ money; like the apparent belief of the average politician, the POV seems to be: “There’s plenty more where that came from!” :-(

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