Gripes About Airport Security Grow Louder

Tyler Durden camera_lumina at
Tue Jan 25 08:25:49 PST 2005

More indications of an emerging 'Brazil' scenario, as opposed to a 
hyper-intelligent super-fascist state.


>From: "R.A. Hettinga" <rah at>
>To: cryptography at, cypherpunks at, 
>osint at
>Subject: Gripes About Airport Security Grow Louder
>Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 22:19:25 -0500
>The Wall Street Journal
>       January 25, 2005
>Gripes About Airport Security Grow Louder
>More Travelers Are Stopped
>  For 'Secondary' Checks;
>  A Missed Flight to Atlanta
>January 25, 2005
>The frequency of secondary security screening at airports has increased,
>and complaints are soaring.
>Roughly one in every seven passengers is now tagged for "secondary
>screening" -- a special search in which an airport screener runs a
>metal-detecting wand around a traveler's body, then pats down the passenger
>and searches through bags -- according to the Transportation Security
>Currently, 10% to 15% of passengers are picked randomly before boarding
>passes are issued, the TSA says. An additional number -- the TSA won't say
>how many -- are selected by the government's generic profiling system,
>where buying a one-way ticket, paying cash or other factors can earn you
>extra screening. And more travelers are picked by TSA screeners who spot
>suspicious bulges or shapes under clothing.
>"It's fair to say the frequency of secondary screening has gone up," says
>TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter. "Screeners have greater discretion."
>That may explain why passenger complaints about screening have roughly
>doubled every month since August. According to numbers compiled by the TSA
>and reported to the Department of Transportation, 83 travelers complained
>about screening in August, then 150 in September and 385 in October. By
>November, the last month reported, complaints had skyrocketed to 652.
>To be sure, increased use of pat-down procedures in late September after
>terrorists smuggled bombs aboard two planes in Russia undoubtedly boosted
>those numbers, though many of those complaints were categorized as
>"courtesy" issues, not "screening," in the data TSA reports to the DOT.
>There were 115 courtesy complaints filed with the DOT in September, then
>690 in October. By November, the number of courtesy complaints receded to
>Yet the increased traveler anger at secondary screening hasn't receded.
>Road warriors complain bitterly about the arbitrary nature of the screening
>-- many get singled out for one leg of a trip, but not another.
>For Douglas Downing, a secondary-screening problem resulted in a canceled
>trip. Mr. Downing was flying from Seattle to Atlanta last fall. He went
>through security routinely and sat at the gate an hour ahead of his
>flight's departure. As he boarded, a Delta Air Lines employee noticed that
>his boarding pass, marked with SSSS, hadn't been cleared by the TSA. He was
>sent back to the security checkpoint.
>By the time he got screened and returned to the gate, the flight had
>departed. Delta offered a later flight, but his schedule was so tight he
>had to cancel the trip. Delta did refund the ticket, even though the
>airline said it was the TSA's mistake not to catch the screening code. TSA
>officials blamed Delta.
>TSA screeners often blame airlines, according to frequent travelers. Ask a
>screener why you got picked for screening, and they often say the airline
>does the selection and questions should be directed to the airline.
>But airlines say they shouldn't be blamed, since they are only running the
>TSA's programs, and the TSA's Ms. von Walter concurs. "I wouldn't go so far
>as to say we're blaming them," she said. "Perhaps some screeners are
>misinformed in those cases."
>She also says the TSA isn't sure why screening complaints have risen so
>sharply since August, although the agency says it may be the result of
>greater TSA advertising of its "contact center" (e-mail
>TSA-ContactCenter at or call 1-866-289-9673).
>If you do get picked, here is how it happened.
>The TSA requires airlines to pick 10% to 15% of travelers at random.
>Airlines can "de-select" a passenger picked at random, such as a child,
>officials say.
>In addition, the government's current passenger-profiling system, called
>Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS, picks out
>passengers. The system, which resides in or communicates with each
>airline's reservation computers, gives you a score based largely on how you
>bought your ticket. Airline officials say the TSA has changed the different
>weightings given various factors, and certain markets may have higher
>programmed rates for selectees.
>Passenger lists also are checked against the TSA's list of suspicious
>names, which has included rather common names and even names of U.S.
>Interestingly, airline gate agents who see suspicious-looking passengers
>can no longer flag them for security. Some ticket-counter agents did flag
>several hijackers for extra security on Sept. 11, 2001, and were praised
>for their work in the 9/11 Commission's final report. At the time, all that
>meant was the airline took precautions with the hijackers' checked luggage.
>But because of racial-discrimination concerns, airline officials aren't
>allowed to single out passengers for scrutiny; only TSA screeners can do
>If picked in advance by the computer system, your boarding pass gets marked
>some way to identify your "selectee" status. Some airlines print "SSSS" in
>a corner.
>When you show up at the checkpoint, you should be picked out as a selectee.
>The TSA counts on contractors checking boarding passes and driver's
>licenses to steer you to the selectee line, but that is also why screeners
>make travelers display boarding passes several times through the gauntlet.
>At some airports, the TSA also does one final check of boarding passes when
>you leave the security area -- to check again for selectees.
>Once checked, the TSA marks your boarding pass so that flight attendants or
>airline gate agents boarding planes know you got a thorough poking and
>The TSA says it hopes the frequency of secondary screening will decline
>when it gets its new profiling system in place. "Secure Flight" will use
>passenger records from airlines to, it is hoped, sniff out terrorists. The
>system will focus on the passenger and not simply how the ticket was
>bought. The TSA is testing comparing airline bookings against other
>commercially available information as well as government databases, which
>has raised privacy concerns. Current testing using historical airline data
>is supposed to end this month.
>R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
>The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
>44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
>"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
>[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
>experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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