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TSA Testing - My recent experience

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posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 12:06 PM
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Last week I found myself in Raleigh/Durham International Airport (RDU) being screened to board a flight to Baltimore, then on to Albany, NY. As a fairly regular business traveler, I am pretty familiar with the routine. I take my laptop and put it alone in a bin, then remove my shoes and jacket and place them in another bin. I then put those bins on the conveyor and wait for the TSA representative to wave me through the metal detector. My experience was a bit different, though on Monday, September 26th, 2005.

On this particular occasion as I was shuffling behind the crowd while sliding my recently filled bins ever nearer to the X-ray machine a TSA employee pulled a small black boxcutter from his pocket and tossed it into the bin containing my laptop. I looked at him rather oddly as if to ask, "what the hell are you doing?" He looked back and winked at me as if to say, "don't worry, this is all entirely normal." I proceeded through the metal detector like normal and waited for the X-ray technician's reaction. My bins passed through the X-ray machine without delay and upon exiting the machine, the X-ray technician said to the TSA screener who had planted the boxcutter, "take that thing out of there."

Test passed...mission accomplished, right?

I'm not so sure. There were a few things about that test that bothered me. First, though I made no real commotion, it would have been clear to anyone near the screening area that I was concerned about a foreign object being placed alongside my posessions in a screening bin. I wonder how much of cue that was to the X-ray technician. Second, the reaction on the part of the X-ray technician seemed to indicate that either the test was not a surprise or was not remotely difficult. It is the second scenario that I would like to further discuss.

I'm sure that to a seasoned or even rookie X-ray technician, laptops, for the most part, look quite similar on the monitor. Battery, hard drive, memory, LCD display and keyboard...all standard components which may vary in their orientation, but are all commonplace on all laptops. Then, lo and behold, laying in the bin right next to the laptop (protocol requires that not only should the traveler remove the laptop from its case for screening, but that the laptop should not have ANY ITEMS ACCOMPANYING IT IN THE BIN) is a boxcutter, plain as day. The mere fact that another item was in the bin alongside the laptop would be a dead giveaway as laptops must be placed in screening bins all on their own.

Frankly, I don't feel safe when it is painfully obvious that tests like these are designed to allow the X-ray technicians an opportunity for an easy PASS during live testing. If you want to test these guys ability to find hazardous items, you should HIDE THE ITEMS. Placing an item in a bin where it should not be to begin with is too obvious. Also, the entire event smacked of foreknowledge. The response to the detection of the item indicated that the X-ray screener had seen this item multiple times and could recognise it in an instant. This also does not indicate a safe testing protocol as a variety of "dummy" items should be used to keep screeners on their feet.

Has anyone else out there been the subject of a TSA test? If so, was it conducted more professionally, or are they "cooking the books" with respect to screener testing results?

Finally, how many of you ATS'ers are disgusted by such a blatantly weak effort to fortify our airport security?




posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 01:30 PM
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No one interested in this, eh?

Fair 'nuff.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 01:42 PM
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Originally posted by chaosrain
No one interested in this, eh?

Fair 'nuff.


Give it time. Most people are busy during the day. I tend to find late at night and weekends the best for more replies. Well at least that is the case in the UK.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 01:48 PM
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In todays atmosphere of hysteria and paranoia I would be concerned if someone "set me up" by thowing a box cutter into MY box.

Did the guy have a uniform on? I would carefully watch his movements and shout like hell if he suddenly disappeared as you went through the machine


However having a loose boxcutter in a box with the laptop is hardly threatening or suspicious looking.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 04:24 PM
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The guy who threw in the boxcutter was definitely a TSA guy. I almost mentioned it, but he was official and when I looked at him as if to say, "what the hell are you doing?" he winked and nodded at the X-ray technician. I also made sure that he pulled the boxcutter as it exited the machine.

I still think it was a bogus test, though.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 05:15 PM
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You're right; it was a "bogus" test. You have every right to not allow a screener (official looking or not) throw a foreign object, such as a box cutter, in your personal belongings. They have "professional" decoys going through security for this reason. Most of these guys are graduates of fast food prep school and barely qualified to operate a tv set--much less scanning equipment.

I can say this because I am a pilot, both airline and military, who has had to deal with the TSA's buffoonery for a long time; including being place on a "watch list" simply because someone attempted to use my name (a common one like Smith) to fraudulently travel on an airliner.

Your concerns are valid. I knew a flight instructor years ago who, while attempting to improve his student's preflighting abilites, placed a quarter in various places on the outside of the aircraft. It turned out his student became very good at finding quarters--not defects. He missed a fairly obvious problem (brake fluid leak beneath one of the wheels) which caused him to taxi into another aircraft after engine start.

My suggestion is to never let this happen again. You are not obligated to be a part of their testing procedures.

[edit on 10-10-2005 by Freedom_for_sum]



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 05:55 PM
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My suggestion is to never let this happen again. You are not obligated to be a part of their testing procedures.

No, but it wouldn't kill you to be apart of it, not everything we do in life is mandated by law.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 05:55 PM
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My experience with the TSA folks hasn't been that bad. I'm a relatively frequent business traveller and was once actually impressed by the X-ray operator. They scanned my laptop bag 2-3 times and each time pointed to one area with an object they couldn't identify. Eventually, they made me unpack it and identify all of the contents. Turns out (perhaps by accident) that the object that alarmed them was the jewelers screwdriver I had placed in the small pouch that contained my backup laptop harddrive. They let me keep it because I was "wearing glasses and the screwdriver could be used for that".
Either somebody had to be paying attention that day to pick this out of all the other stuff I had in there, or they were just busting my chops and had to have an excuse.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 08:46 PM
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Originally posted by Freedom_for_sum
My suggestion is to never let this happen again. You are not obligated to be a part of their testing procedures.



Originally posted by WestPoint23
No, but it wouldn't kill you to be apart of it, not everything we do in life is mandated by law.


That's not the issue. The problem is that these characters, by and large, aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. What if that guy, as a joke on or to test his friend at the machine throws a knife into your stuff. He gets distracted by some-other security related issue that takes him away from the area; and now your stuck explaining how this knife got into your belongings. You get detained while they clear up their self-imposed confusion and subsequently miss your flight. You wouldn't get any kind of apology. The bottom line is: the general public is not reponsible for "testing" these guys and therefore the TSA does not have the authority to deputize individual passengers for this kind of activity.



posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 08:53 PM
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Yeah it was a test but it was nothing official.
It was probably closer to a prank then anything important
Just something a bored supervisor did for no real reason.

Also kind of redundant when you consider that all X-ray machines have a built in test program that projects threat images on to the screen at random intervals called TIPS.
It runs constantly throughout the day projecting hundreds of images into bags tabulating how many times items are missed and how many times a screener marks a false positive.



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