posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 12:06 PM
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?