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Former TSA Administrator Speaks

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the sees-the-writing-on-the-wall dept.

Transportation 196

phantomfive writes "Former TSA head Kip Hawley talks about how the agency is broken and how it can be fixed: 'The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple. ... the TSA's mission is to prevent a catastrophic attack on the transportation system, not to ensure that every single passenger can avoid harm while traveling. Much of the friction in the system today results from rules that are direct responses to how we were attacked on 9/11. But it's simply no longer the case that killing a few people on board a plane could lead to a hijacking. ...The public wants the airport experience to be predictable, hassle-free and airtight and for it to keep us 100% safe. But 100% safety is unattainable. Embracing a bit of risk could reduce the hassle of today's airport experience while making us safer at the same time."

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196 comments

Kip Hawley is an idiot. n/t (1, Insightful)

LanMan04 (790429) | about 2 years ago | (#39685293)

10 char lameness filter

In case you're all clueless... (4, Informative)

LanMan04 (790429) | about 2 years ago | (#39685355)

This is a reference:

In September 2006, in response to the new policies limiting the amounts of liquids and gels that passengers could carry on airplanes, Milwaukee resident Ryan Bird wrote "Kip Hawley is an Idiot" on a plastic bag given to passengers by airport security for those substances. As a result he claims he was detained and told that the First Amendment did not apply to security checkpoints.

Re:In case you're all clueless... (2, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#39685395)

This guy is not an idiot. Stupidity can be forgiven.

Kip Hawley is a TOOL.

Re:In case you're all clueless... (4, Insightful)

Ucklak (755284) | about 2 years ago | (#39685851)

The problem isn't Kip Hawley as much as it is Janet Napolitano. She is ineffective as as the head of the DHS. She is reactionary and not a visionary nor a leader. She was horrible as a governor, she is horrible as the head of the DHS. She needs to go somewhere and put her education to use instead of riding on the coattails of others who are also no good at their job.

Re:In case you're all clueless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685523)

At that point, humans should have abandoned air travel in the US, after all, humans are but "Ugly Bags of Mostly Water". If the people hadn't been trained into sheeple, the terrorists would never have even wasted their time, money and energy to use our fear, our planes, our pilot training etc etc against us, nor would we be continuing to trade freedoms for illusions of security.

Re:In case you're all clueless... (2)

yourpusher (161612) | about 2 years ago | (#39686359)

I've still got one of those, somewhere. Best TSA checkpoint reaction, when I used it? A smile and a nod.

Re:Kip Hawley is an idiot. n/t (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39686645)

Perhaps, but I don't have enough information to either support or refute that claim. I pretty much agree with everything he said above, however. Do you have anything to substantiate your claim? Would you care to share your reasoning and turn an equally idiotic post into something worth reading, or do you just want to sit in the kindergarten sandbox calling names?

Big crowds are targets (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39685311)

Let the experience of other countries (where terrorist attacks are unfortunately common) be a lesson here: big crowds are targets. The TSA's security checkpoints at airports, especially busy airports, create big crowds, and those crowds are not behind any sort of security. A terrorist who wanted to kill a big crowd of Americans could walk in to a major airport just before a holiday and kill hundreds of people without ever dealing with security.

The fact that it has not happened yet is an indication that airport security measures are not what is keeping terrorist at bay.

Re:Big crowds are targets (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685575)

American freedom is the target. In case you haven't noticed the United States of America is collasping into a facist dictatorship. The TSA has nothing to do about the security of the people.

Re:Big crowds are targets (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685601)

It has been tried here in Blighty albeit with mildly comic results ie. a burning terrorist being offered help from a police officer and fighting with him while onlookers screamed to "let him burn!" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Glasgow_International_Airport_attack

Re:Big crowds are targets (5, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#39685625)

Obvously the TSA-mentality "cure" for that problem would be to create a separate "pre-screening" screening, to make sure people aren't carrying bombs or bio-weapons into the primary screening waiting area. Problem solved. Safety achieved.

Re:Big crowds are targets (1)

Aerorae (1941752) | about 2 years ago | (#39685887)

Wrong. Kip Hawley was right when he said that this would merely shift terrorists' training focus to people on those pre-screened lists. It's a farce, yet another, that aims to merely make the ignorant masses "feel" safe. When the masses "feel" safe they praise on high their elected officials who "saved" them and "protected" them in their time of need, and REELECT them

and you can go overboard on anti-terrorism (4, Insightful)

durdur (252098) | about 2 years ago | (#39685683)

Also, we can learn from other countries that being attacked by terrorists does not mean you have to institute a police state, or go off and start a couple of unnecessary wars. We've spend many times the actual cost of the 9/11 attacks trying to protect ourselves from anything like it happening again. But as TFA implies, nobody's asking if the cost exceeds the benefit. And now we have a monstrous national security apparatus and a military-industrial complex more entrenched and extensive than ever before.

The U.K. had terrorist attacks for years, including the fairly horrendous one in London in 2005. But they haven't gone crazy about it, or at least not as crazy as the U.S. has.

Re:and you can go overboard on anti-terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685791)

Yes they have--video cameras on every corner, for a start

Re:and you can go overboard on anti-terrorism (3, Informative)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#39687017)

Why do you think there are CCTV cameras on every corner in the UK? That was the first response. Then they made the financial area of Londin a car free zone. Something that the Green parties had dreamed of doing but were ignored. Then we have the logging of every telephone call, SMS message, Email and visit to a website. Finally, we have the X-raying of everything including shoes.

Former ______ head says we fucked up (5, Insightful)

feedayeen (1322473) | about 2 years ago | (#39685315)

Gee, this is new, how many times have we seen officials make statements about this regarding any of the current 'War on ______' policies? Hey, how about you fix the damn thing before you had 'Former' amended onto your title.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (3, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#39685345)

When these people are in their former positions their job is to ensure that budget money keeps coming in, not to actually solve the problems the organizations were created to solve.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39685363)

The TSA was not created to solve problems, it was created to convince people that problems are being solved. Now that the TSA cannot go away, it has taken on the role of funneling tax dollars into corporations with connections in the government.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (5, Insightful)

quasius (1075773) | about 2 years ago | (#39685353)

Have you considered that trying to change things and becoming a "Former X" might be related?

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (5, Insightful)

iPaul (559200) | about 2 years ago | (#39685399)

It's not the individual so much as the process. If it were the fault of the individual, then we'd see some cases where the policies got fixed and other cases where the policies don't get fixed. Unfortunately, we see a lot more 'stay the course' simply because we don't have the kind of political environment that accepts new thinking or even modest amounts of 'risk' taking. That's the shame of the whole situation. We want people to bring forward solutions but it can't be solution 'X' because that's unpopular with voters, or solution 'Y' because the other party will crucify us, or solution 'K' because the company that makes the scanners has plants in key congressional districts, etc. So we're going to continue with the current, sub-optimal, likely counter-productive strategy. Make a change to the screening process and a terrorist attack happens, the first thing they'll rake you over the coals for is the change in the screening procedure and how that allowed the attack to happen. In part its the fault of the agency, in part it's the fault of congress, in part its the fault of a hyperactive media that focuses on trivialities and jumps to conclusions. Like you, the whole situation make me sick.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685493)

No, it is the fault of the apathetic voter who won't get up and get these bought and paid for politicians out of office. Unfortunately, we get what we deserve. We aren't willing to change it, so we get what we get.

Bought and paid politicians (1)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | about 2 years ago | (#39685819)

Which politicians can we vote into office that will make things any different? Folks blamed the Bush administration for excessive tightening of freedom -- and yet what has Obama done to lift those restrictions? Hope and change, right.

Re:Bought and paid politicians (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#39685889)

US constitution, and how it was born is a wonderful story you may wish to read sometime. I'm not even american, and I found it fascinating.

"How it was born" is also quite relevant to your question.

Re:Bought and paid politicians (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39686751)

We may be quickly marching in that direction, but we have not yet reached the point where Joe Average is willing to risk life and family to start another Revolution. I'm pretty fed up and disgusted with my government, but I don't want to forcibly overthrow it yet. I'm still hoping Americans will continue to wake up and start pressuring their elected representatives to start turning things around before we get *that* pissed off.

But you're right -- it *is* a fascinating story, and I think if more of my fellow citizens would have actually read it and LEARNED from it, we wouldn't be where we are today, sigh.

#1 issue is not the economy, nor the voter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686383)

The major problem is the way campaigns are funded. When was the last time you donated money to a political organization? Most people reading this will probably say "Never" and even if they did it would pale in comparison to the donations by a handful of multinational companies. Until this is addressed we'll continue to see politicians elected to solve a problem followed by them exempting their sponsors from any 'solutions'.

While I'd love to say that we're getting a taste of our own medicine, it is patently untrue. No system this broken can realistically be called a democracy until politicians solve the problems assigned to them without such a direct conflict of interests.

This problem is solvable by politicians because, for them, only a handful have access to massive amounts of donations. If there were a usable public alternative most candidates would hop on that right away to compete with candidates that did have more sponsors. Until there are some major media outlets magnifying campaign funding or there is money to push politicians in the right direction, it will continue to be this way.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (5, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39685745)

In the article, he claims he tried:

I arrived in 2005 with naive notions of wrangling the organization into shape, only to discover the power of the TSA's bureaucratic momentum and political pressures. By the time of my arrival, the agency was focused almost entirely on finding prohibited items. Constant positive reinforcement on finding items like lighters had turned our checkpoint operations into an Easter-egg hunt. When we ran a test, putting dummy bomb components near lighters in bags at checkpoints, officers caught the lighters, not the bomb parts....I wanted to reduce the amount of time that officers spent searching for low-risk objects, but politics intervened at every turn. Lighters were untouchable, having been banned by an act of Congress.

We did succeed in getting some items (small scissors, ice skates) off the list of prohibited items.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (1)

Xacid (560407) | about 2 years ago | (#39686525)

Did he miss the part about him being the fucking BOSS? Jesus. Have some balls.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (3, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39686603)

He's not the boss. He has a boss too, the president and congress. Like he said,

politics intervened at every turn. Lighters were untouchable, having been banned by an act of Congress.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686613)

He has a boss too, and that boss has bosses etc.

The bosses at the top are chosen by the voters (assuming non-Diebolded elections).

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39686781)

Did you read the part where he said lighters were banned by an act of Congress? Even the CEO answers to the shareholders.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39686959)

Here's the bottom line:

Congress and The Bureaucracy.

Happens every time in the US. See, for example, problems with Medicare, the FAA, NASA, FDA, the Forest Service and likely every other agency in the Beltway.

You have politicians with financial oversight, limited intelligence, very limited concentration and the powerful need to get reelected. You have bureaucracies who have really are examples of the undead. You can't kill them, no matter how hard you try. They grow and reproduce no matter how much you try to control it. The only way to grapple with the problem is to cut off their food supply. Since they are symbiotically attached to Congress, whose job it is to control the food supply - that option isn't available unless you're Ron Paul (and batshit insane about pretty much everything else).

The big mistake was creating the DHS in the first place. That was a clusterfuck of the very first order. Once you've created monsters like that there is no turning back. Godzilla is going to trample the countryside.

Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39687125)

Yup. That was pretty much what I was saying above -- you can blame Hawley for not turning things around during his tenure at TSA, but I really don't think there was much he could do to reroute the agency. It was an abomination from the word go, and it was going to take a lot more leverage than he had to make a difference.

Re:Former ______ head says we fucked up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685755)

The 'fix' is already in. The administrator is a figurehead, a mannequin for the media, nothing more. The real person(s) in charge is not public knowledge. Any attempt to actually administrate will be met with immediate discharge, or worse.

Don't fix it, abolish it. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685337)

Please get rid of it.

Not only is it expensive, it is total theater.

It's useless and doesn't help anybody or anything but TSA agents and the companies selling cancerous porno x-ray machines.

Re:Don't fix it, abolish it. (5, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 2 years ago | (#39685459)

I agree. Even in 2001, more people die per mile in car crashes than in air related accidents (Including all those in the towers with 0 miles) but because it is so unpleasant, more people drive instead of flying. If you do the math, you see that TSA is killing people.

Re:Don't fix it, abolish it. (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#39685977)

In September 2001, more people in the USA died as a result of road accidents than as a result of terrorist action. Imagine what would have happened if all of the money spent on the TSA had been spent on road safety instead...

Re:Don't fix it, abolish it. (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39687035)

In September 2001, more people in the USA died as a result of road accidents than as a result of terrorist action. Imagine what would have happened if all of the money spent on the TSA had been spent on road safety instead...

Before you get in the vehicle, you would have to present government approved ID. Once in the seat, the driver would have to blow into a breathalyzer, give a urine sample for drug analysis and have their EKG examined by a board certified cardiologist before one could start the car. If that was successful, everyone would have to put on their helmets, fireproof jump suit, boot and gloves and then strap into a four point harness.

The car wouldn't start until you went through a computer controlled checklist. All personal electronics would be stored in a locked safe that stays sealed while the car is in motion. Should you be lucky enough to get this far, the vehicle would travel no faster than 35 miles per hour (and none of this kilometers crap) and go no more than 10 miles before you would have to ask permission to go further (which can take more than 24 hours in some cases).

Careful watch you ask for, you just might get it....

Re:Don't fix it, abolish it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686143)

Truely, it is unfixable.

The terrorists have won.

Spot on, except for TSA mission (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#39685347)

The thing is the TSA should NOT be the ones preventing a "catastrophic attack on the transportation system". That should be the CIA, even the military!!

The TSA should, at best, be simply a light wall to keep things reasonable as far as who goes on a plane. That is it. Thus if you think about it, the TSA really has NO proper role. Not at the level they are at anyway - security would be better managed by airport managed security.

But you say, what about the centralized no-fly list? Well what about it? Who cares who flies? That list has done WAY more harm to innocent people than it has ever helped. Even if we let someone who truly is a terrorist on, it doesn't matter. Either they fly somewhere, or the try to hijack the plane and get mauled by passengers, or possibly they get something by regional security and blow up a plane. Oh well; we lived under that system just fine for decades.

Re:Spot on, except for TSA mission (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685467)

The way I understand it, TSA is basically an immunity shield for airports, so if something goes wrong, TSA is liable, and not the airport and their security.

Re:Spot on, except for TSA mission (5, Insightful)

iPaul (559200) | about 2 years ago | (#39685469)

So, the TSA was formed, in part, because after 9/11 we found out that many of the airports relied on contractors that were borderline. Little to no training. Enormous turnover. Effectively no ability to arrest or detain people. Subject to pressure from the airlines, etc. So someone had, what was probably a good idea, hire people as full time, highly trained screeners that could server or coordinate with law enforcement. Sure, it might cost a little more in the short run, but less than if people viewed airlines as unsafe and refused to fly. Much like the movie "The Fly" that idea morphed into the mess that we have now. With congressmen saying that "agent" should not be used to refer to a TSA worker because that demeans other law enforcement agents. But let's say, for sake of argument, that the Obama administration tries to do something about it. "He's soft on terror" or "He's making us less safe," or "He's helping the terrorists". Likewise, if Romney wins and his administration tries to do something: "He's in the pocket of the airlines," or "He's making us less safe because it's costing the airlines money." Those are both ridiculous claims, but they will be made.

Re:Spot on, except for TSA mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686349)

TSA has effectively no ability to arrest or detain people as well, although they try to fake it quite often.

Re:Spot on, except for TSA mission (1)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#39685743)

Homeland Security in general, and the TSA in particular, is a jobs program. Given that some have a fundamentalist belief in the value of work, instead of paying them a few hundred dollars a month in support, and the food and rent asstance, we are paying 2-4X that amount to have then stand around the airport and harass people. Admittedly it might be more expensive to do the job right, pay well trained profilers to observe passengers, but then it would be doing some good. This would be light wall.

There is little that the TSA can do to prevent someone from exploding plane. Hijacking, in the classic sense, is pretty much a proposition without legs. When you have a planeload of people assuming they are dead already, the idea that you are going to make it to Cuba or where is not going to happen.

Re:Spot on, except for TSA mission (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#39686351)

The TSA as a jobs program is awesome in principle except that we should be paying them to do something useful instead of what they're doing. You know, like patrolling the thousands of miles of fence around airports, driving up and down the tens of thousands of miles of railroad tracks to watch for people planting bombs, installing crossing guards at railroad intersections, staffing suicide prevention hotlines to reduce the number of rail jumpers, screening applicants for visas, driving the border fences to watch for tunnels and other illegal smuggling across our borders, performing safety inspections of trucks at every weigh station (and having all the weigh stations open instead of just certain ones), performing random safety inspections on aircraft, and so on.

There are so many things the government could do to make travel safer. Why is it that they keep burning all this money and all these resources on things that won't?

Re:Spot on, except for TSA mission (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39687091)

Sounds like you're advocating a police state there, buddy. Maybe it's better that they just check our undies.

No-fly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685357)

...and with that comment, Mr. Hawley makes the USA no-fly list.

As you were, citizen.

Hijacking is still possible. (4, Informative)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#39685381)

Weapons have never been necessary to take control of an airliner. They just make it a little easier.

Re:Hijacking is still possible. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685437)

successfully hijacking an airplane today is very unlikely. Now that is has be established that being hijacked means death in a crash there is not much that can prevent a plane full of passengers scared for their life from killing the hijackers no matter how many weapons they might manage to get on board

Re:Hijacking is still possible. (1)

Xacid (560407) | about 2 years ago | (#39686555)

My favorite changes due to 9/11? Cockpit doors and explosive detection. That's it. That's all we needed to "beat" terrorism on that front. Curiously - explosive detection isn't even a priority it seems - but, as the article alludes to, things like lighters are. Go figured.

Re:Hijacking is still possible. (1)

mianne (965568) | about 2 years ago | (#39686889)

I agree 100% with reinforced cockpit doors. I don't think all that much has been done with regard to explosive detection: The puffer tests are time consuming and therefore not practical for mass scanning. WBI machines may or may not detect explosives, as several recent articles have pointed out. Add regular explosive-trained K9 patrols throughout the terminal, and this would be quite effective--There would be some false positives, but probably far fewer of them than the "no-fly list" generates. Use a puffer test as a follow-up to a positive, and you'll probably screen out 99.5% of explosives with minimal hassle.

The other biggest change on 9/11 is that passengers and crew will no longer cooperate with a hijacker even if resisting means certain death! Really no chance for most any disorderly conduct for that matter--even from flight attendants or pilots as recent stories prove. The TSA has had absolutely diddly-squat to do with this change as United Flight 93 proved.

Keep the reinforced cockpit doors, add explosives-trained canines, and restore all other aspects of airport security to the level they were on 9/10/01,

Don't see it happening (4, Interesting)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 2 years ago | (#39685389)

I really do not see any chance of the suggestions in this article happening. All it would take is one suicidal terrorist whose goal is simply to bring down a plane and kill all its passengers to scuttle it. I do not think the American public will view this is "acceptable", especially if it turns out that what brought down the plane in my mythical scenario was something that the current screening methods would likely have caught.

I really do not know what to think of the article's suggestions on liquids. I've read where various chemistry experts essentially say that terrorists cannot construct liquid bombs that will work at all without having to basically use chemistry equipment, ice baths, lengthy mixing sessions that no one could possibly ignore, etc. Yet here the former TSA head insists that there is a very real risk here. Who is right? Does the former TSA head know something that chemistry experts have somehow missed? Or is the former TSA head working on crap information? I sure don't know but that's one question I'd like resolved.

My experience has been that the people who bitch the most about screening are those who travel the least. I'm not saying that there aren't regular travelers who don't complain. Not at all. But in my circle of acquaintances, the people I know who just completely and utterly cannot talk about this subject without getting completely bent out of shape about it simply do not travel by plane. One of them hasn't been on a plane in more than 5 years. He's likely to travel by plane less than 5 more times in his lifetime. The other guy I know actually gets the most worked up about this. He hasn't been on a plane since before 9/11 and he is extremely unlikely to ever travel by plane again in his life, yet this whole subject of TSA screenings is some kind of hot button issue to him.

The reason we don't travel is the TSA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685539)

It has been nearly 10 years since I was on an airplane, until last week.

I drive across the US to avoid those idiots.

I am currently on a business trip, had to fly. The moronic security provided by TSA is a complete outrage : intrusive, ineffective. "Your papers please" , a proto-Gestapo.

Re:The reason we don't travel is the TSA (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#39686025)

Nothing 'proto' about it. My wife simply doesnt understand why i wont subject myself to it.

Re:Don't see it happening (4, Insightful)

elewton (1743958) | about 2 years ago | (#39685581)

This vegetarian kept talking about how bad abattoirs are and the ethics and dangers of intensive meat production, and I was like, "Dude, you don't even eat meat!"

Re:Don't see it happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685583)

hmm lets see who to ask for advice on chemistry? on the left a chemist with experience and an actually degree in chemistry. on the right a man in a blue uniform who makes his living say stuff i dangerous

only a politician could think that is a difficult choice

Re:Don't see it happening (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#39686429)

I've read where various chemistry experts essentially say that terrorists cannot construct liquid bombs that will work at all without having to basically use chemistry equipment, ice baths, lengthy mixing sessions that no one could possibly ignore, etc. Yet here the former TSA head insists that there is a very real risk here. Who is right? Does the former TSA head know something that chemistry experts have somehow missed?

The TSA are gambling on no-one within the US having done enough high-school chemistry to make it through an episode of Breaking Bad.

Any 13-year-old high school chemistry pupil ought to be able to tell you exactly why mixing nail polish remover and hair bleach isn't the same as mixing pure acetone and (reasonably) pure hydrogen peroxide.

Re:Don't see it happening (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39686895)

I really do not know what to think of the article's suggestions on liquids. I've read where various chemistry experts essentially say that terrorists cannot construct liquid bombs that will work at all without having to basically use chemistry equipment, ice baths, lengthy mixing sessions that no one could possibly ignore, etc. Yet here the former TSA head insists that there is a very real risk here. Who is right? Does the former TSA head know something that chemistry experts have somehow missed? Or is the former TSA head working on crap information? I sure don't know but that's one question I'd like resolved.

I'll trust a chemist over a manager any day of the week, when the question is "is it or is it not possible to create a liquid explosive on an airliner." YMMV.

My experience has been that the people who bitch the most about screening are those who travel the least. I'm not saying that there aren't regular travelers who don't complain. Not at all. But in my circle of acquaintances, the people I know who just completely and utterly cannot talk about this subject without getting completely bent out of shape about it simply do not travel by plane....yet this whole subject of TSA screenings is some kind of hot button issue to him.

Granted, you said "I'm not saying that there aren't regular travelers who don't complain..." but nevertheless, you are still making it sound like the people complaining are those who have no vested interest. I, on the other hand, flew pretty regularly but stopped traveling shortly after TSA tightened security too much in 11/2010. I haven't been on an airplane since 01/2011, and if there had been an AIT scanner at Anchorage Int'l (I refuse to call it "Ted Stevens Int'l Airport"), I would have skipped that trip as well. My family used to go on vacation by air every other year or so. I used to go to various training and/or job-related events at irregular intervals, but roughly about once a year. I had every intention of taking my family to Hawaii last year, but now we are thinking of buying an RV instead because I have vowed that my wife and daughter will *NEVER* be scoped-and-groped by a pervert at the airport so long as I am alive. I know several people who have made different choices, but IMHO, most people are sheep. I, on the other hand, am a cranky, rebellious, anti-authoritarian &$^#!!:)

Re:Don't see it happening (1)

mianne (965568) | about 2 years ago | (#39687141)

I've never been a heavy business air-traveler. However, I regularly would fly to see relatives, go on vacation, etc. Figure 2-6 flights per year on average.

I've only flown round-trip once post-TSA, and never post AIT/WBI. My criteria for going on vacation now is that our destination must be within easy driving distance. Thankfully mountains, lakes, beaches, & casinos are accessible, so we are able to get away to different locales. As most of my extended family lives ~2000 miles from me, it has kept me from visiting on holidays, or attending weddings and funerals.

I have no fear of flying, heck I would volunteer to visit the ISS or the moon! I'm not terribly concerned about hijackings or other terrorist activities--I am aware that I'm far more likely to die driving to the airport than by an airplane crash--accidental or not. But I *refuse* to be irradiated/strip-searched/groped by someone who applied for a job on a pizza box.

So he was incompetent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685435)

Let me get this straight. He seems to get it now, but he didn't do anything to fix it when he had the chance. WTF?

Or did he only realize how !#%!!-up it was until he had to travel as an ordinary citizen?

alot more realistic solution (5, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#39685457)

is to accept the fact that terrorism is extremely effective even if it fails. it builds police states and makes everyday things like travel difficult at the expense of the target nation. it forces them to divert energy and resources into possibilities and not actualities.

a better solution is to stop this "war on terror" crap and pay closer attention to what it is exactly we do that leaves a group of people so determined with nothing left to lose that they will kill thousands of your innocent civillians.
should you consider Osama Bin Laden the cause of the terrorist attacks against america, here are his demands: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver [guardian.co.uk]
now, while some of them are outlandish so are some promises from a politician seeking to gain or maintain an elected office. and so to have our demands on the middle eastern region been for the past 30 years. regime change, cia government overthrow, perpetually cheap oil, proxy wars, military bases at the expense of the indigenous citizens, propping up dictatorial regimes and the list goes on. But Bin Laden asked for some rather reasonable things as well that we could have done.
1. stop treating israel like some sort of king among theives. if their only justification for their city is rooted in religious text, thats fine for them. They should not have the right to force that opinion on other nations however and by virtue of their creation should at least attempt to get along with them instead of bombing the hell out of them semi-annually. the bombs, helicopters, and american artillery are what hes complaining about. our complicit enforcement of the palestinian 'warsaw ghetto' could probably be eliminated and save the tax payers a few billion dollars a year.

another quote, "You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of you international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world." Well, yeah. The carter doctrine sort of mandates we do that. our free market policy at the hands of the plutocracy has become more reliant on war as a revenue source and as a big stick lately, and we could probably reign that in.

he complains about our sanctions against iraq, how we support countries like egypt and syria despite the fact they routinely murder their own people. the most contentious place in the middle east for alot of muslims is jerusalem, and we stuck a goddamn embassy there.
im not saying the guys a doctoral scholar here; the rest of his argument is based largely on the same religious crap our evangelicals push. Im just saying we could have done maybe 25 things in the middle east differently after the 9/11 attacks that would have negated the strip searches, pat downs, border searches, and other security theater that are killing the "land of the free."

Re:alot more realistic solution (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#39685681)

I somewhat agree with you; but I don't buy the crap answer that 'the west' is AT ALL responsible for the horrible lives most arabs have to lead. they are kept back, kept ignorant and kept aggrivated by their religious leaders and also by their country leaders.

their religion is the failing point. it is not compatible with the modern age and this is 100% of the problem.

blaming 'the west' for poor treatment is a bullshit phone excuse.

but of course, religion is a sacred cow (lol) and so you can't just come out and say 'stop being so medieval!'. that may cause the conversation to wander a bit close to home; and we all KNOW that that won't be acceptable discourse.

once islam modernizes (sometime in the next few hundred years, if we are lucky) then we can expect to have rational discussions with people from that region and belief system.

unless major changes come in their society, nothing will improve.

islam is a cancer; one of the worst. its fairy tales are quite harmful to non-believers and this is the cause of ALL our 'terrorist' problems. the concept that muslims MUST take over the world is a basic belief that is deeply held and until that believe is eliminated, nothing significant will change.

Re:alot more realistic solution (3, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 2 years ago | (#39686075)

their religion is the failing point. it is not compatible with the modern age and this is 100% of the problem.

You added an extraneous "their". Religion is not compatible with the modern age, and it is a huge problem.

Re:alot more realistic solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685857)

a better solution is to stop this "war on terror" crap and pay closer attention to what it is exactly we do that leaves a group of people so determined with nothing left to lose that they will kill thousands of your innocent civillians.

Who the fuck do you think you are? They are psychotic assholes bent on world domination and hate of everyone that isn't them. Don't blame us, blame them!

Re:alot more realistic solution (1)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about 2 years ago | (#39686707)

While I agree that US diplomacy has been problematic, I don't agree that the proper response to a terrorist killing a few thousand people is to meet his demands just to placate him. If that was how justice worked, then we need to start buying yachts for the murderers we've locked up in prison.

Kip Hawley still an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685489)

The public wants 100% safety? I think most of us know very well indeed we can't have that. In fact, if we stop and think about it, "safer than driving a car" we already have, indeed already had before 9/11, and that wasn't changed either way by the TSA. I think we can safely do without them. The resulting financial windfall could be used in many ways that would improve our daily lives including making us safer in real ways. Or simply to pay off some debts and give the economy a whirl. For recall that all security spending is overhead, it doesn't buy us much. If all the economy did was "security services", everybody'd starve. I think I'd rather have a shoe event horizon than a security event horizon, thank you. Better yet, no event horizon. Let's go back to do things that make the world better, instead of "safer", for which read "hassled witless".

Media response (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | about 2 years ago | (#39685507)

Before proposed change: The TSA is a broken agency, as every day thousands of Americans endure our broken security system...why isn't anyone in Washington working for the American people instead of the TSA bearuacracy ? After proposed change, first time someone gets a hangnail because of lax security Today, the TSA found itself under serious criticism from all sides, as it became clear that the lack of oversight by the agency has led to a hangnail on a passenger. Politicians in Washington are promsing hearings to look into this. Says Pundit Gasbag "it is clear that the TSA dropped the ball on this, and as a result, thousands of American lives are at risk every day"

Re:Media response (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39687007)

Says Pundit Gasbag "it is clear that the TSA dropped the ball on this, and as a result, thousands of American lives are at risk every day"

Therein lies the inherent problem: we don't teach, nor do we practice, critical thinking. Consequently, when Pundit Gasbag says such blatantly ridiculous tripe, we don't have the ability to dissect his statement and reject it because it is so obviously false; instead, we take it at face value.

When was the last time a fed agency was 'fixed'? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685521)

History suggests that is nearly impossible.

It is very difficult to turn a corporation around. Corporations are much more in contact with reality, and the bottom line controls everything, but corporate cultures, group think, general dithering can nevertheless take down big corporations. Yahoo seems like the latest example.

Federal agencies respond to political reality. Chertoff is still making money from scanners, so they will buy scanners, no matter how much radiation they emit. Chertoff has major political influence. TSA has political clout. It takes a lot of votes to overcome political clout. Until a lot of Congresscritters are threatened with being un-elected, TSA won't change.

Better qoutes (5, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39685545)

Here are what I thought were better quotes from the article:

it's simply no longer the case that killing a few people on board a plane could lead to a hijacking. Never again will a terrorist be able to breach the cockpit simply with a box cutter or a knife. The cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers, flight crews and air marshals would intervene.

I wanted to reduce the amount of time that officers spent searching for low-risk objects, but politics intervened at every turn. Lighters were untouchable, having been banned by an act of Congress. And despite the radically reduced risk that knives and box cutters presented in the post-9/11 world, allowing them back on board was considered too emotionally charged for the American public. We did succeed in getting some items (small scissors, ice skates) off the list of prohibited items.

He has a list of five things he suggests to improve the TSA:
1. No more banned items
2. Allow all liquids
3. Give TSA officers more flexibility and rewards for initiative, and hold them accountable
4. Eliminate baggage fees
5. Randomize security

Re:Better qoutes (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#39686455)

Allow all liquids

Awesome. Now I can carry a napalm canister and a loaded assault rifle when I fly instead of having to ship it by ground freight. That will make travel much more convenient. And a canister of VX, too, just in case I need it when I get where I'm going. And that full can of gasoline for my lawnmower.

I sincerely hope he didn't mean all liquids. There are some things that simply should not be allowed on aircraft, yet if legal, you just know that somebody would be stupid enough to carry them on. Now eliminating the ridiculous quantity limits and the requirement that you take them out of the bags for screening might be a good idea.

P.S. In case your sarcasm detector is defective, I live in Northern California, and therefore do not own a lawnmower.

Re:Better qoutes (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39686643)

I believe you can already carry assault rifles through the air, you just need to check them in. I'm not sure about ammo, though.

I sincerely hope he didn't mean all liquids.

You know, it would be nice if there were a place you could go to check what he actually meant. We could call this hypothetical site something convenient, like, "The article." Yeah, the article. And if there were such a thing, it might HAVE A QUOTE LIKE THIS:

Aside from obvious weapons capable of fast, multiple killings—such as guns, toxins and explosive devices—it is time to end the TSA's use of well-trained security officers as kindergarten teachers to millions of passengers a day. The list of banned items has created an "Easter-egg hunt" mentality at the TSA. Worse, banning certain items gives terrorists a complete list of what not to use in their next attack. Lighters are banned? The next attack will use an electric trigger.

Re:Better qoutes (1)

dkf (304284) | about 2 years ago | (#39686921)

I'm not sure about ammo, though.

I believe ammunition has been banned by airlines for a long time as being too damn dangerous. Even a small likelihood of it going off and making holes in the thin wall of the aircraft hold is judged to be too much.

So buy some once you arrive or have your supplies shipped separately.

Re:Better qoutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686845)

I'm surprised to hear such sense out of him. Going by his comments in the recent Economist debate featuring Kip Hawley and Bruce Schneier [economist.com] , I would have assumed that he wasn't just unwilling, but unable to do a rational cost-benefit analysis. The mindset seemed completely alien to him.
Perhaps he just had no plausible arguments in that vein, being designated as he were to argue the TSA's case.

Reinforced Cockpit Doors? (5, Insightful)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#39685567)

As far as I remember, a proposal to install lockable, steel-reinforced cockpit doors in airliners was floating around well before September 11th ever happened. Because airlines didn't want to pay for these doors (they would have to be custom manufactured), and didn't want the extra weight of these doors added to their planes (profits, profits, profits), there was literally nothing preventing the 9/11 hijackers from taking over 4 different airliners on that day. Instead of making air-travel hell for everybody, why not make airliners themselves more secure, by simple measures like installing lockable, reinforced cockpit doors?

Re:Reinforced Cockpit Doors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685861)

*Non* possum.

Et in Slasdotto recte scribere debes; sinon, barbari vicerunt.

Haec "banana" quid sit? Nunquam talia in nostris latifundiis vidi. Americanum quidquid?

[Tanquam "anonymus" haec scripsi, quia moderatores (ut barbaros) valde timeo.]

Re:Reinforced Cockpit Doors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686323)

You'd look much more clever if your Latin were actually correct and didn't likely come from Google Translate.

Re:Reinforced Cockpit Doors? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#39686087)

If you'd read the article, you would have seen this quote:

it's simply no longer the case that killing a few people on board a plane could lead to a hijacking. Never again will a terrorist be able to breach the cockpit simply with a box cutter or a knife. The cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers, flight crews and air marshals would intervene.

Terrorism won; we sacrificed freedom for safety (5, Insightful)

ziggy_az (40281) | about 2 years ago | (#39685579)

I said it back in '01 and I'll repeat it now. By giving up our freedom in the name of security, we have allowed the terrorists to prevail. Pursue them. Hunt them down. Deal with those who have harbored them as enemies of the US. But we should never have relinquished a single liberty for the sake of security.

Benjamin Franklin said it best:
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Franklin's Contributions to the Conference on February 17 (III) Fri, Feb 17, 1775

RTFA, not so bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685621)

I do agree with some points in the article, but one stuck out like a sore thumb:

-ELIMINATE BAGGAGE FEES-
Because people are so worried about being dinged for baggage, they make the security lines longer by having more stuff to check.

In my opinion, the fees should actually be on the carry-on, not the checked luggage, or just outright charge all luggage by weight and discourage the morons from packing so much crap to begin with.

Point of interest.
New luggage, and lockable luggage needs to be made of of a specific material and packed a certain way for it not to be "flagged" and hand-examined.
Luggage should be designed so that instead of being 'sandwich' where stuff is layered, it's instead compartmentalize like dresser-drawers in leg-brick type configurations. Make your luggage one solid piece that can be individually sent through the scanning machine with a cable connecting all the bricks do they don't get lost. If all luggage is the same size, it makes it a lot easier to automate. If the TSA opens any luggage, it must be tagged by who opened it. Take ownership of molesting other peoples stuff.

The most embarrassing part of the TSA bull****, are the people who are obviously pedophiles or perverts who search babies or fondle people. This **** needs to stop post-haste. These aren't well-trained people, these are 10$/hr McJobbers who happened to find a "better paying ****ty job"

Why does no one believe this when in charge? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 years ago | (#39685627)

It's weird. When they're in charge they never have this opinion or at least never act on it. people from the outside say this and they say we're naive or ill informed. Then when they get out of office they start agreeing with the very people they had previously said were naive.

Wtf?

I can't wait till Eric Holder steps down... he'll suddenly spill the beans on fast and furious and etc (I know, different department but same difference)... anyway...

Food for thought the next time one of these bozos tells everyone they're naive. Just wait a couple years and he'll agree. Conveniently after his opinion no longer matters...

Let's give them more money! (4, Interesting)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about 2 years ago | (#39685637)

I say the deserve another billion/yr because, afterall, look at all the terrorism they've stopped just this week! [tsa.gov]

Finding a legally registered, unloaded, gun belonging to a law abiding (if forgetful) citizen does not count as stopping terrorism. Not to mention that all of these objects are things that would easily be caught by standard X-rays. The TSA has NEVER stopped a terrorist. Not one. In the years since 9-11 any terrorist activity was either stopped well before they got to the airport, or they actually got on the plane and the attempt failed. But I guess the TSA needs to brag about something to justify their existence, so they point out all the absent minded people they've detained for forgetting about something dangerous in their bag.

Terrorism is stopped by law enforcement work outside of the airport. If a terrorist plot made it that far without being discovered, you've already failed and you need to move farther up the chain to figure out what went wrong and how it could have been foiled sooner. In terms of value for our dollars, the TSA is a huge waste.

It's always the 'former' admins that speak up (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#39685691)

Over and over again we hear from ex-bosses etc. Well, for one thing the TSA won't ever be 'fixed'. It is evil by its very nature. It must be abolished. Which, of course won't happen either because nobody will vote for a politician that will do the job. Bling wins every time, and that's that.

Here are some rough numbers (5, Insightful)

XB-70 (812342) | about 2 years ago | (#39685705)

This year, the TSA is requesting 8.2 Billion dollars. In the past five (5) years, the TSA has made some 1,035 arrests. Approximately 30% of those were related to clear immigration violations and had nothing to do with security. If we use today's annual budget number, multiply it by five and divide it into the remainder of the arrests, we get a figure of approximately $53,000,000. This is extremely rough math. Give or take $5,000,000 either way, we are looking at a price of around $50,000,000 per arrest. I don't know about you, but I thank that's extremely expensive. Swirl in the unbelievable cost in TIME for each passensger to screened and you have a serious net drain on the economy. The question becomes not can we have 100% security but, as Mr. Hawley states, what will be the ACCEPTABLE level of security that will be a reasonable balance between risk and cost?

Re:Here are some rough numbers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686389)

In your $50M, you didn't account for all the time the passengers wasted waiting, waiting, and more waiting at the airport. The real cost is even higher.

TSA (Homeland Security) is the New Prohibition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39685827)

As in the US, like other countries, the period of 1920 to 1933 marks the Prohibition Period of alcohol (see wikipedia). There was the 18th ammendment to the US constitution, Al Capone, J. Edger Hoover and the FBI, Temperance Movements, The Great Depression, and the madness finally ended with the 21st ammendment to the US constition in 1933.

Given this as a guide I suspect that TSA's and Homeland Security's days are numbered, only not short enough. One of the points about Prohibition in the US is that Congress, i.e. those represenatives of Congress in 1920, and the State Legislature delegates who voted for it in the run-up, were gone by 1930. And that is how the madness of Prohibition in the US ended.

This gives us a time frame for when the New Prohibition madness, TSA (and Homeland Security) will end: 2015. This is something to look forward to.

the TSA does not need fixing (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#39685915)

It needs to be put to sleep, its a horrid waste of money causing nothing but headache and problems for each and every person traveling in the USA and our gains has been about the same net effect as elephant repellant

Procedures enforced by crooks are useless (2)

e9th (652576) | about 2 years ago | (#39685919)

Just today we hear of another TSA screener busted, [nbcdfw.com] this time for stealing iPads. How hard would it be to find one who would happily pass anything at all through his checkpoint if the price was right?

maybe used trenchant insights a wee bit earlier (2)

adoarns (718596) | about 2 years ago | (#39685929)

Add Hawley to the list of people for whom wisdom (or the audacity to voice it) came too late in their careers to make any difference.

Don't care what TSA does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39686079)

We no longer fly or holiday in the United States. Our money goes to Mexico, Central/South America, and Europe.

You can't change who you are (3, Insightful)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 2 years ago | (#39686109)

The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach

Considering the TSA is not even a decade old and is fraught with issues from top to bottom -- we'd do well to pay attention to these indicators and end the TSA. It is a failure that has served no useful purpose other than act as Security Theatre and subject law abiding Americans to indignities. Once a Company or Organization develops a mindset or culture, it is near impossible to change that. It's too late to change the TSA, and it's most likely that the TSA does not want to change.

I agree with what I've read so far... (1)

jemenake (595948) | about 2 years ago | (#39687131)

I've only read half of the article as of last night (before it showed up on /.), but I'm in agreement with what I've read so far. For some time, I've been telling people that, with the simple addition of lockable cockpit doors, we've reduced the maximum number of people a terrorist can kill with an airplane from 3,000 per plane to about 100 or so. I think it's myopic to spend billions chasing after that last 100. We accept 100 casualties all the time (that many die in car accidents every day. That many die of heart disease every hour... and of cancer every hour).

Since there are more techie types here, I guess I can use the analogy of software profilers (I can 't use this example on lay-people, unfortunately). After you profile the execution of your software, you direct your efforts toward the routines which will get you great gains with just a small improvement in the actual code (like the routines which are called a zillion times). But you don't obsess over that one routine; you improve it how you can and then move on to other targets.

So, okay... lockable cockpit doors. Yay! We reduced the number of expected casualties by 97%. Now, can we direct our efforts toward better cancer screening? Or improvements in highway safety? Or something which is killing *thousands* of times more Americans than hijackings?
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