This Site Has Reached 1 Million Views

About 3 months after starting this site, I told myself I couldn’t stop blogging until I reached one million views. I figured that would mean I would be at this site for at least 3 years. One million views was to me and this site what California was to the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. When days came around when I really didn’t feel like writing about the goddamned TSA anymore (after working a job that you dislike, there definitely comes a point at which you say “The last thing I want to do is think about that job”), I would tell myself, “Well, we can’t stop. We’ve got to make it out to 1-million-hits.”

Tonight, with the 1 million mark reached less than 1.5 years after first clicking publish on this site, I have decided that I am going to be taking a break from this blog for a while.  All along, I envisioned Taking Sense Away, post-anonymous period, as a place where I would begin relaying specific anecdotes that I experienced during my 6 years of employment with the Transportation Security Administration at O’Hare airport in Chicago. However, I have now realized that it would be silly to begin dropping that information here, because, all along, my ultimate goal has been to write a book based on my experiences at the TSA.

I am a writer, first and foremost. Writing has been my true passion since the age of 7. Really, I identify myself more closely with my fellow contributors at McSweeney’s than I do with the TSA. It has been that way for a long time. I have very little in common with the average TSA employee, or with the average TSA-hater, for that matter. My days and nights at the TSA were spent dreaming about the fantastic possibilities of literary bliss; possibilities that materialized ghost-like each day (Xanadu mirage of “brooks and beautiful meadows” ranged over the crowds of bristling airline passengers, conjured by Coleridge and Xanax popped to make the days tolerable); on the checkpoint, as I patted men down and viewed women’s nude images all in the name of national security, I wanted nothing more than to return to my pen and paper so as to set spinning in motion little worlds, made cunningly.

Writers write what they know (forgive me for burnishing that rusty old saw) and a lot of what I know involves 6 years at the TSA. I have seen hurled at me the trite, predictable, tired accusation: “He is doing what he does for attention.

To this I say: of course I am, you dullard. When anyone says something or writes something, I am sure that, for the most part, he or she always hopes that it will come to someone’s attention. If one actually finds him- or herself in possession of information that will be of interest and concern to American taxpayers, international travelers, academics and historians– ultimately, the entire world– then, surely, that person will hope that– should he or she choose to speak out–  the utterance will come to someone’s attention. Not just someone’s attention, but many people’s attention. Millions of people’s attention. Because my true love is writing, literature and art, I want any piece of writing for which I have shed the proverbial blood, sweat and tears to come to the attention of as many people as possible. I know of a few current and former TSA employees who have responded to this blog and my writing in this manner:

“I worked for the TSA, and I know everything that you [Jason] know, but I didn’t say anything, because I am loyal and patriotic and believe in doing things the right way [i.e., filing an official request to TSA headquarters for permission to speak one's mind in the media]. I didn’t tell the world about the many absurdities, interesting stories and abuse of public funds that I witnessed at the TSA because I’m not interested in just getting attention.”

To which I say: bullshit, good sir or madam. If I had a dollar for every TSA employee I knew (managers and up included) who said “Someone needs to write a book about all of this, or make a T.V. show or a movie out of it,” I would have several hundred extra dollars right now.

In fact, several former TSA employees have already tried to write books about their time at the TSA (and here is the little-known first former TSA employee/blogger, who started his site nearly 3 years prior to mine. I only discovered it two months before clicking publish on this site. He actually wasn’t too bad; he just lost steam after two months). One of those books was by a female former TSA employee who converted to Islam, or some such, and wrote a book about it all. Another was by a different former TSA employee lady who wrote several books about her opinions on the Department of Homeland Security. I just spent 10 minutes trying to re-discover their books via Google, and couldn’t do it. Need I say more about how well they pulled off those books? Someone was going to eventually be the first voice to come out of the TSA, and yet, predictably– even though everyone I knew agreed that someone needed to step up and be the insider voice of TSA– some of those same people cry “attention monger!” as soon as someone pulls it off, or get up in arms when it turns out that actually making such a thing happen involves more than a polite, Blogger Bob tea-and-crumpets affair peppered with avuncular, government-approved jokes.

So it goes. To those TSA employees (and I could theoretically name dozens) who said that someone should step up and bring the realities of the everyday TSA screener’s life to the attention of the world, and who now cry foul in light of the fact that I’ve made inroads in doing just that, I ask: Why didn’t you do it first? Or why couldn’t you do it first?

At any rate, what I really want now is to write the full truth about my time at the TSA, in as much detail as possible– with all the many shades and gradations that make up any attempt to sketch the truth to the best of one’s ability. To do that, I have to birth a substantial literary work, in the memoir vein. And that is the reason I am taking time away from this blog: to write the book.

A month ago, I decided to try to read the comment section of a major Brazilian newspaper that re-published one of my POLITICO articles– in the Portuguese– and one of the few things I could make out in translation was:

“He sees these things at TSA and now suddenly he is the Virgin Mary, innocent of sin, speaking of all these things.”

That made me smile. The commentator had a point (I love Brazil). No, I am not free of sin. And in order to tell the full story of my time at the TSA, I will have to write about my life, as well, including all the sinful personal confessions that I have yet to make; including all the transgressions I myself was guilty of as a TSA employee. Indeed, after my book comes out (God willing) I will probably lose many of my fans, because the truth is, I have made many mistakes in my lifetime; the truth is, for a long time I was not very different from the “other kind” of TSA employee that the public hates. I am not at all without sin and regret.

I have devoted my life to bringing truth to the world through writing, and with this blog, and with the TSA-related pieces I have landed in various publications, I have done just that– to a degree. But do not think that I will stop at exposing the imperfections and tragic flaws of the TSA– I will confess to the world all of my imperfections and tragic flaws, as well.  I have a lot of work before me now, in trying to weave the tragicomedy of my life into the tragicomedy of the TSA. I am also working on writing projects that have nothing to do with the TSA. I have been writing about things other than the TSA for most of my life, and I will spend most of the rest of my life doing the same. The writing project I am most excited about right now involves the unsolved murder of a black woman in 1940s Mississippi– my grandmother, specifically.

I will update this blog occasionally as I work on my TSA book. My only hope is that I won’t lose all my supporters after I have laid the whole picture out for the world to see– for when an artist presents a true picture of life as best as he or she can, it is always a silkscreen print stippled with dirt.

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I Am Glad to Turn This Site Over to TSA Employees and Former TSA Employees for a While

Over the past year, I have received some interesting email from current and former TSA employees, expressing very real, legitimate, and non-“SSI”-divulging  concerns that the public has every right to know about, and which TSA screeners across the nation have every right to see being published. The thing is, most TSA employees are far too scared of retaliation from local management to express their concerns in the media, even though current federal employees do have First Amendment rights, as long as what they write or say falls under the category of public concern.

For the most part, the media is not interested in publishing non-sensational, relatively “banal” articles involving true, addressable organizational problems within the TSA (promotion system, cronyism/favoritism, the re-certification system etc). The media is only interested in eye-popping headlines. That is just reality, as I’ve found out. However, as a former TSA employee who is now in charge of an outlet that can provide substantial exposure, I am fully willing to give voice to TSA employees who wish to exercise their Constitutional, First Amendment rights as federal employees.

Even though I was once told that I “Can’t be doing things like writing letters to the New York Times” by a TSA manager (initials M.R., no longer employed) after a letter of mine was published in the New York Times (that manager’s advice to me definitely felt like a threat), I would like TSA employees around the nation to know that federal employees do have First Amendment rights, and are legally permitted to speak out, without being at risk of losing their jobs (per several federal court rulings), as long as their speech acts fall under the aegis of public concern.

Since the fourth branch of government is mostly uninterested and or unfamiliar with the day-to-day concerns of a Transportation Security Administration employee (since those concerns are usually deemed to not be “headline-worthy”), and since I, as a former TSA employee, am interested in those day-to-day concerns, and find them to be absolutely headline-worthy, I would like to make it known to TSA employees across the nation that this site, right here, Taking Sense Away, is a platform available to you from which you may exercise your First Amendment rights as federal employees, and have your opinions and concerns published for a substantial number of people to see, without having to overcome the unfairly high bar that most members of the sensational-headline-hungry media set as a requirement for access to publication.

The reason I am writing this is because I have recently talked to TSA employees with stories and legitimate complaints that are clearly in the realm of public concern, and who were, unfortunately (with a couple exceptions) unaware of the concept of public concern– in other words, they were under the impression that, as TSA employees, they had no First Amendment rights when it came to expressing their opinions in newspapers, or any public forums. Personally, as a TSA employee, I was never given any training modules making clear to me my First Amendment rights as a government employee when it came to expressing myself in the media. I was given training modules that informed me of my Whistleblowing Act powers, yes, assuming something was very wrong/corrupt in the TSA environment around me, and assuming that my immediate superiors weren’t addressing my concerns about what was wrong after I contacted them.

But as for my right to, say, read the New York Times, see a debate raging that was of national/public concern, and simply express my opinion on the issue so as to meaningfully add to the national/public debate, with the insight that comes with being a federal employee, I was told that “You can’t be doing that here at TSA.” And that was it.

I have approximately 6 great letters from 6 current and former TSA screeners that I am going to publish within the next 2 weeks. All of them express information that the public has every right to know, and which in no way divulge any sort of “SSI.”  If any other former or current TSA screeners have information regarding things they witnessed as TSA employees that fall under the category of public concern, I want you to know that this site is a place that you can turn to, and which will do its best to publish what you have to say.

The following is a direct quote from David Hudson, research attorney at the First Amendment Center (law degree from Vanderbilt University).”Disgruntled worker” is a tricky distinction in the following excerpt– but it seems like such a porous criterion that it may ultimately be all but irrelevant:

“Public employees can contribute greatly to civic debate. They are uniquely
situated to speak out on important issues of which the average citizen is unaware. When public employees speak as citizens rather than as disgruntled workers, courts must respect their free-speech interests.

Justice O’Connor recognized this point when she wrote that ‘government
employees are often in the best position to know what ails the agencies for which they work; public debate may gain much from their informed opinions.’

This same principle applies in retaliation and patronage cases. When a public employer retaliates against an employee simply because it dislikes the content of his or her speech, other employees are discouraged from making comments that could be interpreted as critical.” (Source)

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TSA All Surround Security Program

Over at the TSA News Blog, Lisa Simeone has details on the ASS program. It is an April Fool’s piece. I’m admitting that it’s an April Fool’s piece because it is now at least 9 P.M. wherever you are (for Americans), and you’ve probably already seen some April Fool’s Day activity going down, so by now your defenses are well-raised in regard to any April Foolery. There’s no point in even bothering to try to hit anyone with an April Fool’s Day surprise at this point in the day/night, the way that I see it. But it is an amusing piece from Lisa Simeone, here.

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1st Place Winner of the “Plots the TSA Imagines it Has Foiled” Contest: The Snow Globe Plot

THE SNOW GLOBE PLOT

Once again, the evil TSA prevented us from taking down planes filled with infidel stooges, which would have allowed us to overtake the USA and subjugate your morally corrupt population!

It took years of planning and research. We studied hormones, child behavior and reproduction. Our obedient women were bred to produce 60 men no taller than 4 feet. The correct hormone treatments eliminated whiskers and kept faces soft and feminine, like children. Our faithful martyrs endured hours of Shirley Temple movies and the Andy Griffith Show to perfect their behavior during TSA screening. Even worse, they endured hours of South Park and The Simpsons to succeed during phase two— distracting flight attendants. Careful clothing purchases at The Gap produced the intended sentimental and adorable child warriors. We were on our way to mission success.

On July 19th, 2012, 30 men were disguised as little girls, 30 as little boys and all spent the day at Disneyland in California with “Americanized” adults. Ha! It was brilliant. No one suspected these “families” knew one another or were anything other than stupid Americans wasting their money on silliness and fried food.

Adorned with Mickey Mouse ears, Tinkerbell wings and Cinderella crowns (extra virgins for those martyrs!) the families independently made their way to the John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. Wearing synchronized Donald Duck watches, they planned to board 5 separate East bound planes, all leaving late that afternoon.

The brilliance of this plan was the souvenirs carefully packed in carry-on bags and little pink backpacks. Stupid T.S.A agents with their rah rah red white and blue—how could they possibly think a Mary Poppins snow globe could be dangerous?! How could the T.S. A. heathens know that the afternoon sun magnified by a dozen snow globes could burn a hole in the cockpit door?! How could those miscreants imagine the effectiveness of a Cinderella magic wand wielded as a poker up the nose of a pilot?! Who in Allah’s name let it slip that a Pirates of the Caribbean plastic sword could render a man useless if applied between the legs at just the right angle?!

We practiced for years. Blocking the aisles with seemingly undisciplined children. Training junk food loaded bodies to vomit on cue to occupy flight attendants at just the right moment. Burning anything imaginable using just a snow globe and the sun. Picking locks with Little Mermaid pins. And best of all, using Woody’s Nerf gun Blaster. You really can poke out an eye! It was a magnificent plan with a twist of irony using beloved cultural icons. Not only would we take down airplanes but we would take down Disney! The American economy would not be able to withstand the collapse. Taking over the Western world would be so easy even your “Goofy” could do it.

Alas. What we did not know is the T.S.A. agent in charge of snacks that morning forgot to stop at Dippity Donuts. Not wanting to incur the wrath of his fellow agents, he stopped in Terminal B for pastries at Let Them Eat Cake.  Even the lowest ranking soldiers in Al-Qaeda know better than to eat anything from Let Them Eat Cake!

How could we possibly know that every single T.S.A. Agent that day would be even crabbier and more miserable than usual from eating tasteless, stale pastries? How could we know that the cheese pockets would give agents the trots?  How could we know they would confiscate every single snow globe, every single pirate sword and every single Nerf gun blaster without a second glance at the well-rehearsed crestfallen faces of our brave terrorist comrades? Only a single agent said a snow globe could go through in a “Ziploc quart-sized plastic bag” but she was quickly brought into line by her supervisor who knew the great danger of allowing a snow globe into the cabin.

Unbelievably, our exceptional plan was destroyed in a matter of minutes. Years of work. Years of planning. The T.S.A. proved once again to be too smart always, for us. Or as we like to say, TSA-FU.

—-

Fictional plot submitted by Rosemary.

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And Now for Something Completely Different: Hate Mail Part 3

We are, at the very least, on part 3 in terms of hate mail posts. I’ve actually probably received closer to 10 pieces of pure hate mail since starting this site, but the majority of those were short little “Fuck you traitor! Airport security is AMERICA and if you don’t like it git the fuck OUT MY ‘MERICA!!!!” It’s hard not to just completely forget those emails after giggling for a couple seconds.

This morning I received a piece of hate mail that pretty much just made me laugh, as well. I instantly just deleted it forever from my Gmail inbox and didn’t think much of it. I now greatly regret that.

The email was something along the lines of “Hey asshole….making jokes about the TSA doesn’t make you witty, or a good humor writer. It’s not hard to get humor out of TSA, anyone can do it. You are the worst thing I’ve ever seen on the internet. Bye.”

Or something along those lines. I started to write a response, beginning with “Hi there. Actually, I was publishing humor pieces, as well as non-humor pieces, for publications well before I ever wrote a single thing about the TSA…” but then I realized “Wait, why am I trying to be reasonable and civilized with some person who fires off emails to strangers along the lines of  ‘You fucking suck. That’s all I have to say. Bye.’” That was when I deleted the email forever.

But a little later, I realized that I shouldn’t have done that. I should have responded to him. I tried desperately to recover his email address, but it was too late. So now all I can hope is that my very special hate-mailer reads this. This is what I would write in response to you, if I hadn’t made the unfortunate decision to just delete you permanently:

Hi, Person Who Emailed Me This Morning to Call Me an Asshole and Tell me I’m the Worst Thing on the Entire Internet and Not at All Funny Because All I Do is Draw Humor from the TSA, Which is an Easy Target. I understand where you’re coming from with that. In fact, I already went over this with another reader/emailer right after I started my blog. He compared writing humorously about the TSA to poking a large, neurologically disabled bear with a stick. I told him that unfortunately, he was absolutely right.

First, Mr. Hate Mailer, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that not all of my posts are even trying to be humorous. Many of them are quite serious. Second, as to your claim that “Drawing humor from the TSA does not prove any sort of humor-writing talent at all; therefore, you have none,” I’d like to point you to the fact that I was drawing humor from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, failed Internet start-ups, Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman, Raymond Chandler and laptop repair guys, and many other topics, well before I published a single piece of TSA-themed humor.  McSweeney’s Internet Tendency has a withering rejection rate; so withering, in fact, that there are many staff-writers for The Onion who have most certainly experienced cold rejection after submitting to McSweeney’s. (And actually, every other current McSweeney’s contributor is an Onion staff writer or headline contributor anyway, for that matter. You’ll even get the occasional– well, actually, frequent– head writer for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart being published on McSweeney’s.) But fine. Since you know humor and wittiness so well, Mr. Hate Mailer Man, I will make you a deal.

Email me back, please, Mr. Hate Mailer Man, just so we can reestablish a connection. From there, I would like to make a gentlemanly wager: Since you know humor and wittiness so well, I hereby publicly declare that, if you can get one humor piece published by McSweeney’s, or any equivalent publication, at any time within the next year, I will pay you $2,000 via Pay Pal, and post a picture on this site in which I am wearing a bunny costume holding a sign that says “[Insert your name here] was right: I am the worst thing on the internet. He owns me for life.”An example of a near-equivalent to McSweeney’s would be the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs section. McSweeney’s is something like a 98-percent rejection rate. Shouts and Murmurs might be a 99-percent rejection rate, or so. They’re close. Numbers 2 and 1 as far as open-submission humor publications.

You ready to dance, Mr. Hate Mailer? You ready to take my $2,000 and make me show up on my own site in a bunny costume admitting absolute defeat, Oh arbiter of Internet humor and wit? You better be, Mr. Hate Mailer. Because now…

It’s on.

 

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Recent Speculation About New Risks of Death-by-Terrorist Attack Prompts Speculation About Death-by-Speculation

 [Originally published August 12, 2013]

terror-risk resized

The recent, widely publicized U.S. terror intelligence — which, among other things, speculated upon two new methods by which to potentially be killed by Al-Qaeda on an airplane, including a “Clothes Bomber” and “Frankenbomber” – has led to further speculation about the possibility of death being caused by the speculation itself.

“Heck, I don’t know if me or my family are going to be killed by an Un-American Apparel Bomber or Frankenbomber,” said William Bledsoe of Tullahoma, Tennessee, “But I do know that I laughed so danged hard when I heard that radio announcement that I nearly drove my truck off the road.”

Mr. Bledsoe, safely resting after hearing the warning about a possible Un-American Apparel Bomber.

Amid the flurry of satirical commentary on Twitter under the hashtags #Un-AmericanApparelBomber and #Frankenbomber have come very real concerns that such announcements by U.S. intelligence officials may be causing Americans to become distracted while partaking of actual, everyday dangerous activities, such as eating, walking, and pulling out of their driveways.

“I would say that last week’s announcement of intelligence on a potential Fashionbomber and Frankenbomber caused at least 3-6 people to veer off the road and die horrible deaths,” said David Milbrook, president of the American Traffic Safety Services Association.

29-year-old Amy Yu of Portland, Oregon claims that the ABC News recap of the possibility of a future Frankenbomber nearly led to her demise.

“My boyfriend and I were enjoying a nice dinner of braised balsamic chicken when the news report came on ABC News, about the terrorists who may be out there planning to dip their clothes in liquid explosives and let them dry, turning their outfits into fashion bombs and all. When the part about the possibility of a ‘Frankenbomber’ with a surgically-implanted bomb destroying an airplane came on, my boyfriend got up from the table and started doing a Frankenstein imitation, arms out, sort of stumbling around the living room.”

A possible depiction of a homegrown Frankenbomber

“He was all, ‘Urrgh, urrgh, look at me, I’m Khalid-Mohammed al-Frankenbomber, I’m going to kill you the next time you fly on an airplane, Amy.’ He looked really ridiculous, and it was funny, because you know, it’s not like I’m ever actually going to be killed by a Frankenbomber. But it made me laugh so hard that I choked on a piece of chicken, which almost did kill me. Luckily, my boyfriend knows the Heimlich maneuver,” said Yu.

The dish that was allegedly rendered deadly by U.S. intelligence

“Braised balsamic chicken is supposed to be really healthful, but when you add U.S. intelligence to it, it can turn into death chicken,” added Yu. “I just think people need to be aware of that.”

—-

If you’re on Twitter, so am I.

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A Black Woman’s Hair Becomes Target in TSA’s Security Theater

[Originally published August 10, 2013]

OK, so the original title of the story is “Black Women’s Hair Becomes Target of TSA’s Security Theater,” but I couldn’t find it within myself to reproduce that level of sensationalism. In short, MSNBC host and author Melissa Harris-Perry has discovered that the full body scanners put bounding boxes on her braids every time she goes through, necessitating an idiotic TSA “resolution inspection” of her braids. It’s not just black women’s braids that cause this; the shitty L3 scanners cause everyone with braids or similarly dense hairdos to receive such an inspection. Actually, the L3 scanners show head-area anomalies on about 1 out of every 8 passengers, for various mysterious reasons.

As a TSA screener, this was one of the things I hated most when working the body scanners. Inspections such as the hairdo check usually represent the quintessential example of security theater at the TSA in this, the current Body Scanner Era. Watch a TSA agent resolve a hairdo alarm, and you’ll see a hell of a piece of security theater in action, almost every time. What the agent will usually do is put on a show of looking at the passenger’s head from all angles (knowing that his or her supervisor may be watching, and that the performance is on-camera) maybe do a little theatrical pat-down of the hairdo, and then let the passenger go his or her way.

The ridiculous part of all this is that the hair is usually either A) Obviously just a case of braided or accessorized hair that anyone can instantly see is not concealing anything, and doesn’t actually require any more attention than a glance or B) A nearly impenetrable fortress of an elaborate hairdo that could not actually be cleared of containing a threat short of asking the passenger to pull apart the hairdo on the checkpoint.

An example of the above Type A hairdo is this:

Exhibit A

An example of the Type B hairdo is this:

Exhibit B. She’s taken. Sorry, guys.

Women on their way to or coming back from weddings or fancy events are the most common cases of hairdos that trigger an anomaly on the scanner that can’t actually be cleared of containing a threat, short of asking the woman to pull the hairdo apart. But the majority of TSA screeners want to avoid the appearance of being total assholes whenever possible, believe it or not, dear passengers, and so restrict themselves to putting on a little security theater show of looking at the hairdo with great concentration (presumably with Superman x-ray vision that trumps the full body scanner’s shitty x-ray vision) and then doing a gentle blue-gloved massage of the hair.

For a reasonable TSA screener working with an idiot of a TSA screener on the full body scanner, the most frustrating thing is when encountering the A type hair style– a case of hair that doesn’t even warrant more than a quick look. Watch the two TSA screeners working the full body scanners, and you may see one of them actually take a full 30 seconds to peer deeply into the mysterious, impenetrable abyss of potential smuggled terror that is this:

“Is there a gun in there? A tool kit? A stick of dynamite? What does that clever lil’ terrorist think she’s trying to get past this here full body scanner?” TSA Officer Fife, High Sheriff of Jackass City will think, wasting 30 seconds of everyone’s life by pausing the whole full body scanner operation to investigate the situation. (Sometimes, in all fairness, it’s a case of a recently hired TSA screener who doesn’t know any better, or who is scared that one of the idiotic managers or supervisors that he or she has to deal with is hovering nearby or watching the checkpoint on remote camera, waiting to write a screener up for not dancing a little theatrical routine around a girl such as the one in the above picture.)

The worst thing for a TSA screener who tries to use common sense is that some of the mentally challenged TSA screeners out there will actually run to the supervisor’s podium and lobby to get a screener written up for daring to let Little Miss Exhibit A pass without a serious looking-over and scalp massage. When this happens, a climate of fear reigns over the full body scanner operation, everything slows down, and the lines get longer, as even the TSA screeners who try to use common sense are dragged into putting on elaborate security theater shows, for the satisfaction of the lowest common denominator

But wait, there’s more. (I apologize, dear passengers, but working the full body scanner with an idiot of a co-worker was one of the things I hated most about working at the TSA toward the end of my time there. No, actually, it was the number one thing I hated about it.)

The absolute, number one, most idiotic example of security theater that anyone, absolutely anyone, can witness at nearly any time at a TSA checkpoint’s full body scanner is this: when a TSA screener investigates a passenger’s watch after the full body scanner indicated an anomaly on the passenger’s wrist. Want to know why it’s idiotic? Sure, I’ll tell you.

The best theoretical reason they’re fondling your watch is due to the possibility that it might be modified for use as a timer in an IED. Fair enough, I guess, sort of: Ramzi Yousef tried that in 1994 on PA Flight 434. So TSA screeners invariably put on a little show of sort of peeking under the watch when you come through the scanner, to make sure there’s no terror under there, and then, satisfied that your watch is terror-free, let you continue on as clear. But do you know what the one thing that the average Joe Shmoe airplane-obsessed terrorist isn’t going to need? That’s right, a timer. Want to know why? Because HIS FUCKING THUMB-AND-MENTAL-COUNTDOWN-TO-ETERNAL-MARTYRED-GLORY IS GOING TO BE THE TIMER.

And do you know what the one thing that a brilliant terrorist who figured out a way to use the watch that he’s wearing to double as a timer on an airplane-planted IED is going to have? A plain-looking watch that’s either imperceptibly modified, or that he’ll modify after passing through security. So do you know what you just cheerfully and confidently let pass through security with your diligent, theatrical, by-the-book inspection of a passenger’s watch, TSA screener Barney Fife? One of the components of a brilliant terrorist’s IED, because IT’S A FUCKING DIGITAL WATCH; IT CAN ONLY EVER BE SO “CLEAR” IN THE POWER SUPPLY+ INITIATOR+ EXPLOSIVES+ SWITCH/TIMER= AN IED EQUATION.

—-

To close out Kip Hawley week: As a fomer TSA employee, I can emphatically say that Hawley and the New York Times were definitely right about one thing: “TSA officers need to be encouraged to think on their own, not disciplined for it.”

—-

If you’re on Twitter, so am I.

Related TSA articles from my archives:

“I’ve Been a Current TSA Employee, Not a Former TSA Employee, All Along.”

“The Most Awkward Moment for a TSA Screener.”

“No, You Don’t Know What It Is”

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