Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
caveman

Is Your Home Land Security Money Well Spent ?

Recommended Posts

Hi Guys,

 

( Summary below if u don’t want to read the story )

 

Was in the US last week for work, which in general was quite promising. On my return, I planned to depart from Austin / Texas Airport, through LAX, and then checked through to Bangkok (I am Australian Living in Bangkok, Thailand, working in a well respected Public Listed Company in a responsible position, never had any dealings with any authorities for the recoord !...and showed up fresh from a meeting still in business artire ).

 

When receiving my boarding pass, there was a massive “SSSS” printed on the boarding pass which I thought weird, but paid no attention to it. On entering the security queue, a sweet old dame asked for my ID and Boarding pass……. And promptly said “ oh, you have been identified as a person requiring special screening”, which kind a sounded strange, but in the spirit of world safety, well, so what. I was given this red plastic card with 3 metal washers in it, and told to jump the queue to go to the front.

 

When arriving at the metal detector gate, the security man, who was quite polite and “people orientated” asked me to take all my worldly possessions and put them in the boxes, coins, keys, almost everything except for underwear, pants, and shirt…….. and to take my PC / camera out of my carry on and put it in a box as well. OK, fine….no problem there……..

 

As I am putting in the things in the box, another guard is rudely barking to me to do things which this other guy did not ask , and then a third one was barking orders to put certain things in certain boxes which contradicted the second guard and the first.

 

I ended up telling them “ I do not have the capacity to listen to 3 contradicting orders and execute them at the same time. Which one of you shall I listen to, and what is the correct procedure ?” They looked confused at each other, and the smarter of the 3 ( the polite one with human skills ) took control, and I happily followed his orders.

 

After my goods passing the X-ray ….. I was ushered to a space by a different and equally rude TSA who should of remained on a cattle ranch in Texas herding cattle, no people skills and rude / rough to say the least. What ever happened to the US ideals of “ you are innocent until proven guilty ”?? Not the case with the TSA.

 

Well, he asked me to sit down on a seat, and asked me to stretch out my leg, and proceeded to scan my stretched out leg with a metal detector……and……..as it got close to the underside of my knee, it started beeping. He got all excited, and started patting with his hand under my knee, could not find anything….scanned again….beep again…..patted…scanned again….beep again…..patted…and was getting quite frantic ( I could not believe my eyes )……until I finally said to him “ Don’t you think it might be the metal leg of the chair I am sitting on which might be the root cause ?”. There was this dumb founded look on his face, about 3 second delay as the thought passed through his head, and a final acknowledgement. I could not believe that he was handling security.

 

 

Well…..after standing, a full body scan with the detector, and the a full pat down in public view with hands actually hitting private parts ( and not….not a turn on ! ) in full public view. The I was asked to pull the front part of my pants out, and also turn the rim around.

 

I have no problem with all the scanning and checks, and i agree in this day and age its necessary. I do believe though that the hard handed tactics as seen on "COPS" are in-appropriate when dealing with travelers and these guys thing they are in hot persuit of a criminal when screening passengers.

 

The TSA should represent whats the best about the US, not the worst.

 

 

 

Summary

 

 

1. How adept is this super computer really at identifying real risks. My guess was I was the only foreigner ( Caucasian Australians are all Al-Queda trained obviously ) with a destination of Bangkok, which according to the super computer must be a very suspicious town!

2. Any real terrorist would make a detour to the toilet and then exit the airport upon seeing “SSSS” printed on your boarding pass ( maybe new improved versions will have it in Braille too for the visually impaired clerics )

3. It is clear that the TSA do not have clearly defined procedures if 3 people can contradict each other what has to be done when going through a special procedure

4. It is clear that you are guilty of a crime as soon as u are asked to go through the process.

5. The TSA does not have screening procedures to validate whether staff should be people facing. The nut who wanded me should have been behind the X-ray screen, not dealing with people. If I knew to other guy’s name, I would commend him for his professionalism and treating people in a polite manner, but still efficient getting the un-pleasant job done.

6. Ceramic diving knives exist. I would be not stupid to carry one, but how good would the system be in finding one ?

 

All in all, I met a lot of good people whilst there, and it was a good trip, but if you think your good tax money can actually have a more than random chance of identifying possible threats, I think there is a false sense of security, and being treated like a criminal by the TSA without due cause would make me defer any pleasure / holiday trips to the US until things settle down ( if ever ).

 

 

The TSA should represent whats the best about the US, not the worst.

 

So if your planning to dive in the US as an outsider, it may be a big hassle if you travel with a lot of gear( i.e. camera / housings etc )[/u]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unbelievable what this guys are doing, I fly through and to the US all the time, and I had the "SSSS" on my boarding pass once too. Believe me, I know exactly what you're talking about.

 

My last trip to the US wasn't very pleasant either, I was going to Belize, and yes, the flight Panama-Houston-Belize is actually cheaper than flying from here to Belize (not to mention 5 stops). So, they stopped me at immigration, I wasn't even going to stay in the US, my connection to Belize was in 3 hours, but they put me in this room and ask all kinds of questions just because they didn't believe me when I said the ticket was cheaper. I think they thought I was planning a massive attack during my 3 hours in Houston, who knows? I wonder how many terrorists cross the border from Mexico undetected...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That kind of screening is pretty typical here in Houston too. If you set off the metal detector, you can expect that one too. If you have a one way ticket, you can expect it as well. It's not a big deal to me to have to get "wanded" like that really. Heck, they even do that if you want to get into a football game at Cal.

 

Basically, it sounds like your complaint was that the screeners were rude to you - something I see a lot too. Sorry for your bad experience.

 

Cheers

James

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

James,

 

I think it goes beyond "rude" - though that's definitely part of it. I think we all recognize that more intrusive security procedures are unfortunately now necessary. By its nature, being searched is a stressful situation. But it doesn't have to be humuliating, degrading, or unnecessarily unpleasant, particularly when the procedure is being used in situations where there is an extremely low statistical probability that the person being searched is really a terrorist or guilty of wrongdoing. There is also very little consideration of the fact that many people entering the US on flights from places like Asia may have been in the air for 12-16 hours or more, and are extremely tired, fatigued, and jet-lagged.

 

I'm a US citizen, but live abroad and have a lot of visas and extra pages in my passport. Often enough, that seems to be sufficient reason for "special screening". On one occasion, that involved a trip to the backroom where my carry-on and checked luggage was minutely searched. Minutely as in emptying a tube of tooth paste, unrolling socks, and carefully inspecting every item of clothing.

 

This search was carried out by an extremely aggressive security person who was verbally abusive. Questions like: "Where is it?", "We're going to find it, you know, it would save time if you tell me now" and "If you don't come clean, we'll have to do a full body cavity search, and you won't like that." etc. etc.

 

Presumably, I fit somebody's profile for a narcotics offender that day. Or maybe this guy just didn't like the way I looked. I was dressed in a suit, carrying no dive or photographic gear, just clothes, my laptop computer, and ten copies of a paper that I was scheduled to present at an American Enterprise Institute conference on Chinese politics the following day, had showed the security officer the speech and a letter from AEI early on, when I was asked to explain "why I was coming back to the US." (I hadn't known citizens needed a reason, but I had one.) I suppose these are standard "techniques" to get a "suspect" to "crack". All I know is that I was tired, jet-lagged, and frankly very frightened by what was happening to me.

 

Due to the long interrogation and search, more than two hours, I nearly missed my connecting flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and almost missed the opening day of the conference. Days later, I was still feeling shaken by the experience.

 

I cross international borders and go through immigration and customs checks more often than most people - until last year, I was probably averaging 4-6 trips (8-12 border crossings) per month. The only place I have ever had seriously unpleasant experiences has been returning to my own country. I can't even imagine what it must be like for US non-citizens, especially those from countries "of concern" to DHS.

 

Frogfish

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my flying around, I've found Texan international airports to be the rudest and they use profiling too. I flew into DFW & HOU a few times catching connecting domestic flights. Invariably only in these 2 airports out of the whole US of A, I get to go to the little room to explain why as a 8th generation citizen( or really 3000+ years on my mother's side), I have so many visa and entry stamps for North East African countries and South East Asia, particularly Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. 6 times in transit and 6 times the little room. LAX, EWR, JFK, SFO and many others don't even blink an eyelid for a returning citizen. In DFW, I got "where were you born?", "where were your parents born" Tell them 8th gen or more, and they say you are being rude and uncooperative.

I refuse to fly through TX internationally anymore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cheers guys...... its comforting to hear other peoples experiences. Maybe we should set up a "Abused by TSA Support Group" (ATSG for short ) :) . Humour aside, i have no problem with being searched, and it make me feel better know my A/C is safe. I too have tons of Frequent Flyer miles and visa stamps all over south east asia, but thats not in their computer system. I think their data is quite basic i.e. one way ticket to LAX from Austin, and PAX originated from Bangkok and is returning to bangkok and has a foreign (australian passport). Like I said, i sincerely doubt their screening computers could with reasonable reliability detect a "trouble maker". So all those guys are there for show..........(??).

 

The point is really there are a bunch of monkeys, probably primary school drop outs who probably for the first time in their life can tell people something instead of being told what to do, and it goes to their heads. They should realize they are dealing with people, not cattle, and given the world wide emotions about was it right or wrong to go into Iraq (WMD), you would think they would be looking for alies, instead of alienating "friendly" people.

 

I must give credit to the guy at the Metal Detector Gate, he was the only one who really deserved to have the job, and I hope he gets a promotion once day soon. ( he actually smiled when i told them off for giving conflicting info, and he could see the stupidity of the situation)

 

At times like that, I remember there are nice people I have met there, and I dont want TSA to spoil my perception of the country.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. Some horrid strories there, guys. Imagine someone who does not travel as much as you all getting this on their first trip. Really scary.

 

My experience of US immigration has been much more pleasant - and it seems fair to share it.

 

I flew through Miami last month (I'm a foreigner too) and I have to say I found everyone who I dealt with to be very polite. The girl who checked my passport, fingerprinted and photographed me, told me that she liked my T shirt. And I got a nice little note inside my hold luggage camera case in both directions to say that they had opened it and had a look. And when going through the pre-boarding screen I left my belt behind in the X ray machine and one of the staff brought it over to me, when I was sitting down waiting for my flight.

 

I'll probably get the SSSS and rubber glove next time.

I think the SSSS system is flawed though. If you are a dodgy criminal type and you get an SSSS stamp you know to get rid of all your dodgy stuff before going through security and wait until next time you fly - when you are not branded SSSS. SSSS is just a way of warning dodgy people they are about to be specially searched.

 

Alex

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rubber Glove.....lol....... But the SSSS in big bold letters that even the Blind Cleric who bombed the WTC in '93 could see is ridiculous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experiences are neutral. No major hassles, but regular impoliteness.

 

Anyhow, the TSA procedures seem primarily targeted towards reminding US citizens that "we are at war", "there are bad guys everywhere", and "government is protecting you". Just my impression.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

Sponsors

Advertisements



×
×
  • Create New...