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TSA-Public Servant or Jack-Booted Thug?

Updated on July 3, 2011

In 1971, I was a high school student with his first after school job, working at one of many airport concessions stands. When I started, passengers could board planes without being subject to security screening. But the pressure was on to make changes due to the rash of airplane hijackings during the late 1960’s and by the following year, 1972, security checkpoints and procedures were instituted at all concourses.

Flash forward to 1976, waiting to be called on to active duty military service, I worked for a time for a private contractor who was charged with the responsibility to screen passengers and their carry-on personal items prior to their boarding aircraft. It was a minimum wage job, anyone who had two arms and two legs with a record that precluded felony conviction could be hired. I worked at this job for three months. The standing and waiting was tedious as it was hot and cold; a rush of incoming flights for one moment with deathly quiet and boredom during the rest of the time. We wore blazer jackets with the professional polish, but it was just for appearances to reassure the flying public. There was no guarantee that any screener so much as graduated from high school. The job required having passengers move through metal detector machines and if the machine alerts positive for metal, the wand would be used over the body to detect all metallic objects on the person. That person would be asked to remove the metal upon detection so that the wand would no longer register metal. Same sex pat downs were performed when there was prosthesis or some other metal that could not be physically separated from the passenger. No one got any sort of thrill performing this activity; as a matter of fact it was a function of the job that most of us screeners would just as soon avoid. Believe me; it was just as uncomfortable for us as it was the passenger. We had x-ray machines to check items going through the conveyor belt. We were basically looking for shapes of weapons or items too dense to allow penetration of the x-ray. There was nothing more feared than having to ‘hold’ an item coming through the conveyor belt for further inspection. The passengers were in a hurry and were often times rude. It was more comforting to stick your hands into the mouth of crocodile than going into a woman’s purse. Who wants to get their hands in there? Everything from Kleenex, handkerchiefs and any number of unmentionables were on display before others. Yes, a woman’s purse was truly a bottomless pit where anyone would fear to tread. The only better definition for turnover than what this job represented was the pastry itself. Training was rudimentary and the staff was not well versed. Even then, this was an important job being handled by the government through award to the lowest bidder, which was not conducive to a professional cadre doing the job. These contractors were ‘penny-enny’ operators that were so cheap as to squeeze the nickel so hard as to make the buffalo hollar’. Well, so much for the ‘virtuous’ private sector. So now that I have provided background to indicate that I have been involved in this service, it is time for what you have all been waiting for, my rant.

No One is Above Suspicion

Most of us had heard of the tragic story taking place last June 18th of the 95 year old woman in a wheelchair who experienced an undignified search of her person. She is a person with terminal cancer nearing the end of her life and I sympathize under the circumstances. But while she may well be an unlikely candidate as a terrorist that does not mean that her condition and her implements could not contain items that would constitute contraband or who knows, someone could have placed dangerous material on her person in a manner in which she may have been completely unaware. I have certainly read stories where smugglers would use the bodies of dead infants to move drugs past customs officers. These people are ruthless and cannot be allowed to think that there is anyone or any group that is not subject to being checked. You can rely on the fact that that very “Achilles heel” is what will be exploited by the terrorist. We are not talking about hijacking where it is not likely that hijacker is going to sacrifice his or her life to accomplish the objective. These are people that are willing to kill themselves along with a plane full of passengers, what could be more dangerous?

Conservatives seem to think that this is all ‘overkill’. While they are the most anxious to prosecute the war against terror, they want us all to get caught with our breeches down here at home. In discussions with conservatives in other media, they advocate profiling, assuming that just because a white blue eyed person has never commandeered an aircraft for attack that it cannot happen. That is pretty dumb reasoning, I hope those that are to be overseeing all this at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a more refined, evolved approach than this? I want everybody checked consistently and fairly. Race and ethnicity is just one factor of many that need to be taken into consideration before you call someone aside. The rightwinger wants to assume that everybody wearing traditional Middle Eastern dress is a terrorist and that they should naturally expect unjustified scrutiny and indignities as a result. They say why is it that the “good ones” do not get the ‘bad ones’ in line? Because they do not, then whatever indignities they receive as a group they bring upon themselves. That’s nuts! It they do not want to be singled out they need to wear western clothing and go whiteface? Most of these goober pea guys could not tell the difference between a Hispanic and a person from theMiddle East; after all don’t they both have the same shade of brown? Any man that would kill and injure over 800 people as did Timothy McVeigh in 1995 is capable of blowing up aircraft, who is profiling him and his sort? What about the fellow inSpokaneWashingtonthat left a bomb on the parade route for the King Holiday last January? So, it is obviously that I don’t like profiling as I consider it a sloppy and lazy substitute for good police work. If I were them, I would litigate this and get the message across through the expense to society at large. I will leave it at that.

A Professional Workforce

We cannot afford, with so much at stake, to trust the private sector and its clinging to the profit motive to ever rise to a task that requires a commitment by the employer and employees that transcends such a motive. If the low bid contractor was not effective in 1976, how much more so in an environment that is several times more dangerous. All this ‘stuff’ about groping is silly, thousands of passengers go through the screening process each year without incident. But, of course, when there is an error or problem, it is like that represents all of TSA. I recall the film The FBI Story (1959) with James Stewart, a pretty good picture, all in all. It begins with the explosion of a plane in mid air over Coloradoskies in 1955 by a man who planted dynamite on the plane after taking out an insurance policy on his mother’s life. Well, the days of hopping on a plane without security screening has gone the way of the nickel Pepsi, and I know conservatives constantly lament this reality, but that is the way that it is. Can you imagine the challenge today, bombs that are extremely efficient in separating the x from the y? We have C-4, all manner of explosives and detonators, timers, barometric pressure triggers and even cell phones. And after all this, you want the people protecting you from this complex array of mayhem coming from the unemployment line working in a McDonald’s kind of work environment? My God, man, think McFly, think! Remember, as I said earlier, I had held this job at one time, but today the stakes are so much higher

Let’s Let The Professionals Do Their Job and Move Beyond Bigotry For Its Own Sake

Last May there was an incident that made me pretty upset, when some Muslim religious leaders wearing traditional Arab garb were humiliated and embarrassed when they were wrongly kicked off two commercial flights as they sought to travel to a national conference. While Federal regulation allows an airline to refuse to transport an individual that it decides is unsafe, the plane’s captain has ultimate authority. The decision cannot be made based solely on the person’s race, color, national origin, religion, ethnicity, or sex. The captain is in violation and abused his discretion and consequently will subject the air carriers to a lawsuit as a result. The conservatives on this thread where the article was found infuriated me by insisting that these men should have worn western clothing and that the captain was right in expelling them. That’s nuts. It is high time for the right wing to stop being so damned provincial and grow up, it is a big world and not all things exist only to make you comfortable. But, I suppose that is why I am a progressive.

All the best to each of you and have a happy 4th!

Your Thoughts?

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    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Yes, I certainly have seen “Total Recall”. The problem is who are the good people, how do we identify them as opposed to the criminal? I am hoping that evolving technology will remove the humiliating factors by simply making these screenings less invasive. If there is a problem with behavior of TSA personnel relative to passengers that can be corrected as part of administrative policy. Unfortunately, the process has to be there to do the necessary screening. There is no way around it, people must be screened. Negligence in this area could mean people going to their deaths rather than their holiday. It is a necessary evil at this time, how do you avoid it? We all need as citizens to discuss these kinds of problems, addressing concerns from all sides. The world has become too dangerous for us to return to the past and a more genteel time where these kinds of assaults on people would have been unthinkable. The enemy and his savagery have put us all in a position of having to balance security with individual freedom. That is the rub in our culture that extends far beyond air transportation. It is the issue that we all have to carefully watch to insure against abuse. But, air transportation is one area where I lean more toward security because of the imminent threat to life. I pay with my tax dollars to insure that TSA is always alert to evolving methods the terrorist can use to assault passengers. You are right, we are not going to get rid of the terrorist, so we are stuck with TSA .

      Your imput is gracious and most appreciated, Cred2

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Here is what I think, we are entering a new technology arms race against the terrorist. Have any of you seen Total Recall? Remember the prosthetic exploding head? People, the terrorist sit around in their cave all day long trying to figure out how to smuggle weapons. We the good people have to walk naked as Jay birds through this arbitrary screening, being humiliated and treated like cattle the whole way. You say, oh the passengers are so rude…well why do you think? Spending several hundred dollars on a few hour flight to be treated like an animal is subhuman. Why would we be happy getting the same treatment a terrorist gets? With these procedures, we the people are treated as guilty parties until proven innocent via TSA.

      Sure the TSA are doing the job they are asked to do, so are Wal-Mart employees. Neither are very friendly. You tell us to deal with it, its protocol, it's for safety, yeah until the next round of IED’s are figured out. Now they are looking for surgically implanted explosives…they will stop at nothing, and we the people have to pay for it. Flying is a joke. I pay $800+ for a round trip to Phoenix from Seattle, its cramped, its uncomfortable, do it enough times and you are bound to get sick from some ones infection or flu. There is no end in sight that we are ever going to be treated well again. Sorry for the hard tone, but the more I read about intrusions of personal space, the angrier I get. This morning on the news they were talking about women with big hair getting extra screening. In defending the TSA, they talked about Bobbi pins that can be used as explosive detonators. So now women need to shave their heads to avoid having their personal space invaded. It's all one giant, sad joke. Personally, I would be happy if I never had to set foot on a commercial jet again. We are not going to get rid of Terrorist, so we will never get rid of TSA.

      This is my opinion, I understand why we have airport screening, there is always a cause and effect for this behavior, unfortunately, it is mostly in the negative.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Jason, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Don't run away, I am most interested in your experience TSA. You know how we all get into conversations and sometimes it may well drift into other areas that can be considered remotely related, but fair game for discussion all the same.

      The reality Jason, is that there are powers in play that we can hardly grapple with, but the only thing worse is to be unaware of their existance, ignoring them and taking the primrose path. For the vast majority of people, ignorance is bliss. Regards Cred2

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, AV

      YOu said, "But I do not think it is the same as the other 2 incidents. Inboth otheres we were atttacked by foriegn enemies that admitted and celebrated what they did, Oswald did niether. In the 2 Bombings, conspiracy enthusiasts say the the Presidents, both Clinton and Bush, were behind the events. Somehow I do not think JFK was behind planning his assasination"

      By the other 2 incidents, you refer to Oklahoma City and 9-11. I still think that McVeigh is good ole all American terrorism, extremism from an anti-government bent which has been represented by a brooding faction for a long time before this. I question the 9-11 affair a bit more. I entertained the possibility of the powers that be of creating bogey men to distract and perpertuate, justify military response and outlay as part of a culture where a great deal of economic activity involves war. Once the Communists disappear as this great adversary, seems like we needed another? It is known that we change allies to adversaries as easily as you change your socks. What can we really rule out? Seeing the depth of depravity in geopolitical affairs, there is nothing that I would say is beyond the pale, today.

      Thanks for your most stimulating participation regarding this article Cred2

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Talk about stepping away from your article...I was going to comment on the TSA and "pow," now you all are head long into

      There is one very relavant question I have for SWHK, lets suppose that everything stated can be backed up with zero doubt, our government covered this up, splashed some false headlines overthere, the entire media is controlled so no one from the Left or the Right would break this story. Lets say its all true...So what is anyone going to do about it? What does it change? and who is going to change it? Sorry, that was three questions. No one or group or crowd or state or party is going to change the course we are on. Does anyone really think they can get away from black ops? Yeah right. Cheers.

    • American View profile image

      American View 6 years ago from Plano, Texas


      I agree that JFK was assasinated by more than one person, Oswald was the only one captuted and Ruby made sure he did not talk.

      But I do not think it is the same as the other 2 incidents. Inboth otheres we were atttacked by foriegn enemies that admitted and celebrated what they did, Oswald did niether. In the 2 Bombings, conspiracy enthusiasts say the the Presidents, both Clinton and Bush, were behind the events. Somehow I do not think JFK was behind planning his assasination.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, AV. Yes, we are on the same page "screen them all". As long as officials at the airports do that, I have no problem.

      I am not really qualified to add a great deal to the discussions you and SWK are having regarding who is behind the mayhem we have experience in this mass bombings. I would rather not believe that the government is somehow complicit in some way, but I could proove and if I had the definitive contrary evidence, those that have something to hide would never let you live long enough to pass it on.

      Thanks for your comments and participation.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Greetings, SWK, I am certainly not one to rule out the possibility that the events you are talking about, McVeigh and the twin towers of the trade center were infact destroyed by entities that just as soon hide their true identities. This is a vicious society and I would not put anything past the powers that are. I am still grappling with the JFK assassination where this event and the ones you mention support the idea there is a malevolence of intent and purpose behind these events reflecting a grab for power and control with subjugation of the all the people as the ultimate objective. This is something that I have not touched on in this hub, as I was more interested in supporting the need for protection from extremists of any stripe at our public airports. Thanks for weighing in.... Cred2

    • American View profile image

      American View 6 years ago from Plano, Texas


      You should have been speechless. WOW, so you want to attack me after I showed you the person you quoted as saying

      Timothy McVeigh was a pasty for the "real" bombing that occurred in that building in Oaklahoma.Do, some Googling if you care to know more about that.Or, goto YouTube and watch a video from a general who is an expert in explosives

      Was inaccurate. Hey you said it not me. I do not have to prove anything. I merely pointed out you were mistaken in your statement. I do not question Partins credentials, only his conclusions. . Anyone with common sense can see if you study the wreckage of a building that was imploded, you can only come to the conclusion you see evide3nce of bombs attached to columns. DUH. Even you said;

      “Why do go so far as to state obvious details of the damage done”.

      Well if it’s so obvious why do you state the building was internal bombed using a report that is false on that fact? Now you need to not make up stories to try to cover-up that you were mistake. . I challenge you to show me anywhere credible, which means no blogs, I want government report, court documents, anything legal to back up you claim that bombs were stored in the building. Man gets real.

      Since you will not believe there were no bombs, maybe you will this

      Quotes from the Grand Jury deliberation:


      We investigated claims that explosives were found in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Our investigation determined as follows:

      1. A desk ornament that looked like a bundle of dynamite with a clock attached to it. The desk ornament belonged to an ATF agent, and was not an explosive device. 2. Several federal law enforcement agencies were housed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Small arms and small arms ammunition were not an uncommon discovery throughout the search and rescue phase. 3. An inert T.O.W. missile was found and mistaken for a secondary explosive device. The inert T.O.W. missile belonged to the U.S. Customs Department. 4. Based on our review of video tapes and photographs, packages of small arms ammunition were mistaken for packs of C4 explosive by one Oklahoma City Police Department officer.


      Based on our investigation we believe that there was a single bomb.

      1. Testimony about sound waves and layers of the earth's crust, and that ground waves travel faster than air waves rendered the two bomb theory inconclusive. The seismograph closest to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building recorded one blast. The seismograph in Norman recorded two sound waves. This was explained due to the density of the earth's crust. The first was the ground wave followed by the airwave five seconds later. The farther the waves go the more separation in time the waves get until they can no longer be measured. 2. The burns on the victims and the building from the blast depict a definite pattern of a singular explosion according to the expert testimony. The intensity and the direction of the burns and debris substantiate only one bomb. The greater distance from the detonation site less debris was found. The rebar in the building was bent in many directions because of falling debris due to collapse.

      So I guess that about sums it up for me. It isn't that far of a stretch (for me anyway) to accept that in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, there were panicked and incorrect bomb sightings.

      As for 911, you brought up the wrong subject with me. Unlike you I WAS THERE!! Was there for 3 weeks, Why was I there, because I was a NY firefighter for 15 years. You have entered a discussion for which you know nothing about. I get pretty pissed off when I hear those phony accusations. Perhaps you would like to change places with me so you could have seen firsthand. I guess I should tell you that you would take the place of someone who almost died last December and still is in a rehab hospital with a trach in my throat because of what I breathed in for my 15 year career but mostly from what I breathed in during those 3 weeks there

      “The debri was hauled away without doing a thorough Investigation. They even had armed convoy to keep anyone from taking pictures of these trucks that were hauling away the steel beams from the buildings”

      First before debris was removed from an area, it was thoroughly looked threw for evidence, personal belongings to be used for identification, and body remains. And for the record those trucks were not sent with armed convoy, it was a 2 car police escort because they were overloading the trucks with debris. Also for the record, the debris as it was dumped was spread out and pictures taken of it. Where do you think those Staten Island photos came from?

      Lastly, the Dems and Obama show how much they appreciated what we did.

      I refused to give my personal information to be investigated and my family investigated. So since I refuse, I do longer get health care benefits, so I pay for everything myself. Now before you start claiming I get workers comp and other insurance, the bill is quite clear, if you do not supply them with the personal information they wants, you get No health care at all. Fact and I know it firsthand.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      After reading your comments I'm speechless.You left out the report that there were exploves stored in the building and that contributed to the buildings collaspe and only in a certain section of the building.You seem to be determined to make the facts fit your viewpoint.You say an expert in explosives is incompetent because of "Implosions" intended to demolish the building.What does that have to do with the original day of the bombing? Nothing!The same is true of the 911 incident.The debri was hauled away without doing a thorough Investigation.They even had armed convoy to keep anyone from taking pictures of these trucks that were hauling away the steel beams from the buildings.

      Your "record" is in your own "opinion" of the truth as you see it.

      Why do go so far as to state obvious details of the damage done.Why don't you give some evidence that those bombs could have one that kind of damage?

    • American View profile image

      American View 6 years ago from Plano, Texas


      Great read right on target. I say search them all. And for those who say we only do this to brown people, this elderly lady was white.


      A bully picks on kids for years. One day someone sticks up to him and kicks his butt. Now that what goes around comes around means. I am sorry, but it does not apply in the context you stated. We helped and trained them that’s true. That would be goes around around. For it to qualify as comes around, they would have to have helped and train us as well.

      The US has made many mistakes through the years in negotiating peace and helping those we thought were in need. Pearl Harbor is an early example. The US was in talks with Japan, the entire time they were planning then implemented their attack plan. Al quida was no different. The US thought they were helping an oppressed people while all along they hated the US and looked to destroy US. Once we outlived our usefulness, the attacked us. Obama has not learned from history as he is doing the same now as he thinks he can negotiate with the terrorists. In fact in Afghanistan, the attacks have severely increased as the terrorists believe the US involved in talks shows weakness.

      As for Oklahoma, here is something I found on Wikipedia:

      Conspiracy theories

      Main article: Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy theories

      A variety of conspiracy theories have been proposed about the events surrounding the bombing. Some theories allege that individuals in the government, including President Bill Clinton,[205][206] knew of the impending bombing and intentionally failed to act on that knowledge. Other theories focus on the possibility of additional explosives within the building and additional conspirators involved with the bombing.[207] Additional theories claim the bombing was done by the government to frame the militia movement or to provide the impetus for new antiterrorism legislation while using McVeigh as a scapegoat.[205][206][208][209] Other conspiracy theories suggest that foreign agents, particularly Islamic terrorists, were involved in the bombing.[142][210][211] Experts have disputed the theories and government investigations have been opened at various times to look into the theories.[208][212][213]

      Does that not sound familiar? Sounds just like the truthers of 911. Now I am not a Clinton fan, but he does not have the chops to do something like this. He did not respond to several of the bombing attacks against the US barracks that killed several hundreds of our armed forces. If he could not have the stones for that, he could not have done this.

      General Benton K. Partins report is an interesting read, but nothing more than that. I found 6 different times where he contradicts himself on the evidence. First he states he went to Oklahoma in June of 1995 in a letter to Trent Lott

      “Observations in Oklahoma City: To verify earlier analysis, I visited Oklahoma City during the last week of June. There I had the opportunity to view hundreds of photographs taken throughout the cleanup operation as the layers of debris were cleared away. The photos present irrefutable evidence that at least four demolition charges were set off at four critical columns of the reinforced concrete structure at the floor level of the third floor.”

      So he went to Oklahoma and all he saw was pictures. Why did he not visit the site? Because it was gone already. He even says so in his report

      “It is truly unfortunate that a separate and independent bomb damage assessment was not made during the cleanup before the building was demolished on May 23 and hundreds of truck loads of debris were hauled away, smashed down, and covered with dirt behind a security fence”.

      So you may ask or say, so what at least he could observe pictures. That is true, but by his own admission they were pictures of” hundreds of photographs taken throughout the CLEANUP OPERATION AS THE LAYERS OF DEBRIS WERE CLEARED AWAY.” Why is that important? Read the following and you will see why:

      The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was a United States Federal Government complex located at 200 N.W. 5th Street in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The building was the target of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, which killed 168 people, including 19 children.[1] The remains of the building were IMPLODED a month after the attack, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial was built on the site.

      That’s right IMPLODED, DEMOLITION by USING ORDENANCE. So if you are using photographs as evidence in a report about the original bombing, then your conclusions are therefore flawed. He talks about the kinds of damage to support columns that can only be done if ordinance is attached to it. Well Hello, you looked at pictures AFTER the building was IMPLODEDED, So you could only come to one conclusion, and it was the wrong one. In order to properly make a report as he did, he would have to inspect the building before it was imploded, not after.

      Next contradiction He talks about how that there had to be explosives on the 3rd floor in 4 places to make the building collapse as it did. Really? I am not a bomb expert as Partin claims to be, but I have watched several building demolitions that used way more than 4 bombs. First, placing bombs on the 3rd floor of a 7 story building will not bring to the ground. In addition, they do not cause collateral damage, he knows that. Here is something that shows the Oklahoma bombing had a lot of collateral damage:

      The Oklahoma City bombing was a bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Oklahoma blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6,[1] and injured more than 680 people.[2] The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings.[3][4] The bomb was estimated to have caused at least $652 million worth of damage

      Just thought I would set the record straight.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      I appreciate your concern for public safety but in my opinion the true terrorists are the people who trained these terrorists.The C.I.A.trained Alquida to fight the solviets in Afganastan which caused them to go bankrupt and now we are doing the same fighting against those very same terrorists that we trained to be terrorists.What goes around comes around.

      Timothy McVeigh was a pasty for the "real" bombing that occured in that building in Oaklahoma.Do,some Googling if you care to know more about that.Or,goto youtube and watch a video from a general who is an expert in explosives.