The good, old TSA (Transportation Security Administration)…others may like to refer to as “Thousands Standing Around”, “Toiletry Search Agency”, “Total Scam Artist”, “Thuggish Stupid As*holes” or any other creative or insulting acronyms one may or can seem to come up with, has definitely earned its bad rep, from drug busts, to body scanners, to thefts, to inappropriate pat downs, and etc. However, there are common misconceptions made by the public about the Homeland Security organization. Hopefully, I can clarify some of these misconceptions, and hopefully these explanations will give further insight about the screening process and smooth out run-ins with any of these officers while traveling through American security checkpoints.
Misconception #1: “I Was Arrested by TSA!”
I remember reading an article where a woman accused the “brutal”TSA of placing her in handcuffs for whatever reason. It was a good story and just that…a story. You can NOT be arrested by a TSA officer. TSA officers at your local airport do not have arresting power, although TSA Federal Air Marshalls do but only can arrest for federal offenses. However, TSA officers do work side by side with local police officers who may place anyone under arrest who violates or who has violated state laws.
Misconception #2: “Enjoy My Beer!”
TSA officers may NOT keep your surrendered items, so stop offering or assuming that they want or will keep your bottle of lotion, want to finish off the rest of your coke, or want to throw back shots, while on break, with your half empty bottle of vodka. At the end of the day or as needed, contractors or custodial employees collect these disposed items. Items confiscated or surrendered belong to the U.S. federal government, therefore, non-liquid prohibited items are usually donated by the government or auctioned off as government property. Liquids are usually not donated due to the potential liability that comes with unidentifiable liquids.
Misconception #3: “TSA Agents Are a Bunch of Rejects”
TSA officers/agents are NOT random security guards. TSA officers are considered federal agents. Any criminal acts against them will result in the same charges brought on by any crime against any federal officer. They are not paid eight bucks an hour. TSA employees are salaried employees that can make up to six figures through promotions within the agency. They receive federal employee benefits such as: healthcare, vacation and sick days, 401k, TSP, and employee bonuses. More than half of the workforce are military veterans, hold college degrees, or even worked in previous law enforcement agencies. Not everyone is qualified to be a TSA Officer.
Misconception# 4: “You Are Not as Cute as You Think You Are”
Millions of passengers fly everyday. Some are rushing to connections. Others have been traveling overseas for days. Plenty have lesser value for hygiene, and well…what I am trying to say is…that there is a lot of “funk” that accompanies the traveling public. Now, I know this whole ordeal with the “Rated R” pat downs has supposedly stripped the public of their “rights” and exposes everyone to “sexual abuse”. However, a lot of the passengers opt out in return of a pat-down, and from the smell of things are sometimes likely to not have even utilized a bar of soap at all, and out of all the passengers needing to be physically searched, maybe one percent of those same passengers are even close to being worth an arousal or stimulation of any sort by any form of physical contact . Nine times out of 10…he/she is just not that in to you!
Misconception #5: “Can You Hold My Flight?”
TSA might be capable of quite a few things, however, holding a plane so you can make it to your gate because you are running late, is not one of them. TSA will not hold a line, expedite you to the front of a line, or offer you hors d’oeuvres while you wait just because you are first class, medallion, VIP, or even TSA Pre✓. If you are lucky enough, your airline may pave the way for these types of membership lines and preserve them at the checkpoint for you, but TSA is not entitled to cater to such privilege if passenger flow or any other security factor shows its face at any given time. Security first. Customer Service ehhh…maybe third…or fifth…better yet…last.
Misconception #6- “The Body Scanner is NOT a Metal Detector”
When going through the body scanner passengers are asked to take everything out of their pocket. Everything, in fact means just that…EVERYTHING. The machine is not only looking for metal items on one’s person. It is looking for EVERYTHING on one’s person. A handkerchief is EVERYTHING. A passport is EVERYTHING. Used toilet tissue for snotty noses are EVERYTHING. The brain….is EVERYT…well…nope keep the brain in. Some passengers need that to ask for the next directions most probably won’t follow as well.
Misconception #7- “TSA is NOT CBP (Customs and Border Protection)”
VS (TSA in first picture and CBP in second picture)
TSA and CBP is not to be confused. They are two different entities, looking for two different things. The explanation is in the names itself. Transportation Security Administration is used to secure public transportation by identifying and locating anyone or anything that can or may be a threat to the safety of the traveling public, government property, and/or aviation/commercial property. CBP is used to protect American borders from any illegal persons or contraband from crossing U.S. borders. It is highly plausible that you may encounter both entities during one screening process, especially when flying overseas. It may seem like going through security twice or even three times, and technically may be so, but it is all for the sole purpose of two different agendas.
Misconception #8: “I Didn’t Have to Do This In Paris”
Passengers often get offended when security rules change, but what is security if it remains consistent? Consistency is vulnerability. For example: because if know when you are going to move, how you are going to move, when you are going to move, and where you are moving to, I can use that to my advantage. It is called “dry running”, basically testing out a system to see what one can get away with, because the expectations will be the same every time. Therefore, risks can be assessed and calculated in order to push a successful attack or illegal activity.
Also, different countries call for different security measures. Security procedures are created based on security threats and risks. If you didn’t have to take your shoes off in Paris, does not mean you won’t have to take them off in Lagos. There are some airports where you have to go through at least four checkpoints before even reaching your gate, others have one. It is not something for everyone to understand, but there is logic behind it.
Misconception #9: “TSA Broke My Bag”
TSA is more so, less likely to break your bag, than the actual airline ramp employees. Your bag may make it all the way to the airplane without even being opened by TSA. If anything, TSA may pop open your bag if you have a lock on it that is not TSA approved. If TSA have to check your bag and it is locked, they will usually go for the zipper if they can’t find a master-key to open it. If there are no zippers, well…then yes, all measures will be used to open that bag. So, did TSA break your bag? Technically, you did for not following TSA approved policies on securing your bag.
Keep these things in mind when traveling and going through your next screening process. Understanding how things works may make your traveling experience a lot less stressful. Be safe and happy travels to you.