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Government Transportation Politics

Confessions Of an Ex-TSA Agent: Secrets Of the I.O. Room 393

Posted by timothy
from the ma'am-this-is-for-your-own-good dept.
Jason Edward Harrington has seen some of the same frustrations, misgivings, and objections that have crossed the mind of probably every commercial airline traveler who's flown over the last decade in the U.S. One difference: Harrington got to see them from the perspective of a TSA agent. His description of the realities of the job (including learning the rote responses that agents are instructed to reassure the public with) is wince-worthy and compelling. A sample makes it clear why the TSA has such famously low morale, even among Federal agencies: "I hated it from the beginning. It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show. I confiscated jars of homemade apple butter on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security. I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots—the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying." It only gets worse from there.
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Confessions Of an Ex-TSA Agent: Secrets Of the I.O. Room

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  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:52PM (#46125489)

    I've been reading that guy's blog since day one:

    http://takingsenseaway.wordpre... [wordpress.com]

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Friday January 31, 2014 @10:52PM (#46125831)

    BS. What government program has ever ended?

    Mobilization for the Civil War
    Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War
    Mobilization for WW1
    Prohibition
    Federal poisoning of alcohol [slate.com]
    CCC - Civilian Conservation Corps
    CWA - Civil Works Administration
    FSA - Federal Security Agency
    PWA - Public Works Administration
    WPA - Works Progress Administration
    Mobilization for WW2
    The Marshall Plan
    Mobilization for Korea
    The draft
    Mobilization for Desert Storm
    Cash for clunkers

    There are more.

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Friday January 31, 2014 @10:53PM (#46125837)

    uhh...a hole to the outside, suddenly depressurizing the plane while at 30k feet, would be a really, really bad thing. What we should "try" is metal detectors and dogs - you know, the stuff we were using /before/ all this, and which worked substantially better.

    I could empty an AR-15 w/30 rounds from inside an airliner flying at 30K feet, reload, do it again, and still not depressurize the cabin to any serious extent as long as no windows were blown out. I serviced/repaired aircraft for a living. (note: this assumes one doesn't carefully aim to enlarge a single hole.) You'd need a hole at least a foot or more across to be in any immediate danger.

    An airliner is not a spaceship, and movies are not reality.

    Strat

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Friday January 31, 2014 @11:54PM (#46126097) Homepage

    no...i don't believe so.

    the US government being involved in health care is a very new thing. it can be argued that the TSA was perhaps the largest new program that the US government created before the health care thing. that links the two in a very powerful and factual way.

    the US government has been using the military for hundreds of years, and the politics of military use go back thousands.

  • by Boltronics (180064) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @12:34AM (#46126247) Homepage

    I used to work with a guy who had to get scanned by an airport residue scanner, on the same day that he had been using competitive firearms all morning in practice. He was happy to openly admit it to them (this was in Australia), but the scanner didn't pick up anything at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2014 @01:20AM (#46126405)

    The scanners used in Australian airports target nitrate-based explosives only, not the phosphate-based residues which would result from firearm usage.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @01:23AM (#46126415) Homepage Journal

    I could empty an AR-15 w/30 rounds from inside an airliner flying at 30K feet, reload, do it again, and still not depressurize the cabin to any serious extent as long as no windows were blown out. I serviced/repaired aircraft for a living.

    I designed and coded the software for cabin pressurization systems used in commercial aircraft. BlueStrat is correct in all details, and if you know a little engineering you can easily convince yourself.

    The cabin pressurization valve is an inflatable balloon [liebherr.com] (of sorts) sitting in an 8" diameter hole, and there are two of them. The system will easily compensate for even a large number of bullet holes in the body - 1" holes are much smaller than the area the valve system has to work with.

    The pressure differential between the inside and outside can be at most 15 pounds per square inch(*). That means that a 1" hole would only present 15 lbs of force pressure on an object pressing against it, which can be easily overcome by a person. Bullet holes are much smaller than 1" diameter. Further away and the effect is negligible.

    A window being shot out would not suck out a passenger. From experience, when an 8" diameter hole (the pressurization valve) is suddenly uncovered, it doesn't pull very hard on people standing near it and the pull ends almost instantly. Force isn't present for any length of time, and since F=M*A and V = A*T, you end up with very little velocity.

    Sorry folks, Goldfinger doesn't get sucked across the cabin and forced through the blown-out window [ew.com], and Pussy Galore [wikipedia.org] doesn't have to pull the plane out of a tailspin.

    (*) To reduce stress on the airframe, the cabin is depressurized as the aircraft reaches cruising altitude.This reduces the maximum differential by about 1/3.

  • by thunderclap (972782) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @02:09AM (#46126593)

    The US hasn't formally declared a war since 1945. Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afganistan are all either police actions or joint military operations with active combat theaters. They are not wars.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @02:18AM (#46126623) Journal

    You need a certain amount of your expected tax bill on account with the government else they can fine you. I think it amounts to 90% of your current year's tax bill or 100% of the previous year's bill. There are some exceptions but they are limited. The fine is something like a percentage of the underpaid amount or something like that.

    There is also a $500 penalty if you knowingly do as you suggest and alter your W-4 to reduce the amount of withholding with no reasonable basis for doing so. Also, you can be charged with a crime for supplying false or fraudulent information on your Form W-4 or failing to offer information that could increase your withholding that can cost you $1000 and/or 1 year in prison.

    So while, yes, in theory, you can alter your deductions to effectively have no withholding, it can also cost you a lot more in the end if you do so.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @02:45AM (#46126697)

    He said black powder. Black powder is potassium NITRATE aka kno3.
    A little charcoal, a lot of potassium nitrate, and a pinch of sulfur.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2014 @07:53AM (#46127459)

    I have an interest in aviation even though I don't work in the industry (for medical reasons). Thus I read all I can about it and am a regular on aviation forums and based on that knowledge, I know that the requirement for cabin pressurization systems is that the system should handle one cabin window being completely gone. The requirement should IMHO be updated to take into account varying plane sizes (and maybe the fact that the 787 has larger windows than any other airliner) but for now the industry seems willing to go beyond the requirement. Airbus voluntarily decided to make the system in the A380 powerful enough to handle four windows being completely gone.

    I might also add that it isn't all that unusual that when a cabin door happens to leak, the crew simply place a wet towel to stop it well enough to let the pressurization system go back to normal and end the alarm. Thus there's no need to disrupt the flight schedule.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @08:20AM (#46127533) Journal
    The point of the broken window fallacy is that it assumes that causing work to be done will not cause other work to go undone and it therefore ignores opportunity cost. The glass maker in the story will be employed making the glass to replace the window, which increases economic activity on the assumption that the glass blower would otherwise have had no work to do. The point of the story is to highlight the fact that this assumption is usually untrue. It is very often misused, however.

    In particular, it does not apply when you're talking about subsidies / investment that is required to produce a demand that will cause economies of scale to lower prices to the degree that would increase real demand. If, rather than one window being broken, a few thousand were, then that might cause the glazier in the story to invest in machinery to produce glass in high volumes. Once all of the windows have been replaced, the glazier is still able to produce glass at significant volumes and lower costs, and so reduces his prices to stimulate demand. This then triggers the development of industries that depend on the cheap and ready availability of glass.

    That's stretching the story a little bit, because the production of glass is very well understood and there are few changes in the process that are more than small incremental improvements. It is very different in a comparatively new field, for example the production of solar cells, where new processes regularly produce 50% better (more efficient, cheaper, etc.) technology. It would be true of microprocessors, if not for the fact that this market has already moved on to the stage where there is sufficient demand to drive investment without needing external priming.

    The motivation is largely irrelevant. The broken window fallacy would apply to the TSA if the TSA is hiring people who would otherwise be employed doing something productive. It is, of course, not the only way in which the TSA costs the economy. On my last trip to the US, I spent a total of around two hours in queues for security theatre, which could have been time spent in the airport lounge working. The same is true of most business travellers.

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