Why TSA’s credibility is always questioned

An article in USAToday explains exactly why TSA’s credibility is always questioned, particularly by those in the aviation industry.

The article discusses the new whole body imagers and their potential impact on airport passenger flow and screening lines. The TSA representative, despite educated opinions from actual airport operators, says that the new technologies will not slow down passenger flow because the length of time people spend at the checkpoints is actually a factor of how long it takes to put their bags through the x-ray machine, not going through the magnetometer.

This is why TSA has such low credibility with airport and airline operators. This type of thinking is reflective of policy makers who do not know enough to listen to the people actually running the systems and implementing the technologies — i.e. the real experts. Continue Reading

Air cargo screening deadlines may be tough to meet

While Northwest Flight 253 has been making many of the security headlines lately, there is another debate going on that is drawing less attention, but is very important. By this year, the industry is expected to be conducting 100% screening of air cargo placed on a commercial aircraft, and it’s looking less and less like that deadline may be achieved. Continue Reading

Mishandled Aircraft Bomb Threat

The news is just starting to emerge that the airport may have mishandled Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas day. The core issue is this — it comes back to education AGAIN. Procedures were not followed. TSA had watch list failures. The air carrier and airport had operational and procedural failures. Everyone in industry needs to be as educated on aviation security as they are on aviation safety issues. Continue Reading

ALPA has a point

The Air Line Pilots Association have a point. In their recently released White Paper on “Meeting Today’s Aviation Security Needs: A Call to Action for a Trust-Based Security System” ALPA calls for a risk-based assessment of passengers as a security methodology, rather than a religious reliance on technology.

This is exactly what every aviation security expert worth their salt has been calling for and it’s time to start paying attention. Otherwise, attacks will continue, aviation will lose more of its benefit, and it will cost everyone more and more money — and it doesn’t need to.

Sadly, I’m not sure what it will take for us to make this mode shift. We’ve been attacked over and over and continue to rely on what is only slightly effective. Continue Reading

New law is not the solution

Again, here we are after another terrorist attack/attempt, and Congress decides to take action without direction so it looks like we’re doing something. We have to much of this in aviation security, looking like we’re doing something without actually doing it. Too bad the bad guys are doing it the other way around. Perhaps some of these Congressional staffers who do the actual policy making, should pick up a book on aviation security and read how the system works sometime – I can make some recommendations if they’d like. Continue Reading

“All you did today was weaken a country”

The headline is from the movie “A Few Good Men,” spoken by Jack Nicholson. With Erroll Southers bowing out under pressure from Sen. Jim DeMint from his appointment to head TSA, all that has happened is that the country is less safer today. DeMint’s assertion that Southers position on collective bargaining was unfounded as there are plenty of provisions for federal employees who are part of a union to ensure they don’t all walk out the door, and still remain flexible enough to respond to rapidly changing threats. Continue Reading


A recent Gallup poll showed that many American’s support ethnic profiling in our airports. I do not. Here’s why. It doesn’t work.

The question is often asked, should we profile? Well, not profiling is like saying “don’t breathe.” We all profile whether we want to or not. It’s in our DNA.

Ever since we were chasing Wildebeests across the Serengeti with a club a few thousand years ago we came with this built in survival instinct. When we walk into a room or down a street, we stay aware of our surroundings or else we may become a victim of crime, getting run over by a car or some other hazard. We feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings so you may not experience this on a daily basis, but if you ever want to test this theory, go to an unfamiliar part of town. You will immediately find yourself assessing your surroundings and the people within them. You will look at someone else and immediately try to decide whether they are a threat. How will you know, you’ll pay attention to body cues that your body has paid attention to since birth. Continue Reading

The Real Problem with TSA (and the industry)

I say this knowing full well that I am an educator, a trainer in the aviation security industry, and the co-author of a textbook on aviation security, but the real problem with TSA (and many others in control of aviation security), is the lack of individuals that are formally trained in aviation security and who are unfamiliar with the aviation industry.

Myself and my industry counterparts have seen it for years. In fact, ever since TSA was formed, the problem has remained the same. TSA was started with tons of people who, while good intentioned, did not possess experience in aviation nor in aviation security. Many airport operators also put people in charge of aviation security who may have had good law enforcement or military backgrounds but did not understand aviation. Continue Reading

Rx for Aviation Security

In recent interviews on Denver’s Fox 31 News and on 9News, I tried to answer the most commonly asked question whenever there is a security incident: “How can we improve the system?” A good follow up question to that is: “At what point does all this security just cost too much?” The answers to both of these questions are interrelated.

At some point, security will cost too much. It will cost too much money, too much time and too much of a compromise of our civil rights. The solution is to improve the system through a strategy of reducing the number of people that we our looking at.

Whole Body Imagers can be effective but they take up a lot of space, may need stronger floors to sit upon and there may be additional power requirements. To replace all of the metal detectors in the U.S. will be costly in terms of both money and security wait times. Continue Reading

Under the Spotlight

According to CBS News in L.A., TSA faces allegations that its employees at Los Angeles International Airport were caught on tape using drugs. The investigation began last year when a TSA worker was arrested for allegedly counterfeiting parking passes in the employee lot.

In South Carolina at the Greenville-Spartnburg International Airport, a bomb sniffing dog gave a possible alert that caused the evacuation of B concourse and a Delta flight. A bomb detection team found nothing.

In Newark, where recently a security breach caused the evacuation of Terminal C, the video camera that was supposed to see the exit lane where the breach occurred was not working. The breach resulted in thousands of passengers having to be re-screened and flights delayed.

I bring up these three incidents as newsworthy, but only newsworthy in the sense that we are once again keeping the spotlight on aviation security. I’ve tracked hundreds of these types of incidents. . . Continue Reading

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