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Long TSA Delays Force Airports To Hire Private Security Contractors ( 260

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: TSA checkpoints caused 6,800 American Airlines passengers to miss their flights in just one week this spring, and the problem isn't improving. "Two years ago the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offered $15,000 to anybody -- literally anybody -- who could come up with an idea to speed up airport security..." writes Popular Science. "They wouldn't say who won or for which idea, but since we're here two years later with longer wait times than ever, it's fair to say it hasn't lived up to the groundbreaking ideals of that call to action... Now in summer 2016, the TSA recommends arriving three hours early instead of a mere two."

So this spring the Seattle-Tacoma airport replaced many of the TSA staff with private screeners, although "Private security operates under strict direction from the TSA, and even those airports that heavily utilize private contractors still have a lot of TSA personnel in the back rooms..." according to the article. "The ability to do exactly what the TSA does, only faster and cheaper, seems to be the major draw." Now 22 U.S. airports are using private screeners, although the Seattle and San Francisco airports are the only ones with significant traffic.

The article also cites a Homeland Security report which discovered that investigators were able to smuggle a test bomb past security checkpoints in 67 out of 70 tests.
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Long TSA Delays Force Airports To Hire Private Security Contractors

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2016 @06:49PM (#52826277)

    Especially to the fact that these private companies are hired by the TSA

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @06:51PM (#52826281) Journal

    Obviously since something is easy and sensible it will never be done but for 15K I'll take a whack at it.

    To speed up the lines, get rid of the TSA.

    It's that simple.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      They don't have any shortage of ideas that will work. They have a shortage of ideas that work and make them look good.

      They should use "big data" to profile. Not "race" and such, but note that every 9/11 terrorist used the same types of tickets and same types of boarding. Of course, the weakness is that you can't find what you aren't looking for, but that's true anyway.

      Speed up lines? Drop the baggage check. Buy more explosives checkers, and get ones so sensitive they'll detect the explosives inside a
      • by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @09:21PM (#52826901) Homepage

        ...Buy more explosives checkers, and get ones so sensitive they'll detect the explosives inside a firearm cartridge loaded inside a gun. Don't look for the metal. Look for the cartridge.

        In any system, there are always two complementary failure modes. We call these "type 1" and "type 2" errors. For example, a switch can fail open (does not conduct when it should conduct) or closed (conducts when it is not supposed to conduct).

        For a detector, the error types are "false negative", failing to detect an explosive that is there, and "false positive"-- detecting an explosive when one is not there.

        It's easy to make a detective super sensitive. Of course, this means that the false positive rate will be astronomical.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          So you have a 10% false positive rate. That's astronomically high, yet would still be better than what we have now. Put those 10% through the standard line, and send the other 90% on their way with no screening. You get better security than today, and shorter lines than today.
    • To speed up the lines, perform cavity searches on everyone and thoroughly toss their luggage. Sure, it'll take longer per person, but not only will security be more thorough but just announce the new policy and watch the lines disappear.

    • Your idea is simple but is too costly to implement. We are talking about billions of dollars (was it $4b/year just for screening?) of "cost" (i.e. not ending up in the right pockets).

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      To speed up the lines, get rid of the TSA

      I doubt that one would be accepted... perhaps as a compromise we just have everybody walk past a bomb sniffing dog... It'll create the same illusion of security.
      And if we train the bomb sniffing dogs to be sit really still, then 6 months from now we can replace them with stuffed dogs as a further cost saving measure :)

      • Just replace them with "electronic bomb sniffers". And since I don't have a bomb with me, and it doesn't beep when I go past it, it must work.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @06:51PM (#52826285)

    Now in summer 2016, the TSA recommends arriving three hours early instead of a mere two.

    Drive to your destination -- even if it's overseas.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      How oversea?

    • Well, at some point it will actually be faster to drive to your destination than to fly. An hour to get to the airport, half an hour in the traffic jam and finding a place to park your car, 3 hours TSA debasement, an hour pre-flight waiting (hey, those shops in the duty-free zone want to live, too. Not to mention that here you can get all the things you need to blow up your plane), half an hour to an hour for boarding and waiting for take-off, a variable time span for flight, then about an hour for landing,

  • private TSA
  • by mishehu ( 712452 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @07:01PM (#52826319)
    Because then they don't have power over us and they can't whine that they need all sorts of extra funding. They also refuse to return to only using the magnetometer instead of the nudie scanners or they insist on groping everybody's privates. And yet they are as effective as Walmart door-greeters when it comes to actual security. So why don't we just hire Walmart door greeters with the magnetometer to use, and be done with it?
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      They should stop looking for metal. Today, there's no metal that can hijack a plane, without explosives (sometimes contained in firearms). Let on knives, tweezers and such. Just set up multiple explosives detectors around the airport, with silent alarms that trigger a review by a large centralized observation center. Facial recognition on the hits, and have them pulled aside when they go through the security line. The security line has people walk through a bottle-neck manned explosives detector. The
    • If I get TSA Precheck this week that assumes I am not a big "security risk". Then why next week am I a " security risk" when they don't give me precheck on my next flight?

      It makes no sense.

      • The randomness is to keep you from "relying" on it, a lame effort to keep ne'er do wells on their toes. However, did you buy Precheck? If so was it standalone or part of Global Entry? Basically the more information you gave to the government and the more hoops you went through to get your Trusted Traveller document, the less random it is. So Global Entry gets Precheck maybe 90% of the time, while standalone Precheck would be 75% (numbers pulled out of my ass, but this is what I've heard on various flyer

    • The door greeters refused, they felt they were over-qualified for the job, also the pay was inferior.

  • Abolish the money drain security theater that is the TSA and let the airports go back to using security methods that were shown to be more effective. Keep DHS as merely a top-level organization and make use of air marshals as has been the standard. Use best practices that have been shown to work, and abandon the costly, ineffective, dangerous (unregulated x-ray), and intrusive methods that do not improve safety.
    • by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @07:11PM (#52826361)

      I have to disagree with you on one of your suggestions. Get rid of DHS too. The only thing DHS and TSA both accomplish is abusing the constitutional rights of American citizens on a daily basis. Neither organization has done anything to actually improve security. For starters, just look at how many TSA employees have breached security or been caught stealing from luggage. And how about the DHS confiscating laptops and phones at the border.

      • by ArtemaOne ( 1300025 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @07:15PM (#52826391)
        You wont get any argument from me that DHS is too large and is abusing the powers of the Patriot Act, which should have never been extended. Once the Patriot Act goes away the DHS will not be able to (legally) maintain its current size and scope. The general idea of it is less flawed than its implementation with overreach. And having ICE under DHS, where not only do we not address exploitation of undocumented aliens, as well as software/music/movie copyright infringement? WTF? Rehaul it without a doubt.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        DHS [] has declared elections to be critical infrastructure. They are planning on having elections run under DHS now.

        How could you get rid of DHS now? Why is the Federal Government getting involved in elections for the first time in all of US history? I know I have a good guess as to why.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Why is the Federal Government getting involved in elections for the first time in all of US history? I know I have a good guess as to why.

          Because, for the first time in US history, there's strong evidence that foreign governments are interfering with elections?

          For that matter, I don't see why the notion of federal government getting involved in elections that select people who run said federal government to be unusual or worrisome. There are a bunch of constitutional requirements and laws pertaining to elections on the federal level - who should enforce them, if not the feds?

  • The ability to do exactly what the TSA does, only faster and cheaper, seems to be the major draw.

    I'm sure it's easy to hire people to harass travelers and waste their time for less than the government pays.

  • Increase the number of checkpoints and screeners?

    Do I win?

    • by Sarusa ( 104047 )

      They have been decreasing them instead. Because they figured TSA Pre would be a resounding success and everyone would be using that.

      But they made it so annoying hardly anyone bothers - which is great when I just sail through, but sucks if you're in the other line, especially since they've effectively removed a lane for TSA Pre people.

      • Yes, the implementation is completely flawed. They don't ensure that the Pre lines are always shorter than the regular lines. What's the point of signing up for Pre, if, when you get to the airport, the Pre line is closed and you just have to go through the regular line?
  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @07:54PM (#52826543)

    wasn't that one of the reasons given for forming the TSA in the first place? Better efficiency? The TSA was going to replace those inefficient, untrained, low paid knuckleheads with....inefficient, untrained HIGH paid government knuckleheads. All the while, they would create another bureaucratic tar pit with a multi-billion dollar annual budget.

    Folks - this is why our infrastructure is falling apart and our schools are going to shit. It is not because there is not enough money. It is because of how the money gets spent. There is zero accountability. The TSA is yet another perfect example of this. It is a failed experiment. Were this a private company it would be abandoned, with a follow up study and lessons learned. In government they just throw more (of our) money at it.

    This is why whenever the government wants to launch yet another massive program (be it Obamacare or what have you) I am flatly against it. Why? Because they have shown time and time again that they are incapable of managing anything of scale without it turning into a bottomless pit.

    • Yeah. And it's particularly telling that the TSA goons are the ones who, pre-9/11, couldn't even get the inefficient, untrained, low paid knucklehead security jobs that existed at the time. The TSA quite literally recruits from the labor pool that comprises walmart greeters, fast-food workers, gas-pump jockeys, pizza delivery drivers, and the stoners ordering said pizza: []

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Hey it worked fine for Venezuela... Well until their infinite money cheat (Boat loads of oil) quit working and then their rampant corruption caught up to them.

  • Clearly the long wait times are the passengers fault. If people would quit waiting around to get on the 3 out of 70 planes that don't have bombs on them, everything would go much faster.
  • by Sarusa ( 104047 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @08:02PM (#52826567)

    I know a guy who couldn't hold a job even at Target, Wendy's, corner gas station... Now he works for the TSA.

    He's not making fat cash, but this is a guy who wasn't even capable of working at Target as a shelf stocker and now he's working at security checkpoints. If I thought the TSA actually did anything I'd be horrified.

    And they're union (I don't think union is automatically bad, but government and union is the worst possible combo), so performance is a joke and he can't get fired short of doing something blatantly illegal (and maybe not even then). Luckily he's just dumb, not crooked, but there are plenty of low class criminals working for TSA. Sometimes they even get caught.

  • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @08:54PM (#52826781)

    At least SFO and few other airports no longer require to take off your shoes.

    BTW If you want a check to be deterrent you can simply just use it on 10% of the passengers. Like the shoe check for example. Uncertainty is still sufficient deterrent and it will speed up the lines quite a bit. I would even go as far as simply just screen 10% of the passengers for anything. The checks could be much more thorough, just like we do with the customs. There is no reason why the model that works for customs should not be replicated for the security checks.

    • I wasn't aware that SFO no longer requires you to take your shoes off. I got TSA Precheck a few years ago, best $85 I ever spent (I wanted Global Entry as well, but was denied because someone shipped me an order from Asia misdeclared 7 years ago... somehow that was a Customs violation on my part?). The "interview" process is literally less than 5 minutes, you put your hands on some glass so they can get fingerprints and they ask you if your information was accurate. I had my KTN before I even got home. It's

  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Sunday September 04, 2016 @09:37PM (#52826951)

    Terrorists are not normal people. They have super human powers. A pair of tweezers and a small bottle of water is all it takes for them to blow an Airplane out of the sky. How they do it is, of course, top secret.

    That is why merely bolting the cabin doors is not sufficient. Every passenger needs to be thoroughly searched, inside and out. Just looking for guns and explosives is not nearly enough. A pair of tweezers hidden in a terrorist's shoe is all that it takes.

  • ""Two years ago the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offered $15,000 to anybody -- literally anybody -- who could come up with an idea to speed up airport security..." writes Popular Science."

    So if someone did come up with such a great idea, why not implement it themselves and make more than a relatively paltry $15K for coming up with an idea of that could save millions.

  • Given that the salaries are already $14k-$29k +/- regional adjustments for TSO's, what makes the private contractors any better? You're going to get even less motivated individuals given that contractors would expect a cut out of the already-abysmally low wage, never mind the higher instability of a contract job.

  • This article was written in April. Since then, the TSA did a lot of hiring, and the long lines are gone. Yes, they messed up, and their role is a bit dubious, but if we're going to trash the TSA, let's at least take into account the improvements they HAVE made!

  • Go back to reasonable searches and stop being shit scared of everyone. Now, where do I get my cheque?
  • Note that the 9/11 terrorists selected their departure airport carefully. Boston was already _infamous_ among American airports for having untrained, overworked, underpaid, incompetent airport security personnel.

    This is not to support the TSA's expensive and fraudulently advertised radiation based scanning, nor to support the genuinely physically invasive searches and abuse of passengers that has occurred under their more rigorous searches. But the handling of private contractors is rife with opportunities

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham