A week ago I received an email from a TSA worker asking how to better be able to detect bombs and explosives. I considered the possibility that the person might actually be trying to get something by TSA rather than working for them. But as the conversation progressed it seemed less and less likely. I gave him a few links and apparently he read quite a bit on both my blog and others because he specifically mentioned Breda’s adventures with the TSA.
In one long email he defended the TSA and the job they were doing. I asked if he would like for me to post it so it could get a little more exposure and he said he would like that. I then said:
Before I post it I would like to ask you a few questions. Let’s start with:
So given that I’m pretty sure I could get a few cups of flour in my carryon bag, and an ounce or so of black powder and matches on via a body cavity if nothing else. You know that I can bring down the plane with it, right (http://www.joehuffman.org/FlashTek/06-FFFFgFlour.mpeg)?
So if you can’t stop that then what is the point of doing 90% of the other searches and tests?
He responded with:
[Stuff that was apparently identifying — so I deleted it.–Joe]
Obviously that doesn’t really answer the question–what is the point of TSA if there is an easy way to defeat it? Security is a like a chain. It’s only as strong as its weakest link.
I haven’t heard back from him and that was over two days ago. So, even though I didn’t get my questions answered I’m posting his defense of the TSA:
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 6:19 AM
To: Joe Huffman
Subject: Re: Hey Joe
I’ve been reading through the blogs about TSA. A lot of it seems to be first-hand experience taken to another level with speculation about motives, means, and why we do what we do.
Like ammo, for instance, our ETD’s don’t detect ammunition or residue. Come to us after a week of shooting and making home-made ammo and you’ll only look dirty, but pass all of our security, as long as you don’t have the ammo or the gun. We just work harder every day with testing and training to detect prohibited items and IED’s, whether whole or in part.
Doesn’t feel so good to see a lot of crap posted about you and your job without people being there to understand, and like I’ve said in the past, the only fully secure air travel is none at all, but while Americans travel the skies we’ll be there to make sure they make it home to their families in one piece.
It is rewarding, because nothing blows up or goes down. Those kind of professions aren’t suited for everyone because there is no actual number to be put up for security, and at the end of the month you can’t see results unless you understand that the quiet is the result, however TSA isn’t perfect (which is an understatement, as threats evolve we must evolve to detect and deter) but while there have been no major, or for that case, minor hijackings, shootings, killings, etc, that I know of and no terrorists on flights what-so-ever, I can see results.
It may not be easy, but while there are people on flights to or from my airport, I’ll be giving 100% to make sure they get there safely. I could never live knowing something went wrong because I didn’t screen people doing everything according to the SOP and then some. And while you work with the traveling public who will you hear the most, people who are satisfied, or those who have a bone to pick?
Want to be pissed because you have to take off your shoes? Thank Richard Reid.
Want to be pissed because you can’t take your water? Thank those terrorists in England.
Most of what we can’t say isn’t because we don’t want to, it’s not that we don’t trust you or want to talk down to you like a parent, like no-answers or ‘because it has to be’ or ‘because we say so,’ it’s always a matter of security. Ask the troops where they are, what kinds of weapons they have and where they store them, how many people they have on guard at night, what the sensitive parts of the bases are, etc, and what will you get? Answers that don’t make sence or no answers at all. Same thing. If we have an open forum where all of what we do comes out, who wins? The Americans who whine and complain, and the terrorists who just got all of our methods, sizes, and modes on a silver platter.
Doesn’t mean we don’t want to tell you everything, like why we have to screen your prosthetics, or what the ETD’s look for, or what types of metal alarm the MD, etc. It’s not up to us, and the ones who make the decisions say people will get hurt if we do talk freely, just like the military. We can’t be armed with weapons, so we’re armed with as much knowledge and electronic tools as the government can standardize and ship. Some of the best X-Ray and ETD machines in any country, and the world finest training for such a large force.
But, just when you hope we can do better, TSA accidently releases our Screening Management SOP, not ecactly how we do everything, but what to do with everyone. More like where the battles were and not how they were armed, but still damaging.
Should be hitting the web today or tomorrow, very not cool.
But anyways, I’m going to bed, try to have a nice day Joe.
I’m almost overcome with the temptation to comment on and tear apart what he says but I somehow don’t see that as quite fair.
I think the question I posed to him about bringing down a plane with materials found in nearly every kitchen (substitute ground match heads for the black powder) is sufficient rebuttal in the present context.
What can you really say to someone that demonstrates how to defeat $2 Billion a year spent on security with $2 worth of materials you can find in grandmas kitchen?