Time to Say ‘So-Long’ to the TSA’s Sour Attitude

by Diane Dimond on October 7, 2012

Sorta Says It All, Doesn’t It?


A recent Gallup poll has just concluded that 54 percent of Americans think the Transportation Security Administration is doing an “excellent” or “good” job at our airports.

I don’t.

I think the TSA is engaged in a nationwide effort to cavalierly and routinely strip travelers of their dignity. I think in some instances the system is decidedly un-American.

A Metal Detector-Okay
This? Not So Much!

“Remove your shoes! Take off your jackets! Make sure your computers are out and in a separate bin,” they shout out in a dreary monotone indicating their own boredom with the security system.

Empty your pockets. Take off your belt. Maybe it’s your necklace that’s making the infernal machine belch out its warning. Go back, and come through the contraption again. React with a heavy sigh or sagging shoulders, and you’re directed to a separate area to wait for the dreaded personal wanding session. At this point in the process, does the TSA really think a bona fide terrorist would wait patiently for the personal search?

This country was founded on the idea that there would be no such invasions of privacy. “Is this your bag, sir?” a stern looking young woman asked my husband last week as we departed for a cross-country vacation.

Michael Schoen the Voice-Over Artist

My husband is a voice-over artist and travels with his computer and specialized microphone called a “Snowball” so he can take care of clients while on the road. Maybe the presence of this bulbous, white piece of hardware with its tripod stand reminded the TSA agent of the now-banned snow globes that are not allowed on airplanes. (What is that all about, anyway?) Long story short, we very nearly missed our plane for all the discussion and re-screening.

Yes, I applaud the fact that no more shoe or underwear bombers have gotten through the system. I completely understand the need for airport security. But does the TSA have to treat all of us like we’re new arrivals at a prison camp?  It happens at every big city airport I go to. (That said, I must add that I found the TSA folks in Santa Barbara, Albuquerque and Greensboro, North Carolina quite  friendly.)

Really? Where’s the Wand?

I guess I have two major problems with the system. First, the lines are too long, and I’m perplexed because there almost always seems to be extra agents standing around not opening up the closed lanes. Second is the demeanor of the TSA agents. There are few smiles, never any meaningful eye contact, never an attempt to make the traveler feel like anything other than a criminal. In any other business, this kind of employee attitude would result in someone being fired for fear the customers would go elsewhere.

Could This Be Construed as Sexual Assault?

But we are captive to the airport monopoly. There is no other way to travel long distances quickly unless you’re Donald Trump and you have your own private jet.

I’m hardly alone in my displeasure with this nearly 11-year-old organization that is old enough to be better at what it does. Sen. Rand Paul often criticizes the TSA. At a recent speech in South Florida, he mimicked the legs apart and hands-on-head stance travelers must assume for certain airport machines and exclaimed, “Is this the pose of a free man?”

Sexual Assault Here?

My answer? No, it is not. The House Subcommittee on Transportation Security released a report not long ago that called TSA operations “in many cases costly, counter intuitive and poorly executed.”

Here’s a stunning example: The TSA’s annual payroll, compensation and benefits are more than $3 billion for about 62,000 employees. Roughly 47,000 of them are the screeners you see at the airport. But, according to the subcommittee (are you sitting down?), “there does not appear to be a correlation between the TSA’s staffing model and the number of travelers that need to be screened.” In fact, the report said, there has been a “net decrease in the number of people traveling” in the United States. In other words, all those extra agents I’ve seen standing around simply aren’t needed.

Interesting Concept But Puffers Don’t Work

Here’s another quick example: In 2006, the TSA spent nearly $30 million to buy more than 200 so-called “puffer machines” that are supposed to detect explosive particles on carry-on bags. Only after the mega-purchase did they realize the machines don’t work in humid airport environments. Yes, I would call that a costly and poorly executed program.

So, who’s in charge of this arm of government, and why can’t they make the TSA more consumer friendly and budget conscious? Well, that would be the United States Congress, but so far current TSA Administrator John Pistole doesn’t appear inclined to listen to either Congress or the courts.

The Man Behind The Pat Downs – Pistole

According to Joe Brancatelli, a travel writer with the Business Journals Digital Network who has been closely following the TSA saga and especially its failure to comply with a federal court’s order to review the policy on using full-body scanners, “TSA Administrator John Pistole repeatedly ignores congressional mandates and the law, as well as those pesky federal court orders.”

The TSA also dragged its feet on approving airports requests to join the “Screening Partnership Program,” which allows airports to opt out of using federal agents in favor of private contractors. Only after certain congressmen got angry did the TSA begin to ramp up its approvals. Now, three major airports — San Francisco, Orlando and Sacramento — and 14 smaller ones have made the change.

Privatization = Civilized Treatment?

Well, I can’t wait for the idea to spread nationwide. I’ve always been of the mind that private business can do things more cost effectively and efficiently than a government bureaucracy that gets more bloated every year. Now, I just hope those private contractors teach their screeners to be more polite to the customers. home

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Patti Petow October 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm


After reading your editorial, my friend Lance commented, “It’s all just theater, designed to make us ‘feel’ better.” I think he makes a very good point. I don’t fly. I’d like to, but it’s become more trouble than it’s worth. I would rather spend the extra money on gasoline and travel like a free citizen of this country.


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Facebook Friend Darryl DuPont writes:

“I think Patti is right, much of it is theater to give the illusion of safety. I’m not sure these knuckleheads could stop any terrorist. As far as going private, I’ve not flown out of Orlando or SF yet so I don’t know how well it works. But it seems it would be basically the same procedures only with more questionable staff.”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Dear Darryl:

Why would you think private employees would be “more questionable”?

These would be workers who went through extensive training and face the possibility of losing their jobs if they don’t perform well. Not so sure its very easy to get rid of a federal employee if they screw up or treat the customers (i.e. us – the traveling public) badly. Again, give me a privatized force over a government one any day! ~ DD


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Friend and Reader Stacy Brown writes:

” This comment: “I think the TSA is engaged in a nationwide effort to cavalierly and routinely strip travelers of their dignity” is one of the primary reasons I haven’t flown in some time and hope to never have to board an airplane again. I understand since 9/11 things have had to change, but the utter disrespect Tsa agents show is intolerable. They’ve made flying like buying soup from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. I just don’t want to do it unless there is a really needed reason for me.”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Facebook Friend and Showbiz whiz Sandy Helberg writes:

“I like an occasional grope…”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Twitter pal ?@MissAmiaSays writes:

“With those x-rays they take, gawd forbid if a woman has a tampon in, they might think she has a missile up her u know what….I’m being serious too. Not trying to be funny or inappropriate.”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Facebook Friend Burl Barer writes:

“If there are terrorists in America, they sure are a lame-ass bunch. Compare their lack of efforts and success with any resistance movement in the world. Then again, 35% of violent acts of terrorism on US soil are by….yes, the Puerto Rican resistance movement — they want freedom for Puerto Rico, not statehood or being a territory of the US. Only 6% of terrorist acts in the USA are credited to so called Muslim radicals while 7% are credited to the JDL (Jewish Defense League). In Europe only 3% of violent terrorist acts are credited by law enforcement to radical Islamic elements. Seems there is as much smoke and mirrors as there are xray machines and body searches.”


CLS October 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I agree with you 100%, and I’m glad you wrote this. Perhaps at one time, TSA thought they were there to prevent terrorism. I don’t that, anymore. The intrusive x-ray machine, outrageously long lines, and dehumanizing staff are the reasons I now prefer other forms of transportation.

It’s good to see a dissenting voice among the sheep.


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Huffington Post Reader MacTheCat writes:

“”..does the TSA have to treat all of us like we’re new arrivals at a prison camp?””


If the goal is to keep us all in a heightened state of fear and compliance, then their approach is just another part of the program.”


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Huffington Post reader mamabehr writes:

“Taking the juice boxes out of the stroller, “Oh, you have kids?” They were standing next to me…
We did not fly for 3 years because of the TSA BS. We have recently started to fly again, wish there were other ways to travel out of the country…


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Huffington Post reader Robert SF writes:

“Second, is the demeanor of the TSA agents. There are few smiles, never any meaningful eye contact, never an attempt to make the traveler feel like anything other than a criminal.”
Unfortunately, TSA agents are taken from the same labor pool that McDonald’s employees are. Actually, McDonald’s takes the smiling ones and leaves the sour ones behind. Most TSA jobs are part-time and pay around $12/hour. It’s not surprising they seethe in resentment, having to deal all day with people far, far wealthier than they will ever be.”


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Huffington Post reader Shoopy doopy doop boop writes:

“I totally agree. They are unprofessional and un-American. As a frequent traveler who travels regularly between North America and Europe I am amazed at the contrast between the TSA and lets say security at Heathrow or Gatwick in London. it is like day and night. While I appreciate the need for security today I don’t quite get the psyche of the people in charge of the TSA and the way it is being run.”


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Huffington Post spinotter11 writes:

” “At this point in the process does the TSA really think a bona fide terrorist would wait patiently for the personal search?” And part of the reason that a terrorist would not submit to a TSA search is that the search exists.
I have always been treated well by TSA agents, but admittedly I do not fly very often. I remember once going through security at Raleigh-Durham Airport, NC, and EVERY person I encountered was friendly, polite, and human. That is not always the case, which is why I remember that encounter so well, but imagine if you had to perform the duties of an airport security agent. Human beings come in many flavors, some not so pleasant and/or with their own issues. Until our laws change – until the need for security no longer exists (don’t hold your breath on that one), the best strategy is to submit to unreasonable agents and to be grateful for the vast majority of TSA workers who are human beings just like you and me.”


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Huffington Post Reader thinkingwomanmillstone writes:

“My neighbors 16 year old son (a total doufous) made it through the screening, onto an airplane and through their destination airport with a book bag full of fireworks. She only found out when he asked her whether he could shoot them off on the beach of their hotel in Puerto Rico or would he get into trouble. TSA is a lot of show and inconvenience with very little actual protection.”


Diane Dimond October 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Huffington Post Reader fortressfountain writes:

“We do not need the extra delays and radiation. I bet they are just fishing for extra ways to criminalize the people.”


Diane Dimond October 17, 2012 at 10:49 am

DD web site reader Diane Kowaleski writes:

“Great article on the TSA. I think one of the most interesting ideas I saw being brought forward was the question of giving the TSA jobs to returning veterans. This is an excellent idea. Why as taxpayers are we saddled with a workforce that is poorly trained, incompetent and has no idea how to deal effectively with the general public. Give these jobs to those who deserve them. Namely, our returning veterans.”



Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Noozhawk Reader Fisher writes:

“First of all, the poll earlier this month said “Ninety percent of frequent flyers think that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing either a poor or fair job in performing security screenings at the nation’s airports, according to a new survey of frequent flyers conducted by Frequent Business Traveler magazine and released on Monday”, Miami Herald September 10, 2012.

According to GAO tests and estimates, for every gun TSA finds another 1 or 2 get aboard the plane. It happens daily and yet nothing happens with the ones that do. This is another example of just that.

TSA has become a jobs program for misfits who can’t get hired anywhere else and crime is rampant within the agency. Does anyone really feel safer having people who will rub stranger’s genitals in public every day for $15 an hour and stealing from passengers in charge of security?

TSA needs to be replaced with something that actually works before their corruption and incompetence results in a tragedy.”


Paul October 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I hope they have made some changes in SF.. my experience has been horrible with them, they are just as you state, unfriendly, unhelpful and in my experience just plain rude.

You don’t mention what they do to checked luggage. As a senior who travels overseas for extended periods, I carry a lot of meds and supplements. With one exception, they have left the checked bottles opened so the contents were spilled into the luggage.

The one exception was when they used a contractor. They left everything fine and a note indicating that my luggage had been checked and how they hoped that everything was fine.. which it was ..

sorry you got hassled by the gestapo .. we are not clients, we are miscreants who need to be put in our places .. yuck.


DaveSllc November 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I don’t know why so many people keep putting up with this nonsense. Since we retired in the late 90’s we made a few flying trips BEFORE 9-11 and 9-11 ruined it all for us. If we can’t drive we don’t go. When we were still working we did a lot of business flying and it was actually enjoyable, and became more so after the smoking regulations took effect. So the airlines and the TSA have made flying an undesirable activity. I am sure that for those who fly it’s either that or don’t go. Personally I hope that something can be done about all this but I doubt it ever will.


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