Just another week for the TSA

The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise, 1445. Giovanni di Paolo, Italian (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

First, to get the basics out of the way, let’s see what we got in return for the weekly $150,961,538 they cost us. According to the TSA, here’s what they found during the period between April 6th and April 12, 2012 :

  • Firearms: 32 - 19 loaded; 13 unloaded
  • 6 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints

The TSA Blog continues its artful exposition of the forbidden items discovered by its intrepid officers, including the can of soup someone in Las Vegas tried to sneak aboard a plane, first in carry-on luggage and then in his pants. (I’m sure there’s a joke there somewhere.) And yes, even more incredibly stupid folk still think it’s a good idea to joke about explosives in their luggage with completely predicable results.

As a matter of fact, the stories that surfaced this week have an explosive theme.

At the Portland International Airport John Brennan, who had already gone through a metal detector and been patted down, responded to the screener’s statement that he tested positive for explosives by stripping down.

“I just took off my clothes and said ‘See, I don’t have any explosives,'” Brennan told CNN on Wednesday. “The individuals at TSA are just doing their job and the whole organization needs to find a balance between safety and privacy . They use fear and intimidation and it’s got to stop somewhere.”

TSA called the police who arrested him for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure, but Mr Brennan believes it was worth fighting back in defense of his civil rights.

Meanwhile, here in San Diego, a 95-year-old retired Air Force Major and his 85-year-old companion were “treated like terrorists” after they set off metal detector alarms going through security, probably because they have artificial joints.

After both set off alarms, they were patted down. Then, a security officer did a litmus test on Petti’s clothing, which tested positive for nitrates. Petti explained that he carries nitroglycerin pills for his heart. Nonetheless, Petti was taken to a private room for yet another pat-down by a different officer while the same security officer emptied their carry-on bags and rifled through every item.

“When I was patted down, I’ve never before been touched in every part of my body before,” Woodward said.

When they were finally released and retrieved their possessions only 4 of the 5 bins were there. The fifth bin had contained $300 Mr Petti had in his pocket and was explicitly instructed to remove and put into a bin for screening. When he brought his loss to the attention of the TSA employees he was disbelieved. He has since filed police reports and written letters.

“I think I was scammed,” Petti says. “I would like my money back, but money doesn’t pay for all the stress and humiliation.”

In the weeks since, Petti has filed a police report with the San Diego Harbor Police. He’s written a lengthy letter addressed to the airport federal security director in San Diego and he’s copied politicians: local and national, including President Obama. And he is in the process of filling out a four-page “Tort Claim Package” as required by the TSA.

Nobody, he says, is giving him a straight answer.

Quelle surprise!

However, not all TSA stories were negative. A TSA officer in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport found and turned in an envelope with 95 $100 bills in it that had  been dropped by a passenger, who didn’t realize that his money was missing until he was back home in Iowa. He got his money back after his son called the airport to report the loss.