TSA today, yesterday and four years ago

A powerful play, The silver dagger, by Mark E. Swan, U.S. Lithograph Co., c1902. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. )

Here’s what the TSA’s website tells us they found in the week between April 20th and 26th, 2012:

  • Firearms: 31 - 29 loaded; 2 unloaded
  • 1 artfully concealed prohibited item found at checkpoints

Among the items displayed on the TSA Blog are a plastic dagger found in the hem of a woman’s skirt (with no indication of its size, although I don’t believe it could be very large), a knife mounted on a walker, a tomahawk and yet another spear gun.

The TSA has an Office of Civil Rights and Liberties for travelers who wish to file complaints which includes a link to a PDF Civil Rights Complaint form.

Here’s how they describe the process:

A Specialist will be assigned to handle your complaint and will send you an acknowledgement of receipt of your concern.

The Specialist’s responsibility is to attempt to resolve your concern. The Specialist may conduct a fact-finding inquiry into the complaint.

If a fact-finding inquiry is conducted, the Specialist will review the available facts and will recommend findings as to whether or not the incident complained of constituted unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Based on the findings, the Specialist may also recommend measures be put in place, such as conducting additional training to resolve the concern.

The findings and recommendations will be reviewed and approved by management. A final response letter will be sent, which will outline the findings and recommendations if any. The time frame for resolving a matter is 90 days from receipt.

For an example of how responsive TSA really is, Michael Grabell at ProPublica filed a public records request for the agency’s complaint files in June, 2008, assuming it would probably take a few months to hear back from them.

Boy, was I wrong. After waiting and waiting and narrowing my request and some more waiting, the files finally arrived this week.

The information is now four years old — but it echoes much of what people are still complaining about.

When he asked the TSA what took them so long, he got excuses and an apology.

“TSA should have responded to ProPublica’s request sooner,” the statement said. “TSA currently is working on 12 requests that are more than three years old. The agency is working diligently to finalize and respond to these requests.”

Considering the weekly $150,961,538 the TSA costs us, they should do better than that.