Last week I did something I haven't done is probably ten years…fly commercially. I used to travel a lot when I was in the service and flew on airlines quite frequently. Cost-saving measures and increased security measures as a result of 9/11 makes me dread flying and I avoid it whenever possible.
Circumstances last week required me to fly and as result, I got to see TSA at 4 different airports (including two major hubs). I also used to teach courses for TSA screeners at CVG so let me share my impressions and observations.
- TSA in general are just to damn grim. You can still be professional and stop would be hijackers while smiling and being nice. Try it, it might help your image.
- TSA spends an inordinate amount of money, manpower and time trying to prevent a particular scenario, i.e. armed terrorists boarding the aircraft as passengers. In so doing, they have created a lot of animosity on the part of passengers. They also have created another threat without realizing it that I will cover in my conclusion.
- TSA does not engage the passenger enough in their efforts. Instead of treating every boarding passenger as a suspected terrorist (guilty until proven innocent?), they should do more to educate passengers on potential threats and what to be on the lookout for.
- TSA only makes their presence known at the front-end, nothing at the back-end. They lose the ability to learn from exiting passengers of any suspicious behavior or conversations that may have been overheard.
- The doctrine of TSA still remains much as it did when it was first created; the best way to stop a 9/11 attacks is by screening passengers boarding airlines. Nearly all of their manpower and resources therefore go into airports and nothing at all is done for trains, buses and ships.
TSA needs some serious revamping. The personnel need to less robotic in the delivery of messages, people tune them out. When people don't follow instructions, TSA reacts as though they are a suspect instead elimination other factors such as the person may not speak English or is hearing impaired. TSA agents need to be more conversation with the passengers than confrontational (ask any cop, they do it all of the time).
Here is a radical concept, get rid of the screening areas. What? Yes, get rid of them and instead increase the number of Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) to get out amongst the passengers. Anyone who act suspiciously, quietly escort them to a screening area. More random checks present a much harder problem for the terrorists than current model.
Another reason for getting rid of the screening areas is they are a bottleneck. At one major hub I flew through, the screening area went right into the terminal where multiple concourses connected. Any attack at the bottleneck would have killed or injured passengers waiting to be screened as well as those trying to make connecting flights.
TSA assumes they are the only way a terrorist will be stopped. In truth, the passengers are a much more active defense as the situation with Richard Reid (the Shoe Bomber) and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab (the Underwear Bomber) prove. Engage the passengers and make them feel a part of the solution instead as suspects. TSA is only about stopping weapons from coming on board, they aren't really set up to gather intelligence about who may be transiting the US.