The TSA Is Not Happy Unless You Are Not Happy

In case you missed it, the latest TSA/DHI scare has been released:

(CNN) -- The U.S. government has warned airlines to pay particular attention to the possibility of terrorists attempting to hide explosives in shoes, a result of new intelligence, according to two people familiar with the situation. (CNN)

Of course, they are saying this is being done in an abundance of caution but honestly, I am not buying it. Call me cynical, but I believe it is more like this....

Because this affects only aircraft coming into the United States from overseas, not Canada or Mexico, I believe that the aviation administrations or the TSA equivalent in these countries were pressuring the United States to get with the program. There was no valid need to have people take off their shoes and subject themselves to what is essentially a strip search, so why was the United States still requiring it?  We have already heard the hue and cry from the so called flight attendants when the TSA tried to reduce the restrictions on knives being brought onto aircraft, so you can imagine the yelling that might occur if they dropped the constant screening of footwear.

But I am much more cynical than that. Despite protestations to the contrary, I fully expect that those of you who have shelled out money to the TSA to probe your background under the so called TSA Pre program and have been promised that you can keep your shoes on will find that you will treated no differently than us poor slaves who refuse to let the government have more access to our personal data than they already have.  So get ready America, you will have to keep taking your shoes off.  And to those of you flying the not so friendly skies, you will as well.


The TSA is behind the curve

This will come as no surprise:

The Homeland Security Department is banning all liquids from carry-on luggage for nonstop flights from the U.S. to Russia. The ban comes after the department warned airlines that terrorists might try to smuggle explosives on board hidden in toothpaste tubes. The warning said terrorist might try to assemble explosive device in flight or upon arrival at the Olympics. (

There is very little that I hear coming out of the Department of Homeland (In)security anymore that leaves me dumbstruck, but this was one of them.  The first thing that went through my mind was who is running the Game Theory office at the TSA/DHI, and have they ever seen a James Bond movie? Plastic explosives in a toothpaste tube is de rigueur in spy craft. Open any kids book on espionage and there it is.  So for the TSA to now, thirteen odd years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, ban liquids again is pretty stunning.

And then I am taken back to the Confessions of a TSA agent that appeared only a couple of weeks ago in Politico. The United States Government (in other words, you and me) are spending $150,000 per machine for full-body scanners, that do not work, and even if they did, there is a high likelihood that no one is watching the monitor anyway. And as been discussed numerous times, the x-ray machines, both above and below the security screening area cannot tell the difference between peanut butter and C-4, or chocolate powder and explosives.

So why, exactly is the TSA banning liquids on flights to Russia?  Because if no one complains about them banning liquids in this test scenario, they will be able to ban them in general, except for those of you silly enough to shell out $80 (or more) for their Pre-Check program, where the agency will, with your permission to boot, know more about you than anyone else.  All because they cannot procure, use, or understand the equipment that we are already paying too much for.



I want the extended warranty please

I went to visit the doctor on Monday, because I am getting old. My purpose was to see if there was anything the doctor could do to keep me from coming apart at the seams, which is getting harder and harder by the day as any one could tell you. This time it was my shoulder. Twenty years of swimming and other forms of abuse that I have inflicted on it have begun to take their toll and I was hoping we could keep it operational for at least another dozen years before we have to crack it open and do something more artificial to it. So he made some suggestions, passed me a script for some medication to maybe make it a little less painful to move, and I returned to work.

I only wish it were that simple for others. I lost another friend this month. Nelda was a unique person. I had worked with her at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington for more than seven years. She had one of those conditions where the doctor smiles politely and suggests you get your affairs in order and enjoy the time you have like. To hear Nelda tell it, each time she heard it, she would laugh. I only found out that she was in the hospital the week before she passed and again, the doctors told her it was time. Only I am sure this time she did not laugh.

Nelda was fun. She was a fan of Doctor Who before it was fashionable to be a fan of Doctor Who. She liked the old doctors. She had great stories about her time in the army, talked fondly of her family and was always bring me problems to solve and happy to occasionally stump me. I believe she did it once. Maybe twice.  She was detail oriented. The only person I knew who could write epistles on a BlackBerry, with out a grammatical or spelling error. Even nicely formatted. She had a better grasp on network security than even some of the most experienced CISSPs I know and a keen business sense of when security would impact business operations.  And as many people would tell you, she had a steel trap memory. She did not forget a detail, a meeting, or a decision. And did I mention her Barbie collection?

We buried Nelda today, with military honours due her rank and service. Her friends, family were at the service, and at the burial site at Quantico. When the sun comes out, and the trees are in bloom I will go back and take a picture.  And say good bye.