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One Nerd’s Note To The TSA

Just in case you’ve just run straight to this site from a year-long cryogenic freeze (wobbly, I imagine, from atrophied muscles), a young Nigerian man tried to light up a passenger jet on Christmas. Fortunately he failed. Unfortunately so did the Transportation Safety Administration, who naturally has responded with brand-spankin’ new rules, with emphasis on the “spankin'”. This article is about those.

Let’s be clear. I’m a comedian. I know that makes me no security expert. It does mean, however, that I travel a SHITLOAD and none of these knee-jerk, fear-motivated, reactionary steps make me feel one iota safer. In fact, these measures ensure nothing more than increased discomfort, which gives me more time to think about why I should be afraid in the first place. The system failed and is now inadvertently punishing travelers for its mistake. Air travel is becoming the two most hated things in America: too uncomfortable AND too expensive. True, SOME people have no choice but to fly above the ground to get places, but many don’t have to. How do you think that’s going to affect the industry? My guess is that will bring down more planes than a Nigerian zealot (topical reference), but in the bankrupt-y way.

To speak out against the TSA could be construed “unAmerican,” (which I am certainly not) but I don’t want to feel like a fucking inmate every time I get on a plane, constantly reminded that someone may be on the plane trying to kill me as I sit cold and blanketless with nothing to do but stare at the seat in front of me. And that is EXACTLY where we’re headed. These rules only apply to inbound flights from foreign soil, but I’d bet that domestic implementation is just around the bend. I know the TSA has a shitty job. They do nothing and people complain. They do something and people complain. But surely even they must admit that these new rules are baffling at best.

Has the last hour of a flight been designated as “Terror Time” at Jihad-con? If some fuckbag wants to blow up a plane, he’ll now do it in the first hour. Or a middle hour. Or he’ll still do it in the last hour. The only difference now is that everyone is afforded the opportunity of dying miserable. How is this rule even enforceable? How are you going to tell someone with special needs or even just someone who “has to go” they’re shit outta luck?

So far none of the terror attacks have been aided by multiple carry-ons. They’ve involved shoes, things that could fit into one carry-on and things strapped to legs. The alternative is checking bags (with an added fee, I’m sure) that will get loaded into the plane with even less screening than a carry-on.

NO Wi-Fi
Even as a cynical asshole who ADORES the use of Wi-Fly, I have to admit that this at least makes SOME sense. Obviously you want to limit the number of DMs that Explodonauts can send and receive to their superiors in-flight.

No, fuck that. I need to watch bumbly, greenly-lit meatheads “Oh fuck” their way through abandoned mental hospitals on “Ghost Hunters.” It distracts me from thinking about how much I hate flying.

The TSA is taking steps in every direction that have nothing to do with the attack. Farouk Abdulmutallab was on a terror watch list, had no baggage and paid for a ticket in cash. The only thing he didn’t do was actually carry a red flag onto the plane. Even if he WASN’T on a terror watch list, maybe pat him down for the other two reasons. How does disabling entertainment systems, forcing people to stay in their seats with nothing and bringing one carry-on help this? It doesn’t. The fact is that they need to keep psychotic turdstains from getting onto planes to begin with. Unfortunately, claiming to “beef up security” doesn’t sound like enough of a tangible thing, and the frightened public needs to feel like a thing is happening. Even if that thing is, in reality, useless.

“Well, what’s YOUR suggestion, you whiny dick?” I only got a couple of those on Twitter when I obnoxiously ranted about this a couple days ago. 98% of the responses I got were similarly outraged people. Those are astounding numbers. Much lower focus group stats can get something like “The Jeff Dunham Show” on the air. I’m no geenyus and I don’t claim to know much but I can make a few suggestions that I hope will spark your own ideas in the “Comments” section.

Or at least, make cash-ticket purchasers go through a few extra steps to make them traceable. “Fuck you man! I’m trying to stay off the grid!!!” Too flippin’ bad. We live in a fully gridded society now. Money is dirtier than used toilet paper and smells like copper farts anyway.

There are only about 40 MMWs in the US now, but they can scan a person to see what they’re concealing. Privacy groups hate it but his should only be a problem for you if you’re concealing something. Embarrassed about the butt plug you keep in at all times? Think of how embarrassing it’ll be when it blows out of you and through a your seat cushion.

You know what I hate paying $20 extra for? Bringing a change of clothes on a trip. You know what I would HAPPILY pay $20 extra for? A uniformed air marshal on my plane. What? Does that feel “too military-state”? Fucking GREAT. A plane cop gives a much more effective appearance of security than not being able to get up to piss.

We all want to feel safe, but at what price? How soon before we can’t bring anything at all on a plane? Or use the lavatory? If the TSA wants to keep us REALLY safe, why not just have passengers fly nude while strapped to a board? Then the airlines could charge our balls as “excess baggage.”

The TSA works for you so don’t be afraid to share your criticism or support at [email protected]. And please comment below! Constructive discourse is how positive change begins!

Huzzah! Transform and roll out! U-S-A! U-S-A!

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  1. achamplin says:

    I agree that MMWs might be a bit invasive. But we are talking about non-citizens boarding planes to the US from outside the country. I liked the comment about them only being used when other details add up to sketchy. Yeah, like being on a watch list maybe?

    And although it has little to do in my mind with being creditworthy, it does seem likely that having a passport (wait, he didn’t even have a passport??) that matches your credit card would at least make someone a little less anonymous. And the comment about needing your company to pay for your plane tix? Get them to issue you a fricken company credit card with your cute little name right on it like the rest of us. If it was required, there wouldn’t be any argument.

    Ultimately it’s not about the security on the plane, but who gets to get on it. I’d opt for scanning and screening and searching to their hearts content if a) they could actually do it effectively, and b) if they stop with the petty rules once you are on board. It’s too late by then anyway.

  2. Alicia C says:

    I don’t travel much but flying is not an option. I’ll make the drive or take a train. I’m completely terrified. So great job.

  3. Daviticus says:

    I’m a Canadian who’s never flown in my life (and don’t think I will be anytime soon), so I’m not sure how much my opinion is worth, but I just had to give my input. I agree that these measures are lame, they punish the innocent more than protect them. (Also, I’d like to point out that to Americans, Canada is “foreign soil”!) I have mixed feelings about the alternatives you’re proposing, though. I guess I’ll tackle them individually:


    This one makes the most sense to me. Anyone with no credit has no business flying anyway!


    I totally agree with…Warren’s assessment of this one. At most, they should only be used on people on terrorist watch lists, like our Nigerian friend…sorry, “turdstain”.


    This one actually scares me a bit, I’m surprised you suggested this one. Besides, it could easily backfire like Micah said, and I for one would rather actually be secure than just have the “appearance of security”…which, the way I see it, is at the heart of the problem.

  4. Brianary says:

    Bruce Scheier’s right, two things have helped since 9/11: reinforced cockpit doors and passenger awareness. Everything else is complete crap. You want a safety guarantee? Don’t leave bed. The world’s a tough place and bad things happen.

  5. meatballsteve says:

    ever think that this guy might have been a plant? an article I read mentioned the guy had no passport, just an escort in a suit. they’ve been threatening to do the full body scans for almost 2 years now – they just needed an incident to pull the trigger on installing them.

    this is the fault of the TSA, period. their staffing (and almost all staffing) at airports (not the airlines, btw, but they’re not great, either) is a f*cking joke.

    TSA didn’t do their job, so now we’re all f’ed. nice.

  6. Tom B says:

    To all who ask for a credit card to be used, it is useless if the credit card name does not match the ticket name, and I insist that my company continues to pay for my plane tickets. There is no way this will work.

  7. Grenadine says:

    I think the useless, clueless TSA should be dis-banded and the military forces that are not overseas should be staffing airport security and flying on airplanes — in units, in uniform, and menacingly striding up and down the aisles. Also, it’s time that political correctness takes one for the team and some of the never-has-happened-yet “Muslim backlash” is unleashed. OK, so all Muslims aren’t terrorists, but how about we let them fly in airplanes when they purge their own ranks of the radical nutjobs? Or, if that’s just too much for you, I propose that we not let anymore planes from other countries land in ours. Let the terrorists fly to Mexico and sneak across the border with the drug dealers. At least the border police shoot some of them!

  8. alloallo3 says:

    Boy, howdy. The word “fuck” sure is funny. I can’t get enough of it.

  9. You mean you’re not comforted by the fact that they confiscated my hairspray on a flight from Burbank to Portland last week? The bottle was a WHOLE OUNCE too big!!

    Also, I’m a blonde chick who’s ticket was purchased months in advance via credit card. Oh, and my dad never called the CIA to tell them I was training with Al Qaeda in Yemen. There is that ….

  10. steve says:

    I disagree on you’re whole cash transactions idea. It’s stupid, and will never fly. Why should you have to get your photo taken to travel on an airplane, and not a train, or a bus? You can do alot more damage with a bus, or a train then with a single airplane.

    MMwave machines I am against, I would rather have a single person search me, and know that there’s nothing else there. All it takes is one teenage hacker storing all the information from those scanners and uploading it to the internet and you have yourself the largest class action lawsuit in the world.

    I dont care if a marshal is on the flight, as long as he doesn’t take away my civil rights load the plane with them, but not letting me go to the bathroom, or look out the window, or take a picture is crossing the line.

  11. Nick says:

    Instead of taking off the shoes why don’t we put the x-ray machine down….wait for it…..on the floor where the shoes are. This isn’t the 50s, freakin X-ray machines are cheap as hell and we could use multiple machine to check multiple places and maybe provided some much needed multiple jobs. I it would work. Of course this is assuming the 7th grade educated fucknugget they hired doesn’t smoke a huge fatty on his way to work that day.

  12. SET says:

    Oh, and in response to Mister Bork, who said “let flying become a joy again”… since when has rushing to an airport only to have to wait for 45 minutes before being stuffed into a seat surrounded by smelly people for 7 hours with the only respite being trips to a miniature bathroom and crappy bags of peanuts ever been joyful?!

  13. SET says:

    I agree that the biggest problem with the new “security measures” is their reactivity. A terrorist hid a bomb in his shoe? Let’s scan the shoes. A terrorist tried to blow up a plane during the last hour of the flight? No moving about the cabin in the last hour. This plane came from outside the U.S.? These rules only apply to foreign flights. Newsflash: If they tried it once and it didn’t work, they’ll probably try something different next time. Why not get together a group of people who are experts on strategy, terrorism, psychology, etc to try to predict what they might do in the FUTURE?

    I also think that the whole mentality of “You may die on this flight today” is messed up. I recently read an article about parents taking photos of their children every single day before they left for school so that if they were kidnapped, they would have the most recent photo of the child. Sure security measures are fine, but is it really necessary to become ruled by fear?

    Ah what am I saying? This is America – of course we’re ruled by fear.

  14. scanner says:

    I believe we should all be good capitalists and allow the market to take care of this problem. If the Gov’t writes a law somewhat like the current Health Care Reform bill, requiring the Airlines to be fully insured for any terrorist action, and ALL government airline protection was withdrawn from the airports and aircraft, the insurance companies would quickly determine who could fly – in the same way they disallow claimants in the health care industry. Likely to cause an increase in risk on a flight? You can’t AFFORD to fly.
    “I’m sorry sir, your ticket to New York is only $350, but the policy add-on is $350,000” Problem solved – no one can afford to fly (except Senators and Saudi Princes) therefore no risk of terrorism, or if it happens, nobody would care.

  15. Mike says:

    We don’t need marshals. We need flight crews trained in the use of fire arms on an airplane, one or two guns in an electronically coded lockbox on the flight deck that signals the TSA the minute its opened. Anyone who tries something on a plane runs the risk of being beaten to death by the passengers, who are now convinced if they don’t disarm and kill the terrorist they will die. This guy should never have gotten on the plane, that is the real failure. You are right. Plane tickets should no longer be allowed to be purchased with cash or credit cards not attached to a real person/account. The name on the credit card, and persons ID/Passport and name on ticket should match and be checked at the airport as part of the security process. I do expect the TSA to catch fake id’s and documents, bouncers at clubs with IQ’s ranging in the low 20’s can spot most fake docs at 80 feet while still in a pocket.

    Most of the TSA security procedures are designed to protect us from movie plots not real scenerios. The liquid thing is a joke, keep the current rule but add + one beverage of any size as long as the container is clear and you drink from it in front of a screener. Everything required for liquid bombs is can’t be consumed without causing your body to do things that would give your intentions away to the screener.

    I now hate flying and plan travel in ways to avoid planes as much as possible.

  16. Mike says:

    I know the credit crunch has had some effect, but is it really so hard to get a credit card that it counts as a layer of security?

    Yeah, passengers have stood up to terrorists, but face it, bad engineering was a bigger factor than “Minute Men” passengers. The only weapon that worked as planned (box cutters) was successful.

    There are so many ways to attack an airplane from the inside, it’s almost impossible to prevent them all (and you and I couldn’t afford to fly then anyway).

  17. Mister Bork says:

    I was with you all the way until your solution involving naked body scanning and armed guards on planes. The actual risk of death my turdstain zealot is below that of getting hit by lightning. Perhaps, the authorities ought to drive around enforcing a curfew in the even of thunderstorms. The answer is get back to business as usual, and let flying become a joy again. We can only control so much.

  18. Merlin Silk says:

    why do you call yourself American??
    Do you really have a preference which tyrant tells you what to do and what not to?
    Do you really prefer one tyrant of another threatening you with violence if you don’t follow his/her rules?
    I would rather prefer living in a society in which interactions are based on voluntary interactions and contracts. And that has nothing to do with where I live and what ruler claims to own me.

  19. I would rather have an explosive device go off on my flight than go through that sort of security!

  20. Major Variola (ret) says:

    Glass empires need to remember even palestinians
    can throw stones.

    Western civ is fragile and vulnerable, best not to make

    Otherwise, the US will turn more statist and bad
    things will still happen.

  21. Warren says:

    “There are only about 40 MMWs in the US now, but they can scan a person to see what they’re concealing. Privacy groups hate it but his should only be a problem for you if you’re concealing something.”

    Sorry, you lose the game. This is the most tired excuse for privacy invasion that’s ever been invented. It’s invidious, nonsense thinking that can only lead to full strip searches for everyone boarding a plane, and a requirement that all passengers fly naked.*

    Do you have curtains or blinds over your windows?

    Well, why, if you don’t have anything to hide?


    * Think about the fact that 2/3 of adult Americans are overweight or obese. You want to be flying next to someone like that? Odds are you’ll be *stuck between* them.

  22. TimK says:

    “n fact, these measures ensure nothing more than increased discomfort, which gives me more time to think about why I should be afraid in the first place. The system failed”

    Nope. If you’re thinking about being afraid, the system has worked. Not for us, of course, but it has worked as intended.

    “and is now inadvertently punishing travelers for its mistake.”

    There’s nothing inadvertent about it.

  23. Patti says:

    I don’t really fly *I’ve only done it once* but I totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s getting ridiculous to the point where people will be afraid to fly not because of terrorists, but because of the ridiculous rules. I applaud your compassion as far as special needs folks and the rule about remaining seated for the last hour of a flight. Being a mom to a special needs guy, I tend to have more compassion toward these folks. Nice to see that same compassion from you. I like the uniformed marshals idea as well. I’d certainly feel safer. Thanks for having the nerve to say what’s on your mind.

  24. RLB says:

    Right on!! I used to fly frequently, but now I avoid it whenever possible. I stayed home for the holidays this year because air travel has just become such a pain in the ass.

  25. Rhett says:

    I find a good knee-jerk reaction to be the foundation of the USA. If you don’t like knee-jerk reactions, maybe you’re a terrorist.

  26. Micah says:

    Air marshals are currently “concealed” (I put that in scare quotes because they are far too often exceedingly obvious) partially because they aren’t on every flight so it’s supposed to keep the bad guys on their toes and partially because they are carrying weapons and we don’t want to make them a target.

    Put a uniformed marshal on every flight and you’re just BEGGING for the terrorists to come up with a plan that involves getting his gun.

  27. Sam says:

    I almost completely agree with everything you’ve said. Uniformed Marshals would, in my opinion, not really make any difference except cost more money. I doubt Marshals are on most flights. Ignorance is bliss.
    On, the other hand, I would welcome a strip search. Would give me a chance to show off the goods. And fuck cash transactions. If you don’t have a bank account, you should book a bus, take a boat, or buy a travel book about where you want to go and call it a day. And, if you’re off the “grid” then you’re probably not paying taxes, which means we have to carry your sorry ass, financially speaking. Bastards.

  28. mattbeaty says:

    @coal_train: I agree.

    Well written – though perhaps if everyone was allowed firearms on planes, we wouldn’t have incidents where people assumed they were safe from all but the (uniformed or not) Air Marshals.

  29. JC says:

    Hmmmm… maybe we should take a page out of El Al’s playbook:

  30. coal_train says:

    I want to be sedated. Put me to sleep when I arrive at the airport, ship me as cargo, wake me when we arrive.

  31. Kingsnake says:

    What I’ve always wondered is why not gas people before take-off? fill the cabin with batman-strength knock-out gas and let everyone sleep with no incidents. this would also help eliminate the worthless refreshment service.

  32. AnonCowHerd says:

    I’m European, and I just sent a nasty e-mail to TSA 🙂

  33. snarkyFish says:

    Uniformed Marshals: Concealed is better. Don’t give them a target, and leave them wondering who it is. At the same time, sure, highly publicize how many are out there, and what the odds are that there are a couple on your flight. (make sure those odds are like… 1:1)

    Millimeter Wave: Seriously? We don’t need that kinda crap. The thing that keeps us all secure on flights these days isn’t more intrusiveness. It’s the fact that everyone else on that flight will now beat the crap out of you at the expense of their own lives to bring you down. That policy started 45 minutes into 9/11, and it’s working just fine.

  34. Brad says:

    @Micah making Air Marshals uniformed eliminates their need to conceal themselves which I believe is motivated by the fact that there isn’t one one every flight. By putting one (or more) on every flight and allowing them to reveal themselves from the get go (i.e. having them in uniform) I believe they can do their job more effectively.

    As to suicide bombers, the treat of being shot may not be a deterrent, but being shot should slow them down a bit. Also, an Air Marshall whose job it is to patrol the air craft looking for suspicious behavior may have noticed this past incident long before the passengers did. As to the cost, that’s a TSA fee I’m willing to pay.

    Finally, I completely agree with cash transactions being made a huge red flag. Some times they’re necessary (I’ve been unable to use my credit cards abroad due to their lack of a smart chip), but in those rare occasions a few extra security measures doesn’t seem out of the question to me.

  35. Audible Nod says:

    I like the ‘no cash for travel’ idea. Why not scan the guy’s IDs and take a pic of him at the ticket desk and force him to pay an extra fee for all the trouble. All those pics will then be sent to the TSA for analysis.

    And another thought. I’ve seen cameras on public buses, why not cameras with live feeds to the TSA (or CIA) for monitoring. Seven or eight cameras down the aisles and looking at the lavs should help out.

    And what about police dogs running down the aisle before a flight takes off once in a while?

  36. the_nether says:

    I flew shortly after 9-11 and on the way to the gate they had a secondary security checkpoint where they stuck tape to my shirt and carry-on, then ran it through some machine to see if I had come in contact with explosive materials recently. It took 15 seconds and I was on my way. I haven’t seen them since. What ever happened to these things?

  37. Glarg says:

    Not sure why people are so gung-ho for the strip search machines when an actual strip search would be incredibly cheaper.

    I’d actually rather take my chances than have my kid’s naughty bits examined by a TSA agent, that’s some creepy shit.

  38. Jay says:

    I want to have your brain’s babies.

  39. Micah says:

    We already spend $860 million a year so air marshals can fly around the country at the airlines’ expense (usually in first class) and bring loaded weapons onto planes (despite all the TSA’s efforts to keep weapons off planes) in the hands of easily spotted “undercover” marshals. Put an air marshal on every flight, and it just makes it easier for the bad guys to plan a mission making use of the air marshals’ guns (since they’ll now know for sure there is an air marshal on the flight).

    Air marshals are useless against a competent suicide bomber (no suicide bomber is going to stop killing himself because of the threat of being shot) and are really only useful in the extremely unlikely scenario of a hijacking where the bad guys aren’t diabolical enough to put the marshals out of commission but ARE diabolical enough to cow the passengers and crew into submission. Note that since 9/11, almost every disturbance on a plane has been successfully addressed by passengers and crew, including the shoebomber, the undiebomber, the Air Mauritius coffee-in-the-face gunman and countless people who have attempted to break into cockpits for whatever reason. In multiple cases air marshals were on those flights but (following undercover procedure) did not reveal their identities until after everything was under control.

    We should get rid of the air marshal program, not expand it.