Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Will TSA "failure to detect" scandal affect consumers flying with their electronics?

The recent story about the sacking of the TSA chief after undercover officers found that 95% of potential contraband got through screeners, is important for several reasons.  NBC has a typical account
I have some history with this.  In 2002, eight months are the Big Layoff at the end of 2001, I went to a TSA job fair at a hotel on the 494 strip in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  There would have been a day of “assessments” and possible hire at the end of the day.  I dropped out after I discovered a misunderstanding in the position I would applied for, but that’s another matter.
TSA has also recruited reserve standby screeners from time-to-time, sometimes prescreening at facilities set in computer stores.  But generally an applicant won’t pass the test without having been trained.
I can imagine switching from the career I once had, to a heavily regimented life wearing uniforms and needing to project personal authority and possibly interact with some passengers in an intimate way. 
It’s unclear from the stories – was this 95% fail rate, a recent test?  Has it been this way since 2002?
The other concern is, whether the ability of passengers to take electronics with them (cell phones, tablets and laptops) could be affected.  It doesn’t sound as if he TSA is really able to screen them for unusual devices (like in the movies).  People need to stay wired when they travel, especially for work.  How will this play out? 
Maybe people will have to ship their devices ahead by UPS.  Or maybe short term rentals (comparable to car rentals) can be set up.  This is serious.

Update: June 8

CNN's Bruce Schneier has a valuable perspective on our misplaced priorities in TSA airport screening, here.  I'm pretty much with him on this. 

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