Saturday, October 29, 2011

Congressman Says TSA's Chat-Downs are 'Mindless'

Jaunted: Responding to criticism like ours over the failure of TSA agents to stop a loaded gun from being checked onto an LAX flight, the security agency leaped into action this week and declared that they will make absolutely no changes to airport security procedures at the airport.

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez explained that there's no danger of having loaded guns in checked baggage, because "no one has access to them." So as long as it's true that loaded guns never ever fire accidentally, you can all go back to feeling safe now.

Speaking of which. A day before we posted about how loaded guns on airplanes make us uncomfortable, we discussed our deep skepticism about the training that TSA agents in charge of "chat-downs" were getting. Chat-downs, remember, are the Israeli-style security line interviews that TSA has been testing out in Boston-Logan and now in Detroit-Metro Airports. Agents ask you personal questions, you give personal answers, and then they read your body language to see if you're lying. In theory.

In practice the agents in charge of pat-downs reportedly only get 4 days of classroom training and 1 day of live training, and the interviews they give reportedly last around a minute. Since the point of a chat-down is to read body language, and since reading body language takes a lot of practice and requires more than a minute per interview, we wondered what TSA was doing "other than pretending to make everybody safer."

Fast forward to a few days ago, when Congressman John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, reported on what he saw when he recently toured Logan. All of this should sound very familiar to Jaunted readers:

Mica said when he stopped at Logan earlier this month he listened in on those conversations. 'It was mindless chat with every passenger,' he said — a far cry from the Israeli-style hunt the program is modeled after. 'The TSA has taken a good idea and made one of the most bureaucratic approaches you could possibly devise,' Mica said. 'It was not a thinking, risk-based approach.'

You'll be happy to know, though, that TSA responded by emphasizing how—contrary to previous reports—agents actually get five whole days of classroom training and "up to" 32 hours of live training. Again, you can all go back to feeling safe.

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