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Removing shoes for the TSA is the least of our problems in new documentary

This morning I had on CNN and there was a segment interviewing the producer of “Please Remove Your Shoes,” a damning documentary about the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). Of course since most of us who’ve flown since 9/11 has had to deal with some of the lunacy — the 3.4 ounce fluid containers, the shoe screening, the not-so-random seeming searches of individuals, and inconsistent application of the screening from airport to airport.  Here’s the trailer. Warning – watching this is bound to raise your blood pressure.

Please Remove Your Shoes is a revealing documentary about broken government process. It is also an empathetic story about a half dozen public servants who try to fix it. And it is a familiar topic to all of us who have flown in the last fifteen years:the security routine at the airport, first the FAA and now the TSA.

Please Remove Your Shoes examines the period before 911 and the current situation nine years later and asks the questions that make Washington squirm: “Are we really any better for all our money spent? Or is it safe to say that nothing has changed?”

And there is a “Did You Know” section of the film’s web site that only adds to the concern that we’ve got a not-ready-for-prime-time system that’s only creating screening nightmares and not additional safety in air travel. Here are a few reassuring tidbits.

Did you know…

  • According to GAO, TSA inspectors spend 33% of their time inspecting, 8% on incidents, 5% investigating, 5% on “outreach”, and 49% of their time on “other.” Other?
  • 10% of useable TSA equipment (worth millions) in transit is stored for 2 years or more due to poor logistical processes.
  • During the first 3 months of 2007, the TSA Logistics Center received eight explosive detection systems units at a cost of about $7 million.  As of January 2009, all eight explosive detection systems units remained in storage at the Logistics Center.
  • In December of 2009 TSA leaked a full copy of its 2008 S.O.P., screening protocol, and other security standards onto the internet.
  • In June 2007, investigators testing the TSA checkpoint screening process were able to smuggle prohibited items past security despite passing through secondary screening and pat-downs.
  • TSA has not deployed any of the 10 technologies it has created since 2002.
  • 50% of part-time TSA Screeners quit their job in 2006.
  • 20% of part-time screeners left their job in 2008.
  • From 2002 to 2007, roughly 67,000 TSA employees quit or were fired from their jobs. There are roughly 44,000 screeners in the workforce.
  • In the period 2002-2006, TSA screeners lost 3674 badges and uniforms.
  • In 2005 TSA lost a portable hard drive, with data that contained social security numbers, bank data, and payroll for over 100,000 employees.


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding