I Like The TSA

I remember when the security checkpoints at Bradley were a gantlet (or gauntlet, but gantlet is preferred) of surly, sarcastic and impatient guards shouting inconsistent orders at harried passengers. Unprofessional doesn’t begin to describe the attitude. Say what you will about the TSA, I think it’s a major improvement.

When the Transportation Security Administration took over the checkpoints at Bradley, the husband and I noticed the change immediately. We were addressed politely and professionally. When things got hectic, there were jokes and smiles instead of shouting and angry commands.

At the same time, we could tell that we and our luggage were being scrutinized more closely. Our carry-on bags were checked more often – after permission was carefully asked – and the screeners spoke to us quietly and directly, looking right at us. If I were a terrorist, I’d much rather take my chances on the disorganized mess created by the private security companies that used to run things.

I know that there were some pleasant people working for the private contractors. But I also know that they were poorly paid and poorly trained, compared with the TSA. We could argue all day and night about the merits of private contractors versus government agencies, but you would never convince me that a government agency is under the same pressure to put profit before performance.

Sure, it’s bad news for the TSA that eight of its employees have been arrested and charged with stealing from luggage at LAX. But some contractors were arrested, too, and the arrests were made at least in part because other TSA employees reported the thefts.

I still want to keep my eye on my carry-on luggage when it’s going through security, although I’m more worried about other passengers grabbing my stuff than a TSA employee doing it. Either way, the TSA has been more professional about keeping the bag in my sight than the private guards ever were.

Back after 9/11, right afterward, before the TSA was created and deployed, the private security companies were still staffing checkpoints under the eye of nervous National Guard soldiers, some of them teenagers, carrying loaded automatic rifles. That’s when I was scared. I’m still amazed that some drunk or stupid passenger didn’t get shot by mistake.

There were stories then, too, of male screeners groping women. The husband and I had a protocol when traveling with our then-teenaged daughter. One of us would pass through the metal detector first, then the kid, then the other one of us. No way would I have the kid being "patted down" on one side of security with both of us on the other.

The TSA isn’t perfect, but I don’t worry about that stuff very much any more. (Well, I’m not crazy about the backscatter X-ray, but that’s another matter.) I know that I still read complaints about problems at checkpoints on message boards, and I’m sure there’s room for improvement. But I’d rather run through a TSA checkpoint 10 times than go back through once under the old system.


5 thoughts on “I Like The TSA

  1. nikki

    the backscatter does NOT show anything in detail. It’s focus is in metal. I have seen the program and images from the machine. It’s like a light shaded outside image of a person. There is set outlines of the bodies (same image for males and females) to tell where the body is. It’s like a kids drawing with a big black scribble where the metal would be.

  2. Jeanne Leblanc

    I dunno, Nikki. I saw some pictures of what the screen shows and it’s more detail than I’d like any stranger seeing of me. That “outside image” can show some pretty unflattering detail – by which I mean flabby rolls of fat. If I were comfortable with that, I’d give up clothing and wear body paint. 😉

  3. Todd

    I work for the TSA and it super rare to find any article that actually compliments our hard work. Thank you. We usually get a very unfair, uneducated bashing by the press all the time. this was nice for a change

  4. Gregory L Banks

    In the end, it does not make us any safer. If a suicide bomber wants to kill, there is nothing you can do to stop him. In a Democracy and I use the word with trepidation, you cannot prevent terrorism. That is why we call it terror. You can not have a war on a tactic.
    So, it is all really just smoke and mirrors. Do these TSA workers really make you feel safer? I am glad that you like them better. That’s about as far as it goes.

  5. Rob

    I just wanted to say thank you for this article. I work for TSA at PWM (Portland International Jetport) in Portland, ME. Everything my co-workers and I see is somebody flaming us in an article or on CNN because they lost a nail polish or a knife. What these people fail to mention is that we give them the chance to keep their items via a mail service the airport provides or dropping their items off with someone who brought them to the airport. 80% of the time they’re either too lazy or too cheap to give up their item. What they also fail to realize is that at our airport, if you were escorted out of the checkpoint you can basically cut in front of the line.
    I’m going to print this article up and show it to my co-workers to show that someone out there appreciates us. So on behalf of TSA at PWM, thank you. This will mean a lot to us.


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