In watching the news stories, one has to wonder if the TSA is doing Security Theater or do they really believe they are protecting our nation.

The basic flaw I see with today’s screening system is that we are looking for bad things instead of bad people. Our focus is on many inanimate objects, which in and of themselves are not likely to pose a threat to airliners. The terrorists of 9/11 did not carry any banned items onto their flights. In fact, the only illegal thing they carried was the intent to do grave bodily harm.

Passenger screening systems should become an intelligence-based technology-supported enterprise. The intelligence aspect is driven by the all-powerful concept of information sharing. In a crisis, information will not spontaneously flow across systems as needed unless organizations plan ahead and create actionable information sharing procedures.  Through establishing a functional public-private partnership between the U.S. government and the airline industry, DHS can leverage the power of information sharing.

A great deal of data on passengers is held by the airline industry as well as the government; an example of this is U.S. citizens holding U.S. government security clearances. Clearly a person with a Top Secret clearance should not need to have a completely invasive body search when we already trust them with our national security. Registered frequent travelers about whom we have a great deal of information voluntarily submitted and with a level of trust may well move into a lower risk category. Some Congressmen are not held in the highest esteem, yet I would doubt they are a terrorist threat to aviation and could use a reduced procedure.
If TSA could access collated data assessment in conjunction with a boarding pass and positive identity check, a great number of travelers could be moved to a more expeditious screening line. Not only will this streamline the process, it will enable TSA to focus their resources on more viable threats and/or people about whom we have little knowledge.

One of the hot buttons in today’s discord is the invasive screening of our airline crew members.  As a former airline captain for a major U.S. airline, I have a great deal of experience with the issues at hand. One of the issues driving the TSA demand that all crewmembers be screened like all other passengers is that they do not have a locally issued airport identity badge for every airport. There are hundreds of commercial airports in the United States; obviously this is not possible. Yet, the local employees at that airport who service the aircraft and load the bags are passed through a much-expedited process because they are trusted and known.

Airline pilots all are all carefully vetted by the U.S. government, and their employment and duty status is continuously monitored. More importantly, we already trust them with our lives and – as was demonstrated on 9/11- a weapon of mass destruction. They don’t need any Bad Thing that a TSO is going to find by feeling their groin. TSA is ignoring their own operational technology, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) with its biometric capacity positively identifying the holder at U.S. seaports. Deploying TWIC to airline crew members would alleviate a significant friction point in the operational environment.

Current TSA procedures are demonstrating that DHS does not have control or understanding of the aviation situation. They are throwing money, people, and half-baked policies at aviation in hopes of detecting or deterring our adversaries. Meanwhile, our adversaries, whose strategic goal is destroying our economic system through asymmetric warfare, are accomplishing their goals with our help.

In an intelligence-based technology-supported system there is a strong reliance on emerging technologies, but the tech must work for us, not the other way around. Human-in-the-loop is the key to understanding intelligence data and recognizing indicators and warnings based on behavioral patterns observed by trained professionals. This is not profiling, rather, the simple premise that a person getting ready to commit a crime will behave differently from one just going on an airline journey.

Our focus must be to meet the threat proactively and efficiently while maintaining our economic system, the support of our people, and protecting cherished freedoms.

  • Rahul

    I want to find out what recourse does a passenger have if a TSA offcial abuses this authority and sexually assaults a passenger during a pat down. Where to go to file a complaint, and what is defined as molestation by the TSA.

    I cannot find this information anywhere in media reports. Please post an article on this.

    • Bob Czincila

      Read the TSA website.

    • Bob Czincila


      review the TSA website. It is all there!

    • robert

      The State Attorney General for California stated that any inappropriate touching of the genitals, breasts, etc. is considered molestation and is a felony. How that applies to what you're after I don't know, it will require more research and perhaps a visit to your State's Attorney's General office or website to get an answer.

      Find out also it what the TSA is doing is a health threat to the folks going through these invasive pat-downs. Does the TSA agent change gloves after handling every item or every person checked? In most cases, no! The gloves are to protect the agent, not the passenger. But it is a thought that must be addressed.

    • jhienz

      You may find comments from California prosecutors interesting. Here's a story to give you some context:

      Also, thanks to all our readers who are engaging on this topic.

  • Tom

    I wouldn't trust TSA screeners with passenger data — knowing them, they'd use it for identity theft.

    • Bob Czincila

      What a poor characterization–

  • Bob Czincila


    Most of the IT requirements for screening of air crews is already available through your vetting process of “jump seating”. The databases are in place and their function under the scrutiny of the principal security inspector at TSA. You would only have to have a “live” link at the screening checkpoint. The TSO could visual the likeness on the card and then you might swipe your card for authentication and forgo the entire screening process.

    As far as identifying those with “top-secret” clearance-maybe there should be a separation of screening areas to facilitate these special folks. I don't think I would be happy to be traveling to SE Asia and have many know of my level.


      Thanks Bob, there are many issues that need to be resolved in order to make the system I propose fully functional. The primary is oversight, this should be under the auspices of an honest broker with both government and private sector collaboration as originally defined as Information Sharing and Analysis Center, ISAC by the President’s Clinton’s PDD-63.

      As you point out custody of the data is critical, there is no reason that a TSO would ever need to access the raw data, when they input the identity they simply get a green-yellow-red reply. This then activates prescribed protocols, of course the TSO must have discretion after observing adverse behavior to escalate the individual to a higher screening level. You may review a talk I have given on this topic for IDGA Aviation Security Summit and the Borders Management Summit at Aviation Security: Stopping the Threat to Airline Passengers, Baggage, and Cargo.

    • Bob thanks for your comments. As you state the databases exist and need to be fused. I would propose doing it under the auspices of a public-private collaboration as envisioned by President Clinton’s PDD-63 for the formation of an Information Sharing and Analysis Center, ISAC. It is especially important to have an honest broker overseeing this enterprise.

      As to the TSO interaction they need only put in identity information and receive back a green-yellow-red indication, which sends the traveler to a prescribed, screening line. There is absolutely no reason the raw data, such as security clearance would ever be visible to anyone outside the fusion center. Of course the TSO must have discretion to move an individual to an increased screening line if merited from behavioral observation or other legitimate reason. I have addressed this process at a couple of conferences for IDGA, the Aviation Security Summit and the Border Management Summit, the text of my talk is posted at as Aviation Security: Stopping the Threat to Airline Passengers, Baggage, and Cargo.

      The fully functioning TWIC could now be deployed to the aviation workers as was originally conceived, which could then move these trusted employees to the green line.

      Thanks again for engaging.

  • Bob Karl

    Kevin is absolutely correct. All of the privacy concerns relating to identifying “Bad” people have now resulted in the new “Private” privacy concerns.

    You cannot have it both ways. Technology now allows for the easy hiding of very serious threats. If we cannot , because of privacy concerns, identify the people posing the threats, we need to find the junk in your junk. The likely new 2012 passport entry: “Allergic to Latex”

    Unfortunately, all sarcasm aside, one type of threat identity system or the other is really necessary. The threats constantly morph to defeat the system yet, through the same people. Let's change the system to defeat the threats! Find or identify the people posing them.


  • Robert

    Imaging is not the answer. The Israeli's have one of the finest security systems in place and it is not offensive. Ben-Gurion airport is under extreme threat of attack, more so than any airport in the U.S. Yet you never hear in the news of successful attacks. Why is that?

    The simple answer is that their system targets bad people. Current TSA checks are working at our airports. However, TSA agents are not competent in identifying erratic or irrational behavior in people. The Israeli system does just that. The focus of the TSA is out-of phase with the reality of our current threats and technology is not the answer. (Look at the military in SW Asia, all the high-tech in the world and they still cannot identify the enemy and our armies are being picked apart.) In summary, what we have now works. Focus instead on incorporating the techniques the Israeli's use to successfully protect their people and their airlines.

  • From a news story on Tuesday: TSA, Pilots Weigh Biometric System for Airport Screening

    It would appear that contrary to TSA Administrator Pistole’s recalcitrant behavior before Congress someone in his organization recognizes the need to address the crewmember screening issues.

    “The focus of the discussions with the unions centers on rolling out a “crew-pass” system under which pilots would use a card containing biometric information, such as a digital photograph or fingerprint, to move quickly through security checkpoints.”

    This of course begs the question why they need to have yet again another study of a biometric identity card; TSA has been conducting these studies for the last seven years, specifically in major US airports, specifically for airline employees. The product of these tests is the TWIC, deployed years ago for the maritime and trucking industry. Therefore one has to ask, does TWIC work? Is it secure? If so, why not deploy it to the airline industry for which it was conceived? The policies, procedures, and infrastructure are already in place within TSA.

    The US lost the Viet Nam war to an adversary who was living in caves and tunnels because we caused the US population to turn against our government. We are handing al Qaeda this same tool to use against us and it is called 4GW, 4th Generation Warfare. The TSA and DHS will steadfast demand draconian measures in a one-size-fits-all approach to screening when the administrator claims to be committed to ensuring TSA operates as a risk-based, intelligence-driven agency.

    Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh both fully understood the doctrine of 4GW and used it to its fullest effect. Are we so arrogant as to believe that our 21st century adversary has not studied what worked in the past?

    At this point establishing a collaborative body representing both the public and the private sectors and acting as an honest broker may not solve the next holiday meltdown at airport screening, but we may be able to meet the challenges before we are engulfed by our own society.

  • Wasatch Jay


    I think your comments are spot-on.

    As current major airline captain I applaud TSA's recent (and long overdue) decision to utilize some form of a crewpass/TWIC system and exempt pilots from the current screening methods. Thank you for so eloquently arguing for this.

    However having lived through the 9/11 aftermath of airline bankruptcies, as well as the devastating effect of the SARS epidemic, I am very concerned about the negative revenue effect of TSA's new body imaging (or the hugely invasive “pat-downs”) screening policies.

    While I personally haven't (and won't) experienced the pat-downs, I've watched it several times. I was literally amazed at how demeaning and invasive it was. If this new security is a requirement for passengers to fly I strongly suspect a very significant percentage will “opt out” and drive. It's that bad and it may very well be devastating to the airline industry.

    As an American citizen I have always been proud of our belief in individual freedoms. I find the new screening protocols totally unacceptable when weighed against what our country stands for.

  • This was a really interesting, and different view about the way we screen passengers in airports. Hopefully, there will be a way that we can utilize the technology in an even more useful way while increasing the efficiency of the human element involved.