For the past few years, the country has endured a cupcake craze of sorts. Recently, a traveler in Las Vegas had her red velvet cupcake, which was baked into a glass jar for delivery/presentation purposes, confiscated out of concern about the contents of its frosting. Whereas cupcakes in similar jars and boxes had passed through other airport screening without concern, this time the cupcake was a “no go.” The facts are what may appear harmless may not be, and what TSA was doing was its job.
Aviation and airport security
December 5th, 2011 -
Here’s hoping TSA has a sense of humor in the stressful holiday travel season.
November 18th, 2011 - by Chris Battle
The TSA and the aviation industry acknowledge the unrealistic goal of screening 100 percent of all air cargo that enters, crosses or leaves the country. Some members of Congress, never to miss an oversimplified political solution to a complex problems, call for even more screening than we already (don’t) have.
November 9th, 2011 - by Stephen Heifetz
It has been four years since Congress made the bone-headed move mandating 100 percent screening of passenger plane cargo. Serious risk management is not Congress’s bag, as the institution demonstrates often. Fortunately, some elements within DHS sought to forge a new path, wisely piloting a program to conduct risk analyses of inbound air cargo and to focus DHS’s resources on the high-risk cargo, rather than attempting to subject all cargo to the same level of physical screening. This “risk-based” screening has been successful for DHS in other contexts.
November 7th, 2011 - by Jeffrey Sural
Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing reviewing TSA screening procedures 10 years after 9/11. The buzz word of the hearing was “risk-based.” This has been characterized in some reporting as TSA’s newest screening strategy. In fact, risk-based screening has been attempted at TSA and DHS for years. The “news” is TSA’s public re-commitment to risk-based screening after several check-point screening miscues went viral.
October 4th, 2011 - by Stewart Verdery
Kudos to TSA Administrator John Pistole and his team for launching “Pre-Check,” the new trusted traveler program developed by TSA with assistance from CBP and the travel community. With 10 years of experience since 9/11, it is time for DHS and TSA to develop a real trusted traveler program that recognizes that while we cannot eliminate all risk in the aviation system, passengers do present significantly different risk profiles.
September 27th, 2011 - by Justin Hienz
When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began using full-body scanners in airports, the now-iconic “naked” images spurred a public debate over privacy and security. As a result, TSA has started implementing new software in its Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, removing anatomical detail and automatically targeting concealed objects on a generic outline. This technology will have at least two notable ramifications: airport security infrastructure footprint should shrink and the debate over full body scanners will shift away from privacy concerns.
September 16th, 2011 - by Marc Frey
DHS is by no means perfect. However, its organizational promise – that concentrating large operational agencies under one roof would improve security – has been met at the border. The DHS border screening model – identifying bad guys around the world, finding out in advance who is traveling, and making sure that the bad guys cannot pretend to be someone else – also applies to aviation security, though it has not been used much at airports. We’ve run out of ways to check all passengers for weapons, and everyone—including TSA—agrees that new approaches are needed.
September 15th, 2011 - by Justin Hienz
International air carriers break U.S. federal law every day. Any cargo flown on a passenger plane in U.S. airspace (whether of domestic or foreign origin) must be screened for explosives. Yet, despite the law, some cargo flown into the United States does not meet the “100 percent” standard. To satisfy the cargo screening mandate, TSA has reinterpreted the law in an attempt to achieve 100 percent screening without physically screening all international cargo on passenger planes.
August 3rd, 2011 - by Guest Contributor
By Rob Strayer
The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in a lawsuit challenging the Transportation Security Administration’s use of Advanced Imaging Technology machines is that they do not constitute an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. What is significant is the D.C. Circuit’s holding that TSA failed to provide notice and solicit public comments on a new rule that passengers undergo a mandatory whole body scan or a pat down. The court’s decision will have potentially far ranging effects on the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that seek to implement new security measures.
July 21st, 2011 - by Rich Cooper
“Wheels stop.” With those two words, the era of the Space Shuttle officially closed. Those two words are traditionally spoken by the Shuttle Commander as the orbiter comes to a complete stop. Today’s space shuttle landing means 6,300 people will be laid off and the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control will fall silent. For now, we will have to wait until we see what the private sector can provide for a new era in human spaceflight.
July 15th, 2011 - by Stewart Verdery
Yesterday, TSA Administrator John Pistole announced the first step in what is hopefully a lengthy process to reorient TSA’s airport checkpoint screening in a more risk-based manner. He announced a limited partnership with two airlines and four airports where travelers selected by the airlines will be asked to opt-in to a new screening program. This “proof of concept” is mainly designed to ascertain the changes that need to be made at airports to provide a more risk-based approach to aviation security.
At an airport security checkpoint last week, a TSA officer guided a 95-year-old cancer patient to a private room to investigate “something suspicious on her leg.” It turned out to be a wet adult diaper, which she was asked to remove. TSA offered no apology and stood by protocol. This was another missed opportunity. Sometimes, even when we do the “right” thing, we should apologize. Instead, we now have a “viral” episode that places another brick on the wall between the public and the security agencies charged with protecting them.
Here is a piece I wrote for the Defense Media Network on the recent TSA incident involving a 95-year-old leukemia patient. This instance, like some of the other eye-popping and jaw-dropping cases of the past few months and years raises a lot of questions – I’d like to know where this woman, in her obvious feeble condition, ranked on the risk scale that warranted such a search?
May 24th, 2011 - by Stephen Heifetz
Seven months ago, intelligence organizations uncovered an attempt to bomb airliners by putting explosives in cargo. The cargo bombing plot highlighted the absence of effective cargo screening systems for air cargo being flown into the United States. The U.S. government should move expeditiously towards risk-based screening before al Qaeda strikes again.
May 13th, 2011 - by Stephen Heifetz
House Republicans just unveiled their lean budget for the Department of Homeland Security. Asking DHS to make do with less is reasonable, but precluding DHS from buying more passenger scanning machines – as the new budget makes a point of doing – is foolish.
April 28th, 2011 - by Chris Battle
The congressional mandate to screen not only domestic U.S. air cargo but now also screen 100 percent of all international inbound cargo continues to confound cargo carriers, freight forwarders and shippers. A recent article in Air Cargo World summed up U.S. and international views of different parties in the aviation supply chain — the consensus, in a nutshell, being confusion. I had the opportunity to offer a few comments
April 1st, 2011 -
In this April Fools Edition, we’ve collected some stories the rest of the media somehow missed.
Seizing on the spirit of change spreading around the globe, the U.S. Travel Association recently issued its recommendations for overhauling the security screening experience for passengers in a report titled “A Better Way.” Improvements to our aviation security need few new ideas. Rather, as the report implies, wholesale change requires intrepid leadership.
March 17th, 2011 - by Stewart Verdery
An industry group released a report advocating for major changes in how the federal government tackles its aviation security mission. In addition to 14 primary recommendations is a broader theme that the political climate in which DHS and TSA operate needs to change. aFormer DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, former Democratic Congressman Jim Turner, and Sabre Holdings CEO Sam Gililland served as co-chairs of a panel of external experts advising the U.S. Travel Association on the report, which I helped research and develop over the past year.