Complaining about the TSA (in front of them) makes you more likely to be a terrorist/criminal?

Gotta love this CNN article about indicators that TSA’s Behavior Detection Officers look for when profiling passengers, including the following:

Arrogant complaining about airport security is one indicator Transportation Security Administration officers consider when looking for possible criminals and terrorists, CNN has learned exclusively. And, when combined with other behavioral indicators, it could result in a traveler facing additional scrutiny.

While I don’t claim to be a security expert, I can’t for the life of me figure out how complaining loudly in front of the TSA about the security process makes you more likely to be a criminal or terrorist. It always gets me “special” treatment, and that’s not what I’d want if I were hiding something. Wouldn’t a terrorist be more likely to try and blend in, and therefore not complain about the security process?

I guess the answers to my questions are top secret, classified government information.

Filed Under: Security/TSA
  1. The constant TSA bashing becomes old after a while.

    Security and screening is a lot more complex then you give it credit for. Trust me, i’ve seen and know a wee bit more about the world then you do as a 20-year old college kid.

    i dont know if your read fish’s piece, but its actually a level headed look at security, instead of a constant stream of complaints of security minutia (like “i can’t believe TSA asked me my name”!)

  2. Steve, if you’re done being patronising and assuming that nobody younger than you knows anything (BTW, when I was Ben’s age I had an MA in International Relations with a specialty in Islamic Terrorism and was analysing Al Qaeda recruitment videos, so you probably didn’t know more than this particular 20-year-old), you might want to consult some actual experts in security rather than Steven Frischling.

    Bruce Schneier, perhaps, who makes the point that the key improvements in US aviation safety in the last ten years are (a) better intelligence, (b) secure cockpit doors, and (c) a change in on-the-plane response by passengers and crew from “sit quietly and don’t antagonise the hijackers” to “fight back”.

    PS If you’re going to make disparaging remarks about “college kids”, probably best to use capital letters so you look like you completed your own education.

  3. (Hey Ben, has there been a commenting system upgrade? Whitespace between paragraphs is disappearing and the line spacing looks a little more cramped than I remember.)

  4. wow john, now who’s being patronising…

    i don’t know anything about you, or ben. i’m not saying that people younger then me don’t know anything. and for the record, you have zero idea about my background, so i wouldn’t jump to conclusions either.

    my only point is that it seems like there is a constant stream of anti-TSA posts. after a while it comes off like TSA is wrong about everything – and that, yes, maybe a group of intelligence agents know a little more then everyone who blogs about them.

    security is a lot more complex and difficult then most people think. especially when it has to be cost effective.

  5. That might be the first time I’ve ever heard of the TSA being called “cost effective”.


  6. While I generally avoid the TSA bashing I think most security people would tell you terrorist try to be low profile and avoid being the center of attention.

    If they are singling out people who are complaining about the TSA they are doing so out of retaliation and teaching the complainer who really is in charge while hiding behind the security excuse.

    The bottom line is that they can’t afford to high top notch security people and while many workers are trying to do a good job there are a few workers who have the attitude that comes with being in power.

    Personally I have no problems with the scanning devices and don’t think they should be optional.

  7. This policy can’t possibly have anything to do with finding terrorists. It is about protecting TSA authority.

  8. I tend to give TSA a lot of slack and the benefit of the doubt as their job can be difficult. But this does really bother me as it strikes me as the epitome of what’s required to sustain a corrupt organization. “If you complain about what we are doing, you are a terrorist” “If you disagree with our methods, you are a criminal”. People being trained to think like this is just plain Scary. This also comes at a time when the current rape allegations against NYPD officers reminds us that those in power can often violate our basic individual rights. If complaining against injustice makes you more likely to be a terrorist, we are headed in the wrong direction.

  9. Yeah, barely literate ‘security professionals’ really instill confidence in the state of our nation’s airport security apparatus. I don’t know much about security, but I did stay at a Holiday Express once – so I feel qualified to say that questioning the authority of the TSA is the last thing a terrorist would do.

  10. Better not question authority. I have had good experiences with TSA where they were polite, professional, and helpful, and then I have had interactions that are the opposite. The safety of the full body scans, whose risks we don’t fully know, has not been verified. The enhanced screening procedures are unacceptable, as this story below shows.,0,686151.story

  11. @Steve- if you can cough up two (2) passports in your name, and demonstrate fluency in more than one (1) language, I’ll lean your way.. till then I vote for Ben as International Man of Mastery.

    @John- you hit the nail squarely with the reference to Bruce’s article… the combination of Cockpit Fortress and fighting sheeple has done more to keep us safe than the shoe carnival and tactiling ten year olds.

    The tactics of this game are ever changing; we can either keep looking at the past (pat-downs of AARP members and Sesame Street fans), or protect our aircraft from MANPADs…

  12. There is nothing wrong with the TSA or whatever. What is wrong are the political United States as they presently exist. No, you can’t see my birth certificate.

  13. I think they treat all people like terrorists regardless of their behavior at the airport. They don’t even realize that for people who suffer from some serious medical conditions this kind of treatment may be a real nightmare.

  14. Steve, how in the world can you possibly consider TSA personnel “a group of intelligence agents” when the basic requirement for the job is a high school diploma and a few seminar hours. Frankly, I’m more afraid of TSA agents than I am of terrorists.

  15. As you and so many other responders note, those TSA twits are not about aircraft or flight security, they are about their own, small, secure piece of the Global Security Picture.” TSA’s screeners and even the backgrount ‘observers’ are not educated, experienced professionals, but near-minimum wage street hires without a significant criminal record. No more – and no less! They have the expience an skill to differentiate between cabbage and mushrooms, and that’s about it. As for the pat-down, they are no more than lump finders. How many colostomy bags have they found – and considered serious threats? They view artificial joints and even replacement heart valves as a threat. Training? This is not a comedy blog and I’m not making a joke. There is NO training that deals with genuine theat potentials, simply becasue the ‘agents’ hired are not bright enough to understand the material!! Their approach is 1) Least Possible cost, 2) massive, uniformed presence 3) As much slowing and inconvenience as possible and 4) Wishing that slow, annoying inspections will stop a serious threat.
    We know better. Routine tests of their screening processes fail. They won’t reveal the numbers, but I’d gues that a determined thug has a 75% change of success. THink it through a bit… If a major, but very quiet operation were staged, the Bad Guys could afford to have 25% of their agents exposed. The 75% that pass inspections can still do a lot of harm. Seriously tight inspections and even *Zero* carry-ons might help, but the Bad Guys are smart enough to bypass that. And, the general public won’t stand for a *Zero* carry-on policy. Ever.
    My response? (The TSA, the Treasury, hundreds of BBBs and tourist boards ought to be reading this… My response is to Simply Say NO! I will not fly under those conditions. Long distances are out and for lesser distances, I will find other means, even if it means driving at very high expense. In the end, I will NOT permit an ill-informed, TSA-employed thug to physically examine my person as a condition of travel. I well understand that permission for the detailed seach is implied in the regulations and even the ticket contract. Even though I have nothing to hide, that degree of examination of my person or my minimal posessions is NOT reasonable! FGS, even a SEALED liter bottle of water is forbidden. How is this any different from the NAZI assaults of the 1930s and 40s? I will NOT submit, even if it means not traveling! Nuff said. – C.


    Yes, but the point is that bullying passengers can make insecure screeners feel pressured resulting in making them want to complete the check as quickly as possible. After watching the video (from minute 23 onwards) it should be pretty clear why those kind of passengers are considered a potential threat by enactors of security policies. That is why screeners are taught to think of those passengers as a security threat and because they are taught that way those passengers get a special treatment.

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