Problems with airport security? Tell the TSA on its new blog

The Transportation Security Administration aims for "lively, open discussion" on airport security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Wednesday launched a new blog to get questions and feedback on airport security issues -- and to respond to those posts.

TSA Administrator Kip Hawley noted on the blog that there is no time for agency personnel to answer passenger questions during the airport screening process. Screeners have no time to explain to passengers why they are asked to do certain things and can only demand that they follow orders. The blog, he said, provides a forum to explain processes and to allow passengers to suggest changes to the TSA checkpoint processes.

"One of my major goals of 2008 is to get TSA and passengers back on the same side, working together," Hawley wrote. "We need your help to get the checkpoint to be a better environment for us to do our security job and for you to get through quickly and on to your flight. We will not only give you straight answers to your questions, but we will challenge you with new ideas and involve you in upcoming changes."

Hawley noted that while he and other senior leaders at TSA participate in the discussion, a team of TSA moderators runs the blog.

"Our hosts [moderators] aren't responsible for TSA's policies, nor will they have to defend them -- their job is to engage with you straight-up and take it from there," he added. "Our postings from the public will be reviewed to remove the destructive, but not touch the critical or cranky."

As of Thursday morning, the blog had garnered 125 comments, most from passengers asking questions about common security practices like requiring passengers to remove their shoes in checkpoints or not allowing liquids over a certain number of ounces to be taken aboard a flight on carry-on luggage.

For example, one user who posted as "Anonymous" asked why some metal detectors are more sensitive than others with regard to the user's metal hip replacement.

A user who posted as "Lanz" welcomed the idea of the blog, "providing you actually make use of this blog as something other than a propaganda organ. Please allow as many comments as possible to go through, barring the to-be-expected nuts, spambots and abusive anti-government types. Number one rule of blogging -- be honest."

Another user, who posted to the blog as "I Guess I'm On the List Now," noted that the TSA is "fundamentally broken."

"Confiscating deodorant and sun block?" the user wrote. "Does anyone believe that this kabuki security theater really makes us safer? If you guys are serious about your responsibility to protect the country I suggest you start by not cutting off  'TSA approved' locks anymore, learning and sticking to your own rules and regulations especially those pertaining to passengers with medical problems … [and] immediately crack down on the threatening screeners who shout 'do you want to fly today?' anytime their crazy made-up-on-the-spot orders are questioned by passengers."

Another commentor, "Seth," applauded the idea of getting TSA and the passengers in agreement, but suggested that the TSA embrace transparency.

"The implication that the passengers need to remain in the dark and that TSA policy must remain secret in order to fool the 'bad guys' is a naive way to approach security," Seth added. "Share legitimate reasons for the policies and maybe people will agree that they aren't so onerous. If the idea of getting everyone back on the same side is for the traveling public to bow to the whim of the TSA/[Department of Homeland Security] without questioning policies then you're asking citizens to forego one of their primary responsibilities in society -- to ensure that the government does not abuse its power at the expense of the people."

On the blog a moderator noted that none of the comments would be used to add a person to the government's "No Fly List."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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