The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States. It was created as a response to the September 11 attacks.
|Transportation Security Administration|
Wordmark of the TSA
Flag of the Transportation Security Administration
|Formed||November 19, 2001|
|Jurisdiction||Transportation systems inside, and connecting to the United States of America|
|Headquarters||Pentagon City, Arlington County, Virginia|
|Employees||51,000  (2019)|
|Annual budget||$7.58 billion (2018)|
|Parent agency||Department of Homeland Security|
The TSA was created largely in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which revealed weaknesses in existing airport security procedures. At the time, a myriad of private security companies managed air travel security under contract to individual airlines or groups of airlines that used a given airport or terminal facility. Proponents of placing the government in charge of airport security, including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, argued that only a single federal agency could best protect passenger aviation.
Congress agreed, and authorized the creation of the TSA in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. Bush nominated John Magaw on December 10, and he was confirmed by the Senate the following January. The agency was initially placed under the United States Department of Transportation, but was moved to the Department of Homeland Security when that department was formed on March 9, 2003.
The new agency's effort to hire screeners to begin operating security checkpoints at airports represents a case of a large-scale staffing project completed over a short period. The only effort in U.S. history that came close to it was the testing of recruits for the armed forces in World War II. During the period from February to December 2002, 1.7 million applicants were assessed for 55,000 screening jobs.
The TSA develops broad policies to protect the U.S. transportation system, including highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports, and pipelines. It fulfills this mission in conjunction with other federal agencies and state partners. However, the TSA's primary focus is on airport security and the prevention of aircraft hijacking. It is responsible for screening passengers and baggage at more than 450 U.S. airports.
When TSA was part of the Department of Transportation, the head of the agency was referred to as the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security. Following the move to the Department of Homeland Security, the position was reclassified as the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
There have been seven administrators and six acting administrators in the TSA's 18-year history.
Following the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 which included a provision known as the TSA Modernization Act, the Administrator's term was set as a five year term retroactive to the start of current Administrator David Pekoske's term. It also made the Deputy Administrator a politically appointed position.
|1||John Magaw||January 28, 2002 — July 18, 2002||Under Secretary of Transportation for Security|
|2||James Loy||July 19, 2002 — December 7, 2003||Under Secretary of Transportation for Security until Department of Homeland Security transition.|
|3||David M. Stone||December 8, 2003 — June 3, 2005||Acting until July 2004 when confirmed by United States Senate.|
|—||Kenneth Kasprisin||June 4, 2005 — July 26, 2005||Acting|
|4||Kip Hawley||July 27, 2005 — January 20, 2009|
|—||Gale Rossides||January 20, 2009 — June 24, 2010||Acting|
|5||John S. Pistole||June 25, 2010 —December 31, 2014|
|—||Melvin J. Carraway||January 1, 2015 — June 1, 2015||Acting, reassigned to DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement following leak of DHS Inspector General red team test results showing screening failures at TSA checkpoints.|
|—||Mark Hatfield Jr.||June 1, 2015 — June 4, 2015||Acting|
|—||Francis X. Taylor||June 4, 2015 — July 3, 2015||Acting, served concurrently as Homeland Security Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis.|
|6||Peter V. Neffenger||July 4, 2015 — January 20, 2017|
|—||Huban A. Gowadia||January 20, 2017 — August 10, 2017||Acting|
|7||David Pekoske||August 10, 2017 — present||Serving concurrently as Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security since April 11, 2019. Day-to-day operations currently overseen by Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell.|
All offices are headed by an Assistant Administrator, except for the offices of Enterprise Support, Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service, Operations Support and Security Operations, which are headed by an Executive Assistant Administrator; the Office of Chief Counsel, who uses the title of Chief Counsel. The Investigations office and Strategy, Policy Coordination and Innovation office are referred to as a Director for the former and Executive Director for the latter. The Executive Assistant Administrator for Law Enforcement is also the Director of the Federal Air Marshal Service.
In August 2017, the General Services Administration announced a new headquarters for the TSA would be built in Springfield, Virginia. The new, 625,000-square-foot headquarters will be a short distance from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and is projected to cost $316 million for a 15-year lease. The facility is expected to open in mid-2020.
For fiscal year 2012, the TSA had a budget of roughly $7.6 billion.
|Transportation Security Support & Intelligence||1,032||14%|
|Federal Air Marshals||966||13%|
|Transportation Threat Assessment & Credentialing||165||2%|
|Surface Transportation Security||135||2%|
Part of the TSA budget comes from a $2.50 per-passenger tax. The Obama administration had proposed tripling this fee by 2019, with most of the increase going to reduce the national debt.
Private screening did not disappear entirely under the TSA, which allows airports to opt out of federal screening and hire firms to do the job instead. Such firms must still get TSA approval under its Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and follow TSA procedures. Among the U.S. airports with privately operated checkpoints are San Francisco International Airport; Kansas City International Airport; Greater Rochester International Airport; Tupelo Regional Airport; Key West International Airport; Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport; and Jackson Hole Airport. However, the bulk of airport screening in the U.S. is done by the TSA's 47,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), often referred to as officers or agents. They examine passengers and their baggage, and perform other security duties within airports, including controlling entry and exit points and monitoring the areas near their checkpoints.
Among the types of TSA employees are:
Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) provide security and protection of air travelers, airports and aircraft. This includes:
The key requirements for employment are:
As of September 2014 the starting salary for a TSO is $25,773 to $38,660 per year, not including locality pay (contiguous 48 states) or cost of living allowance in Hawaii and Alaska. A handful of airports also have a retention bonus of up to 35%. This is more than what private screeners were paid.
This program has led to concerns about, and allegations of racial profiling. According to the TSA, SPOT screening officers are trained to observe behaviors only and not a person's appearance, race, ethnicity or religion.The TSA program was reviewed in 2013 by the federal government's Government Accountability Office, which recommended cutting funds for it because there was no proof of its effectiveness. The JASON scientific advisory group has also said that "no scientific evidence exists to support the detection or inference of future behavior, including intent."
In 2008, TSA officers began wearing new uniforms that have a blue-gray 65/35 polyester/cotton blend duty shirt, black pants, a wider black belt, and optional short-sleeved shirts and black vests (for seasonal reasons). The first airport to introduce the new uniforms was Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Starting on September 11, 2008, all TSOs began wearing the new uniform. One stripe on each shoulder board denotes a TSO, two stripes a Lead TSO, and three a Supervisory TSO.
Officers are issued badges and shoulder boards after completing a 2-4 week mandatory training at their academy in FLETC.
On Friday, November 1, 2013, TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, age 39, was shot and killed by a lone gunman at the Los Angeles International Airport. Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, who was shot and wounded by law enforcement officers before being taken into custody. Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a hand-written note that said he "wanted to kill TSA and pigs". Hernandez was the first TSA officer to be killed on the job.
On March 21, 2015, 63-year-old Richard White entered the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport armed with Molotov cocktails, a gasoline lighter, and a machete. White promptly began assaulting passengers and Transportation Security Administration officers by spraying them with a can of wasp killer, then drew his machete and ran through a metal detector. A Jefferson Parish's deputy sheriff shot and killed White as he was chasing a TSA officer with his machete.
The TSA requires that passengers show a valid ID at the security checkpoint before boarding their flight. Valid forms of identification include passports from the U.S. or a foreign government, state-issued photo identification, or military ID. Passengers that do not have ID may still be allowed to fly if their identity can be verified through an alternate way.
Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards for official purposes from states that do not meet these standards.
Beginning January 22, 2018, driver's licenses or state IDs issued by states that are not in compliance with the REAL ID Act and have not been granted an extension by DHS may not be used to fly within the U.S.
Beginning October 1, 2020, every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license or state ID or another acceptable form of identification to fly within the U.S.
Passenger names are compared against the No Fly List, a list of about 21,000 names (as of 2012) of suspected terrorists who are not allowed to board. Passenger names are also compared against a longer list of "selectees"; passengers whose names match names from this list receive a more thorough screening before being potentially allowed to board. The effectiveness of the lists has been widely criticized on the basis of errors in how those lists are maintained, for concerns that the lists are unconstitutional, and for its ineffectiveness at stopping Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate plastic explosives in his underwear, from boarding an aircraft. At the airport security checkpoint, passengers are screened to ensure they are not carrying prohibited items. These include most sorts of sharp objects, many sporting goods such as baseball bats and hockey sticks, guns or other weapons, many sorts of tools, flammable liquids (except for conventional lighters), many forms of chemicals and paint. In addition, passengers are limited to 3.4 US fluid ounces (100 ml) of almost any liquid or gel, which must be presented at the checkpoint in a clear, one-quart zip-top bag. These restrictions on liquids were a reaction to the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.
The number of passengers who have been detected bringing firearms onto airplanes in their carry-on bags has increased in recent years, from 976 in 2009 to 1,813 in 2013, according to the TSA. In 2010 an anonymous source told ABC News that undercover agents managed to bring weapons through security nearly 70 percent of the time at some major airports. Firearms can be legally checked in checked luggage on domestic flights.
In a program begun in October 2011, the TSA's Precheck Program allows selected members of the American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines, Air Canada, JetBlue Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines frequent flyer programs, members of Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI and active duty members of the US military to receive expedited screening for domestic and select international itineraries. As of March 2019, this program was available at more than 200 airports. After completing a background check, being fingerprinted, and paying an $85 fee, travelers will get a Known Traveler Number. The program has led to complaints of unfairness and longer wait lines. Aeromexico, Etihad Airways, Cape Air, and Seaborne Airlines joined the program bringing the total number of member carriers to 16. On December 15, 2015, the program expanded to include Allegiant Air. On June 21, 2016, it was announced that Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines will also join the program starting in the fall of 2016. On August 31, 2016, the program expanded to include Lufthansa, and on September 29, 2016, Frontier Airlines was added. In 2017, 11 more airlines were added on January 26, and another seven were added on May 25. As of March 2019, a total to 65 carriers were participating in the program.
In October 2013, the TSA announced that it had begun searching a wide variety of government and private databases for information about passengers before they arrive at the airport. They did not say which databases were involved, but TSA has access to past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, law enforcement and intelligence information, among others.
After the October 2010 cargo planes bomb plot, in which cargo containing laser printers with toner cartridges filled with explosives were discovered on separate cargo planes, the U.S. prohibited passengers from carrying certain printer cartridges on flights. The TSA said it would ban toner and ink cartridges weighing over 16 ounces (453 grams) from all passenger flights. The ban applies to both carry-on bags and checked bags, and does not affect average travelers, whose toner cartridges are generally lighter.
Beginning in November 2010, TSA added new enhanced screening procedures. Passengers are required to choose between an enhanced patdown, allowing TSOs to more thoroughly check areas on the body such as waistbands, groin, and inner thigh. or instead to be imaged by the use of a full body scanner (that is, either backscatter X-ray or millimeter wave detection machines) in order to fly. TSA encouraged flyers to choose scanners by emphasizing the "intrusive" nature of the "enhanced" patdown. These changes were said to be made in reaction to the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab bombing attempt.
The new pat-down procedures, which were originally not made public, "routinely involve the touching of buttocks and genitals" as well as breasts. These procedures were controversial, and in a November 2010 poll, 50% of those polled felt that the new pat-down procedures were too extreme, with 48% feeling them justified. A number of publicized incidents created a public outcry against the invasiveness of the pat-down techniques, in which women's breasts and the genital areas of all passengers are patted. Pat-downs are carried out by agents of the same gender as the passenger.
Concerns were raised as to the constitutionality of the new screening methods by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union. As of April 2011, at least six lawsuits were filed for violation of the Fourth Amendment. George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen has supported this view, saying "there's a strong argument that the TSA's measures violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures." Concerns were also raised about the effects of these pat-downs on survivors of sexual assault. In January 2014, Denver police launched an investigation against a screener at Denver International Airport over what the passenger stated was an intrusive patdown.
In November 2010, the TSA began putting backscatter X-ray scanners and millimeter wave scanners machines into airports. The TSA refers to these two technologies as Advanced Imaging Technologies, or AIT. Critics sometimes refer to them as "naked scanners".
Passengers are directed to hold their hands above their heads for a few seconds while front and back images are created. If the operator sees an anomaly on the scanner, or if other problems occur, the passenger will also have to receive the pat-down.
Full body scanners have also proven controversial due to privacy and health concerns.
The American Civil Liberties Union has called the scanners a "virtual strip search." Female passengers have complained that they are often singled out for scanning, and a review of TSA records by a local CBS affiliate in Dallas found "a pattern of women who believe that there was nothing random about the way they were selected for extra screening."
The TSA, on their website, states that they have "implemented strict measures to protect passenger privacy which is ensured through the anonymity of the image," and additionally states that these technologies "cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared by the remotely located security officer". This claim, however, was proven false after multiple incidents involving leaked images. The machines do in fact have the ability to "save" the images and while this function is purported to be "turned off" by the TSA in screenings, TSA Air Marshalls and training facilities have the save function turned on.
As early as 2010, the TSA began to test scanners that would produce less intrusive "stick figures". In February 2011, the TSA began testing new software on the millimeter wave machines already used at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport that automatically detects potential threats on a passenger without the need for having an officer review actual images. Instead, one generic figure is used for all passengers and small yellow boxes are placed on areas of the body requiring additional screening. The TSA announced in 2013 that the Rapiscan's backscatter scanners would no longer be used, due to the fact that the manufacturer of the machines could not produce "privacy software" to abstract the near-nude images that agents view and turn them into stick like figures. The TSA will continue to use other full body scanners.
Health concerns have been raised about both scanning technologies.
With regards to exposure to radiation emitted by backscatter X-rays, and there are fears that people will be exposed to a "dangerous level of radiation if they get backscattered too often". A petition by both scientists and pilots argue that the screening machines are safe. Ionizing radiation is considered a non-threshold carcinogen, but it is difficult to quantify the risk of low radiation exposures. Active millimeter wave scanners emit radiation which is non-ionizing, does not have enough energy to directly damage DNA, and is not known to be genotoxic.
In April 2016, TSA Administrator, Peter V. Neffenger told a Senate committee that small airports had the option to use "reverse screening" – a system where passengers are not screened before boarding the aircraft at departure, but instead are screened upon arrival at the destination. The procedure is intended to save costs at airports with a limited number of flights.
After the November 2010 initiation of enhanced screening procedures of all airline passengers and flight crews, the US Airline Pilots Association issued a press release stating that pilots should not submit to full body scanners because of unknown radiation risks and calling for strict guidelines for pat-downs of pilots, including evaluation of their fitness for duty after the pat-down, given the stressful nature of pat-downs. Two airline pilots filed suit against the procedures.
In March 2011, two New Hampshire state representatives introduced proposed legislation that would criminalize as sexual assault invasive TSA pat-downs made without probable cause. In May 2011, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for Transportation Security Administration officials to touch a person's genitals when carrying out a patdown. The bill failed in the Senate after the Department of Justice threatened to make Texas a no-fly zone if the legislation passed. In Congress, United States House of Representatives by Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act (H.R.6416).
On July 2, 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit in federal court asking to halt the use of full body scanners by the TSA on Fourth amendment grounds, and arguing that the TSA had failed to allow a public notice and rule making period. In July 2011, the D.C. Circuit court of appeals ruled that the TSA did violate the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to allowing a public notice and comment rule making period. The Court ordered the agency to "promptly" undertake a public notice and comment rule making. In July 2012, EPIC returned to court and asked the court to force enforcement; in August, the court granted the request to compel the TSA to explain its actions by the end of the month. The agency responded on August 30, saying that there was ""no basis whatsoever for (The DC Circuit Court's) assertion that TSA has delayed implementing this court's mandate," and said it was awaiting approval from the Department of Homeland Security before the hearings take place. The TSA also said that it was having "staffing issues" regarding the issue, but expects to begin hearings in February 2013. The comment period began on March 25, 2013 and closed on June 25, 2013, with over 90% of the comments against the scanners. As of October, 2015, no report has been issued.
Two separate Internet campaigns promoted a "National Opt-Out Day," the day before Thanksgiving, urging travelers to "opt out" of the scanner and insist on a pat-down. The enhanced pat-down procedures were also the genesis of the "Don't touch my junk meme".
On March 21, 2017, the TSA banned electronic devices larger than smartphones from being carried on flights to the U.S. from 10 specific airports located in Muslim-majority countries. The order cited intelligence that "indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items". The restrictions were ended in July following changes in screening procedures at the specified airports.
In order to be able to search passenger baggage for security screening, the TSA will cut or otherwise disable locks they cannot open themselves. The agency authorized two companies to create padlocks, lockable straps, and luggage with built-in locks that can be opened and relocked by tools and information supplied by the lock manufacturers to the TSA. These are Travel Sentry and Safe Skies Locks. TSA agents sometimes cut these locks off instead of opening them, and TSA received over 3500 complaints in 2011 about locks being tampered with. Travel journalist and National Geographic Traveler editor Christopher Elliott describes these locks as "useless" at protecting the goods within, whereas SmarterTravel wrote in early 2010 that the "jury is out on their effectiveness", while noting how easy they are to open.
In November 2014, The Washington Post inadvertently published a photograph of all seven of the TSA master keys in an article about TSA baggage handling. The photograph was later removed from the original article, but it still appears in some syndicated copies. In August 2015 this gained the attention of news sites. Using the photograph, security researchers and members of the public have been able to reproduce working copies of the master keys using 3D printing techniques. The incident has prompted discussion about the security implications of using master keys.
Undercover operations to test the effectiveness of airport screening processes are routinely carried out by the TSA's Office of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's office.
A report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found that TSA officials had collaborated with Covenant Aviation Security (CAS) at San Francisco International Airport to alert screeners to undercover tests. From August 2003 until May 2004, precise descriptions of the undercover personnel were provided to the screeners. The handing out of descriptions was then stopped, but until January 2005 screeners were still alerted whenever undercover operations were being undertaken. When no wrongdoing on the part of CAS was found, the contract was extended for four years. Some CAS and TSA workers received disciplinary action, but none were fired.
A report on undercover operations conducted in October 2006 at Newark Liberty International Airport was leaked to the press. The screeners had failed 20 of 22 undercover security tests, missing numerous guns and bombs. The Government Accountability Office had previously pointed to repeated covert test failures by TSA personnel. Revealing the results of covert tests is against TSA policy, and the agency responded by initiating an internal probe to discover the source of the leak.
In July 2007, the Times Union of Albany, New York reported that TSA screeners at Albany International Airport failed multiple covert security tests conducted by the TSA. Among them was a failure to detect a fake bomb.
In December 2010, ABC News Houston reported in an article about a man who accidentally took a forgotten gun through airport security, that "the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports".
In May 2012, a report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General stated that the TSA "does not have a complete understanding" of breaches at the nation's airports, with some hubs doing very little to fix or report security breaches. These findings will be presented to Congress.
A 2015 investigation by the Homeland Security Inspector General revealed that undercover investigators were able to smuggle banned items through checkpoints in 95% of their attempts.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have had several joint hearings concerning the cost and benefits of the various safety programs including full body scanners, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), and the behavior detection program, among others.
Some measures employed by the TSA have been accused of being ineffective and fostering a false sense of safety. This led security expert Bruce Schneier to coin the term security theater to describe those measures.
Two studies by a group of Cornell University researchers have found that strict airport security has the unintended consequence of increasing road fatalities, as would-be air travelers decide to drive and are exposed to the far greater risk of dying in a car accident. In 2005, the researchers looked at the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and found that the change in passenger travel modes led to 242 added driving deaths per month. In all, they estimated that about 1,200 driving deaths could be attributed to the short-term effects of the attacks. The study attributes the change in traveler behavior to two factors: fear of terrorist attacks and the wish to avoid the inconvenience of strict security measures; no attempt is made to estimate separately the influence of each of these two factors.
In 2007, the researchers studied the specific effects of a change to security practices instituted by the TSA in late 2002. They concluded that this change reduced the number of air travelers by 6%, and estimated that consequently, 129 more people died in car accidents in the fourth quarter of 2002. Extrapolating this rate of fatalities, New York Times contributor Nate Silver remarked that this is equivalent to "four fully loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year." The 2007 study also noted that strict airport security hurts the airline industry; it was estimated that the 6% reduction in the number of passengers in the fourth quarter of 2002 cost the industry $1.1 billion in lost business.
The TSA has been criticized for an increase in baggage theft after its inception. Reported thefts include both valuable and dangerous goods, such as laptops, jewelry guns, and knives. Such thefts have raised concerns that the same access might allow bombs to be placed aboard aircraft.
In 2004, over 17,000 claims of baggage theft were reported. As of 2004, 60 screeners had been arrested for baggage theft, a number which had grown to 200 screeners by 2008. 11,700 theft and damage claims were reported to the TSA in 2009, a drop from 26,500 in 2004, which was attributed to the installation of cameras and conveyor belts in airports. A total of 25,016 thefts were reported over the five-year period from 2010 to 2014.
As of 2011, the TSA employs about 60,000 screeners in total (counting both baggage and passenger screening) and approximately 500 TSA agents have been fired or suspended for stealing from passenger luggage since the agency's creation in November 2001. The airports with the most reported thefts from 2010 to 2014 were JFK, followed by LAX and MCO.
In 2008, an investigative report by WTAE in Pittsburgh discovered that despite over 400 reports of baggage theft, about half of which the TSA reimbursed passengers for, not a single arrest had been made. The TSA does not, as a matter of policy, share baggage theft reports with local police departments.
In September 2012, ABC News interviewed former TSA agent Pythias Brown, who has admitted to stealing more than $800,000 worth of items during his employment with the agency. Brown stated that it was "very convenient to steal" and poor morale within the agency is what causes agents to steal from passengers.
The TSA has also been criticized for not responding properly to theft and failing to reimburse passengers for stolen goods. For example, between 2011 and 2012, passengers at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport reported $300,000 in property lost or damaged by the TSA. The agency only reimbursed $35,000 of those claims. Similar statistics were found at Jacksonville International Airport – passengers reported $22,000 worth of goods missing or damaged over the course of 15 months. The TSA only reimbursed $800.
In 2007, an unencrypted computer hard drive containing Social Security numbers, bank data, and payroll information for about 100,000 employees was lost or stolen from TSA headquarters. Kip Hawley alerted TSA employees to the loss, and apologized for it. The agency asked the FBI to investigate. There were no reports that the data was later misused.
In 2007, Christopher Soghoian, a blogger and security researcher, said that a TSA website was collecting private passenger information in an unsecured manner, exposing passengers to identity theft. The website allowed passengers to dispute their inclusion on the No Fly List. The TSA fixed the website several days after the press picked up the story. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the matter, and said the website had operated insecurely for more than four months, during which more than 247 people had submitted personal information. The report said the TSA manager who awarded the contract for creating the website was a high-school friend and former employee of the owner of the firm that received the contract. It noted:
neither Desyne nor the technical lead on the traveler redress Web site have been sanctioned by TSA for their roles in the deployment of an insecure Web site. TSA continues to pay Desyne to host and maintain two major Web-based information systems. TSA has taken no steps to discipline the technical lead, who still holds a senior program management position at TSA.
In December 2009, someone within the TSA posted a sensitive manual titled "Screening Management SOP" on secret airport screening guidelines to an obscure URL on the FedBizOpps website. The manual was taken down quickly, but the breach raised questions about whether security practices had been compromised. Five TSA employees were placed on administrative leave over the manual's publication, which, while redacted, had its redaction easily removed by computer-knowledgeable people.
Other common criticisms of the agency have also included assertions that TSA employees have slept on the job, bypassed security checks, and failed to use good judgment and common sense.
TSA agents are also accused of having mistreated passengers, and having sexually harassed passengers, having used invasive screening procedures, including touching the genitals, including those of children, removing nipple rings with pliers, misusing body scanners to ogle female passengers, having searched passengers or their belongings for items other than weapons or explosives, and having stolen from passengers. The TSA fired 28 agents and suspended 15 others after an investigation determined they failed to scan checked baggage for explosives.
The TSA was accused of having performed poorly at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration viewing areas, which left thousands of ticket holders excluded from the event in overcrowded conditions, while those who had arrived before the checkpoints were in place avoided screening altogether.
In 2013, dozens of TSA workers were fired or suspended for illegal gambling at Pittsburgh International Airport, and eight TSA workers were arrested in connection with stolen parking passes at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
A 2013, GAO report showed a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, from 2,691 cases to 3,408. Another GAO report said that there is no evidence that the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) behavioral detection program, with an annual budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, is effective.
A 2013 report by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General's Office charged that TSA was using criminal investigators to do the job of lower paid employees, wasting millions of dollars a year.
On December 3, 2013, the United States House of Representatives passed the Transportation Security Acquisition Reform Act (H.R. 2719; 113th Congress) in response to criticism of the TSA's acquisition process as wasteful, costly, and ineffective. If the bill became law, it would require the TSA to develop a comprehensive technology acquisition plan and present regular reports to Congress about its successes and failures to adhere to this plan. An April 2013 report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General indicated that the TSA had 17,000 items with an estimated cost of $185.7 million stored in its warehouses on May 31, 2012. The auditors found that "TSA stored unusable or obsolete equipment, maintained inappropriate safety stock levels, and did not develop an inventory management process that systematically deploys equipment."
In January 2014, Jason Edward Harrington, a former TSA screener at O'Hare International Airport, said that fellow staff members assigned to review body scan images of airline passengers routinely joked about fliers' weight, attractiveness, and penis and breast sizes. According to Harrington, screeners would alert each other to attractive female passengers with the code phrase "Hotel Papa" so that staff would have an opportunity to view the passengers' nude form in body scanner monitors and retaliated against rude flyers by delaying them at the checkpoint. TSA Administrator John Pistole responded by saying that all the scanners had been replaced and the screening rooms disabled. He did not deny that the behaviors described by Harrington took place.
In May 2016, actress Susan Sarandon claimed that during the entire time of the Bush administration she was "harassed everytime I came into the country". She said that she hired two lawyers to contact the TSA to determine why she had been targeted but that she assumed it was because she was critical of the Bush administration. She said the harassment stopped after her attorneys followed up a second time with the TSA.
In July 2018, a case heard in the Third Circuit Appeals Court ruled that TSA agents are not "investigative or law enforcement officers" and thus are not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The case extended from a woman who had been detained and arrested by TSA in 2006 but later the criminal charges were acquitted in court; she had sought damages under the FTCA for damages related to the false arrest and related matters.
A CBS telephone poll of 1137 people published on November 15, 2010 found that 81% percent of those polled approved TSA's use of full-body scans. An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted by Langer Associates and released November 22, 2010 found that 64% of Americans favored the full-body X-ray scanners, but that 50% think the "enhanced" pat-downs go too far; 37% felt so strongly. In addition, the poll states opposition is lowest among those who fly less than once a year. A later poll by Zogby International found 61% of likely voters oppose the new measures by TSA. In 2012, a poll conducted by the Frequent Business Traveler organization found that 56% of frequent fliers were "not satisfied" with the job the TSA was doing. 57% rated the TSA as doing a "poor job," and 34% rated it "fair." Only 1% of those surveyed rated the agency's work as excellent.
In 2013 The Office of Inspector General published a reported titled "TSA's Actions Insufficient to Address Inspector General Recommendations to Improve its Office of Inspection". The report touched upon several topics of misconduct but the main focus of the report was of the TSA criminal investigators who received a premium on their pay despite not meeting the minimum qualification to be eligible for this pay.
The TSA Office of Accountability Inspection Act of 2015 published by the Committee of Commerce, Science, and Transportation, was based on a report of an investigation which found issues with the TSA. The act also followed up the Office of Inspector General's 2013 report, mandating that the TSA should comply with Federal Regulation and correct the wage of the TSA's Criminal Investigators. Had no action been taken this misuse of funds was estimated to cost taxpayers, in a span of five years, $17 million.
In response the TSA contracted a consulting firm to assist the TSA with the Office of Inspector General recommendations. However Office of Inspector Generals has found the TSA's response lacking as they have yet to fix a majority of the issues brought up in the report.
Numerous groups and figures have called for the abolition of the TSA in its current form by persons and groups which include Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY), Rep. John Mica, (R-FL), The Cato Institute, Downsize DC Foundation, FreedomWorks, and opinion columnists from Forbes, Fox News, National Review, USA Today, Vox, The Washington Examiner, and The Washington Post.
The TSA's critics frequently cite the agency as "ineffective, invasive, incompetent, inexcusably costly, or all four" as their reasons for seeking its abolition. Those seeking to abolish the TSA have cited the improved efficacy and cost of screening provided by qualified private companies in compliance with federal guidelines.
The bill modifies the agency’s leadership structure by setting a five-year term for the administrator of TSA and makes the deputy administrator a position appointed by the president
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan designated David P. Pekoske, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator, senior official performing the duties of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary. Patricia Cogswell, TSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator, will oversee day-to-day operations at TSA[.]
Backscatter" X-Ray Screening Technology
In addition, the apparent ease with which employees have opened checked baggage already screened for explosives raises concerns that a bomb could be planted ......
Media related to Transportation Security Administration at Wikimedia Commons
On November 1, 2013, a shooting occurred at around 9:20 a.m. PDT in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles International Airport. Paul Anthony Ciancia, aged 23, opened fire with a rifle, killing a U.S. government Transportation Security Administration officer and injuring several other people.David Pekoske
David Peter Pekoske (born May 5, 1955) is a retired U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral who currently serves as the seventh Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. He concluded his 33 years of active military service in 2010 as the 26th Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.Death of Rigoberto Alpizar
Rigoberto Alpizar (April 17, 1961 – December 7, 2005) was a Costa Rican-born United States citizen who was shot at Miami International Airport by two United States Federal Air Marshals.
Alpizar lived in the central Florida town of Maitland and worked in the Paint Department of a Home Depot. He was supposed to fly with his wife, Anne Buechner, to Orlando, Florida, returning from a missionary trip to Quito, Ecuador.
The shooting took place on a jetway. Alpizar ran away from the aircraft and, Homeland Security officials maintain, claimed to have a bomb in his bag and then made a sudden movement toward it.Federal Air Marshal Service
The Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) is a United States federal law enforcement agency under the supervision of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). "The Air Marshal Service is meant to promote confidence in civil aviation by effectively deploying federal air marshals (FAMs) to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting the United States."Because of the nature of their occupation, federal air marshals (FAMs) travel often. They must also train to be highly proficient marksmen. Since the 1990s, air marshals are considered to have the highest firearms qualification standards of all United States federal law enforcement agencies. A FAM's job is to blend in with other passengers on board aircraft and rely heavily on their training, including investigative techniques, criminal terrorist behavior recognition, firearms proficiency, aircraft-specific tactics, and close quarters self-defense measures to protect the flying public."Gale Rossides
Gale D. Rossides was the acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from January 2009 until June 2010.
Rossides has a bachelor's degree from Wheaton College (Massachusetts) and an MPA from George Washington University. She was on a committee charged with reforming the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the wake of the attempts to arrest David Koresh that led to the Waco siege. In 2002 she was one of the original founders of the TSA.James Loy
James Milton Loy (born August 10, 1942) is a retired United States Coast Guard admiral who served as Acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security in 2005 and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) from December 4, 2003, to March 1, 2005. Prior to his appointment as the DHS Deputy Secretary, he served as the second administrator of the Transportation Security Administration from 2002 to 2003, and before that as the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002.John Magaw
John William Magaw (born 1935) is a former United States government administrator. He received a bachelor of science degree in education from Otterbein College, in Westerville, Ohio (1957). He began his career in public service in 1959 as a state trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
He became a special agent with the United States Secret Service in 1967. While he was at the Secret Service he served as deputy special agent in charge of the Vice Presidential protective division and head of the Washington Field office. By 1992, Magaw was in charge of all protective operations for the President and First family. Magaw was Director of the United States Secret Service from 1992 to 1993.
The Waco siege did not reflect well on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). After an investigation, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury purged its senior leadership and appointed Magaw as its fourth Director. Morale in the agency improved during his tenure (1993–1999). In 2003 it was re-named the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Magaw was appointed Senior Advisor to the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for terrorism preparedness in December 1999. In that role, he planned and coordinated FEMA's domestic terrorism preparedness efforts.
He served was Acting Director (January 20, 2001–February 15, 2001). After Joe Allbaugh's confirmation he held other positions within FEMA.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, and his deputy, chose Magaw to stand up the new Transportation Security Administration, for his law enforcement experience and successessful leadership of ATF. President George W. Bush agreed, and in January 2002 the U.S. Senate confirmed Magaw as Undersecretary of Transportation Security. He oversaw the initial standup of the TSA. His tough approach to airport security produced long lines and inconvenience for travelers, angering stakeholders. Not allowing pilots to arm themselves also sparked controversy. He didn't cultivate his public image, nor tend to relations with Congress. He left TSA in June 2002; former United States Coast Guard Admiral James Loy replaced him. Magaw lasted six months at TSA; his successor lasted ten months. (TSA later moved from Transportation to Homeland Security.)Magaw received the Presidential Rank Meritorious Award twice (1991, 1999), and the Presidential Rank Distinguished Award (1995).
Magaw is a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.John S. Pistole
John S. Pistole (born June 1, 1956) is the former administrator of the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and a former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is currently the president of Anderson University.Kip Hawley
Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley is the former Administrator for the Transportation Security Administration, part of United States government's Department of Homeland Security. Hawley held the post from July 27, 2005 to January 20, 2009, replacing the previous Director, Rear Admiral David Stone. He was succeeded by Acting Administrator Gale Rossides.Luggage lock
A luggage lock is a lock used to prevent luggage from opening by accident, usually with little or no security in mind, although they may serve as a deterrent to potential thieves. They may be built into luggage, or may be external locks such as padlocks or lockable straps. They are typically relatively simple low security locks.Peter V. Neffenger
Peter V. Neffenger (born 1955) was the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration from July 2015 till his statutorily required resignation on January 20, 2017 upon Donald Trump becoming President. Previously to leading TSA, Neffenger was a Vice Admiral in the United States Coast Guard, serving as Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard since May 20, 2014. He previously had served as Deputy Commandant for Operations, Deputy National Incident Commander for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Director of Coast Guard Strategic Management and Doctrine, Commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach, Captain of the Port and Federal Maritime Security Coordinator, Budget Officer of the Coast Guard, and Coast Guard Liaison Officer to the Territory of American Samoa. On April 28, 2015, he was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
He was commissioned in 1982 through the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School and also holds an MPA from Harvard University, an MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the United States Naval War College, and an MA in Business Management from Central Michigan University. He earned his BA from Baldwin Wallace University. Vice Admiral Neffenger is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and a former fellow on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He resides in Washington, D.C.
On June 23, 2015, Vice Admiral Neffenger was confirmed by the Senate to be the next Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson released a statement on June 24: "Last night the Senate voted 81–1 to confirm Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger, the current Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to be the next Administrator of TSA. Admiral Neffenger understands the challenges we face, and I know he is ready to take them on at TSA. During his 30-year career in the Coast Guard, Admiral Neffenger proved himself to be an effective operator and commander. I have utmost faith in Pete Neffenger, and I am confident he will be a strong leader of TSA."
On March 22, 2016, a flight carrying Neffenger arrived at Brussels Airport during the dual bombing that occurred at the airport. Neffenger was in Brussels to meet with European Union counterparts. Testifying a few days later in front of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Neffenger said, “I will tell you being there that day, seeing the devastation, seeing the chaos of the airport environment and the evil behind it was a stark reminder of the importance of the work we do every day to protect travelers.”On January 20, 2017, upon the beginning of the Presidency of Donald Trump, Neffenger stepped down as Administrator as required by federal law as his term had expired with Barack Obama leaving office.Since leaving TSA, Neffenger has become a distinguished fellow at both the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience and Northeastern University's Global Resilience Institute.SPOT (TSA program)
SPOT (which stands for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) is a program launched in the United States by the Transportation Security Administration to identify potential terrorists among people at an airport by a set of 94 objective criteria, all of which are signs for either stress, fear, or deception. Passengers meeting enough of the criteria are, under the program, referred for a patdown and additional screening. The criteria were initially secret, but in March 2015, The Intercept published them after obtaining the information from an anonymous source.Secondary Security Screening Selection
Secondary Security Screening Selection or Secondary Security Screening Selectee, known by its acronym SSSS, is an airport security measure in the United States which selects passengers for additional inspection. People from certain countries are subject to it by default The passengers may be known as Selectee, Automatic Selectee or the Selectee list. The number of names on the list fluctuates and is a secret, although the Transportation Security Administration apparently says there are tens of thousands of names on it.The Selectee list has been cited by civil liberties groups to be infringing on privacy rights and potential for racial and ethnic discrimination.Secure Flight
Secure Flight is an airline passenger pre-screening program, implemented from August 2009 by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Secure Flight matches passenger information against watch lists maintained by the federal government. The initial implementation phase of Secure Flight resulted in the complete transfer of responsibility for passenger watch list matching to TSA from aircraft operators whose flights operate within the United States. The second phase of Secure Flight will result in the transfer of responsibility for passenger watch list matching to TSA for flights into, out of, and over the United States.
Secure Flight will serve to prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft, as well as to subject individuals on the Selectee List to enhanced screening to determine if they are permitted to board an aircraft.Transportation Worker Identification Credential
The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (or TWIC) program is a Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Coast Guard initiative in the United States. The TWIC program provides a tamper-resistant biometric credential to maritime workers requiring unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities, outer continental shelf facilities, and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, or MTSA, and all U.S. Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariners. As of May 2014, there were 2,999,058 people enrolled in the program. Those seeking unescorted access to secure areas aboard affected vessels, and all Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariners, must obtain a TWIC. The new measures were fully implemented on April 15, 2009. To obtain a TWIC, an individual must provide biographic and biometric information such as fingerprints, sit for a digital photograph and successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by TSA.
The issued card (pictured right) contains a computer chip, known as an Integrated Circuit Chip (ICC), which stores the holder's information and biometric data. The chip can be read by inserting it into a reader or holding it near a "contactless" reader. There are also a magnetic strip (similar to a credit card) and a linear barcode on the back as alternative reading methods.United States House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation
The Subcommittee on Aviation is a subcommittee within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team
A Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team, sometimes Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR, or VIPER) is a Transportation Security Administration program. Various government sources have differing descriptions of VIPR's exact mission. It is specifically authorized by 6 U.S.C. § 1112 which says that the program is to "augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States". Authority for the program is under the Secretary of Homeland Security. The program falls under TSA's Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service. TSA OLE/FAMS shares responsibility for the program with the Office of Security Operations and Transportation Sector Network Management.The VIPR teams detain and search travelers at railroad stations, bus stations, ferries, car tunnels, ports, subways, truck weigh stations, rest areas, and special events. They also can deploy to deal with CBRNE/WMD (chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and explosive weapons of mass destruction). They also inspect ships, containers, and vehicles.W. Ralph Basham
William Ralph Basham, Jr. (born November 17, 1943) has served at the head of four of the eight U.S. Department of Homeland Security agencies, including as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the largest federal security force in the United States government, Director of the United States Secret Service, Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and as one of the first employees as Chief of Staff at the Transportation Security Administration.
Upon leaving government service in April 2009, Basham founded Command Consulting Group, a Washington, D.C.-based international advisory firm which provides security advisory services to government clients and works with companies with security related products and services to develop and market products to federal security agencies.
In 2008, Basham was conferred the rank of Distinguished Executive by former U.S. President George W. Bush.
In October 2013, Basham was awarded the Founder's Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Border Patrol Foundation.Willie L. Williams
Willie L. Williams (October 1, 1943 – April 26, 2016) was the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) from 1992 to 1997, taking over after chief Daryl Gates' resignation following the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Williams was the first African-American police commissioner of both the Philadelphia Police Department and the LAPD. During his term as chief of the LAPD, he tried to create a positive image of the department and close the rift created between the police and black neighborhoods by the violent arrest of Rodney King in 1991.
Agencies under the United States Department of Homeland Security
Science and Technology Directorate
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Health and Human Services
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