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Friday, January 31, 2014

Confessions of an Ex-TSA Agent

Posted by on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 2:23 PM

TSA agents are laughing at your naked body, subjecting some people to pat downs for being rude, subjecting other people to pat downs for being hot, and much, much more:

The passengers stood between two enormous radiation sensors—each of the machines twice the size of a refrigerator—and assumed the position for seven seconds, feet spread shoulder-width apart, hands above the head, making Mickey Mouse ears. The policy was to have three officers on the checkpoint floor to coach passengers into position for the machine and administer pat-downs when necessary. The images were analyzed for threats in what was called the I.O. room, short for Image Operator, which locked from the inside....

Most of my co-workers found humor in the I.O. room on a cruder level. Just as the long-suffering American public waiting on those security lines suspected, jokes about the passengers ran rampant among my TSA colleagues: Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display. Piercings of every kind were visible. Women who’d had mastectomies were easy to discern—their chests showed up on our screens as dull, pixelated regions. Hernias appeared as bulging, blistery growths in the crotch area. Passengers were often caught off-guard by the X-Ray scan and so materialized on-screen in ridiculous, blurred poses—mouths agape, à la Edvard Munch. One of us in the I.O. room would occasionally identify a passenger as female, only to have the officers out on the checkpoint floor radio back that it was actually a man. All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels.

There were other types of bad behavior in the I.O. room—I personally witnessed quite a bit of fooling around, in every sense of the phrase. Officers who were dating often conspired to get assigned to the I.O. room at the same time, where they analyzed the nude images with one eye apiece, at best.

That's the salacious bit. There's a lot more to this really well-written piece over at Politico—I know, right? Politico!—and you should read the whole thing. I'm looking forward to reading the novel that Jason Edward Harrington is working on about his time with the most loathed federal agency.


Comments (19) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Is politico that bad, they got good stuff from time to time.
Posted by dkjndmsahksdhksal on January 31, 2014 at 2:27 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
They're not laughing at your naked fat anymore; they got rid of the backscatter machines last year (after blowing who knows how many millions putting them in). The best part of those machines? Not the revealing pictures, not the radiation doses, but the fact that they flat-out didn't work; it was easy as pie to conceal a handgun or pack of explosives on one.

Fuck the TSA.
Posted by Fnarf on January 31, 2014 at 2:53 PM · Report this
In a way, I am almost glad that I have a spinal cord stimulator in my body and have to get pat downs instead. Not that pat downs are fun, mind you, but they seem almost preferable to that.
Posted by Mindymoo on January 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM · Report this
Erin Resso 4
@Fnarf - Uhhh, I just went through one of these last week, in Florida. They are not quite out yet, unfortunately.
Posted by Erin Resso on January 31, 2014 at 3:04 PM · Report this
I rather enjoy getting the pat-down. I've had lovely conversations with the TSA workers about weddings, shopping, spouses, travel plans, holiday celebrations, etc. No one has ever asked me why I prefer to avoid the scanner; perhaps they would do the same.
Posted by wxPDX on January 31, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 6
For you youngens that read Slog...

When I was a kid back in the 1960s & 1970s, flying was not like this. My grandparents would sometimes visit. When they landed, we would meet them as they got off the plane, and these were international flights. When they left, we would send them off at the gate. Sometimes us kids could even board the plane as they were seating, and say goodbye to them at their seats. People were advised to arrive a half hour before their flight time. No screenings were conducted of any kind, other than the most cursory customs check. On the rare occasion I flew anywhere, it was a thrilling treat.

Sure, I suppose a bit more security is warranted these days, but I think the vast majority of the current security theater is bullshit CYA that does little to actually make anyone safer. Between the TSA, and the airlines squeezing the seating down and charging extra for every little thing, traveling by air has become more and more unpleasant over the last 20 years.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on January 31, 2014 at 4:01 PM · Report this
fletc3her 7
This was a good read. Not anything that most people will be surprised at, but confirmation that it's as bad as we all think.

If we must waste a lot of money on substandard airport security couldn't we at least make it less irritating?

I actually tried to put a cat through the X-Ray once, but they made me carry it through the metal detector while the carrier went through the X-Ray machine.
Posted by fletc3her on January 31, 2014 at 4:05 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 8
Just another typical example of your Federal Government at work for/against you.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on January 31, 2014 at 4:08 PM · Report this
Ophian 9
I've not had the pleasure of the TSA pat-down, but I've wondered if one could creep out the agent by making subtle body and vocal indications of deep and perverse enjoyment.

Regarding the article: is anyone really surprised?
Posted by Ophian on January 31, 2014 at 4:13 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 10
You forgot to mention that passengers actually dressed like civilized people to fly. Mother always had her hair done and wore a skirt and high heels and father always wore a coat and tie whenever they flew. I remember mother putting me into a suit and tie to fly to Hawaii when I was 4 or 5. We had dinner in the upstairs dining room, in the “hump” of the 747, where we ate real food off of real china. After diner I visited the cockpit and “helped fly the plane.”

There used to be a real civility and elegance in travel.…
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on January 31, 2014 at 4:30 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 11
I had one nearly bring me to completion two years ago in San Jose… Thought he was checking me for testicular cancer. He was cute. I didn’t complain.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on January 31, 2014 at 4:34 PM · Report this
Oh My Goodness, a low paid civil servant who stands around all day mocked me for being 20 pounds over weight while I flew on expense account. How ever will I survive?
Posted by MikeB on January 31, 2014 at 6:20 PM · Report this
raindrop 13
@12: Just because you don't see the depravity doesn't mean that it shouldn't be dealt with and the participants punished.
Posted by raindrop on January 31, 2014 at 6:55 PM · Report this
Unregistered User 14
@4 Airports are still using those stupid X-ray ones? I was hoping he'd say something about the efficacy of the mm scanners, maybe I'll have to dig through his blog.
Posted by Unregistered User on January 31, 2014 at 10:03 PM · Report this
seattlestew 15
Who could have predicted this? As fnarf (@2) says, "Fuck the TSA," -- but moreover fuck the chicken-shit politicians who created and continue to enable it.
Posted by seattlestew on January 31, 2014 at 10:28 PM · Report this
Being a TSA employee at the airport gates has got to be mind numbing as hell, of course there is gallows humor going on.
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on January 31, 2014 at 11:00 PM · Report this
DOUG. 17
Nudie scanners are still at Sea Tac.
Posted by DOUG. on February 1, 2014 at 12:34 AM · Report this
Helix 18
Nudie scaners are still in Logan and RDU, as of Christmas when I was flying between them. And they still give sanctimonious speeches about how the radiation really isn't harmful (motherfucker we haven't tested it at all in a controlled setting you cannot accurately say that) when you opt out.
Posted by Helix on February 1, 2014 at 2:34 PM · Report this
@13 Maybe you can report them to the Church Elders, you know, like Mormans are supposed to when they catch people masturbating.
Posted by MikeB on February 1, 2014 at 2:42 PM · Report this

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