September 17, 2006

TSA: Incompetent and Not Afraid to Cover It Up

Coming through security last Friday night in JFK for my very delayed flight (due to weather), I had the following experince:

I walked through the metal detectors, with all my things besides me, with my boarding pass and driver's license folded together.

The TSA agent standing there asked for my boarding pass, and I gave her the packet. I kept a close eye on my bags because once I sent my bags, coat and shoes through the security thing and my digital camera was taken. Don't know if it was by another passenger or by a security employee, but I'm not taking any chances. A woman asked, "who's bag is this" holding up my bag, and I tell them it's mine. She tells me to get the rest of my things because she's going to inspect my bag. I get for my laptop and shoes, in a separate bin, and follow that agent.

At this point, I don't get my boarding pass or license back from the other agent. Later I am told that the woman who gets the Boarding Passes and Driver's Licenses, as you pass through the metal detector, hands the one she has off, and then takes the next one from the person coming through next.

But, she didn't hand it to me. She likely gave it to someone else, probably the next person in line. I get out, after they inspect my bag for secret blow-up water (you know, our liquid diet hoax by the current administration to get them reelected). I realize I don't have my ID and Boarding Pass. I go back to the TSA desk the the security area exit (I'm a few feet away), and an Agent Derreck says they have nothing of mine, without checking (across the room from where the actual thing happened). I get him to walk over in the security line to check for sure. He does and comes back empty handed. I ask, "How will I get on the plane?" He takes me to Jet Blue special services, where they cut me another Boarding Pass. But I have no DL, so the JetBlue woman asks me for other ID, and it turns out that 2 credit cards, my gym ID with picture, and costco ID with picture, are enough to get me another boarding pass. She double checks my California address verbally with me which I repeat back to her as I stand next to Agent Derreck.

While she was printing, Agent Derreck starts to talk about how TSA over in the security area has an "... ironclad process for bringing people through the metal detector." Basically, they bring one person through, check ID and boarding pass again, and then once they give it back, motion the next person through the metal detector. This is how they regulate people coming through the metal detector. As he says this, a different TSA agent, a woman, walks up the JetBlue service desk and hands a New York State Driver's License to the JetBlue woman, and says, "This person didn't get their ID back." Agent Derreck grabs the license from the JetBlue woman's hand, and says to me, "This kind of looks like you." To which I say, "That woman has tons of blond hair, and mine is brown, plus I live in CA." He hands it back to the JetBlue woman. A couple of minutes later, another TSA agent, also a woman, walks up the the JetBlue service counter with a Driver's License from Kansas, and hands it in, saying again that someone didn't get their ID returned.

After getting my boarding pass reprinted, I say to Agent Derreck want to make a complaint about TSA. He calls Port Authority but only tells me he's called "someone" and they'll be there in a few minutes to take it.

Port Authority Officer M. Wapole (#1746) arrives, takes a report, gives me the report number, a phone number and the name of the officer and date and time. I ask for a copy of the report and he says I'm not allowed to have one. I am surprised. He says it's private property. I ask how I make the complaint against TSA and he says he's not TSA. So I go back to Agent Derreck of TSA.

Agent Derreck says he won't take a complaint. He says I can make one at (so much for people without computers). I ask for his name and the agent's name at the metal detector, and he covers his shirt. But I can see that it says "Agent Derreck" before his hand is fast enough to cover his name tag, in brass. He says, "I won't give you my name or hers." And walks off, with his hand over his right breast.

According to the hand written note from Port Authority, the Port Authority report was taken by Officer Walpole and the time was September 15, 2006 at 8:35pm. Case #17304.

So much for accountability. The police and the TSA just cover each other's incompetence.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck without a driver's license, but more importantly, I think TSA *GAVE* it to some other passenger. After several hours at JFK, I checked back with the JetBlue service center, and they had not been given my license.


And the kicker. When I arrived back in CA, I realize that I still have a small tube of toothpaste in my laptop bag (I carry a tube plus a brush to work) and forgot about it. It went with me through two screenings by the TSA in Oakland and Seattle, and two more, Oakland and JFK.

Who are these people kidding. Security Theater it is.

Posted by Mary Hodder at September 17, 2006 11:57 PM | TrackBack

I just went through the UK last week. There was so much kafuffle around the x-rays and metal detectors that I was quite nervous about casual theft too. It was quite the effort to make sure none of my things got stolen.

Add to that, I was stopped about a dozen times so that my carry on bag could be measured, completely ignoring the fact that I had an apple, lip balm and some soft candies in there, all completely ignored by security.

Posted by: Colin at September 19, 2006 06:24 AM

More reason to carry a camera on your person, whether it's a DSC or a phone. You could always go the "uncivil" route and then yell stuff like "this person lost my ID and is now covering his badge so I can't report him", but then you'd probably miss your flight as they push you aside as a "disturbance".

Honestly, the best thing you can do is put your story out there with the facts you know. As far as I know, this would push the TSA waaaay more than if the guy actually filed a report.

Geez. I'm glad I already flew before all these shenanigans got more...shenaniganny.

Posted by: chef at September 20, 2006 06:39 PM

I fly in and out of JFK a lot lately and always through jetBlue. Normally they are professional to a fault, the TSA folks included.

I flew last week to BlogOrlando and found both ways that everyone at JFK was hypersensitive and a bit crazed. For obvious reasons.

But like you, I discovered on my way home that I did pack my shaving kit, with liquids and gels, in my carry-on and got through both ways without even a blink.

Posted by: David Parmet at October 4, 2006 06:43 AM