To defend against terrorism, TSA employees trade airport for classroom

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by Lisa Simeone, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    I agree with you that the stories I hear and see are disheartening. I have a fairly firm grasp on the SOP, but then again I read it from time to time and review certain subjects anytime I have a question about it (in other words, if I am not 100% certain of something, go look it up now to make certain I do the right thing - even sometimes when I am 100% certain I look it up just to make sure I am 110% on it). I have many times where I watch a vid or hear a story or read an account where the first thought is - "what the (expletive deleted) is wrong with you?", then I have learned to wait and see on things like written accounts and even news stories until I have enough info to give an informed opinion. Video is a bit harder to argue with, and should be used by TSA to show employees exactly what not to do/or to do. Any time someone is unprofessional, there should be consequences - period, we are in agreement on that point (at least so far we have been), and hopefully always will be.

    This set of classes are something offered for the more motivated members of the workforce, and allows employees to get a start on a better set of opportunities for their future.
  2. N965VJ

    N965VJ Original Member

  3. RB

    RB Founding Member

    I would rather you and other TSA employees use this motivation to rat out the TSA thieves, TSA child molesters, TSA drug dealers, TSA murderers, and other TSA employees engaged in any form of misdeeds. While you're doing this calling for the dismissal of the TSA's Chief Criminal, John S. Pistole, would be ok by me.

    Learning to crawl first is an important step and I believe TSA tried to pass up that stage of development.
  4. How much detail do they go into the fourth amendment (including giving equal weight to the argument that the TSA is violating it) and administrative search doctrine? I've tried to make a hobbyist study of administrative search law and found it to be quite complex and unclear. And yet I've also found that certain aspects of TSA screening, the required private room screening for an ETD alarm, for example, appear quite clearly to exceed the bounds of an administrative search.

    I do commend you for working to better yourself, Rugape, and since I'm not there to evaluate the courses I will do my best to refrain from trash-talking, but along with what Fisher said, my concern is that these programs give the impression TSA is hiring staff unprepared for the job. If I recall correctly, you have a military background, so my comment perhaps does not pertain to you personally, but what about a certain loveable comic book writer, for example? How did his art degree (or whatever he has) prepare him for a such an allegedly crucial security position? And what about the people with nothing but a GED? This is not to judge them for their lack of letters (and certainly no disrespect to aforementioned comic book writer, whose blog I follow closely). My point is, if the jobs at TSA require intimate contact with and judgement of innocent travelers, utilizing machinery that would otherwise require licensure and a high level of skill, and if the penalty for innocent travelers who get caught in the flawed net is humiliating and traumatic, it would be much better if entry level screener was serious professional position. Screeners with a background in chemistry, for example, could be knowledgeable enough to make judgement calls on ETD false positives without having to take passengers to a secret back room and thoroughly inspect their genitals. A screener with a university background in anatomy and physiology (not a background that includes only what the TSA wants them to know) might not feel the need to insist an old lady remove her adult diaper.

    Forgive me if I'm backtracking the conversation -- I wrote most of this earlier today and then had to go to an appointment before I was ready to post.
    Rugape likes this.
  5. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    I can guarantee that taking this class will do absolutely nothing to help get a clearance other than perhaps helping the individual learn the proper way to use printed language.
  6. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    It gave the basics of the 4th, how the searches are (currently at least) used within the guidelines of the administrative exception. However, this was simply a 100 class giving the brief overview, not an in-depth analysis of the 4th, like most silversmithing classes will give you a basic overview on the melting temperatures of different metals, but when you go to solder, those temperatures are not what you watch, the flow of the metal is what you watch (ok, did that make sense to anyone else reading?).

    The staff I have worked with at each location I have worked (CLT, RDU, GSO, LAX, PHX) have been quite competent in performing the duties in the SOP. Some are better at the human interaction part, but all that I have seen are competent to do these duties (except for the ones removed for cause - and they have been removed for cause...). I think the current level of education is an acceptable threshold, but I think there should be more focus on removing the riff raff, as opposed to elevating the required education level of the TSOs. I will say one thing, no person that comes to this job without a background in customer service or working with the public is ready for this job right out of the gate. There are nuances to working with the general public that inexperienced employees may need to be educated on - and I would love to see more of that in our training program. It is hard enough to get through the classes and learn the acronyms and process and rules (that change all the time), and then get certified and get to the floor and realize.... You have no clue why this person is mad at you for letting them know their firearm in their bag is requiring an LEO intevention - you have never been involved in something of that nature before. Some folks have the tools to deal with that situation on an innate level, and some don't - you can learn them, but it is a bit more difficult or some to learn that type of finesse.

    As for the art degree helping, any time spent in formal education can't really hurt you, it forces you to hear other povs (even in the art focus) and to think somewhat critically about things around you. It doesn't always help, but it doesn't really hurt either.

    Some folks that never fit in with the academic crowd (I never really did until later in life), they have life events that force them to think critically about things - working jobs and learning that you can't just say whatever comes into your head, digging ditches builds muscle and in many cases a strong desire to work somewhere else. I have worked on a horse farm, and I can tell you that for the pay I was getting for the amount of work I was doing, I changed some things and went to work elsewhere. My point was that you don't have to have a degree in order to develop the skills that will make you and effective TSO that is capable of following the SOP and doing what you are supposed to do.

    As for those caught in the middle with unprofessional TSOs, I wish there were a way I personally could remedy that, as I understand how challenging it can be for them. Even when dealing with a caring and professional TSO, those types of situations can be trying, add someone with no tact or clue and it can be downright unbearable.

    As for false positives, the problem is that many chemical compounds used in explosives are also used in everyday things we all use. Currently the tech is limited in what it can do as far as that testing. We could all have better tech, but then you are dealing with time constraints and monetary costs and the ability of the equipment to withstand the everyday usage and enviorns. This is something that the policy currently has to be an all or none situation with due to the tech we use - it is good tech, but not perfect (did I mention it is pretty old tech too? like the xrays?). Until we have a better tech show up (and pass the vetting process), I do not forsee many changes to those protocols.

    That was all a long winded way of saying I don't think that this is sending the wrong message, I merely think it is DHS offering employees a chance to improve themselves while working. No need to apologize, we all do things as we can and interesting discussion is always nice.
  7. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    I report or correct immediately anything I see out of line. I do my best to instill that virtue in all that I work with. I am doing my part, while calling for the others to do their part - at this time, that is the best that I can do for you.
  8. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    That 15 year old kid is in for a shock (or at least needs to be treated for anal glaucoma :p) that a TS clearance doesn't mean (expletive deleted), and wont always be able to get a job because of it. Then not to mention the clearance is null if you quit or change jobs, but that is one fact that he probably forgot about.

  9. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    Unfortunately, the National Security State is one of America's few growth industries. The government will always be able to find money not only to bomb other people to smithereens but to spy on and "secure" the "homeland."

    And this comment from the article turns my stomach:
    Nah, there's no indoctrination going on here.
    barbell likes this.
  10. Romeo and Juliet? Wha? That's a stretch.
  11. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    Actually it is a fairly apt comparison. Members of the Montague family infiltrate the costume ball being held by the Capulets, classic infiltration operation. Anyone that has read or studied basic infiltration tactics can make that connection. Now it is a bit of a stretch to get kids to relate to Romeo and Juliet nowadays, but the basic premise is there. The infiltration led to the downfall of several members of the familes involved and had it never occurred, there could have been a difference in the outcome. It is simply the theory involved.
  12. Fair enough, but trying to equate a family feud to a national security issue still seems like a bastardization of the text to me. Particularly at the high school level.
    Lisa Simeone and barbell like this.
  13. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    And let's be very, very clear here. What Shakespeare's version of Romeo and Juliet is most emphatically not about, is infiltration and the need for a security state.

    It is primarily about how blind ambition, blind allegiance, and insular protection can ruin lives. Its core message is that when families (countries/cultures) are at odds with each other, we all suffer.

    That someone in the growing security industry would use this story as an aim to further a goal is dangerous. It is a complete bastardization of the total message of the story arc, pulling out a solitary plot construct and radically reinterpreting it to define not only the work, but the entire cannon is criminal, though completely unsurprising considering this element's need to justify their existence.

    This is where we are headed as a culture. Our art, our very soul, is going to be used to justify any measure deemed necessary against is. This is frightening.
  14. Yes. And I doubt they're reading Foucalt's Discipline and Punish to consider a literary argument against the growth of the security state.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  15. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    Folks have been cherry picking information for comparisons since we started getting information. I can understand the disagreement with this being the only point they bring from the story, much like what Barbell indicated. The infiltration example was merely a subtext/minor plotline to the main point of the story. However, it is not a truly nefarious intent with this program (from my pov anyway), it is simply a way to let the public know more about these segments of the government (which is also good, because it can generate meaningful discussions about the theory and application at an earlier age in some cases). Indoctrination is a bit of a stretch to me at this point. We have had intelligence courses, law enforcement courses, military courses and even courses about government processes and how to be a more effective lobbyist - but none of those are truly about indoctrination. When something along the lines of having these courses as required subject matter (with the requisite force feeding of dogma styled gov speak) starts to crop up (such as adding them to the humanities base), then you would truly have something to throw against the wall and have it stick. As it is, these are simply a way to give some basic information to the masses, while giving some history and theory with them.
    Connecting with high school kids is a simple way to expand the base of people that are the future of the "industry" - the military, wall street type of organizations, insurance companies, Mcdonalds, and most larger forms of "industry" recruit and actively participate at the high school level. DHS/TSA are doing the same thing that others have been doing for years, there is just a fundamental disagrement on some folks part with the mission and policies of DHS/TSA (obviously many of you folks here are firmly in that encampment). I have no problem with hearing the policy disagreements here, I learn from them and research some days because of what I read. I encourage you guys to speak out, but this is not something of nefarious intent, it is simply following in the footsteps of many successful (and some not so successful) organizations in the past and present.
  16. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    I can agree with you that this being the only point was a serious distillation of the overall message, however it is still an apt comparison. I think (as I mentioned in my last post) that having the 100 series of classes is a good thing - even for folks that disagree with DHS/TSA. It encourages meaningful discussion at an earlier age, which means that it makes indoctrination less of a possibility. If you have a child that takes one of these classes, it gives you (as someone that disagrees - or even as someone that agrees) the chance to have a discussion with the child to explain why you disagee so much, and give them a base to form their own opinions. These courses are not "Rah rah DHS is the savior", they are rather a fairly analytical look at the reasons DHS was formed, how things came about and how the intelligence agencies worked in history and how they work in the modern ELINT focused times. It is much more theory and process than it is instilling blind obedience or allegiance.
    I have not had the CBP class yet, so I can't intelligently comment on that particular class.
    barbell likes this.
  17. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    I don't think it's nefarious intent.

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

    Bill Sheppard clearly does not understand the story of Romeo and Juliet.

    He should probably remember well the phrase, "Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

    And this is the type of person teaching people the importance of homeland security. All of a sudden the whole thing makes sense now.
    Rugape likes this.
  18. Rugape -- I don't think it's nefarious intent, either. And you've convinced me that, if one is studying the theoretical concept of infiltration, Romeo and Juliet may be a perfect text. My issue is the way it is framed by this Sheppard guy in the article:

    I don't think there are "homeland security issues in" Romeo and Juliet, but that the play has scenes and metaphors that can be used to demonstrate certain concepts that may also pertain to homeland security. To me that's a big difference.

    Remember, that particular article is about a high school program. I teach college-level English, and most of my students arrive in my classes ill-prepared to understand the nuances of this sort of critical interpretation. They struggle to get beyond the ground level of Reader Response Theory, which has readers relate to a text using their own experience (which, in my classes, usually amounts to "This poem reminds me of when I broke up with my boyfriend"). When I present or encounter what may be a far-fetched interpretation, I'm careful to note it for what it is, often using the phrase "willful misinterpretation." My stance is that willful misinterpretation is not inherently a bad thing, but we need to be careful to remember that that's what we're doing. Plato's Cave Allegory is an example I use to demonstrate that you can read almost anything into a strong work of literature, but that doesn't mean the interpretation is what the work is about. So if high school students are taught that there are "homeland security issues in" Romeo and Juliet, from my experience they are unlikely to understand the play for what it is, which Barbell did an excellent job of articulating:

    I will say, in all fairness, that I do read in Barbell's statement an implicit rebuttal to the homeland security idea, particularly in the words "insular protection", so on a certain level that makes his statement an interpretation as well. But I think he's far closer to the core idea of the play than is Mr. Sheppard.

    Now, I'm not there, so who knows how those classes really function. This was a sound byte from the program coordinator, not necessarily the teacher presenting Romeo and Juliet, so perhaps it's a great class. What bothers me is the problem that comes up in most of the dialogues you and I have -- I see indications all over what I read about TSA and DHS that critical thinking and free thought are not a part of the program, and that following orders, often blindly, is how folks are supposed to proceed. I'm just a chick who hasn't been in an airport in almost two years and who reads a lot on the internet, so I willingly admit that I'm looking at it from the outside. But sometimes that's the best way to see things for what they are.
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  19. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    Thanks, phoebepontiac, for stating this thought so much better than was my attempt.
    barbell and phoebepontiac like this.
  20. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    I do like that they have outside individuals doing evaluations on this program, the one from NYU states the obvious:

    But Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor who studies the politics of education, said the courses were "a wonderful idea as long as they educate the kids and don't indoctrinate them. That's the only danger."

    But he also thinks that the topic is relevant to the current circumstances in the US.

    All these parts of the curriculum are things that we have to think about - it can't rule your every waking thought, but it is something that preparing for and being able to respond to are good things:

    For example, he arranged for students to watch emergency response drills for a chemical weapons attack and a school shooting.
    "Law enforcement, computer security, response to chemical and biological hazards, the study of intelligence applications, we could help with all that," he said.

    The school shooting is a truly relevant toic in light of the past 20 years here in the US, educating children on the best courses of action and being prepared for that type of situation is a good thing - now it is a pretty big stretch to think that many kids would function according to the response programs without educator input, but the odds are better if they are more aware of it and have a step by step guide to what needs to be done.

    Mr. Shepard sounds like he is motivated and using a classic bit of literature to fit his purposes, I am fairly certain as an educator you see this all the time. While this is not the primary message in the work, it can be used - I personally think using someone like Tom Clancy would have been a better usage of current literature to represent real life threats that can be seen, I was not in with him during the assembly of this class. It is good that your students can relate their personal feelings to classic literature, even if they have to do so on a kindle - it shows we as a society have not lost all of our soul. I also commend you for pointing out that while there is a tenuous connection between subjects (such as the connection between HS and Romeo and Juliet), that you give perspective on it at the same time. If I had more instructors like you when I was in school, I probably would have done better in math (which is something created simply to torture me). We agree that distilling down R and J to just homeland security issues is a good way to detract from the larger message.

    We have a long history of force projection in this country, especially since WWII, so the insular reference is a bit off to me, I mean, look at the borders of this country and the way we police them. If we were truly insular at our core, we would have shut them down (or made a better attempt at it anyway) ages ago. We also allow tons of immigration into the country, so much so over the last 100 years, our demographics have changed at a fundamental level. I am not certain that we are insular by nature, and we have gotten more familiar with sending our troops to far off places for "noble" reasons, whether they turn out to be truly noble or not, they are sold that way to the public at large. If we continue to educate the basics during formative years, perhaps we can bring a better mindset into policy making on the whole. If we have some future presidents that heard about DHS at an earlier age, maybe they can shape the direction the agency goes to better suit the public. It is all kind of philosophizing on my part, but I hope that this program gives the public at large a better chance to understand how DHS came to be, the threat matrices out there and that they can come up with creative and efficient ways of mitigating the threats in the future. These kids are going to be running the country when I am on the pier fulltime trying to catch dinner and hobbling back to my golf cart (of course, I may not be rich enough for the golf cart, so I may be dreaming too). I hope they can learn from our mistakes and formulate better policy in the future. I am not saying that our policies are wrong per se, but hopefully there can be meaningful change and strides forward in the future, to make things better for all involved.
    phoebepontiac likes this.

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