TSA policy on photography versus practice

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by Paul Sanchez, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. Paul Sanchez

    Paul Sanchez "We already know you, Mr. Sanchez"

    It is said that a baseball player who can hit 0.333 will statistically get on base quite often and of course likely to bring in a few runs as well. My hitting record with the TSA is running about 0.95.

    This all started last May at St. Louis (STL) when for newsworthy content I started to record TSA screeners blocking the exit because there had been a breach and they were doing a terminal shut down.



    A TSA screener came up to me and told me that "photography is prohibited" which of course I asked her if this is a public area and she said yes. That of course led to an encounter with Detective SGT Williams who threatened to arrest me for "interfering" but quickly back down when I confronted him after the all clear was given. Federal security director Switzer also did tried to explain that it was a training issue and that the errant TSA screener did not know the actual rules. Also explaining to me that I can't expect perfection. I asked him if that is all he learned from the Steven Bierfeldt incident, he did not comment.

    Then last August I get Memphis and discover that the "training issue" is very contagious as behavior detection officer Tyronne did not like my photo of him while I was still in line waiting to get to the travel document check podium. That was worth 30 minutes along with his TSM and she back down as well when she insisted that it is not a public area.


    So with other trips at Colorado Springs (COS) with behavior detection officer Paul Rose insistingly that I cannot take photos of him in the non-sterile area (I loved that stance even more).


    Plus photos taken at Fort Lauderdale (FLL) while leaving (again the statement "you can't take photos") I did a trip last week from Baltimore (BWI) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

    It starts off fine with me taking two photos of BDO Coats at the beginning of the line which apparently she thinks my photography is not good enough. On that note of course she is correct, I doubt any of my opus will ever be on National Geographic magazine.



    She said photography was not allowed and I asked her which federal law (there is none) or is it a State of Maryland law (again none) and she stated that it is a federal law. She was not able to quote the non-existent federal law nor the non-existent Maryland statute. I suggested to her that she confer with her "TSM" which she was unnerved with. I merely continued to wait in line.

    The TSM "Ivy" came up to me and I asked her for her SIDA credentials (she also was unnerved at that) and asked her if the line up to the travel document check podium was a public area. She yes but photography is not allowed. I told her I did not know that but would be glad to confer with her after I got past the travel document check podium.

    After much delay it turns out that TSM "Ivy" did not want to discuss it on that side of the checkpoint (she never came back) so I went to the screener blocking the way of the walk-thru-metal-detector and asked if I am required to go thru the advanced imaging technology scanner. That of course caused its own problems as he did not know the answer. I then asked him if I may avail myself of such stated option which he did not comprehend either. This is getting good.

    Lead screener Blair Wallace then comes up (he was the one who told me that TSM "Ivy" would not meet with me until I'm in the sterile area) and asked if I was going to complete the screening or leave? I told him I already stated my intention to the previous screener and perhaps he should confer with him.

    That then settled he stated I had to remove my belt and put it thru the X-ray, I said fine I'll be happy to when we are doing the pat-down. Lead screener Wallace was insistent that he wanted to x-ray the belt and I again said I'll be happy to during the pat down.

    I walked thru the metal detector portal (for some strange reason no alarm in spite of the hazardous belt I was wearing) and I asked lead screener Wallace if he is familiar with the term "private screening". He said yes so I asked him which additional screener he was going to use, and also told him that if the door is locked to the private screening room he can get the key from TSM "Ivy". Again he also got unnerved with that suggestion.

    He and the additional screener took both bins toward the private screening room but left behind the blue roll-on suitcase in spite of being told several times by the x-ray operator that it was mine. I asked lead screener Wallace if the rules were now changed that unscreened passengers can handle their property or did he not follow procedure. More unnerving facial expressions with lead screener Wallace.

    Get to the private room at last and my first question to both screeners is what size gloves they wear? All I got was dumb looks for about 10 seconds and then they stated large and extra-large. I told them I did not notice boxes of gloves on the metal table so I suggested to the junior screener why doesn't he go get a large & extra-large pair of gloves. Again dumb looks for about 10 seconds but lead screener Wallace told the junior screener to do so. Door was closed behind him as he left.

    This of course means 1 screener instead of the required two so I suggested that Wallace open the door, he said no (which is again against the rules) so I strongly suggested to him that he open the door. He then did so with both of us standing in the door way.

    He gave his spiel and when he started describing "until I meet resistance" I stopped him and said resistance is an electrical value or interfering with the screening process, which one was he referring to? Wallace explained until he could not go any higher on my inner thigh. I asked him does that mean my lower torso, groin, testicles, genitals, etc? He meekly said yes and I suggest that he use nomenclature that the public understands if he wants consent to these pat downs.

    Pat down went fine, he left to do the explosive trace testing (I stood in the doorway watching much to the consternation of the junior screener), and Wallace came back with negative results. Great I said, no nitrates today.

    That of course left my belt was which was still on the metal table. Wallace said he did not not need to x-ray it and that is fine. I told him that was 100% contradictory to what he told me 20 minutes earlier about insisting that the belt had to be x-rayed. I asked him how can I complete the screening process if the belt is not x-rayed? He said the screening is done and please leave. This is getting better.

    I walk out and the luck of the Irish is with me because there is TSM "Ivy" who I begin to ask about BDO Coats and her statement about the "federal law" the prohibits photography at TSA checkpoints. TSM Ivy started to explain about the previous rules but I quickly corrected her on the BWI airport removing such signs. She then started to explain about TSA's own policy but I quickly showed her the TSA policy and she backed down from that as well.

    She started to explain that I can't expect perfection from screeners and I agreed with her, except for the fact that the TSA publishes these rules and screeners work 5-days a week which is more often that I do. I explained to her that she is the one who decided to work with an agency that hires non-GED applicants (she blamed Congress for that but she is incorrect there as well), knowingly hires convicted felons (for robbery) in Richmond RIC, and of course proportionately has a higher arrest record than the passengers. She did not have an answer for those either.

    She started to say that perhaps BDO Coats was "new" at BWI, did not know the actual rule, and she would forward this to the training department (have I heard that before?).

    She asked me who I work for since I know the specific rules (very nervous when she heard me ask about 49 CFR 1530 etc) and procedures. I told her I do not work for the TSA, or the DHS IG office, or the BWI federal security director, but she could choose not to believe me anyway. I suggested to her that she write up an incident report and gave her my business card.

    Flight from BWI to FLL and I thought why not go up to bat again in the last inning, I might get lucky with even a bunt. Took two photos of the checkpoint before exiting (no commentary from other screeners) and as I walked past the exit point I turned and took two photos of a very indignant TSA screener.




    This screener actually told me to come BACK into the sterile area (how many violations of 1530 & 1540 etc would that be along with an $11k fine) because I could not take photos. Not wanting to cause a terminal dump I said I can't re-enter the sterile area and does he not know his own rules? He then told me to stay there (would that be detaining?).

    Very quickly my favorite TSA supervisor and a Broward sheriff's deputy come up to where I am standing and asked why I am not walking, I told her her own TSA screener told me to come back into the sterile area (which I could not) and then told me to stay (which I did not have to either).

    She asked why did I take a photos of the screener manning the exit point and I asked her if this is a public area? She said it is not so I asked does that mean that screened passengers (otherwise known as public) are not allowed to use this exit point? She backed down very quickly and dispersed all the other screeners (plus the deputy).

    I told her I'm quite confused on the rules about public versus non-public areas and she quickly found somewhere else that she needed to be. I suggested to her that she write up and incident report on it but she said no as well, also not willing to take my business card as "we already know you Mr. Sanchez".

    So far what I have found is that practice is different than the public policy. Lie first, then if caught make up excuses that are believable (with me not so much but alas such is my life).

    I'm amazed effective the confrontation is and the screeners do not like to be caught lying. Copy of this will be sent to the DHS office of Inspector General since the FLL screener actually told me to enter the sterile area thru the exit. Of course that is not the first time a TSA screener at the exit point has caused a terminal dump. ;)

    I really am amazed at how stupid the TSA screeners (plus management) are about making up rules and what they think they can get away with. Confrontation rather than complaints are the key.
  2. RB

    RB Founding Member

    TSA employees have proven they are not trainable so made up rules is all they have.
    Caradoc likes this.
  3. You, sir, are my hero today. If you are ever in Anchorage I would like to buy you a drink. Non-sterile side, of course.
  4. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Seconded, for Chicago.
  5. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    I thought I had a response in this thread but I must have forgotten to punch that "Post Reply" button.

    I liked the sound of "We already know you, Mr. Sanchez" that I I made it his title. :D Of course, we'll restore his "Original Member" title if he so prefers.
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  6. DeafBlonde

    DeafBlonde Original Member

    "Thirded" for Houston, TX!
    That is a perfect title, IMHO! :D
  7. Monica47

    Monica47 Original Member

    "Fourthed" for Seattle and I'll throw in lunch or dinner!!
  8. jtodd

    jtodd Original Member

    I fully approve! How about some KC bbq?!
    TravelnMedic likes this.
  9. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    It's amazing that any of these Freedom Fluffers passed toilet training. Or are they all wearing Depends(tm)?
  10. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    Awesome post! This is really well constructed and deserves comparable coverage.
    Please contact Lisa if you would be willing to post this at TSA News so it gets more exposure.
    PM me if you you need her email address and I will forward to her to contact you.
  11. Paul Sanchez

    Paul Sanchez "We already know you, Mr. Sanchez"

    Go ahead and forward it to her. I've already sent the post of Carlos Miller and Jon Corbett for additional coverage.
  12. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    Great! I sent her the link and she can PM you if she needs anything. Alternatively I can copy and post it as a draft there and perhaps she can alter the byline or include it in the title to provide the proper attribution.
  13. Paul Sanchez

    Paul Sanchez "We already know you, Mr. Sanchez"

    Byline is fine, I don't think I'm that anonymous in my postings nor of errant TSA screeners.
    Fisher1949 likes this.
  14. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    In line for buying you a drink if you brave the forsaken iceberg known as Minneapolis.
  15. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    I seriously doubt you're anonymous to these bozos.^
  16. Paul Sanchez

    Paul Sanchez "We already know you, Mr. Sanchez"

    Well Fisher1949 I have to agree with you there. Today at Fort Lauderdale (FLL) concourse Bravo lead screener Redenegro was quite upset at my asking some very benign questions such as change of gloves, private screening, etc. At the end he even called me by my full name.

    The supervisor screener was also asking my why I hate her when I don't know her. I told her yes, she has not introduced herself to me yet in spite of the fact that all screeners know my name and knowledge of the rules. It really is getting better at FLL when their pre-shift briefing includes me.
  17. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    Perhaps someone should ask her why she hates American freedom, the US Constitution, acceptable social morals and ethics, and logical sense.
    DeafBlonde, Frank and phoebepontiac like this.
  18. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    It's entirely possible that she does not hate American freedom, the US Constitution, acceptable social morals and ethics, and logical sense.

    Truly evil TSA employees are in the minority. For the rest of them, such concepts are simply beyond their limited understanding.
  19. DeafBlonde

    DeafBlonde Original Member

    Great ZINGER! (I love it, love it, love it!) You are indeed my hero!
  20. RB

    RB Founding Member

    After a recent experience with a certain TSA employee I'm afraid I can no longer give them the benefit of it just being a case of limited understanding. I truly believe that many TSA employees think the Constitution and other laws of the land do not apply to TSA.


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