Boston’s Logan Airport will become the first in the nation to roll out an Israeli-style (hummus, cucumber, tomato) security system in mid-August as part of the Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) program. This new plan, which focuses on having TSA agents speak directly to passengers to determine whether they’re acting suspiciously, is a $1 billion program aimed at behavioral analysis rather than stopping you from bringing water on your flight and frisking 3 year olds.
Israel has famously used these techniques in its airports, training its security officers in ways to detect whether someone is lying to you. Rolling this out in the US domestic flight environment is a wee-bit different, and the pilot program in Boston will help determine how much this slows down the security process. And really, that is the entire issue about travel security in the US: if we had infinite time, we could thoroughly screen everyone on every means of public transportation. But we don’t. So we’re still trying to figure out how much time people will put up with to ensure a higher level of security. In Israel, with its 99.8% international flight schedule, people will put up with getting to the airport 3 hours early. In the US, especially on domestic flights, the flying public seems to have gone from allowing themselves to get to the airport 20 minutes early (as I did at smaller airports pre-9/11, to saying that perhaps 90 minutes is OK). That’s a big change. Train passengers, on the other hand, have basically said that they’re not willing to put up with any security to slow their trip.
Behavioral-based screening is superior to patting down little children, clearly. It will be interesting to see how much it impacts the airport passenger experience, and how much customers will push back should it add a few minutes onto their travel schedule.
The Guardian has a crazy story about what people can find out about you from the stub of your boarding pass. If you care about your privacy, you’re not going to be happy about this. The reporter found a discarded boarding stub and was able to learn pretty much everything about the guy. In his words:
We logged on to the [British Airways] website, bought a ticket in [the passenger's] name and
then, using the frequent flyer number on his boarding pass stub,
without typing in a password, were given full access to all his
personal details – including his passport number, the date it expired,
his nationality (he is Dutch, living in the UK) and his date of birth.
The system even allowed us to change the information.
information and surfing publicly available databases, we were able -
within 15 minutes – to find out where Broer lived, who lived there with
him, where he worked, which universities he had attended and even how
much his house was worth when he bought it two years ago.
El Al has requested that it be permitted to handle its own baggage screening at Newark Airport, a move it has already made in 4 other US airports. Why? Because it doesn’t trust the TSA. Think about that. A foreign airline — albeit one with the best airplane security in the world — doesn’t trust us to do our own security. If you’ve ever gone through airport security and felt it was a charade, you were probably right. El Al doesn’t mess around. And incredibly (and impressively) the TSA has allowed El Al to retrofit its bomb detection machines with its own software, because El Al feels that the TSA’s software isn’t good enough. Only the best for us!
Paula Abdul caused a bit of a security meltdown at Las Vegas’ airport on Thursday. Because of the legions of fans mobbing her at the airport (that’s what the article says…) she was permitted to skip the security line to board her Southwest Airlines (thrifty!) flight back to Burbank. I could make a joke about permitting someone named Abdul to bypass airport security, but I wouldn’t do that. Authorities are investigating….
Two air marshals were arrested and charged with using their positions to smuggle narcotics on airplanes. The geniuses were brought into custody after an informant delivered 33 pounds (?!) of cocaine to the home of one of the air marshals. Incredibly, the pair were willing to risk their lives and career for a combined $67,000. A nice bonus, don’t get me wrong, but c’mon.
(I stand corrected…JUPNATE lets me know that was a weekly salary. I woulda taken it, too.)
(Thanks to OTR reader Sanj for the heads up)…
Baggage screeners at Fort Lauderdale’s airport discovered a human head in the luggage of a passenger arriving from Cape Haitien, Haiti. Myrlene Severe said that the head was related to her belief in voodoo—the head was being used to ward off evil spirits. Apparently it didn’t work.
The head of Qantas Airways said that she was detained at LAX because she was considered a security risk. Margaret Jackson was held because she had a bunch of aircraft diagrams in her briefcase (makes sense), but the security guard didn’t believe that a woman could run an airline. She’s not the most PC person in the world, as she noted:
"And I said, ‘I’m the chairman of an airline. I’m the chairman of
Qantas’. And this black guy, who was, like, eight foot tall, said, ‘But
you’re a woman’."
This black guy.
She managed to convince the guy that she was not a terrorist (lots of Australian women terrorists out there?) and she was released.
The TSA is expanding the Registered Traveler Program beyond its 5 pilot cities beginning in June. What the hell does that mean? Good question (thank you). If you submit to a background check and pay a fee, you’ll be able to sail through airport security without being subjected to a search that would be Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America and listed on Cinemax as having Strong Sexual Content.
Private companies would run the program and it would be up to them to figure out whether you’re just a dude selling software or whether you’re a member of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell in Nashville. There’s a big question as to how these companies will figure that out. Regardless, the program is going forward and, assuming you pass the check and pay the $80 or so, it will make your airport security passages much easier.