Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


TSA Badges

9Wants to Know has uncovered a new policy that allows airport screeners at Denver International Airport to bypass the same security screening checkpoints that passengers have to go through.

The new policy says screeners can arrive for work and walk behind security lines without any of their belongings examined or X-rayed.

At DIA, 9NEWS videotaped a dozen TSA screeners walk through a side gate and enter the sterile area of the airport carrying backpacks, purses and lunch boxes. Nothing was screened.

Sources tell 9Wants to Know, the reason for the security change may be tied to the new uniforms and badges.

The old, white TSA uniforms had yellow cloth badges sewn on them. The new, blue uniforms have metal badges that set off alarms when screeners go through the checkpoints. Sources say the TSA is worried that the screeners will remove the badges while going through security and that they’ll get lost or stolen. (Colorado’s, “Sirport Screeners bypassing security.”)

As Schneier points out, this isn’t a big deal:

Screeners have to go in and out of security all the time as they work. Yes, they can smuggle things in and out of the airport. But you have to remember that the airport screeners are trusted insiders for the system: there are a zillion ways they could break airport security.

But, as we pointed out when they moved to metal badges, TSA badges are a bad idea. There’s no reason to have metal badges at all, and they come at both a financial and operational cost. The operational cost is there’s a group of people walking through the metal detectors who are allowed to set it off.

Do they really need metal badges?

This is really about a failure of judgement, about thinking through the effects of their decisions, and about how those decisions will be perceived.

One comment on "TSA Badges"

  • Kenton A. Hoover says:

    As long as we’re going to go this route, might as well issue them something else that prevents them from passing through screening — semi-automatic handguns. Would cut down on those time-consuming arguments at the checkpoints too! They need to be at least as well armed as IRS agents, but perhaps less well armed than park rangers.
    Will our impending $700MMM bailout bill at least get us to de-fund the TSA and pour its budget money down some other pointlessly unnecessary rat-hole? I need a change of ridicule object.

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