The TSA and The 9 Year Old Security Threat

In the past, I've been quite critical of the TSA, and rightfully so. This year has seen long lines that exceeded 3 hours in Chicago, record high complaints about employee misconduct, and a success rate of only 5% when finding illicit items in luggage. In an effort to outdo itself, the TSA has now detained a 9 year old pace maker wearer... because those pace makers could be bombs.... really TSA?

My last job took place at a research laboratory, and it consisted of working in very high magnetic fields. We were all very aware of how magnetic fields can inversely impact those that wear pace makers. Walking through a metal detector at a TSA checkpoint is no different. Magnetic fields are not something that should be messed with for these patients.

A family from Wyoming, Minnesota was well aware of these issues when they attempted to pass through a TSA screening point at the Phoenix airport.  Their 9 year old son was born with a disease that caused deformation of the heart, requiring no less than 15 surgeries on his heart and a pace maker to keep him alive. Since the family was no stranger to travel, they came armed with paperwork on his condition and requested a pat down instead of the normal metal detector system. 

After handing the paperwork to the TSA agent to bypass the metal detector, the agent then decided the 9 year old child was a terrorist threat. He was quickly pulled aside and detained for over an hour while 4 police officers and TSA agents in the double digits came to investigate the apparently threatening child. 

At some point a TSA agent attempted to justify their actions by claiming that a 9 year old with a bomb in his chest was once captured by the TSA. When the mother asked when that happened, the TSA agent merely responded with a canned response that they couldn't disclose that information.  They couldn't disclose it, because it never happened. The TSA has a hard time proving that they've ever foiled any terrorist, let along a 9 year old chest bomb toting terrorist. 

The family was detained long enough to miss their flight and cause them to stay an extra day in Phoenix. Even after bring this up, getting media attention and a promise from the TSA to contact the family to resolve the situation, no TSA representative had at the time contacted the family as promised.

This just exemplifies the problems with the TSA. They claim to keep us all safe, hold us up at the airport, and generally cause so many problems, that even the most hard core security expert needs to question the usefulness of the agency.

In tests, the TSA only found 5% of contraband passed through security checkpoints. No discernible capture of any serious threat has ever been proven by the TSA, and yet we spend millions employing generally horrible people.

This all in an effort to feel safe, but there in lies the problem. TSA agents are stationed throughout the US costing taxpayers money while failing at their jobs. We want a sense of security that cannot exist, but the TSA plods on unwavering in their horrible behavior, lack of ability to do their jobs and general laziness. Even TSA precheck is a crap shoot in many places I've flown to.

Maybe it is time we stepped back and looked at the true cost of the TSA and whether we need security on this level in any airport in the world. Likely the answer is no... but there is certainly a debate to be had there. We can probably agree on one thing, the TSA has a systemic problem and it needs to be dealt with quickly.