Jason Edward Harrington, a former Transportation Security Administration agent–the people in blue uniforms that man the security at airports–has published a story that details what his job as an agent was like, with revelations that will likely come as a surprise to some and confirm what others thought all along.
Harrington also revealed himself as the anonymous publisher of a blog, “Taking Sense Away,” on which he published a number of posts detailing problems with the administration.
Let’s check out some of what he revealed below.
-TSA agents were told to automatically do a full-body pat-down on some residents.
These were people from the following countries: Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Cuba, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, People’s Republic of North Korea.
In reality, Harrington never saw people from some of these countries and thought others should be on the list. “The selectee list was purely political, of course, with diplomacy playing its role as always: There was no Saudi Arabia or Pakistan on a list of states historically known to harbor, aid and abet terrorists,” he wrote. “We rarely came across Cubanos and no one’s ever seen a North Korean passport that didn’t include the words ‘Kim-Jong.’ So it was mostly the Middle Easterners who got the special screening.”
–Agents have their own “guyspeak.”
This lingo included multiple terms to describe attractive women, such as “alfalfa” and “code red.”
Other terms included “BBC,” or Bogus Bag Check, “what happens when a not-too-bright x-ray operator decides to call a bag search;” and “opt out,” or “a smart passenger.”
-The TSA knew the full-body scanners that were ordered after the Underwear Bomber incident didn’t work.
During instruction on how to use the scanners, one of the officers asked the instructor what he personally thought, off the record, about the machines.
“They’re [expletive],” he said. He added that agents wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket.
-Some agents weren’t paying any attention to the full-body scans.
Agents would take shifts watching the monitors in the I.O. room, where, as the title of the piece indicates, the agents saw people naked.
Harrington said that I.O. duty “quickly devolved into an unofficial break. It was the one place in the airport free of surveillance cameras, since the TSA had assured the public that no nude images of passengers would be stored on any recording device, closed circuit cameras included.” This included some “bad behavior” such as officers who were dating conspiring to get assigned to the room at the same time, “where they analyzed the nude images with one eye apiece, at best.”
–TSA agents were scared of the radiation from the machines, too.
“The only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves,” Harrington wrote. “Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation.
“The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine.”
–A bunch of random things ended up getting run through the x-ray machines
These included people–bored TSA agents–cats and dogs, and babies.
Other interesting items included peanut butter and sex toys.