Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part.


What Does A Terrorist Look Like?

We just received some valuable Intel today… We now know what terrorists look like. BOLOs are being sent internationally as we speak. Terrorists wear colorful oversized clothing and have round red noses. They’ve been known to paint smiles or frowns on their faces and often wear wigs and large honking shoes.

In all seriousness…At airports all over the country, day in and day out, Transportation Security Officers hear over and over: “Do I look like a terrorist? You should be spending your time looking for the real terrorists instead of wasting time on me.”

Which got me thinking - what exactly does a terrorist look like? There’s no manual showing you what terrorists look like. We could put a Magic 8 Ball at each checkpoint lane and shake it every time a passenger comes through asking “Is this person a terrorist?” Some of the answers would really prove troublesome:

*Reply hazy, try again.
*Concentrate and ask again.
*Better not tell you now.
*Cannot predict now.
*Ask again later.

If my Magic 8 Ball idea sounds silly, it is. I used that example, because it would be just as effective as taking somebody’s word who says “I’m not a terrorist.”

In a perfect world, TSO training would include a class on what a terrorist looks like. But the fact is, terrorists look like anybody else coming through the checkpoint. All races, sexes, ages, and sizes… They can be an evil genius or dumb as a rock.

You don’t have to be taller than the sign to be a terrorist. You get the point…

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard somebody say “I don’t pose a threat.” Intelligence has shown that western acting/looking terrorists are being recruited just for that reason.

What I’m trying to say is you know you’re not a terrorist, but we don’t…and we can’t take any chances and just take your word. This is another reason why our Behavior Detection Program is so important. We focus on behaviors to flush out the possible terrorists, not appearance.

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team



BWI Checkpoint Rollout Anniversary (And More...)

Did you know this is the 7th anniversary of TSA rolling out the first federalized airport checkpoint? It was at Baltimore Washington International Airport. (BWI)

It’s also the 1st anniversary of the day we launched Evolution at BWI. The nationwide re-training of our frontline officers is just about completed.

To celebrate these milestones in our short but rich history, I figured I’d post a few interesting TSA stories on the blog that I came across recently.

First off, check out this article from Rick Seaney, FareCompare.com CEO, on ABCNews.com: The TSA Nightmare: Airport Security. The headline is a bit misleading - it actually dispels a few common myths about our officers.

Secondly, while scanning the blogosphere as I do every morning, I came across a weekly column from a Transportation Security Officer in the Londonderry Online Hometown News called “Joe’s Two Cents.” His latest article describes a day where his checkpoint screened a group of Wounded Warriors. Check out his touching story: No Big Deal…

I just came across this one a few minutes ago on process improvement at TSA.

I hope you enjoy these links as much as I enjoyed my wife’s PB&J sandwiches she packed in my lunch today. Mmmm…

Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team



Dishing the Dirt

I’ve been reading some statements around the web about a recent incident at Piedmont Triad Airport (PTI) in North Carolina involving dirt and fossils being mistaken for a possible bomb.

To the flying public, I fully understand that it has to seem ridiculous that dirt and fossils could be mistaken for a bomb. If I didn’t know anything about how x-ray images looked or what TSA was looking for, I’d probably be on the “you guys actually thought that was a bomb?” bandwagon.

I’m going to try to make this as simple as I can, saying what I am able to say.

1) Images of items on the x-ray monitor often look nothing like they normally do to the naked eye.

2)Dirt and fossils as well as many other normal day to day items can resemble what our officers are trained to look for on the x-ray monitor.

3) Bags often contain electronics and wires that overlap these items making them look even more suspicious.

As a former TSO I can think of a couple of times where by chance, everyday normal harmless items were laid out in a bag in such a way to look exactly like a textbook improvised explosive device. (IED)

In this particular case, a Bomb Appraisal Officer (BAO) was summoned and they eventually determined there was no threat. When you think there might be an explosive in a bag, you don’t just whip it out of the x-ray tunnel and dive into it. There are procedures that must be followed for the well-being of everybody involved. Of course, once the bag was opened, it was obvious what the items were and that they did not pose a threat.

I hope this clears things up a little bit in regards to items being mistaken for IEDs.


Blogger Bob

EoS Blog Team



See SPO. See SPO Screen. Screen, SPO, Screen!

Keeping the flying public safe from curbside to cockpit is a major part of TSA’s mission. This post will hopefully provide some more insight about what’s going on before you even reach the security checkpoint.

Concerns about public areas in airports have been brought up time and again by security wonks and commenters on this and other blogs—and we’ve been listening.

Surveillance of non-sterile areas in airports is a no-brainer when it comes to mitigating risk in an efficient manner. There’s really no way to get around that. For a while now, several different TSA programs have been in place to satisfy this security need—and thus far, Behavior Detection has been getting most of the attention. However, Passive MMW, a.k.a SPO-7, might just steal the spotlight.

Since April 21, TSA has been testing and evaluating two tripod-mounted, highly mobile SPO-7 units at Boston’s Logan International (BOS). You may recall Blogger Bob’s post about Passive MMW back in September ’08; however, a few things have happened since then. Just as a quick recap, Passive MMW has been used in mass transit and maritime environments since 2007. In 2008, TSA tested the technology in non-sterile areas of Denver International and Minneapolis/St. Paul International during the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions.

The name “Passive MMW” may imply that this technology operates in the exact same way as the stationary Whole Body MMW machines at the checkpoint. This is definitely not the case. Both technologies are non-invasive and completely safe, but other than that, the only similarity is that both systems make use of millimeter waves in one way or another. To be clear, Whole Body MMW machines bounce harmless millimeter waves off of your body to generate a metallic image. Passive MMW on the other hand receives energy generated by an individual and the objects that they are carrying on their person. This energy can be detected by an appropriate receiver and can be used to detect anomalies.

Here’s an example of the image an operator would see:

As you can see, it looks a lot different than the robotic images generated by stationary MMW machines at the checkpoint. For this reason, Passive MMW machines and their operators will be in full view of the public in the non-sterile areas of BOS.

Security officers operating the Passive MMW will work closely with Behavior Detection Officers on the floor. If either group detects a potential threat, they will alert their counterparts. From there a variety of scenarios can occur, up to and including calling local law enforcement.

Signs will be placed in the vicinity of the screening area to make sure everyone is relatively well informed about Passive MMW:

So…Passive MMW…awesome idea right? Let us know what you think.

Blogger Paul

EoS Blog Team
*Edit: The second sign was changed from "WARNING" to "ALERT"

Labels: , ,


Missing Crematory Remains

Many stories are circulating that TSA lost crematory remains that were checked as baggage at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After working with the airline, TSA was able to determine the bags belonging to the passenger in question were never handled or opened by TSA officers. The bags were screened by our automated inline baggage system and sent directly to the airline. Each bag has an ID number and the computer logs every bag that alarms and is sent to the resolution room for secondary screening. The bags in question did not alarm and therefore went directly to the airline..

To date, the family has not contacted TSA.TSA has made attempts to contact the family and will continue to try to do so. TSA regrets the family has to deal with this during their time of mourning.

The guidelines for traveling with crematory remains are correct and up to date on TSA.gov.


Eos Blog Team

Labels: , ,


TWIC Casts a Security Net Over Ports

Today is not only the deadline for your taxes, it’s the national compliance day for TWIC! Through a maze of streamers, cake, and party hats, I found my way to Greg, (The TWIC-Meister) and asked him to write a little about TWIC for us. What is TWIC? Read on… ~ Blogger Bob

To most folks, TSA is synonymous with airport security, planes and really spiffy blue uniforms. But for the past few years we have been working hard to add a layer of port security that the maritime industry has never seen before. That’s right; spread the word, TSA is involved in securing other modes of transportation too. They don’t call us the Transportation Security Administration for nothing.

Today, the U.S. Coast Guard began ensuring port workers and mariners nationwide have a new security biometric card known as a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential). Having a TWIC in hand means the holder received a thorough background check, and is now allowed unescorted access to secure areas of ports and vessels. Beginning today, the card must be presented at the more than 3,200 U.S. maritime facilities and 10,000 vessels from Maine to Guam to gain access. It is a huge win for security to know the folks working at our nation’s ports are not known terrorist threats.

The card itself is huge security benefit. Now instead of security guards examining more than 500 different driver’s licenses and hundreds of other port IDs, there is one uniform card accepted to gain access. TWIC uses advanced technology to embed a template of the owner’s fingerprints as well as a host of other security features that make it nearly impossible to fake.

TWICs are designed to be read by a card reader. TWIC card readers have gone through initial lab testing and approved equipment will be tested further in severe port environments (extreme heat, cold, wind, salt water, etc). At this time, some ports have already installed new readers and more will be soon. Readers are not mandatory yet because TSA listened and responded to industry concerns about cost and the need to test readers at port facilities and on vessels to ensure durability and functionality. We have worked closely with industry every step of the way to maximize security and minimize the effect on commerce.

To date, approximately 1.1 million workers have been vetted and participated in making the Homeland more secure.

Greg, EoS Guest Blogger