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April 25, 2012

A pleasant experience with the TSA

They say the way to succeed as a blogger is to use shocking headlines. Now you have mine.

And it’s true. This morning at the Seattle airport, I had a very pleasant experience going through Securty, and no, I am not referring to an especially loving pat-down. Because I am a Special Person, I got to go through the new TSA Pre screening…”pre” as in “pre-check.” (BTW, does the “pre-” really add anything in the word “pre-approved”?) They put you onto an extra-specially short line — you get pulled out of the First Class line to go on a yet-shorter line. There they tell you to keep your belt and shoes on, keep your laptop in your bag, leave the change in your pocket, and please feel free to keep your spring jacket on. They do want the cellphone to come out of your pocket. And then they put you through a plain old scanner that doesn’t take nude pictures of you and post them on the Internet on a Tranny Grannies page (a long story).

I was able to register for the TSA Pre program because I’d already gone through a pretty extensive screening to become part of the Global Entry program. The Global Entry program lets me go through Customs at some airports by sticking my head into a vending machine. I signed up for that program after getting a security clearance from the feds. If you are part of Global Entry, registering for the TSA Pre program just takes a quick trip to the Web. If you’re not, there’s some other process.

So, for Special People like me, the TSA Pre program is great. But it’s hardly a scalable solution. And, yes, I do feel like a traitor to species when I go on that specially short line. Still: It’s a specially short line! I’m only human!

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July 26, 2009

A tip to the TSA

Here’s an except from a message Gary Stock sent to a mailing list (used with permission):

Works:
http://www.tsa.gov/

Fails:

http://tsa.gov/

Network Timeout
The server at tsa.gov is taking too long to respond.

(Don’t you suppose that’s hundreds of people, or more, every day?)

Presumably, because the underlying address is:

http://tsagov.edgesuite.net/

…which seems awfully damn strange to begin with!

I work in server config only infrequently, but there are at least two
very reliable methods to make “http://tsa.gov” function — some one of
which *should* be invoked. Either add a DNS CNAME record, OR use
.htaccess locally for a 301 redirect. (More obscure DNS record or
server conf alternatives are left as an exercise for the reader ;-)

Anyone at the TSA listening (= ego-surfing) and care to make the change? (PS: The TSA blog continues to be a model. Also, fun.)

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June 19, 2009

FlyClear: Cutting in line so the terrorists won’t win

At the Reagan Airport (would I be jumping the gun to start calling it the Obama Airport already?), Clear has a little square of space right before the security inspection stations. For $200/year, you can skip the long lines and go for the exceedingly short line to Clear. There the uniformed employees will compare some of your body parts (iris and fingerprints) with the information on the Clear card you present. Once you’re through, you can go straight to the Conveyor of Transparencies where you rejoin the hoi polloi so that the TSA can make sure your shoes aren’t on fire.

What I don’t get is why Clear has to give you an extra special biometric scan. Why can’t they just do what the TSA folks do: Look at your drivers license, look at you, and wave you on through? All I can figure is that Clear’s market research showed that people would be more willing to pay to cut in line — which is what Clear is really about — if there’s a pretense that it enhances security.

As far as whether all the fancy-shmancy biometrics — heck, my face is the only biometric I need! — actually increases security, if I were an evil do-er, I’d just bribe a Clear airport employee. They don’t go through security clearances the way TSA folks do, at least according to the Clear employee I asked.

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June 22, 2009: Clear just went out of business.

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