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Specialized ProfessionI am a TSA officer at a large airport outside of DC.

Dec 27th 2017 by Majorjohn112 • 32 Questions • 29 Points

I've worked at Dulles International Airpor (IAD) for almost a year. I'm 21 years old and about to get my Bachelors degree in Cybersecurity.

My Proof: https://m.imgur.com/Et0trYD

Q:

What is the strangest, oddest thing you have found in a person's luggage?

A:

.22 LR pen gun Looked odd on X-Ray, called an officer to check it out. Next thing I knew there was local airport police questioning the guy and a .22 round LR lying next to what looked like an expensive pen.


Q:

That seems like some spy shit

A:

It was a middle-aged guy who said he got it as a present and forgot it was in there.


Q:

Do you guys looks for drugs like mushrooms or pot and how easy is it to pass through security?

A:

Some airports have dogs that sniff out drugs and explosives. Drugs aren't a priority. Food, herbs, medicine, and spices are allowed. So if an officer is checking a bag for a potential threat and sees a bag of mushrooms or pot, it's really up them to report. Then the situation gets passed to actual law enforcement.


Q:

Three people took over a plane with three box knives it was called 911 look it up young one. A gun with one bullet does not matter.

Edit: never mentioned anything about the TSA in my post. Just made a statement about how it doesn’t take a gun to take over a plane just a sharp object. But bring on the downvotes for people that do not know how to read!

A:

TSA didn't exist back then. Matter of fact, TSA exist today because of 9/11. The hijackers came from our airport, you really think they wouldn't let us know that in training?


Q:

You seem to think I'm defending TSA when I'm defending OP's comment.

A:

Planned intelligent attacks are definitely a threat, but we are given the tools and training to counter them. At that point it's all up to the officers. However, a planned attack would likely take a lot of time, a lot of minimally detective resources, and a lot of luck. If someone was going to break into my house, I'd rather they need to go Oceans 11 instead of just waltzing in.

The failure rate is a bit misleading since it tells far from the full story. A story that I'm sure nobody who doesn't work for or with the TSA would be interested in listening to. I can't even go too much in detail of testing since it's considered Sensitive Security Information.

So it's not necessarily theater to make people feel safe, anymore than a home security system. Sure, a home security system might not protect your home from a team of spies, but at least you will have protection from more practical threats.

Not even an umbrella can keep you totally dry, but it beats walking in the rain.


Q:

FYI you can opt out of the nudeoscope and take a manual pat down.

I always choose this option because if the airport is going to invade my privacy you can be damn sure they're going to have to pay a human being to do it.

A:

Not really my call, and most TSA body scanners don't use X-Ray anymore. If tomorrow the SOP changed to allow people without Precheck to keep their shoes, I'll be okay with it.


Q:

What do TSA people do with the stuff they steal out of people's luggage? Do they keep it for themselves, sell it online, trade among themselves? What's most common?

A:

Only flammable or non-properly contained firearms are taken out of checked luggage. Carry-on prohibited items are actually 'surrendered' since unless it's a firearm (or IED of course) that's already been screened, the passsenger has the option to put it in their checked luggage or return it to their car or to someone else. It just can't get past the checkpoint.

Liquid, gels, and Aerosols are immediately disposed. Other prohibited items are taken to an offsite location. Lost items are taken to the lost and found office.

Officers can't take or dispose any prohibited items themselves. One officer I knew was fired for pocketing a forgotten phone charger.

Most common is drinks/bottles and oversized toothpaste or Lotion. Second would be razors and butane lighters.


Q:

I ‘m speaking directly of those things that aren’t prohibited, that TSA agents just steal because they want to and have unrestricted access to our baggage. I have had video games, video game controllers, and Guinness glasses stolen from my baggage on different occasions, with a brazen notice from TSA that my bags were searched accompanying the missing items each time.

A:

If those are true, than it's important to report them to the police since that would count as theft.


Q:

What do you think of TSA's Instagram account? Saw something similar there?

A:

They told us it exist, but honestly aint nobody got time to care about some work based social media account, probably ran by suits. We have had private Facebook groups for years where we go to vent.


Q:

What do you do if you find someone bringing marijuana with them? Can you use your discretion in that situation or is there a SOP you have to follow?

Do you catch a lot of sex toys going through?

A:

We can use our discretion since not everyone might know what weed looks or smells like wink. So that means you're taking a big risk if you make it obvious and someones checking your bag.

Every now and again. Fortunately they don't match anything we are looking for. So it's rarely necessary to call them for a bag check.


Q:

Question: Are lockpicks forbidden in a carry on bag? (I work in the security field).

A:

No. You can bring them in your checked and carryon bag.


Q:

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen seen someone try to smuggle onto a plane?

A:

Not so much smuggle, but one time we did have an elderly Chinese lady try to bring some dead mice in her carryon. When we opened the bag, there were maggots everywhere. She didn't speak any English, so we never learned why, but I knew this would be a situation perfect for a supervisor.


Q:

How many batches of suspicious Christmas cookies did you have to verify? I had to wait for a secondary check when flying last week.

A:

Food has to be kept out of the bag for now.


Q:

Things seemed laxer than normal flying out of CLT. Thought my daughter and I were asked to move from the security checkpoint near our concourse (with a shorter line) to another that was staffed by a K9.

A:

I've heard environments and rules vary from airport or what time you get there. There are many procedures that are standard for all airports, but some do some things their own way.


Q:

Just between you and me, do you think the security theatre really works? I won't tell anyone your answer.

A:

Aight, between you and me. We can't be 100% sure. However, we do live in a reality where there are some people who would like nothing more than to cause a quarter billion USD worth of damage while taking hundreds of lives with very little effort.


Q:

How often do you stop people and what is the most common reason? Has anyone tried to run past security?

A:

Nobody has tried to run past security in my experience, but we do occasionally get the foreigners in a hurry that try to either rush past the body scanner or go through the security gate. If someone does, than it would be the responsibility of the Airport police, in our case MWAA, to stop them.


Q:

What kind of investigation and clearance do you have as a TSA officer? NACI or Public Trust or whatever they call it for Confidential, or Secret or TS?

A:

nd after becoming one. But when done right by both passengers and officers, it's a very quick and simple process.

Secret I believe.


Q:

also, they will detect your tin foil hat so please take it off and put it through the xray

A:

Not anymore. Newer machines shoot microwaves that detect any material inconsistency. It highlights any anomalies on a nearby digital avatar and we pat those areas down.


Q:

Do I need to take off my watch prior to going through the security scan? Generally, I am told it is okay to leave it on. It is a rather expensive piece and prefer to not leave it in my bag.

A:

At Dulles, no. Not to sure about other airports though. I know it rarely alarms, and when it does, it takes a 4 second inspection to clear.


Q:

I know this is old, but I'm still curious if you see this:

I returned from my flight and got the note in my luggage that it had been opened and searched. I had a small aluminum take-out container that was filled with Christmas cookies, and it looked like that had been the only thing disturbed (it had been opened). What determines that a checked bag gets searched?

A:

It would take some understanding of what we are trained to look for and how they appear on X-Ray. Sometimes even the most mundane things could appear as possible threats to some newer officers.


Q:

Do you know if having a bag inside of another bag can hide items? One time I was going from Canada to US we went through 2 security lines and afterwards realized I forgot I had a small drawstring backpack inside my larger backpack and in the drawstring one had a Camelback water bottle full of water and was never stopped

A:

Nope. The material backpacks and suitcases are made up of is easier to see through.


Q:

My dad is a pilot and used to base there. I am looking to be a pilot and wondering if pilots skip TSA or do they have a different line?

A:

They have a different and much quicker line, but still get screened.


Q:

Of course it isn't comparable to c4, but to doesn't need to be.

Try taking some AA batteries apart, putting it in an empty metal coffee thermos, then dumping in the bottle of h2o2 you easily got past TSA because it looks and smells exactly like water. Instant pressure bomb/frag grenade. All of this is easily scaleable if you have 2-3 asshats with the same goal.

Seriously, learn how to use Google.

A:

First off, I hope you're not actually Googling, or expecting me to Google, how to get explosives past airport security.

You've seem to forget the initiator, switch, and power source. Depending oh how its, triggered, the best you would get out of that is a small fire, wouldn't even be enough to destroy the thermos. 3-1-1 rules apply to all liquids.

Frag grenades use concussion propelled shrapnel. That is not the same as an incendiary. At cruising speed, it would be a significantly weaker one.


Q:

do you understand your job is a form of welfare, which to receive, you have to violate the rights of your fellow citizens?

A:

I don't have much experience with welfare, but I doubt you have to work 8-hour shift for 40hrs a week for it. Well technically rights are not being violated since flying is still mostly a privilege. I know it sounds like quite a douche bagish thing to say, but we aren't forcing you to fly.

About half the passengers we get typically know what they are doing. They take everything out of their pockets, put their property through the X-Ray, step properly in the body scanner, and then they're done. It could take up to 10 seconds to get screened. With Pre-check it could take about 5.

I understand how it's a mild inconvenience, I'm a frequent flyer myself and have argued with TSA officers before and after becoming one. But when done right by both passengers and officers, it's a very quick and simple process.


Q:

quick, simple, I don't disagree. I don't have a problem with the process, it's not too bad anymore. My problem is the creation and financing of the TSA in general. It has no chance of actually stopping a terrorist, and does nothing to improve safety on planes. How many weapons have you guys missed in testing.. oh yeah.. nearly ALL of them. How many times a year does the TSA allow a weapon onto a plane anyway. Like once a month or more based on a quick google search.
You assume I mean you trample my right to travel, but in reality, all this makes what you are doing the definition of 'unreasonable search and seizure." You have no hope of doing your job, yet you demand to see all documents and private property carried onto a plane. If you knew the person searching your bag had no chance of catching anyone doing anything related to terrorism, would you consider that a reasonable search? You may have to clock in, but your job is still welfare.

A:

It's not so much about stopping terrorist, which they are prepared for, as much as it is about deterring them. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, enough to afford to assemble a powerful IED and plan an attack, probably knows there could be a chance that it could fail and everyone involved could be compromised. Safety on planes is typically handled by air marshals and intelligence agencies, TSA's job is just more direct and made to make it easier for them.

How many weapons have you guys missed in testing.. oh yeah.. nearly ALL of them

Don't mean to be offensive here, but trust me, you don't know as much as you think you do after reading an article or watching a two-minute news segment. I've been assigned for covert testing for Red team at other airports and my own. Those test you hear about on the media are misleading and meant to push a more fascinating narrative. Nobody wants to hear about people actually knowing how to do their jobs. The average TSO could easily spot any typical real threat. We are given drills everyday during operations and routinely pass them. We find about half a dozen firearms left in people's bags or purses a week. Have their been cases where they have been missed, of course, but it's rarer than you've been led to believe.


Q:

I'd rather shovel shit.

A:

Tbh, I actually liked it more than I thought I would. Not necessarily my dream job I plan on keeping long after I graduate, but it's been an interesting experience. Nice getting to talk to people from around the world.


A:
  • Security clearance
  • Admittedly good government benefits.
  • Pay's well when you're getting out of high school
  • Decent stepping stone if you're interested in getting a start in Homeland Security or CBP.

Q:

What level clearance do you have?

A:

I believe it's "Secret," but I'm not 100% sure. I'd have to do more looking into it.


Q:

Secret as in like, it’s a secret so you’re not going to tell? Bro. This is an AMA-ask me ANYTHING.

A:

I'd would tell you, but then I would have to pat you down.


Q:

What the fuck do the Nazis have to do with this conversation? Are you serious? Someone working trying to just make a living doing airport security is a fascist? You are truly an idiot.

A:

You think waiting in line and getting screened for weapons or explosives is as bad as getting sent to a death camp? 0_o


Q:

The TSA is only the prelude to the death camps. But Im through wasting time with you. You refuse to see that you are part of the problem.

A:

TSA is only the prelude to the death camps.

lol XD, well that makes much more sense.


Q:

what are you thoughts on most terroristic "attacks" being false flags or seriously suspect?

A:

There have been a long list of terror attacks that have happened. Regardless if they are "false flags" or not, our job is to prevent prohibited items from getting into the sterile area.