Nude Bodies, Free Booze, Endless Radiation: An Ex-TSA Agent Tells All

Nobody likes the TSA. They slow you down at the airport. They pat you down. They take away your Christmas presents. Their tactics are questionably effective at making everyone resent them. It's easy to forget that the TSA is made up of real human beings like you and me being told what to do in the name of national security.

It's rare that we actually get to hear from one. But Jason Edward Harrington, a five-year TSA veteran, has changed all that, after launching an anonymous blog that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the airport security process and the sometimes twisted logic that dictated it. Long story short: the last line of defense we have to prevent another 9/11 is a total shitshow. And, yes, the TSA officers were laughing their asses off at those revealing body scans.

Harrington just published a retrospective look at his career with the TSA at Politico, and you should read it. Among the many jaw-dropping revelations, this little nugget about what gets confiscated is particularly sad:

Once, in 2008, I had to confiscate a bottle of alcohol from a group of Marines coming home from Afghanistan. It was celebration champagne intended for one of the men in the group—a young, decorated soldier. He was in a wheelchair, both legs lost to an I.E.D., and it fell to me to tell this kid who would never walk again that his homecoming champagne had to be taken away in the name of national security.

And about those body scanning machines that don't work

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.

And about what goes through the x-ray machine…

There was "The Things They Ran Through the X-Ray," a post that detailed the craziest items I had seen put through the X-Ray belt at O'Hare: dildos, puppies, kittens. Even a real live TSA officer: In 2009, one of my friends had run her male colleague through a carry-on X-Ray machine. (It was a slow night.) When management happened upon video footage of the episode, they were both fired.

And about the TSA's spotty history of background checks…

A fellow officer once returned to O'Hare from a trip to TSA headquarters and confessed that he had run into some complications: Someone realized that his background check had never been processed in the four years he had been an employee. He could have been anyone, for all TSA knew—a murderer, terrorist, rapist.

Head over to Politico to read the story in full. And, next time you're going through airport security, have a little sympathy for the TSA officers. They're just trying to do their job, misguided as it may be. [Politico]

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