Ex-TSA Whistleblower: “Yes, We Were Laughing”

Politico has just released an article: “Dear America, I Saw You Naked (And Yes, We Were Laughing: Confessions of an Ex-TSA Agent).”

It includes a TSA Glossary. Here are a few specialized terms that TSA agents have developed for communication, with definitions:

Alfalfa: TSA malespeak for an attractive female passenger.

Code Red: Officer malespeak. Denotes an attractive female passenger wearing red.

Fanny Pack, Lane 2: Code for an attractive female passenger.

Retaliatory wait time: What happens when a TSA officer doesn’t like your attitude? There are all sorts of ways a TSA officer can subtly make you wait longer to get through security, citing imaginary alarms, going “above the SOP” for “a more thorough screening,” pretending that something in your bag or on your full body image needs to be resolved—the punitive possibilities are endless, and there are many tricks in the screener’s bag.

White Shirt: A TSA employee who still believes his or her job is a matter of national security.

Xray Xray Xray!: Code for an attractive female passenger, general.

Yellow Alert: Code for an attractive female passenger, yellow clothing.

The writer, Jason Edward Harrington, basically needed a job. He was something of a leftist and was not enamored with the national security state. For the sake of a regular paycheck he put on the uniform every day and went to work at Chicago O’Hare.

I hated it from the beginning. It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show. I confiscated jars of homemade apple butter on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security. I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots—the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying.

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.

According to Harrington, he was not the only person who hated his job. Virtually all the TSA agents thought their work “represented an abuse of public trust and funds.” Harrington is against the racial profiling that was official but secret policy until someone leaked the manual. I disagree with him, but am appalled at his revelation that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were not on his list. If our leaders are willing to play politics that way, then either they don’t think we are in real danger or they don’t care at all if mass numbers of us get killed.

And I haven’t even begun to go through all that Harrington writes about. He claims everyone knew the nudie scanners were a fraudulent boondoggle before they were installed. “Our instructor was a balding middle-aged man who shrugged his shoulders after everything he said, as though in apology.” That is on page two of the article. Please go read the whole thing!

It is patently obvious, if any of us are stupid enough to still need convincing, that the TSA has three missions:

  • Profits for lobbying corporations who make unnecessary technology and overcharge for it.
  • National Security Theater
  • The systematic humiliation of the American people—it is a place where the American super state ceremonially places its boot on our throats.

Of course, if they would offer that as a literal alternative to having my genitals groped by a blue-gloved hand, I would opt for the boot.

Read the whole thing and then go revisit this audio of how a TSA spokesman responds to satire.