Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I wrote an e-mail yesterday to the American Transportation Security Administration to complain about their destruction of my boxes of paper. I took great care to make the point that I understand the need for security, and am not objecting to my bags being searched, merely to the totally unnecessary damage to my property. I gave them flight numbers, dates, and contact details, and settled back in expectation of a comprehensive personal explanation and apology for what had occurred.

This morning I received this:

Thank you for your electronic mail message concerning your travel experience. We are sorry you were unhappy with your recent travel experience and hope that the following information will be helpful.

On February 17, 2002, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) assumed responsibility for security at all airports in the United States. TSA was required by
law to replace contract screeners with a workforce of Federal screeners by November 19. Incrementally, airports were staffed with Federal screeners until TSA met that mandate. One of our key objectives has been to ensure that all passengers consistently receive professional and courteous checkpoint processing while maintaining our high level of security. Along with expanded training on the enhanced security procedures, each Federal airport screener receives training on professional and courteous conduct to make the process run smoothly and reduce the inconvenience to the public.

A variety of security measures are applied to the baggage and/or persons of passengers selected through the screening process, including random searches. This random element prevents potential terrorists from "beating the system" by learning how it operates. Leaving out any one group, such as senior citizens or the clergy, would remove the random element from the system and undermine security. We simply cannot assume that all future terrorists will fit any particular profile.

We intend to monitor the number and nature of complaints we receive to track trends and spot areas of concern that may require special attention. This ongoing process will enable us to ensure prompt, corrective action whenever we determine that security screening policies need modification or specific employees or screener teams are the subject of repeated complaints.

We encourage you to visit our website at for additional information about TSA. All travelers, and particularly those who travel infrequently, are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. The website has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations, that may assist in preparing
for air travel. You can go directly to these tips at

We appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with us. We are confident that the training that we provide to the new Federal workforce will result in a courteous and professional staff of security screeners so that your unfortunate experience is not repeated.

TSA Contact Center

Marvellous. Obviously putting my name at the top of the e-mail was too much of a hassle. As was making ANY reference to my particular complaint. And forgive me, but I don't remember claiming to be a pensioner or a nun either.

Still, it's good to know they're confident that the training they're providing will eventually "result in a courteous and professional staff". There's something for us all to look forward to. I feel better already. And on the bright side, I don't feel so annoyed with the screener who destroyed my property now. I'm more annoyed with the person who sent the e-mail.