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oct 23 2012

Is Airport Security Really Keeping You Safe?

Disciplinary action against TSA baggage screeners suggests that we can't always know what questionable items may be riding along with us.

(Courtesy chinaoffseason/Flickr)

When it comes to airport security, it's always somebody else's bag you're worried about.  

It's a common paradox of air travel: We want to keep dangerous items off the flight, but we hope against hope that our own bags won't be called into question. I have to admit that, in my case, it means I plunk my rolling suitcases down on the scale and back off, fingers crossed. Passing through security gets even weirder for me, as the folks behind me wait patiently while my stuff passes over the rollers into that mini-car-wash apparatus where it gets scanned for questionable items. That being said, my track record is pretty good. I've been pulled aside for innocuous and easily explained computer gear, and once had a tiny pocketknife (that I'd left in my bag completely by accident) confiscated. 

But the subtext pulsing away under the beads of sweat and crossed fingers in the security line is, of course, that we presume that workers are doing the job they've been hired to do, adhering to the strictest regulations of the Transportation Security Administration. So it was especially disheartening to hear last week that the TSA as proposing that 25 employees at Newark Liberty International Airport be fired and that an additional 19 be suspended for improper luggage screening. That brings to 52 the number of TSA employees at Newark, one of the New York metropolitan area's biggest airports, who have been disciplined as the result of an investigation using surveillance cameras. The TSA cited screeners who failed to adequately check bags before they were loaded on planes and also managers for failure to properly supervise. (The TSA did not share details of the employees' failures.) 

Considering that this incident isn't isolated (more than 40 TSA employees at Honolulu International Airport were proposed for firing or suspension last year), how does it affect your opinion of airport security and air travel safety? 

Talk to us! Have you ever been detained for suspicious items in your checked or carry-on bags? What was your impression of the security professionals you dealt with? 

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.


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