US: Admiring the TSA

March 4, 2008 at 11:33 pm 5 comments

Blogs and government aren’t a natural fit. The open, bi-directional flow of information in blogs contrasts with the carefully controlled, uni-directional flow of information that governments are typically associated with.

The US Air Force case is the norm. According to Wired, “The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word “blog” in its web address.” Ironically, according to online audits conducted by the US Army, official Defense Department websites post material far more potentially harmful than anything found on soldiers’ blogs.

That’s where the Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) comes in. TSA is commonly associated with passenger and baggage screening at US airports, a role that is hardly going to endear them to most people. There has been any number of criticisms over their operations, not the least of which is indulging in security theatre.

It’s probably the last organisation that you’d think of running a blog. Not only do they have a blog, they have a great, open blog. The stated purpose is “to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.”

For TSA it is reasonable to have a moderated blog and certainly their Comment Policy is both sensible and fair. Still, it would be justified for people to be a bit cynical about just how open the TSA’s blog would be to comments.

Yet, they are. Take the case of their latest post The Truth Behind the Title: Behavior Detection Officer. It has attracted 90 comments so far, most of which are far from complimentary. A typical pithy one is, “This program is a complete waste of time and money. I can’t believe we’re paying for this.”

Others provide more measured criticism (“TSA, what’s the false hit rate for this program?”) and a few are supportive.

Despite a lot of justified criticism against the TSA, I’ve got to, reluctantly, praise them for their willingness to engage with people openly. In my book, that’s admirable.


Entry filed under: government, USA, Web_2.0.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • […] as a government employee is even harder (see a previous post about this). Yet, the risks have to be taken by both government and employee if more two-way open […]

  • 2. William S. Hoffman, M.D.  |  May 22, 2009 at 2:37 am

    If cell phone use can really interfer with the guidance system of aircraft, why are they permitted on the plane at all? Wouldn’t it be possible for a few people who wish to do us harm to turn on their phones and make the guidance system inoperable?

  • 3. mike  |  August 25, 2009 at 5:43 am

    I havent flown since before 9-11-01. I was concerned with the security hassels, 2 hour pre check in, not to mention traveling with a disabeled relative with a wheel chair. I found the TSA and the FAA gov. sites easy to navigate and was able to find all the info I needed in no time at all. Needless to say I was extreamley relieved . Thax a million TSA,FAA and,DHS. And thanx for the blog too.

  • 4. marles gilson  |  September 21, 2009 at 5:05 am

    I have a question for TSA as i worked with security at norfolk airport for 6 yrs so i am well aquainted with the TSA rules and regulations. Why would a TSA person give a 17 yr old boy that have never fleew before in his life a bad time. he printed off his boarding pass or he thought he did he did not know anything about the bar code, why didn’t they have some one help him or have security to where he could print off another one due to all the hassle he missed his flight and we are trying to get this boy home and i am not very happy for the way he was treated and we are out $125.00 why couldn’t they help him it was us air and i will never trail that plane, TSA could of helped him more

  • 5. fran  |  January 16, 2010 at 8:39 am

    It is not TSA’s responsiblity to make sure that your son printed off a correct boarding pass from an airline’s terminal. It is the airline’s responsiblity. Place the blame were it should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the airline your son was to fly on. TSA’s responsibility is to screen. Your son should have contacted the airline.


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