Airport Security: Former TSA screener writes confessional in Politico Magazine

A former TSA screener in Chicago says the agency was not a great place to work. Photo: Associated Press.

A former TSA screener in Chicago says the agency was not a great place to work. Photo: Associated Press.

UPDATE: Politico published a piece Friday detailing the TSA response. “Every passenger deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and Transportation Security Administration policy upholds this standard. TSA does not tolerate any form of unethical or unlawful behavior by its employees and takes swift disciplinary action if discovered,” the agency said, apparently in a statement.

ORIGINAL POST: Politico Magazine this week published “Confessions Of A Former TSA Screener” — a tell-all piece by former Chicago O’Hare screener Jason Edward Harrington. And it’s ugly.

Harrington says everyone at the TSA knew right away that the full-body scanners introduced a few years ago didn’t work — “The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone” — and that the machines showed way to much of everyone’s bodies.

Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display. Piercings of every kind were visible. Women who’d had mastectomies were easy to discern—their chests showed up on our screens as dull, pixelated regions. Hernias appeared as bulging, blistery growths in the crotch area.

Perhaps equally concerning, he says officers were told to give extra screening to passengers based on nationality. He said there was something called “the Selectee Passport List.”

It consisted of 12 nations that automatically triggered enhanced passenger screening. The training department drilled us on the selectee countries so regularly that I had memorized them, like a little poem:

Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan
Iraq, Iran, Yemen
and Cuba,
Lebanon-Libya, Somalia-Sudan
People’s Republic of North Korea.

Harrington says he’s the author of Taking Sense Away, a blog in which he made some of the same allegations, albeit anonymously.


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  • Jeff Richmond

    That list of countries is shocking. Cuba and not Saudi Arabia? And what is the “People’s Republic of North Korea”? Good grief.