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Border security

Old 2nd Oct 2002, 10:43
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Border security

Just read that the US Border patrol is way down on agents, because they are leaving in droves to join the TSA (as have a lot of FBI, police, sheriff, Secret Service etc). I wonder if it is the money (surely not; they still only get minimum wage there) or the fun of sticking it to the little old ladies and kids?

So all you people who live near the southern borders of the US, better watch out for those illegals crossing with impunity, and better hope they are not armed with the dreaded nail files!

Have brains gone out of style in the US? I wonder..
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Old 3rd Oct 2002, 16:24
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They seem to have, and I really donít know if it is contributable to ignorance, perhaps it is just apathy, but I really donít care one way or the other. Most people seem to be taking a wait and see attitude, very reactionary rather than proactivity. We the people seem to have lost our sense that we can change government, oh weíre supposed to have a democracy but nothing ever gets accomplished, other than taxes and bickering. These guys with a badge are on a power trip sticking it to old ladies and little kids. We have become a nation of self-important ego trippers Ė Hubris may be a natural consequence....
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Old 3rd Oct 2002, 17:15
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Just read that the US Border patrol is way down on agents, because they are leaving in droves to join the TSA (as have a lot of FBI, police, sheriff, Secret Service etc). I wonder if it is the money (surely not; they still only get minimum wage there)
Perhaps I'm not following you. Are you suggesting that TSA employees only get minimum wage? Even the TSA screeners get more than minimum wage. There are plenty of management jobs at TSA that pay a lot better than what the screeners get and the law enforcement officers joining TSA are not joining to be screeners.
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Old 4th Oct 2002, 04:51
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I suppose you are right, in that their qualifications give them an edge on salary, but the salaries quoted for starting with the TSA are not much above minimum wage. The draw apparently is that the job comes with benefits, something not usually available on a low wage and part-time employment.
Obviously though, agents of the border patrol must have done their homework.
Still it is sad; areas that can use good people are being stripped to make a bloated, completely useless dapartment even bigger and more useless.
We read about passengers being caught with knives, guns, scissors nailfiles and boxcutters and are told that the system has saved us once again. Never mind that those people would have otherwise just carried those items with them to their destination and they never had any intention to use them for criminal purposes.
Airplanes have been hijacked successfully by criminals who have nothing other than bluff and threats going for them. Nothing being done now will stop that.
Incidentally, can anyone tell me why it is necessary to take my laptop out of its case and send it through the xray separately? And just what danger a laptop presents that it needs so much extra attention? Has a laptop ever been used in a hijacking?
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Old 4th Oct 2002, 15:34
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The National Guard has been called out in several states to help.
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Old 4th Oct 2002, 16:52
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Unhappy

Great.... Another Kent State
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Old 9th Oct 2002, 15:35
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boofhead:

I came across a bit more information about TSA and the law enforcement hires. In addition to the screeners, TSA is creating a law enforcement agency. At the moment, law enforcement at most US airports is done either by city or state police. I believe they are going to be partly or completely replaced by TSA police. You can see some info about them at the TSA's web site:

http://www.tsa.dot.gov/employment_opps/LEO_FAQs.shtm

While it appears they aren't currently hiring, it's my understanding that they've already done some hiring and will do more in the future.

Regarding salaries, they range from $31k (USD) per year for a patrolman to $100k per year for a captain. In addition, they have a program whereby they work an extra 2 hours per day (50 hour work week rather than 40 hour work week). In exchange, they get a 25% increase in base pay. There is an important distinction between base pay and overtime pay. Base pay is what is used to determine the retirement pay for US federal govt. employees. So an increase in base pay is very attractive. What the govt. gets is that they don't pay the officers time and a half for those first 2 hours of overtime. Instead, they get paid straight time for the first two hours of what is no longer considered overtime. So, for the officer, it is short-term pain (straight time rather than time and a half) for long-term gain (25% higher pension).

Last night I spoke with a friend of mine who is a detention officer for the INS. He's seriously considering applying for one of these positions when they become available. Part of the reason for doing so is that as an INS officer, he's limited in the pay grade that he can advance to. He believes that he would qualify as a seargant in the TSA, which would result in an immediate raise, have greater salary advancement opportunities in the future, plus the chance at much higher pension. He also will no longer have to endure travel to some of the worlds wonderful garden spots. A recent trip was depart from JFK, change in Brussels (?), drop off the deportee in Africa, return to Brussels, overnight in Brussels, then back to JFK. All but the final leg back to JFK was done non-stop, with no sleep.

I suspect that many of the border patrol officers who have joined have done so for the same reason. It also makes sense that these jobs are particularly attractive to other federal law enforcement officers because of the pension issues. Any federal law enforcement officer who transfers to the TSA keeps all of his time towards his pension, because they all work under the same pension system. In other words, if my friend currently has 15 years towards retirement in the INS, if he joins TSA he'll still have 15 years service towards retirement. In contrast, it is my understanding that a city or state law enforcement officer with 15 years service in his municipal or state pension would be starting at ground zero for a federal pension.

OFBSLF

Last edited by OFBSLF; 9th Oct 2002 at 18:16.
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Old 13th Oct 2002, 16:00
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Please Sir? whats the TSA

Just so us non US viewers can keep up. Is this a new agency?
 
Old 13th Oct 2002, 19:57
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TSA = Transportation Security Agency. Set up post-Sep 11 to assume responsibility for security at airports (and other modes).

The first head (Magaw) was an utter disaster. P!ssed everyone off and gave us nail clipper bans, forced liquid drinking, 'random' gate searches etc. Canned and replaced by Admiral Loy who seems much more suitable (IMO).

http://www.tsa.gov/
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Old 14th Oct 2002, 22:15
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I accept that the new job would be attractive to those leaving the border patrols, FBI, Police forces and Secret Service, I still feel it is not good for the country. Fighting crime or protecting borders would surely be more useful than confiscating nailfiles, even if the actual job is only one of paper pusher.
Airport security is set up now only to make the traveling public feel good; it has not done anything concrete about the problem of terrorism. Replacing low wage green card holders with low wage (even if supervised by high pay bosses) will not improve it. Only part of the weapons are caught, and a terrorist knows many ways to circumvent security. When a passenger is caught with a gun in his carry-on bag, so what? He/She was never going to use it.
The people who did the screening before the TSA came in were actually very good at what they did, since they had the experience needed to see what was a hazard and what was not. Since the govt has interfered, they have been forced to act differently and efficiency has dropped. I doubt that a US citizen with a High School diploma getting the wage paid to a screener at the cutting edge will have the patience to do the job as well, since he will be looking for advancement and will find staring at a computer screen all day very boring. I will be willing to bet that the success rate of the TSA will not be as high as the private screeners after a year or two, and the turnover will be just as high.
The only way to stop the really bad guys is to arm the crew, resist all attempts by criminals ( no more cooperation) and practice profiling. If terrorists know they face opposition they will go somewhere else to commit their mayhem, or they will have to use larger groups, which will be easier to identify.
Ten percent or so of all crew, including cabin crew, should be armed with tasers, pepper spray or such, and trained to use the weapon. Later, it might be possible to give them coded small calibre pistols (can only be fired by the person who has the ID). Giving the pilots a gun for last-ditch protection is a good idea too, much better than an F16 shoot-down.
Profiling works, as EL Al and some other airlines can attest. Having the screeners of TSA poke around in the backpack of a kid is just plain stupid and a complete waste of time. Putting a laptop computer through the xray separately proves what? How many laptop computers have gotten away from their owners and taken the airplane hostage? How many laptop computers even know how to use a nailfile?
Before 9/11 the security in the US, at least for domestic flights, was a little slack, compared to Europe and Asia, but now it is way over the top. Some common sense is desperately needed.
Meanwhile, I still am concerned that the nation's resources are being moved from proper law enforcement to a massive rort.
The end result of all this has so far only been the establishment of a massive new government department, and serious damage to the airline industry. Is this what the general public wants?
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Old 15th Oct 2002, 18:45
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Fighting crime or protecting borders would surely be more useful than confiscating nailfiles, even if the actual job is only one of paper pusher.
Boofhead:

Perhaps my post wasn't clear enough. 1) The US government is not reducing the number of border patrol, INS, etc. officers. They fully intend to replace any who leave. 2) The TSA armed security officers are not going be screening baggage. They won't be confiscating nailfiles -- that's what the screeners do, not the armed officers.

We already have an armed presence in all major airports. Right now, it is local city police or state police. In the future, part or all of those officers will be replaced by federal TSA officers. So it isn't a matter of whether we have armed officers in airports, it's a matter of WHICH officers we have in airports -- local or federal. Personally, I think it makes sense for all of the officers to be from one agency, with one standard of training.

We definitely need to have officers in airports. Their role is to deter and/or react to any groundside attack. Such attacks have happened in the past. The most recent was at LAX, but far more deadly attacks have occurred in Rome and Vienna (Dec. 1985).

I'm actually in favor of armed pilots, but that's an entirely different topic which has been previously argued ad nauseum here, so I won't argue the pros and cons of that.

But all good defenses are layered defenses. The final cockpit defenses (whether you prefer stronger doors and/or armed pilots) are simply the last layer. While that layer should, indeed, be stronger, that doesn't mean we should neglect any of the other layers, including groundside defences. Proper armed security grounside is one of those layers. In many European airports, it is not unusual to see officers their carrying submachine guns and/or assault rifles.

Regarding:

Later, it might be possible to give them coded small calibre pistols (can only be fired by the person who has the ID)
Such things pretty much exist only in the mind of gun control enthusiasts. The only practical device that I know that has been in quasi-production for some time is the Magna-trigger. The user wears magnetic rings on both hands. It has only been fitted into medium-framed revolvers and the company that makes it is a one-man shop. http://www.tarnhelm.com

Major manufacturers now put various other stupid locking devices on their guns, most of which use some sort of key (S&W, H&K, Taurus). A key is simply a non-starter in an emergency situation -- you won't be able to find the key and fit the key into the small hole in time to use it. The H&K system, in fact, pretty much requires you to unload the gun to unlock it (since the locking device is inside the frame, accessed through the magazine well). A much better solution is a lock-box -- there are several that can be opened quickly in the event of an emergency. Those of us with such key locking devices simply unlock the gun with the key, lock the gun in the safe, and toss the key back into the box where it shall remain ever after.

Regarding "small caliber" pistols, sorry, but if you're going to be using a gun in such a situation, you want one that will reliably stop the attacker as quickly as possible with as few shots as possible. In other words, it should be one of the calibers commonly used by law enforcement today: 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, or .45 ACP.

The people who did the screening before the TSA came in were actually very good at what they did, since they had the experience needed to see what was a hazard and what was not.
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree most strongly. The FAA tested the screeners periodically, using undercover officers to try to smuggle guns and explosives past the screeners. The FAA would actually warn the airport security beforehand that they were coming. And the screeners still missed 9 out of 10. Only time will tell whether the federal workers will do better than the private contractors. Personally, I think they will, but we'll see.
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Old 17th Oct 2002, 10:36
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I should have kept the reference, it was in the IHT but I threw it away after I read it. Silly me.
The article was bemoaning the loss of thousands of border patrol officers to the TSA, and the difficulty they were having in replacing them, obviously with untrained personnel. I had read similar stories about other law enforcement agencies including local police and sheriffs as well as the FBI and Secret Service having the same problem.
Maybe it was just an initial repsonse to the problem and maybe there is a plan in place to fix it. But maybe the writers were correct, and if so, I still maintain that the persons giving up law enforcement jobs to go work for the TSA are wrong, if it results in degradation of crime control in general.
The buildup of "Airport Security" is a crock, since the level of security was not as bad as we are being told it was, neither is the improvement as good as we are being told it is. The best that can be said about it is that it is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
A recent report shows that thousands of knives, guns and boxcutters are still being carried aboard domestic flights in the US, with absolutely no danger to travelers, since they are being carried by honest (stupid, yes) people who never intend to use them for criminal acts. Yet we are increasing the number of screeners, armed law enforcement officers and so on, to take the battle to these honest citizens and travelers, driving them away from flying and destroying the airlines in the process, while drug dealers, killers, illegal border crossers, kidnappers and so on are finding fewer obstacles to their nefarious deeds.
The asylum is being run by the inmates.

Last edited by boofhead; 18th Oct 2002 at 13:30.
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Old 21st Oct 2002, 19:48
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Boofhead:

Sorry, but I strongly disagree with you. Before this all started, we had a police presence in airports. After TSA does its hiring, we'll still have a police presence in airports. The main difference is that it will be federal, rather than local or state, and the training and procedures will be standardized across the country.

In the short term, there may be a bit fewer officers in border patrol or secret service, etc. But those agencies are hiring to replace anyone who left. Will it take some time to hire and train? Sure.

Is the screening still imperfect? You bet it is. Actually, I think the security was much worse than you thought it was. A few years back, a local teen climbed the fence at Logan airport, walked around the secured ground-side areas, and waltzed aboard an overseas flight. He was discovered after the plane was in the air.

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Old 22nd Oct 2002, 06:12
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So a local teen climbed a fence and got on an airplane? Did he have a nail file? What threat did he represent? BFD.
The only persons subject to security now by the TSA are passengers and aircrew, leaving all the rest of the thousands of persons such as maintenance, ground handling, catering and the security people themselves free to enter and leave via their own entrances without this new, intrusive security. Meanwhile we, the long-suffering public and crew, are subject to mindless "security", hours long terminal closures when a backpack is found unattended, and interminable hassles. People are being turned off flying, which is having a disastrous effect on aviation in general and airlines in particular, and it is not safer as a result. The TSA admits that thousands of weapons are still being carried, yet thousands of crimes are not being committed, which must mean that the normal passenger, even if not very bright, is not a criminal.
And the success stories, such as the armed agents of El Al at LAX who stopped a maniac soon after he started firing his guns, and the passengers of the American flight who alerted the crew and assisted in stopping the "shoe bomber", are not used as a learning tool.
The armed air marshal program is a shambles, with the few marshals being given less training and subject to lower standards, overworked and unable to maintain a schedule that offers any real protection. Yet nothing is being done, either as an interim or permanent step, to offer any protection to airplanes in flight, other than to offer to shoot them down if they stray too close to the seat of gevernment. Yeah, protect the Congressmen even if the voters have to die.
How about some meaningful training to cabin crew and tools for them to handle the new reality? Threatening to shut down major airports because they cannot meet the new government rules on massive, unsuitable and intrusive Xray machines in the check-in concourses is a positive step? Plastic knives are safer than metal butter knives but metal forks and glass bottles are still OK? Gimme a break.
There are effective ways to combat criminals and terrorists, and moving law enforcement from places it is needed to the airports, where law enforcement was not a problem, is stupid. It is motivated not by security concerns but merely by greed, both on the part of those moving to the TSA and by the government, which is using the build-up of airport security and Homeland Security to expand their size and influence. A blatant power grab.
The attempted bombing of LAX last year was thwarted not by airport security or airport police, but by Customs at the border. So what are we doing? Making it more likely that the border protection staff will not be there next time! Are we crazy?
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Old 22nd Oct 2002, 20:03
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boofhead:

We'll just have to agree to disagree.
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Old 23rd Oct 2002, 10:06
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I guess so. I do appreciate your reasoning though and have enjoyed the chance to vent.
Although: I don't know of any case in the US where airport security or airport police have prevented a hijacking or criminal action in the US. Of course they might have deterred a criminal from trying, but what I mean is that there has never been a case where someone has been found to have a gun or explosives and has subsequently found to have been attempting a criminal act. All of those "caught" have turned out to be innocent (stupid) but genuine passengers. The closest I can remember is the guys who attempted to fly with fake airline ID soon after Sep 11, and even they were released when it was shown that they had no nefarious intentions.
The only real effect of the new security has been turning tens of thousands of people off flying for good, and making thousands of others fly only when absolutely necessary. When I fly with my family and am subject to full body searches and have to take off my shoes every time I go through check-in security and every time I go to the gate on every sector of every flight simply because I have a staff ticket it makes me furious. But maybe I am strange to feel this way. Treating honest persons as criminals does not enhance security, it makes it a mockery.
A terrorist only has to be successful once. Airport security has to be successful 100% of the time. Looking for weapons instead of watching out for terrorists and criminals is using our resources poorly.
Forget about NIH (not invented here) and learn from those countries and airlines that do practice good security.
Develop a plan and train for handling the problem in the air, when the inevitable failure at the airport occurs.
Meanwhile we have increased the chance that potential terrorists will now be free to cross our borders, kidnappers free to take our kids, and drug dealers able to hook our teenagers because the real law enforcement is losing officers to the TSA.
Of course the answer should be obvious: Treat all law enforcement officers as professionals and pay them accordingly.
Good luck.

Last edited by boofhead; 23rd Oct 2002 at 15:12.
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