Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Security Theatre

Transportation Security Administration

Aviation Security Directive

Subject: Security Directive
Number: SD 1544-09-06
Date: December 25, 2009

EXPIRATION: 0200Z on December 30, 2009

This Security Directive (SD) must be implemented immediately. The measures contained in this SD are in addition to all other SDs currently in effect for your operations.

INFORMATION: On December 25, 2009, a terrorist attack was attempted against a flight traveling to the United States. TSA has identified security measures to be implemented by airports, aircraft operators, and foreign air carriers to mitigate potential threats to flights.


ACTIONS REQUIRED: If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States (including its territories and possessions), you must immediately implement all measures in this SD for each such flight.


1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.

1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso.
2. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids.
3. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.

2. During the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures outlined in Section I.A. of this SD, including the following who are traveling with the Head of State or Head of Government:

1. Spouse and children, or
2. One other individual (chosen by the Head of State or Head of Government)

3. For the purposes of Section I.B., the following definitions apply:

1. Head of State: An individual serving as the chief public representative of a monarchic or republican nation-state, federation, commonwealth, or any other political state (for example, King, Queen, and President).

2. Head of Government: The chief officer of the executive branch of a government presiding over a cabinet (for example, Prime Minister, Premier, President, and Monarch).


1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:

1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The aircraft operator must immediately provide written confirmation to its assigned PSI indicating receipt of this SD.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR dissemination required: The aircraft operator must immediately pass the information and directives set forth in this SD to all stations affected, and provide written confirmation to its PSI, indicating that all stations affected have acknowledged receipt of the information and directives set forth in this SD. The aircraft operator must disseminate this information to its senior management personnel, ground security coordinators, and supervisory security personnel at all affected locations. All aircraft operator personnel implementing this SD must be briefed by the aircraft operator on its content and the restrictions governing dissemination. No other dissemination may be made without prior approval of the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration. Unauthorized dissemination of this document or information contained herein is prohibited by 49 CFR Part 1520 (see 69 Fed. Reg. 28066 (May 18, 2004).

APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE MEASURES: With respect to the provisions of this SD, as stated in 49 CFR 1544.305(d), the aircraft operator may submit in writing to its PSI proposed alternative measures and the basis for submitting the alternative measures for approval by the Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management. The aircraft operator must immediately notify its PSI whenever any procedure in this SD cannot be carried out by a government authority charged with performing security procedures.

FOR TSA ACTION ONLY: The TSA must issue this SD immediately to the corporate security element of all affected U.S. aircraft operators.

FOR STATE DEPARTMENT: Retransmittal to appropriate foreign posts is authorized. Post must refer to STATE 162917, 201826Z Sep 01, Subject: FAA Security Directives and Information Circulars: Definitions and Handling, for specific guidance and dissemination.

Gale Rossides
Acting Administrator

What is an annoyance on a 45 minute flight makes long-haul flights untenable.

If I ever fly to the US again from Australia, I'll do it via Vancouver, with no travel via Hawai'i. A 15-18 hour flight in complete information blackout conditions, with no communication allowed to the outside world is ridiculous, and conributes nothing to airline safety.

This is obviously a canned response, as none of the in-flight restrictions would have prevented, or even hindered, the mass murder attempt. Some would actually prevent the passenger action that made the incident less serious than it could have been though.

Note the expiry date - tomorrow. If they truly thought that these measures would contribute anything to airline safety, they wouldn't just be for a few days. Ot's all for show, to demonstrate that they're doing something. Whether it makes sense or not is immaterial.


Lloyd Flack said...

Dumb hysterical breast beating! And that is being flattering to the writer.

Are they actally saying that it was illegal to disseminate the contents of this document. That is people are forbiden fronm knowing just what the current regulations are. They are on very shaky legal ground here. The law is supposed to be knowable and regualtions underpinned by law should also be knowable.

It looks like there are a lot of law breakers around in that case. Or perhs those ordering this but not publicly proclaiming it are the law breakers

Laserlight said...

TSA could profit from "Better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."

Anonymous said...

This is insane.

RadarGrrl said...

Will it be that long before all pax are required to swap their clothes for prison style jumpsuits for the duration, and shackled into their seats?

Clearly, the terrorists won. They're prolly just doing this for shits and giggles these days, now that they've seen just how hysterical Teh Homelandz Securiteez become.

Zimbel said...

@Lloyd Flack-

Yeah, that's been a problem with the TSA since its inception; they write regulations then try to hide what those regulations they're enforcing even are.

However, note part 17 here:

§ 1520.17 Consequences of unauthorized disclosure of SSI.

Violation of this part is grounds for a civil penalty and other enforcement or corrective action by DHS, and appropriate personnel actions for Federal employees. Corrective action may include issuance of an order requiring retrieval of SSI to remedy unauthorized disclosure or an order to cease future unauthorized disclosure.

In other words, disclosure might be a firing offense, but it's not a criminal offense.

Myself, I think that 49 CFR Part 1520 should be struck in its entirety; either make the document Confidential (or higher), or don't try to secure it. All "Sensative" does is reduces public oversight.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, there's a post up on the DailyKos from a couple days ago about the full body scanning machines and whether they are or aren't a fabulous idea, and there's a poll in that post which has 38% of over 9000 posts in favor.

Many of the comments assume the only issues are ones of body image and modesty, while I am, I admit it, terrified that some petty beaurocrat will decide that my body is an anomaly that needs to have attention paid to it, and the potential for harm to come from that is endless.

It's ok. I like trains. Trains are good. Slow, but good.

Anonymous said...

(This is the URL of the DailyKos post I mentioned: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/12/29/820143/-Privacy-Versus-Security)

Zoe Brain said...

It's not exactly practical to travel from Australia by train.

Zimbel said...


That post has a bad title, as it presents a false choice. The text of that post does little beyond presenting said "choice".

To quote a competent cryptographer: The Eternal Value of Privacy - Bruce Schneier

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

Anonymous said...

Everything I need is in walking distance. There is no need to travel especially on a plane. People need to be apart of their community not jumping around the world.

Anonymous said...

Zoe: Good point. I'm glad to have had the option available for the traveling I've needed to do, but the argument being tossed around that other modes of transportation can be employed instead doesn't really hold up in reality, and I didn't seriously intend to imply that being restricted to rail travel is okay, because it isn't.

And Zimbel: True words.

Mikayla Weighill said...

I can post a reply from the perspective of someone who was involved in alot of these new rules from 1996 to 2007.
As far as I can see the proceedures have traveled too far. The security screening and proceedures , from a passenger standpoint should all occur at the screening points. This is the place that the authroities should be verifying identity, and ensuring that the pax ( passenger) is clean before proceeding to the restricted area.
Security measures that need to be implemented while onboard an aircraft are too little too late.
The main problem that has existed for years is that the carriers and airport operators look to any new regulation to guide them to the minimum standard of operation. they are not interested in getting anything done properly, just to a minimum standard.
If the authorities would concentrate on screening and maintenance of primary security lines and the sterility of the restricted area, they would not have to enact so many ridiculous rules.
There are ways to do this, the problem is that security costs money and the cost passing is like a hot potato. The reason that so much of the security burden seems to be falling to the pax is simple. They don't have a voice at the table when these new standards are dreamt up