TSA: Unpredictability Is Part Of Security Process

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Nov. 19, 2010.

A woman passes by a security sign at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday. Ted S. Warren/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Ted S. Warren/AP

Among the many complaints about security checkpoints at the nation's airports, which are atop the news in recent days because of the body scans and pat-downs that some fliers object to, is what seems to many travelers to be the inconsistency from airport to airport. One time you may be selected for extra "screening." Another time you may not. Some officers may let you take that corkscrew on board. Others may not.

But the man in charge of security operations at more than 450 airports across the nation says the Transportation Security Administration wants some uncertainty in the process.

"We have by design inserted unpredictability into our processes" so that "our adversary" can't predict exactly what will happen at checkpoints, Lee Kair of TSA told Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep. The agency's officers, he said, do know what sorts of randomness have been ordered for any particular day — but passengers aren't supposed to. (That said, Kair also pointed out that the list of items that can't be carried on to planes is posted and doesn't change without advance warning.)

Injecting Unpredictability

Here's that part of his discussion with Steve:

Also during their conversation:

On Plans For Protests

— Kair said he hopes that those who are trying to organize actions such as National Opt-Out Day on Wednesday (when some hope travelers will "opt-out" of full-body scans and ask for pat-downs), "don't disrupt the air travel on one of the busiest days of the year."

On Pat-Downs.


On Pat-Downs.

— Kair said he has undergone the now-infamous pat-downs, and "I wasn't uncomfortable because I understood that it was necessary."

Also in their discussion, answers to some of the questions that folks sent in to the show's Facebook page (a couple previews: yes, you can take pies on board; no, you can't take cranberry relish). Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

Meanwhile, at the White House Monday spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration will continue to evaluate security policies at the nation's airports and will take travelers' complaints into consideration.

"The evolution of the security will be done with the input of those who go through the security," Gibbs said.



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