TSA: Timely Sword Advice

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I can't say that every video on the TSA HQ Public Affairs YouTube channel is stupid, because I'm not going to watch them all. I do feel safe saying that they are all probably stupid, and am on fairly solid ground saying that this one is actually stupid.

In this video (thanks, Zach), a TSA agent has some helpful advice for those who may not be aware they are armed with a sword:


Of course, anyone who does not know their cane conceals a sword or dagger (almost certainly an elderly or disabled person with a second-hand cane) poses no threat, while anyone who does know it will not need, want, or follow this advice. I'm not saying they shouldn't make an effort to keep swords off planes as part of their normal procedure (although they can stop worrying about lightsabers), but I am saying the making of a special video to raise sword-cane awareness does not seem like a wise use of resources.

Hey, here's a video made especially for kids! If you've always wanted to watch a cartoon dog indoctrinate his children by demonstrating how to comply unquestioningly with authority, now's your chance:


Strangely, no one takes any member of the family aside for a needless groping in this one, but as I said, I haven't watched all the videos.

Speaking of groping, now seems like a good time to mention that the man who was arrested for doing that at San Francisco Airport after he pretended to be a TSA agent in order to get women into a private screening booth is not going to be prosecuted for anything. The local district attorney's office said it had been unable to locate the victims, who went on their way after the incidents. For that reason and because there are no cameras inside the screening rooms, "[w]e don't know if anything improper" happened, a spokesperson said.

But even if they couldn't prove that, surely it's illegal to pose as a TSA agent and infiltrate a checkpoint in the first place, which would have been caught on camera. Right? Wrong, according to the San Mateo County DA. "While it's illegal to impersonate a police officer," he said, "there is no law against impersonating a TSA agent." First, it is good to remember that TSA agents are not law enforcement officers, although the TSA would like you to think they are. Second, what? As FindLaw pointed out, there are at least two federal statutes that make it a felony to pose as a "federal employee," which TSA agents certainly are. In fact, one of those laws specifically makes it a crime to impersonate a federal officer or employee in order to detain or search someone. Seems like you could run that one up the flagpole.

But no. There was some speculation that the man was not being prosecuted because he is a wealthy banker whose father-in-law is a high-ranking politician (in Hong Kong). There is also some speculation (by me) that prosecuting him would have highlighted the fact that one can apparently stroll into a checkpoint and start groping people without being noticed right away by our crack security teams.

It could also be argued that TSA agents themselves are "impersonating federal officers" (which they are not) for the purpose of searching people, and so are committing that particular felony all day long. Haven't seen anyone else mention that yet but I'll just throw it out there.

So, if you're traveling this holiday weekend, you might want to demand a public groping so it will be caught on camera if it turns out it's not "official."