The TSA has found 120 guns in carry-ons this year, more than 90 of which were loaded. They even found a World War II bazooka round in a checked-bag at O'Hare. Luckily, it was inert. You might think all the firearms are what's leading to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducting an investigation. But actually, that investigation stems from allegations that the TSA had fostered a "hostile work environment" in 2010 for women and minorities in some regional offices.
Speaking of hostile, passengers who hate the so-called naked scanners got some good news and some bad news; but maybe an innovative TSA etiquette class will make security more pleasant! Unless some of those clueless canines get involved.
In other words, lots of news about airport security to report so let's go to the bullet-list:
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Tensions at the TSA
How did this get in my bag: The new year has barely begun but passengers have already been caught with knives hidden in pens, hairbrushes and even belt buckles, not to mention all those guns. Stock response: "I forgot."
Stupid comments: Screeners hear all kinds of nutty things, but the joke's on the person making the comment like the guy at Philadelphia International who told the TSA, "I can bring a bomb through here any day I want." He was arrested. Could've been worse: an Aussie traveling on Singapore's Tiger Airways was taken into custody for allegedly using profanity and narrowly escaped punishment by caning.
EEOC investigation: The feds are looking at the TSA's workplace environment to see if it's hostile especially for women and minorities. In fairness, this sprang from allegations that date back to 2010; maybe things have improved but if not here's hoping this does it. The TSA has said it does not tolerate inequality.
Canine conundrum: ABC reports the TSA "may be wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money on bomb-sniffing dogs that cannot actually detect bombs." Yet these mutts could be useful in getting more of us into the quick, don't-have-to-take-your-shoes-off PreCheck security line; as TSA chief John Pistole put it last December, canines could be used as a selection tool to qualify passengers for expedited screening, "if the dogs approve" ("Yeah, he smells okay, let him in").
Problems for Passengers
No more "naked" pictures: The TSA is dumping its X-ray backscatter body scanning machines - the ones that show the human form in all its anatomical glory (or close to it). But not so fast: the millimeter wave body scan machines are still in use, and for those who say no thanks to that, your remaining option is an up-close-and-personal pat-down.
Baggage theft: TSA officer at Charlotte's airport is terminated for stealing $36 which is an improvement over past incidents including an agent who was secretly recorded taking $5,000 from a passenger's bag a few years back but as the TSA points out, no amount is "tolerable."
Etiquette of a Pat-down
Manners for screeners: I recently read a fascinating account of etiquette classes for would-be TSA screeners in New Jersey and while it was short on Emily Post-style maxims such as thank-you-notes-must-be-sent-to-cooperative-travelers, it did offer smart advice like listening to people, maintaining one's cool, demonstrating empathy and so on.
Manners for everyone: As much as TSA officers are seen as the bad guys by some, passengers are not always angels either - anyone remember the incredible tale of a drunken woman on a United flight a few years back? She flew into a rage once her alcohol supply was cut off, tried to bite a flight attendant's leg and finished up the festivities by polishing off a dispenser of liquid soap.
No, etiquette won't solve everything. People can't even agree on whether the TSA's methods of protecting us do any good at all. How about this: if you don't like what they do, unload on your congressional representatives. Or protest, if you like - it's the American way, after all - so go ahead, print the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution on your chest or strip naked if that works for you.
All anyone asks is that you use a little consideration - yes, even a little etiquette - so no one faces a delayed or missed flight.
The opinions expressed by Rick Seaney are his alone and not those of ABC News.