Mashed Potatoes Are A Liquid And Other TSA Stupidity

In January, former Transportation Security Administration officer Jason Edward Harrington gave Politico an account what like was like as a TSA agent. Now he's back, this time speaking about what's wrong with the upper levels of the Administration.

In one case, an airline passenger was trying to travel with her per goldfish. A TSA screener told her that the fish could go through, but the water could not. Finally, a supervisor stepped in and saved the fish's life.

Harrington said the agency's annual recurrent training is pretty much a joke:

"In practice, this meant that screeners who were rude to co-workers and passengers or just generally incompetent but had made it through their probationary period could hang onto their jobs by learning to work the system. All they had to do was give a convincing two-hour performance once a year—their conduct the rest of the time carried relatively little weight."

Harrington drew attention to what he called the agency's biggest failing, its system of promotions within the organization.

"I saw signs of rampant cronyism and favoritism at O'Hare while I was there, and the emails I've received from around the country contain similar observations. And it's not just me seeing this: Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced it would launch an investigation after a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report found 'rampant' favoritism at the TSA."

On those "Behavior Detection Officers" you may have heard about, he disclosed that there has never been a documented case of a terrorist being successfully detained as a result of the 10-year, billion dollar program.

"A decade in, we've now spent a billion dollars on the program despite the fact that it's based on pseudoscience that has been debunked in one study after another, and there's no proof it has turned up even one terrorist threat. Many of the Behavior Detection Officers I knew at O'Hare privately admitted that their program amounted to a lot of walking around all day getting paid a lot of money for doing nothing."

Harrington admitted receiving some negative feedback from his former coworkers, as well as threats that he's probably being monitored by the NSA.

The most humorous account of Harrington's update is a tale of a woman who wanted to bring a meal through the security checkpoint, which contained mashed potatoes. The ensuing heated argument resulted in the TSA having the final say. They determined that because the potatoes took the shape of their container, they were a liquid. The potatoes were surrendered by the traveler.

Top image via Associated Press