Woo hoo! I feel so much safer! The TSA reports, “Transportation Security Officers SPOT Passenger in Fake Military Uniform at Florida Airport.” Picture at right is my foofification of the picture on the TSA site.
Our brave protectors write:
A TSA behavior detection team at a Florida airport helped catch a passenger allegedly impersonating a member of the military on May 10 as he went through the security checkpoint.
The passenger, who was en route to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, exhibited suspicious behavior that caught the attention of officers. In addition, he was in a military uniform but had long hair, which is not consistent with military regulations, and had conflicting rank insignias on the uniform.
When officers asked for his military identification, the passenger said he had none. He was then questioned about the irregularities of his uniform. The passenger first claimed that the uniform was his brother’s, and later, that it was his nephew’s.
TSA contacted law enforcement partners at the airport who interviewed the passenger. The passenger was arrested on a state charge of impersonating a U.S. soldier.
Behavior detection officers are trained to focus on behavior and not physical characteristics as part of TSA’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program.
I have questions:
- What exactly constitutes “impersonating” a soldier? If it were me, and I saw a guy with long hair and “conflicting rank insignias,” I would presume that it’s a fashion statement, not “impersonation.”
- Did he try to use military status to get a discount at Starbucks, or a freebie into the Admiral’s Club, or was he just called out? It appears the latter.
- Did he have boots and everything, or was it just shirt and pants? Were they the black ones that should go with green camo, or did he wear the desert tan?
- Was he carrying more than 100ml of liquids outside of a one-quart baggie?
Based solely on the information above, it does not appear that he actually impersonated a soldier. It appears that he was walking around with irregular bits of regalia, and someone called him on it, and he got nervous. Many people get nervous when confronted with authorities like police or TSA, and actually, the better a person you are, the more likely it is that you’ll say “brother” when you meant “brother’s kid.”
I got this courtesy of Bruce, who advocates procedures like “SPOT” which look for “hinky” behavior.
I agree with Bruce, that it’s better to look for hinky than rip apart every laptop bag, but the TSA needs to look at this as a failure, even if this guy was actually guilty of a crime worthy of punishment stronger than an afternoon with Carson Kressley. This ain’t what we’re paying you for.
Let me finish with an anecdote. Like many people in this industry, I have clothing with NSA logos on it, or embroidery that says, “National Security Agency.” The NSA sells them in the gift shop of the National Cryptologic Museum as part of their widows-and-orphans fund.
A few Defcons ago, I was wearing such a shirt as I checked out of my hotel. The doorman pointed at the logo as he was getting me a cab and asked, “Do you work for them?”
I met his gaze, smiled and replied, “If I did, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question, would I?”
I locked my eyes to his as he went compute-bound for a good three seconds, which is a long time when someone’s not flinching. He finally nodded sharply, said, “Right,” and pulled my cab over.
Here are some essay questions:
- I consider it ipso-facto not impersonating a soldier, if you’re obviously irregular. The TSA obviously disagrees. If you refuse to confirm nor deny that you work for the NSA, is that impersonating a spy? If so, does being a smartass mitigate the crime, or is it worse — “Aggravated Denial” or “Equivocation with Intent to Confuse” or something else like that? Can we tack on a charge of using steganography? Discuss. Extra credit will be awarded for high towers of compounded paradox.
- If wearing contradictory insignia is impersonation, especially with long hair, how many pieces of a uniform does it take to make it impersonation? Can you make it no longer impersonation if you wear a uniform and other things, too? For example, if you had a “uniform” and a Ramones leather jacket over it, does that make it better or worse? What about a Groucho mask? What if you’re just a customer and wear an “Army Mom” t-shirt and it’s your step-kid?
- Does this only apply to the US armed forces? What about The Coalition of the Willing? NATO? National Guard? State Militias? Colbert Nation?
- Would the TSA benefit by some training in Brattleboro, VT? Would Brattleboro?