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Fear and self-loathing: confessions of a former TSA agent

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Revealing piece goes inside the TSA's culture


Even airport TSA agents don't really believe they're making much of a difference. Or so suggests Jason Harrington, a former Transportation Security Administration employee who's written a revealing piece for Politico on what it's like to work for the agency on the ground floor. Harrington writes that many of his coworkers found their orders questionable, from selecting people for enhanced screenings based on their nationality to the broad use of full-body scanners. Harrington also writes that he hated that the job made him pat down children and the elderly and confiscate everything from nail clippers to homemade jellies under the guise of national security.

It isn't just passengers who dislike full-body scanners

TSA agents reportedly didn't take the job all that seriously in many cases too. Harrington writes that those tasked with analyzing images from full-body scanners often didn't pay attention or would crack jokes about passengers' bodies. In part, that may have been because the agents Harrington worked with didn't really care for the machines in the first place: they didn't like the idea of being around radiation all day, and they were among the first to realize that Rapiscan Systems' full-body scanners weren't very effective at identifying smuggled weapons.

If Harrington's stories sound familiar, that's because you may have read pieces of them before: he's run the blog Taking Sense Away for a couple years now, anonymously sharing his and others' experiences working with the TSA. His publication in Politico this week is this first time Harrington has identified himself, and he's already using the exposure to share some added insights: