The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) placed a radio frequency identification device (RFID) in my carry-on while going through security screening at the Los Angeles Airport. That was back in July 0f 2010 when there wasn’t even a hint they were doing such things, which makes you wonder what else they were doing back then—or for that matter—what they’re doing now. It seems the rules keep changing.
Back in July 2010 I was traveling from Los Angeles (LAX) to Denver to do an alternative energy and healing trade show for my technology Trinfinity8. I often schlep a lot of electronics around in my carry-on luggage. It’s usually one or two laptops, an iPad, Sennheiser headphones, cables, a signal box, and an assortment of quartz crystal rods. I wish I could check the stuff, but then it would surely arrive broken and/or stolen. I’ve done it hundreds of times without a problem. I’m sure these TSA agents have seen a lot of weird stuff come through their scanners. But on this one security check, I was randomly pulled over to do a more thorough search by a female agent. I wasn’t too happy with how she was carelessly handling my electronics, so I asked her politely to please be careful since it was expensive “medical equipment.” She paid me no mind and continued to dissect my suitcase. I vowed that in the future I would avoid lines with female TSA agents. It has always been my experience that they seem to do their job overly well.
On my return to Los Angeles, I passed through Denver security and was immediately pulled over again. They, too, wanted to go through all my things. My colleague who had gone through the scanner right before me, had the same equipment in her carry-on, but they didn’t bother her. Mine seemed to set off some type of red alert. They seized my carry-on suitcase and took it to another room for more “thorough analysis” and made me wait another 15 minutes, sequestered from my equipment. In the meantime, I was given the thorough pat-down by another agent, as well as watching her swab down my purse for explosive traces. My questions were met with “be quiet, don’t talk”. Finally, they returned the suitcase to me, but made note of my flight. It was strange and a little scary. I didn’t know what to make of it.
When I finally arrived home I unpacked the carry-on and discovered a small quarter-size, octagonal chip, tucked into the side lining. On one side was printed a female TSA agent’s name and the airport she worked at–LAX. I googled the manufacturer’s name printed in small letters to see what this thing was. The company, Compexinc, made RFID security tracking devices for airport personnel. Their website displayed a picture of the device I held in my hand. Compexinc were identified as government contractors. (If you do a Google search today, the company’s name and products still appear on search engines, but all their website links go to an error message page. Even stranger.)
I had never seen an RFID tracking chip. I opened up the device and sure enough there was a round metal chip inside. Talk about a creepy feeling. You want to flush such things down the toilet. For some reason (maybe because I told her to be careful with my stuff–obviously a no no), the LAX agent put the tracker in my carry-on bag knowing full well that the device would show up on any airport security scanner and I would be pulled over and given the Gestapo search. Did she really think I was a threat or had she used her RFID tags as a passive aggressive way of getting back at me for asking her to be nicer to my stuff? I will never know.
Within seconds, I was all over the internet trying to learn more about this RFID tag. The tracker had a battery-life of three weeks and I could see the expiration date stamped on it which told me it was near its end of life. I also learned, to my surprise, that the TSA had been using such devices for several years already, and that they were employed to continue tracking suspicious people after passing through airport security. They thought I was “suspicious” looking?
I showed all my friends the tracking device because I knew no one would believe such a Big Brother thing was actually going on back in 2010. Internet searches also provided information that there were privacy lawsuits already lodged against our government for using such passenger tracking devices. From that moment on I had a very bad attitude whenever I went through airport security. I refused to go through those hands up x-ray devices after learning about the back-scatter radiation and the lawsuits TSA agents were filing when cancer rates amongst them started going up. And I refuse to go through those new microwave scanning devices. They still don’t have any long-term studies on what even low levels of direct microwaves have on key human organs. No kidney pie for me, thank you very much. I am a big Opt-Out flyer. I would rather have an intrusive pat-down any day. I use that time to lecture the female agents patting me down on the health ramifications of being in the presence of such equipment for hours each day (especially if their young and are concerned with fertility). I figure if I have to endure their pat down, they can hear me out as well. Take that for passive aggressiveness.
Now after all these years of having to practically strip naked, throw away perfectly good drinkable bottled water, bag 3 oz. liquids, remove even flip flops, wigs and scarfs, ditch dangerous nail clippers, cuticle scissors, and making sure every electronic device is in a separate tray, they suddenly change the rules. They roll out the TSA-Pre Security program. You can essentially bypass all the security by paying a fee and giving them your fingerprints (quite possibly even your DNA). They call it a Global Entry card. But many are finding TSA-Pre already printed on their tickets without having enrolled in this program. Some are even selected out of long lines to go to the Pre line where you don’t have to shed your shoes and coat, and/or take out all your electronic equipment. It has some people thoroughly mystified why they have become the “chosen ones.” Of course, if you ask a TSA agent, they will simply tell you it’s just “random selection.” More than likely it’s tied to your frequent flyer profile. So does this mean terrorists are not frequent flyers? Or that a terrorist might not conveniently make it into the TSA Pre line? When it comes to the Department of Homeland Security lots of things don’t make sense. I was once labelled and chipped as a “suspicious person.” Must have been the crystals. Yet, in the last six months I have repeatedly being placed in the TSA Pre line. I didn’t pay to regain back this privilege either. I’m still schlepping the same amount of equipment as back in 2010, but these days they barely give it a look. What gives? I can only hope that this is a sign of saner times ahead. What I wouldn’t give to still be able to meet or say goodbye to loved at the Gate. Those were indeed the good old days.
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