State of the TSA: Dialogue Breakdown Imminent

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March 4, 2013 · 1 comment

in Decoding TSA, General Security, Public Security, Security Theater

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If you’re in the unfortunate position of following the TSA blog, you may have noticed what we’re about to talk about already – the near-complete lack of anything even remotely useful what so ever. We may have said that before, but the problem is even more prominent now. So what happened to the “dialogue”?

“Blogger Bob”?

The TSA blog started out pretty ambitiously in 2008, when the TSA announced that it was going to be an ongoing attempt at information sharing, dialogue and conversation about screening, technology and security. Or, as the TSA puts it;

This blog is sponsored by the Transportation Security Administration to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.

Heading up that “facilitation” is Bob Burns, or Curtis Robert Burns, as it were. Burns is a “social media analyst”, which apparently means he’s paid to watch Twitter all day, from what we can gather. While that’s probably an integral part of securing air traffic, it’s got to have put some strain on old Burnsy, because the blog… well, it just isn’t what it used to be.

Wait, we take that back – it’s never been all that it could have been. While the blog was meant to facilitate dialogue, it hasn’t really done any of that. Ever. Comments have hardly been read, from what we can tell, and the blog has averaged about 2 posts per week since it started. Now? Now it’s down to Blogger Bob’s “Week in Review” posts, where the TSA apparently boasts about bric-a-brac that the TSOs have confiscated. Granted, some of it is pretty dangerous stuff, but is that what the blog was set up for?

Hardly.

Dialogue – The TSA Way

There’s something about the TSA that just pisses people off. It’s understandable – the agency has made a point of being as inaccessible as possible, not even replying to the US Congress when Congress asks them questions they don’t like. The TSA has (and still is) lied about what’s secret and what’s not, thrown the “SSI” and “Classified” blanket over things that are clearly not in those categories, broken innumerable laws since they were formed and generally thinks they can do whatever they want.

That’s why the blog could have been just the thing to diffuse the anger, and bring some actual information out to the public – hell, it might even get the public playing on the TSAs team. But no. Instead, the TSA has consistently ignored the public, ignored the media, ignored the government and ignored both famous and not-so-famous security experts. From around the world. It has ignored health warnings, even – yes, we’re thinking of their useless x-ray body scanners.

One-sided dialogue is not dialogue – it’s monologue, and unless you’re starring in a play, it’s usually not going to get a standing ovation of any kind, and you’re certainly not likely to make any friends off of it.

All right – on average, the TSA blog gets about 27 approved comments each and every day. Over a year, that’s around 10,000. We understand that 10,000 comments can be hard to handle, and that many of them go over the same old story, but there should be time, and room, to answer at least some of them. 27 comments each day might be impossible to get time for, especially if the answer to them requires a lengthy response or even a whole blog post of their own… but when was the last time you saw even one comment or group of comments get a whole post as an answer on the TSA blog? We took a look around the archives, and couldn’t find even one.

Monologue is not communication – it’s propaganda, really.

How the TSA Blog can avoid complete uselessness

We know. They don’t read our blog. At least, we don’t have any subscribers with a “tsa.gov” address… Still, we’d like to offer our humble advice, as one of the few sites on the internet that will readily divulge security information to the public, in order to create just what the TSA blog was set up for; dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process – and all other parts of security, for that matter. Here are 5 free tips for better security blogging, better dialogue with the public, and generally better feelings about oneself… Heads up, Burns:

5: Create actual blog posts. 

Whenever someone sends us a guest post, we’ve got one very important rule: make it on topic, and make it more than 500 words. You’re not going to get anything worthwhile said in less than that. The TSA blog has pretty consistently stayed under that line – and no, we won’t count the “Week in Review” posts, because all they do is rehash eachother with differing stats (which are also unverifiable).

4: Read the comments that come in. 

We’re not even going to start in on answering them yet (that’s the next bullet…) – before you can do that, you need to actually read them. Here at SB, we even have a stated comment policy, which we try diligently to fulfill; read all comments and answer all questions – as far as they’re about security, anyway.

3: Answer all questions. 

Answering questions should be at the top of the list, seeing as you claim to want dialogue. Guess what – answering questions is an integral part of dialogue. Weird, huh? We know there’s no way of responing to ~30 comments each day, but group them, and do what your government pays you to: write actual blog posts (see bullet 5 if that’s an unclear term).

2: Present actual information.

There hasn’t been much of that, has there, Burns? No. Several interviewers have even suggested topics and specific information to present, but has any of that happened? We don’t think so.

1: Be accessible, be reachable.

Here’s an example; we’ve got 5 people writing for this blog whenever the mood strikes them, and they can all be reached by a simple e-mail address we’ve got posted several places on the blog. People can comment, people can email us, and you know what? They actually do. And they actually get responses to their emails and comments. Being accessible is also a top priority if you really want to get a dialogue going. The TSA and its “blog team” is not.

Got comments or questions? Want to submit an article, or think we’ve missed something? Send us an email, or leave a comment below!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Stan January 25, 2014 at 5:04 pm

You have to remember that Bob works in a bureaucracy. I would bet money that Bob hasn’t changed, but his leaders and their views on social media have.

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