I fly a lot. Not as much as the tech sales guys I work with, but enough to get Alaska's MVP75K top-level status in just the last half of last year. A few years back I had top-tier status on United and Alaska in the same year. So I have one of those nice little cards that lets me go thru the "premier/first class" lines at every airport. AND STILL the process sucks, and remains a constant source of despair for the state of business, security, and the country.
1. Orwellian PRE bureaucracy: I cannot get a PRE approval, because my state ID (DL) doesn't list my middle initial, while my passport does. I would have to produce a certified copy of my birth certificate to correct the state ID, and my original birth certificate has a one-letter misspelling of one of my parents' names. It is a clusterfuck. And why the hell should I have to pay a private company for what amounts to a national ID card anyway?
2. The nakey microwave: The goddamn "millimeter wave" (high frequency microwave) xray machines are STILL NOT TESTED OR CERTIFIED as medically safe for xray exposure, only that they're safe from a heat damage perspective. It would be a federal crime to use one in a hospital, because there have been "no human tests or studies to prove scanner safety." And yet the TSA video playing at top volume above the line makes baseless claims that it's perfectly safe...
3. False positives: Even when I resign myself to go through the untested scanner, for me it gives a false positive about 75% of the time. Apparently I have oddly shaped legs. So I have to wait or step to the aide and get a patdown, which often takes as long as the opt-out groping (without the RF exposure).
4. The intentional delays: When I opt-out, the procedure is to let me stand there for at at least 5 minutes before calling a screener to come grope me. Not joking about this -- I had about 60 TSA pat-downs last year all across the US, and often the gate agent would just call "MALE ASSIST" off into the void to no one (literally calling out to an empty area). A few minutes later, they would say it again to the agent on the other side of the microwave box, and then someone would come up and walk me back. It was consistent enough to wonder if there's a policy to make sure that opt-out takes long enough to discourage others.
5. Nonexistent training for TSA: The opt-out manual screening procedure is passed on through oral tradition. I'm supposed to be read a statement about the procedure, asked if I want a screening in private, asked if I have medical devices (I do, so it matters), or if I have any sensitive or painful areas. Only 1 in 4 TSA agents remember to ask all of these, and I've frequently had to remind agents of what they're supposed to ask me. On 4 different occasions in the last quarter, I've had a newly hired TSA agaent being instructed on how to do the procedure by a slightly less inexperienced agent -- with no written instructions, no consistency to the procedure, and the instructor omitted one of the key points EVERY TIME. It's clown school.
6. Total failure to detect: They have no idea what to look for -- through some unintentional testing. I found an unsubtle pocketknife (a kershaw switchblade my teenager had bought) stuck between the frame and outer covering of one of the rolly bags I use -- after I'd used it half a dozen times as a carry-on, and TSA had missed it EVERY time. I can carry on a bag full of a dozen lithium-ion battery packs, and they don't even blink. A ziplock baggie full of random powder? No problem, as long as it's not a liquid or gel... But god forbid my girlfriend use a Lush product with too much glycerine in the lotion, and they're calling the explosives expert.
I could go on. A lot. But there's no point; there's already way way too much money invested into this security theater, enough that it has become its own ecosystem. Stopping now would mean publicly acknowledging the total lack of success or value. Not gonna happen... And the real tragedy is that I don't feel safer than I did pre-9/11, and there are no valid metrics to show that I am safer. I flew home yesterday, and back out on a flight tomorrow. I used to hate this idiocy with a vigorous anger, but now I'm just exhausted by it. SO much stupid. SO much money. SO much wasted opportunity.