Christmas is coming, so it won't be long before you're walking barefoot through spilled soda and children's vomit at a security checkpoint in some godforsaken airport. Fortunately, the TSA has leaked a sensitive document explaining how to avoid all that.
Well, not quite. But the Transportation Security Administration has placed its standard operating procedure manual for screening supervisors online—the document is marked "Sensitive Security Information" and is supposed to be distributed on a "need to know" basis, but what the hell, right? Transparency!
The TSA did have the good sense to redact all the stuff they though terrorists might use to game the screening system and get through with weapons, but because they are stupid federal bureaucrats they simply drew little boxes over the secret stuff in the pdf files. So "hackers," by which we mean "people with Acrobat Professional," simply removed the boxes and looked at what was underneath. (The stuff the TSA tried to redact is outlined in red below.)
You can read the whole thing at Cryptome. But we've distilled the unredacted manual with an eye toward whatever tricks we could find to avoid getting pulled aside for special screening and missing your flight. With that in mind, here are Gawker's rules to infiltrating our nation's airports on your way home this Christmas:
1. Don't Be From Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, or Algeria
If your passport has any of those countries' names on it, you'll get pulled aside as a "selectee" for special one-on-one screening. So if you are from Pakistan, move right on ahead!
2. Pack Your Ammo Carefully
If it's in your checked luggage, feel free to bring along any ammunition up to .50 caliber, as long as it's inside a box.
3. If the Airline Ticket Agent Wrote "SSSS" on Your Ticket, Just Turn Around and Go Home
The industry lingo for people who get pulled aside and questioned at airport security checkpoints is "SSSS," for "Secondary Security Screening Selection." We figured that airlines would use some sort of secret code to communicate to the TSA that a given ticketholder was due for the third degree, but nope—it looks like they literally just write four S's on your ticket. So now you know.
4. Be a Minor, Member of Congress, Uniformed Military Member, or All Three
If you're unlucky enough to have been tagged with the dreaded "SSSS" code, all is not lost: Members of Congress, children under 12, and uniformed military servicemembers are exempted from special screening even if they're marked for it. Which is great, because we know that, say, Army officers can't present a special security threat that might merit scrutiny. The manual also helpfully shows TSA supervisors what a congressional ID looks like, so you might want to forge one before you head to the airport, just in case.
5. Better Yet, Be a Foreign Dignitary in CIA Custody
One of the best bits that the TSA tried, and failed, to redact from the manual reveals the existence of the CIA's Worldwide Operational Meet and Assist Program (WOMAP), whereby the Agency will apparently dispatch a CIA agent to ferry foreign assets to the U.S. When they do, the subjects are fully exempt from screening—no magnetometer, no bag search, no nothing. So if you know anyone at Langley, they may be able to hook you up. Again, the TSA has helpfully presented an example of a CIA ID card—doesn't carrying one of these defeat the purpose of being a CIA agent?—so you should set yourself up with a fake before you try the WOMAP route.
Oh, and if you get caught, just run: TSA officers are instructed not to "detain or delay" anybody they suspect has presented them a fraudulent ID if they've already gotten past security.
But if you travel at peak times, the chances they'll spot the fake will go down to 25%, because regulations permit the TSA to examine IDs with a black light or loupe on only one in four passengers if traffic backs up.
6. Make Yourself a Diplomatic Pouch
Diplomatic pouches are exempt from security screening. You'll still have to go through the checkpoint, but you won't be slowed down by the x-ray machine. The manual helpfully explains how to make one, with a description of where the seal could be. Don't worry about getting caught with this one—have you ever seen a diplomatic pouch before? Neither has the 19-year-old TSA officer you'll be presenting it to.
7. Be Disabled
The explosive trace detection (ETD) process, when a TSA officer swabs your bag and runs a sample through a machine to look for trace amounts of explosives, can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, and prosthetic devices are exempt.
8. If You've Got Explosives In Your Checked Luggage, There's Only a 20% Chance They're Going to Actually Open It to Conduct a Test On It
So there's that.
9. Just Skip the Checkpoint and Go In through the Exit Door—They're Not Monitored by Trained TSA Officers
It looks like they let just anybody monitor the exits. You could probably sneak by them.
10. Print Out the Supervisor's Standard Operating Procedures Manual and Show it to the TSA Officers
They'll get distracted because that stuff's supposed to be supersecret, and while they're busy e-mailing their supervisor to report a breach, you can just walk right through.