Hacking the TSA: Exploiting my terrorist status to skip 45-minute lines
I did it. I gamed the system to skip the security line. And I will strike again.
It took a big chunk of my dignity, but after swearing I wouldn’t do it, I did.
What follows is a story of a trick any terrorist can use to skip right to the front of the line, any line.
Even one like this:
This is the line I saw 4 days before Christmas, one of those “busiest travel days of the year.” I was on the cusp of “late” for a flight to visit my mom for Christmas. I gauged it to be a 40-minute line, at least.
There was one weapon in my arsenal I swore I’d never use. It was degrading, slave-like, and dangerously close to submissive boot licking. And in a situation like this, it was also ruthlessly effective.
It was a trick a TSA agent told me over a year prior. There was a way to exploit the “SSSS” terrorist designation on my boarding pass to skip directly to the front of the line.
But it came with a catch…
How it usually works – The terrorist in line
Here’s how it’s supposed to go: You’re a terrorist, you wait in line, and at the part where they check your boarding pass, TSA sees that “SSSS” code marking you as a threat, get big eyes, call for a supervisor, and take you on the walk of shame.
Sometimes, at some airports, they have an extra tier of security, where they put people checking boarding passes well before the podium-people.
I love that. The sooner the TSA sees your boarding pass the better. I’ll explain why.
Everything changes when the first TSA agent sees your boarding pass. Their eyes get big, they turnaround and whisper into mouthpiece on their shoulder (often the wrong shoulder, because there’s two of them, which presents a 50/50 chance of stupid people getting it right), and so on. That’s where you become a marked man, and like a prisoner in transit, they won’t allow you to leave their sight.
That last part is key.
How I learned to exploit this
There’s always TSA people just kind of standing around at the mouth of the line, shuffling things around, fighting terrorism via sloth and idleness, etc.
I walked up to the first TSA person I saw, showed him my pass, and said:
“I think I’m supposed to get special treatment.”
He took a long look.
“Yes… yes you are. Follow me.”
Ropes were lifted, crowds were parted, and I was escorted directly to the front. The 45-minute line became a 45-second line.
Why this works
- You’ve become their prisoner. Once alerted to your presence, the TSA doesn’t let people on the “Selectee List” leave their sight. I can’t confirm this is a rule, but it is a practice. Its an express-pass to the nearest supervisor. And the shortest distance between two points, they say, is a straight line…
- Dorks like being the hero. Being the one to deliver a terrorist to the supervisor is some kind of badge of honor for TSA dorks. Its like being the loser on the schoolyard who drags a kid who snuck off-campus for lunch into the principle’s office by his collar. Once they’ve seen your terrorist boarding pass, no TSA person will pass on the opportunity to parade you to the nearest supervisor.
The catch: Surrender.
I was caught in one of those timeless dilemmas: The underdog, under the boot of a tyrannical force, is granted a slight reprieve or concession…. If he supplicates himself to his oppressor.
This “front of the line” TSA hack went the same way: Submit myself to a TSA agent and communicate “Hey I am a threat. I now surrender myself to you.”
I was a fugitive for 8 years. This gets me at my core.
Then again, you can’t really stand your mom up on Christmas.
And that’s how I bypassed that line the rest of you had to stand in on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Cool how a small act of terrorism 15 years ago can pay a lifetime of dividends. What a country.