Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From One Bud to Another

I wrote this message on behalf of Mr. Rich.  I also wrote to the company that manufactured the contact lens solution. I thought I would be fair and allow a reasonable amount of time to receive a response from the TSA Ombudsman. As you can see, it was written on 2-6-2011. If by chance I do receive a response either before or after this posting, I will advise of the date received.

Reply |Accounts to me
show details Feb 6 (6 days ago)

Thank you for your inquiry to the Transportation Security Administration submitted on 2/6/2011 at 12:15 AM. We have forwarded your email to the appropriate group for response.

Name: safe traveler
Brief Description of Inquiry: prescription liquid medications

On your page titled “Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions”, as well as the linked memo ( dated 9 -25-2006, you clearly state:

Additionally, we are continuing to permit prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by persons with disabilities and medical conditions. This includes:

• All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including petroleum jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes;

It is also stated in this section that

However, if the liquid medications are in volumes larger than 3.4 ounces (100ml) each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag and must be declared to the Transportation Security Officer. A declaration can be made verbally, in writing, or by a person's companion, caregiver, interpreter, or family member.

I believe it is reasonable to infer from these specifics that

a.)    Containers of contact lens solutions are allowed to brought aboard an airliner as “carry   on”.

b.)    Such containers that exceed 3 ounces are allowed as “carry on” but must be packaged separate from the “3-1-1 quart bags” and must be declared.

Is this correct? If an individual then finds that this policy is not adhered to at a particular airport, what remedies are offered? Is there any possibility of reimbursement? If this policy is not outdated, could you please address this on your TSA page? I believe accurate information reduces confusion at our airports.
As the TSA Ombudsman, I hope that you address this concern and respond accordingly.

I await your reply.

Help us keep the dignity. Offer some comments. Email any experiences you had simply because you chose to fly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seeing Clearly Now

Acting on behalf of Mr. Rich  "Following Directions" ,  it took less than 2 days to receive a response from the folks at Ciba Vision. They must have read the post about the basics of being an Ombudsman. I took the liberty of deleting the particular chemical compound from the letter. Not that it’s what might be considered dangerous or toxic; I just don't want to unknowingly upset the TSA. I  did correspond with the TSA Ombudsman around the same time. I would love to receive a reply but, like our first traveler Mr. Rich, I wouldn't hold my breath.


Thank you for contacting CIBA VISION regarding our solutions in reference to current air travel carry-on restrictions.  We are always pleased to be made aware of our consumers' interests and appreciate the opportunity to be of assistance.

Clear Care® contains  (  deleted  )  which is on the list of TSA banned solutions; however, contact lens solutions are exempt and should be allowed for carry on.  Although our Clear Care travel size is TSA compliant, it is at the discretion of the individual TSA agent to allow the product to pass.  Unfortunately, some airports and agents are more strict than others, and will not allow the solution to be carried on the plane.

Again, we appreciate your taking the time to contact us and your support of CIBA VISION.

Jennifer COA, NCLC-AC
Senior Product Consultant
CIBA Vision Corporation
North American Division

I am certain that had the TSA responded accordingly, Mr. Rich may have been disappointed about the loss of the lens solution, but he certainly would have understood the rationale behind it. Apparently Jennifer has been led to believe that each airport interprets or follows the TSA policy and procedure a little differently.

This worries me. Policies and procedures typically provide litigated reasoning to ensure proper behavior and protocol by an organization and its employees. Can you imagine the chaos if each police department was allowed to create or interpret its own state statutes?  Yes, someone probably would create a law entitled "enhanced".

As long as they can allow us to maintain our dignity, I guess it wouldn't be so bad.

(Jennifer, If you are reading this .... Thank you!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paging Miss Nomer

In criminal law, the phrase ‘pat down’ originated from a case called Terry v. Ohio. The litigation not only created a new word but defined allowable behavior of a police officer.

No, the new word is not enhanced.

It is simply a pat down or frisk. Most of us have seen it. A police officer briefly stops a suspect. If the Officer believes the suspect might be armed and poses a risk of danger to anyone, including the officer, the officer is allowed to conduct a limited search for weapons. This is sometimes referred to as a frisk. It is not designed to discover evidence but to quickly ascertain whether the suspect is carrying a weapon.

We have all seen the cop standing a suspect up against a wall. It’s a pat down or a frisk or a terry stop.  It’s not enhanced or special or improved. Just a
pat down. I admit that even with police officers, some are better than others in the art of performing the pat down or frisk. It’s a very quick patting or light slapping (without the hurt) of the hands against the suspects body. Just enough to feel an object like a gun or knife. Not to the point of knowing what they had for dinner.

So what are we really doing at the airport? Do we really want to know?

Many years ago when I was no longer termed a “rookie”, I was involved in the undercover narcotics operations. Some things I wish I could forget. But the education aspect still sticks to me. If you are going to testify in court, make sure you followed the law. Is it really worth it to stick your hands down suspect’s pants to find a nickel bag? I say not. Because If you go ahead and remove or even just rearrange some clothing on a person which likely will permit a visual inspection of a person’s private areas or undergarments, you have just performed a strip search. Toward the end of my law enforcement career, I was the official who had to approve these. I can say with pride that at least we took the fourth amendment very seriously.

Just remember what courts of law have said about strip searches:

“They represent a significant invasion of privacy and are often a humiliating, degrading and traumatic experience for individuals subject to them. Clearly, the negative effects of a strip search can be minimized by the way in which they are carried out, but even the most sensitively conducted strip search is highly intrusive."

So what are the TSA officers actually doing to us? (Don’t you dare say enhanced.) 

Administrative Search. Nothing else and nothing new.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Misleading or Misnomer?

In the Criminal Justice world, there is an old saying;  the pen is mightier than the sword. The first lesson in the Police Academy is "Report Writing". We are only allowed to use certain words to describe certain things.  Believe it or not, they frown on creativity.

Granted, a person who may have committed a crime or is suspected of committing a crime, may be called a suspect  ...   or a perpetrator. A victim is always a victim. Of course, not every officer may be able to accurately define "probable cause" but we all know that there is ONLY probable cause. We don't have special probable cause or enhanced probable cause. Just doesn't happen. Either you have it or not. Its probable cause, period.

So why do we use "enhanced pat down"?

I have yet to find it in a dictionary. The word "enhanced" is there. It's defined by  as "to make greater, as in value or effectiveness. To provide with improved or advanced features".

Remember the First Lesson? Have we made up created a new word just to soothe the masses? Follow along with me. I believe the choice of "enhanced pat down" is more politician friendly than the proper terminology.  Unless the individuals responsible for this term have chosen to use it to be  ...  misleading. It is a possibility but I doubt we will ever find out. In the next post, we will look for our leading lady,   ...  
Miss Nomer.

As in misnomer.

Don't forget. There are a thousand personal experiences out there that are worth sharing. Write to me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ombudsman 101

If there ever was an "Ombudsman" class, I am guessing that there would be an emphasis on taking the time to actually read the letter or complaint. I mean, really read it in its entirety. Most complaints will have a mixture of truths, half-truths and bald faced lies. Some will be direct and to the point with limited bias. Our mission is to pull the major issues out of the letter and to find the answers to the questions or the rationale behind the issue. It is up to us to "corroborate" or confirm the validity of the statements or to investigate the cause of the problem. Not very difficult.

You would be surprised at how simple it is to write an email asking for clarification.

So we confirm truths and half truths. To a point. Bald faced lies we ignore. And the most important thing that an Ombudsman can do is to Follow Up! Most letters or complaints have a tendency to include one common denominator. The individual has been ignored or the question was never answered. Right or wrong isn't necessarily the case. People want to be heard. And they deserve to be.

It doesn’t make a bit of difference if the letter is written by a known criminal. Either they have a case or they don't. Some of my best criminal investigations were initiated by a Prisoner who complained of being robbed of his belongings   . . .  while he was in jail. My job is to see if it happened. Not to treat the crook any more of a criminal or to make any judgments. Behavior makes a crime, not the look or the face.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Up Against The Wall

I guess if we are going to be treated like criminals, we might be as well learn the language.

These terms are defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary Legal Dictionary Home

Quickly patting down the clothes of a suspect to search for a concealed weapon

1) In criminal law, to examine another's premises (including a vehicle) or person to look for evidence of criminal activity. It is unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for law enforcement officers to conduct a search without a "search warrant" issued by a judge, or without facts that give the officer "probable cause" to believe evidence of a specific crime is present and there is not enough time to obtain a search warrant.
2) In civil law, to trace the records of ownership of real property in what is commonly called a "title search."

So say what you want about the Criminal Justice system, at least it has built in safeguards designed to protect those of us from abuse. No sworn officer can legally conduct a strip search without a warrant signed by a judge. And let’s not forget our friend probable cause. This means that the expected gain or the reason to strip naked an individual is reviewed by the state prosecutor as well as signed by a judge. Not because of curiosity or because you like what you see.

(wish me luck .... it begins)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Following Directions

Andrew Rich is a veteran traveler who is meticulous in following directions. He's an engineer. I spoke to him recently about his experiences with medically necessary liquids. Mr. Rich and his wife carried a 12 ounce container of Ciba Vision Clear Care Cleaning and Disinfecting Solution per the TSA guidelines.

Eye drops and saline solution are specifically named in the permissible medical liquids policy. The policy also allows for containers larger than 3.4 ounces as long as they are separate from the "3-1-1" quart bag and declared to a TSA officer.

An un-named TSA Supervisor purported that "Ciba Vision" has chemical qualities which alarm certain detection systems. Mr. Rich pointed out that medically necessary liquids were allowable if they were declared. The Supervisor became belligerent, confiscated the contact lens solution and ordered a repeat screening of Mrs. Rich in a retaliatory move. Apparently, reminding a Supervisor of administrative policies is not a good thing.

Mr. Rich gave up and relinquished the bottle. Like most of us, his flight was departing and he had few options. Mr. Rich did write to the TSA hoping to resolve the conflicting policies, address the unprofessional conduct of the TSA Supervisor and if lucky, recoup the cost of the Ciba Vision.

It has been over eight months since Mr. Rich wrote to the TSA. I can understand the denial of monetary reimbursement. I believe our government is spending enough. However, I can not understand why he hasn't received a response. Mr. Rich continues to travel with “Ciba Vision”. Apparently the chemical qualities dissipate when combined in four separate 3 ounce containers.