Below is a recently leaked transcript of a meeting that took place in TSA headquarters in Arlington VA sometime within the last two years.
Kip Hawley (TSA Administrator): Is this thing on? Check, check. OK, cool. Welcome everyone to the secret lair, as I like to call it. Mike, thanks for making the trek over from DHS headquarters.
Michael Chertoff (Secretary of Department of Homeland Security): No problem. Please don't call me Mike.
Hawley: Um, sorry. Michael, then?
Chertoff: Well, you said this meeting was top secret. I think we should use code names. I'll be Big Daddy.
Hawley: Well, we are at TSA headquarters, which kinda makes me Big Daddy.
Chertoff: How about if you're Number One?
Hawley: That works. Lessee, I guess our first order of business should be giving code names to everyone else.
Dana Brown (Assistant Administrator for Law Enforcement and Director of Federal Air Marshal Service): Oh! I have one! How about AALEDFAMS!?
Hawley: That's way too obvious. Not to mention hard to pronounce.
Brown: OK, Number Two then.
William Gaches (Assistant Administrator for Intelligence and Analysis): Uh, you can't be Number Two. My position is just as high as yours.
Brown: Well, your title isn't as long as mine.
Hawley: Enough, you two. Dana, you're gonna be Viper. Bill, we're calling you Blade.
Gaches: Blade. I like that. It's very sharp, very cutting edge.
Ellen Howe (Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications / Public Affairs): I wanna be Silent Avenger!
Hawley: Silent, my foot! You are henceforth Flack. As in PR flack. Haha. Get it?
Howe: I don't think that one really suits my personality.
Hawley: Well, I'll remember it better. OK, Viper, why don't you tell the team what we've been cooking up?
Francine Kerner (Chief Counsel): Ahem.
Hawley: Oh, you're here, aren't you. I suppose you want a name. How about "f%&@#g lawyer?" Haha. Just kidding. That's a compliment. No, really. Um you can call yourself Nightslayer. Go ahead, Viper.
Brown: Well, team, we have a pretty serious PR problem here at TSA. Our polling numbers are down there with IRS agents, airline management, and the Yankees. But worse than being disliked is that the flying public doesn't take us seriously anymore. They think we're simply another overinflated federal bureaucracy that's marked by incompetence and overwhelming groupthink. They say our employees aren't any better than the minimum wage private screeners we replaced. They say that TSA stands for Thousands Standing Around. Now: do any of you know what is to blame for this PR problem?
Howe: I'm sorry. I try, I really do. The reporters just don't like me. I think they laugh at me behind my back.
Brown: Nobody's blaming you, Flack. The real problem, team, is that the TSA isn't exciting enough. I mean, if we sit around staring at x-ray monitors all day and no knives or guns get through our checkpoints, who cares!? The public wants action! The FBI and CIA and Secret Service and US Marshalls kick down doors and shoot people and stuff, and they get action movies made about them. Nobody's making a movie about the TSA. Heck, even the DEA had Traffic.
Gaches: Well, we do have the Air Marshalls.
Brown: True, and that's a good start, but there are all the annoying rules about not identifying themselves to the passengers. It's not really great action movie material - believe me, I tried writing a script and didn't get past about ten pages. The most action they've seen was shooting that retard on the plane in Miami.
Kerner: What a fiasco that was. We don't need more action like that...
Brown: Wrong, nightslayer. If you look past the whole "innocent man gets gunned down" angle, that was actually a pretty good PR boost for us. I mean, it actually showed people that we're out there and ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. And it was a good piece of shooting from the air marshalls, if I say so myself. Boom, boom - two headshots!
Chertoff: What do you have in mind, Viper?
Brown: Glad you asked, Big Daddy. What I have in mind is sort of SWAT meets A-Team meets U.S. Seals. We assemble crack teams of various specialties - sharpshooters, bomb-sniffing canine units, human intelligence experts, etc - and send them out across the country to protect not only airplanes, but airports and train and bus stations, too, basically anything transportation related.
Gaches: Wow, I like it! We can assign code names to the teams, too, and outfit them with the latest weaponry and communications equipment. Every unit can have their own Q. It'll be like a Popular Science spread.
Hawley: Yeah, it'll be really sweet. Nothing shouts cool like an agent in shades and a trench coat carrying a huge submachine gun. It'll make the TSA look like a competent, proactive organization that's actually doing something to keep Americans safe rather than simply confiscating shampoo.
Chertoff: This is all just fine, but we already have local and federal law enforcement doing exactly this, to say nothing of National Guard troops deployed to help them. I'm not sure that one more agency doing this is necessary.
Hawley: Well, do they have "transportation" in their name? I think not, and that makes it our jurisdiction! One more agency won't hurt. And really, this isn't so much about increasing actual security as it is changing the public's perception of the TSA and transportation security in general. Come to think of it, that's the purpose of a lot of things we do around here!
Gaches: So who are we going to put in these teams?
Brown: Well, air marshalls, for starters. Right now they're just riding around in airplanes, never doing anything. They'll be the muscle, they're handy with weapons.
Kerner: OK, that's a problem. The Federal Air Marshall program that Congress authorized is pretty narrowly defined. It makes it pretty clear that their main jurisdiction is on board aircraft. I don't see where the authorization comes to use them as a general purpose law enforcement agency.
Gaches: Did we ask your opinion, Nightslayer? Jeeze. Leave it to the lawyers to screw everything up with "authorizations" and "jurisdictions."
Kerner: Congress isn't going to be happy.
Hawley: Well, if they don't want us using air marshalls, they should've funded another enforcement arm for us. And since when has a federal agency not expanded beyond it's original authorization? Those guys on the hill gotta expect it by now.
Howe: Once we publicize how much these teams are doing to protect America from the terrorists, nobody in Congress will bother to criticize us. I mean, if it's helping out in the war on terror, who cares how we go about it, right?
Gaches: Exactly. OK Viper, who else will be on the teams other than air marshalls?
Brown: Well, we'll definately do K9 units. Everyone loves dogs, especially police dogs. It adds a human touch. Like, yeah, we might shoot first and ask questions later if you're a suspicious looking arab, but we're also just normal people who like to play baseball and drink beer and pet our bomb-sniffing dogs.
Howe: Do they all have to be German Shepherds? Can't we get some Jack Russell Terriers or English Bulldogs?
Brown: I'll definately look into that. Let's see, we'll also have highly trained TSA agents to scan the crowds looking for suspicious behavior.
Kerner: Like what?
Brown: Sweating, nervousness, agitation, impatience.
Kerner: I've seen a lot of sweating, impatient people in airports.
Brown: Exactly! That's why we need people to be on the lookout for them.
Hawley: Making derogatory remarks about the TSA is also classic suspicious behavior.
Brown: Yeah, definitely. I'm sure Mohommed Atta made a TSA joke before he went through screening. Or would've if the TSA existed then.
Howe: Have you considered including clairvoyants on the teams? I could recommend one, she's very, very good at reading people's auras, picking up on negative energy.
Brown: Duly noted. We'll look into it.
Chertoff: Have you begun procurements for the teams?
Hawley: We've just started that process. We're currently in negotiations with GMC for specially equiped tactical vehicles.
Gaches: I think we should issue the .50 Desert Eagle as our standard sidearm. It can stop a charging moose dead in it's tracks. Not that I anticipate we'll have to do that, at least not very often.
Brown: Excellent choice, Blade. There's nothing as American as a ridiculously overpowered handgun. Even if it's made in Isreal.
Hawley: I've been thinking. I saw a pair of X-ray glasses in the back of my son's Boy's Life magazine. I'll bet those would be really useful. They weren't that expensive. Let's see about getting some.
Chertoff: You guys can sort out the details, I gotta get back to the Hill. First, tell me what you're planning on calling these teams?
Brown: We were thinking COBRA.
Chertoff: What does that stand for?
Brown: That's the trouble. We can't come up with an acronym for it.
Brown: Maybe it doesn't have to stand for anything. Cobra just sounds kinda cool. Mayby the Red Cobras, or Purple Cobras?
Chertoff: Weren't the Cobras the bad guys in some movie?
Hawley: Well, we kinda wanna be the bad guys. Not in the "axis of evil" sense of course. Just kinda bad. Like don't mess with us. Kinda like a biker gang. Hey, Hell's Angels would be a pretty good team name!
Hawley: Well, same concept.
Brown: Oh! Oh! If not Cobras...how about Vipers!!!
Gaches: Bah. Of course you'd think that. Why not Blades?
Brown: Because I have an acronym. Do you have an acronym?
Gaches: Um. Brave...Lads....All....
Kerner: Too sexist.
Brown: Too Braveheart.
Gaches: Well what's your acronym then!?
Brown: This is brilliant. Visible Intermodal Protection and Response. VIPER.
Gaches: What about the E?
Brown: Fine, VIPR. Pronounced Viper. That's so sweet! They'll be Viper teams and they can all have code names like Cobra, Adder, Black Mamba, and Rattlesnake!
Hawley: That's brilliant! I love it! VIPR it is.
Chertoff: Excellent, I'm off. I think the guys on the hill are gonna love this. Viper is really catchy. Very action-oriented. Good work, team.
Howe: I can't wait to get the press releases out on this! This will be much more fun than updating the liquids ban. "Viper Team Ready to Strike At Moment's Notice." Ooh. that's good.
Hawley: OK, folks, I think our work is done for now. Good job Blade, Flack, and, hehe, Viper.
Hawley: You too, Nightslayer. Meeting ajourned.