The TSA Is So Incompetent, It Can’t Even Make a URL

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 29 2013 7:43 PM

The TSA Is So Incompetent, It Can’t Even Make a URL

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A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the PreCheck lane.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In the latest bout of brilliance handed down from the Transportation Security Administration, more frequent fliers and other elite passengers will soon be eligible for something called “expedited screening benefits.” Features include special screening lanes and the luxury of not having to remove your shoes and belt like a common terrorist.

OK, all of that is rather uninteresting—unless you’re the kind of person who thinks programs like the Cedar Point VIP Tour are grossly classist.* (I do.) What’s interesting about TSA Pre✓™—which launched on a small scale in 2011 but is now expanding—is that it’s nearly impossible to go directly to the website by typing in the site’s Web address—because the checkmark and trademark characters are actually part of the URL.

FT-130430-TSA
The checkmark and TM make the URL problematic

Screengrab from TSA.gov

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If you copy and paste the link, you wind up with this monstrosity:

The TSA wasn’t even smart or kind enough to create* redirects for any of the shortened versions people would be likely to use. (Like leaving off either mark or typing “precheck” as a good ol’ American word.) Sure, those interested will probably just Google the program, but anyone who has worked in Web development can tell you this is the strangest, most bass-ackward gimmick we’ve seen in a long time. In other words: Keep up the good work, TSA.

[Via Reddit, by way of Phil Armstrong.]

Update, April 30, 2013: It appears that the URL now redirects to the much more logical www.tsa.gov/expedited-screening. How's that for responsive government?

Correction, April 29, 2013: This blog post originally judged the Disney FASTPASS® as grossly classist, but as commenter Pete R. pointed out, the Disney program is free and available to all. The post now refers instead to the VIP Tour at Cedar Point, where guests can pay $395 to have a park representative personally walk them to the front of the line all day.

Correction, April 30, 2013: This blog post also originally said that the TSA could buy a redirect. The TSA would only need to create a redirect.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.

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