What Does the TSA Do?


Quick Answer

The Transportation Safety Agency, or TSA, works with regulators, transportation facilities, law enforcement and intelligence agencies to ensure the security of the nation’s transportation systems. Its mission is to ensure that people and freight are able to travel safely throughout the country.

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Full Answer

The TSA was established shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks to combat terrorism and increase security throughout the nation’s entire transportation system. Most of its counterterrorism efforts are dedicated to protecting air travel and involve gathering and analyzing intelligence, and many activities are not made public.

The agency maintains security at airports and works closely with regulators to establish rules governing passenger screening and baggage handling and sets restrictions on what passengers are allowed to carry, when they are allowed to board and what documents they are required to have. Agents cross-reference passenger manifests against watch lists, verify passenger identity and conduct checkpoint screenings of passengers and random screenings by canine teams. Agents also inspect checked baggage for explosives and other prohibited items. The TSA trains airline flight personnel to detect and react to signs of potential threats and works with carriers to maintain a constant state of readiness. The agency also assesses its own performance by testing its systems and instituting changes when needed and communicates with lawmakers to address safety concerns and promote legislation to improve security.

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