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Poll Finds Americans Think the TSA Is 'Doing a Good Job' 523

OverTheGeicoE writes "Why is it that airport security never seems to change in the United States? Perhaps it's because most Americans think the TSA is doing a 'good job,' according to a surprise Gallup poll, allegedly commissioned by no one but the kind editors at Gallup. The poll found that 54% of Americans believe the TSA is doing a good or excellent job, and that 57% have a good or excellent opinion of the agency. So why all the criticism? According to the article, criticism of the TSA comes primarily from 'Internet sites, where reporting standards are generally not at the same level as newspapers, where reporters are taught to consider what is told to them with skepticism and to seek responses to charges.' Furthermore, 'the TSA is put into a difficult situation when such charges are posted with little or no fact checking by reporters.' Other sources, of course, have different interpretations of Gallup's results, including questions about whether the poll was biased. If Americans secretly do love the TSA, that could explain why the recent petition failed to gather enough signatures for a 'response.' In fact, you'll find so little information about the petition remains on that you'll wonder if my link is correct. And these are not the droids you're looking for. Move along."
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Poll Finds Americans Think the TSA Is 'Doing a Good Job'

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  • Real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gander666 ( 723553 ) * on Friday August 10, 2012 @10:57AM (#40946051) Homepage

    Most of the people either don't travel by air, or travel very infrequently. Those of us who are road warriors are vastly more likely to hate the TSA with vehemence.

    • by kthreadd ( 1558445 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:04AM (#40946141)

      So you're saying TSA don't do a good job?
      Then tell me how many buildings terrorists have flown airplanes into recently. Name one!

      • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:10AM (#40946247) Homepage a proportion of such incidents in countries without that kind of security theater?

      • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:13AM (#40946293) Homepage Journal

        How many terrorists has the TSA caught?

        If the number is large, then your question is relevant. Otherwise they are the magic rock that keeps the tigers away.

        • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <(VortexCortex) ( ...> on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:55AM (#40946977)

          How many terrorists has the TSA caught?

          If the number is large, then your question is relevant. Otherwise they are the magic rock that keeps the tigers away.

          Act now and with every tiger repelling Magic Rock, get a Magic Sling that Slays Giants!

          But wait there's more!

          Sign up within the next election year, and We'll throw in a 2000 year old instruction manual that also contains the secret to Eternal* Life!

          *Additional restrictions apply, offer not valid in the states of New England, the West Coast, or Sanity.

        • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Informative)

          by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @01:22PM (#40948127) Homepage
          None. Not a single terrorist has been caught by the American TSA.

          There have been several that were known to be terrorists who, under a sting operation, the TSA were waiting for.

          But there has not been a SINGLE confirmed terrorist that the TSA did not know was a terrorist the day before they showed up, that the TSA caught.

          Of course, the TSA is a relatively new agency.

        • Now ask how many times TSA has had to change their procedures after someone tried to blow up their shoes/underwear/water bottles...

      • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:23AM (#40946467)

        You think the creation of the TSA is the only thing that has changed? What about increased cockpit security or the willingness of citizens to fight back? You seem to be assuming that it's all because of the TSA, but the other things that have changed seem to be vastly more effective than simply molesting people airports.

        But even if they were effective, I believe they must be opposed. Violating people's privacy and freedoms for safety is not acceptable to me.

        • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:41AM (#40946747) Homepage Journal

          Interestingly, younger Americans âoehave significantly more positive opinions of the TSA than those who are older,â Gallup said, noting that 67% of people between 18 and 29 rate the agency as excellent or good.

          "And that," put in the Director sententiously, "that is the secret of happiness and virtue - liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny."
          -- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Ch. 1

      • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:24AM (#40946489)

        So you're saying TSA don't do a good job? Then tell me how many buildings terrorists have flown airplanes into recently. Name one!

        Oh no the TSA has done an excellent job. Mind, their job has very little to do with terrorists or safety, and everything to do with making Americans feel safe (with a nice side order of funneling money to certain congress/senatorial districts), and they have done a quite good job at that. After all, very few people want a government that looks like it isn't doing anything (Democrat or Republican), no matter what it actually should be, or is, doing.

        • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:41AM (#40946739)

          No, the TSA's job is to make Americans think they should feel safe, while actually making them feel less safe (by making sure they are aware of the 'danger'), thereby justifying the government to spend more money on safety against terrorists.

          • by alcourt ( 198386 )

            The TSA always gets nervous when they see me about to enter the scanner holding a permitted object in my hand? They have told me I should not feel safe in the security area.

            The object in question is an emergency asthma inhaler. The TSA panics completely when someone has an asthma attack in the security area.

        • their job has very little to do with terrorists or safety, and everything to do with making Americans feel safe.

          If they're supposed to make people feel safe then why do they keep stealing their laptops/phones/cameras/etc.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:24AM (#40946495)

        You think that they are doing a good job? Many people beg to differ:

        Adam Savage from Mythbusters:
        Chidren in Wheelchairs:
        Molested Women:
        Lactating Mothers:
        Drug Dealers:
        TSA Agents:
        The TSA Itself:

        Exactly how many "Shoe Bombers", "Underwear Bombers","Chemical Terrorists", and "TSA Screeners" have they caught?

      • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Informative)

        by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:30AM (#40946591)
        In Israel? Zero. And they do not have the TSA, and find them quite laughable. []
      • Re:Real reason (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mr1911 ( 1942298 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:35AM (#40946653)

        So you're saying TSA don't do a good job?

        No, he was saying the TSA doesn't do a good job.

        Then tell me how many buildings terrorists have flown airplanes into recently. Name one!

        Did you quit beating your wife today?

    • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:04AM (#40946143)

      Pollsters always seem to be sampling or over sampling the wrong people.

      They evidently polled AMTrak passengers for this one.

      • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Informative)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @02:09PM (#40948977) Homepage Journal

        They evidently polled AMTrak passengers for this one.

        Other way around. If my experience chatting with Amtrak passengers is any indication, about 80% of them are there because of the TSA, or at least agreed with me that they're a bunch of bozos on a power trip.

        No, in reality, the people who like the TSA tend to be the people who fly, but infrequently. The people who fly frequently are fed up with it and wouldn't give them a good score even if what they are doing were useful. The people who don't fly, or fly infrequently, have very little to go on, and so they make the best call based on their limited information coupled with their limited understanding of what actually makes people safe.

        That last part is key. You see, for people who do not actually understand security—your typical person, as opposed to those of us here on Slashdot, most of whom have to maintain at least some understanding of security principles as part of our jobs—anything you do under the guise of security makes them feel like you're doing a good job.

        That's why if you ask your average person what they think of a screen where a company is asking you security questions, they'll tell you that because the company wants more information about you, it must mean the company is serious about security. If you ask a security researcher what they think of the screen, they'll immediately tell you that the security questions almost always weaken security, not strengthen it.

        Public opinion is useless for this sort of thing. You want useful information about how good a job the TSA is doing, ask security researchers. You want information about how mad the public is, ask a random sampling of air travelers, and only air travelers. Asking the public as a whole is a worthless metric. It's like asking the public, "Does this guy look like a murderer?" without presenting any of the facts of the case. It's a great way of seeing how much the general public is paying attention and how much their confirmation bias gets in the way of them learning new information, but not much else apart from psychology research. Heck, all you really have to do is show them a picture, and you'll get answers that are heavily skewed towards yes [].

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:09AM (#40946229) Homepage

      The article has a significant bias that's expressed in the spin it puts on the result. Data showing 54% of Americans think the TSA does a "good or excellent job" is not "Americans secretly do love the TSA." It could just as accurately be summarized "Nearly half of Americans think TSA is not doing a good job."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The article IS crap. First off because what you just said, but it also compares apples with wallnuts. Websites that post news, journalists that report all TSA's "good job" state facts, if they weren't, then we'd see all kinds of trials in addition to all this. What THIS article states, is the "impression" the citizens have of TSA. You see, he's comparing reality with imagination.

        One other thing that irks me is that in the article (yes, I read it a little) is that approval from the younger segment is even hi

      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:25PM (#40947375)

        But the problem, as I see it, is that if less than half the population doesn't see something as a problem, it's simply not going to be addressed in this political climate, especially when we have two very bad, and and very similar (to each other) parties in power. The only way unpopular stuff gets changed in this country any more is if a very large majority is pissed off about it. A significant minority is mad about something? Too bad. They're not enough to count at the polls.

        Heck, let's look at this very issue. Are any candidates talking about it? The only one I've heard recently was Rand Paul, and he's just a senator from one (not terribly large) state, and doesn't really represent any party or group, and is kinda on the fringe. Romney isn't talking about it at all, and given the Republican party position (aside from Rand of course, who with his father basically disagree with the other Republicans on nearly everything), is likely to be a big proponent of TSA, despite his lame claims of being in favor of "small government". And Obama certainly isn't talking about it, since all the recent TSA abuses have been under his authority. So it's not like you're going to be able to elect someone who'll make a change. If you tell Obama you don't like how the TSA is operating, he'll just laugh in your face and say "what are you going to do, vote for Romney?"

    • Re:Real reason (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:14AM (#40946319) Journal

      I swore off air travel before the rape scans were ever considered. Being treated worse than cattle by the airlines was enough for me. There is absolutely nothing that could ever happen that would get me on an airplane again. The airlines can fuck off and die as far as I'm concerned.

    • That was my thought. 20% of Americans used air travel for business, and 48% have used air travel for leisure. That is for an entire year and doesn't say how many times. If you are like me, I only go for work maybe once a year. I am too cheap to fly for shits and grins. So in that once a year I go, I think the TSA bit has been different every time I went through. My general impression is it's a grossly bloated and mostly ineffective federal agency. Security theater so to speak. It plays well with the rubes a

    • Re:Real reason (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:04PM (#40947119)

      I think the real reason is because people don't watch the news (except NBC, etc which pretends everything is just fine & dandy). People are often shocked when I show them video or stories about elderly persons being stripped, or tackled by TSA, or sexually groped.

      Of course there's also the opposite reaction: People who read a story about a cop killing a person while he's sitting at home watching TV and they say, "The cops were just doing their job." They probably have the same dumbass view of the TSA..... where basically the cops/security agents can do no wrong. Immunity.

  • advertisement (Score:5, Informative)

    by nazsco ( 695026 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @10:57AM (#40946055) Journal

    how do you prove to potential clients that you can skew every public opinion survey?

    release one saying TSA is loved!

    • by BigT ( 70780 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:02AM (#40946117)

      Sample question from the TSA survey:

      Do you think the TSA is:
      a) Doing an excellent job
      b) Doing a great job
      c) The best thing EVAR!
      d) The reason I hate America, children, and puppies.

      • Re:advertisement (Score:5, Insightful)

        by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:15AM (#40946325)
        I think that in people's minds it was more like:
        a. they're doing a good job
        b. they're not doing a good job so when they see people vote for this option, they will step up their security to even more ridiculous levels

        Seriously, I don't think it's outrageous to say that people realistically thought if they voted no, security would get more intrusive
        • Wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Oxford_Comma_Lover ( 1679530 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:25AM (#40946517)

          It's not that they're not doing a "good job"--most interactions with them are fine. It's that they're doing the wrong job.

          There are enough horror stories that they get a bad rap, sure. But the bigger point is that they are doing a job that it is stupid for us to be paying for. It inconveniences every traveller in the US and it does not make us significantly safer. Secure the cockpit doors and stop worrying about bombs--if you secure the cockpit doors, all they can do is blow up the plane, and they can blow up a bus so it's a ridiculous waste of money and time to be providing absurd security.

          9/11 was (1) an attack that could only work once and (2) about flying the planes. Take away the ability to fly the planes, and the plane is no longer a particularly useful terror target, it's just a target.

          Don't get me wrong--I'm happy that there are people working to make terrorist attacks on the US harder. I just don't believe that the TSA is a useful way to spend those resources.

      • Do you think the TSA is:
        a) Doing an excellent job
        b) I wish to be put on a "no fly" list
        c) I request to be strip "searched" by Manny.
        d) I invite the FBI visit my house.
        e) b, c, and d.

  • by CuteSteveJobs ( 1343851 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @10:58AM (#40946059)
    > Most Americans think the TSA is doing a 'good job,'

    Of course they do. That's the whole point of security theatre:

    Security theater: term that describes security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security. []
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      and tsa thinks that somewhat is good when interpreting the results.

      and polled mostly people who hadn't flown and just miniscule amount of people who could compare with other countries..

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Friday August 10, 2012 @10:59AM (#40946075)

    I don't think it requires assuming the poll was biased or that "internet sites" are posting un-vetted charges. A simpler explanation is that, even if the TSA does suck, most Americans either don't know or don't care. In particular, a significant percentage of Americans don't fly regularly, and they tend to support whatever air-security measures some official claims are necessary. To them, something that sounds like security is good, and who cares if someone's inconvenienced, because it's not them anyway. For example, a 2010 poll [] found that x-ray scanners and new pat-down procedures were more popular among non-fliers:

    Among Americans who fly at least once a year, 58 percent support the new x-ray scanners, versus 70 percent of Americans who fly less often than that. Support for the new pat-down procedures is at 44 percent among fliers, meanwhile, versus 52 percent among those who do not fly regularly.

    • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:10AM (#40946239)

      In other words, people like it when bad things happen to other people but not themselves.

    • by epp_b ( 944299 )

      To them, something that sounds like security is good, and who cares if someone's inconvenienced, because it's not them anyway.

      This is exactly the problem: too many people completely ignorant to "first they came..." situations.

      It reminds me of an unrelated, but applicable, quote I heard in a video from a National Geographic photographer...

      On our drive out, my assistant spotted this big stork, with an eight-foot wingspan, that looked like it was trying poke a hole in a great egret ... and we waited out

  • 54% is LOW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:02AM (#40946111) Homepage
    If 54% think it's doing a 'good job', that means that 46% of Americans DON'T think it's doing a good job.

    Fifty four percent is incredibly bad performance - it's a failure at a high school test.

    What if I were to tell you that 55% of Americans think the IRS is doing a good job? It's certainly something I could believe - as the IRS audits less than 1% of Americans each year. Give something to compare it to. Otherwise, this is a puff article designed to make the TSA look good without any evidence WHATSOEVER.

  • by theRunicBard ( 2662581 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:02AM (#40946113)
    Most Americans think that evolution is controversial, that Algebra is too hard for them, that FOX is informative, and that the Earth revolves around Oprah. Indeed, nothing strange here. Move along.
  • HAHAHA! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TorrentFox ( 1046862 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:04AM (#40946153)

    'Internet sites, where reporting standards are generally not at the same level as newspapers, where reporters are taught to consider what is told to them with skepticism and to seek responses to charges.'

    I haven't laughed so hard in months. Thank you, PR lackey, for brightening my day.

  • by Brewster Jennings ( 2642639 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:07AM (#40946187)

    I accidentally left my sunglasses and jacket in one of those tubs that you put through the scanner last Christmas while rushing to a last minute flight after some genius wearing more chains than Mr. T snarled up the security queue for 30 minutes at a regional airport.

    Upon returning a week later and checking in with TSA agents, I found out they had itemized and bagged my stuff and got both back to me in less than 15 minutes.

    Not everywhere is Dulles.

  • Petitions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:11AM (#40946251) Journal

    The petition failed to gain enough signatures because everyone knows that they won't get a real response from the administration. Case in point, there was a petition that got 75,000 signatures (3 times the threshold) where the President was asked to explain why Cannabis should not be regulated by alcohol. The response was written by the Drug Czar, and failed to mention alcohol once.

    This was the great hope for change we elected in 2008. This was what was supposed to be the most transparent administration in history. And he can't even answer a simple question about his policies honestly.

  • by ax_42 ( 470562 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:12AM (#40946273)

    Look at the comments below any newspaper article criticising the TSA. Filled with comments along the lines of "Stop whining about security, I don't care if I have to strip nekkid, as long as the evil ragheads don't blow up my airplane". No concept of relative cost vs risk, no realisation of the fact that this is all theatre, no understanding of the loss of liberties involved. Even the previous head of the TSA (Kip Hawley) by now says that most of the scanners etc are useless, but Joe Sixpack, he reckons the security will keep him alive.

  • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:14AM (#40946315)

    I would like to see some evidence that the TSA is doing a horrible job and that the people who think otherwise are obviously deluded fools as the summary suggests.

    Not saying that it's not, but I'm just a little bit suspicious that such hostility towards the TSA comes from the anecdotal evidence of few unnecessary searches of grannies and such and personal experiences of relatively minor inconvenience and not from a thorough and impartial analysis of the security procedures based on deep knowledge of what it takes to secure airports.

    • Re:TSA (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:23AM (#40946469) Journal

      I would like to see some evidence that the TSA is doing a horrible job

      Easily done [].

      According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago's O'Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.

    • I would like to see some evidence that the TSA is doing a horrible job

      I'd personally say that there is no way for them to do a good job because I believe their job is evil to begin with. With increased cockpit security and the willingness of citizens to fight back, I honestly don't see why anyone would credit the TSA with stopping anything. Not that their performance matters, though.

      personal experiences of relatively minor inconvenience

      I don't think that things such as freedom or privacy are minor issues.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:16AM (#40946343) Journal
    I don't know a single person out of my entire family, friends or co-workers who think the TSA does a good job. There is something seriously wrong with this poll.
  • by Coisiche ( 2000870 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:17AM (#40946355)

    Yesterday's article showed how it's done: Poll printed in Baskerville font!

  • by Kit Cosper ( 7007 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:22AM (#40946453) Homepage Journal

    The inconsistency of their agents has to be the most annoying thing. In Dallas a few weeks ago they were uniformly polite and efficient. In Oklahoma City they tend to be pretty good as well. In Charlotte they like to pretend they are Gestapo agents and in In Fort Lauderdale they are crass and unobservant (had a new bottle of gel toothpaste in my carry-on that went unnoticed because they were too busy bitching about the phone charger and camera clumped together) in smaller airports they tend to fumble around a lot. I flew out of Washington National a few years ago with my 8 inch dive knife in my carry-on (by accident.)

    I think TSA satisfaction would increase if the airlines hadn't turned the security checkpoint into a baggage checkpoint. The volume of luggage going through the system slows everything down and creates more hassle, which is communicated to the passengers. Flying is no longer a luxury in most cases, it's a necessity. As such the airlines really don't care about providing customer service, they only try to avoid liability. This touches everyone who participates in the system.

  • Breakdown by age? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:26AM (#40946543)

    I'd be very interested to see a breakdown in these poll results by age. I would not be at all surprised to see younger, more Internet-connected respondents have a more negative view of the TSA, while the Fox News generation (average viewer age 65 [], average age for Bill O'Reilly viewers 71 []) tends toward a more positive view. We see the same thing with numerous other issues where pretty much everyone on sites like Slashdot agrees, but the actual politics seem to be lagging behind. For instance, 50% of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana [] according to recent Gallup Polls, but while 62% of people in the 18-29 age bracket are in favor, only 31% of senior citizens do. And those seniors vote at a MUCH higher rate than young people. This is why issues relevant to old people are discussed endlessly, while issues important to the young are simply ignored. It's why college funding keeps getting cut every year while Medicare and Social Security remain untouchable.

    Get out there and vote this November! Even if it's just for the lesser of two evils, vote anyway. The only way this imbalance will be fixed is if young people start voting at the same rate as older Americans.

  • Intimidation (Score:4, Informative)

    by Penurious Penguin ( 2687307 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:31AM (#40946601) Journal
    In a recent Schneier article titled Court Orders TSA to Answer EPIC [] a menacing comment was left by what claimed to be 'Blogger Bob' from the TSA's blog. It may be and likely enough is a dupe, but seemed terribly appropriate for the TSA. I have pasted it below for your reading pleasure:

    "I've been asked to respond to this post in order to clarify misunderstandings that some people may have.

    The TSA properly exempted itself from the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Sunshine Act. The TSA granted itself the exemption for valid reasons that must remain classified for National Security reasons, so you'll have to trust us on that.

    The TSA also had a valid grounds for respectfully refusing to comply with both court orders. The reasons are also classified for National Security reasons, so again you'll have to trust us the refusal was appropriate and necessary. But I can tell you that the decision was based on thorough analysis of the latest robust intelligence pertaining to the current threat environment.

    In both cases, TSA Counsel determined that any form of notice and comment rulemaking regarding the deployment of AIT would be detrimental to National Security, based on the classified determinations I referenced above. TSA Counsel prepared a classified memorandum exempting the agency from notice and comment requirements. TSA Counsel believes that the National Security determinations set forth in the classified memorandum give the TSA full authority to disregard any court orders requiring notice and comment rulemaking.

    You are, of course, free to sign the petition. But it will have no more effect than the lawsuit or the court order. And do be aware that pursuant to classified TSA procedures, any names on the petition will be forwarded to the Terrorist Screening Center for possible inclusion on appropriate watch lists.

    Thank you for allowing me to address your concerns about this matter."

    Posted by: Blogger Bob at August 2, 2012 6:39 PM

    Perhaps the poll was conducted with a stick. But then again, we are a libidinous culture.

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