Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Security theater still works for some of the masses

In this incredible story of a teenage stowaway who survived dangerous conditions, we see a glimpse of the wizard behind the curtain. Airports are not secure, and it is essentially impossible to make them 100% impenetrable. A quote from an airport rep betrays as much:

"We have 1,050 acres. That's a lot of fence line. He could have scaled the fence line really through any area here at the airport. It's very easy to do so under the cover of darkness, and it appears that's what he did."

Politicians and bureaucrats, such as the one quoted in the article, will say we need more security, more money thrown at the "problem". Some of the public hopefully realizes that calls for tighter security are futile, and - if they are really paying attention - detrimental.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

More TSA harassment

Here is a story about a young woman whose rights were violated when the TSA rifled through her wallet. When they found her fake IDs (for getting into bars, not countries), they threw their weight around.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The TSA Isn’t Good at Reading Body Language (And Neither Are You)

I am pleasantly surprised to see this post at Smithsonian blog. It is critical of the TSA - specifically it's wasteful spending on dubious behavior-detection training - but comes from a government-affiliated institution.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A glimmer of 10th Amendment hope...

...then the hope us extinguished by a Republican politician. According to this news article, Ohio has laws on the book that prohibit the use of x-rays except as prescribed by a doctor. This means that, technically, the TSA can't legally irradiate people in Ohio airports. But a more winnable test case has arisen with the recent spate of jails using naked scanners on inmates (Tuskeegee, much?).

A sheriff in Ohio bought a scanner similar to, but more powerful than, the airports' naked scanners. It is made by a subsidiary of Canon, and is designed to see inside of people to stop smuggling and theft. Well, the Ohio state health department has shut it down (sanity, at last!).

But, of course, a GOP state senator is doing his best to get the ban lifted. Shameful.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to fly and keep your dignity

Love this column giving ideas of tactics to use while flying under the tyranny of the TSA. His first suggestion, to be mentally prepared, is really key. Appearing sympathetic to fellow-passengers, both in appearance and temperament, are also smart ideas. And this is all devised to make sure you actually catch your flight on time.

If you need some source material for his last suggestion of printing out copies of anti-TSA exercises and leaving them in the airport, there are several links on the blogroll at right to choose from.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Link the whistleblower story

This is amazing, but I don't have time to comment on it further. I figure, at the very least, I should post the link to the Politico essay from the TSA whistleblower, Jason Harrington.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How opting-out can help

This editorial is a very thorough history of naked scanners, just in time for opt-out week. A worthy read!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are scanners on their way out?

I am cautiously optimistic that the feds are trying to quietly abandon the naked scanner program. I have been railing against the Trusted Traveler program, now renamed to PreCheck, but I now see this despicable program as, perhaps, a path to being able to fly again. Blasphemous, I know. But bear with me.

Businessweek reports:

"The TSA plans to begin randomly assigning travelers into the PreCheck program when they check in for a flight, assigning the quicker access with a notice on the boarding pass. No new passenger data will be needed—and TSA officials emphasize that there’s no form of request or lobbying a traveler can do to be chosen for the quicker line. The TSA wants to migrate about 25 percent of the travelers it screens each day—about 450,000 people—into the PreCheck lines to improve efficiency."

Naked scanners are expensive to buy, take up a lot of precious space at checkpoints, are likely very costly to maintain, and are politically somewhat unpopular. In addition, the TSA has backed itself into a corner where, in order to maintain the illusion of scanner efficacy while simultaneously giving legal cover for privacy concerns, they created the even more unpopular pat-down opt-out. Many TSA employees probably hate the pat-downs, so now they have disgruntled employees to deal with (not to mention, train). Finally, the scanners are actually not effective at catching determined, intelligent evil-doers.

So, perhaps, the TSA is trying to phase out the scanners in a way that they believe well save face and not anger the vested interests. After all, Chertoff's Rapiscan already lost its contract.

***

Changing gears a bit from seeing into the murky motives of government, what should a protestor such as myself do about PreCheck. If you're still flying, I think it is entirely reasonable to make your journey more comfortable by ponying up the bribe of $85. The background check and fingerprinting are more worrisome from a privacy perspective, but I think this is a judgment call. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you'll get the fast track or avoid the naked scanner. In addition to random checks, this program is not yet instituted at all airports or even all terminals at a participating airport.

One perk - and this is a biggie for me - is children of the PreCheck adult stay with the parent and receive the same level of screening, but they don't have to provide fingerprints, etc. So if you're mostly concerned about protecting your kids, PreCheck is a viable choice. Not a guarantee, but a better chance that you're child will not have their privacy invaded, be molested, or be treated like a criminal.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Flying while individualistic and brown

This is an almost unbelievable account of a young man being held extra-legally for the crime of flying alone while brown during a religious holiday and deviating ever-so-slightly from the herd (ie, "opting out" of the naked scanner).  It it's unclear which aspect(s) of his transgression played the biggest role in his 4 hour interrogation by no fewer than 4 different government bureaucracies and as well as an airline.

Obviously, if you have nothing to hide (which apparently now includes your medical history) you still have much to fear, particularly at an airport.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sometimes, the think tanks come through

This is probably more effective comment than most of the other 4000+ submitted to TSA. I'm glad, in this case, that a think tank like Cato exists to spend time on well-researched comments couched in bureaucrat-ese.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Comment submitted (finally!)



Here is the comment that I just submitted to the feds (better late than never!). (Disclaimer: It's not my finest work.):

I would like to direct my comments for Docket No. TSA-2013-0004 towards two areas of the AIT rule. First, I object on privacy grounds, and, second, I object on safety grounds to the implementation of AIT screening. My recommendation is that the AIT screening program be stopped immediately.

In part IB of the NPRM (Summary of Major Provisions), it says, “AIT currently provides the best available opportunity to detect non-metallic anomalies concealed under clothing without touching the passenger…” followed by, “TSA implemented stringent safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers undergoing AIT screening when AIT units were initially deployed and enhanced privacy further by upgrading it millimeter wave AIT units with ATR software.” As a modest woman who also chooses to raise her children to be modest, I strongly feel that these two statements are contradictory and can not be reconciled. If you are viewing anything under my clothing, or the clothing of my daughter or son, then you are not protecting my privacy. It does not matter to me that the area under my clothing is not seen directly with the naked eye of an individual that I can see, or if a machine is viewing the area under my clothing and transmitting that image either to an individual in another room or to a software program that interprets the image.

This goes to a very fundamental aspect of humanity and, in particular, to a prevalent strain of modesty in America culture bridging across people of various faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Humans wear clothes not only for decorative reasons, but also, and, in some cases, especially, in order to be modest. Anything under the clothes is intentionally hidden, not intended to be viewed by man or machine without express consent (that is, uncoerced undressing). It is, in practice, impossible to take protect passenger privacy while simultaneously forcibly viewing anything that is under passengers’ clothes.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Surrendering" your belongings

My husband had a round-trip flight recently. In his backpack, along with his laptop, he accidentally left a Leatherman. This had been a gift and was personalized with his full name. He believed that he had it in his car, and when it went through security on the first leg of his trip without tripping an alarm, he was none the wiser. He stayed for a week in the Philadelphia area, and still did not notice this knife and tool combo in his bag.

Of course, as luck would have it, his Leatherman was discovered by the TSA at the Philadelphia airport on his return trip. It was confiscated, but in TSA speak: "surrendered." It sounds more voluntary and less totalitarian that way.

After he got home with no further incidents (I guess he is just an innocent citizen and not a threat to national security, after all), he called the TSA to find out how he could receive his property. It does have his name on it (and a somewhat unique name at that as out last name is not very common) so it should be easy to track down. He was told that he had "surrendered" it and that it was now the property of the TSA.

For the sake of the person who gave my husband the Leatherman, I want to assure everyone that my husband liked it very much and did not re-gift it to the TSA, despite what the TSA says.

Back to his conversation with the TSA: My husband asked what had happened to his property and was told by the person he was speaking to (if automatons can be called people) that they "did not have the authority" to tell him where it was. Apparently, my husband's coerced gift to the feds is now a state secret (now do you see why they should free Bradley Manning?).

Googling the subject later, my husband suspects that the property is turned over to the city of Philadelphia and, if valuable,  auctioned. I told him he ought to call Philly PD and report his Leatherman stolen, last seen at the airport.