Friday, November 10, 2017

Congressional Fear

I recently took my children to Washington, D.C. to see some sights and visit old friends. Since I won't consent to a naked scan or physical body search, we took a cross-country train ride. Among our planned activities were tours of the White House and Capitol, arranged through my congressman's office. My daughter and I were especially looking forward to seeing "where the people argue" (her words; I told her it would be more like boring speeches and procedures than arguing).

As we stood in line for the White House security, I noticed an upcoming checkpoint area where I couldn't see what the procedure was. I had a moment of concern as the thought crossed my mind that there might be a body scanner. As I turned the corner, my concerns drained away: No scanner! Security was tight (and the line was long), but the Secret Service Agents were very friendly and the mood was relaxed. We enjoyed our self-guided tour, stopped off for some hot cocoa and hot coffee, and grabbed an Uber to the Capitol.

Once through the standard security at the Capitol (metal detectors and bag scanners), we met some staffers in Devin Nunes' office. An intern, named Chris, was our tour guide and took us on an in-depth and interesting tour. After visiting all the other areas of the Capitol, we handed over our phones (thanks to C-Span) and we proceeded to the House Gallery. Following Chris, we wound our way around. We turned a corner and Chris said, "It's time to take everything out of our pockets." I started to rummage, but noticed: a Millimeter Body Scanner.

I hesitated for a moment. I thought about the 4-day train ride we had just completed for the express purpose of protecting our dignity. And here I was, only a couple of yards away from the device I spend so much time, energy, and money avoiding. The moment passed, and the calm and clarity of what must happen next came over me. I bent over next to my daughter and said, "I'm really sorry, but we're not going to go see the people argue. This machine here is one of the ones that they have at the airport that I've told you about. Do you understand?"

To say the least, she was mad (at me) and very disappointed. I am thankful and proud that she behaved relatively well given that she's only eight and we had been talking about and planning for this visit to the gallery for weeks.

I, too, was very disappointed. I still am, and, upon further reflection, I am also very disheartened. (More on that later.)

Next, I turned to Chris and said, calmly, "Chris, we're not going to do this." I'm sure he was taken by complete surprise. He asked if I would prefer a pat-down, and I, of course, declined. He began to put his belt back on, etc ... when the security guard told him to step forward into the scanner. Chris said we had changed our mind. I let Chris do all the talking, and he seemed prepared to do so as our tour guide.

Can you guess what came next? The security guard said we could not leave the area without getting scanned. He wasn't wearing a blue shirt, but he sure acted like a caricature of a TSA worker. Chris responded with what seemed like disbelief to me. He said, "We're not going in. Can't we just turn around and go back the way we came?"

At this point, I was feeling quite anxious. What was happening was precisely the reason that I don't fly. Friends have told me that my chance of getting scanned or patted down is very slim and they can't understand why I won't even try. This was why. I was being told that I was not allowed to change my mind. The only choices now were to be virtually disrobed or to be physically felt-up. And this would happen to my children, too. The week before, our (female) pediatric nurse had been very deliberate in giving my daughter as much privacy as possible during her annual physical exam. We tell our children at these Dr. visits that not just anybody can look at, let alone touch, their private parts. I do not believe that the government employee with a power-trip qualifies.

My adrenaline was pumping as I prepared to stand my ground. Scenarios started to flash through my mind's eye. What was I prepared to do? I didn't really come to any conclusion, but I was readying myself for a difficult time.

I noticed that a police officer-looking individual appeared. Both he and the security guards were too far away for me to read their badges. I purposefully did not move an inch closer to the checkpoint, so I can only make a guess that the "officer" was from a different agency than the "guard." In any case, he clearly outranked the power-tripping guard. Chris repeated his request to go back without being scanned. The officer listened, then gave us instructions to turn around and go back the way we came. My heartrate immediately returned to normal.

I am now convinced that naked scanners are here to stay. If politicians are using them for their own security, they have no sympathy for the cause of freedom. This illustrates to me, more clearly than ever before, the disdain that elected officials have for the public. What do they care if our dignity is stripped in airports when they insist on stripping it in what is supposed to be their public meetings?

Going to the gallery while Congress was in session was going to be such a terrific hands-on civics lesson for my 2nd grader. Instead, we both got a completely different kind of civics lesson. 

P. S. I would not be surprised if the officer's cool head prevailed in part due to my demographic (white mother with 2 small children). I would guess that - given the recent shootings and the fear of terrorism - a white or Middle-Eastern man travelling alone would have been treated with more suspicion.

P. P. S. On what I ought to have done if they did not let us turn back: I think I should have clearly stated that I did not consent to the search. For the sake of my kids still having a mom around for the rest of the day, I should have refused the scanner and proceeded with the pat-down under protest. I would have tried my utmost to keep the kids out of the screening, but allowed the scanner if pressed, as it would be less traumatic for them. Regardless, thinking through this all makes my stomach turn.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Illusions In Vegas

Here is a first-hand account of getting Pre-Check in the name of expediency. Are TSA procedures not about keeping us safe? From the author:

"Of course, deep down we all knew this already. The TSA is not about keeping us safe, nor is it about apprehending would-be terrorists. The TSA serves one purpose and one purpose only: To create the illusion of safety, the perception that someone is in charge and taking care of things, even if any sensible person can see that it’s all a charade."

Anecdotally, I've heard of this happening at other times and places. Proof that it is all security theater for those paying attention.

Friday, June 2, 2017

DA and airline help woman bullied by TSA

The TSA tried to confiscate the property of an elderly woman in Kansas. She had an item (possibly hand lotion) that was more than 3 ounces , which the TSA intended to throw away in order to let the woman board the plane with her husband. The 5' 2", 120 pound, 82-year old allegedly hit the TSA agent's arm with so much force that she was arrested and held in jail.

The good news? the airline contacted the county DA, who then released the woman. She was transported (by the airline) back to the airport and continued her journey.

This is the type of "protest'' that we need: airlines and DA's standing up to the TSA not cow-towing to them! And cheers to Amy Renee Leiker, for reporting the story with symathy for the wrongfully-arrested passenger. Now, if only the air the police could have protected her rights better.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Court: Protests are not free speech when the TSA is involved

What happens if you do the obvious: insist on an actual strip search to protest a virtual strip search? Hopefully, the courts protect your 1st Amendment right to protest. But, they may also find you guilty of violating the unlawful orders of an unlawful agency, then hold you liable for the bloated agency's over-reaction.

Would you accept the guilty verdict and pay the modest fine, content that your free speech argument was partially honored? Maybe you would appeal to a higher court. This is what the protestor from 2012 did.

Unfortunately, the appeals court recently maintained his conviction: You can't voluntarily strip naked at a TSA checkpoint.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

About that underwear

I have seen this a lot on social media recently: Underwear that shows the 4th Amendment when scanned at an airport. According to the company selling it, it uses metallic ink. They also claim that the words show up in x-rays.

While amusing, this is a scam.

There were several products purporting to do this 8 years ago, when scanners were first introduced. However, it is now obsolete as there is now just an avatar shown to TSA. So this shirt might show up as an anomaly on the chest, leading to a pat-down. But, chances are, an agent will never see the text of the 4th Amendment.

(Furthermore, the scanners are also now using millimeter-wave technology, not x-rays. So, while the metallic text may still be detected by the scanner, I wouldn't trust the manufacturer's word on this.They are clearly ignorant of TSA policy.)

Buy this product if you like the subversive nature of it and don't mind pat-downs. But, if you want to educate the TSA, you'd be better off handing them a pocket-sized Constitution.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Contempt of TSA

There is good reason to hold the TSA in contempt, and it goes beyond the contempt it shows for airline passengers' civil liberties. Jim Harper of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains:

    "TSA has shown contempt for the administrative laws that govern it. It slow-walks processes and policies that are meant to keep it responsive to the public."

The CEI is continuing to use existing legal procedures to press the TSA on its policies.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ron Paul on the TSA

Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams discuss the problems with the TSA and how to protect your rights in this 15-minute video.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Frequent flyer finally gets it

A frequent flyer, who also happens to be a news reporter, was sexually assaulted by the TSA. I'm glad she decided to publicize it:
"The pat-down began and was uneventful until she went down my leg, up my dress, and her hand sideways hits me right in the crack of my labia. Startled, I jump and feel a lump in my throat trying to hold back tears."

Friday, September 9, 2016

TSA satire proves prescient

No kidding, the TSA'S scanners mis-identified a cyst as a possible terrorist threat on a woman passing through airport security (reported in JAMA Dermatology). Five years ago, satire abounded on the TSA subbing in for your doctor.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Why not? "TSA’s Layers of Security"

Here we continue our series on public comment on TSA's naked scanners (aka, AIT, Advanced Imaging Technology) during their belated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM):

Commenters addressed the TSA layers of security discussed in the NPRM. A privacy advocacy group suggested that the layered approach discussed by TSA is not supported by data and, therefore, does not justify the need for AIT. The commenter also recommended that TSA revise the layered approach so weaknesses in security can be identified. Furthermore, a few commenters suggested that TSA focus on other security methods, such as profiling, interviewing, and “Pre-check” screening programs to identify dangerous individuals. An individual stated that the efficacy of AIT screening has not been scientifically proven. The commenter further suggested that since there are other approaches used by TSA to identify potential threats, AIT would be most useful as a secondary screening method instead of as the primary screening method A professional association, however, stated that because of the advanced methodologies of adversaries, technologies like AIT scanners are needed to secure air travel. The commenter suggested that techniques involving human intervention, such as Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, the Behavioral Detection Officer program, and passenger screening canines would also be useful. Many commenters mentioned their support for the use of racial profiling tactics instead of AIT, and argued that such measures would be more efficient and effective. 
An advocacy group alleged that TSA’s “trusted traveler program” approach would weaken security because it can eliminate entire classes of passengers from AIT screening. The commenter recommended that TSA consider other, less invasive and cost-effective screening procedures that would allow TSA to implement AIT as a secondary, rather than a primary, screening tool. Furthermore, the commenter suggested that TSA enhance layers of security by testing canine bomb detection, face recognition, and explosives residue machines, in an effort to reduce the need for AIT scanning.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Why not? "Evolving Threats to Security"

We are continuing to examine the public's thoughts on naked scanners. This next section is titled "Evolving Threats to Security," and highlights both favorable and unfavorable reviews:

Commenters also addressed the evolving threats to aviation security discussed by TSA in the NPRM. Some commenters stated that TSA’s screening efforts are not linked to the decrease in aircraft-related terror attempts since September 11, 2001. For example, individual commenters and a non-profit organization stated that the threat attempts listed in the NPRM were thwarted by intelligence efforts, not TSA screening. Other individual commenters, however, supported TSA’s efforts to deploy tools like AIT scanners to detect and deter future attacks. Individual commenters credited secured cockpits and stricter policies for cockpit access with preventing terrorist attacks on commercial airlines since September 11, 2001. Furthermore, a few individual commenters suggested that in addition to enhanced cockpit security, passengers’ awareness and willingness to fight back deters terrorists from targeting planes. 
Several commenters discussed the evolving threat from nonmetallic explosives. A few individual commenters suggested that TSA’s response to the increased threat of nonmetallic explosives is not sustainable because terrorists will find other ways to hide devices. A few individual commenters disagreed with TSA’s focus on nonmetallic threats, because these types of weapons have been used for several decades.  
A few individual commenters suggested that the long lines at checkpoints, which the commenters stated are caused by TSA screening, are more attractive targets to terrorists than airplanes. Lastly, several individual commenters stated there is no evidence indicating that terrorist threats similar in magnitude to September 11, 2001, are increasing.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why not? "Other Legal Issues"

This is the next part in our series highlighting the issues addressed by the public during the TSA's belated request for public input on the naked scanners (aka, AIT, Advanced Imaging Technology):

Commenters raised other legal issues in opposing AIT. Several individual commenters, a non-profit organization, and several advocacy groups stated that AIT scanning and/or opt-out process violates rights guaranteed by the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively. Commenters did not generally provide further substantive legal arguments in support of these constitutional claims. An advocacy group, however, cited a Supreme Court case, Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500, 505 (1964), which held that if a law “too broadly and indiscriminately restricts the right to travel” it “thereby abridges the liberty guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.” The commenter further stated that the court considered relevant “that Congress has within its power ‘less drastic’ means of achieving the congressional objective of safeguarding our national security.” An individual commenter cited U.S. v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966) and Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969) in opposing the use of AIT. Another advocacy group cited 49 U.S.C. 40101, 40103, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty that the U.S. has ratified, as further reinforcing the right to travel. The commenter remarked that the NPRM does not recognize that travel by air and, specifically, by common carrier, is a right and that TSA must evaluate its proposed actions within that context. Similarly, an individual commenter stated that TSA’s use of AIT involves limitations on constitutional rights and, therefore, strict scrutiny should be the judicial review standard applied. Another individual commenter stated that implementation of AIT scanners assumes travelers’ guilt, which is in violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence.
One individual commenter stated that it is outside of TSA’s mission to identify and confiscate items that are not a threat (e.g., illegal drugs) and that such “mission creep” is an inappropriate use of Federal funds and distracts TSA staff from their actual mission. Other individual commenters stated that AIT and pat-downs violate laws prohibiting sexual molestation. A non-profit organization suggested that TSA review and modify its policies to ensure that they do not conflict with existing state law procedures protecting children from physical and sexual assault or with existing child protective services legislation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Why not? "Fourth Amendment Issues"

Here is the next installment of public opinion about TSA's naked scanners:

Commenters also addressed concerns related to the Fourth Amendment. The vast majority of these commenters stated that use of AIT constitutes a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Individual commenters stated that AIT fails to meet the standard of a constitutionally permissible search. Specifically, some individual commenters stated that TSA could not conduct such searches without a warrant. Individual commenters also stated that neither the purchase of an airline ticket nor a desire to travel is sufficient to give TSA “probable cause” to conduct a search.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Why not? "Adherence to the Court Decision in EPIC v. DHS"

This is the next part in our continuing series of posts about public response to the TSAs naked scanners rules:
Commenters also discussed the court’s decision in EPIC v. DHS. Several individual commenters specifically supported EPIC’s position that AIT scanners are invasive of individual privacy. Another individual commenter opposed the court’s decision to allow TSA to continue use of AIT [Advanced Imaging Technology]. A privacy advocacy group wrote that the NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] incorrectly stated the holding of the case. A privacy advocacy group and many individual commenters pointed out the length of time that elapsed between the court decision and the issuance of the NPRM. A privacy advocacy group stated that it filed three mandamus petitions during the elapsed 2-year period. An advocacy group stated that the constitutional issue raised by EPIC was not ripe for decision because the court did not have a rulemaking record before it and speculated that the court might invalidate its holding regarding the Fourth Amendment in a future judicial review of this rulemaking.