Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The bag search: Invasion of privacy

But at least some TSA agents have the courtesy to leave notes, thereby making the privacy invasion both obvious and humorous (for some).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

TSA 'protects' passengers from non-threats

This write-up is sad - it is so clearly just a person posing as a 'journalist' doing anything to avoid journalism, including just re-printing TSA press releases and calling it news:

Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officials at Detroit-Wayne County Metropolitan Airport found a loaded .380 pistol in an 76 year old man's ankle holster, and they are touting the discovery as a justification of the advanced body-imaging scanners used around the country.
"TSA’s advanced imaging technology using automated target recognition (ATR) software detected [on Saturday] a hidden item on a passenger’s ankle," the agency announced yesterday. "While resolving the alarm, TSA Officers discovered a loaded .380 caliber Ruger Prescott firearm hidden in an ankle holster.  Local law enforcement responded and arrested the individual."
The discovery is "just more proof that this technology can and will find dangerous items," a TSA blogger argues, even while acknowledging that a traditional metal detector would have found the weapon just as surely. "While that's a true statement, the walk through metal detectors cannot detect non metallic items lke explosives, which are the greatest threat to aviation today."
The man has since stated that he forgot about the gun. Some might find this hard to believe, but when you think about it, there is no proof that the man had ill intentions and, furthermore, if he did, he probably wouldn't have a regular gun strapped to his ankle. Metal detectors have been in place at airports for decades and this gun couldn't have been slipped by them. So, it's really quite apparent that this man regularly straps a gun to his ankle - legally, no less - and had no intention of harming anyone on the airplane. So why exactly is it an achievement for the TSA to have figured this out? (My! What gumshoes!)

Likewise with this man who had a gun suitable for injuring small mammals (but not the incompetent police officer who shot himself in the face with it when trying to disarm it!).

These men are not terrorists - their just forgetful.

Or, there's this man, who intentionally tried to get a knife through, but apparently has no intention of hijacking a plane.

Incompetent TSA

Not that I think the TSA should be looking for drugs, but, obviously, they do (and it is clearly part of their directives to do so). So, it's pretty funny that they missed four suitcases literally filled with marijuana.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to be a better sheep

An article titled, Smoothing your trip through airport security during packed holiday season, is just like all the other articles that are trying to be "helpful" but really make me sick.

If the bully at school beats your kid up for your lunch money, is it really good advice for you to give your child plenty of money with instructions to hand some or all of it over as soon as the bully is in sight? Or is the best advice to tell the child to avoid the bully as much as possible and to stand up for himself (not necessarily violently - perhaps by getting an adult to intervene).

Want a nice holiday? Don't fly! If you choose to fly, know your rights, stand up for them, and be prepared to go to court (or worse) defending them.

(Note that the comments on this silly article are 100% questioning the TSA and its policies. How heartwarming!)

Some local nullification in Florida

Nice to see this:
The Broward Commission may request that the Transportation Security Administration go back to the old-school gropings pat-downs of passengers at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and ditch the use of body scanners.

The item -- which was delayed from the last meeting -- would be a direction to the aviation director to send the request to the TSA asking that it not use the body scanners "until further studies can be done that will demonstrate that they are safe to the traveling public."
Note that the Commission did indeed pass this.

But, back to the original article about the pending vote, I take serious issue with this statement:
In fact, the TSA's website hosts a boatload of documents proving the machines are safe.
This is not a fact, at all. There may be a boatload of documents on the TSA website, and they may portend to "prove" that the machines are safe. But every single agency that was contracted to study the scanners has specifically stated that they were never asked to - and never did - determine whether the machines were safe to use on the general population as primary screening. For an overview, read some of my own coverage and analysis of this topic.

The TSA's response to Broward's request is full of, if not lies, then intentional misrepresentations:
Our backscatter technology was evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. All results confirmed that the extremely low radiation doses for the individuals being screened, operators, and bystanders, including frequent flyers, aircrew, and operators, were well below the
limits specified by the American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society.
JHU/APL, for example, issued a statement awhile back saying that their studies were not done on an actual scanner, but a prototype. They stated that they were not asked to address the safety of the scanners, but just measure the level of radiation. Furthermore, in their results, they noted a much higher level of radiation exposure in the areas surrounding the scanner than are consistent with the other claims being made, calling into question the actual radiation levels or functionality of the machines.

The FDA's role in scanner safety was summed up in the ProPublica exposé:
The FDA does not review or approve the safety of such products. However, manufacturers must provide a brief radiation safety report explaining the dose and notify the agency if any overexposure is discovered.
Also from ProPublica, we know that the ANSI/Health Physics Society claim is suspect:
...ANSI convened a committee of the Health Physics Society, a trade group of radiation safety specialists. It was made up of 15 people, including six representatives of manufacturers of X-ray body scanners and five from U.S. Customs and the California prison system. There were few government regulators and no independent scientists.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Anyone think the hotline will help, even a little bit?

I don't. This is just a flailing attempt at improving TSA PR.

TSA caught lying (but what else is new?)

An Austin blogger sums it up:
The [senior citizen] woman arrived at airport security and informed TSA she was wearing a back brace. She was taken off to a private area to remove the back brace ... TSA’s initial response was that the brace was removed, rescreened and returned in accordance with its policies, but when it was reminded that its published policies say that medical braces will NOT be removed, it issued the statement (linked above) saying that the device was removed because “There was a bit of a miscommunication and our officers were told that the passenger was wearing a money belt.”
Here's Bill Fisher's comment on the post (but some of the others are worth clicking through to read, also):

So it takes TSA a week to come up with this lame-brained story [click through or keep reading to find out what the lie is]? It doesn’t matter whether it was a back brace, money belt or quesadillas, it doesn’t change the fact that they shouldn’t be strip searching people in the airports.
With all the lies this agency has told they should be a lot better at it by now. Not only are they lying about strip searching three women over the Thanksgiving weekend they’ve been caught in dozens of other lies over the past year.
Pistole promised to stop groping children four times this year and yet they are still doing it.
TSA said the scanners produced cartoonish images when they debuted, then Denver TSA Area director Pat Ahlstrom admitted in August when they added the privacy software that the previous images were “very graphic”.
They denied patting down the six year old girl in MSP until the video showed up on You Tube and they then claimed that the pat down that they didn’t do was done properly.
They claim to treat passengers “with dignity and respect”, then grope, strip search and harass them and repeatedly deny that these events happened, even after they are caught on video.
They claim that they never interfere with passenger’s right take photos and videos of the checkpoints while dozens of videos are posted on You Tube showing screeners interfering with recordings.
They claim they hold their “professional” workforce to the “highest standards”, while 91% have a high school diploma or less and sixty two have been arrested for crimes in the past year.
By making this announcement, they only reinforce the public perception that TSA is a stupid, deceitful and abusive agency deeply in need of an overhaul.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

TSA To Expedite Screening of Suspected Terrorists? Well, sort of

Following up on a recent post regarding the expedited screening of soldiers, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee seems to be contradicting himself on this issue. His latest position supports the need to subject all travelers to the same, and hopefully someday saner, security procedures. No one should receive "preferred" treatment, whether pilot, crew, military or politician.

“The Department of Defense considers the U.S. homeland the most dangerous place for a G.I. outside of foreign war zones — and the top threat they face here is from violent Islamist extremists,” Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said during a special joint House-Senate hearing.
“The Fort Hood attack was not an anomaly,” said Mr. King, New York Republican. “It was part of al Qaeda’s two-decade success at infiltrating the U.S. military for terrorism — an effort that is increasing in scope and threat.”

The House's unanimous vote this week on a bill to accelerate airport screening military personnel for flights is the least lawmakers can do for active soldiers, its sponsor, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), said.
Cravaack said the TSA was testing a program that would use Department of Defense "Common Access Card" to quickly identify - and clear for flights - military personnel.
So which is it? Are soldiers “trusted travelers” or ‘suspected terrorists”?

The fact that Peter King is one of the most influential members of Congress with virtual control of DHS/TSA budget approval and policy changes and he doesn’t recognize the obvious conflict in his positions is disgraceful and frightening. 

There is apparently no competent Congressional oversight of DHS/TSA and King needs to be replaced as chairman of this committee.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Columnist remains inside the box

A column in an Oklahoma paper is titled Airport security abuses power. I was going to say that the "Columnist states the obvious," but not all of her title is obvious - just not imaginative in the least.

The column is about a teenager who had trouble at the airport because she had an image of a gun sewn onto her purse. Low-level bureaucrats tend to get in more trouble if they think, so it is in their best interest to do really dumb stuff that is, nonetheless, by the book. The columnist's discussion of this is apt, but is decidedly less cynical than I am.

My issue is with this non-sequitor:
I am OK with the full-body scanners that were so controversial earlier this year, and I’m happy to put my travel-sized liquids in a resealable bag.
...All citizens deserve freedom and privacy, whether or not they’re in the air.
How are full-body scanners and precise inane instructions on how to carry your personal items consistent with "freedom and privacy." They're not! This is not a matter of some aspects of the TSA abusing some power. This is a case of a bureaucracy being given way more power than is legal, and running with it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Former airline advisor thinks airline bailouts are needed

Gizmodo's coverage of the problems with the TSA is great. They are feeding off of an article written by a former Delta advisor, Ben Brandt. Here are some of the good points Brandt makes:
...feds should be less concerned with what gels your aunt puts in her carry-on, and more concerned about lax screening for terrorist sympathizers among the airlines' own work force... it's cost $56 billion since 9/11... [bombs have been] detonated before going through security...and shipped..."The scientific community is divided as to whether behavioral detection of terrorists is viable,"...most aviation-focused attacks are likely to originate outside the U.S.
But, Brandt's solution is, well, dumb: "Brandt proposes that the government subsidize airlines for better employee background checks or explosives detection tech."

If the government would get out of the air-travel business, then airlines would have every incentive in the world to institute "better employee background checks" as well as "explosives detection tech." It's called the profit motive. Right now, when an airline makes money, they keep the riches. But if someone crashes one of their planes, they get bailed out by the feds. On top of that, the feds have taken pretty much all of the responsibility and cost for screening for threats.

But this is unsustainable. The price tag for fed-run security and taxpayer-subsidized airlines keeps going up and service keeps going down. It will be better for us all if the umbilical cord is cut now. Otherwise, we'll be dragging a dead industry around, allowing it to slowly kill the transportation industry as has been happening with railroads for decades.

Americans don't want cancer

As you know, I think the health aspect of the scanner controversy is secondary to the argument from natural rights. Nonetheless, I think the fact that the government wants to irradiate everyone who flies without any concern for health effects is a valuable lesson in whether the government is benevolent. Because it's not, and that's my point.

But, there's a new poll out that specifically links the risk of cancer and the "security" of x-ray scanners. It's nice to know that,
Even if X-ray body scanners would prevent terrorists from smuggling explosives onto planes, nearly half of Americans still oppose using them because they could cause a few people to eventually develop cancer, according to a new Harris Interactive poll conducted online for ProPublica.
It's unfortunate that a third of Americans still strongly support the scanners.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Re: TSA Strip Searches In 2011

2011 is not over yet, and another octagenarian has come forward with her own recent TSA strip-search story:
Ruth Sherman, an 88-year-old frequent flier with JetBlue, meantime, told the media that she was taken aside by TSA officials and asked to pull her pants down and show her colostomy bag.
And now a 66-year old woman is telling a similar story: "[Linda Kallish] had to partially remove clothing to show an official her pump implant."
Note that Ms. Sherman was scanned first, so she got a virtual strip search, then an actual strip search, while Ms. Kallish had a pat-down, then a strip search!

Bureaucrat reads fellow bureaucrat's report, Concludes 'independent' report unnecessary

Under heat from Congress after the ProPublica/PBS expose on the TSA's scanner-related practices, Pistole said he would consider having an independent study of scanner safety conducted. But, then, fellow DHS bureaucrat (TSA is part of DHS), Charles Edwards, said the scanners meet all of the standards they are supposed to meet. Shockingly, Pistole agreed, and now he says there is no reason to figure out if it is safe to irradiate 100% of the flying American public (as they are planning to do within the next few years). Edwards' role in DHS is described on the DHS website as follows:
The [Office of Inspector General] serves as an independent and objective inspection, audit, and investigative body to promote effectiveness, efficiency, and economy in the Department of Homeland Security's programs and operations, and to prevent and detect fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and waste in such programs and operations.
Even if you believe that a bureaucrat paid a salary by the very department that is the epitome of the police state can be "independent and objective," there is still a glaring problem here. Nowhere in the mission of the DHS Inspector General does it say that he is to "prevent and detect" health and safety issues. This guys job is to make sure that all the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted on the procedural and maintenance forms for these scanners. And this is pretty much what he said he did. He is not checking to see if these machines can adversely affect the health of individuals - particularly the frail. It's not his job and he did not say that he audited that aspect of the scanners.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TSA To Stop Groping Soldiers? Well, Sometimes....

A Washington Post article reported that “The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of The Armed Forces Act”, introduced by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), was scheduled for a vote on 11/29/11. This Bill would require the TSA to develop a process to more quickly screen uniformed troops and their families traveling through airports on official orders.
While this may be a "feel good" measure that exempts some active military from the absurd TSA security theater, it is also a slippery slope that ultimately jeopardizes everyone and relegates infrequent travelers to the being the primary victims of TSA abuse. It also paves the way for a Congressional exemption, leaving the rest of us with no one to defend our rights from TSA’s unwarranted intrusions.
The Ft Hood terrorist, Nidal Malik Hasan, was active military and yet was responsible for killing 13 victims. He would not have been a good candidate for a checkpoint exemption and supports the argument for consistent and uniform screening procedures for everyone, including pilots. The Egypt Air pilot, Gameel al-Batouty, is widely acknowledged as being responsible for deliberately crashing flight 990. Pilots are just as likely to be terrorists as grandmothers from Iowa. 
The introduction of this Bill is a clear indication that members of Congress recognize that the TSA security theater is an unnecessary and unwarranted harassment of passengers and they must demand that TSA adopt sensible and respectful procedures for everyone, not just select groups of passengers. Congress should withhold funding for the agency until it adopts procedures that we all can live with.

Monday, December 5, 2011

TSA Sex Crimes 2011

Harold Rodman, TSA worker, arrested for sexual assault

A Transportation Security Administration employee is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Manassas. The suspect, Harold Glen Rodman, 52, allegedly was wearing his uniform and displayed a badge to the victim, a 37-year-old woman. Police arrested Rodman on Nov. 20. He is charged with aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy and abduction with intent to defile. A TSA spokesperson confirmed that Rodman works for the agency but wouldn’t say in what capacity or where.

An Orange County man faces child porn charges, records show, stemming from images authorities say he possessed while working as a TSA employee at Orlando International Airport. A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said that Paul David Rains, 62, no longer works for the agency, as of Monday. He was arrested at his home on Havasu Drive about 1:30 p.m. Records show a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent investigating suspected child-porn distribution in Orange County served a search warrant at Rains' home on Aug. 3. An arrest report states that Rains confessed to downloading images of child pornography "for the past few years." He said he downloaded the images "out of curiosity," the report states.

A Transportation Security Administration security officer is out on bail after he was arrested and charged with child pornography. Michael Scott Wilson, 41, has been suspended from his job following the arrest. Wilson was charged Monday with possession and distribution of child pornography after agents searched his Perry Hall home.
A TSA agent has been arrested in Rutherford County on charges of statutory rape. Clifton Lyles was arrested by U.S. Marshals Tuesday night, following a grand jury indictment. Lyles worked at Nashville International Airport. Details about what led to his arrest were not released. His bond was set at $10,000.

A Beverly man and former TSA employee arrested on child pornography charges appeared in federal court on Friday. Andrew W. Cheever, 33, appeared before on a complaint charging him with possession of child pornography. 

The Elko County Sheriff’s Office was notified in July of possible sexual contact between David Ralph Anderson, 61, and a girl younger than 14. Anderson allegedly taught the victim about various sexual acts and had sexual contact in the form of touching each other’s genitals. Anderson, who is a TSA employee according to Elko County Jail records, is being held on $250,000 bail.
A TSA employee remained hospitalized today after being accused of kidnapping a young female in Atlanta, then taking her to his Hogansville residence and sexually assaulting her. Randall Scott King, whose age and street address were not given, abducted the woman Wednesday evening from a MARTA parking lot in southwest Atlanta, police said.

A passenger screener at Philadelphia International Airport is facing charges that he distributed more than 100 images of child pornography via Facebook, records show. Federal agents also allege that Transportation Safety Administration Officer Thomas Gordon Jr. of Philadelphia, who routinely searched airline passengers, uploaded explicit pictures of young girls to an Internet site on which he also posted a photograph of himself in his TSA uniform.

A TSA agent has been arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor after police say he tried to keep a girl as a sex slave. Police arrested 57-year-old Charles Bennett of Winter Garden on Friday. A 15-year-old girl was the one who reported him to police. According to reports from the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Orange County Jail, the 15-year-old victim confided in her caregivers that Bennett had touched her inappropriately three years ago when she was 12. She says he also asked the young girl to be his "sex slave," an accusation investigators say Bennett admitted to in a written statement to police.

A TSA employee who worked at Manchester Boston Regional Airport has been arrested on five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, according to police.
Police arrested Dwayne Valerio, 44, at his 192 Rockingham Road home on Friday, March 18, according to Lt. Robert Michaud. Police released few details on what led to his arrest, citing the alleged victim's age. "The victim is a juvenile," he said.

A Transportation Security Administration worker at Logan International Airport is accused of assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Sean Shanahan, 45, of Winthrop is being held on $50,000 cash bail following his arraignment in East Boston District Court. He is charged with statutory rape, enticement of a child and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older. 

On April 10, Bob Seashols, a Coordination Center Officer for the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) at the Richmond International Airport (RIC) and an administrator for Atheists United’s Facebook page, took part in a coordinated effort to populate pornographic images, extreme profanity, and sexually explicit anti-Christian hate-speech on the Facebook page of Ken Ham, an internationally known Christian ministry leader who serves as president of Answers in Genesis-U.S (AiG) and the popular Creation Museum, located near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mexico vs US

A Stop TSA Scanners subscriber wrote the following about a recent trip to Mexico:
Thought I'd share the experience I had on last weeks flt from Mexico.  We went thru metal detector with shoes on, carryon bags xrayed but not rifled thru. Their security agents were polite & curteous asking"how did you like Mexico?".  This is the way the US should be AND if it is this uncomplicated to fly INTO the US why does tsa make it so difficult to fly WITHIN the US?
It's BS!
 The sheep are easier to handle when they are compliant. Keep fighting infringement on your rights and dignity - protect yourself and inform yourself!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

TSA Strip Searches In 2011

The report of an 85 year old woman being strip searched at JFK this week and left bleeding during the process raises some serious questions about the extent of the abuses in our airports. TSA quickly denied that strip searches are part of their screening protocol, which is obviously a lie in view of four similar reports this year.

If pulling down a person’s underwear doesn’t constitute a strip search, what does? And if no clothing is being removed why does the TSA website say “At any time during the screening process you can request a disposable paper drape for privacy”. Not only do they strip search an elderly woman, but callously record her humiliation on video.

They continued their assault on this woman even after the she was bleeding and only allowed her get treatment after they were finished. This is outrageous and the TSA workers and officials involved should be prosecuted.

This is at least the fifth TSA strip search of a passenger this year including the strip search of Shoshana Hebshi in Detroit on September 11th. In that incident the agent moved Ms. Hebshi away from the toilet during the strip search so the video would not fully capture her image.

The others include a 97 year old woman strip searched at LAX, another in Miami, and yet another in Houston. TSA is not only violating the rights of people, they now violate even most basic standards of decency.

How extreme must these TSA incidents become before Congress demands this be stopped? This is the same agency that has had 62 screeners arrested for serious crimes, including murder and 10 screeners charged with child sex crimes. This agency is clearly out of control and needs to be replaced.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Naked scanners throughout the empire

There are body scanners, and TSA agents, in Guam. It's easy to forget that the US is an empire, and not very benevolent at that, so this is just a little reminder.

The Atlantic gets it right

I'm a bit surprised by the tone of this editorial in The Atlantic, albeit pleasantly surprised. I'm used to really toned down opposition from most corners of the media.

For example, in reference to the Turkish and Chinese (more police-state like) airport security, the author writes:
Logically, there's no reason why the U.S. shouldn't ultimately apply the same approach... The logic, of course, is the screening-line premise that every traveler should be considered a potential terrorist. The TSA Administrator, John Pistole, says he wants to move away from that premise -- and we'll get into all the ramifications thereof...
So the author insinuates that more severe security is not off the table for the US - it's withing the realm of reason that the TSA will follow in Turkey's footsteps. He then points out that the TSA's plan to pretend that they don't view all mundanes at the airport as threats has flaws.

The author, James Fallows, also openly promotes opting-out.

I look forward to the next article in this series where Trusted Traveler, or PreCheck, or whatever they eventually call it, is taken to task.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Civic disobedience in the airports

I am so pleased to see this story about "Bikini Girl" who has held fast in her protest for 7 flights during the last year. Her reason?
I feel like the TSA is making travellers [sic] feel uncomfortable, and I feel like we can have security measures that don't make people feel uncomfortable.
 Awesome response!

The other Washington rag blasts the TSA

It's a good piece. I especially like that it calls out the TSA's claim that there are few complaints:
 Travelers at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport who tell a security manager that they wish to file a complaint aren’t asked to document their concern on the spot. Instead, as experienced by Washington Times staff, they’re handed a three-inch strip of paper with contact information for the TSA claims-management office. They’re also instructed to visit the TSA blog. It’s not surprising that few have waded through the confusing layers of bureaucracy just to register an opinion that they know is going to be ignored.
The policy recommendation in the conclusion is sufficiently vague, so it can be construed as recommending true privatization, or faux, fascist privatization (√† la Mica). I'll take it for now, but, in light of the Washington Post's recent article, I am cynical about the motives here. When W was in office, did the Wash Times criticize the TSA while WaPo praised it? I honestly don't know, but I doubt it. Most likely, both promoted the propaganda. But, now that  Dem is in the White House and prominent Republicans are currying favor with Tea Party voters - and promoting a fascist plan to hand TSA implementation to contractors - the Wash Times is being more critical. They are an ally now, but what happens after the next election?

H/T Jeff Keller

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Washington Post Joins the TSA Propaganda Parade

The Washington Post carried another TSA propaganda statement over the holiday weekend, serving up creampuff questions for the corrupt administrator. The article attempts to praise Pistole for reigning over this criminal workforce and violating the basic rights of travelers.
Under his “leadership” over 60,000 people a day are harassed and molested at his direction. Of that 20,000 are subjected to his groping at random, without any rational security basis for this harassment.
He has presided over a criminal workforce that has had 62 screeners arrested for serious offenses so far this year.
His "professional" employees include 10 screeners that have been charged with child sex crimes this year including four child rapes.
Over a dozen of his vaunted screeners have been jailed for stealing over $800,000 from passenger baggage this year alone.
He has lied in testimony to Congress over ten times this year. He claimed that TSA would stop molesting children on four separate occasions, in November 2010, again in April, then again in May and November 2011 yet their invasive groping of children continues.
He lied about Congress and the public saying that the scanners produced a chalky, cartoon like outline, but in August Denver TSA Director, Pat Ahlstrom admitted that the images were indeed “very graphic”. So millions have been digitally strip searched despite the propaganda earlier this year.
He has deliberately misled the public into believing that the privacy software exists at all checkpoints. In reality, they continue to have male workers view the nude images of men, women and children. TSA has not added the privacy software on the 250 x-ray scanners installed at many major airports, including LAX, JFK, O’Hare, Orlando, Boston and Phoenix and has not said when, or if, this will be installed.
He has told Congress three times since January that the scanners would be independently tested yet again reneged on the latest promise he made in October, saying that he deems the scanners safe. Meanwhile, millions of passengers continue to be digitally strip searched and irradiated by these dangerous devices. He continues to expose passengers to these dangerous scanners despite expert testimony that these will cause over 100 cancer deaths a year.
TSA has been adamantly refused to allow independent testing. He has not explained what TSA is afraid the tests will reveal or why they are so willing to sacrifice passenger privacy and health other than to protect private manufacturers’ products and their profits. There is clearly an implication of corruption in the deployment of these scanners and demands investigation by Congress.
Under his “leadership”, complaints about TSA screening have increased dramatically. According to an article in WSJ on 9/1/11 complaints about TSA screening jumped this year. TSA logged 1,975 screening complaints in June alone, more than double the 814 received in June 2010.
Since Pistole assumed control and instituted these Draconian procedures air travel has declined. The US Travel Association reported this month that “We can reduce the hassle of flying without compromising security” and estimated that TSA is costing the travel industry $85 billion in lost revenue and 880,000 additional jobs.
TSA can plant all the stories they want saying that people like TSA but the fact remains that the vast majority of travelers despise this agency and want it dismantled.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bill Fisher mentioned in NY Times

Bill Fisher's due diligence has paid off with a little publicity. Here's the relevant passage:

While it is difficult to evaluate the overall performance of airport screeners, Bill Fisher, a former frequent flier who has cut back on his own travels, maintains an online list at Travel Underground of reports about screeners who have been arrested, airport security breaches and incidents involving mistreatment of passengers by agents.
Mr. Fisher said he started the list to help answer his own question about airport security: “Is it really as bad as it seems or are people overreacting?”
A year later, he thinks passengers’ concerns are not exaggerated, and have not gone away.
“The fact that these stories still surface routinely is probably a good indication that this issue hasn’t died down as much as anticipated,” he said.
Congrats, Bill!

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Time For the Holidays: TSA worker, Arrested for Sexual Assault

ABC News reported that another TSA was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Manassas, VA, making this the tenth screener arrested for a sex crime this year. “The suspect, Harold Glen Rodman, was wearing his uniform and displayed a badge to the victim, a 37-year-old woman. Police arrested Rodman on Nov. 20. He is charged with aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy and abduction with intent to defile.”
TSA employs 55,000 workers whose daily activities include viewing naked images of travelers and making contact with their genitals. They allow male scanner viewers to view the nude images of men, women and children and do not have privacy software on the 250 x-ray scanners installed at many major airports, including LAX, JFK, O’Hare, Orlando, Boston and Phoenix. TSA has also stated that their employees conduct pat downs on 60,000 passengers a day and make contact with genitals and breasts, including those of children, as a required component of that procedure.
Predictably, when a Federal agency sanctions digital strip searches of women by make workers and requires its workers to rub the genitals of strangers in public many of these workers will come to consider sexual assault acceptable behavior. This culture of arrogant disregard for the privacy rights of passengers attracts those predisposed to these tendencies and erodes their workers respect for the rights of others.In the last twelve months there have been 11 TSA screeners arrested for sex crimes, 10 of which involved children. In all, there have been 62 TSA screeners arrested this year, a rate of one very six days.This level of criminal activity is unacceptable for any Federal agency and is particularly outrageous for one charged with providing airport security.
Congress must investigate this agency and institute the necessary reforms as soon as possible and TSA management held accountable for this breach of the public trust. The traveling public and airline industry can’t afford to wait while TSA gains the needed skills through a series of mistakes and crimes by their personnel.

Another woman is harassed

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Soldier gets groped

As I just posted over at LRC, there's a video circulating showing a soldier getting a pat-down at an airport: It's good to know that the TSA is going to continue to give us fodder for the cause of abolishing this unconstitutional agency.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

TSA's Propaganda Machine

A recent Bloomberg article on TSA claims that complaints are down and demonstrate that TSA is moving in the right direction. It is disgraceful that an otherwise respectable publication would publish such blatant propaganda to aid TSA in their effort to convince travelers that most people like being sexually assaulted by strangers in an airport.

In fact complaints are up. Recent data published at WSJ and recounted in an Atlanta Journal refutes these claims entirely.

According to an article in WSJ on 9/1/11, “Complaints about TSA screening filed with the agency jumped 40% this year through June, compared with the first six months of 2010. In the month of June alone, TSA logged 1,975 screening complaints, more than double the 814 received in June 2010.”

Unfortunately, WSJ did the math wrong; a rise from 814 to 1,975 is a 242% increase!

This doesn't include complaints made to ACLU, EPIC, USTA and other organizations, which totaled in excess of 4,000 complaints as of June, nor account for those who didn’t file complaints for a myriad of reasons.

Further, TSA often trashes complaints filed at the checkpoint, claim to be out of cards or intimidate passengers who request a complaint form reducing the official count on the numbers of actual complaints. No one is fooled by the statistics. No matter how many times TSA claims that people support them, the number of complaints from passengers and members of Congress recounted in media reports indicate that this agency has serious problems.

A survey by USTA published on 11/16/11 concluded; “However, frequent air travelers are less satisfied with TSA’s overall performance than non-frequent air travelers, with:

• Only 54.6 percent of frequent air travelers somewhat/very satisfied (compared to 67.8 percent of non-frequent air travelers); and

• 28 percent of frequent air travelers somewhat/very dissatisfied (compared to 10.4 percent of non-frequent air travelers).

Even these numbers indicate that among the airline industry’s most important clients and who provide the vast majority of airline revenue, nearly one third resent TSA security and less than half are “very satisfied” with TSA’s performance.

Fortunately, a Forbes editorial on Friday provided the perfect antidote for the Bloomberg propaganda statement. That article provided a more comprehensive synopsis of the current state of TSA and its abuse of passengers and wasteful bureaucracy. It offered a more sensible recommendation: “Let’s give ourselves a present on the TSA’s tenth birthday: let’s demand Congress do more than merely wring its hands over this horrific boondoggle. Abolish the TSA.”

Media outlets that pander to TSA officials do their readers a great disservice. They violate their public trust and undermine their credibility by supporting propaganda that is in direct opposition to the opinion and benefit of their public.

Friday, November 18, 2011

'Nothing better than a disobedient government agent'

A friend wrote to tell me his recent encounter with the TSA at the Houston airport:
So, I'm was at the Houston airport which just loves the porno scanners. The TSA agents seem to be the most gung-ho here. I don't know what it is...perhaps it's a Texas neocon thing. Well, I figured out that they usually have people go through the regular metal detectors, and then they randomly switch to the porno scanners. In the past, I've just gotten into a line where I've seen about a dozen people pass through the regular metal detectors. I did the same thing this time, but they decided to switch to the porno scanner right as I got there. So, I decided to opt out. I thought that my luck had run out but it hadn't. The lady at the scanner was the regular TSA thug, but the guy that was supposed to search me was much more relaxed. I didn't get an authoritarian vibe from him at all. Essentially, he didn't even do his job. He gave me the old-fashioned search one would receive if the metal kept beeping -nothing invasive. This reminds me of a saying, "There's nothing worse than an honest bureaucrat when the laws are dumb." I actually thanked the agent afterweard. Thank God for government agents that refuse to follow rules and procedures!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EU Bans X-Ray Scanners

At least the EU is coming to its senses. Neither the millimeter wave (MMW) nor the backscatter x-ray devices have been independently tested and privacy concerns abound. The MMW scanners produce the same image but TSA has added a software overlay to hide the image shown to the public. The scanners had privacy software and were using it in Europe in 2009 but TSA spent an additional $42 million to install existing software that they could have been supplied originally at no cost. The privacy software is only available on the MMW ProVision units not on the more revealing Rapi-Scan x-ray units The Rapi-Scan units will continue to produce the naked image and potentially pose a cancer risk, particularly if malfunctioning and left in service.

The nude images will still be in the system and will remain susceptible to storage and reproduction. The EPIC lawsuit revealed that TSA had stored over two thousand these images and TSA admitted that was true but insisted that these were “volunteers”. Likely the passengers who used the scanners voluntarily during the testing phase in 2008 and 2009. Consequently there are thousands of passenger scan images stored in computers TSA without their consent.
When the scanners went into service in November TSA said the images were cartoonish and could be on the cover of Readers Digest. In August Denver TSA area director Pat Ahlstrom, said the scans " were graphic, no doubt about it," So the TSA story about these being "chalk outlines" was apparently an outright lie intended to pacify travelers and disguise the fact they were being digitally strip searched.

New Contributor: Bill Fisher

Please welcome a new blogger to this site. Bill Fisher is a vocal opponent of TSA policies. Among his notable accomplishments, he has been keeping tabs on the TSA's history of hiring criminals.

Ready for the job

A Ghanaian politician who lost the last presidential election in a run-off recently offended airport security workers when he refused to be humiliated and invaded by their security procedures. Sounds like he's ready for office! When's the last time Obama or W submitted to the TSA's scan-n-grope?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reason: 'What Does the TSA Have Against Belts"

Not especially libertarian, but some good TSA bashing here:
The TSA's list of "prohibited items" includes "realistic replicas of explosives" and "realistic replicas of firearms," presumably to avoid confusion, but how realistic a weapon is a jeweled hand grenade attached to a belt or a gun barrel incorporated into a boot heel?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poor Austin

The center of some of the best activism against the TSA and its porno-scanners and groping, Austin, has lost the battle: Scanners have been installed.

Another Democrat sells out

I thought the Democrats were supposed to be concerned about our civil rights. Well, Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA) prefers that the hugely illegal PreCheck program is expanded to LAX (as scheduled next year) so that California tourism will perk up. Way to stick to principle, Babs!

How corporatism really works

Just read this government rag:
The department’s chief procurement officer issued a presolicitation notice on Nov. 2 inviting technology companies to describe their commercial off the shelf (COTS) or near-COTS handheld detectors that could provide such secondary screening in the event that the AIT body scanners now being rolled out to dozens of U.S. airports pick up an “anomaly” during their primary inspections of passengers.
The US government has had a 50+ year history of getting various foreigners - especially Muslims - mad at us. This provoked a gruesome attack. The government retaliated against "easy targets" that had nothing, or very little, to do with the attacks and used the event to impose a police state. As part of the police state, corporatism was ramped up; that is, private contractors were given big bucks to find technology solutions to fabricated problems. So...

...Now we have porno-scanners that have pretty high false alarm rates, requiring many passengers - even if they don't opt-out - to undergo some sort of pat-down. A fabricated problem has led to a fabricated problem had led to a fabricated problem. Now a hand-held device will be developed by various companies, and they will (bribe) lobby Congress and DHS to pick their device. Given that TSA has over 60,000 employees, let's estimate that 5,000 of these devices are needed at a minimum. They're gonna cost at least $5,000 a pop, too. You do the math, but someone will get rich from this and so there is good reason to bribe officials. The cycle of government inviting corruption continues.

While everyone is suffering through the Fed-created recession, government contractors are flying high. Here's a quote from a transcript of Microsemi CEO's financial announcement:
Our Defense & Security market, as we have forecasted, grew again this quarter, up over 4% sequentially. We saw good bookings and billings opportunity in missile defense, RF systems and Millimeterwave solutions, in fact, we booked our largest at Millimeterwave order to date in the September quarter and we believe that we are still in the early innings for this advanced scanner ramp.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another win for the Drug War police state

An addict was caught by TSA carrying methamphetamine. And a suspected marijuana smuggler was stopped, too. But I thought the TSA was looking for terr'ists!

In related news, Pistole is bragging about how many guns his agents have confiscated. He admits that most of the offenders are law-abiding and simply forgot to take their weapons out of their carry-on bags. Don't forget that all totalitarian police states have sought to disarm their citizens. Here's a great straw man argument for doing so, courtesy of my favorite agency: the TSA.

He also bragged about how many drugs were caught by the porno-scanners. I believe you, Johnny, but I thought the naked scanners are in place to protect me when I fly from terrorists carrying explosives and weapons, not from the victimless crimes of drug smuggling and accidentally bringing a legal firearm onto a plane. (By the way, these gun-toters would be great to have on the plane if there really were a terrorist among the passengers!)

How to protest the TSA scanners

In response to a reader's email asking for advice on how to get involved in protesting the TSA, here's what I wrote. It may not be comprehensive, and I've written on this topic many times, but it's been awhile. So here's a brief refresher:
You can look into local or state-wide movements looking to nullify TSA actions. Austin and Texas had a high-profile stand-off last spring. New Hampshire, Utah, and Alaska have all expressed various levels of interest in this. I also highly suggest that you protect yourself - your rights, dignity, and health - by not flying. This is made more effective if you tell the companies that normally profit from your air travel are made aware of your protest. My "protest" tag should give you a (probably not comprehensive) primer on what's been going on. My "Letters" page compiles various letters protesters have written. I will publish or link to any letters that you write.

Will Obama listen to the people and abolish the TSA

I meant to post this awhile back, but a reader who contacted me just asked how to petition for the removal of TSA scanners reminded me that I never did. Anyway, there's a new website put up by the White House in which anyone can create a petition. After it gets 5000 signatures in 30 days, then it will be reviewed by the White House and presumably a response would be eventually forthcoming.

Well, a petition to abolish the TSA reached its goal of 5000 signatures by Oct 22, and it now has over 30,000 signatures. It should have a million signatures in my opinion, but I expect a press conference from Obama on this issue any day now.... on second thought, maybe I shouldn't hold my breath!

H/T Becky Ayers

TSA faux pas

Stop TSA Scanners reader, Bill Fisher, writes, "Indian President Kalam frisked at NY airport, India fumes, US apologises."
Read about it here, here, and here.

Up? Really?

An Anchorage, Alaska new site has a column titled "Who's up/Who's down." Because of the cartoon software, the incoming scanners are earning the TSA an "Up." Talk about the slave thanking his master for not whipping him today!

FDA responds to ProPublica story

You can read it as well as ProPublica's response here. The takehome message?
ProPublica takes seriously our responsibility to correct mistakes and clarify misstatements. But while the FDA may prefer different terminology, we believe the way we conveyed the facts was accurate.

Trusted Traveler face-lift

It's really purely superficial. As the TSA expands the (horrid) Trusted Traveler program, it is changing the name to "PreCheck."

A bit of push-back in New York

In an otherwise run-of-the-mill article, in an upstate New York news site, repeating the Wall Street Journal's report on the expanding Trusted Traveler program, we find this conclusion:
The TSA should find a way for all passengers to keep their shoes on, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Update on the ASAC

In case you've been following the story of the biased representation of interests on the TSA's advisory committee, this article has some relevant information.

The tone-deaf TSA

A reporter notes that the expansion of the "Trusted Traveler" program is really out-of-touch with the whole OWS protests sweeping the nation:
That means going through security without removing shoes and jackets, leaving laptops undisturbed or having to follow restrictions on toiletries the other 99 percent of us must adhere to.
...OK, so maybe it's not totally unreasonable, but the idea of hassle-free check-ins for a lucky chosen well-heeled few, considering the times, could hardly be more tone-deaf.
I have to agree.

Another press release, with a small twist

At least this reporter opens with some bare-bones facts [emphasis added]:
A new security scanner at Meadows Field works exactly the same way as those that sparked last year's controversy over airport security screenings that produced detailed under-clothing images of travelers.
But the software is different.
Instead of a ghostly, X-ray-like image of the individual person, the machine at Meadows Field unveiled Tuesday produces a low-resolution, computer-generated image on which the computer projects a yellow blot in the area of any "anomaly" -- Transportation Security Administration terminology for anything hidden under clothing that "shouldn't be there."
Unfortunately, it just continues with the standard TSA-line on the cartoon software scanners with no further journalism besides what the TSA fed them.

Contrast the above with this more standard-issue press report [emphasis added]:
Full body scanners have been installed at Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield.

But, these are a new generation of scanners that are not as invasive as past body scans that caused public outcry.

The Advanced Imaging Technology will use new software to identify anomalies on a passenger without the "full monte" review.
Or this one, that just has lies from the TSA without further investigation:
About 800 of the $150,000 scanners are being used at 90 airports across the country, now including Bakersfield's Meadows Field. And it's actually making the security process more efficient; just 30 seconds and you're on your way.
More efficient?! I think not. The software-upgraded scanners are more efficient than the backscatter or original millimeter wave scanners, but certainly less efficient than not having scanners (which, I believe, that Bakersfield did not previously have any scanners)!