Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pistole wants our money

Of course, the head of the TSA must do his duty and press Congress for more funds (to intrude on more of our Constitutional rights!). So, last week, Pistole made such a plea. Mostly, it's standard bureaucratic fare. However, to save you from reading this propaganda, I can highlight some things he said.

...I'd be surprised if naked scanners showed up anytime soon. Such a move would be most likely if the federal government started mandating scanners and/or providing grants to buy scanners. 
Well, Pistole's statement specifically talks about federal grants for security, albeit for ground transportation:
In the surface transportation arena, we continue to work with our law enforcement and security partners to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience against a terrorist attack. TSA works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency Grants Program Directorate to direct federal grants to the most at-risk transit properties.
  • With the funding for this year, the TSA will be able "to screen an estimated 60 percent of passengers" using naked scanners. If Congress gives TSA the additional money for scanners for next year (which the House has so far scratched), this number increases to 80% of passengers. What this means is scanners will get harder and harder to avoid, even if the next round of purchases don't get approved by Congress.
  • He made a brief statement about possible future state laws regarding TSA policies of virtual strip searches and aggressive hands-on custody searches. Not surprisingly, he says the TSA position is that these laws are unconstitutional because the states can't regulate the feds. But, as anyone with an ounce of common sense knows, the states can and should prevent federal agents from invading the Constitutional rights of its citizens within its own borders.
  • I found this statement funny (in a dark humor kind of way):
Because mass transit and passenger rail systems serve large populations in major metropolitan areas, many with substantial underground infrastructure, bridges, and transportation staging areas, or hubs, which can include other forms of transportation, these systems remain a target for terrorist groups. 
That's not a statement of causality, but it is phrased as if it were so. Here's my shot at it: "Because colleges and universities serve thousands of students, many with large lecture halls, dorms, and stadiums, these schools remain a target for terrorist groups." While public transit may be a target for terrorist groups, the mere fact that many people are served is not proof that they are targets.
  •  FYI: "There have been more than 3,000 VIPR operations in the current fiscal year, 70 percent of which occurred in the surface transportation sector."
  • Speaking of VIPR, the TSA is all about being unpredictable: "Our Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams are deployed on thousands of mass transit, pipeline, maritime and highway missions annually to enhance security, provide deterrent and detection capabilities, and introduce an element of unpredictability in security practices and procedures in order to prevent or disrupt potential terrorist planning activities."
As I've said before, this is not about effective prevention, but rather about control and cover-ups. Keep the population scared and, since employees are bound to over-reach, protect ourselves with a story about how this is part of the "multi-layered," "unpredictable" procedures that we intentionally have in place. Above all, civilians must be submissive and agents must always be following the correct procedure, according to official statements!
Meanwhile, Pistole spoke to the press in Atlanta, and the take-home message is that even though the TSA's official position is that naked scanners do not invade our privacy ("We have deployed nearly 500 AIT machines at domestic airports throughout the country to enhance security by safely screening passengers for metallic and non-metallic weapons and explosives - including objects concealed under layers of clothing, while protecting the privacy of the traveler."), there will be "privacy filters" on all millimeter wave scanners soon. You know, not that they're needed, but, you know, the TSA is listening, and, you know, the fact that the machine can still see under clothes and it's just a software patch that changes it from a graphic image to a cartoon is irrelevant.