Sunday, July 24, 2011

The TSA is listening? Don't make me laugh!

A representative of Flyers Rights claims that the TSA is listening to complaints by flyers and pushed more formally by some passengers rights organizations. Not only that, but recent steps like raising puppies, using cartoon images, starting Trusted Traveler, promising to retest the scanners, and getting a slap on the wrist are signs that we've almost won (okay, she doesn't say that we've almost won, but her picture is way too rosy):
After an extended period of inappropriate, knee-jerk response, dealing with real security threats by providing security theater, the TSA is slowly responding to public outcry. Widespread discontent with the TSA's new measures was focused through the efforts of consumer advocacy groups such as FlyersRights.org, Ralph Nader's Center for Study of Responsive Law, and Marc Rotenberg's Electronic Privacy Information Center, and our efforts are beginning to bear fruits.
...The only consistency in TSA's application of its policies is their too-frequently random application. However, our other concerns are making headway.
...Those important issues aside, FlyersRights and our allies strongly object to our government's trampling of our Constitution. Even here, where the Department of Homeland Security has proven the most tone-deaf, we see progress.
 Here's my point-by-point rebuttal:
  • The dogs are not going to replace the scanners. The number of scanners to be installed is scheduled to double, with nearly every passenger screened with them within a couple of years. Furthermore, dogs are still a rights violation and are being used because they can detect drugs. Carrying and doing drugs is a victimless crime and the Drug War has a deadly and expensive track-record. Finally, dogs are not perfect either, but cops act as though they are. This may mean that innocent people will be more likely to be wrongfully detained.
  • The "retest" of scanner radiation is not addressing the underlying problems that scientists have raised about the scanners. This is just a technician going around checking to make sure that the machines do what the manufacturer says they do and using an SOP that the manufacturer created.
  • The cartoon images change to scanners is no less a rights violation. You are still having a naked photograph taken. They've just added software that hides the naked image from view and shows a stick figure. They still are collecting the data of what you look like naked without any warrant.
  • Trusted Traveler is bad.
  • EPIC v DHS, while admirable, was a failure with a very, very small concession. The TSA can probably even circumvent the "public comment" entirely and no one will sanction them.
Look, I'm glad that Flyers Rights is speaking out about this and I see why they want to paint a rosy picture, but things are worse now than they were a year ago. There are more scanners, the pat-downs are more invasive, and the TSA regularly makes statements showing that it does not see limits on its power.