Saturday, January 22, 2011

Foreign Policy Magazine on TSA "conventional wisdom"

In case you didn't see this article from the beginning of the month, there's a nice little essay over at Foreign Policy that illustrates how the TSA doesn't make us safer. Time to abolish it, dontcha think?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Info on scanners

A new website - TSA Status - is keeping a running tally of what to expect at various airport checkpoints. I've added it to my blogroll for quick reference.
What's the status of the TSA's new body scanners? They're not at every airport and they're not always in use. If you want to avoid the backscatter-radiation security theater or simply don't want your junk touched, use this list, and let us know any updates or additions. If you have time to kill at an airport, feel free to wander around and check out different checkpoints, and make sure to catch the status on your way out, too.

Look up an three-letter airport code here or find a list of US airport codes here.

Help us out: email us at or tweet @tsastatus. Please include the airport, airline and/or checkpoint, DATE and status or any notes. Thanks!

If you have expertise with development, mobile applications or anything else beyond the scope of my abilities, let me know!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More scientific debate on the scanners

I found this excellent post from a few months back, as well as the back-and-forth in the comments, to be very interesting. The blogger is a biochemist (like myself) and talks about what he knows about radiation and cancer mechanisms (all of which is accurate based on my own knowledge).

When scientists, such as Professor Sedat at UCSF or little-ol-me, complain that there has been no peer-reviewed studies of these machines, this is why. Just look at the comments section on the blog post - there is a lot to consider, weigh, and evaluate - just from a technical standpoint. None of this has been done, and yet the line fed to the public is that these are safe.

BTW - if you want to check out how absurd the propaganda is on this, check out the TSA's "More Information" page on the scanners. The "Media Coverage" section has only two links, both to CBS News, and one of them is this tripe from when the controversy gained steam last fall. Do you think that CBS journalists get their paycheck directly from DHS, or is the money laundered first?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WebMD's coverage of the scanners

I'm happy to see this in-depth article at Medscape Today, WebMD's news site. It comes across as even-handed reporting, touches on a lot of major points, and is not dismissive of the anti-scanner side.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Since you didn't respond, Mr. Pistole, here are my demands

Jon Deniro never heard  back from the head of the TSA, so he has written to Pistole again. Here's an excerpt:
John Pistole, 

It seems you are resolute in your choice to continue your assault on the people of the U.S.A.  You appear steadfast in your desire to violate the rights citizens are guaranteed under the Constitution, and to continue your criminal activities.

I am equally resolute to defend the Constitution and the rights guaranteed to citizens thereunder. 

You are a traitor to the United States of America and I will not treat you as anything more honorable than that. 

I demand that: 

1 - The TSA be immediately disbanded. Airport security immediately revert to the private sector, this being it's natural and lawful domain; 

2 - The TSA website be wiped clean of all propaganda and replaced with a database containing the following for each and every employee, associate, contractor, etc., both present and past, who has ever been associated with your organization in any manner;
    A - Each such person's full name (including any and all aliases), social security number, home address, telephone number, and spouse's same information (if applicable). Also the person's job title(s) and location(s) worked;
    B - A clearly legible photo of a government issued photo ID card showing the person's name and photograph;
    C - Two completely nude photographs of the person, one frontal, one rear view, full length and positioned in the same pose as used in your backscatter machines;
    D -  A notarized affidavit signed and fingerprinted by the person stating that they now and forever waive all their rights as an American citizen. As it has been irrefutably evidenced that TSA personnel do not believe in the protections of our laws, and the Constitution in particular, they can voice no objection to affirming that they have no rights. The primary purpose of this being so that any person on U.S. soil, irrespective of citizenship, may, without fear of legal repercussions, grope, fondle, sexually assault, digitally rape, verbally and/or physically abuse, and in various ways humiliate TSA personnel, as well as confiscate personal property of those TSA personnel, as dictated only by their whim and fancy;   
Read the rest

Monday, January 17, 2011


Not sure what Montel Williams' marijuana pipe has to do with airline security (actually, I know it has nothing to do with airline security, just like everything else the TSA does).

EPIC vs DHS: Judge blocks release of test images

EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) for the TSA to provide the 2000 images of volunteers that it collected while testing the scanners has been denied. TSA claims that this would be a security risk, and the judge agreed. I think the real reason that TSA won't release them is 2-fold:
  1. Power. As with any bureaucracy, turf protection is most important. Releasing the images is giving up control, and no bureaucrat willingly relinquishes their power.
  2. PR. We know these images are offensive. The more that are available, the less likely that the American public will continue to submit. Incidentally, in the TechDirt comments, someone questions whether an electronic privacy advocacy group should seek these images, but more of these images need to be leaked to undermine the remaining support that the scanners have. (If you question whether the images are offensive, I have a challenge for you. Display one of these images in public. I own this shirt and I do wear it around as part of my campaign to shed light on this. I honestly feel embarrassed when I do so because it is so graphic.)
 TSA was forced to hand over some other information, including specs and contracts for the scanners (x-ray backscatter and millimeter wave).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three great speeches in Austin

Thanks to Wimpie for posting this in the comments section. It's an Austin City Council meeting from last week where three citizens ask they're city council to be the last line of defense protecting their rights at the Austin airport.

Watch out, Colorado Springs! (And everyone else!)

Colorado Springs airport will be getting scanners at their little airport, and at considerable expense. Previously, the local council had to approve funds to upgrade the airport, including a remodel of the so-called security area (aka TSA harassment zone) and an $17 million project to automate baggage screening (aka unconstitutional snooping that airline passengers, including yours truly, have simply accepted for years). But the city and federal government are each chipping in an additional $1 million  to make sure there is room for the scanners that will be installed in 2012.

Furthermore, we learn that: "TSA plans to have full-body scanners in all airports by the end of 2012." If your local sleepy airport doesn't yet have a scanner, perhaps the local city council can delay or stop this timeline by not providing the funds for such expansions.