Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whoops! Was the microphone on?

Ray LaHood, the current Secretary of Transportation, accidentally let it slip that his colleague's policies over at the DHS (that is, the TSA's policies of doing custody searches without warrants on little children) are despicable. Then he realized that politicians can't be honest and, so, he covered his butt:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday he would be ticked off if one of his grandchildren got the kind of pat-down search a 6-year-old girl was subjected to earlier this month at an airport security checkpoint in New Orleans.
LaHood said he would leave a detailed discussion of the episode to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its administrator, John Pistole. LaHood later elaborated on his position:
"Of course, I support everything Administrator Pistole is doing to ensure our air passengers' safety," LeHood said in a statement. "We know terrorists are willing to manipulate societal norms to evade detection, so I appreciate the fact that TSA officers are working with parents to ensure a respectful screening process for the entire family."

State lawmakers

This is good. State lawmakers are held slightly more accountable than federal officials, and so they are starting to take action. The local laws that have been proposed defining TSA searches as assault are fantastic. Now Hawaiians and Alaskans are banding together on their common right to be able to move freely about the country.

H/T Mark Shipman

Friday, April 22, 2011

Who's molesting you at the airports

It's no surprise that TSA agents are not the best and the brights. Another TSA agent has been arrested for criminal activity: this time it's for rape. Worse yet, it somehow involves a minor (police are therefore reluctant to elaborate).

While I'm on this topic of the TSA's recruiting skills, take a look at the new-ish website Homeland Security Theater. The artist is a former TSA agent with a great sense of humor. He had a series up recently on what the requirements are for being a TSA agent. For some added insight, read his copy below each comic strip where he sometimes give a little anecdote of his actual experiences which inspired the strip.

You can do better than this, Rep Chaffetz

If a parent currently refuses to allow their child to be patted down by a stranger in uniform that happens to have a job at an airport checkpoint, they may be arrested or fined, or - at the very least - will miss their flight. It doesn't appear that this changes with Rep Chaffetz's new bill. However, this bill would address a concern that he has based on what happened to his own daughter: she was patted down without his wife (who was traveling with their daughter) knowing where she was. (Here's the full text of the proposed legislation.)

Moral of the story: if you have children and don't want to have them confused or worse by an invasive custody search: Don't fly!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stay calm. They are working on a solution. Stay calm.

That's the sense I get reading this oatmeal-ly op-ed in the NY Times. The author quickly summarizes the last 6 months of bad TSA publicity. Then she provides her relative's story:

One of my relatives, a distinguished federal official, recently sent a letter of complaint to the T.S.A. about her experience submitting to a body search at Washington’s Reagan airport after the scanner reflected the shadow of the ostomy bag she wears on her abdomen.
Fearing that would happen, she had printed out the notification card on the T.S.A. Web site, as she wrote, “so as to discreetly inform the T.S.A. agent of my medical condition. The agent would not even look at the card. ... The screening agent then did a hand search of my groin, breasts, under the waistband of my slacks and around my ostomy bag. ... Does having an ileostomy now make you a terrorist suspect?”
She has been rethinking how long she wants to work for the government in a job that requires a lot of air travel and says she would consider joining a class-action lawsuit against the T.S.A.

Colorado man claims he was 'sexually assaulted' by airport security

A frequent flier is speaking out against what he says was a uniquely intrusive pat-down. He's had them before, but this time he said he felt assaulted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Incompetence rewarded

No surprise here, but following up on my letter to Jason Chaffetz last week, I see a report that in the 6-month budget extension (in which $38 billion was "cut"), there is:
a TSA funding increase of $42 million, with a specific provision for hiring 3,800 screeners to operate full-body scanners.
This article specifically discusses Newark airport, which has had relapses as well as theft issues. So it makes sense that they will get a piece of this pie for more training in how to be an effective pornographer and molester.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TSA policy towards children

It's important to remember that last week's viral video of a 6-year old getting searched at the airport was not an anomaly. It just happened to be caught on tape.

Searching children in this manner is standard policy. The TSA has said so itself, issuing statements after the video was released that all appropriate procedures were followed. Another mother has come forward to say that the same thing happened to her 8-year old son. She only got still pictures, not a video.

After the uproar in late 2010 about child pat-downs when a couple of other videos went viral (showing a boy having to remove his shirt and a girl screaming in protest at her search), TSA assured us that they would modify their policy towards children under 13 (although why 13 years old was a magic number was never explained). They may well have modified their child version of the custody search... I didn't see the full on jab of the genitals that we've read so much about. But what is left is disturbing, nonetheless.

So now the TSA is promising to continue to review and revise their "cookie cutter" procedures (their words).

It will appease us until the next video surfaces. And it shows how important it is for everyone to document these abuses.

A request for those who haven't sworn off flying: Some parents may submissively allow their children to be molested - if you won't intervene, at least continue to expose this absurdity. Bring a video camera or prepare your smartphone for video when you fly. Before or after you pass through security, be alert for the opportunity to be a documentarian of our police state. And share your video on YouTube, Facebook, etc... (and send me the link!).

Complainer = Terrorist

If you think I'm kidding, this is according to the TSA's own documents. And here's a testamonial for a little added evidence.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gate-rape as described by a rape survivor

This article mis-states a couple of things, but the author's testamonial to a custody search (aka pat-down) that left her in tears is an important story. An excerpt:

I'm not sure when I started to shake. I explained I wasn't comfortable being touched. The man laughed. I said in a smaller voice than normal, "I don't want you to touch me." The woman said she would be the one touching. She told me to extend my arms. She inspected my hair and neck first.
I started to cry.
I wanted so much to be brave. I was told I could be escorted out of the airport. "I live in Alaska," I said. Like that would explain something. As though he would know that flying isn't optional for us and shoo me though.
They seemed angry at me. The search continued. My shoulders. My arms. My back.
"Put your hands out, ma'am."
They were over my face, and I was sobbing.
Rape is about power, not just sex. TSA agents may or may not be sexually perverted, but they are certainly on a power trip when they conduct these searches.

Shocking: Government courts agree with government

I've repeatedly been skeptical about going the legal route on the TSA abuse. There is already precedent for the courts to nullify the Fourth Amendment at airports: decades ago, they justified metal detector sreenings and baggage searches without warrants.

So it does not surprise me much that a court in Florida determined that there is no need for the TSA to stop its aggressions (specifically the use of the naked scanners and so-called "pat-downs") while a case proceeds. The case is Corbett v US, and the court specifically cites the TSA procedures as not violating the Fourth Amendment. Obviously, there are other cases pending, and this case may still move forward, so this is not a final answer. But read excerpts from the court's statement if you want to feel hopeless about the state of constitutional law in this country (emphasis added):

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Begging Congress to help Alaskans enjoy their right to freedom of travel

The AP reports:
Alaska lawmakers are asking a U.S. Senate committee to hold hearings in Alaska over what they consider "invasive procedures" used by the Transportation Safety Administration.

The TSA doesn't yet conduct mandatory full-body pat downs in Alaska, but the issue made headlines when state Rep. Sharon Cissna, a Democrat from Anchorage, refused a pat-down at the Seattle airport. She used a car, small airplane and ferry to get back to Alaska.
Rep. Max Gruenberg drafted the letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.
The Anchorage Democrat says the committee needs to hear from Alaskans about their unique concerns since they rely on air travel more than other Americans. Rep. Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican, was the only one of the 60-member Legislature to not sign the letter.
TSA supporters like the claim that we don't have a right to travel by air. However, we do have a right to freedom of movement as well as a right to due process if liberty is infringed, not to mention our right to reasonable searches with a specific judge-issued warrant. There is not a valid argument that restriction certain modes of travel without due process or a warrant is consistent with this right. Citizens of Alaska and Hawaii have a particularly good argument here, as air travel is the most reasonable method for them to travel between the States. Congress has so far failed to stand up to protect these rights.

H/T Boycott Flying