Saturday, June 25, 2011

'Trusted travelers;' And maybe we can 'trust' children

It's official - the terrible "trusted traveler" program will have started pilot runs by the end of the year.

The article also says:

TSA was confronted recently by another uproar when a six-year-old girl was subjected to a physical patdown after she went through a full-body scanner, raising questions about whether children pose a security risk.

Pistole said the child moved during the scan, prompting the patdown, but that TSA has once again changed its policy for such scenarios and that he plans to unveil more changes soon. But he noted that militants have used children in attacks before.

"We have changed the policy to say that there will be repeated efforts to resolve that without a patdown," Pistole said. "I will be announcing something in the not-too-distant future about a change in policy as it relates to children."

This hardly sounds like children will be exempt from pat-downs - the least the TSA should do if it has an iota of decency. But, less child abuse is less child abuse, I suppose.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Outrage over predictable bureaucratic behavior

This type of thing makes me laugh: Investigator: Makeover for airport boss's office while public repairs wait. Why? Because it's amusing (and sad) that people are surprised the bureaucracies - particularly government bureaucracies, who have no profit-loss motive - are wasteful in spending their money, and, furthermore, that bureaucrats look out for #1 first (and not the public interest, I suppose).

Here's the thing: This is not so shocking at all. It would not surprise me if, say, a Walmart store manager had discretionary funds that he could use to buy new carpet and a new desk chair in his office, but, in order to renovate the store, he would have to wait for corporate headquarters to release the cash and approve the project. There are two big differences here, though. First, if you are a Walmart customer and there is a leaking roof ruining the packaging on something you want to buy, it would be quite easy for you to patronize another store instead. Second, if Walmart mis-spends its money (as you perceive it), it's none of your business because it's not your money. In contrast, the airports are government-owned and operated, so tax dollars are in play and local monopolies are in effect.

Anyway, I picked this up because - outrage of outrages - the article mentions that a scanner was damaged by rain through the leaky roof at Cleveland's airport. I say "Hooray!" I don't like to see my tax dollars wasted, but, since the whole TSA is a waste, I'd rather see a minor improvement in freedom due to a scanner being taken off-line and funds being diverted to repairing said scanner instead of buying a second scanner or hiring another goon. I do hope that Congress will at some point stop giving the TSA so much money so they lose their equipment and workforce through attrition. One can hope!

Idaho doesn't want to be groped or scanned, either

Apparently, Idaho had a less-publicized legislative battle with the TSA. An anti-scanning bill breezed through the State House, but the State Senate blocked it. More anti-scanning and anti-groping bills may be in Idaho's future.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The heat is getting turned up

Lew Rockwell reports that Pistole is staying true to his promise to use naked scanners as primary screening for most airline passengers. But is public opinion coming around? I hope so:

Writes John Keller:

I flew from Atlanta to San Francisco this week. In Atlanta, if you take the side security lines, which are out of site until you get around the corner, you must go through the porno scanner or opt out. They no longer use the magnetometers at the sides, at least during low traffic times. In San Francisco there is a similar trend with one line going through the magnetometer and one through the porno scanner, you can't really see which until you round the bend.

In the past, in both airports, the porno scanner was in the middle of several lines, and every line had a magnetometer. They would wave people through the pornotron randomly. Now the TSA frog boiler is set to medium. Next step is surely all pornotron all the time, and finally no opting out, unless we keep the pressure on to end this dangerous, invasive, expensive practice.

On both ends, I managed to unknowingly get in the porno line and opted out. A funny thing happened. Two women in Atlanta joined me, one a professional tennis player, the other 4 months pregnant. In San Francisco, a fellow passenger coming through the magnetometer stopped to say he agreed that opting out was the right thing to do. I suggested that maybe we need a national opt out day to show the TSA that the pornotrons must go. Everyone ready to opt out, show up 2 hours early and be ready to wait a little extra. He said "sign me up."

TSA everywhere

Here's a summary of all of the places where TSA has conducted searches (with their VIPR program, in which local agencies get involved). It also links to the video below from February:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fixing a train wreck - Part 2

I received an email from someone who wanted me to link to their list of ways to improve airport security - specifically by making it faster for the passengers. However, there was no indication that the author wanted to make it better for the passengers. That is, all of the rights violations currently in place were taken as a given, and the list was just ways to make each rights violation more efficient! Here's my response:

Your article is full of half-measures that do not address the real problem. I've covered this topic in the past (see list below) and see no reason to link to you. However, here's a list of 10 ways that the government has and will continue to illegally botch airport security while violating our basic rights. Feel free to blog it (in which case I will link to you!)

(regarding whether our luggage and persons should be subject to so much scrutiny to begin with):
US Law - The 4th Amendment
Human Rights

(This one is relevant Re: the shoe scanner idea):
Does the state care about your health?

On so-called under-staffing:
There will always be a security gap
Incompetence rewarded

What's wrong with the various ways of "improving" security, including low-risk travelers, prior identification, and slow/fast lanes:
New! Improved! (And still a rights violation!)
More on the "Checkpoint of the future"
Will the 'checkpoint of the future' even work?
Expedited trusted traveler program? Well...
Fixing a train wreck


More scanner-wear

This one is a simple T-shirt that displays the text of the Fourth Amendment, presumably visible when you are in the scanner.

Gov Perry puts anti-groping bill back on the agenda!

As I reported over at

This is very good news, indeed. Texas State Rep David Simpson introduced two bills to the legislative session this year: one making use of the naked scanners illegal and one making invasive pat-downs illegal (without due process, that is). The anti-scanner bill died, but the anti-groping bill came very close to passing. It stalled in the state senate when Obama's DOJ threatened to stop all flights in Texas if the bill passed.

In a wild turn of events, the legislative session was extended by Gov Rick Perry for a month to finish work on other legislation, and it was left to his sole discretion to decide what to add to the agenda. With a little over a week left in the extended session - and after an about-face by Lt Gov David Dewhurst, a nationwide campaign, and recent publicity of state legislators being violated by the TSA - the bill is back on the agenda.

It is expected to pass in the House this week, and the fight in the Senate will be next week. This is a very good precedent. There are numerous other states considering similar legislation who will hopefully be emboldened by a success in Texas. And, according to some, this is the best chance at fighting TSA tyranny (see my thoughts on this here). This also is indicative of the general unrest about this issue that Rick Perry - who is, after all, a politician (and I don't mean that to be a compliment) - has stuck his neck out.

(A good source of up-to-date information on this fight in Texas can be found at the Stop Austin Scanners blog.)

"Of course!" says Jaunted

Jaunted writes about how predictable TSA behavior is. Lies, coverups, misinformation, and unions trying to prevent incompetent TSA agents from being fired.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow on scanners

I personally think that the position you must assume when getting irradiated at the airport is akin to that a criminal takes just prior to an arrest, Gwyneth Paltrow sees it differently:
"Going through the airport, saw a very elderly lady getting scanned by that new xray thing...the TSA has everybody throwing up the ROC, its too good," she wrote. The ROC would be throwing your diamond in the sky in praise of Jay-Z (longtime Paltrow pal) and his empire.

'You'd be distracted, too.'

A humorous take on the recent TSA firings in Hawaii:
In April, we told you about the Big Island TSA screener who was arrested for stealing money from an undercover agent posing as a Japanese tourist. And of course you know about the agency's controversial nude scanners and aggressive pat-down procedures, which sparked near riots during the holidays. Now, on Oahu, TSA announced it's firing more than 30 workers for failing to properly screen checked bags.

"TSA holds its workforce to the highest ethical standards and we will not tolerate employees who in any way compromise the security of the traveling public," said administrator John Pistole in a release. TSA says the security lapses occurred daily at Honolulu International "during the last few months of 2010."

Sounds bad, but hey—if you were looking at naked pictures and touching strangers' junk all day, you'd be distracted too.

Simpson pleas with Perry

I'm less hopeful about this now that the 2012 elections are winding up. Perry keeps coming up as a possible contender, which means he will not want to ruffle feathers. But Rep Simpson's latest letter is very strong and I do hope it will get this thing back on the agenda! And Downsize DC joins in.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Texan politicians share their groping stories

Another traveler comes around

A blogger writes of inconsistent and unclear procedures at airport security checkpoints on a recent trip. There is nothing particularly notable about this man's experience, but I have a couple of things to say about the general themes...

First, Pistole, et al, have repeatedly referred to their "multi-layered" "unpredictable" approach to security. This is sold as a way to make sure that security is, well, secure. I don't buy this at all, but - to the blogger, RG Edmonson's questions ("Shouldn’t there be standard protocols?... Would it be too much for TSA to post clearly-written instructions at the security checkpoint?") - I would just say that the TSA's answers are "No" and "Yes." Not that the TSA would ever give such a straightforward answer. But, they don't want mere civilians to be able to feel too comfortable while traveling, and they need to cover the butts of their workers when they mess up. They want us in fear and submissive - that's the whole point!

Mr. Edmonson concludes:
When people began complaining about TSA’s security last year, I felt like they should stop whining and get with the program. No more. People have legitimate complaints. Add mine to the list. Maybe TSA will read it and take note.
which brings me to my second comment. Those of us who have spoken up about TSA abuses are regularly dismissed as "whiners." Americans' mentality regarding this is certainly part of the problem. If a person goes around being a doormat their whole lives, with coworkers, friends, family, and romantic partners walking all over them, do we applaud them for "not whining" and "getting with the program?" Of course not! But, for some reason, when we stand up to our abusers, it is us - not the doormats - who are making things out of nothing and whining. Good grief!

In any case, I'm glad Mr. Edmonson seems to be coming around on this. Listen when people complain and continue to think for yourself about whether the "program" is one that we should want to join.

Slipping through all 'layers of security'

Of course chef's knives make it through. This is security theater, not actual security!