Saturday, August 6, 2011

Will you be SPOT-ted?

Sibel Edmonds thinks so. An excerpt:
Actually, when it comes right down to it, if you are an ‘American,’ you may as well put all your bets on being TSA’s chosen one; at one point or another. Because the American Government has designated you, every single one of you as a ‘suspect.’ When it comes to your communications-phone, e-mail, etc. every single one of you is a suspect, according to your government, thus, under phone wiretaps and other communication related surveillance. Think about it, even the ‘ordinary’ airport security procedures you are forced to undergo are meant to screen you, check you out, as a suspect. Whether you engage in some sort of a suspicious behavior or not is actually a moot quandary. We, my friend, all of us, were designated as suspects nearly a decade ago. We may as well return that ticket, forget that darn flight, and drive while we can. Before the suspicious behavior detection police take over the roads and make that humiliating or impossible too.

Equal discrimination of the disabled

TSA doesn't just focus its discriminatory actions - in the form of extra scrutiny and pat-downs - on disabled passengers. Potential employees who are disabled are also discriminated against: a man with only one hand was turned down for a job because he can't properly molest (disabled and fully-capable) passengers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Is the Israeli model so great? Part 2

Justin Raimondo's article on SPOT linked to this older article from Time, giving a little more insight into the Israeli airport security that is all the rage with the newly anti-TSA right. The Israeli model is not a solution: TSA agents will still have a lot of power, will still be able to violate our rights (detaining for questioning without any reason for suspicion except that you showed up at an airport with - get this! - an airline ticket), and will eat up a lot of passengers' time and taxpayers' money in the process.

With friends like these...

"Tourism industry leaders" are calling for a more pleasant travel experience for visitors to the US, specifically a quicker entry process. So far so good. Their solution, though, could use a makeover: a Trusted Traveler program for tourists. I'm sure that people the world over are clamoring to hand over their past to US Customs for the privilege of giving their money to Americans.

Design industry rag on dissent and critique

Metropolis is one of the leading magazines for design industry professionals. In a blog post covering entrants and winners of the magazine's annual awards, a Metropolis writer has this to say about 4th Amendment Wear:
My personal favorite of all the winners was Matthew Ryan’s 4th Amendment Wear, which won in the Design for Social Impact category. Ryan designed clothing with text that shows up under TSA’s X-Ray body scanners, reminding security officials that they are invading an individual’s privacy. Social Design has been plagued and, in my opinion, limited by an unfortunate do-gooder attitude. Ryan’s work reminds us that dissent and critique are equally powerful goals for design.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

SPOT is coming

The Boston Herald reports that the TSA's long-hyped program to identify suspicious passengers is coming to Boston-Logan airport. Justin Raimondo does a great job of taking apart this ridiculous and intrusive program:
[T]he “theory” behind this nonsense is based on the work of Paul Ekman, a clinical psychologist, who originated the SPOT training program. According to Ekman, human facial expressions are not learned behavior, but innate reactions – instincts – which are universal. ...the authors of this scientific paper, [debunked] Ekman’s claims and averred that one would get better results “flipping a coin” than utilizing Ekman’s methods. ...
Ekman’s “Facial Action Coding System” is just the sort of scientistic mysticism governments are inherently in favor of: its presumption of certainty and schematic reductionism is typical of the sort of “systems” favored by government bureaucrats, who love to believe – have to believe – they can understand the infinite complexity of human beings – when in fact they don’t have a clue. Just as some addle-brained “economist” of the modern school thinks he can reduce human economic interactions to a few mathematical formulas, so the “scientists” over at the TSA think they can map the human mind with a glance and a few impertinent questions. Such “scientific” hocus-pocus is laughable – and you’re paying for it, in more ways than one.
 Meanwhile, Bill Foster explains how "training" works at the TSA (and, I assume, at just about every government agency):
The best case scenario is that the BDOs are smart enough to realize that they are dealing with someone with (with respect to you) a “problem.” However I suspect this will not be the case most of the time. As I am to understand it, there are basically three ways these people are trained. 1) In a classroom setting by TSOs and teachers who get the information in “packets” from headquarters. These are the same people who teach every other class on every other subject. From reading the x-ray to sexual harassment in the work place classes. 2) Online courses. The online courses are incredibly dumbed down. What’s more, they are designed in such a way that a student can just click off each page, reach the end, get all the questions wrong and move on to the next online class. There are THOUSANDS of these. My favorite is the one about washing my hands after using the bathroom. I had to take that one about 8 times. Finally, 3) From on the job training. Meaning, from other BDOs who learned from both 1) and 2). My point is, if an actual behavior expert is involved in anyway, it’s at the early point drafting up the class “packet.”
His anecdote of SPOT-like training that he did is hilarious, as usual.

No scanners in Dubai

Some countries still have some sense:

Airports in Dubai also refused full-body scanners as part of their border security regime because the devices do not correspond with national customs and ethics.
Brig Ahmed bin Thani, the Dubai Police’s director of airport security: ‘I do not feel that it is necessary for us to implement such a technology while we are operating different methods and have different avenues that have worked so far.
‘The use of such a device violates personal privacy and it raises a very sensitive issue for passengers, in addition to the fact that it does not complement our national ethics.’

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update on Andrea Abbott

The mother who protected her daughter from the TSA, only to be rewarded with arrest, has issued a statement through her attorney. (I guess this means that charges haven't been dropped.) When I originally blogged about this at LRC, I wrote:
...the details get fuzzy because, all of a sudden, Abbott did an about-face and "allowed" the pat-down of her daughter. It seems much more likely that she was threatened and bullied to the point where she was worn down.
Am I a genius or what? (What: clearly the TSA's bullying behavior is predictable by anyone with half a brain). Here's what Abbott says happened:
“The officer was rude and bullied me. He had no intention of resolving the problem and assisting in the situation, but his solution was to put me in jail and threaten to put my daughter in foster care,” [Andrea Abbott] stated.
Nice, TSA. Real classy.

Furthermore, we also learn about Abbott's daughter's age. She's 14. That is, she is old enough to get the "adult" pat-down - including 4 vaginal karate chops and full breast massage - and not the slightly-more-tame pat-down reserved for under-13's. Frankly, Abbott could have done a lot more than yelled and cursed at the agent, and I'd still be behind her 100%. This is child molestation, plain and simple.

As for not wanting her daughter to get a scan:
  1. Child pornography. Period.
  2. See my recent coverage on the "safety" of scanners. Basically, we know nothing. And, certainly, we don't know how children will be affected as compared to adults.
Good for you, Andrea, for doing what every good parent should do: protecting your daughter from unnecessary harm and molestation!

The comment period on scanners in the UK

The ruling of the EPIC v DHS case was that the TSA should have, and now must, have a notice and comment period on the scanners.
However, the judges ruled that the TSA should have conducted a "notice-and-comment rulemaking" procedure before implementing their decision and remanded the matter to the TSA for further proceedings. Marc Rotenberg, the EPIC Executive Director, responded to the ruling by saying that "many Americans object to the airport body scanner program. Now they will have an opportunity to express their views to the TSA and the agency must take their views into account as a matter of law".
In the UK, their airline security organization (the Department for Transport) did conduct such a comment period. Here's how it went:
Last week's ruling serves as a reminder that the AIT system is also in use across UK airports. In January 2010, the government announced a package of measures to enhance the protection of the travelling public following the failed Christmas Day plot, including the introduction of AIT full body scanners.
An interim code of practice was published by the Department for Transport to support the introduction of AIT scanners at Heathrow and Manchester airports and a consultation on the code was commenced on 29 March 2010. The purpose of the consultation was to seek the public's views on the interim code with a view to preparing the final code of practice.
Responses were made to the consultation by, amongst others, Liberty, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Each organisation was concerned at the impact the implementation of the AIT scanners would have on a traveller's privacy. Unlike in the United States, if an individual is selected for body scanning in the UK, an alternative will not be offered.
This was emphasised in Liberty's response which said that
"the issue here is not a refusal to submit to a security search, but the disproportionate impact on some people's privacy…caused by the lack of an alternative means of being searched. While some may object to revealing these intimate details and may prefer this to be being physically touched, human rights concerns the dignity of individuals and, a majority-rules approach is not only inappropriate, it may also be unlawful."
The consultation on body-scanners in UK airports closed on 19 July 2010. Clear questions have been raised in response but no final code yet produced.
The UK installed the scanners. No alternatives were made available. Basically, comments were made, but no attempt was made to address them. But the author of this article is hopeful:
Perhaps the recent judgment in the US court of appeals will revive the issue on this side of the pond.
 I am not. I fully expect the TSA to continue to ignore our concerns.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Government supports the government, who supports the government

A blog post at the National Constitution Center unquestioningly accepts the DC Court of Appeals ruling on EPIC v DHS as the definitive answer on whether full-body scanners are unconstitutional. Not surprising, of course.

Okay, so the National Constitution Center is not nominally a part of the government, but, here's its history (emphasis added):
Located on Independence Mall, the National Constitution Center brings the U.S. Constitution to life for the whole family through multimedia exhibitions, live performances, timely public programs and dynamic educational resources. As America's first and only nonpartisan, nonprofit institution devoted to the Constitution, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires acts of citizenship.

The National Constitution Center was created by the Constitution Heritage Act in 1988. On September 17, 2000, the Center broke ground at 525 Arch St. in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park – America’s most historic square mile – 213 years to the day the U.S. Constitution was signed.  The Center is the first-ever museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution Heritage Act's purpose is:
To provide for continuing interpretation of the Constitution in appropriate units of the National Park System by the Secretary of the Interior, and to establish a National center for the United States Constitution within the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia,  Pennsylvania. order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.
and continues:
The Secretary [of the Interior] is authorized to make grants to, and enter into cooperative agreements, contracts or leases with the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which shall operate the Center as provided in this Act in order to carry out the purposes of this Act. Funds authorized to be appropriated under this Act may be made
available to the National Constitution Center only to the extent that they are matched by such entity with funds from nonfederal sources.
So it's half government with a mission from the government to "educate" the useful idiots about the Constitution. I'll leave my title as is!

via Huffington Post

Security theater at the ports

The TSA has mandated that all port workers get expensive ID cards (aka TWIC) with even more expensive ID card scanners:
Starting in January of 2009, workers at area facilities like Port Fourchon were required to carry Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, a card about the size of a driver’s license.
To get the card, workers must apply with the Transportation Security Administration and undergo a background check. People convicted of conspiracy, terrorism, use of explosives or similar charges can’t get the badge. Convicted felons can only get them seven years after the offense, or five years after leaving prison.
The card costs $132.50, and is valid for five years.
As you might imagine (and seeing as how we're 30 months into the mandate), the roll-out has gone swimmingly and closes all security gaps at the ports:
A dock at Port Fourchon was the first to catch workers using counterfeit TWICs — in February of 2009, two men were caught after officers found spelling errors on their cards.
“There have been a few instances where a crew member on a boat that is docked will go out and get drunk,” Terry said. “They’d be denied into the facility because they are under the influence, and then they try to sneak back onto the boat.”
Currently, guards visually check the TWICs to make sure that everyone entering sealed dock areas is certified. The TSA is currently in a pilot program to test electronic readers, but that program has yet to be widely implemented.
“There’s still not a scanner that works on a regular basis.” Chiasson said. “Everything still works on sight.”
Parfait has used his TWIC card in ports all over the country. He’s never seen the electronic test system — he says guards usually just ask him to show the card.
Plus, the cards are not too hard to come by - 1.7 million have been issued and there are certainly some unscrupulous port workers out there. But, even if you don't have your TWIC on you, the guard may wave you in anyway if your buddy has one.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another 'TSA is kinda like a doctor' parody

What's better than receiving a free groping by the TSA? How about getting your breasts checked for cancer at the same time? That's the new offering from the TSA, which says that squeezing and twisting your breasts during security pat-downs is now a "medical procedure" and that it's all being done "to protect the health of Americans." Men, meanwhile, will now receive a free prostate exam as part of their screening procedure.
Read the rest.

Keeping tabs on TSA criminals

Some up-to-date compilations are here. An excerpt:

TSA Crimes (28 crimes as of 6-24-11 + 5 = 33 Screeners)
TSA Agent Caught With Passenger's iPad in His Pants; Allegedly Took $50,000 in Other Goods, Cops Say
Plea Deal In TSA Airport Screener Assault Case
TSA officer Paul Yashou arrested on suspicion of taking $30,000 worth of items from suitcases at LAX