Saturday, November 19, 2011

TSA's Propaganda Machine

A recent Bloomberg article on TSA claims that complaints are down and demonstrate that TSA is moving in the right direction. It is disgraceful that an otherwise respectable publication would publish such blatant propaganda to aid TSA in their effort to convince travelers that most people like being sexually assaulted by strangers in an airport.

In fact complaints are up. Recent data published at WSJ and recounted in an Atlanta Journal refutes these claims entirely.

According to an article in WSJ on 9/1/11, “Complaints about TSA screening filed with the agency jumped 40% this year through June, compared with the first six months of 2010. In the month of June alone, TSA logged 1,975 screening complaints, more than double the 814 received in June 2010.”

Unfortunately, WSJ did the math wrong; a rise from 814 to 1,975 is a 242% increase!

This doesn't include complaints made to ACLU, EPIC, USTA and other organizations, which totaled in excess of 4,000 complaints as of June, nor account for those who didn’t file complaints for a myriad of reasons.

Further, TSA often trashes complaints filed at the checkpoint, claim to be out of cards or intimidate passengers who request a complaint form reducing the official count on the numbers of actual complaints. No one is fooled by the statistics. No matter how many times TSA claims that people support them, the number of complaints from passengers and members of Congress recounted in media reports indicate that this agency has serious problems.

A survey by USTA published on 11/16/11 concluded; “However, frequent air travelers are less satisfied with TSA’s overall performance than non-frequent air travelers, with:

• Only 54.6 percent of frequent air travelers somewhat/very satisfied (compared to 67.8 percent of non-frequent air travelers); and

• 28 percent of frequent air travelers somewhat/very dissatisfied (compared to 10.4 percent of non-frequent air travelers).

Even these numbers indicate that among the airline industry’s most important clients and who provide the vast majority of airline revenue, nearly one third resent TSA security and less than half are “very satisfied” with TSA’s performance.

Fortunately, a Forbes editorial on Friday provided the perfect antidote for the Bloomberg propaganda statement. That article provided a more comprehensive synopsis of the current state of TSA and its abuse of passengers and wasteful bureaucracy. It offered a more sensible recommendation: “Let’s give ourselves a present on the TSA’s tenth birthday: let’s demand Congress do more than merely wring its hands over this horrific boondoggle. Abolish the TSA.”

Media outlets that pander to TSA officials do their readers a great disservice. They violate their public trust and undermine their credibility by supporting propaganda that is in direct opposition to the opinion and benefit of their public.

Friday, November 18, 2011

'Nothing better than a disobedient government agent'

A friend wrote to tell me his recent encounter with the TSA at the Houston airport:
So, I'm was at the Houston airport which just loves the porno scanners. The TSA agents seem to be the most gung-ho here. I don't know what it is...perhaps it's a Texas neocon thing. Well, I figured out that they usually have people go through the regular metal detectors, and then they randomly switch to the porno scanners. In the past, I've just gotten into a line where I've seen about a dozen people pass through the regular metal detectors. I did the same thing this time, but they decided to switch to the porno scanner right as I got there. So, I decided to opt out. I thought that my luck had run out but it hadn't. The lady at the scanner was the regular TSA thug, but the guy that was supposed to search me was much more relaxed. I didn't get an authoritarian vibe from him at all. Essentially, he didn't even do his job. He gave me the old-fashioned search one would receive if the metal kept beeping -nothing invasive. This reminds me of a saying, "There's nothing worse than an honest bureaucrat when the laws are dumb." I actually thanked the agent afterweard. Thank God for government agents that refuse to follow rules and procedures!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EU Bans X-Ray Scanners

At least the EU is coming to its senses. Neither the millimeter wave (MMW) nor the backscatter x-ray devices have been independently tested and privacy concerns abound. The MMW scanners produce the same image but TSA has added a software overlay to hide the image shown to the public. The scanners had privacy software and were using it in Europe in 2009 but TSA spent an additional $42 million to install existing software that they could have been supplied originally at no cost. The privacy software is only available on the MMW ProVision units not on the more revealing Rapi-Scan x-ray units The Rapi-Scan units will continue to produce the naked image and potentially pose a cancer risk, particularly if malfunctioning and left in service.

The nude images will still be in the system and will remain susceptible to storage and reproduction. The EPIC lawsuit revealed that TSA had stored over two thousand these images and TSA admitted that was true but insisted that these were “volunteers”. Likely the passengers who used the scanners voluntarily during the testing phase in 2008 and 2009. Consequently there are thousands of passenger scan images stored in computers TSA without their consent.
When the scanners went into service in November TSA said the images were cartoonish and could be on the cover of Readers Digest. In August Denver TSA area director Pat Ahlstrom, said the scans " were graphic, no doubt about it," So the TSA story about these being "chalk outlines" was apparently an outright lie intended to pacify travelers and disguise the fact they were being digitally strip searched.

New Contributor: Bill Fisher

Please welcome a new blogger to this site. Bill Fisher is a vocal opponent of TSA policies. Among his notable accomplishments, he has been keeping tabs on the TSA's history of hiring criminals.

Ready for the job

A Ghanaian politician who lost the last presidential election in a run-off recently offended airport security workers when he refused to be humiliated and invaded by their security procedures. Sounds like he's ready for office! When's the last time Obama or W submitted to the TSA's scan-n-grope?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reason: 'What Does the TSA Have Against Belts"

Not especially libertarian, but some good TSA bashing here:
The TSA's list of "prohibited items" includes "realistic replicas of explosives" and "realistic replicas of firearms," presumably to avoid confusion, but how realistic a weapon is a jeweled hand grenade attached to a belt or a gun barrel incorporated into a boot heel?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poor Austin

The center of some of the best activism against the TSA and its porno-scanners and groping, Austin, has lost the battle: Scanners have been installed.

Another Democrat sells out

I thought the Democrats were supposed to be concerned about our civil rights. Well, Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA) prefers that the hugely illegal PreCheck program is expanded to LAX (as scheduled next year) so that California tourism will perk up. Way to stick to principle, Babs!

How corporatism really works

Just read this government rag:
The department’s chief procurement officer issued a presolicitation notice on Nov. 2 inviting technology companies to describe their commercial off the shelf (COTS) or near-COTS handheld detectors that could provide such secondary screening in the event that the AIT body scanners now being rolled out to dozens of U.S. airports pick up an “anomaly” during their primary inspections of passengers.
The US government has had a 50+ year history of getting various foreigners - especially Muslims - mad at us. This provoked a gruesome attack. The government retaliated against "easy targets" that had nothing, or very little, to do with the attacks and used the event to impose a police state. As part of the police state, corporatism was ramped up; that is, private contractors were given big bucks to find technology solutions to fabricated problems. So...

...Now we have porno-scanners that have pretty high false alarm rates, requiring many passengers - even if they don't opt-out - to undergo some sort of pat-down. A fabricated problem has led to a fabricated problem had led to a fabricated problem. Now a hand-held device will be developed by various companies, and they will (bribe) lobby Congress and DHS to pick their device. Given that TSA has over 60,000 employees, let's estimate that 5,000 of these devices are needed at a minimum. They're gonna cost at least $5,000 a pop, too. You do the math, but someone will get rich from this and so there is good reason to bribe officials. The cycle of government inviting corruption continues.

While everyone is suffering through the Fed-created recession, government contractors are flying high. Here's a quote from a transcript of Microsemi CEO's financial announcement:
Our Defense & Security market, as we have forecasted, grew again this quarter, up over 4% sequentially. We saw good bookings and billings opportunity in missile defense, RF systems and Millimeterwave solutions, in fact, we booked our largest at Millimeterwave order to date in the September quarter and we believe that we are still in the early innings for this advanced scanner ramp.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another win for the Drug War police state

An addict was caught by TSA carrying methamphetamine. And a suspected marijuana smuggler was stopped, too. But I thought the TSA was looking for terr'ists!

In related news, Pistole is bragging about how many guns his agents have confiscated. He admits that most of the offenders are law-abiding and simply forgot to take their weapons out of their carry-on bags. Don't forget that all totalitarian police states have sought to disarm their citizens. Here's a great straw man argument for doing so, courtesy of my favorite agency: the TSA.

He also bragged about how many drugs were caught by the porno-scanners. I believe you, Johnny, but I thought the naked scanners are in place to protect me when I fly from terrorists carrying explosives and weapons, not from the victimless crimes of drug smuggling and accidentally bringing a legal firearm onto a plane. (By the way, these gun-toters would be great to have on the plane if there really were a terrorist among the passengers!)

How to protest the TSA scanners

In response to a reader's email asking for advice on how to get involved in protesting the TSA, here's what I wrote. It may not be comprehensive, and I've written on this topic many times, but it's been awhile. So here's a brief refresher:
You can look into local or state-wide movements looking to nullify TSA actions. Austin and Texas had a high-profile stand-off last spring. New Hampshire, Utah, and Alaska have all expressed various levels of interest in this. I also highly suggest that you protect yourself - your rights, dignity, and health - by not flying. This is made more effective if you tell the companies that normally profit from your air travel are made aware of your protest. My "protest" tag should give you a (probably not comprehensive) primer on what's been going on. My "Letters" page compiles various letters protesters have written. I will publish or link to any letters that you write.

Will Obama listen to the people and abolish the TSA

I meant to post this awhile back, but a reader who contacted me just asked how to petition for the removal of TSA scanners reminded me that I never did. Anyway, there's a new website put up by the White House in which anyone can create a petition. After it gets 5000 signatures in 30 days, then it will be reviewed by the White House and presumably a response would be eventually forthcoming.

Well, a petition to abolish the TSA reached its goal of 5000 signatures by Oct 22, and it now has over 30,000 signatures. It should have a million signatures in my opinion, but I expect a press conference from Obama on this issue any day now.... on second thought, maybe I shouldn't hold my breath!

H/T Becky Ayers

TSA faux pas

Stop TSA Scanners reader, Bill Fisher, writes, "Indian President Kalam frisked at NY airport, India fumes, US apologises."
Read about it here, here, and here.

Up? Really?

An Anchorage, Alaska new site has a column titled "Who's up/Who's down." Because of the cartoon software, the incoming scanners are earning the TSA an "Up." Talk about the slave thanking his master for not whipping him today!

FDA responds to ProPublica story

You can read it as well as ProPublica's response here. The takehome message?
ProPublica takes seriously our responsibility to correct mistakes and clarify misstatements. But while the FDA may prefer different terminology, we believe the way we conveyed the facts was accurate.

Trusted Traveler face-lift

It's really purely superficial. As the TSA expands the (horrid) Trusted Traveler program, it is changing the name to "PreCheck."

A bit of push-back in New York

In an otherwise run-of-the-mill article, in an upstate New York news site, repeating the Wall Street Journal's report on the expanding Trusted Traveler program, we find this conclusion:
The TSA should find a way for all passengers to keep their shoes on, too.