Saturday, December 10, 2011

TSA To Expedite Screening of Suspected Terrorists? Well, sort of

Following up on a recent post regarding the expedited screening of soldiers, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee seems to be contradicting himself on this issue. His latest position supports the need to subject all travelers to the same, and hopefully someday saner, security procedures. No one should receive "preferred" treatment, whether pilot, crew, military or politician.

“The Department of Defense considers the U.S. homeland the most dangerous place for a G.I. outside of foreign war zones — and the top threat they face here is from violent Islamist extremists,” Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said during a special joint House-Senate hearing.
“The Fort Hood attack was not an anomaly,” said Mr. King, New York Republican. “It was part of al Qaeda’s two-decade success at infiltrating the U.S. military for terrorism — an effort that is increasing in scope and threat.”

The House's unanimous vote this week on a bill to accelerate airport screening military personnel for flights is the least lawmakers can do for active soldiers, its sponsor, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), said.
Cravaack said the TSA was testing a program that would use Department of Defense "Common Access Card" to quickly identify - and clear for flights - military personnel.
So which is it? Are soldiers “trusted travelers” or ‘suspected terrorists”?

The fact that Peter King is one of the most influential members of Congress with virtual control of DHS/TSA budget approval and policy changes and he doesn’t recognize the obvious conflict in his positions is disgraceful and frightening. 

There is apparently no competent Congressional oversight of DHS/TSA and King needs to be replaced as chairman of this committee.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Columnist remains inside the box

A column in an Oklahoma paper is titled Airport security abuses power. I was going to say that the "Columnist states the obvious," but not all of her title is obvious - just not imaginative in the least.

The column is about a teenager who had trouble at the airport because she had an image of a gun sewn onto her purse. Low-level bureaucrats tend to get in more trouble if they think, so it is in their best interest to do really dumb stuff that is, nonetheless, by the book. The columnist's discussion of this is apt, but is decidedly less cynical than I am.

My issue is with this non-sequitor:
I am OK with the full-body scanners that were so controversial earlier this year, and I’m happy to put my travel-sized liquids in a resealable bag.
...All citizens deserve freedom and privacy, whether or not they’re in the air.
How are full-body scanners and precise inane instructions on how to carry your personal items consistent with "freedom and privacy." They're not! This is not a matter of some aspects of the TSA abusing some power. This is a case of a bureaucracy being given way more power than is legal, and running with it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Former airline advisor thinks airline bailouts are needed

Gizmodo's coverage of the problems with the TSA is great. They are feeding off of an article written by a former Delta advisor, Ben Brandt. Here are some of the good points Brandt makes:
...feds should be less concerned with what gels your aunt puts in her carry-on, and more concerned about lax screening for terrorist sympathizers among the airlines' own work force... it's cost $56 billion since 9/11... [bombs have been] detonated before going through security...and shipped..."The scientific community is divided as to whether behavioral detection of terrorists is viable,"...most aviation-focused attacks are likely to originate outside the U.S.
But, Brandt's solution is, well, dumb: "Brandt proposes that the government subsidize airlines for better employee background checks or explosives detection tech."

If the government would get out of the air-travel business, then airlines would have every incentive in the world to institute "better employee background checks" as well as "explosives detection tech." It's called the profit motive. Right now, when an airline makes money, they keep the riches. But if someone crashes one of their planes, they get bailed out by the feds. On top of that, the feds have taken pretty much all of the responsibility and cost for screening for threats.

But this is unsustainable. The price tag for fed-run security and taxpayer-subsidized airlines keeps going up and service keeps going down. It will be better for us all if the umbilical cord is cut now. Otherwise, we'll be dragging a dead industry around, allowing it to slowly kill the transportation industry as has been happening with railroads for decades.

Americans don't want cancer

As you know, I think the health aspect of the scanner controversy is secondary to the argument from natural rights. Nonetheless, I think the fact that the government wants to irradiate everyone who flies without any concern for health effects is a valuable lesson in whether the government is benevolent. Because it's not, and that's my point.

But, there's a new poll out that specifically links the risk of cancer and the "security" of x-ray scanners. It's nice to know that,
Even if X-ray body scanners would prevent terrorists from smuggling explosives onto planes, nearly half of Americans still oppose using them because they could cause a few people to eventually develop cancer, according to a new Harris Interactive poll conducted online for ProPublica.
It's unfortunate that a third of Americans still strongly support the scanners.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Re: TSA Strip Searches In 2011

2011 is not over yet, and another octagenarian has come forward with her own recent TSA strip-search story:
Ruth Sherman, an 88-year-old frequent flier with JetBlue, meantime, told the media that she was taken aside by TSA officials and asked to pull her pants down and show her colostomy bag.
And now a 66-year old woman is telling a similar story: "[Linda Kallish] had to partially remove clothing to show an official her pump implant."
Note that Ms. Sherman was scanned first, so she got a virtual strip search, then an actual strip search, while Ms. Kallish had a pat-down, then a strip search!

Bureaucrat reads fellow bureaucrat's report, Concludes 'independent' report unnecessary

Under heat from Congress after the ProPublica/PBS expose on the TSA's scanner-related practices, Pistole said he would consider having an independent study of scanner safety conducted. But, then, fellow DHS bureaucrat (TSA is part of DHS), Charles Edwards, said the scanners meet all of the standards they are supposed to meet. Shockingly, Pistole agreed, and now he says there is no reason to figure out if it is safe to irradiate 100% of the flying American public (as they are planning to do within the next few years). Edwards' role in DHS is described on the DHS website as follows:
The [Office of Inspector General] serves as an independent and objective inspection, audit, and investigative body to promote effectiveness, efficiency, and economy in the Department of Homeland Security's programs and operations, and to prevent and detect fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and waste in such programs and operations.
Even if you believe that a bureaucrat paid a salary by the very department that is the epitome of the police state can be "independent and objective," there is still a glaring problem here. Nowhere in the mission of the DHS Inspector General does it say that he is to "prevent and detect" health and safety issues. This guys job is to make sure that all the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted on the procedural and maintenance forms for these scanners. And this is pretty much what he said he did. He is not checking to see if these machines can adversely affect the health of individuals - particularly the frail. It's not his job and he did not say that he audited that aspect of the scanners.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TSA To Stop Groping Soldiers? Well, Sometimes....

A Washington Post article reported that “The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of The Armed Forces Act”, introduced by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), was scheduled for a vote on 11/29/11. This Bill would require the TSA to develop a process to more quickly screen uniformed troops and their families traveling through airports on official orders.
While this may be a "feel good" measure that exempts some active military from the absurd TSA security theater, it is also a slippery slope that ultimately jeopardizes everyone and relegates infrequent travelers to the being the primary victims of TSA abuse. It also paves the way for a Congressional exemption, leaving the rest of us with no one to defend our rights from TSA’s unwarranted intrusions.
The Ft Hood terrorist, Nidal Malik Hasan, was active military and yet was responsible for killing 13 victims. He would not have been a good candidate for a checkpoint exemption and supports the argument for consistent and uniform screening procedures for everyone, including pilots. The Egypt Air pilot, Gameel al-Batouty, is widely acknowledged as being responsible for deliberately crashing flight 990. Pilots are just as likely to be terrorists as grandmothers from Iowa. 
The introduction of this Bill is a clear indication that members of Congress recognize that the TSA security theater is an unnecessary and unwarranted harassment of passengers and they must demand that TSA adopt sensible and respectful procedures for everyone, not just select groups of passengers. Congress should withhold funding for the agency until it adopts procedures that we all can live with.

Monday, December 5, 2011

TSA Sex Crimes 2011

Harold Rodman, TSA worker, arrested for sexual assault

A Transportation Security Administration employee is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Manassas. The suspect, Harold Glen Rodman, 52, allegedly was wearing his uniform and displayed a badge to the victim, a 37-year-old woman. Police arrested Rodman on Nov. 20. He is charged with aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy and abduction with intent to defile. A TSA spokesperson confirmed that Rodman works for the agency but wouldn’t say in what capacity or where.

An Orange County man faces child porn charges, records show, stemming from images authorities say he possessed while working as a TSA employee at Orlando International Airport. A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said that Paul David Rains, 62, no longer works for the agency, as of Monday. He was arrested at his home on Havasu Drive about 1:30 p.m. Records show a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent investigating suspected child-porn distribution in Orange County served a search warrant at Rains' home on Aug. 3. An arrest report states that Rains confessed to downloading images of child pornography "for the past few years." He said he downloaded the images "out of curiosity," the report states.

A Transportation Security Administration security officer is out on bail after he was arrested and charged with child pornography. Michael Scott Wilson, 41, has been suspended from his job following the arrest. Wilson was charged Monday with possession and distribution of child pornography after agents searched his Perry Hall home.
A TSA agent has been arrested in Rutherford County on charges of statutory rape. Clifton Lyles was arrested by U.S. Marshals Tuesday night, following a grand jury indictment. Lyles worked at Nashville International Airport. Details about what led to his arrest were not released. His bond was set at $10,000.

A Beverly man and former TSA employee arrested on child pornography charges appeared in federal court on Friday. Andrew W. Cheever, 33, appeared before on a complaint charging him with possession of child pornography. 

The Elko County Sheriff’s Office was notified in July of possible sexual contact between David Ralph Anderson, 61, and a girl younger than 14. Anderson allegedly taught the victim about various sexual acts and had sexual contact in the form of touching each other’s genitals. Anderson, who is a TSA employee according to Elko County Jail records, is being held on $250,000 bail.
A TSA employee remained hospitalized today after being accused of kidnapping a young female in Atlanta, then taking her to his Hogansville residence and sexually assaulting her. Randall Scott King, whose age and street address were not given, abducted the woman Wednesday evening from a MARTA parking lot in southwest Atlanta, police said.

A passenger screener at Philadelphia International Airport is facing charges that he distributed more than 100 images of child pornography via Facebook, records show. Federal agents also allege that Transportation Safety Administration Officer Thomas Gordon Jr. of Philadelphia, who routinely searched airline passengers, uploaded explicit pictures of young girls to an Internet site on which he also posted a photograph of himself in his TSA uniform.

A TSA agent has been arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor after police say he tried to keep a girl as a sex slave. Police arrested 57-year-old Charles Bennett of Winter Garden on Friday. A 15-year-old girl was the one who reported him to police. According to reports from the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Orange County Jail, the 15-year-old victim confided in her caregivers that Bennett had touched her inappropriately three years ago when she was 12. She says he also asked the young girl to be his "sex slave," an accusation investigators say Bennett admitted to in a written statement to police.

A TSA employee who worked at Manchester Boston Regional Airport has been arrested on five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, according to police.
Police arrested Dwayne Valerio, 44, at his 192 Rockingham Road home on Friday, March 18, according to Lt. Robert Michaud. Police released few details on what led to his arrest, citing the alleged victim's age. "The victim is a juvenile," he said.

A Transportation Security Administration worker at Logan International Airport is accused of assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Sean Shanahan, 45, of Winthrop is being held on $50,000 cash bail following his arraignment in East Boston District Court. He is charged with statutory rape, enticement of a child and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older. 

On April 10, Bob Seashols, a Coordination Center Officer for the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) at the Richmond International Airport (RIC) and an administrator for Atheists United’s Facebook page, took part in a coordinated effort to populate pornographic images, extreme profanity, and sexually explicit anti-Christian hate-speech on the Facebook page of Ken Ham, an internationally known Christian ministry leader who serves as president of Answers in Genesis-U.S (AiG) and the popular Creation Museum, located near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mexico vs US

A Stop TSA Scanners subscriber wrote the following about a recent trip to Mexico:
Thought I'd share the experience I had on last weeks flt from Mexico.  We went thru metal detector with shoes on, carryon bags xrayed but not rifled thru. Their security agents were polite & curteous asking"how did you like Mexico?".  This is the way the US should be AND if it is this uncomplicated to fly INTO the US why does tsa make it so difficult to fly WITHIN the US?
It's BS!
 The sheep are easier to handle when they are compliant. Keep fighting infringement on your rights and dignity - protect yourself and inform yourself!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

TSA Strip Searches In 2011

The report of an 85 year old woman being strip searched at JFK this week and left bleeding during the process raises some serious questions about the extent of the abuses in our airports. TSA quickly denied that strip searches are part of their screening protocol, which is obviously a lie in view of four similar reports this year.

If pulling down a person’s underwear doesn’t constitute a strip search, what does? And if no clothing is being removed why does the TSA website say “At any time during the screening process you can request a disposable paper drape for privacy”. Not only do they strip search an elderly woman, but callously record her humiliation on video.

They continued their assault on this woman even after the she was bleeding and only allowed her get treatment after they were finished. This is outrageous and the TSA workers and officials involved should be prosecuted.

This is at least the fifth TSA strip search of a passenger this year including the strip search of Shoshana Hebshi in Detroit on September 11th. In that incident the agent moved Ms. Hebshi away from the toilet during the strip search so the video would not fully capture her image.

The others include a 97 year old woman strip searched at LAX, another in Miami, and yet another in Houston. TSA is not only violating the rights of people, they now violate even most basic standards of decency.

How extreme must these TSA incidents become before Congress demands this be stopped? This is the same agency that has had 62 screeners arrested for serious crimes, including murder and 10 screeners charged with child sex crimes. This agency is clearly out of control and needs to be replaced.