Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The bag search: Invasion of privacy

But at least some TSA agents have the courtesy to leave notes, thereby making the privacy invasion both obvious and humorous (for some).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

TSA 'protects' passengers from non-threats

This write-up is sad - it is so clearly just a person posing as a 'journalist' doing anything to avoid journalism, including just re-printing TSA press releases and calling it news:

Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officials at Detroit-Wayne County Metropolitan Airport found a loaded .380 pistol in an 76 year old man's ankle holster, and they are touting the discovery as a justification of the advanced body-imaging scanners used around the country.
"TSA’s advanced imaging technology using automated target recognition (ATR) software detected [on Saturday] a hidden item on a passenger’s ankle," the agency announced yesterday. "While resolving the alarm, TSA Officers discovered a loaded .380 caliber Ruger Prescott firearm hidden in an ankle holster.  Local law enforcement responded and arrested the individual."
The discovery is "just more proof that this technology can and will find dangerous items," a TSA blogger argues, even while acknowledging that a traditional metal detector would have found the weapon just as surely. "While that's a true statement, the walk through metal detectors cannot detect non metallic items lke explosives, which are the greatest threat to aviation today."
The man has since stated that he forgot about the gun. Some might find this hard to believe, but when you think about it, there is no proof that the man had ill intentions and, furthermore, if he did, he probably wouldn't have a regular gun strapped to his ankle. Metal detectors have been in place at airports for decades and this gun couldn't have been slipped by them. So, it's really quite apparent that this man regularly straps a gun to his ankle - legally, no less - and had no intention of harming anyone on the airplane. So why exactly is it an achievement for the TSA to have figured this out? (My! What gumshoes!)

Likewise with this man who had a gun suitable for injuring small mammals (but not the incompetent police officer who shot himself in the face with it when trying to disarm it!).

These men are not terrorists - their just forgetful.

Or, there's this man, who intentionally tried to get a knife through, but apparently has no intention of hijacking a plane.

Incompetent TSA

Not that I think the TSA should be looking for drugs, but, obviously, they do (and it is clearly part of their directives to do so). So, it's pretty funny that they missed four suitcases literally filled with marijuana.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to be a better sheep

An article titled, Smoothing your trip through airport security during packed holiday season, is just like all the other articles that are trying to be "helpful" but really make me sick.

If the bully at school beats your kid up for your lunch money, is it really good advice for you to give your child plenty of money with instructions to hand some or all of it over as soon as the bully is in sight? Or is the best advice to tell the child to avoid the bully as much as possible and to stand up for himself (not necessarily violently - perhaps by getting an adult to intervene).

Want a nice holiday? Don't fly! If you choose to fly, know your rights, stand up for them, and be prepared to go to court (or worse) defending them.

(Note that the comments on this silly article are 100% questioning the TSA and its policies. How heartwarming!)

Some local nullification in Florida

Nice to see this:
The Broward Commission may request that the Transportation Security Administration go back to the old-school gropings pat-downs of passengers at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and ditch the use of body scanners.

The item -- which was delayed from the last meeting -- would be a direction to the aviation director to send the request to the TSA asking that it not use the body scanners "until further studies can be done that will demonstrate that they are safe to the traveling public."
Note that the Commission did indeed pass this.

But, back to the original article about the pending vote, I take serious issue with this statement:
In fact, the TSA's website hosts a boatload of documents proving the machines are safe.
This is not a fact, at all. There may be a boatload of documents on the TSA website, and they may portend to "prove" that the machines are safe. But every single agency that was contracted to study the scanners has specifically stated that they were never asked to - and never did - determine whether the machines were safe to use on the general population as primary screening. For an overview, read some of my own coverage and analysis of this topic.

The TSA's response to Broward's request is full of, if not lies, then intentional misrepresentations:
Our backscatter technology was evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. All results confirmed that the extremely low radiation doses for the individuals being screened, operators, and bystanders, including frequent flyers, aircrew, and operators, were well below the
limits specified by the American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society.
JHU/APL, for example, issued a statement awhile back saying that their studies were not done on an actual scanner, but a prototype. They stated that they were not asked to address the safety of the scanners, but just measure the level of radiation. Furthermore, in their results, they noted a much higher level of radiation exposure in the areas surrounding the scanner than are consistent with the other claims being made, calling into question the actual radiation levels or functionality of the machines.

The FDA's role in scanner safety was summed up in the ProPublica exposé:
The FDA does not review or approve the safety of such products. However, manufacturers must provide a brief radiation safety report explaining the dose and notify the agency if any overexposure is discovered.
Also from ProPublica, we know that the ANSI/Health Physics Society claim is suspect:
...ANSI convened a committee of the Health Physics Society, a trade group of radiation safety specialists. It was made up of 15 people, including six representatives of manufacturers of X-ray body scanners and five from U.S. Customs and the California prison system. There were few government regulators and no independent scientists.