Monday, November 25, 2013

How opting-out can help

This editorial is a very thorough history of naked scanners, just in time for opt-out week. A worthy read!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are scanners on their way out?

I am cautiously optimistic that the feds are trying to quietly abandon the naked scanner program. I have been railing against the Trusted Traveler program, now renamed to PreCheck, but I now see this despicable program as, perhaps, a path to being able to fly again. Blasphemous, I know. But bear with me.

Businessweek reports:

"The TSA plans to begin randomly assigning travelers into the PreCheck program when they check in for a flight, assigning the quicker access with a notice on the boarding pass. No new passenger data will be needed—and TSA officials emphasize that there’s no form of request or lobbying a traveler can do to be chosen for the quicker line. The TSA wants to migrate about 25 percent of the travelers it screens each day—about 450,000 people—into the PreCheck lines to improve efficiency."

Naked scanners are expensive to buy, take up a lot of precious space at checkpoints, are likely very costly to maintain, and are politically somewhat unpopular. In addition, the TSA has backed itself into a corner where, in order to maintain the illusion of scanner efficacy while simultaneously giving legal cover for privacy concerns, they created the even more unpopular pat-down opt-out. Many TSA employees probably hate the pat-downs, so now they have disgruntled employees to deal with (not to mention, train). Finally, the scanners are actually not effective at catching determined, intelligent evil-doers.

So, perhaps, the TSA is trying to phase out the scanners in a way that they believe well save face and not anger the vested interests. After all, Chertoff's Rapiscan already lost its contract.


Changing gears a bit from seeing into the murky motives of government, what should a protestor such as myself do about PreCheck. If you're still flying, I think it is entirely reasonable to make your journey more comfortable by ponying up the bribe of $85. The background check and fingerprinting are more worrisome from a privacy perspective, but I think this is a judgment call. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you'll get the fast track or avoid the naked scanner. In addition to random checks, this program is not yet instituted at all airports or even all terminals at a participating airport.

One perk - and this is a biggie for me - is children of the PreCheck adult stay with the parent and receive the same level of screening, but they don't have to provide fingerprints, etc. So if you're mostly concerned about protecting your kids, PreCheck is a viable choice. Not a guarantee, but a better chance that you're child will not have their privacy invaded, be molested, or be treated like a criminal.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Flying while individualistic and brown

This is an almost unbelievable account of a young man being held extra-legally for the crime of flying alone while brown during a religious holiday and deviating ever-so-slightly from the herd (ie, "opting out" of the naked scanner).  It it's unclear which aspect(s) of his transgression played the biggest role in his 4 hour interrogation by no fewer than 4 different government bureaucracies and as well as an airline.

Obviously, if you have nothing to hide (which apparently now includes your medical history) you still have much to fear, particularly at an airport.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sometimes, the think tanks come through

This is probably more effective comment than most of the other 4000+ submitted to TSA. I'm glad, in this case, that a think tank like Cato exists to spend time on well-researched comments couched in bureaucrat-ese.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Comment submitted (finally!)

Here is the comment that I just submitted to the feds (better late than never!). (Disclaimer: It's not my finest work.):

I would like to direct my comments for Docket No. TSA-2013-0004 towards two areas of the AIT rule. First, I object on privacy grounds, and, second, I object on safety grounds to the implementation of AIT screening. My recommendation is that the AIT screening program be stopped immediately.

In part IB of the NPRM (Summary of Major Provisions), it says, “AIT currently provides the best available opportunity to detect non-metallic anomalies concealed under clothing without touching the passenger…” followed by, “TSA implemented stringent safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers undergoing AIT screening when AIT units were initially deployed and enhanced privacy further by upgrading it millimeter wave AIT units with ATR software.” As a modest woman who also chooses to raise her children to be modest, I strongly feel that these two statements are contradictory and can not be reconciled. If you are viewing anything under my clothing, or the clothing of my daughter or son, then you are not protecting my privacy. It does not matter to me that the area under my clothing is not seen directly with the naked eye of an individual that I can see, or if a machine is viewing the area under my clothing and transmitting that image either to an individual in another room or to a software program that interprets the image.

This goes to a very fundamental aspect of humanity and, in particular, to a prevalent strain of modesty in America culture bridging across people of various faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Humans wear clothes not only for decorative reasons, but also, and, in some cases, especially, in order to be modest. Anything under the clothes is intentionally hidden, not intended to be viewed by man or machine without express consent (that is, uncoerced undressing). It is, in practice, impossible to take protect passenger privacy while simultaneously forcibly viewing anything that is under passengers’ clothes.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Surrendering" your belongings

My husband had a round-trip flight recently. In his backpack, along with his laptop, he accidentally left a Leatherman. This had been a gift and was personalized with his full name. He believed that he had it in his car, and when it went through security on the first leg of his trip without tripping an alarm, he was none the wiser. He stayed for a week in the Philadelphia area, and still did not notice this knife and tool combo in his bag.

Of course, as luck would have it, his Leatherman was discovered by the TSA at the Philadelphia airport on his return trip. It was confiscated, but in TSA speak: "surrendered." It sounds more voluntary and less totalitarian that way.

After he got home with no further incidents (I guess he is just an innocent citizen and not a threat to national security, after all), he called the TSA to find out how he could receive his property. It does have his name on it (and a somewhat unique name at that as out last name is not very common) so it should be easy to track down. He was told that he had "surrendered" it and that it was now the property of the TSA.

For the sake of the person who gave my husband the Leatherman, I want to assure everyone that my husband liked it very much and did not re-gift it to the TSA, despite what the TSA says.

Back to his conversation with the TSA: My husband asked what had happened to his property and was told by the person he was speaking to (if automatons can be called people) that they "did not have the authority" to tell him where it was. Apparently, my husband's coerced gift to the feds is now a state secret (now do you see why they should free Bradley Manning?).

Googling the subject later, my husband suspects that the property is turned over to the city of Philadelphia and, if valuable,  auctioned. I told him he ought to call Philly PD and report his Leatherman stolen, last seen at the airport.

Monday, May 13, 2013

FDA is selective in regulations

Is it any wonder why I beat up on the FDA? They have basically washed their hands with regulating naked scanners to any significant extent because it is mostly outside of their jurisdiction to - I don't know - make sure no one is going to be killed by these machines. But, tanning beds? The FDA simply has to make sure that everyone knows how bad they are. And they must protect the children! (But not the children going through TSA security.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Log your anti-scanner comments with the feds by June 24th

The TSA has officially complied with the Notice and Comment requirement, reinforced by the courts last summer. I am not saying that I am holding my breath that commenting on an administrative law will have any effect, I do encourage all who are concerned about scanners to submit a comment. At the very least, they can not honestly say that nobody has complaints about TSA procedures, as they do with their so-called low rate of "customer" complaints. (Can't really file a complaint if I quit flying, can I? Also, seems like a great way to get flagged if I do fly.)

Click on the link above to the Federal Register see instructions on how to comment on the naked scanners and to read the full notice. According to wikipedia:
Interested parties frequently comb through the agency’s own data to find flaws in the agency’s reasoning. Also, interested parties’ comments on the rule then become part of this record.
UPDATE: And the notice itself says:
TSA invites ... invite comments relating to the economic, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts that might result from this rulemaking action.
...The most helpful comments reference a specific portion of the rulemaking, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data.
H/T to