Tuesday, July 25, 2017

TSA

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TSA Search
Hey, I wonder if this traveler has a phone charger in here - I've been needing a new one!

Much has been said of the ineffectiveness and intrusiveness of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) over the last decade and a half. However, when newspaper headlines start mocking the agency for asking a passenger “Is that a cookie or a bomb?”, it becomes clear that we have a real problem.

To be sure, there is a vital need for pre-flight security. That has never been in question. What has been questioned is the amount of power granted to a single federal agency for performing functions that can, could, and should be undertaken by private agencies under contract with the federal government. At least private contractors could be fired for the troubling behavior demonstrated by the TSA over the years, including beating-bloody passengers with special needs, humiliating teenagers over choice of clothing, and making incredibly rude remarks about passengers – including U.S. Olympians.

Despite numerous incidents of this nature, the TSA is routinely rewarded each year with billions of taxpayer dollars, out of blind deference to the golden calf of “national security.” And now, federal officials are poised to give the agency even more power over you.

Responding to recent terror threats in the same, often ham-fisted and reactionary methods typical of federal agencies in the post 9/11 world, the TSA currently is testing new screening procedures that require passengers to remove food and reading materials from carry-on bags. In addition to demanding that passengers place their shoes, coats, laptops, “liquids,” and any other bulky items in separate bins, new procedures being applied in several airports require passengers to separate out books, magazines, and snacks for extra inspection by TSA agents.

Where today passengers are advised to arrive at their departure airport at least two hours before a scheduled flight, one can only imagine the additional time delays this will create with TSA screenings; though, this should be the least of passengers’ worries. According to TSA officials, screeners may “fan” reading materials while checking for contraband, but promise they are not actually paying attention to what travelers are reading. Never mind that it was revealed only two years ago that TSA’s SPOT (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) program employs subjective behavioral markers such as excessive body odor and sweating, for secret scorings to determine if an individual passenger likely is a terrorist. Yet, have no fear — the content of a person’s reading material is completely off-limits. Sure.

Try as they might to convince us of their trustworthiness, nothing in the TSA’s history of gratuitously punitive, if not deliberately petty behavior, leads us to believe this to be true. Rather, what is more likely is that reading material specifically will become the focal point of TSA screeners’ discretion as to whether passengers warrant additional screening. A passenger’s magazines and books will then be subject also to callous remarks from agents; all of which passengers must silently endure. After all, what other recourse do they have when faced with abuse from federal agents – submit or miss your flight, or find yourself facing criminal charges.

Passengers, who long ago should have abandoned hope for even a modicum of privacy or dignity when attempting to fly, must also endure the embarrassment of pulling out their choice of reading for other passengers to see and judge. Ready to fly? You must also be ready for your fellow passengers to know if you are dealing with marriage issues, depression, or a have a predilection for erotica. It will soon be all on display as agents “fan” through your reading material with the restraint and professionalism demonstrated with other luggage items.

To its credit, TSA’s Pre-Check program, in which passengers apply to be vetted before flying and then are allowed expedited screening without all the dehumanizing antics of going through non-Pre-Check screening, is a significant step in the right direction. However, rather than double-down on what has so far been a relatively successful program, TSA fritters away its budget on other highly questionable projects like SPOT, and now what might be called its “Approved Reading Materials Assessment Program” (“ARMAP” for short).

Congress, of course, should step in and undertake serious oversight of TSA, including this latest foray into inspecting an individual’s reading materials.  Unfortunately, considering the deference with which the Congress has approached funding TSA year after year, it is unlikely the legislative branch of our federal government will do more now, than issue some stern warnings followed by approving increased funding for yet another year.  And the privacy rights of the citizenry – at least those who wish to exercise their right to travel by commercial air carriers – will have suffered another blow in the name of “national security.”

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TSA

The prevailing wisdom following the 9/11 terror attacks was that a single federal agency tasked with protecting America from national security threats would be more effective than the existing patchwork-bureaucracy. Thus, the Department of Homeland Security was established in 2002 to keep America safe from terrorism. Many conservatives at the time cautioned that limits on the new Department’s jurisdiction were needed to guard against inevitable “mission creep”; to no avail.

Nearly 15 years later, those fears have come true with a vengeance. Homeland Security has become the government’s third-largest Cabinet-level agency; with a jurisdiction expanded far beyond its original charter.

Like all successful government agencies, Homeland Security understands the basic law of bureaucratic physics – no matter how much power you have, always seek more. The latest move by the already mammoth Department is to claim jurisdiction over state elections; a move it justifies based on allegations that a couple of state voter databases were breached by foreign hackers.

A review of President Obama’s “Presidential Policy Directive” Number PPD/21 issued in 2013, which identifies 16 broad components of what this Administration considers “critical infrastructure,” makes clear just how broadly the government considers that it must be involved in every aspect of life in America at all levels. From “commercial facilities” to “critical manufacturing” and “transportation,” and from “communications” to “financial services” and “food and agriculture,” everything now is considered of sufficient importance to justify federal intervention.

Therefore, when Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said last week that “there’s a vital national interest in our election process,” and elections should be reclassified as “critical infrastructure” so as to fall within Homeland Security’s reach, it was but one more all-too-familiar example of mission creep that has driven the agency’s intrusive reach since Day 1.

That voting is a “vital national interest” is, in a sense, a truism. Not so obvious is why the federal government, after centuries of local and state elections being handled by state and local authorities, must now oversee what is indisputably a constitutional duty of the states. Despite the alarmism from Johnson and his colleagues at Homeland Security, elections are little more at risk of sabotage in the digital age than they were when ballot boxes could be stuffed with paper ballots.

One could argue as well that Uncle Sam’s using fear of fraud as a reason for considering elections to be part of America’s “critical infrastructure,” is a sham – as evidenced by the government’s opposition to any form of voter ID as a means of preventing fraud.

Some observers see this as a harbinger of federal “rigging” of elections. Of greater concern than conspiracy theories about the federal government overtly rigging elections, however, are the strings that always come attached to any offer of help from Washington. “I think it’s kind of the nose under the tent,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, told Politico, adding “[a]ll of a sudden [leading] to something else.”

Granting Homeland Security similar authority to that which it already enjoys in 16 other government-defined “critical infrastructure sectors,” would allow it to exercise authority over some 9,000 jurisdictions across the country involved in electoral processes. The move would be unprecedented — legally, but also in how deep its reach would penetrate into local communities.

First, it would set a slippery slope that the “threat” of an election hacking event would, in and of itself, constitute sufficient justification for the federal government to assert and exercise power it never was intended to have. Furthermore, its role in elections would be defined presumably after it asserted power over elections; leaving states with only the illusion of retaining control of their elections.

After Homeland Security sets up shop monitoring all elections, what other federal agencies will follow its “nose” into the tent? Will we see the Department of Justice claim — as it has done with local police departments – that there is a “compelling federal interest” in controlling such activities; giving it direct access to the voting booth? The possibilities for interference are endless.

Secondly, there are the sheer logistics of taking ownership of election processes. With more than 240,000 employees and a budget already exceeding $40 billion, playing election cop will only expand Homeland Security’s already huge footprint. This will add new levels of bureaucratic oversight that will make the Department even less streamlined than it is now, and more distracted to its original purpose of preventing terrorism.

Unfortunately, the affront to states’ rights that the federal power grab over elections represents appears of no concern to Big Brother’s enablers.

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TSA

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was started two months after 9/11 and they are generally the reason it takes so long to get on planes in America.

They are the ones that screen your luggage, scan your person and one TSA agent allegedly films women with a camera up their skirts.

A Seattle man was arrested for just that.

Nicholas Fernandez is a 29-year old screener for the TSA that has been arrested for “voyeurism” and he is suspended without pay.

A Spokesperson for the TSA made a statement about the most recent arrest inside the TSA.

“TSA does not tolerate illegal, unethical or immoral conduct. When such conduct is alleged, TSA investigates it thoroughly. When appropriate, TSA requests that it be investigated by a law enforcement authority. When an investigation finds that misconduct has occurred, the appropriate action is taken.”

In this case, appropriate action is to suspend and not fire the employee, even though the police found enough evidence to arrest him.

The TSA is one agency that has been plagued with corruption. With over 55,000 employees and a budget of $7.5 billion, they seem to be getting in trouble more than they are stopping trouble.

Last year in Denver, two TSA agents were fired for groping a male passenger. A Florida TSA agent was arrested after his estranged wife was found dead in a van.

One TSA agent in Baltimore was arrested for sex charges, while one in Arkansas was indicted on child pornography.

Another TSA agent was arrested in Chicago for stealing money out of a checked bag, and more arrested in Dallas for the same thing. TSA supervisor Dwight Durant was charged in a cocaine conspiracy.

What we don’t have are any reports of the TSA being an efficient and professional agency.

Be careful next time you fly, don’t wear a skirt and don’t leave a lot of cash in your checked bags.

What are your thoughts on the TSA? Let us know in the comments below.

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TSA

A video surfaced of the line in the Chicago Midway airport to access the TSA security screening and it is amazingly long. So long in fact the person who posted the video to Youtube had to walk for over two minutes to find the end.

CAUTION – EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

Ever since 9/11/2001, Americans have been waiting in long lines to get on their flight. It has been the source of endless jokes for over a decade, but what is happening now is no laughing matter.

Lines are causing people to miss flights. In the video above, several dozen people arrived well ahead of their flights and still didn’t make it.

The travelers are taking to Twitter with the hashtag #IHateTheWait.

It is all over the country. Here is a picture from @taraleedarling in Los Angeles.

This is beyond crazy, and something needs to be done soon!

As summer travel season heats up, expect to see more images like these, but will we see anything get done?

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency that runs the TSA, announced last week that it is working with airports to find ways to “keep passengers moving” and safe.

They are working on it, but if the lines are any indication at the speed in which the TSA moves, then don’t expect anything to get done anytime soon.

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Security Checks

Less than a month after a news outfit reported that dozens of airport employees around the country have potential ties to terrorists, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admit that only three airports in the United States require workers to undergo security checks. The astounding admission, delivered this week before Congress, comes on the heels of a number of cases involving gun and drug-smuggling schemes operated by airline employees at major airports, including those located in Atlanta, New York and San Francisco.

In all of the cases, airport workers used their security badges to access secured areas of their respective facilities without having to undergo any sort of check. As if this weren’t bad enough, last month government records obtained by the media revealed that 73 employees at nearly 40 airports across the nation were flagged for ties to terror in a June 2015 report from the DHS Inspector General’s Office.

The files identified two of them working at Logan International Airport in Boston, four at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and six at Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington State. Here’s the government’s explanation for letting the potential terrorists slip by; the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) didn’t have access to the terrorism-related database during the vetting process for those employees. You can’t make this stuff up!

Now we learn that only three of the nation’s 300 airports—Atlanta, Miami and Orlando—require employees to undergo security checks before work, even though there’s an epidemic of illicit activity among this demographic. The unbelievable stat was delivered by DHS officials testifying at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week. In the aftermath of the Belgium terrorist attacks, the hearing was scheduled to address efforts in this country to prevent attacks on passenger and freight targets that could lead to mass casualties. The head of TSA, Robert Neffenger, told lawmakers that the agency has increased the inspection of employees five-fold in the last five months but admitted improvements must be made and the nation’s airports will provide a report by the end of the month assessing their vulnerabilities.

That still doesn’t’ explain why only three of the country’s airports require employees to undergo security checks a decade and a half after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Apparently DHS can’t afford it and doesn’t really need it. At least that’s what a little-known entity called the Aviation Security Advisory Committee determined last spring. Composed of individuals representing private-sector organizations affected by aviation security requirements, the committee typically meets four times a year and advises the TSA on aviation security matters.

The panel was established in 1989 after a terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 and members include representatives from various trade groups such as the Cargo Airline Association, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the U.S. Travel Association and the Airport Consultants Council. These are the folks that are deciding crucial issues associated with airport security.

In a 2015 report the committee wrote that most airports can’t afford daily employee screening and, even if they could, it wouldn’t do much good. That’s because full screening wouldn’t “appreciably increase the overall system-wide protection,” according to the committee’s findings and “no single measure can provide broad-spectrum protection against risks or adversaries.” Furthermore, this group of aviation advisors concluded that daily screening of airport workers “is incapable of determining a person’s motivations, attitudes and capabilities to cause harm, among other limitations.” Under that ridiculous argument, airport security would be eliminated altogether for everyone.

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nervous

Careful, airline passengers! If you happen to show up to your flight late, or are nervous about forgetting to turn off the lights before your trip, you may find yourself interrogated by one of the Transportation Security Administration’s 3,000 “Behavior Detection Officers” (BDOs). These lightly trained security sleuths are employing an actual “ scoring” system to identity terrorists trying to board a commercial airliner. Even “exaggerated yawning,” a “cold penetrating stare,” or strong “body odor” are among the tell-tale signs for which the eagle eyes – and noses – of these BDOs are watching.

In case you might be wondering who is paying for this nonsense – we are; the American taxpayers.

What TSA officially and coyly calls its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program is one of the many so-called security innovations concocted by the TSA, which describes itself as an “intelligence driven counter-terrorism agency.” And, while this program is yet another example of how the TSA now more closely resembles a Saturday Night Live skit than a serious federal agency tasked with protecting America’s commercial air system from terrorism, the laughs abruptly end when considering the financial costs and the loss of liberty that comes with it.

How did America transition from the Land of the Free – a country in which freedom to travel was long-considered (even by the Supreme Court) to be a fundamental right – to one in which we permit government employees to subject us to invasive searches if we smell bad or yawn too much?

It is easy – and accurate – to trace the current situation back to the reaction to the 9-11 terrorist attacks; but it actually began decades earlier, when law enforcement agents began taking liberties with the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, as part of the “War on Drugs.” Even then, however, the courts eventually put a stop to such practices as “drug courier profiles” conducted at airports. Those now-disallowed “profiles” included many of the same indices as TSA employs now in its SPOT program.

The language of the Fourth Amendment has not changed; and the Supreme Court has not overturned its ban on drug-courier profiling. Yet, TSA is currently subjecting air travelers to precisely the same arbitrary, unscientific profiling that drug agents are no longer allowed to use. What has changed? We have. We are a far more timid and fearful nation than we were in the 1970s; and the intrusiveness of government control over our lives has expanded to levels and into areas of behavior few would have dreamed possible four decades ago.

TSA cannot even justify the SPOT program with evidence that it actually works. According to the federal government itself, the program does not work; at least in terms of identifying terrorists. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the program essentially worthless and in a 2013 study, suggested it be defunded. Like the good bureaucrats they are, top officials at TSA continue to defend it; and for reasons unclear, Congress has refused to specifically de-fund it. Thus, the silliness continues, and the cost mounts.

Could it get worse? Absolutely. In reaction to a pair of recent incidents involving violence at TSA checkpoints, the TSA union is renewing the call to create armed TSA officers, with the power to arrest. We removed such language in the initial legislation establishing TSA after 9-11, and it would be a far graver mistake to permit it now, after seeing what TSA has come up with after nearly 13 years in existence.

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