Nov 17 2010

Finally Left And Right Reach Consensus – TSA Is Out Of Control

Published by at 8:45 am under All General Discussions

Updates Below!

It is amazing when you see elements of the left and right come together and agree on how this administration is screwing up. Of course, Obama always promised he would build consensus. I am just not sure he meant to do it this way.

The issue of course is the rising backlash against the facade of security surrounding this country’s transportation system. While 3 year old girls are getting patted down because they refused to send their teddy bear through the scanners, our rail and cruise ship systems are at nowhere near the same level of invasive and restrictive requirements. Not to mention sports and music/show venues. The airline security system has been a spectacular failure in many respects, missing shoe bombers and underwear bombers and terrorists. And yet TSA keeps pushing the envelope of personal privacy, as if it immune from the US Constitution. If you claim my rights are forfeited when I buy a ticket, you need my signature to that effect. Credit card receipts don’t count.

To be fair, we don’t know how many liquid bombs were stopped cold that summer day when intelligence agencies learned of a new method of bringing liquid bomb components through security in drink bottles. And clearly, something has the TSA bloody spooked to be so aggressive in trying to find variants of the underwear bomb. I hope all this invasion of privacy without cause is for a good reason and has the desired effect – stopping an attack.

Because this kind of exercise is probably a waste of time. Nearly all the time it is. The problem with powder or putty based materials is they can be distributed into any shape an density. Unless you are going to scan bras, computer cases, etc for the material it could be hard to discern the difference between padding and explosive. I always hesitate about posting on how it is a waste of time because these systems can be thwarted various ways. I just don’t want to help the bad guys sneak an attack through by explaining how to do it. But the flip side is the duty to bring to light the fact there are simple ways to thwart the kind of security checks going on right now in airports. This is not as fool-proof as the TSA and DHS claim.

And with so many other public targets available with much less security, the farce at the airports is not national security, it is bureaucratic bullying. So let’s start with Byron York’s take from the right:

In addition to being large, impersonal, and top-heavy, what really worries critics is that the TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what those critics call “security theater” — that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. “That’s exactly what it is,” says Mica. “It’s a big Kabuki dance.”

Now, the dance has gotten completely out of hand. And like lots of fliers — I spoke to him as he waited for a flight at the Orlando airport — Mica sees TSA’s new “naked scanner” machines and groping, grossly invasive passenger pat-downs as just part of a larger problem. TSA, he says, is relying more on passenger humiliation than on practices that are proven staples of airport security.

So TSA created a program known as SPOT — Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques. It began hiring what it called behavior detection officers, who would be trained to notice passengers who acted suspiciously. TSA now employs about 3,000 behavior detection officers, stationed at about 160 airports across the country.

The problem is, they’re doing it all wrong. A recent Government Accountability Office study found that TSA “deployed SPOT nationwide without first validating the scientific basis for identifying suspicious passengers in an airport environment.” They haven’t settled on the standards needed to stop bad actors.

“It’s not an Israeli model, it’s a TSA, screwed-up model,” says Mica. “It should actually be the person who’s looking at the ticket and talking to the individual. Instead, they’ve hired people to stand around and observe, which is a bastardization of what should be done.”

In a May 2010 letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mica noted that the GAO “discovered that since the program’s inception, at least 17 known terrorists … have flown on 24 different occasions, passing through security at eight SPOT airports.”

By any objective measure this process of bullying innocent travelers is not working. The spooked administration is doing what the terrorists want, pissing of the public to the point they get an opening in the backlash.

Jane Hamsher on the left thinks all this is because of lobbyists associated with the scanner technology, which has yet to prove its worth:

The new pat-down policy for refuseniks, which started on November 1, has been described by the Airline Pilots Association as “sexual molestation” — and it’s nothing more than a way to punish people who might boycott the Department of Homeland Security’s expensive new boondoggle scanners. And prosecuting Tyner is blatant and very public way to intimidate anyone who might follow his lead.

This goes to show just how how constant threats of “terror” are used to create new markets for products nobody needs. The public is then intimidated into compliance in the name of “national security,” when in reality they’re sacrificing their dignity, their civil liberties and their tax dollars for the sake of enormous profits:

2005: Michael Chertoff, as head of Homeland Security, orders the first batch of porno scanners from a company called Rapiscan Systems. After his departure, Chertoff gave dozens of interviews using his government credentials to promote the device. What he didn’t tell people was that Rapiscan was one of the clients of his consulting company, The Chertoff group.
March 2009: The Department of Homeland Security says they will apply $1 billion in stimulus money to the nation’s airports. Senator Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, personally promises to oversee the distribution of stimulus funds so money goes toward the goal of creating “4 million jobs” and not on “boondoggles”
December 2009: Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz inserted language into the Homeland Security appropriations bill barring the use of full-body image scans as “primary” screening tools at airports, and it passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 310-118. Both the ACLU and the NRA backed it. The amendment also made it illegal to store and copy these images. It died in the Senate.

April 2010: The GAO reports that “it remains unclear whether the AIT would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information GAO has received.”

So the “groping” technique was developed as a way to punish people into using the scanners — because there are $148 million more on the way. And just so nobody gets the idea to follow Tyner’s lead, the TSA is using threats and intimidation to guarantee the market for the porno scanners.

Anybody who thinks this technology is not invasive, check this out. When you invert the images from negative to positive it is very disturbing. All I know is at 50 I am going to be sucking up my gut a lot when getting scanned.

The GOP has again been handed a perfect opportunity to represent the frustrated and abused people of this nation, and to begin a dialogue on what freedoms WE decide we will give up for security. DHS Secretary Napalitano claims if people don’t want to go through her thugs then we don’t have to fly. I will remind Janet Dearest that We The People can also demand she go find another career outside of government. ASAP.

Update: Another installment of “Groping For Terrorists”:

So instead, she opted for a pat down and was whisked away, barefoot, by two women – a TSA officer and her supervisor – to a private room, where McPhee says a very intrusive body search was conducted.

“They run their hands inside your leg and under your bra strap and patted the front of my breasts,” she says. “If someone had done that to me at a nightclub I’d call the cops.”

Another terrorist plot successfully thwarted, another constitutional right trampled.

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Finally Left And Right Reach Consensus – TSA Is Out Of Control”

  1. joe six-pack says:

    Israel has a great deal of experience to draw upon. I doubt the President is interested.

    The U.S. is playing good defense so far. We can’t rely upon this alone. We need to play offense. The strategic defense is only wise when you are simply trying to save what you have left. To do otherwise, you simply give the initiative to the enemy.

    A good offense can provide for better defense. Besides, he who defends everything, defends nothing.

  2. Mike M. says:

    Both Right and Left are correct on this one.

    What we have here is a prime example of Soft Graft. Some Presidential appointees are angling for very lucrative post-government jobs. And they have learned that the best way to get those positions paying $500K/year (or so) is to influence policy to favor their intended future employer.

    It’s one of the biggest problems affecting the Federal Government…and I’d bet it’s a state-level problem, too.

    Can it be fixed? Yes, but you won’t like the solution. Part of it is to restrict post-Government employment – but the rest of it is to pay a salary commesurate with the responsibility of the job…instead of paying a relative pittance and expecting people to make it up with Soft Graft later.

    Honest government must be paid for. But the alternatives are worse.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Suhr Mesa, Judy Jones, Judy Jones, Free To Prosper, AJ Strata and others. AJ Strata said: new: Finally Left And Right Reach Consensus – TSA Is Out Of Control […]

  4. AJStrata says:

    Mike M,

    I am all for limiting post government golden parachutes. But civil servants get paid plenty. They take low risk jobs and deserve low risk returns. Those of us who live on the cusp, where we either produce or fail, take risks and can achieve higher rewards for that risk.

    That system is fine as it is.

  5. Mike M. says:

    AJ, I have to disagree. At least at the higher levels.

    Presidential appointees are, by definition, short-timers. The very best they can hope for is eight years…and that’s not terribly realistic. Four years is much more likely.

    And at the top levels, the Federal Government does not pay that well. I’m not talking about the GS levels, and only tangentially about the Senior Executive Service. But if you’re Secretary of Defense, you’re managing an annual budget of $800 billion, a workforce well in excess of two million employees…and are paid just under $200k/year. Plus some decent benefits – and minus the not insignificant chance of someone tossing an airliner into your office.

    The payoff is that a Presidential appointee can get experience that will enable him to make a fortune in post-Government employment. Employment that is a lot easier to find if you have steered funds to a potential employer.

    Which is why I think there needs to be a policy of putting restrictions on post-Government employment on people holding those positions. Compensated for with higher pay for those restricted jobs.