Traveler Surveillance, Traveler Intrusion at Cato Institute

On April 2nd I attended a symposium at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. called “Traveler Surveillance, Traveler Intrusion.” It was carried live on C-span.

It was moderated by Jim Harper, Cato’s Director of Information Policy Studies and a staunch civil liberties advocate. The speakers were Edward Hasbrouck, travel guru extraordinaire and a veritable repository of all things DHS-related, and Ginger McCall, Director of the Open Government Program at EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), which has done so much in the fight against the abuses of the TSA, including bringing the lawsuit that finally forced the TSA to hold a public comment period on the strip-search scanners and “pat-downs.” Again, we urge you to add your comment to the public record.

The discussion covered the many ways the Department of Homeland Security is capturing our identities and tracking our every move — even down to bus tickets bought in foreign countries — and the procedures of the TSA.

Jim Harper has written often on the TSA’s violations of our civil liberties, most recently in this article on the public comment period. Read it if you still need ideas about what to say in your comment.

Edward Hasbrouck has a wealth of information on his website Papers, Please! Among other accomplishments, he successfully sued the DHS for his travel records. After the symposium, he was headed to Boston to be present at the case of Redfern v. Napolitano, in which our colleague Wendy Thomson was also participating and which we wrote about here.

Ginger McCall spoke of all the things we’ve been writing about here at TSA News, including suggestions for what you can include in your public comment. Here’s EPIC’s analysis of the TSA’s procedures, and here are EPIC’s recommended talking points. Again, make use of them if you like to help you formulate your own comment.

I want to emphasize that I don’t think you should get hung up on facts and figures. Don’t neglect commenting because you feel you’re not expert at these matters. You don’t have to be expert. You have to speak from the heart.

You don’t need to know every statistic on the number of scanners, type of scanners, backscatter vs. millimeter wave, administrative search and probable cause, court rulings, etc. It’s great if you know those things; fine. But don’t let lack of that knowledge prevent you from commenting. If you read through the 264 comments that have been submitted so far, you’ll see a wide variety of styles and opinions. That’s as it should be.

I’m going to do a whole post republishing some of the comments from the public docket so you can see that you don’t have to be a Ph.D. to participate.

If you or someone you know has been abused by the TSA, then say so. If you’ve been bullied or robbed or groped or forced through the scanners or forced to miss your flight, then say so. If you have some thoughts on the expense of the TSA, then say so. If you have a statement about what you think of the TSA in general, then say so. It’s important.

Whether the powers-that-be pay attention to these comments or not, it’s vital that they get into the public record. We don’t know what will be done in the future. We don’t know how our comments may be used in a lawsuit or a court ruling or a Congressional hearing. But they won’t be used if we don’t make the effort. Social change doesn’t happen overnight.

Again, don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Say what you think. Our civil liberties are on the line.

(Photo courtesy of C-span)

  • Mike Adams

    I was glad that Ginger mentioned Colostomies when talking about the scans. I am a Colon Cancer survivor with my colostomy friend on my belly. Two years ago I also had an electric spinal cord stimulus (SCS) put in my back because or back problems, which has an internal battery just below the skin. I can’t go thru the high powered scanners with my SCS as it will freak and short out or shock me.

    While still a couple places back in line I will wave to the TSA agent and advise that I will need to be patted down. When it’s finally my turn I remind them that I can’t go thru the scanner and have to be patted down. Even if I were able to go thru the scanner, with the colostomy and the goodies from the SCS that will probably light up their monitor, I figure going to end up being patted down anyways. The agent seems to act perturbed that I won’t go thru the scanner (especially Philadelphia AP) then has me move to the side to wait for an available person to pat me down. I had to wait almost 10 minutes to be patted down. This particular person seemed to get irritated/perturbed because I went out of my way to let him know where the sore spots were in my back, etc., besides pointing out where the lump under my skin which was the SCS battery was located. The procedure of having me rub my colostomy then run a special pad over my hand seemed to go okay. But overall got the general feeling that either the agent was all the familiar with the procedure for a pat down, or was just irritated that I needed one. Also seemed very confused about my colostomy which was highly visible hanging on my belly, let alone my internal devices. I think that someone with a mastectomy or other more technical medical problems would have had a problem with him, or vice versa.

    Last time flying summer of 2012 at Syracuse NY AP they advised me that they didn’t use the high power scanner, so I went ahead and went thru it. I lit up the monitor and had to be taken off to the side. But they were very professional about it, and once I identified the Colostomy bag and SCS battery, he did a thorough pat down and colostomy check that took half the time of any other. Of course it may have helped that I was sure to wear my Cancer Survivor shirt which probably helped announce ahead of time what the screeners would be getting into.
    But yeah, even with my limited disabilities, when I go thru the TSA screenings it always feels like I’m in the way or maybe purposely being a pain. Thinking with all the Cancer treatments I’ve been through, having the colostomy, and back problems, I’ve gone through a lot and really don’t need the attitudes and problems I get from some of the TSA agents.

  • Wow! I watched the whole 75 minute session, and it was absolutely well worth the time in insights and strategy about defeating the TSA and their unconstitutional, demeaning, and utterly pointless abuse of travelers. Go watch! And then post your comments about the body scanners. If you’re informing friends, here’s an easy-to-remember link:

  • Fisher1949

    Excellent advice, The Public Comment venue hat DHS was ordered by a Court to post is is an opportunity for all of those who regularly post one of the thousands of negative comments about TSA to make their feelings part of the public record.

    Anyone who has taken time to post on a news article surely has time to make their feelings known to the rest of America in this high visibiitty forum. It’s less daunting than posting at a news outlets and can make a difference.

    Please vent your frustrations, even if anonymously, with TSA by visiting this site:!submitComment;D=TSA-2013-0004-0001

  • Susan Richart

    Also, please copy your congresspeople with your comments!