James Bovard’s op-ed on TSA abuse in USA Today

Fellow crusader in the struggle James Bovard, about whom we’ve written before, has a new op-ed about the TSA in USA Today. Though he doesn’t link directly to TSA News, he does cover in a cogent, comprehensive fashion a lot of the same ground we’ve covered here over the years.

The title of the op-ed is “My too intimate relations with the TSA.”

Since USA Today accepts only Facebook comments, you can’t leave a comment unless you’re on FB. That counts me out. But I’d just say the same things I’ve been saying for years: the TSA is an out-of-control, criminal agency that abuses people with impunity. But apparently people are okay with being abused because they keep flying. We’re set to break all flying records this summer. I don’t believe things will change in my lifetime.

Oh, and one more thing, though we’ve repeated it countless times already: never, ever go into a private room with these people. They can’t force you to do that. Insist that they perform their abusive grope in public. As Susan Richart keeps reminding us, administrative searches — which is what by law the TSA is supposed to be doing, that and nothing more — have very strict guidelines:

“Moreover, the possibility for abuse is minimized by the public nature of the search. Unlike searches conducted on dark and lonely streets at night where often the officer and the subject are the only witnesses, these searches are made under supervision and not far from the scrutiny of the traveling public.”

See United States v. Skipwith, 482 F.2d 1272, 1275
(5th Cir. 1973).

TSA mocks blind man

No matter how often we hear these stories, one after another after another after another, for years now, each new outrage is still infuriating. No matter how low you think the TSA can go, it always goes lower.

Thus we have this story about a blind man named Joe Nerney being mocked and ridiculed by TSA agents — plural — at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. According to this account from WTNH, Nerney says he travels all over the world as a professional musician and that the TSA is usually accommodating. But not this time:

Joe has been blind since birth and he needs to be guided through the security machines, but on Thursday while clearing security at Bradley, the TSA agent was condescending, telling him to stand on the yellow line that he could not see. When he finished the checkpoint, they told him he had to go back in.

“I kind of got pushed back in I still wasn’t stepping on the yellow lines so my friend came in and kind of guided my feet toward the yellow line,” said Nerney.

But it doesn’t end there. It wasn’t just the one sadistic agent who insisted Nerney stand on yellow footprints he obviously couldn’t see. Other TSA agents got in on the action:

On this day as he felt his way out of the machine, he says the TSA agents were mocking him.

“I got out of the machine, but for some reason the TSA guys thought it was funny and they were laughing about it,” said Nerney.

This kind of thing should never happen. I don’t want to hear claims about “a few bad apples” and all the usual garbage that TSA apologists throw out there. Only a sick, twisted, sadistic shit ridicules a disabled person. And you can bet this isn’t the only time these agents have behaved this way. It’s just the only time we happened to find out about it.

How many times do we need to say it? How many instances of abuse — thousands of them, well catalogued — do people need to read before they get it through their heads?

The TSA is an out-of-control, criminal agency that abuses people with impunity. And as long as people keep flying, and keep putting up with this abuse, nothing will change.

TSA finally issues “rule” on body scanners, ignores public

On the righthand side of this blog, you’ll see this paragraph:

*2015 *and now 2016* UPDATE: Still no word from TSA on public comments*The public comment period on the TSA’s electronic strip-search scanners and “pat-downs” closed on June 25, 2013. That public comment period had been ordered by the courts, an order the TSA ignored for almost two years before it finally complied. The agency must issue a report on the many thousands (or more?) of comments it received. Yet here it is 2015 *and now 2016* and still no report. If the TSA ever complies with the requirement to issue that report, we’ll let you know.

Well, as of March 2, 2016, the TSA finally — five years late — came out with its final “proposed rule.” Said rule is nothing more than 157 pages of bureaucratic bullshit and obfuscating language that boils down to one thing: The TSA will continue using the strip-search scanners, as they already have been doing anyway since 2009, whether you like it or not. 

More succinctly: screw you.

If you want to plow through all the verbiage, have at it. Or you could read summaries at EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), at CEI (Competitive Enterprise Institute), or at crusader Jon Corbett’s blog.

The gist is the same: the TSA will continue to do what it wants, where it wants, how it wants, no matter how many pesky rights and Constitutional amendments get in the way. Oh, and it will continue to grope you.

TSA goons steal woman’s shoes, bracelet at BWI

In the never-ending saga of TSA theft and stupidity — and did I say theft? — we have the latest episode (that we know of): at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the goons spied yet another tasty treat they wanted to sample. So they pretended that said items were dangerous and confiscated them — er, sorry, encouraged the passenger to give them up. (As we know, since they tell us all the time, especially at their main propaganda organ, they don’t confiscate anything.) From the story in the Baltimore Sun:

The shoes, which had stiletto heels in the shape of handgun barrels and also featured what looked like bullets, were in the woman’s carry-on luggage, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Readers of this blog will recall that in 2013 the TSA also stole a pair of Chanel shoes, a two-inch toy gun belonging to a sock monkey, and in 2014 several bottles of Jimmy Choo perfume.

These scary terroristy things could’ve harmed you and your fellow travelers! Aren’t you glad the TSA is Keeping You Safe?!

Regular readers will also recognize the name of Lisa Farbstein as yet another of the TSA’s many lying flacks.

“We want to remind travelers that they should not bring replica guns or ammunition to checkpoints,” Farbstein said in an email. “It will definitely slow them down, slow down their traveling companions who are waiting for them, and it will slow down the checkpoint lines for other travelers.”

Way to blame it on the passengers, Farbstein.

Here’s the comment I left at the Baltimore Sun article. Go on over and give it some love, and add comments of your own, before they remove it:

  • Lisa Simeone

This agency is full of molesters and morons. (Let’s see how long this comment is allowed to stand.) Everyone who defends this criminal agency deserves what he gets, and, paraphrasing Mencken, I hope he gets it good and hard.

They wanted to steal her shoes and bracelet; that’s why they stopped her. And if you don’t know the TSA steals from travelers all the time, you have your head somewhere other than where it should be. The TSA confiscated a 2-inch toy gun from a sock monkey:
http://tsanewsblog.com/12236/news/tsa-seizes-terroristy-sock-monkey-confiscates-gun/

And they stole another women’s shoes, again because they wanted them:
http://tsanewsblog.com/11216/news/tsa-outdoing-its-own-stupidity-at-every-turn/

They’ve also stolen several perfume bottles because they were supposedly shaped like — gasp! — a grenade. But yeah, it’s all for your safety. And to fight The Terrorists who are Hiding Around Every Corner!

(Photo courtesy of your tax dollars)

Cross-posted at ABombazine

UPDATE ALREADY: Not 10 minutes later, the Sun censored my comment. Surprise surprise!

Frederick Douglass wouldn’t have put up with the TSA

Great American orator, scholar, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born sometime in February of 1818 and died on this date, February 20th, in 1895. Among the many brilliant, fiery speeches he gave and essays he wrote, no lines have been more often excerpted and quoted than these, which apply today every bit as much as they did in his time. I’ve quoted them often, but never enough. So it’s fitting that I take this opportunity to commemorate him and do it again:

“The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just. For a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others. Such a man, the world says, may lie down until he has sense enough to stand up . . .

“If there is no struggle there is no progress . . . This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

I think we’ve found exactly out what people in this country are willing to quietly submit to. They demonstrate it every day.

TSA abuse/idiocy compendium, thanks to FTTUSA

Because the same stories of TSA abuse, corruption, and stupidity keep accumulating, and because it seems increasingly pointless to highlight them one by one, here’s a round-up of such stories from the past week or so, courtesy of Freedom to Travel USA. From FTTUSA’s weekly newsletter, quote:

The TSA is at the airports, the football field and at local transit locations.  Can we say “everywhere”?

“More than 100 additional officers and specialists are being deployed to assist in security operations at Oakland International Airport (OAK), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) for the influx of fans traveling for the game. In addition to transportation security officers, TSA is deploying more than two dozen passenger screening canine teams, behavior detection and analysis officers, transportation security specialists, explosives and transportation security inspectors.”

https://www.tsa.gov/news/top-stories/2016/02/05/tsa-provides-security-support-super-bowl-50

“The goal is to provide a visible presence to detect and deter terrorism because the Super Bowl on Sunday is a national security event, TSA officials said at a news conference in San Francisco today.”

http://sfappeal.com/2016/02/heightened-security-present-on-transit-systems-for-super-bowl-week/

Additionally, the TSA is now on the campaign trail!  “. . . the presence of the TSA at a political event is extremely concerning, considering the fact that such an event has absolutely nothing to do with transportation.”

http://www.activistpost.com/2016/02/tsa-conducting-bag-checks-at-donald-trump-event.html

More taxpayer losses at the hands of the TSA. Take a look at the data:

https://atlas.qz.com/charts/VyQKMYhFx

Having employees going through security should have been the first line/layer of defense.  Neffenger said that his agency, “is also working more closely with the FBI to put airport workers and vendors through recurring criminal background checks.”  He added that those who hold credentials to enter sterile areas of airline terminals will also be subject to stepped up physical screening as well.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/02/03/tsa-chief-says-agency-significantly-better-than-were.html

TSA is “taking suggestions on how to improve security lines”.

http://www.voicesofliberty.com/article/tsa-no-more-entrepreneurial-place-than-the-tsa/

Thank you for your support!  Remember – always opt out of nude body scanners and file a complaint at www.tsa.gov.

Best regards,

Freedom to Travel USA

Renee Beeker, Jeff Pierce, and Wendy Thomson

Co-Founders, Freedom to Travel USA

http://fttusa.org

Update on Sai’s TSA lawsuits

Our friend Sai sent me an update on his case this morning. If you’re not already familiar with his story, read this post to get caught up. Here’s Sai’s update in his own words:

The BDOs selected me because I was mute and wearing a satirical shirt; they screened me for 40 minutes looking almost exclusively at my prescription labels, notes, checkbook, books, etc; they ripped paper out of my hands (literally depriving me of speech) in admitted retaliation for my protesting the illegality of their search and refusing to answer questions.

(The admission can be found both in the BDOs’ notes and TSA’s formal response to my complaint & appeal.)

I’m probably never going to manage to get around to making an actual edited video, so I’ve put up what I have. That includes the video, BDOs’ notes, my notes, complaint, post-litigation response, appeal, & appeal response. At some point I’ll try to condense it there as well, but I don’t really have the energy to do so now and likely won’t for a while. :-/ Hopefully the complaint & appeal are pretty straightforward.

You can read in more detail about Sai’s lawsuit at his comprehensive site, also here, also here; and you can see his videos here.

Thanks to blizzard, TSA molesting fewer people

We’ve had a rare bit of good news on the TSA front this weekend. Because of the record blizzard on the East Coast, airports closed, flights were canceled, and travelers didn’t travel. The cancellations caused a cascade effect all over the country. Therefore, the TSA didn’t bully, harass, rob, and sexually assault as many people as they usually do.

Thank god for small mercies.

But as things get back to normal over the coming week, you can be sure the TSA will be up to its old tricks.

(Image courtesy of NASA)

Yelp censors comments critical of TSA

A few weeks ago fellow TSA crusader Jim Bovard told me that there were all these TSA reviews on Yelp. I was surprised, given that I think of Yelp only in terms of hotel, restaurant, and other business reviews. He gave me a link to reviews of the TSA at Chicago O’Hare (ORD), but I soon discovered that there are several different pages of Yelp TSA reviews.

So I posted one, under the name “Lisa S.”

Yesterday I got an email from Yelp headquarters saying this:

JAN 15, 2016  |  11:07AM PST

Hi Lisa,We wanted to let you know that we’ve removed your review of TSA – Transportation Security Administration. Our Support team has determined that it falls outside our Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.com/guidelines) because it represents a conflict of interest.When reviewing, you should focus on businesses that you interact with as a customer, and not post reviews of businesses that you engage with as part of your own business.We hope you will continue to participate on Yelp while keeping our Content Guidelines in mind.

Removed Content:
I’m the editor and chief writer at a civil liberties watchdog site called TSA News (tsanewsblog dot com). I’ve been keeping tabs on this agency since 2009, so I’m not going to repeat here excerpts from the thousands of posts my colleagues and I have written. Suffice to say the TSA is an out-of-control, criminal agency that abuses people with impunity. Readers can click on over to read more if they’re interested. 

Regards,
The Yelp Support Team
San Francisco, California

Yelp Support Center | http://www.yelp-support.com
Yelp Official Blog | http://officialblog.yelp.com
Yelp for Business Owners | https://biz.yelp.com
So I wrote back to Yelp support with:
Hi, Yelp. What a pity. And what a mistake. I don’t run a business that has anything to do with the TSA. The writing I do at TSA News is UNPAIDAll volunteer. But hey, no biggie. I’ll just create a fake identity and re-post my review.
But before trying to create a fake identity, I tried one more thing. I went to all the different Yelp TSA pages I could find and left one line:
The TSA is an out-of-control, criminal agency that abuses people with impunity.
And lo and behold, a couple of hours later, I get another message from Yelp:
JAN 15, 2016  |  02:00PM PST

Hi Lisa,We wanted to let you know that we’ve removed all of your reviews of TSA. Our Support team has determined that they fall outside our Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.com/guidelines) because they appear to represent a conflict of interest.We hope you will continue to participate on Yelp while keeping our Content Guidelines in mind.

Now, think about it: Yelp publishes millions of reviews. They come in from all over the world. How can the Yelp team possibly keep tabs on every single one, unless somebody flags a comment or somehow calls it to their attention?

Given that the TSA routinely censors comments on its blog, as we’ve pointed out with evidence so many times, I don’t find it hard to believe that the agency is also keeping tabs on Yelp reviews. Of course I don’t know this for a fact; it’s impossible for me to know. I’m speculating based on the TSA’s behavior at its own blog, a place that is ostensibly set up explicitly for public feedback.

How pathetic that this powerful, multi-billion-dollar agency is so afraid of criticism. (And by the way, I’m not the only one who’s noticed that something fishy is going on at Yelp.)

Tell ya what — here are all the links I could find to TSA pages on Yelp. Let’s have a ball leaving comments. Now I’m off to create a fake identity.

(Graphic courtesy of Entrepreneur)

DHS/TSA blink: Real ID is a bust

As I wrote in this post on January 7, 2016, Edward Hasbrouck is a consistently reliable source of information on all things security — and faux security. His excellent website, PapersPlease, is a breath of fresh air in the hothouse atmosphere of the travel blabbosphere. So it’s no surprise that he has been predicting from the beginning that the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to impose yet more stupid regulations would fizzle. He said DHS would blink, and it has.

I’m talking about so-called Real ID and DHS’s insistence that after such-and-such a date (constantly changing) the TSA would no longer accept as ID driver’s licenses from a list of states that hadn’t acquiesced to DHS demands. In other words, DHS was claiming that you would be prevented from flying domestically if you held a driver’s license from a supposed rogue state (Alaska, California, Maine, Texas, etc.). I’ll let Ed tell the story:

Accurate public understanding of what’s going on is not helped by the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in official statements by its highest officials, on its official website have been telling out-and-out lies about what the law does and doesn’t require.

Many well-meaning and reputable but overly trusting journalists have allowed themselves to be used as conveyor belts for this DHS propaganda. The result has been a flood of authoritative-seeming news reports, many of them flatly wrong.

The essential facts are as follows:

In order to try to intimidate state governments into allowing their state driver licenses and ID databases to be integrated into a distributed national ID database (the REAL ID Act is about the database, not the ID cards), the DHS is threatening states. DHS intimates that at some future date set at the discretion of the DHS (not earlier than 2018, but that date has already been postponed by a decade since I first wrote about it, and could be postponed again) the TSA and its minions will start preventing people from flying if they show up at airports with ID from states that the DHS, in its discretion, deems insufficiently “compliant” with the federal REAL ID Act.

Hasbrouck goes on to say:

The DHS and the TSA have no legal authority to carry out this threat.

I repeat: DHS and TSA have no legal authority to carry out this threat. (Then again, I suppose one could argue, correctly, that both do lots of stuff for which they have no legal authority.)

Furthermore, Hasbrouck repeats what he — and I, and many others — have been saying for years: flying is a right, not just a privilege. Flying is a right:

The right to travel by air is guaranteed by explicit Federal law (“the public right of freedom of transit through the navigable airspace”, 49 US Code § 40101), by the Bill of Rights (“the right of the people… peaceably to assemble”, U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1), and by an international human rights treaty to which the USA is a party (“Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State [i.a. a country that is a party to the ICCPR] shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement”, ICCPR, Article 12, Paragraph 3).

There’s other information in the full column, and I urge you to go over to read it. Hasbrouck ends with this paragraph:

Right now, U.S. domestic travelers don’t need to do anything about their ID cards. However, they do need to tell Congress to repeal the REAL ID Act, and ask state officials to prepare to defend your rights and those of other residents of your state if the DHS and/or TSA try to interfere with Americans’ right to travel.

Right to travel. Our right. Get it?

(Thanks to Charlie Leocha and Edward Hasbrouck)

Cross-posted at ABombazine.