TSA turns the gloves on itself

Isn’t it nice to know that you’re not alone? That the sexual assault the TSA perpetrates against you and yours is also meted out to its own employees?

Nilda C. Marugame, a TSA agent at Lihue Airport in Hawaii, is suing the Department of Homeland Security, TSA’s parent agency, for sexual assault. She says she was retaliated against when she went through the proper chain of command to report it. (That chain-of-command thing is beloved of bureaucrats and people who believe that all you have to do to achieve justice is tell the truth.)

Marugame says she is, to her knowledge, the third woman who received unwanted sexual advances from one particular TSA employee, a Transportation Security Investigator (TSI).

After Maragume reported her incident, she says she was forced to sign a statement disavowing it:

Marugame says she was suspended for three days, after being “forced … to sign a document stating that the TSI did not sexually harass her”. She claims her boss suspended her “rather than addressing and disciplining the behavior of a sexual predator in the workplace.”

She says the alleged predator “was not subjected to any discipline, while each of his victims were disciplined.”

Oh, well.  At least we peons know we have company!

TSA profiling? It’s been happening for a decade

The following commentary was written by Wendy Thomson of the advocacy group Freedom to Travel USA.

The TSA is reportedly being taken to task by Rep. Bennie Thompson for the possibility of profiling by the TSA within the TSA’s recently piloted SPOT program.

News flash: The TSA has been profiling since its inception.

What, you say? Oh, yes, the fashionably correct phrase “Driving While Black” has been replaced with the popular “Flying While Handicapped.”

Let’s look at the similarities: both rely on a physical characteristic upon which governmental employees rely to justify suspicion. Both engender searches that are above and beyond “normal.” However, in the case of the latter, there is positively no correlation between the physical limitation and an increased incidence of crime. I suspect that there might even be a negative correlation.

So, Rep. Thompson, if you are so against profiling please expand your outrage to those that are truly being profiled. Every time they fly – it’s like the first time. There is no amount of certification or pre-approval even available to allow those with medical assistive devices to get those devices pre-certified prior to flight.

I suggest the following to those who are uneasy with a medical “get out of jail free” card: if the glorious State cannot decide that a person with decades of tax returns to their credit (and for whom said Glorious State does not possess even fingerprints due to such a crime-free existence) does not pose a viable threat, then I don’t know what does.

The TSA cannot possibly succeed in its mission because it cannot possible guard everywhere that hundreds congregate, nor should we expect it to. The missing piece to every argument I’ve heard is the answer to the following question: should citizens expect the government to protect them from every eventuality? Citizens should not. We should not ask for the impossible. To expect virtual safety guarantees from anyone or anything is folly.

Here are some statistics for you:

From the GAO: there are many international airports that still are “seriously non-compliant” with safety standards.

From the TSA: in 2004-2005 screeners failed 70% of the tests run to measure successful interdiction of prohibited items getting through security.

From the BLS: in 2004-2005 there were 21.9 million departures of domestically owned airlines carrying over 1.5 billion passengers.

So let’s put that all together: during a period of significant detection failure, when international airports were at least as porous as they are now, when we didn’t have AIT machines or enhanced patdowns, when billions of people flew in millions of flights.

There were no incidents. None. And as you can see from the TSA failure rate, it has nothing to do with the efficacy of the TSA, nor with the efficacy of non-US security personnel.

Rep. Thompson, I encourage you to help deep-six the TSA in its current form. Maybe deep-six it entirely. If you want to use the race card to help sink that ship, well, go for it. However, I think that both you and I know that trying to make this into a race issue is so yesterday. If that’s the best ammunition you have, oh, well (sigh). But I’ll accept help from any quarter. Just know that trying to turn this issue into a racial one is quite a stretch.

(Photo: Unhindered by Talent/Flickr)

How to travel with your rights intact during the holidays

Air travel in America–at any time of year–carries with it a certain amount of stress and worry no matter how well-prepared we are.

During the holidays, however, airports are routinely more crowded and travelers more harried, with weather events causing flight delays and global events often leading to frequent changes in security procedures that are almost impossible to keep up with (and, to be sure, that are inconsistently applied, further adding to the confusion).

Those of us who do not wish to give up our civil liberties in order to get from Point A to Point B might face additional delays.

The ACLU offers excellent guidelines for navigating airport security, but even they warn travelers that “opting out” of the notorious scanners, for example, will probably mean you’ll have to wait for an appropriate agent to be located (or freed up) in order to perform the also-notorious “enhanced pat-down”.  And if you decline to answer a question during the so-called SPOT interview, you may well be selected for secondary screening.  Meaning, more delay.

From their website:

OPTION: Decline to answer 

You can decline to answer questions or reply to each question politely with the simple words, “personal business.” However, if the TSA officer does not feel that you are answering his or her questions, they may select you for secondary screening.

Clearly, the vast majority of travelers are interested in getting to their destination (and out of that crowded, hectic airport!) as quickly and smoothly as possible.  Thus, the TSA dangles the carrot of convenience over our heads:  “Just go through the scanner; it’s much quicker!” or else “If you refuse to answer more specifically, we’ll have to send you through secondary screening, which is currently backed up and could take…oh, another forty-five minutes to an hour, at least”.

Regardless of what your personal boundaries are when it comes to acceptable intrusions into your privacy, if you must travel by air, it makes sense to be as fully-informed about current security conditions as possible, and if you’re flying with medical devices, medicine, or breast milk, to print out the TSA’s own rules–you have the right to request that an office conduct a “visual inspection” — and carry them with you in case the agent you encounter doesn’t appear to be terribly well-versed in them.  (Although as observers will note, even doing just that–printing out the TSA’s rules for medicines and milk, etc., and carrying a copy with you–will not always prevent your being unfairly detained and seriously delayed, as this unfortunate working mother discovered.)

TSA Newsblogger Sommer Gentry has an excellent post that further details what the TSA can and cannot do.  She describes how she avoids the scanner machines in part by choosing her routes (and airports) carefully and provides a link to TSA Status, which is updated frequently (almost in real-time!) and lets travelers know which airports (and terminals) are using the scanners, and to what degree.

She further reminds us that:

Every traveler has a right to refuse TSA searches

If the TSA tries to do something to you that you find offensive, you should say no. Although the TSA has threatened travelers with fines and tried to argue that walking away isn’t permitted, in practice the TSA has no power other than the power to deny you access to the boarding gates. The police do have the power to detain you, but that requires individualized suspicion, something that you do not exhibit merely by purchasing an airline ticket.

Since the TSA has steadfastly refused to describe exactly what anyone might be subjected to at a checkpoint, many travelers will find themselves pressured to bow to unpredictable and unreasonable demands. For instance, a handful of flyers report being physically strip searched in private rooms, and some women were coerced to bare their breasts to male screeners in a stairwell – would you comply?

Protecting yourself from invasive searches requires only willingness to abandon your travel plans and make new ones. United Airlines was wonderful and rebooked me for a later flight the same day from Reagan Airport, where there are no scanners in Terminal A. The United employee who helped me even agreed with my stance, telling me that he thought the scanners were “not decent. They shouldn’t do that to people, it’s just not decent.”

To my mind, the best (and perhaps most difficult-to-follow) security-related travel advice of all is this sentence: Protecting yourself from invasive searches requires only willingness to abandon your travel plans and make new ones.

Which means, research other flight options well beforehand, if possible, and plan your day accordingly.  If you wish to avoid the scanners for privacy or health reasons (or both), build in plenty of extra time for the agency to locate that elusive special person to do the enhanced pat-down.  If you’re 100% opposed to being physically searched on certain parts of your body–and plenty of us are, for a number of reasons–understand that you may have to walk from that particular flight and take another one, perhaps from a different terminal or city, even.

As for me, I was thrilled to recently learn that Tampa has a lovely renovated and historic train station which is itself a “tourist destination”–where have I been?!–although I am not so thrilled to learn that the TSA has been conducting passenger searches and pat-downs, as part of the VIPR program, at Amtrak and bus stations too.  And John Pistole is pressuring Congress to add 12 more VIPR units to the current 25 in 2012.

That’s another post for another day.

Also at Litbrit.

(Photo: greyhound dad/Flickr)

John Pistole’s Thanksgiving song and dance

TSA Administrator John Pistole has been busy giving interviews this week to trumpet his agency’s supposedly improved procedures and to tell us heartwarming stories about how he views his mission.

The first interview appeared on CNN the day before Thanksgiving and has since been reprinted in other newspapers. The second was published yesterday in the Washington Post.

In both, Pistole repeats unfounded claims about the safety and efficacy of airport scanners, downplays passengers’ concerns, and gives us a glimpse into what he thinks of his fellow citizens.

Once again we hear that children under 12 will no longer have to take off their shoes, not that taking off shoes at the checkpoint has ever made sense for anyone of any age. Yet perhaps in compensation for this minor concession to common sense, new TSA regs seek to punish said children in another way. Pistole:

“. . . they’ll be given multiple opportunities to go through the screening to resolve something before we would ask the parents or guardians to be involved to try to resolve that anomaly.”

So children can be put through the scanners over and over again, despite the fact that the safety of the backscatter (X-ray) machines is still in doubt, so much so that the European Union has voted to ban them from EU airports. The TSA was supposed to conduct an independent study of the scanners’ safety, but to date it still hasn’t done so, with Pistole recently backpedaling on the promise.

Yet even if children go through the scanners, they can still be groped:

“There’s still a possibility — much reduced — that they would still have a pat-down, but it’s something that we are trying to work with the parents or guardians to help resolve what that issue may be so we don’t need to do that.”

Notice the deferential language – “ask the parents or guardians to be involved,” “work with the parents or guardians to help resolve.” Yet as countless people have testified, TSA agents rarely “work with” parents to resolve anything. Rather, they often bully and harass* parents and separate them from their children, no matter the age, even if a child is crying, even if a child is disabled.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of abusive behavior, one must ask why, if the scanners are such a technological advance, people must still divest themselves of shoes and empty their pockets in the first place? Isn’t the scanner supposed to see through clothing? Isn’t that the point? Why does anything left in a pocket – a coin, a key, a ponytail holder – constitute an “anomaly” that gets one sent off to the glassed-in gulag for a grope?

Aye, there’s the rub.

It turns out the scanners have a disturbingly high – and notorious – rate of false alarms. In the studies Germany conducted, it was found that all sorts of innocuous things caused the scanners to alarm – even pleats, even sweat. (English translation here.) The scanners had a 54% false-positive rate. Perhaps that’s why Germany isn’t using them. Neither is Italy. Neither is Israel.

But even as early as January of 2010, long before the scanners were rolled out all across the U.S., security experts warned that they were not a panacea, that they, in fact, probably wouldn’t have detected the explosive substance sported by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the mentally disturbed young man who tried to light his underwear on fire on a Detroit-bound plane in December 2009 (and who never had a chance in hell of actually blowing anything up).

Coincidentally, that event provided the perfect opportunity for scanner manufacturers to urge that their machines be installed everywhere. One of the people touting the benefits of the scanners was former DHS chief Michael Chertoff, who was working as a public relations man for one of those manufacturers, Rapiscan, which went on to get a lucrative contract from the government to supply the machines. Quel coincidence.

No word on whether Chertoff or Pistole has ever seen the irony in the company’s name.

Pistole says he solicits and receives frequent feedback from the TSA workforce on how things are going. Yet he never mentions the rest of us – the people he’s supposed to be protecting and supposedly serves. We are paying the $8.1 billion a year for his agency and its almost 60,000 employees. Has he ever asked you, dear reader, for your feedback?

There are some telling tidbits about motivation as well:

“I want to be sure there’s a sense of urgency, because terrorists try to come up with new and creative ways to harm us and we focus on preventing that.”

One person’s sense of urgency is another’s promotion of a constant state of fear. Such a state makes it easier to control a populace, whether one is barking orders to “put your hands above your head,” “don’t touch that!” or encouraging people to believe The Terrorists (apparently a monolithic group) are hiding around every corner. It also ensures a steady stream of profits to corporations that are getting rich off the scanner boondoggle and terrorism business – extraordinarily rich, as the number of lobbyists swarming Capitol Hill attests.

If Pistole is so concerned about preventing “new and creative ways to harm us,” why is it that his agency is entirely reactive? Does he think The Terrorists are still cooking up shoe and panty bombs? Does he think they’re incapable of, say, blowing up a checkpoint, where hundreds of people are massed together like sitting ducks? Does he think they’re oblivious to trains, buses, boats, stadiums, malls? (Answer to that last question: no, since the TSA has also invaded every other type of transportation, as you can read here.)

Wouldn’t a “new and creative” attempt be to smuggle different bomb parts in body cavities and then assemble them on board? Never mind the absurdity of this scenario, as it’s being hyped to within an inch of its life. But given the “sense of urgency,” why isn’t the TSA conducting body cavity searches of all passengers all the time? After all, we want to say ahead of those “new and creative ways,” don’t we?

Pistole doesn’t say. He also doesn’t address the number of TSA employees who’ve been arrested for stealing, impersonating an officer, child pornography, and sexual assault – 62 so far this year alone.

These are the people looking at your naked image and “patting down” you and your children. These are the people pawing through your belongings and determining which ones to confiscate. These are the people, along with John Pistole, keeping you “safe.”

(Photo: TalkMediaNews/Flickr)

*Link broken; verbatim content:

Posted by waterthink at 1/21/2011 9:17 p.m.  #913523
Just this week, on returning from a family vacation in CA over MLK weekend, myself, my wife, and our two children were detained by the TSA because we refused to have our children go through the back-scatter machines.

 When my wife told them we were opting out the TSA woman at the metal detector said “Do not touch your children.” I then went through the metal detector and waited with my son as my wife and daughter were escorted away. When another TSA agent came to take me and my elementary school age son to be searched, I put my arm around him and the woman yelled “DO NOT TOUCH HIM!”

 All four of us were then subjected to approximately 5 minute searches each.

 It is a truly surreal experience to watch your child being searched by uniformed agents. Really just unbelievable. I watched the people going through the line watching this and I think most were aghast.

 Never thought I would live to see this happen in this country. Never.

Mr. Pistole on the PR trail… again

The following commentary was written by Wendy Thomson of the advocacy group Freedom to Travel USA.

In a recent series of interviews, TSA Administrator Pistole once again “reminds” us that those vast minions of “no-goodniks” are a clear and present danger.

He also, once again, paints his agency as core anti-terrorist group “fulfilling a national security mission.”

Harrumph. That, from someone that starts “every day with an intelligence briefing that informs me what terrorists are thinking. This information plays a key role as we determine how we should change our protocol.”

Does it occur to anyone else that the statements above are a bit incongruous?

So, if Mr. Pistole gets briefed every morning and knows what terrorists are thinking, then obviously he knows he doesn’t have to assault the flying public wholesale. And if he knows what the terrorists are thinking, in order to change protocols… tell me, public: in your experience, just how successful has Mr. Pistole been in having a finely-tuned agency, altering protocols on a daily basis to react to all of this excellent intelligence?

Mr. Pistole also states that “it’s about looking at the little things that can cause catastrophic failures in aircraft, not just looking for common prohibited items like a small knife.” Well and good — in fact, the first part of that sentence is something that I can actually support.

However, careful analysis would suggest that even Mr. Pistole believes a small knife is fairly useless as a weapon that can cause catastrophic aircraft failure. So – voila – prohibited items don’t necessarily represent a significant risk: “prohibited items” have launched a life and definition all of their own, independent of whether any of them are really dangerous. Sounds suspiciously like “because we’ve always done it that way”.

I have a theory about government and law. My analogy is a closet. Just picture one of those closet doors opening, only to have all of the “stuff” that’s been crammed in there over the years tumble out in total disarray.

Our government and laws are in the same mess. The TSA rules and regulations are no different. There is so much “stuff” crammed into the TSA’s closet that they couldn’t find that soccer ball in an instant if they wanted to.

Time to clean house, Mr. Pistole. If you really are privy to all that “intelligence” that tells you what the bad guys are thinking, then I respectfully suggest that you use it.

Unfortunately, I believe that not even you trust that “intelligence.” So please, stop the hype and sham.

Something to be grateful for: Bikini Girl is back

Here’s something to be grateful for on the American Thanksgiving holiday: Bikini Girl is back.

Corinne Theile, dubbed Bikini Girl, made headlines last year when she stripped down to a bikini to protest the TSA’s invasive new searches. British media reports she’s making a comeback.

Theile refuses to use the TSA’s body scanners, which she believes are dangerous. And she’s reluctant to undergo the alternative, which is a pat-down, because they are often performed incorrectly by TSA officers. She prefers to reduce the amount of clothing she wears through a checkpoint — ergo the bikini.

She’s reportedly worn her swimsuit on seven flights over the past 12 months to protest the TSA’s screening methods — so technically, she hasn’t gone away. But the one-year-anniversary of her protest is sure to bring her (sorry about this) more exposure.

Theile isn’t the first passenger to strip in protest.

Aaron Tobey, a University of Cincinnati student, removed his shirt before walking through an airport checkpoint. He had an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest. He was briefly detained and later sued the TSA.

Bikini Girl vows to continue her protest, which so far has drawn only “smiles” from TSA agents.

“If I’m 80 and I can go through security in a bikini,” she says, “I’ll do it.”

TSA expands beyond airport screening

You might think that the TSA operates only at airports. If so, you haven’t been keeping up.

The TSA has its hands all over the country’s transportation systems, from trains to buses to subways to ferries to trucks. Its VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program has been in operation since 2005.

VIPR teams periodically descend on transportation hubs to conduct “random” searches, as they did in Tennessee; in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky; in Des Moines, Iowa; in Tampa, Florida; in Sacramento, California; and perhaps most notoriously, in Savannah, Georgia, where train passengers were separated from their luggage and body-searched after they got off the train.

Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor hit the roof when he found out and forbade the agency from ever setting foot in an Amtrak station without permission again.

VIPR teams also operate in the New York City subway and in other cities, where, according to the TSA, they “surge into a transit agency.”

They can also show up at “special events,” such as football games. TSA head John Pistole recently testified before Congress that the TSA “conducted more than 8,000 VIPR operations in the past 12 months, including more than 3,700 operations in mass-transit and passenger-railroad venues.”

Then again, VIPR’s activities are legally questionable, as this memo from an anonymous Department of Homeland Security lawyer points out. And not everyone is so sanguine about VIPR’s reach.

But VIPR is only one of the TSA’s “vigilance” programs. First Observer is another. It’s a highway security program, and it engages truckers as watchdogs. Its mission is “to promote the security of our critical infrastructure within the United States by training people to observe, assess, and report risks and security breaches.”

A few days ago, the TSA announced a First Observer award. This is where things get a little confusing. The program is funded by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) and DHS, and run by the TSA, which recruits truckers from an organization called OOIDA, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA, in turn, partners with a security firm called HMS.

It’s hard to figure out exactly who does what, but it appears that HMS trains truckers to “observe, assess, report” for OOIDA, which then sends its observations, assessments, and reports to the TSA. In other words, it’s DHS chief Janet Napolitano’s “If You See Something, Say Something” program writ large.

Or at least writ more expensive, since Napolitano’s exhortation applies to the average Joe and doesn’t, presumably, require any special training.

Now that you see how many alphabet-soup organizations are involved in your security, I hope you feel safer — just in time for Thanksgiving! (sarcasm alert)

TSA agent, in uniform, charged with sexual assault

In Manassas, Virginia police have charged a TSA agent named Harold Glen Rodman, age 52, with sexual assault.

According to the victim, she and a friend were walking in a residential neighborhood around 3 in the morning on November 20th when they were approached by an unknown man in a uniform. She said he flashed his badge at them before the alleged assault.

The police later canvassed the area and found Rodman. He’s been charged with aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy, and abduction with intent to defile.

Perhaps he thought his uniform and tin badge conferred on him some kind of authority. And why not? TSA agents get away with all kinds of behavior at checkpoints; why not everywhere else?

This is hardly the first time a TSA agent has been charged with a serious crime. Bill Fisher and I have compiled a Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses that aggregates thousands of accounts of eyewitness testimony as well as police and court records.

How to stand up to the TSA and say “no”

I was ejected from a Dulles (Washington, DC) airport checkpoint this week for refusing all of the following: an X-ray radiation dose, a short stint as a TSA porn star, and unwelcome sexual contact with a stranger.

Since November 2010, I’ve been rearranging all of my travel to avoid the TSA’s body scanners and “enhanced patdowns.” I always check the website tsastatus.net to be sure that I only use airports and checkpoints that do not have the dreaded blue boxes. Otherwise, I take Amtrak or drive, or else I cancel my trip.

Somehow my wires got crossed and I wound up facing two completely unacceptable options at the TSA checkpoint.

There are two important messages for travelers in what happened next: I walked away, and then I flew to my destination from another airport.

Every traveler has a right to refuse TSA searches

If the TSA tries to do something to you that you find offensive, you should say no. Although the TSA has threatened travelers with fines and tried to argue that walking away isn’t permitted, in practice the TSA has no power other than the power to deny you access to the boarding gates. The police do have the power to detain you, but that requires individualized suspicion, something that you do not exhibit merely by purchasing an airline ticket.

Since the TSA has steadfastly refused to describe exactly what anyone might be subjected to at a checkpoint, many travelers will find themselves pressured to bow to unpredictable and unreasonable demands. For instance, flyers report being physically strip-searched in private rooms, and some women were coerced to bare their breasts to male screeners in a stairwell — would you comply?

Protecting yourself from invasive searches requires only willingness to abandon your travel plans and make new ones. United Airlines was wonderful and rebooked me for a later flight the same day from Reagan National Airport, where there are no scanners in Terminal A. The United employee who helped me even agreed with my stance, telling me that he thought the scanners were “not decent. They shouldn’t do that to people, it’s just not decent.”

The TSA’s body scanners have never deterred or prevented an act of terrorism

They are transparently avoidable. A Congressional report released the day before my Dulles ordeal noted the same thing, saying, “TSA deployed the AIT devices in a haphazard and easily thwarted manner . . . passengers are easily able to bypass this technology by choosing a screening lane without these AIT machines in use.”

Millions of people fly every day without passing through a body scanner. Airplanes flying from National’s scanner-free checkpoint are just as secure as those flying from Dulles’ blue box gauntlet — actually, the National Airport passengers are safer because they avoid unnecessary doses of ionizing radiation.

Depending on the circumstances, body scanners might well prevent a conservative grandmother from ever being able to meet her grandchildren, they might cause a TSA screener to be harassed and tormented by his co-workers’ comments about his genitalia, they might cause an Alaska state senator and childhood abuse survivor to have to take a four-day ferry trip home; but the one thing they absolutely cannot do is present an obstacle to someone who wants to attack an airplane.

TSA’s imagined “evildoers” would exploit the weakest links in aviation security; and passenger searches, even without offensive body scans and sexually humiliating patdowns, are far from the weakest links in this chain. Only some overseas cargo is screened, background checks for hundreds of thousands of airport workers are shoddy, there is no screening of supplies for post-security businesses, airport perimeters are not secured, no defenses are planned for shoulder-fired missiles, and the list goes on and on.

Possibly the weakest links are the screeners themselves, hundreds of whom have been dismissed or prosecuted for stealing from passengers. A dishonest screener who can take valuables out of your bags is a dishonest screener who can be bribed to put dangerous items into your bags. The changes you’ve noticed at airport checkpoints over the last year are security theatrics: massively expensive and dramatically intrusive, yet entirely worthless as defenses against terrorism.

The TSA has been ordering innocent Americans to do a lot of degrading things lately, and not a single one of these affronts has ever made anyone safer.

When you decide you’ve had enough, stand up to the TSA and say “no.”

(Photo: K Ideas/Flickr)

TSA conducts explosive demonstration at Myrtle Beach

Hey, ever wonder what happens when you blow stuff up? Fear not. The fulfillment of your special effects fantasy is just around the corner. Or on the beach, as the case may be.

The TSA has conducted an explosives demonstration at Myrtle Beach. Because what could be more fun than feeling the earth move under your feet and watching sand scatter at the same time?

Quoting from the article:

“To better understand the destruction explosives can cause, the TSA conducted a safety demonstration at Myrtle Beach International Airport Wednesday morning. It included the live detonation of explosives like C4 and dynamite, hidden inside common baggage, like a briefcase.”

There’s even a nifty video.

Who knew “the destruction explosives can cause”?

Someone named Nick Slater had this observation:

“If that’s on a plane, the plane is gone.”

Wow. Really? I wonder what would happen if “that” were at the security checkpoint itself, where hundreds of people are crammed together in one space?

Oh, I know — all those see-through plastic baggies would protect us.

No word on how much this little demonstration cost, but hey, folks, your tax dollars at work.