What the TSA does best

Gene Healy, a columnist for the Washington Examiner recently wrote about TSA’s specialty: hassling. Healy makes a couple of cogent points that, while familiar, weave together very nicely. That the TSA specializes in harassing innocent travelers isn’t news. Healy notes, however, that apparently President Obama is tired of opposition — can’t we all just act like Seal Team 6? As the president put it in his State of the Union address, “all that mattered that day was the mission.”

Well and good, except that Seal Team 6’s mission, which freed the aid workers in Africa, was well-defined and finite. Such missions end, and in short order. How Mr. Obama translates that into the TSA’s mission escapes me. Continue reading What the TSA does best

La Guardia TSA “forgets” about possible pipe bombs

Apparently they were so busy confiscating scary cupcakes, dangerous shampoo, and sticking their hands down people’s pants that TSA agents at La Guardia neglected to tell police that they found two things they thought might be pipe bombs. Instead, they just deposited the “bombs” in a nearby bin, and went about their business.
Continue reading La Guardia TSA “forgets” about possible pipe bombs

Mess with the taxpayer-paid stupids at DHS

There’s a sidebar to the Daily Mail piece I linked on the catatonically stupid drooling morons at the Department of Homeland Security who deported British tourists for supposedly dangerous tweets (one of which is ripped from Family Guy). On that sidebar, there’s a list of all the words that get your tweets flagged by DHS, (as if that’s a form of security!).
Continue reading Mess with the taxpayer-paid stupids at DHS

What’s the difference between a medical device and a weapon of mass destruction? TSA explains


Remember when the TSA accidentally published its passenger screening manual online a few years ago? Well, in light of last week’s events, which call into question the agency’s basic operating procedures, I’m not waiting around for it to do that again (although it probably will).
Continue reading What’s the difference between a medical device and a weapon of mass destruction? TSA explains

The nature of incentives

When I was a young girl I shared a large bedroom with a sister four years younger. We were over a garage that was dug into a hill, and there was an outside door in our room.

I remember I was a terrorist. Really. I remember lying there, before we were both asleep, and talking: “Suppose you rolled over in your sleep and your arm fell off the side of the bed. Suppose your hand fell upon a beard!” Continue reading The nature of incentives

TSA improperly identifies medical equipment

A screener mistaking an insulin pump for a handgun caused quite a ruckus in Los Angeles yesterday. Apparently a woman passenger went towards her flight before the TSA realized they didn’t know what they were seeing on her body. By the time they chased her down and figured it out, they had delayed other, unrelated passengers for up to an hour.

From the description, this woman’s viewing was via a nude-o-scope. Had it been on one of those “Gumby” look-alike screens, the confusion would have been resolved before she left the checkpoint. But no, here’s an innocent woman allowing herself to be viewed naked by some anonymous Peeping Tom in a sequestered room, and believing she was cleared for takeoff. Continue reading TSA improperly identifies medical equipment

DHS scanning people everywhere, even without their knowledge


Two weeks ago I noticed a story by Declan McCullagh at CNET, a technology publication. The title was “DHS’s x-ray scanners could be cancer risk to border crossers.”

It turns out, though, that not only border crossers are at risk. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has obtained a heavily redacted 63-page document that shows that the Department of Homeland Security has been scanning people, sometimes through their cars, and sometimes without their knowledge, at border crossings, on commuter ferries, and on the streets of New York.

The scanners DHS is using are the so-called backscatter — or x-ray — scanners, which emit radiation.

And according to this just-published account at ProPublica, the level of that radiation is even higher than that used by TSA airport scanners, the safety of which has still not been determined.

John Sedat, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco, told CNET: Continue reading DHS scanning people everywhere, even without their knowledge

Proposed bill in Congress to test xray scanners

In another attempt to get the TSA to comply with a promise to test the backscatter (x-ray) scanners for safety, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is planning to introduce a new bill in Congress. It would require the TSA to conduct an independent study.

This isn’t the first time Collins has pushed for such a study. Last year, TSA Administrator John Pistole told her that he would comply with her request, only to change his mind a few weeks later. So Collins is drafting a new bill. It’s unclear how a new demand will get Pistole to be any more cooperative this time around.

As Collins said last November: Continue reading Proposed bill in Congress to test xray scanners

Airport releases video of Sen. Rand Paul’s detention

Nashville airport has released security footage of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s detention by the TSA at that airport.

According to this account in The Tennessean, Sen. Paul appears in the video to be calm and collected, a demeanor at odds with what the airport police claimed: Continue reading Airport releases video of Sen. Rand Paul’s detention