Shoshana Hebshi settles lawsuit against TSA, Frontier Airlines

Shoshana Hebshi, the Ohio woman who was handcuffed, hauled off a plane at gunpoint, and strip-searched in a jail cell — all without probable cause — has settled her lawsuit against the TSA, Frontier Airlines, and other government agencies.

We’ve written about Shoshana Hebshi several times, in 2012, 2013, and 2014. It’s taken all these years for her to get a settlement. Her suit also named the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and other officials who were involved in her violation.

The American Civil Liberties Union helped Hebshi file the lawsuit. The announcement of the settlement is at the ACLU’s website. Excerpt:

DETROIT — The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement in its lawsuit filed on behalf of Shoshana Hebshi, a mother of two who was pulled off an airplane at gunpoint, arrested, strip-searched, and detained. The case was brought against Frontier Airlines and several government defendants.

The ACLU charged that Hebshi, who is of Saudi Arabian and Jewish descent, was singled out at Detroit Metropolitan Airport because of her Middle Eastern name and appearance. Hebshi was never accused of any wrongdoing, and a federal judge twice denied defendants’ attempts to have her claims thrown out.

“People do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they step onto an airplane,” said Rachel Goodman, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “This settlement sends that critical message, and will help protect future passengers from having to endure what Shoshana went through.”

There is, still, no word on the fate of the other two, so far unnamed, men who were abused along with Hebshi. I’m guessing they were sufficiently humiliated and afraid to come forward, especially because of their ethnicity; and who can blame them?

Hebshi was traveling home to Ohio on September 11, 2011, after visiting her sister in California. She was seated next to two men of South Asian descent whom she did not know. When the flight landed, armed agents boarded the plane and arrested all three of them. Hebshi was held in a jail cell, forced to submit to a humiliating strip-search, and detained for hours. She later discovered that she had been pulled off of the plane after fellow passengers became suspicious of the amount of time each man spent in the restroom. All three were later released without charge.

As I’ve written before about this case, the other passengers on the plane are almost as guilty as the government goons who violated Hebshi and those two men. “If you see something, say something,” DHS tells us (that sentence is even trademarked, if you can believe it). God forbid you should spend “too much time” in the bathroom. You could be a terrorist!

The head of the Wayne County Airport Authority continues to defend the actions of everyone  involved in abusing Hebshi:

Airport police “acted quickly and responsibly, and followed appropriate protocols in responding to a request for help from one of our airline partners,” Authority Chief Executive Thomas Naughton said in a release. “I strongly support their actions. We remain committed to vigilantly protecting the safety of the travelling public.”

Someone needs to take him down a peg or two.

Congratulations to Hebshi, even though $40,000 is a paltry amount for what she went through. And, of course, this settlement does nothing to stop the abuse going on at the nation’s airports every day. If you want to help put a stop to it, please donate to TSA Watch.

(Photo courtesy of Shoshana Hebshi)

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Americans happy to fly despite being abused by TSA

As ever, air travel in this country is increasing. I wrote last year about the fact that summer travel was expected to increase, and it did. Now we see that BWI — Baltimore-Washington International Airport — is planning to expand to accommodate the increasing, ahem, load.

Leading the charge is Southwest Airlines:

Southwest president and CEO Gary Kelly told local business leaders in February that his Dallas-based airline is considering routes to as many as 50 additional international markets in coming years, and wants BWI to be a “focal point” of its new network.

A Southwest spokeswoman said airline officials are “aware of the international expansion study at BWI and appreciate Maryland Aviation Administration’s proactive approach and partnership with Southwest to ensure we are prepared for the future.”

Since the airlines are complicit in the TSA’s abuse, it’s fitting that Southwest is so “bullish” on BWI.

People want to fly, no matter the cost, no matter the abuse, no matter the evidence. Don’t believe me? Just ask PsyGuy.

Oh, well. As I’ve also written before, it’s always nice when people get what they ask for. Eventus stultorum magister est.

TSA Watch, Phase Two — still needs your help

TSA Watch, a new non-profit membership organization about which I wrote earlier this year, has raised $5,000 and is embarking on phase two: filing with the IRS as a 501(c)(3).

Here’s the latest word on our progress:

As of April 15th we have raised 15% of our initial goals. We have used that money to develop TSA Watch infrastructure.

As of April 15th, we have formed a Board of Directors, are incorporated, have published two videos and scripted others, and have developed some basic infrastructure on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

We need to raise more money as soon as possible to file for our non-profit status with the IRS. The paperwork is ready, but it costs money to submit.

Once we have official non-profit status, we can receive tax deductible contributions, but more than that, we can gain support from other non-profits and foundations.

Our immediate goal for the rest of April is to raise at least $2,000, just a fraction of our $35,000 start-up goal. That will cover the non-profit filing fees and allow us to hire the help we need for the next infrastructure building steps. The sooner we raise the full amount, the sooner we can launch this organization on the scale needed.

In the meantime, each day that passes sees more stories of TSA Agents harassing, molesting, assaulting and otherwise abusing the traveling public.

Only by working together will we change this. Please Join us!

Thank you for your support.

Disclosure: I’m on the board (which is tiny; consists of three people). You can read more about what we’re trying to do here, and you can donate here.

As I wrote in a comment in February, if this were a Stephen Colbert spoof PAC, we’d raise millions in a few days. And hey, not knocking him; I love Colbert. I think he’s scary-brilliant. A joke PAC is all well and good. But the TSA is no joke.

Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is? I hope so. Because if we don’t fight this agency on all fronts — legislative, educational, grassroots — we’ll never win.

Denver TSA groping scheme UPDATE

The TSA has actively protected employees who were allegedly conspiring to commit frequent and serious acts of sexual assault. And the news reports about the event have left out more questions than they’ve answered, in part because no one appears to have bothered to get the police report — which took me all of five minutes by email from my living room, a thousand miles from Denver.

But before I describe the evidence, let me say this again: The TSA received a tip that some of its employees were sexually assaulting airline passengers in an airport checkpoint, and that the crime was routine and ongoing. And the TSA’s response was to protect those employees.

This week, CBS4 News in Denver reported that two TSA officers were fired from their jobs at Denver International Airport. The two officers, the report said, “were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers” — an event that happened “roughly a dozen times.”

As Lisa Simeone has already written here, one officer signaled another when he saw a male passenger he found attractive, and the other officer pressed a button on the scanning machine to set it for a female passenger. Then, when the machine detected an “anomaly” in the supposedly female passenger’s crotch area, the first officer had a pretext to do a patdown on the attractive passenger’s crotch — “with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy” (though see yesterday’s post, which includes evidence that it’s not contradictory).

So: A conspiracy to grope the genitals of attractive strangers. If you and I did that at the airport, what would be the outcome?

The news reports about this event say two very strange things, side by side: First, the two officers were caught in the act by a “TSA supervisor” who witnessed the whole thing directly — the signal between officers, the deliberate use of the wrong setting on the passenger scanner, the false alarm about an “anomaly,” the genital patdown with the front of the hand. Confronted, the officer manipulating the scanner to trigger a false alarm admitted the whole thing to a TSA investigator. The TSA fired both officers, who have not been publicly named. But prosecutors who got a report of the gropings declined to file charges, because the TSA “has said it could not identify the male passenger who was groped.”

1.) A TSA supervisor stood in the airport and watched the officer groping the passenger.

2.) The TSA can’t identify the passenger.

So now let’s turn to the report from the Denver Police Department, which I’ve posted online. Take a moment to read the thing yourself — you don’t have to take my word for anything I’m about to say. Here’s what the report tells us:

On November 18, 2014, the TSA received an anonymous tip describing the scheme cooked up by its two employees that would allow one to grope the genitals of passengers he found attractive. The TSA began an investigation; and on February 9, 2015, a TSA investigator — not a checkpoint supervisor — watched the signal, the manipulation of the machine, and the front-of-the-hand patdown of the passenger’s genitals. On March 19, 2015, more than a month after the act of alleged sexual assault, Special Agent Charles Stone of the TSA Office of Inspection notified the sex crimes unit at the Denver Police Department of the event witnessed by the investigator.

A few things to notice. First, this sentence from the account of the TSA’s original contact with police:

“According to Mr. Stone, both [redacted] and [redacted] were terminated as a result of this incident.”

Second, this sentence about a later follow-up discussion with another Denver police detective, describing a discussion with a deputy district attorney:

“Mr. Stone also related that he had spoken with DDA Bonnie Benedetti, and that she had told him that if the victim could not be identified, the case would not be fileable.”

So in November of 2014, the TSA was warned that two of its officers were currently, actively conspiring to commit sexual assault. But the TSA did not notify the police about that anonymous tip. The Denver Police Department is the agency that regularly polices Denver International Airport; the DIA Bureau is listed on this directory.

If the TSA had notified the police about the tip in November, the police could have been watching the checkpoint to observe the groping incident that was instead witnessed by a TSA employee. But the police didn’t know about an allegation of active, current, ongoing sexual assault, because the TSA didn’t tell them.

And so an act of sexual assault occurred right in front of a TSA investigator — and the investigator let the victim walk away without approaching him and identifying him.

Then, in March 2015, the TSA informed the police of the allegation, and of the evidence of the event that a TSA investigator had personally witnessed more than a month before. But the TSA didn’t notify the police until both employees had been fired — in other words, until both participants in a scheme to commit sexual assault had been removed from the place in which they allegedly committed it.

It’s as if someone called the fire department to report a pile of cold ashes. The TSA waited to call the police until the passengers were long gone, the TSA officers alleged to have committed the crime were long gone, and the crime witnessed by a TSA investigator was more than a month old.

Then Special Agent Charles Stone called the District Attorney’s office, asked if charges would be filed in the absence of named victims, got the information that no named victims meant no charges . . . and then told the police detective assigned to the case that it wasn’t possible to identify any victims.

I sent a series of questions to the TSA press office by email — asking, among other things, why the TSA didn’t call the police when they got their tip in November, and why the TSA inspector who witnessed the incident as it happened didn’t approach the victim in order to identify him. Their complete response, which is plainly false on its face:

“These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable. TSA has removed two officers from the agency. All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable.”

All employees are most certainly not held accountable if they commit crimes at work but don’t get arrested because their employer worked to protect them from an effective police investigation; so no.

The TSA has had more than its share of embarrassments about employees being arrested for on- and off-duty crimes. In this instance, they received a serious allegation of ongoing sexual assault by TSA employees, and handled it in a way that kept the police from being able to investigate and which prevented prosecutors from filing charges. They protected a TSA agent who committed a dozen acts of planned and deliberate sexual assault, and they protected the agent(s) who helped him. They let a crime victim walk away unidentified, and they called the police only when it was too late to matter.

Unforgivable.

Denver TSA rigged system to grope men’s genitals

From KCNC, the CBS affiliate in Denver, comes this completely unsurprising “news”: TSA clerks at Denver International Airport deliberately messed with the strip-search scanners to alarm on attractive male passengers so one of the blue-shirted goons could grope them.

No, Virginia, say it ain’t so!

A CBS4 investigation has learned that two Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International Airport have been fired after they were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers.

. . . “He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”

Gee, ya think this goes on elsewhere? Nah.

Just as the blue shirts at Reagan National Airport in Washington organized a ring of assailants to assault women, so, too, were the Denver goons getting their jollies.

And though the Denver TSA brass knew about it back in November, nothing was done.

Although the TSA learned of the accusation on Nov. 18, 2014 via an anonymous tip from one of the agency’s own employees, reports show that it would be nearly three months before anything was done.

According to the report, the TSA investigator then watched a male passenger enter the scanner at DIA “and observed (the female TSA agent) press the screening button for a female. The scanner alerted to an anomaly, and Higgins observed (the male TSA screener) conduct a pat down of the passenger’s front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy.”

(Correction: it is not contradictory to TSA searching policy. It has been TSA policy nationwide since October 2010, and before that, in Boston and Las Vegas since January 2010, where it was being “tested” before the national rollout. This was widely reported, such as in this Washington Post article dated Sunday, August 22, 2010, quote: “. . . a palms-forward, slide-down search — is being tested at Logan International Airport in Boston and at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas before a national rollout. It replaces the old back-of-the-hand patdown.” And it is the first entry in my Master List of TSA Crime and Abuses.)

Wonder how Blogger Bob Burns and Blogger West Cooper will spin this one? We already know: “Proper procedures were followed.”

There’s even videotape of one of the incidents. But we all know what happens to TSA videotapes: they go mysteriously missing. Just ask Jon Corbett. Or Stacy Armato. Or so many others too numerous to name.

The TSA said the male passenger who they saw being fondled was flying on Southwest Airlines and the agency has videotape of the incident. CBS4 has requested the tape but it was not immediately released. TSA has said it could not identify the male passenger who was groped and the agency says there have been no other complaints about the serial groping.

But hey, we’ve only been telling you about this stuff for five years. We’ve been telling you about the groping, the bullying, the theft, the lies, the sexual assaults, the fact that the scanners are worthless pieces of junk. We’ve provided evidence on top of evidence on top of evidence.

But what do we know? We’re a bunch of loons. We engage in “hyperbole.” After all, “I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I fly all the time; therefore, nobody else is experiencing it either!” Logic at work.

You, Mr. and Mrs. America, know better. You think it’s okay that you and your children are bullied, robbed, and physically assaulted to get on a plane. You think it’s “no big deal.” You even want to arm the blue shirts. You even think cavity searches are okay (and no, we’re not talking about teeth).

Maybe you’re right. Maybe you do deserve to be physically assaulted in order to travel. Puts you in your proper place. Which, given your lack of concern about your rights, is perhaps where you belong.

And hey, if something like this does happen to you, or to one of your friends or loved ones, no biggie. Just tell them to “get over it” and move on. After all, it’s “for your safety.”

Happy Trails!

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Terroristy breast milk strikes again! UK & US equal in stupidity

Because, as we’ve reported before, the UK is just as fearmongering and civil-liberties-violating as the US, and is in many ways the lapdog of the US, it should come as no surprise that our brethren across the pond have adopted the worst practices of the TSA.

It used to be that you could fly in/from Europe without being mauled and abused by “security” at the airport. No longer. (And yes, I’m burying the lede.)

As I reported last year, and again before that, and in 2013 (when boobie-bombs were apparently a threat), the US has strong-armed other countries into doing things the American way. So the UK, in addition to groping people, has also now started to install the repeatedly discredited strip-search scanners. From FlyerTalk:

Effective January 2015, the United Kingdom has commenced use of MMW scanners for primary security screening. Currently only London Gatwick (LGW) South terminal is applying the process, at its main checkpoint. It is expected to spread further over upcoming months.

Previously, body scanners had been used to resolve WTMD alarms, on randomly selected passengers, or to facilitate passengers who were unable or unwilling to go through a WTMD.

“WTMD” stands for walk-through metal detector. “MMW” stands for millimeter wave.

Opt outs are mandatory in the EU, and security clerks are mandatorily required to inform passengers of the possibility to opt out (EU Regulation 1147/2011, annex 1, section 4.1.1.10).

Screening of passengers who opt out in the UK must be conducted in private (Direction to certain aerodrome managers under the Aviation Security Act 1982 relating to security scanners 2015, annex C, section 14).

Furthermore, unlike in the US, where, though the goons will try to force you into a private room, you are free to stand your ground and demand they grope you in public, with witnesses, in the UK it looks like you must go into a private room, where you might be stripped:

Opt-outs have been permitted in the UK since November 2013, a year after it had been ordered to do so by the EU, but ordinarily result in a mandatory hand search and wanding in a private room, and may also require the loosening or removal of clothing. In many cases, passengers who opt-out are subjected to interrogation about their reason for opting out, demands for their passport and boarding pass from which details are recorded, and requirements to sign a consent form to a private search. Additionally, such passengers are often subjected to a mandatory search of carry-on baggage, and this may be extended to anyone with whom they identify as travel companions . . . passengers opting out have no option to be searched in public even if they want to.

In 2013 the UK rejected the scanners for use in prisons because they found they didn’t work. Yet now they’re putting them in airports. Logic??

Even the usually sensible — and non-lapdog — Norway is getting in on the action:

Oslo Airport has announced that it has started testing four security scanners as it aims to “bring state-of-the-art security screening to Avinor facilities”. The aim of the trials is to establish how each of the systems can both enhance security and offer a screening method that passengers find more comfortable.

Oslo Airport has confirmed to FTE that the four scanners that will be tested are L-3’s ProVision 2, Smiths Detection’s eqo, and the QPS100 and QPS200 from Rohde & Schwarz.

Can you say ka-ching? Because also as we’ve written so many times before, scanner proliferation is a huge windfall for the security industry.

Now for the buried lede: the UK abuses celebrities and hoi-polloi alike, same as the US. Actress Alyssa Milano found that out recently, when her terroristy breast milk was confiscated at Heathrow.

In another FlyerTalk conversation about this, the authoritarian-lovers and bootlickers are out in full force, berating her for thinking she’s “above the rules,” intoning that “it’s the world we live in,” “we’re all in danger now,” “the liquid rules are there for a reason” (never mind that the reason isn’t what you think), and, bien sûr, “remember 9/11.”

Yes, because breast milk can bring on another 9/11. Just ask Stacey Armato.

There are a few voices of reason in that FlyerTalk thread. But half are the usual chorus of, “don’t you realize that this is all for our own good?!”

Resistance? Protest? Change? Common sense? None of it will happen in my lifetime. Yeah, yeah, I’m a broken record; I know. But I’ll keep saying it till the cows come home: everyone who defends the abusive practices of the National Security State deserves what he gets.

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Violated at the Airport by TSA Thug Sharonda Juana Walker (not sure on spelling of “Sharonda”)

I’m calling on everyone to name the name of the TSA thug who violates your body and right to probable cause (as a reason for search).

There’s not an ounce of probable cause to search me at the airport — as I was today at LAX. To violate my body. To touch my breasts. To grope my hair. To have the blue latex-gloved hand of Sharonda Juana Walker feel inside my turtleneck.

And no, I don’t go through the scanners, and the metal detector line wasn’t an option at just before 7 a.m., when I got to the airport to leave for . . . no, not an ISIS meet-and-greet but an evolutionary psychology conference in Boston. Apparently, the sparse traffic at the airport at this hour leaves the TSA plenty of time to feel up travelers.

A NOTE: I’m not quite sure I got the spelling of “Sharonda” right because she first told me her name when she saw me looking at her nametag; but then when she was done pointlessly feeling me up, she refused to let me see her name or tell me it again.

Her “Walker” name bar pinned to her chest also said “Lead,” which I think means she’s in charge of something. Maybe she’s the head groper on the floor? And because I couldn’t take a photo of myself and her as she was groping me, I’ll have to describe her: she’s a big, tall, overweight black woman with odd ice cream scoops of hair billowing on her head.

Yes, the jobs program (and the payout program to the connected entitled like Michael Chertoff), aka the TSA, continues to grope citizens at the airport, sans probable cause.

The notion that anyone who has to work for the TSA to earn a living — basically repurposed mall food court clerks, if that — could catch a terrorist with an IQ over the highway speed limit is absurd.

The reality is, anyone smart enough to survive in this blog comments section could figure out a way to get an explosive device into the airport and onto a plane.

And the sad reality is, the TSA continues because so many Americans go through without complaint — as their bodies and rights are violated in a pointless exercise, making a mockery of our constitutional right to probable cause: reasonable suspicion we’ve committed a crime before we are searched.

The despicable Sharona Juana Walker’s comment to me as she was groping my body: “You can always take the bus.”

Showing how ignorant she is. She doesn’t even know that the very agency she is a “lead” for detains and searches Americans without probable cause at bus stations, train stations, ferries, and highways. We’ve written about this fact many times at TSA News.

The tone of the “bus!” comment reinforces my suspicion that some of the TSA workers love groping people who get to fly places — as a sort of revenge against them for their ability to travel and to afford travel, and as a way to have power over people they normally would have no contact with.

“Have an awesome flight!” she yelled to me.

Prostitution is a far more noble profession than working as a TSA thug. Not that I have a problem with prostitution. But to earn money for providing a service to a consenting adult is a moral thing to do, while to earn money to violate the bodies and constitutional rights of your fellow citizens is something that every TSA thug needs to be called on — and vocally shamed for.

And a note on that: when you go through the TSA line and you are violated, name names. On blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter; anywhere you can.

It is reprehensible to violate the bodies and right to probable cause of fellow Americans for money, and anyone who does that should be called out for that.

(Cross-posted at Advice Goddess)

Editor’s Note: You can read what the PR flacks at the official TSA Blog said the last time Amy Alkon wrote about her airport experience. Our tax dollars at work. Do read some of the 192 comments, where readers metaphorically beat the stuffing out of Blogger Bob.

Redditor finally discovers the TSA is abusive

 

From a thread started at Reddit by someone who is just now discovering that the TSA is abusive. Duh. Sorry, patience is admittedly not one of my virtues, but I really can’t take it anymore — not only the surprise exhibited by people who seem to have been living under a rock for the past, oh, six years, but worse, those who deny, deny, deny what’s right in front of their faces. Read the whole Reddit thread to see what I’m talking about. The ignorance on display is breathtaking.

This is a TSA related question that occurred in Washington DC airport. My wife opted out of scanning and received a pat down. The scanner used to examine the gloves from the pat down tested positive. She was required to be taken to private screening. Where she was told that she is officially “detained”. She was told that her genitals had to be stroked several times as a more intensive pat down

She requested a phone call and a lawyer, but it was denied. She asked for a police officer. The TSA officer said that all the requests and questions are considered threats. The police officer finally came and said she “didn’t want to deal with bullshit” and told my wife she must either be patted down or go to jail. My wife was not allowed to leave the airport any other way. She finally submitted to the pat down. She asked what set of the scanner, but the TSA refused to give an answer. Is there a civil violation here?

I am just trying to gather information before seeking out an appropriate specialty lawyer.

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)