TSA idiocy and abuse: too much to keep track of

Twitter is alive with testimony from people witnessing TSA idiocy and abuse. But then such tweets have been going on for years — there used to be a whole Twitter feed devoted to them, tens of thousands of them —

 18 Dec 2012
Something about has got to change. It’s way too unpleasant and demeaning. It makes me angry and not proud to be an American.

— yet nothing has changed. The TSA still abuses people, and people still fly. So I guess things haven’t gotten bad enough yet. As Frederick Douglass said, and as I’ve quoted so many times:

“Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until 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.”

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Chris Hedges: The Wages of Rebellion Part 2; and TSA

There are so many videos on YouTube of speeches by the great Chris Hedges. You can have a field day watching them. I feel honored that I’ve met Hedges and broken bread with him several times. He is one of the most upstanding, virtuous people I have ever met. He is a poet, a philosopher, a visionary, a historian, a Cassandra for our age.

His books are as infuriating as they are inspiring. And if you don’t read his weekly column at Truthdig or Nation of Change or Truthout — well, put the New York Times and Washington Post aside once in a while and read somebody with integrity, somebody who doesn’t suck up to power, who is unafraid to tell the unvarnished truth. If you have time to read a mainstream newspaper or watch network TV, you have time to read Hedges. The following quotation comes around 3:30 into the clip:

“How do you revolt?
“. . . I want people to understand when you seriously revolt what the state does to you.
“. . . revolt itself is a moral imperative. That asking the question as to whether it can succeed is the wrong question. Revolt is not finally about what we achieve . . . revolt is about what we become. 
“. . . I don’t fight fascists because finally I believe that I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.”

(Originally posted at ABombazine)

Re TSA, WillCAD from FlyerTalk tells it like it is

I wish I knew this person’s real name to give him/her credit for this comment he/she posted at the chat forum FlyerTalk (FT). In it, he hits every nail on the head in a discussion with another FT member about the TSA. All I know is that he goes by “WillCAD” and says he hails from Charm City. (Yes, enough with the “he-slash-she”; people should be able to get it without going into fits over identity politics. He sounds like a guy to me.) Here’s his FT handle:

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Baltimore, MD USA
Programs: Southwest Rapid Rewards. Tha… that’s about it.
Posts: 3,066

And here is his comment in its entirety (thanks to Susan Richart for alerting me to this):

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
I WISH I HAD THE ANSWER. I’d be like a public policy master of some kind.

There is an answer… in about 27 parts. Outside audits with consequences for specific individuals who fail. Get rid of the paramilitary trappings (uniforms, badges, “officer” titles, honor guards, etc) and treat TSOs like what they are, clerks. Establish clear, non-secret, totally transparent procedures and rules, take away discretion from the screeners, and introduce a radically shrunken prohibited items list. Cease trumpeting ANY discoveries other than weapons as “big catches” – it’s not a big catch if you find drugs when you’re supposed to be looking for weapons. Put big, clear nametags on every TSA employee and require them to give their full name to anyone who asks. Post rules about photography being permissible and other passenger rights big and clear in every airport, and especially in every TSA break room. If someone breaks the rules, FIRE THEIR AZZ! Etc, etc, etc.

You don’t need to be a public policy master to understand common sense and plain accountability.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
I hear the Isarelies do a pretty good job but that’s adifferent bowl of wax over there since the existential challenges are literally right in front of your face.

Israel’s bowl of wax includes no formal Constitution, and there are enough loopholes on the Basic Laws of Human Dignity and Liberty to drive a truck through.

Whether or not Israel does “a pretty good job” with its aviation security depends entirely on your point of view and personal experience. I haven’t experienced it directly, but suffice it to say, I’ve heard opinions on both sides.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
With us, it’s only the painful memory that keeps our vigilance.

No, what’s been keeping our vigilance for the last ten years or so has been continual fear-mongering by those in the government and those in private industry who have a vested interest (politically, financially, or both) in keeping our levels of paranoia, suspicion, xenophonia, and panic at a high enough level to achieve carte blanche when it comes to spending money and restricting liberties in the pursuit of some unattainable state of safety and security.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
My short answer is that they really need to broaden the safe traveler or known traveller program. Get people like us (frequent travelers) out of these ridiculous lines and subject the rest of the herd to scrutiny.

My first thought when I read something like this consists of two words, one of which is not printable on this site, and the other of which is “you!”

Only frequent travelers have rights? No way, pal. I may be an infrequent traveler, but I’m a full-time human-freakin’-being, and I have the same rights and freedoms as you have. I ain’t gonna pay some extortion money to keep the rights and freedoms I have. When it comes to purchased services or special privileges from a private company, I say, Pay more, Get more. But when it comes to Constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, I say, Millions for Defense* but not one penny for Tribute!

*In this context, I mean Defense against government abridgement of personal liberties, not against the way overblown danger of terrorism.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
Yes it costs money for us but unfortunately we got to pay for our freedom somehow.

Freedom isn’t free, but you don’t pay for it with money. If you’ve been buying boxes of New Freedom or Stayfree in the store, I’ve got news for you – that ain’t freedom you’re buying.

Although freedom has been purchased for us in blood, the true price of freedom is RISK, risk that someone will abuse their freedom to do others harm. That price cannot, MUST not, be borne by a few, but must be borne by all who wish to maintain their freedoms.

The money we pay for TSA doesn’t safeguard our freedoms one iota. In point of fact, we’re paying for our own government to destroy our freedoms and strip away our rights, all in the name of safety and security that are impossible to achieve.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
Devon suggestion is to outlaw hand guns altogether. No exceptions even in checked luggage. Makes it much easier to have a universal policy.

There already is a universal policy – firearms are prohibited in the cabin. What is banning firearms from checked bags going to accomplish? It’s a non-threat – passengers can’t access the luggage holds! I don’t know where you came up with this particular non-sequitur, but let me respond by saying that the price of tribbles on Benecia is on the rise, and the price of grapes in Carthage is on the decline.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
Third is to restrict visa allowances people from unfriendly countries. And stop pretending that we are about refugees defecting. The times of Elise Island and accepting the poor and the hungry are long over. We gotta be selective and smart about who we let in. Lastly I’d be in favor of folding the DHA into DOD, which has real soldiers and real powers. Just some suggestions.

Yipe. This paragraph is so full of…

Okay, I’ll just take it point by point:

1) Define “unfriendly countries.” And define the parameters you use to decide whose visas are denied based on their country of origin or citizenship. I believe we already have a list of countries put out by the State Department of those who are embargoed or are considered state sponsors of terrorism. But keep that xenophobia and bigotry up! I’m sure it keeps you warm at night.

2) We are still about refugees and always will be. The time of “Elise” island (by the way, it’s Ellis Island, Elise was Alex P. Keaton’s Mom on Family Ties) may be over, but the time of America welcoming those from other nations who wish to become Americans through hard work will never end. And we ARE selective and smart about who we let in. In fact, we may be a little TOO selective; skilled people from other countries who want to emigrate to the US often have a really difficult time getting in.

3) I have no idea what the DHA is, but if you’re referring to the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), then I think you’re out of your mind to want to fold it into the DOD (Department of Defense). The DOD encompasses the armed forces, which are used to defend the nation against armed invasion, and fights wars against other nations.

The DHS, on the other hand, is a …….ized agency cobbled together from domestic law enforcement and investigatory agencies. Ther is no way in hell I want the FBI – domestic national police force – to be part of the military. I even think it’s a tremendous mistake to have folded the US Coast Guard – a branch of military service tasked with defending US national waters – into the DHS.

The armed forces fight the country’s enemies. When you try to task them with policing the citizens of their country, they inevitably come to regard the citizens AS the enemy, and that’s when you get a military dictatorship or oligarchy or other form of tyrannical rule. The military should have no authority whatsoever over the people.

Nor should police forces be militarized into domestic occupation forces. Police forces in this country already tend to feel that they’re soldiers in a war, and they regard the citizenry as the enemy, which is why we have such a disconnect between the police and the people they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. The more militarized they get, the more they’ll feel like soldiers, and the more they feel like soldiers, the more they’ll act like soldiers.

Personally, I’d be in favor of abolishing DHS entirely and folding its constituent agencies back into the other federal departments from whence they originally came. The very name, Homeland Security, gave me chills from the first time I heard it, and not in a good way.

Well, this has been a rant, but let me sum up by saying simply that I completely disagree with everything you said.

Flying is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Anyone who says otherwise, just because the right to fly isn’t enumerated in the Constitution, is full of beans.
Bravo, bravo, bravo, a thousand times, WillCAD. I hope you see this. I would say I hope you’ll change some minds, but I already know from years of being at this that you won’t. It’s enough that you’re on the record with your eloquence and clear-sightedness. Thank you.

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

TSA not okay by Bonnie Rain

I received this email the other day from a woman named Bonnie Rain. It’s a letter she sent to the White House. She gave me permission to post it at TSA News:

Dear President Obama,

I just went on a trip with my boyfriend and had to go through the humiliating experience of passing through the TSA checkpoints.

Are you aware of the drill?

– We had to stand in a line that made us feel like we were cattle.

– Then we were told to take our shoes off, empty our pockets, take off our belts and jackets, put our valuables in bins, and walk up to an X-ray machine.

– We were told to lift up our arms, making us feel like criminals in a line-up.

I was thenmolested. The TSA agent manipulated and touched my breasts in public as a result of spots showing up on the screen.

I wore no underwire. I wore cotton shirts. I had no breast pockets. And coming back from our trip — wearing nearly the same kind of outfit — there was nothing on the screen.

If your wife, FLOTUS/Michelle, were to have her breasts touched/fondled/manipulated by a “TSA” agent, how would it make you feel?

My boyfriend could only stand by and watch what was happening to me.

Isn’t it true that if we complain we could be branded for life as troublemakers in this cockamamie system? What does that tell you?

Do you remember what we’re supposed to be teaching our children? We teach them not to let anyone touch them. We teach them that unwanted or improper touching is wrong. But as adults — as tax-paying, law-abiding adults — we’re supposed to put up with being touched/handled/fondled against our will? We’re supposed to lose our voice as adults? Have we really now lost the ability to say “I do not want strangers touching me”?

TSA agents are not doctors. These people may be nothing more than security guards with some sort of certification. It is not okay that the government has deemed them worthy of touching other adults (manipulating their breasts) in order to travel.

I am not okay with strangers touching me in public. In addition to the fact that this system has sucked the fun out of travel, it has, more importantly, made it so that citizens are treated like cattle with no way to resist the threat of being touched or harassed.

Of course we all want to enjoy safe travel. But I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a person who would like to travel without harassment or embarrassment. Then, I’d like you to step into the path of the current TSA process and practices.

The randomness of the rules and system, accompanied by unwanted physical contact (which I believe is the definition ‘battery’ and worse) is not okay!

I told Bonnie that, contrary to popular belief, which the TSA encourages, she will not be “branded for life as a troublemaker.” She should resist. There are many ways to do so.

As for Obama and his cabinet, they don’t give a shit. Bonnie Rain’s missive, after they respond to it with some half-assed form letter, will go into the circular file.

Yet another report of TSA incompetence, Carraway re-assigned

In another repetitive story about the TSA’s failings, a “confidential” DHS report shows what many previous DHS and GAO reports have already shown, have been showing for years: the TSA misses prohibited items all the time. As a matter of course. From the Chicago Tribune:

ABC News first reported Monday that undercover agents were able to smuggle prohibited items, such as mock explosives or weapons, through TSA checkpoints in 67 out of 70 attempts. ABC cited anonymous officials who had been briefed on the inspector general’s report.

This story is nothing new. We’ve publicized the earlier DHS and GAO reports many times. This latest report is noteworthy merely for the percentage — 67 out of 70 — which is slightly higher than what the Red Teams have been finding all along.

More important than the farce of airport security, however, is another familiar story: knives, razor blades, inert grenades, knitting needles, hockey sticks, scissors, lighters, sunscreen, shampoo — none of these things are going to bring down a plane.

I don’t care that the TSA misses these things (after all, they’re busy confiscating all those scary cupcakes, jars of explosive peanut butter, tubes of Terrorist Toothpaste, canisters of bomby baby powderbeltswatchespursespaperweights, and perfume; forgive me — I know I’m leaving out lots of other scary stuff). They’ve been missing them for years. For over a decade. Yet miraculously, planes haven’t been blown out of the sky left and right. Duh!

And so acting chief Melvin Carraway, who temporarily replaced Molester-in-Chief John Pistole earlier this year, is now being “re-assigned.” Who cares? Another goon will take his place. And none of the TSA’s practices will change. The proven-to-be-worthless scanners will remain. Knives, knitting needles, scissors, etc. will still get through. People will still be bullied, harassed, robbed, and assaulted to get on a plane. If anything, the groping will increase.

Go over to that Chicago Tribune article and read the comments section. Most of it is the usual cesspool of inane “Red Team! Blue Team!” sniping, with a dollop of race-baiting thrown in for good measure. A few people get it — that the National Security State in general and the TSA in particular are meant as forms of social control. But most people, as usual, are either mired in their own muddy political ideologies or afraid of The Big Bad Terrorists Hiding Around Every Corner .

Groped again, this time by TSA thug Jacqueline Tirre

At LAX on my way to the Evolutionary Psychology conference in Missouri, I was groped by TSA clerk Jacqueline Tirre (per her nametag). This was after she deliberately left my computer and possessions to sit there on the x-ray off-ramp, claiming the TSA didn’t have the personnel to get it.

TSA thug Jacqueline Tirre was manning the gate to the metal detector (which, by the way, the morons didn’t send me through), and was the one to search me — after standing there and ignoring my calls for a supervisor.

Other TSA thugs similarly ignored my calls for a supervisor and for someone to watch my possessions. So my stuff was just sitting out there, where it could’ve been stolen or, say, my computer knocked off the belt by all the travelers coming through. I was told to stand to the side waiting for Queen Thug to decide she’d take a grope break and feel me up.

This is a standard intimidation move for anyone who opts out of the scanner. We’ve had plenty of testimony by other travelers of the same thing, and yet more testimony, even going back years, before the gropes were implemented. It’s one of the many ways the TSA tries to punish people who opt out or who are perceived as not being deferential enough.

I bent over, jailhouse-search-style, and Tirre, a squat little middle-aged white woman with oddly applied lipstick (beyond the parameters of her lips), ordered me to not bend over like that.

Let’s be clear: this little turd of a woman earns money for violating the bodies and rights of American citizens and other travelers who have given no reason for anyone to believe they are doing anything criminal.

And as I’ve posted here before, anyone who is smart enough to make it in this blog’s comments section is smart enough to figure out how to get something onto a plane without going through the TSA gropefest.

As Tirre — disgustingly — touched my hair (as if I could hide C4 in hair pulled tight to my head), felt in my waistband, and grazed my labia — the fellow pictured above stood guard.

What did he think I was going to do, make a break for it? Run for my gate? Or is it that he just likes to watch women being forcibly felt up?

This scumbag earns money, as does Jacqueline Tirre, for violating my body and my Fourth Amendment rights in a meaningless pretense of security — one that really is obedience training for the American public, so we’ll be docile as our rights are yanked from us.

Again, the way you stop terrorism is through probable cause-based policing, using highly trained intelligence officers, long before anyone gets to the airport. It is not by giving a bunch of people faux cop costumes, encouraging them to go on a power trip, and allowing them to harass and assault passengers.

(Original version at Advice Goddess)

(Photo by Amy Alkon)