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.

Sai tests legality of TSA’s new scanner policy

TSA activist and friend of the blog Sai, about whom we’ve written many times (plug “Sai” into the search box to get caught up), has already done so much to try to fight the abuses of the Transportation Security Administration. And here he is doing more. This guy, like Jon Corbett, is indefatigable.

Because I’m a little late with this post, and because Edward Hasbrouck has already so thoroughly covered Sai’s latest case, I’m going to excerpt some of Ed’s reporting and direct you to his website where you can read the complete entry. Here’s how it starts:

The real test of whether the TSA is above the law isn’t whether TSA or DHS officials, flacks, or lobbyists claim that there are legal procedures which (hypothetically) permit judicial oversight of TSA actions. The real test is what happens when real people object to specific conduct by TSA staff and contractors, or private parties such as airlines acting at the behest of the TSA, and ask the courts to review and decide whether the TSA or its minions are breaking the law or violating the US Constitution.

Nobody has done more to test the real-world limits of TSA lawlessness than our friend Sai, who has been waging a one-person, pro se legal crusade against the TSA for its disregard of the Constitution and of a variety of Federal laws providing for transparency, fairness, and due process. Sai’s pending lawsuits against the TSA include one of the most important challenges anyone has made to the TSA’s claims of authority for secret lawmaking, as discussed below.

Remarkably, and unlike most of those aggrieved by TSA general disregard for the law as well as more specific misconduct, Sai has even had some success. But that limited success gives a sense of just how outrageous is the TSA’s disregard for the law, and how far it has to go before the courts will rein it in.

As I said, you can go over to Ed’s excellent site, called Papers Please, to get the full story. Warning that it’s white font on black background, which burns my retinas, but maybe you’ll find it easier to tolerate. (Apparently there’s a way on some computers to change the colors, so if you can do that, more power to you.)

Congratulations once again to Sai for his dogged and profound work in doing battle with this obnoxious agency. We wish him all good luck. You can also get detailed information directly from Sai here and help him out financially if you can. Here’s more detailed information from Sai about the current case.

Civil Liberties Ain’t US

“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. On a candid examination of history we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which in republics, have more frequently than any other cause produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of the ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes.”

-James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on Control of the Military, June 16, 1788 in:  History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788, vol. 1, p. 130 (H.B. Grigsby ed. 1890).