TSA to force people through scanners

As many people have discovered from the latest news, the Department of Homeland Security has suddenly decreed publicly what anyone with reasonable observational skills knows they’ve been planning from the get-go:  that the TSA will, at whim, force passengers through the strip-search scanners.

I repeat that this has been the plan from the beginning. I said so at a now-defunct group blog where I used to write called Cogitamus, long before TSA News existed. Those who made predictions to the contrary have been proven wrong.

You have highly expensive technology — never mind that it’s been proven, repeatedly, to be ineffective — combined with a determined fearmongering campaign that induces people to believe there’s a terrorist hiding around every corner, along with five years’ worth of trying to force people into scanners, and you’re going to let passengers opt out?


It was only a matter of time, and now that time is here.

The news reports on this development quote the DHS directive (AIT stands for “advanced imaging technology”):

“While passengers may generally decline AIT screening in favor of physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers.”

Some passsengers. Which ones? Whichever the TSA decides. On whim, which is how they decide everything. (At least that part isn’t new.)

Run into an agent who woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Or just a power-tripper with a bad attitude? As before, they can make your life miserable. And to repeat, for the umpteenth time, just because you go through the scanner doesn’t mean you won’t also be pulled aside for a grope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and never have been, as the TSA itself admits. So tired of hearing people lament that they were shocked to discover this at the airport.

Who do you think will be singled out for extra scrutiny, in addition to the random unlucky, that is? Use your imagination. (But remember — we don’t live in a police state! We’re free!)

Since the TSA has already defied several court orders pertaining to the scanners, I can’t imagine that the lawsuits that are coming over this latest policy will persuade them to do anything differently.

Oh, and the incessant, tedious credulousness of the media in reporting this development is also predictable. USA Today, Time Magazine, Fox, you name it — all are reporting that the scanners are good detecting hidden objects, when this has been proven to be false time and time again. Just one example, from SlashGear:

No more detailed explanation for the change is given. However, it seems likely that the scanners’ ability to single out metallic objects hidden around the body – and that might have been missed by a physical search from a TSA agent – is seen as invaluable for whoever security services believe presents a greater-than-normal risk.


Wrong, wrong, wrong. The scanners have a shit “ability to single out metallic objects hidden around the body.”

Congratulations, America. You’ve been lining up like sheep for the past five years, acquiescing to anything and everything the TSA has been doing, essentially answering, when they ask you to jump, “How high?” And now they’re demanding that you jump even higher.

Merry Christmas!

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Media continue to pamper the TSA

The more you read, the less you know.

News coverage of the Transportation “Security” Administration routinely accepts premises that are ridiculously exaggerated, breathlessly framing stories around falsehoods and fantasies.

And here we go again, with a story in the Tampa Tribune about the legal travails of TSA officers who are suing the agency over its supposedly unfair employment practices. Here’s how senior military affairs writer Howard Altman introduces his protagonist:

For four years, Angnel Blanco was a top employee with the Transportation Security Administration at Orlando International Airport.

She earned accolades as a behavior detection officer, using agency techniques developed by the Israelis to help locate illegal drugs and keep passengers safe.

Almost every word of that second sentence is false. The TSA has no formal role — none — that requires or allows it to “help locate illegal drugs.” Its function at the airport is to keep weapons and terrorists off of airplanes, full stop. TSA smurfs aren’t cops. They aren’t sort-of cops. They have no law enforcement authority. And they work for an agency that doesn’t exist for the purpose of being any kind of junior drug enforcement agency at all.

Judges have thrown out cases that resulted from TSA searches that turned up drugs and cash, ruling that the agency has no authority to conduct that kind of search (though they continue to flout the law and do it anyway). To the extent that the TSA has a role in illegal drug trafficking, their officers tend to be on the other side. The TSA’s “behavior detection officers” cannot lawfully be trained to “help locate drugs,” because they have no legal authority to do so.

Nor are the TSA’s pathetic behavior detection workers engaged in techniques “developed by the Israelis.” Israeli airport security is radically more invasive than the U.S. model, and is far more targeted on religion and ethnicity. Israeli security officials have rolled their eyes at the comparison, and with good reason.

As for the effectiveness of those eagle-eyed behavior detection officers, the Government Accountability Office found that TSA-trained BDOs’ ability to detect suspicious or evasive behavior is “the same as or slightly better than chance.” They are unambiguously worthless, which we’ve been pointing out for years. And years.

In just one sentence, then, a news report about the TSA is flatly wrong in at least three different ways.

Reporters, this is pretty simple: Those who work for the TSA like to tell dramatic stories about themselves. Trained by the Israelis! Standing on the front lines of the war on terrorism! Catching terrorists and drug dealers! Those stories are false, stupid, and pathetic. You should stop the practice of credulously typing them up as if they were in any way true.

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