TSA finally issues “rule” on body scanners, ignores public

On the righthand side of this blog, you’ll see this paragraph:

*2015 *and now 2016* UPDATE: Still no word from TSA on public comments*The public comment period on the TSA’s electronic strip-search scanners and “pat-downs” closed on June 25, 2013. That public comment period had been ordered by the courts, an order the TSA ignored for almost two years before it finally complied. The agency must issue a report on the many thousands (or more?) of comments it received. Yet here it is 2015 *and now 2016* and still no report. If the TSA ever complies with the requirement to issue that report, we’ll let you know.

Well, as of March 2, 2016, the TSA finally — five years late — came out with its final “proposed rule.” Said rule is nothing more than 157 pages of bureaucratic bullshit and obfuscating language that boils down to one thing: The TSA will continue using the strip-search scanners, as they already have been doing anyway since 2009, whether you like it or not. 

More succinctly: screw you.

If you want to plow through all the verbiage, have at it. Or you could read summaries at EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), at CEI (Competitive Enterprise Institute), or at crusader Jon Corbett’s blog.

The gist is the same: the TSA will continue to do what it wants, where it wants, how it wants, no matter how many pesky rights and Constitutional amendments get in the way. Oh, and it will continue to grope you.

Another breast milk debacle brought to you by the TSA

Regular readers will have noticed (in fact, some have emailed me) that the pace of new posts here at TSA News has dropped dramatically. For one thing, we have fewer writers than when we started. I think we’re all simply running out of steam. I know I am. We’ve been posting stories on the crimes and abuses of the TSA since this blog was founded in November of 2011, and I’ve been writing about said abuses since 2009.

In essence, we write the same stories over and over again; only the names change. And we present the same empirical evidence over and over again, yet nothing changes. The TSA continues its assault on our rights and bodies.

So I just don’t bother writing up every single story I come across anymore. What’s the point? One more account to add to the Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses; that’s about it.

Anyway, here’s one of those stories that people send me, of a woman who was harassed over the transportation of her breast milk — again, just one of many similar stories. As I told Stacy Armato’s lawyer, Robert Mosier, in April of 2014, the settling of Armato’s lawsuit was nice, but it won’t make a difference: the TSA continues to bully, harass, and illegally detain women and force them to irradiate or dump their breast milk. All the lawsuits in the world aren’t going to change that.

As proof, I give you the following story from Amber Rose, in her own words. I have her permission to use her full name. She told me, “Other breastfeeding mothers (on our Facebook group) really want this story out there, too. A majority have experienced inconsistencies at every airport.”

I’ve edited it slightly for clarity. (PHF is the airport at Newport News, Virginia):

I had the following experience I would like to make public, if possible. I omitted the names of the employees.

I was traveling back home to PHF Saturday from ERI, November 14th, going through security at the Erie Airport at approximately 1635. I specifically asked the Officer stationed before the conveyer belt to not screen or x-ray my breast milk. I also stressed I did not want my breast milk tampered with in any way. Instead of respecting my wishes, he not only scanned each bag of breast milk through a Smiths Detection BLS scanner but also put it through the x-ray machine, exposing it all to radiation.

I had approximately 13 bags, each 150ml (5.072 ounces each) totaling approximately 66 ounces. My trip to Erie was only 36 hours in duration because I did not have enough breast milk to leave my child any longer; however, now that my breast milk has been exposed to raman spectroscopy and was irradiated, which can have an effect on the cell structure/protein of the milk, especially through the thin bags I had it in, I have to throw out ALL of this milk. In addition, before researching the effects of BLS & radiation on breast milk, I had given my daughter 10 ounces of this tainted milk. Lastly, the officer seems to have mishandled the milk, because although completely sealed ahead of time, I discovered that one of the bags was leaking after I left ERI.

I have called and informed the head supervisor at ERI of this incident and that I had specifically requested that my breast milk not be screened through a machine. I also informed him his employees should be trained in physical inspection. He informed me that there was closed-circuit video of this event.

Please note that when I arrived at PHF, around 2040, I approached 5 TSA employees on their phones near the Delta ticketing counter to ask them questions about the screening machine and its effects on liquids. Not only did all 5 employees continue to look and play on their phones the entire time I was talking, but no one knew the answers to my questions and knew nothing about how the machines worked. I found their attitude to be very disrespectful and almost entitled and superior rather than helpful. I highly encourage you to review these tapes as well in regard to the employees at this airport.

I will be seeking compensation for my breast milk per ounce (approximately $6-10/ounce) in addition to the time it will take me to bank up an additional 66 ounces. I will have to pump at least every 2 hours to signal demand on my body and take unpaid leave to do so during working hours.

Although the TSA made promises to better train their people in handling breast milk and to visually inspect breast milk after several incidents similar to this were discussed in the media, this obviously has not been done.

As I told Amber Rose, no way in hell will I be able to review the tapes; I’d be surprised if even she can. The TSA conveniently loses tapes or portions of tapes. Just ask Stacey Armato, Jon Corbett, Pete Alexion, Rita Riordan, so many others (there’s me running out of steam again). And I seriously doubt she’ll get any compensation. Her complaint, like millions of others, will end up in the circular file.

I also encouraged her to name and shame, but she didn’t want to. Wouldn’t matter anyway. Just as the supposed training TSA agents have received and continue to receive doesn’t matter. Robert Mosier and Stacey Armato, let’s just say you’re more sanguine than I am.

2015 Airport Security Symposium – UPDATED

UPDATE: Open to the public, pay what you can. Doug says he realizes the $199 conference fee is out of reach for a lot of people.

Douglas Kidd of the National Association of Airline Passengers has organized this Airport Security Symposium for Tuesday, October 6, 2015, at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, D.C. He’s lined up plenty of speakers, including Alaska state rep and TSA critic Sharon Cissna, consumer advocate and friend of the blog Charlie Leocha, one-man investigative research team Jonathan Corbett, security expert extraordinaire Bruce Schneier, and several of us who write for TSA News — Sommer Gentry, Wendy Thomson, and me.

The full list of speakers, agenda, and all details are here.

The day-long symposium goes from 9am to 6pm and features not only speakers but break-out groups, panel discussions, dinner, and an awards ceremony. It’s open to the public; so please, if you’re in the area or can be, do come and make your voice heard.

Here’s Doug’s description:

This symposium brings together passengers, security experts, and other interested parties to examine airport security from the passengers’ perspective.

The purpose of the symposium is to identify and address weaknesses and failures of current TSA policies and procedures, and develop practical solutions to the problems faced by passengers and security personnel, with the goal of improving both security and the passenger experience.

Doug has put a lot of work into this. He deserves all the credit. I’m participating because I think it’s important, not because I think we’re going to change anything. Sorry, but that’s my view. But you don’t win battles if you sit on your hands and do nothing. You win by fighting, no matter how long it takes. I have said in these pages countless times that I don’t think this battle will be won in my lifetime. So be it. I’m still going to fight it as long as I live.

And since education is a huge component of this struggle, a symposium like this is vitally important. If we’re going to enlist other people on our side in the fight for civil liberties, we have to tell them what’s at stake. Yes, I know we’ve been doing that at TSA News for four years now, and some of us have been doing it independently for even longer. But there are always new audiences to reach. And there are always people who until now have sailed through the TSA gauntlet unscathed. They still don’t get it. Will they ever? I don’t know. But we have to try.

I’m reminded, as I often am, by the searing, poetic words of Chris Hedges. These apply now:

“I want to succeed. I do everything possible to succeed. But that’s not finally what’s important. It’s important that you resist, because if you don’t resist, you are complicit with the obliteration of everything that is about justice.”

Freedom to Travel USA to SCOTUS re TSA

On behalf of Freedom to Travel USA, I am pleased to announce that the amicus brief we submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Jon Corbett has been docketed. You can see the notice here and FTTUSA’s actual brief here. Since I am not an attorney, I’ll try to explain our position in layman’s terms; but there may be some technical errors in translation.

We’ve written about Jon Corbett at TSA News many times. In brief, he’s been trying to sue the TSA for years on various grounds, including violation of the 4th Amendment protection against unwarranted search and seizure. Here’s a brief summary at his blog.

His case with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on the constitionality of TSA searches was dismissed on a technicality. However, the justices then ruled that TSA searches are constitutional (read some of the disturbing details at the link). In other words, the court simultaneously dismissed the case and ruled on it. So Corbett has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

FTTUSA’s amicus brief on behalf of Corbett’s appeal includes two questions (these are direct quotes from the brief):

1. Whether a facial challenge under the Fourth Amendment to an agency order allowing warrantless searches of the public is a justiciable Article III “case or controversy” despite the absence of any factual record of how intrusive the searches actually are;

2. Whether a court may simultaneously dismiss a constitutional claim under a non-jurisdictional, procedural rule and then decide the claim, as the 11th Circuit has held, or whether the rule of constitutional avoidance precludes such an outcome, as this Court and every other circuit has held.

A “facial challenge,” defined by Wikipedia: “In U.S. constitutional law, a facial challenge is a challenge to a statute in which the plaintiff alleges that the legislation is always unconstitutional, and therefore void.” So the first point above asks whether the 11th Circuit court had the authority to rule on Jon’s constitutional question without a full factual record.

“Justiciable” means “capable of being decided by legal principles or by a court of justice.” That point seems to have the best chance of carrying the day. There is a lot of precedent that states that a court can’t both dismiss a case on a technicality and then rule on the matter anyway.

Our lawyer maintains that the case was non-justiciable, in that is was “un-ripe.” What that means is that there was insufficient fact-gathering: the justices heard and/or read only the TSA’s submitted record. There was no factual record of how intrusive the TSA’s searches really are, from the standpoint of a traveler. There was no testimony at all. This point is reminiscent of the New York City stop-and-frisk lawsuit, where significant fact-gathering was ordered.

We have asked SCOTUS to vacate or reverse the Eleventh Circuit ruling. Stay tuned.

Freedom to Travel USA is an un-incorporated, non-partisan grassroots civic organization concerned with the dignity and privacy of travelers. It was founded by Renee Beeker, Jeff Pierce, and Wendy Thomson.

More theft: passenger says TSA stole cash at Fairbanks airport


Pete Alexion is a Vietnam vet. He served 20 years in the U.S. Army, where he had a top secret security clearance, and today holds a CDL (commercial driver’s license) with a hazmat endorsement. He lives in North Pole, Alaska. He’s an agricultural copywriter and moonlights as a biology adjunct professor. He wears two knee braces.  Continue reading “More theft: passenger says TSA stole cash at Fairbanks airport”