James Bovard’s op-ed on TSA abuse in USA Today

Fellow crusader in the struggle James Bovard, about whom we’ve written before, has a new op-ed about the TSA in USA Today. Though he doesn’t link directly to TSA News, he does cover in a cogent, comprehensive fashion a lot of the same ground we’ve covered here over the years.

The title of the op-ed is “My too intimate relations with the TSA.”

Since USA Today accepts only Facebook comments, you can’t leave a comment unless you’re on FB. That counts me out. But I’d just say the same things I’ve been saying for years: the TSA is an out-of-control, criminal agency that abuses people with impunity. But apparently people are okay with being abused because they keep flying. We’re set to break all flying records this summer. I don’t believe things will change in my lifetime.

Oh, and one more thing, though we’ve repeated it countless times already: never, ever go into a private room with these people. They can’t force you to do that. Insist that they perform their abusive grope in public. As Susan Richart keeps reminding us, administrative searches — which is what by law the TSA is supposed to be doing, that and nothing more — have very strict guidelines:

“Moreover, the possibility for abuse is minimized by the public nature of the search. Unlike searches conducted on dark and lonely streets at night where often the officer and the subject are the only witnesses, these searches are made under supervision and not far from the scrutiny of the traveling public.”

See United States v. Skipwith, 482 F.2d 1272, 1275
(5th Cir. 1973).

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.

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.

Another court order the TSA will ignore

Everyone keeps sending me links to this story, but I saw it when it first came out last week and decided not to write about it because it isn’t news. It’s the same old same old. I can’t see how it means anything significant in our fight against the TSA.   Continue reading Another court order the TSA will ignore

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.

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

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)

Hate to say we told you so, but . . . .

I am co-founder of an oganization dedicated to regaining freedoms taken away by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). We’re fighting against the illegal, warrantless strip-searches of travelers and the coerced, inappropriate physical touching of their bodies.  Continue reading Hate to say we told you so, but . . . .