The TSA “Academy”


All analysis about the TSA eventually becomes the very same analysis, because the core of what the agency does never changes. Nor does the news media’s relentlessly credulous approach to covering the agency. After a while, you can just put new names into the template: 2016 is 2014 is 2012, and TSA Director Peter Neffenger is just the Dumb and Dumber sequel to Fifty Shades of John Pistole. The latest example comes from CBS News, which just offered a breathless report on the TSA’s new national training academy.

Something new? Don’t be fooled. The new academy is a response to the TSA’s spectacularly high failure rate during “red team” testing. The agency’s smurfs used to “train” on the job at airport checkpoints, but now “train” at a single, national facility. Take a moment to watch the video: TSA officers are still TSA officers, slack-jawed mouthbreathers (in a GED-optional job) who mindlessly repeat empty slogans about the dangers and challenges of Thedala Mageeing septuagenarian crotches and sobbing toddler bodies.

And the training is still the training: A trainer points at an x-ray screen, for example, and asks a trainee: “Do you see anything prohibited in that bag?” But instead of pointing at an x-ray screen and asking a trainee, “Do you see anything prohibited in that bag?” at a local airport, the trainer now points at an x-ray screen and asks a trainee, “Do you see anything prohibited in that bag?” at a national facility.

It’s totally different, man! It’s more nationaler. It’s like if the bagger at the Piggly Wiggly flew to a different city to learn how to put eggs in a bag — that training just got mega-advanced, because it’s in a different location.

Oh, and the academy’s standards? The training course is two weeks long. It’s like medical school, really, except that it’s almost exactly four years shorter. It’s like the initial portion of military basic training where you learn which bunk is yours and where the dining hall is and how to kind of not fall down when you march in a formation. Two solid weeks of hardcore study — it’s the gold standard of professional development, just a few steps below Hamburger University.

The best part of the report is the sit-down interview with Neffenger, who responds to a question about the likelihood that smurfs trained at the new national facility will now succeed at the red team testing with a confidence-inspiring, “I don’t know if we can catch everything. I sure hope we can catch all of them.”

For the first time, nearly 15 years after the formation of the TSA, the agency’s new national training program brings airport security all the way up to the standards of gosh, we really hope this works.

Asked for a specific number to describe the success rate of screening procedures under the agency’s new training protocols, Neffenger falls back on the dodge that will forever be the TSA’s favorite accountability maneuver: He can’t answer the question, because then the terrorists will know. “I’d rather not say publicly,” he says, literally averting his eyes from the interviewer like a parody of a mediocre conman. That’s the agency we’ve all come to know and love.

And now its wanna-be cops can talk about their days “in the academy,” like the wannabe-cops they will forever be. The transition of our nation’s airport gropers toward fake law-enforcement status shambles another slovenly step forward, while the smurfs go on doing the same theatrical nothing for yet another idiot director. Save that last sentence — it’s an evergreen.

TSA abuse/idiocy compendium, thanks to FTTUSA

Because the same stories of TSA abuse, corruption, and stupidity keep accumulating, and because it seems increasingly pointless to highlight them one by one, here’s a round-up of such stories from the past week or so, courtesy of Freedom to Travel USA. From FTTUSA’s weekly newsletter, quote:

The TSA is at the airports, the football field and at local transit locations.  Can we say “everywhere”?

“More than 100 additional officers and specialists are being deployed to assist in security operations at Oakland International Airport (OAK), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) for the influx of fans traveling for the game. In addition to transportation security officers, TSA is deploying more than two dozen passenger screening canine teams, behavior detection and analysis officers, transportation security specialists, explosives and transportation security inspectors.”

https://www.tsa.gov/news/top-stories/2016/02/05/tsa-provides-security-support-super-bowl-50

“The goal is to provide a visible presence to detect and deter terrorism because the Super Bowl on Sunday is a national security event, TSA officials said at a news conference in San Francisco today.”

http://sfappeal.com/2016/02/heightened-security-present-on-transit-systems-for-super-bowl-week/

Additionally, the TSA is now on the campaign trail!  “. . . the presence of the TSA at a political event is extremely concerning, considering the fact that such an event has absolutely nothing to do with transportation.”

http://www.activistpost.com/2016/02/tsa-conducting-bag-checks-at-donald-trump-event.html

More taxpayer losses at the hands of the TSA. Take a look at the data:

https://atlas.qz.com/charts/VyQKMYhFx

Having employees going through security should have been the first line/layer of defense.  Neffenger said that his agency, “is also working more closely with the FBI to put airport workers and vendors through recurring criminal background checks.”  He added that those who hold credentials to enter sterile areas of airline terminals will also be subject to stepped up physical screening as well.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/02/03/tsa-chief-says-agency-significantly-better-than-were.html

TSA is “taking suggestions on how to improve security lines”.

http://www.voicesofliberty.com/article/tsa-no-more-entrepreneurial-place-than-the-tsa/

Thank you for your support!  Remember – always opt out of nude body scanners and file a complaint at www.tsa.gov.

Best regards,

Freedom to Travel USA

Renee Beeker, Jeff Pierce, and Wendy Thomson

Co-Founders, Freedom to Travel USA

http://fttusa.org

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.

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?

Nope.

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, 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)

James Bovard on the TSA & assorted comments

UPDATED BELOW.  

Do go over to Jim Bovard’s column at the Washington Times not only to read about his recent TSA experience (he and I have been in touch by email for a few years), but also to read the comment thread, where we have this wondrous gem of Aristotelian logic and Platonic beauty. It’s brought to you by “Harry Huntington”:

It is unfortunate that just as we face a heightened risk for terrorism this paper displays poor judgment to print an unsupported attack on TSA. TSA is one of the most effective agencies in the US government. How do we know this: since TSA was started there have been zero terrorist attacks on US airlines. That result is amazing. If planes were being bombed and hijacked there would be some reason to complain. That is not happening. We should be grateful that TSA is as good as it is and ask TSA to be even more vigilant. We also should consider using TSA to check all other forms of mass transit in the US: trains and busses. We likely also should use TSA to screen all cars traveling across state lines.

Ah, Harry. How lovely you are!

My response, by the way:

“TSA is one of the most effective agencies in the US government.”

Ha ha ha ha! Thank you, bless you, for giving me a hearty laugh this morning. I won’t bother presenting all the years’ worth of empirical evidence proving you wrong, because plenty of research shows that empirical evidence only causes people to dig their heels in further. I will only repost your comment far and wide so that others may share the joy.

I urge you all to pile on. (Warning that the page is full of annoying pop-up ads).

Photo courtesy of James Bovard

UPDATE: Honestly, I can’t tell anymore if “Harry” is serious or pulling our leg. After looking through his Disqus profile, I could go either way. But I think he’s being sarcastic. So hats off to you, Harry, and apologies for taking you seriously. You have to understand that we run into people all the time who would like nothing better than to expand the TSA and institute searches outside our front doors. And they’re not being sarcastic.

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.

TSA fails to spot loaded gun, it and owner sail through security

Anybody who thinks the TSA is doing anything to prevent an attack needs his head examined (but hey, that’s only about half the population of the U.S.). While they’re confiscating breast milk, peanut butter, perfume, and cupcakes, strip-searching Granny, and sticking their hands down your pants, they’re letting loaded weapons on planes. This isn’t the first time, and it sure as hell won’t be the last:

Security officials are frantically trying to discover how a retired long distance trucker accidentally managed to take a fully loaded semi-automatic handgun on to a crowded flight from America’s busiest airport.

Blake Alford didn’t realize what he had done until he got to his hotel room after his flight from Atlanta to Chicago, but now wants to know how Transportation Security Agency staff let him through security and on to the Southwest Airlines plane.

The incident occurred less than a week after a Russian plane flying out of Egypt was blown out of the sky, killing all 224 people on board. The terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for that attack.

‘How could the TSA not have spotted it?’ Alford, 67, said in an exclusive interview with Daily Mail Online. ‘Especially as it was just a few days after the Russian plane blew up.’

But wait, it gets better. The gun was not only loaded, it was loaded with hollow-point bullets. Because, dontchyaknow, everyone needs a gun, at all times, loaded with hollow-point bullets, no less. After all, this is ‘Murica!

Alford is so responsible that he forgets he has a loaded gun in his carry-on. Yep, there’s maturity and responsibility in action! I bet he likes to give lectures to others on “American values.”

It was only when Alford and his party reached their hotel room in Chicago that he realized his Ruger .380 semi-automatic pistol was in his backpack, fully loaded with seven hollow point bullets.

‘My immediate thought was “Oh, Mother-of-God, what have I done”,’ Alford, who lives in Jonesboro, Georgia, 15 miles south of Atlanta, told Daily Mail Online.

Other passengers have been arrested — and jailed — for far less. But this guy waltzes on through and poses for the camera with his little buddy.

What does the TSA have to say about all this?

TSA national spokesman Mike England told Daily Mail Online the department is investigating what went wrong. ‘When our employees fail to meet standards, we hold them appropriately accountable,’ he said.

Yeah, you do that. We’ve seen how the TSA holds its employees accountable.

Read the whole story here.

TSA blows it again, terrorizes passengers in Miami

On Monday, November 9, 2015 — in other words, well before the attacks in Paris — the TSA, combined with the paramilitary forces of its parent agency DHS (Department of Homeland Security) did again what it does best: overreact, in an almost certifiably insane way, to a security “breach” at an airport, and then terrorize scores of ordinary passengers just trying to go about their business:

Paramilitary police in Miami force passengers to leave plane at gunpoint

On Monday evening, an American Airlines flight from Miami, Florida to Barbados was boarded by a paramilitary police unit wielding assault rifles, who demanded that passengers put their hands on their heads as they were forced off the flight.

Large sectors of the airport were effectively placed under lockdown during the operation. The gates of terminal cafes and restaurants were closed, leaving patrons locked inside by iron bars as police SWAT teams decked out in body armor and toting assault rifles swept through the terminal.

Photos and videos posted to social media documented the egregious violation of passengers’ constitutional right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures. “There were very large machine guns, body armor, all of that,” one passenger told a local CNN affiliate. “Very, very frightening.”

Some 70 flights were delayed and nine were diverted as a result of the lockdown, which shut down two concourses for almost three hours.

And what was the cause of all this mishigas?

Dental tools.

That’s right, dental tools.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation later admitted that the passenger was a dentist, and that the “suspicious” bag he had been carrying contained nothing more than fillings and other dental supplies.

TSA spokesman Mike England said that the lockdown was conducted “out of an abundance of caution” as federal officials “worked with airport operators to direct gate operations to cease while the passenger was located.”

Oh, evil tooth implements! Fie, fie on you, I say!

Bad dentist!

Oh, well. Get used to it, people. This is the new normal. And after the attacks in Paris, it will only get worse.

Taking out my old-fashioned phonograph once more, people have shown, again and again and again, that they’re willing to put up with anything — and I do mean anything — for the illusion of “security.”

We’ve crossed the Rubicon. There’s no going back. There’s only spiraling downward.

Photo: Cheri F. McGuire/Twitter

Another elderly woman abused by the TSA

In Portland, Oregon, at the same airport where John Brennan was arrested, the TSA has abused yet another elderly woman.

Harriette Charney, age 90, was “asked” to go into a private room with the blue shirts, where they then “asked” her to take off her blouse and her bra. She complied. According to her son Alan Charney as quoted in this report by KATU:

“They wanted her to take, I guess, take all of her clothes off from her waist up,” says Charney, “and so she took off that and took off her bra … and I’m like ‘what??!!”

It’s interesting, as always, when people such as Alan Charney don’t know that this sort of thing goes on all the time. Where has he been all these years? His mother joins a long list of similarly abused travelers.

The TSA, of course, denies it. Actually, this time, instead of outright denying it, as they usually do, they hedge their bets:

The TSA says it would be unusual for any screener to ask a passenger to completely remove their shirt instead of lifting it up, and is still looking into what happened during that search.

Yeah, you keep looking into that. Just like you’ve looked into the thousands of accounts of abuse that include your “unusual” strip-searches, and far worse.

And America, you keep living in denial. Life is so much more fun that way.

By the way, KATU got at least one aspect of this story wrong: the scanners in airports these days are millimeter wave, not backscatter. The backscatter scanners were junked two years ago. The current scanners are still garbage, but they’re not backscatter.

And since it seems to need to be said, again and again and again, never go into a private room with these people. They can’t force you to, despite their bullying. Make them do their little song-and-dance search in public, where other people can see, and where they sure as hell won’t “ask” you to take off your clothes. You need witnesses. This should be common sense. If you allow the TSA to take you into a private room. you’re asking for trouble.