Ask TSA

As TSA News readers know, the Transportation Security Administration has a nifty new “training academy” in Glynco, Georgia. Supposedly all new TSA hires from across the country, including Hawaii and Alaska, will attend this academy for two weeks of training (replacing the current four weeks of in-house local airport training), and all current TSA employees will be sent for additional training. Chris Bray wrote about it here.

My first thought was, how much is this going to cost taxpayers? My second thought: There’s no way the TSA is going to be able to train its employees to be efficient.

So I went to the TSA’s Twitter page, @AskTSA (where, by the way, I have been banned and had my First Amendment rights violated for speaking the truth), and began to compile a list of complaints about screeners’ actions in an attempt to show how much work the TSA needs to do to clean up its act.

(Then again, my colleague Lisa Simeone has been compiling a Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses for years, and it hasn’t made a bit of difference.)

The complaints come in so fast on @AskTSA, I can hardly keep up with them. Comments come from both men and women:

THE PAT DOWN WAS THE MOST HORRIFIC THING I’VE EVER BEEN THOUGH IN MY LIFE!!!! Thx

Apparently if your crotch area lights up in airport security, you get a VERY AGGRESSIVE frisking. Many might say “sexual harassment”

wow, just had a most UNpleasant experience w 2 of your peops at #CLT airport. Utter lack of professionalism.

but FYI @TSA employee Carew at JFK = rude, unprofessional, dismissed request for help b/c 1 minute past her break

The scan plus opt-out pat downs seem egregious. Note I’m flying as my legal name, with a court order, my new temp license and old photo ID. I was asked twice whether I wanted a private screening but was scared to go to a non-public area.

My wife is TSA Pre✓ but got stopped for 45 min w/ our 9 month old for a stroller inspection & missed her

Wow. Invasive pat down by @tsa while trying to get my 7 wk old through security. Agent needs training before working w/ public.

Opting out of the @TSA body-scanner is getting harder with every flight. It took 15 minutes to find someone to do the pat-down.

glad your workers find it more productive to congregate and talk about weekend party plans than depreciating the lines @ EWR

Why do you constantly employ terribly rude employees at EWR? Specifically terminal C

thanks for taking my wife’s ice pack that was keeping her 3 days worth of #breastmilk from spoiling!

Somehow got through TSA at the airport with the wrong plane tickets, apparently my name is “Tanesha Brown” now… Doing your job well TSA

@TSA staff is out of control in FLL and PHL. #rude #unintelligent #unapologetic #vengeful goons is the best way to describe them

Can’t wait to get home and shower after being raped through my clothes at @iah by @TSA #TotallyViolated #Veteran #Raped by #TSA

How can I trust that your machines protect me if they report that my maxi pad is in my pocket? (TSA’s reply: We suggest you remove items from your pockets prior to the screening process. Completely missed the subtlety of the comment.)

why are your staff so mean and rude? There’s no need for it.

Disgusted by @TSA ineptitude in Terminal C at EWR: long security line, one lane open, five agents doing nothing!

After passing thought agent Wayne @ ATL international checkpoint, patted down roughly w/o warning. I felt humiliated & violated.

Had a lovely time at @IFlyOAKland yesterday, having my $140 @oakley sunglasses stolen off the conveyor while @TSA groped me!

Some really cheerful and pleasant agents in Portland, ME today /sarcasm

suggestion: provide more personnel for Pre at EWR! I paid money to use Pre there but it never seems to be open.

Why are my 9″ knitting needles allowed in my carry on but a 7″ specialty screwdriver I need for work is not?

Can we take another look at precheck process at EWR? It is a fiasco – long lines, still have to take everything out, not efficient.

why does Newark EWR NEVER have a pre check line open for the A gates????? What did I pay for?

The following from O’Hare:

“the security in terminal 3 this morning is unacceptable. 90+ min wait has hundreds missing flights
TSA’s response: We suggest arriving two hours prior to your flight during holiday weekends and peak travel times

Thanks. Did that. Security total wait was 1hr 55 minutes. One imaging machines for thousands of people will do that But I hope you have a good day, that way at least one of us will. Thousands here are miserable.”

Arrived an hour & 20 mins early for my flight at the truly dire @fly2ohare and STILL missed my flight thanks to @TSA! Looked like a war zone

Another insightful conversation with TSA on :

“destroyed my TSA lock. Do you all give out new ones or are these considered disposable?”

TSA response: We’re sorry to hear this, Philip. We can’t guarantee locks will never be lost or damaged during the screening process.

but you have keys for the locks right?”

youve got ALL priority access & TSA pre-check lines closed on a Saturday of a holiday wknd? What gives?

When can I expect someone to come open our suitcase for us? We didn’t lock it. Just saw a male @TSA agent interrogate a scared 5-year-old girl at the MSP airport. I feel so much safer already…

your workers at HSV were many. Check on the manager’s efficacy. There wasn’t enough personnel to support a TSA precheck line. I mentioned that a manager should be asked. They searched both my luggage and my husbands in retaliation. Childish TSA!!

AGAIN @AskTSA ??! #chs #tsaprecheck #closed EVERY TIME I repeat: Point of service is to skip line, stay dressed and not unpack the bag. None of those happen when closed, expedited or not

why do you keep not securing my protein powder lids and ruining all my clothes?

If your agent is going to grope me post scan I would like a warning and ask if I have sensitive areas before manhandling me at LAS

When the @TSA guy says, “Well, aren’t you a cute thing.” Ewwwww. #iamnotathing #creep

My mom loved getting told by your @tsa agent,Aloha,that she didnt want to touch her.Costumer service leaves something2 b desired

Just submitted an online complaint to @TSA. They dumped sand into my suitcase when they inspected it – a lot of sand. Professional?

you might have the most incompetent group of people to ever be under one roof working for you in #STL; so you train your employees to stand around with their arms folded telling jokes in the name the name of security? Sounds smart.

people are bypassing security by going through an unmanned checkpoint. No boarding pass scans, just going straight through.

EWR with 1 person working the security checkpoint, 9 standing around doing nothing.

Just want to say thank you for randomly pillaging my luggage today, dumping out various medications, and leaving my computer….bag open for my shower gel to leak into. It was very thoughtful for u to leave a note stating u can do that w/ no liability.

No “training academy” will be able to correct the behaviors and attitudes of TSA screeners exposed by the comments above.

Editor’s Note: By the way, if you ever want to file an official complaint about your treatment at the hands of the TSA, which we urge you to do, here’s the link to the official form at the DHS Office of Inspector General:

https://www.oig.dhs.gov/hotline/hotline.php

(Graphic courtesy of your tax dollars)

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)

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.

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).

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.

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.

John Brennan Legal Defense Fund to fight TSA

TSA resister and hero John Brennan needs your help.

We’ve written about Brennan many times. He’s the man who, in April of 2012, finally got so fed up with being poked, prodded, and pawed by the TSA every time he traveled, that he stripped naked at a checkpoint in Portland, Oregon to prove he was carrying no weapons. Whereupon the TSA promptly called the cops, who arrested him. (We’ve also written many times about the fact that the police, instead of doing their duty, automatically side with the TSA no matter what the circumstances.)

The whole incident proved — yet effing again — that the TSA’s little song-and-dance routine isn’t about security. It’s about compelling obedience. Because if they supposedly wanted to know whether Brennan was carried contraband, they found out: he wasn’t.

But that wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted to teach him — and the rest of us — a lesson: Comply, and go on your way; resist — and worse, show us for the fools we are — and face our wrath.

Brennan was charged with indecent exposure and went to trial. He was found Not Guilty.

But the TSA continued to hound him. He was ordered to pay $500. And he was fired from his job, because his clueless employer, instead of backing him up, simply hired another slave to do its bidding.

Brennan joins a long list of TSA resisters, including Yukari Miyamae, Andrea Abbott, Frank Hannibal, Nadine Pellegrino (who was at the 2015 Airport Security Symposium), Nadine Kay Hays (likewise), Jonathan Corbett (likewise), Aaron Tobey, Geoffrey McGann, Stacey Armato, Maggie Yates Buckenmayer, Pete Alexion, Sai (also at the Symposium), and so many others. You can search their names here at TSA News and find tons of info about them.

Brennan is now in financial straits. And he’s still fighting this battle — not only for himself, but for all of us. He’s appealing to a higher court. If you can help John Brennan with his legal fees, please do so at his website, Naked American Hero.