TSA Holiday Travel Excitement

November 1st brought a wave of illegal new TSA policies and a lot overdue attention to the agency. The new procedures for secondary screening (up to 20% of passengers) include a combination of full body X-ray scanning and/or full body pat downs which now includes squeezing and twisting of private parts. This is a lengthy, evolving run down of the personal and political implications so at least read the last paragraph before traveling with kids this holiday season.

The following article explains why these new security measures won't work to make us any safer for airline travel, and how lobbyists (former senators, aides, and the prior DHS chief, Michael Chertoff) are profiting from the collective pain of American travelers. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Naked-scanners-Lobbyists-join-the-war-on-terror-1540901-107548388.html

This sort of physical contact is justly considered sexual assault and can be painful. There are numerous reports that show TSA agents lack the character to treat innocent civilians with respect and dignity. Despite promises not to store X-ray pictures, the machines are required to support storage and transmission, so of course agencies have been reported saving them. A pilot has filed a complaint against screeners for telling an X-ray viewer, "heads up, got a cutie for you." http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/travel-safety-security/1147497-tso-saying-heads-up-got-cutie-you.html . Another suit is presently pending for a woman who was inadvertently disrobed by a TSA agent, after which agents near her joked about the incident and an agent who arrived later said he would watch the tape: http://homelandsecuritynewswire.com/tsa-agent-pulls-womans-blouse-down-exposing-breasts . Even a TSA agent is currently charged with assaulting one of his co-workers after the "victim" made disparaging remarks about what the scanner revealed about the assailants body.

The amoral TSA policies ask for special attention towards pregnant women, even though public exposure is common, adding emotional pain to physically painful touching that can be dangerous for the baby: http://lewrockwell.com/orig3/monahan1.html
While TSA agents sometimes bother to offer a private room if one is available, their track record doesn't inspire confidence that you will be safe in their custody. It appears that the pat down procedures have been made painful, embarrassing and public to coerce fliers to submit to X-ray screening.

We did a case study in my embedded systems electrical engineering class regarding radiating devices with dangerous software and hardware glitches. This complaint from several UCSF Biomedical professors points out the radiation dangers of a burst of body surface tuned X-rays are considerably more dangerous than the Defense contractors raking in millions of your tax dollars claim. These dangers are especially applicable to: seniors, children and people who may reproduce. http://www.npr.org/assets/news/2010/05/17/concern.pdf

Cancer survivors and people with medical equipment are also at special risk of embarrassment and radiation : http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2010/11/20/tsa-pat-down-leaves-bladder-cancer-survivor-covered-in-urine/  http://gizmodo.com/5692198/a-tsa-success-story The money trail behind the X-ray machines is even clearer when taking into account that the Pentagon has concluded after years of wasting money that bomb sniffing dogs have an 80% success rate compared to the 50% success rate of the most advanced sniffing machines: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/19-billion-later-pentagon-best-bomb-detector-is-a-dog/  http://www.stltoday.com/news/state-and-regional/missouri/article_95ba9221-c2e5-505e-9225-034c9cdb8b84.html

While none of these efforts pass muster under the 4th amendment (Like your 5th amendment right to remain silent, a calm repeated statement of "I don't consent to searches" should eventually turn away any officer without probable cause or a warrant), TSA bureaucrats have implemented these measures despite passage of a bill restricting them by the US House of Representatives (who don't have to go through screenings). http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-2027  was folded into  http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-2200

One individual justly warned a TSA officer that he would press criminal sexual assault charges if he touched his privates and is being sued by the TSA for $11,000 for failure to complete screening ( http://johnnyedge.blogspot.com/2010/11/these-events-took-place-roughly-between.html ). Remember that all the protections of our freedoms under the bill of rights don't exist if we fail to push back against illegal encroachments by government agents (This sort of touching of innocent adults and children goes against common morality). http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-oped-1114-chapman-20101114,0,3696372.column

Terrorism is not about hurting people; it's about making them scared enough to change their lives and societies. http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/01/airport_securit_12.html

Some bureaucrats appear to be conditioning the public to unconstitutional surveillance and searches. The logic behind TSA's methods are also quite suspect. The TSA alternately claims X-ray pictures are too blurry to be  revealing, while also saying they are accurate enough to help catch the next underwear bomber (an international arrival unchecked by TSA who probably exploited Dutch airport workers to avoid security screening and document control).

This is confirmed by absurd events like the response when a traveler stripped his clothing off to avoid a pat down. The TSA refused to process his clothing, saying he needed to put it back on so they could perform a pat down! He was arrested for failure to complete the security screening and for recording his actions, then paraded through several terminals in his underwear and handcuffs. http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/tsa-airport-screeners-gone-wild-san-diego-again . Apparently they've written policies to protect themselves from citizen video journalism, one of the only ways to fight police abuse, and a right protected under the first amendment.

Part of the problem here is that we are treating everyone like a terrorist. Psychological experiments have shown that people given authority and suspicion will often abuse the people they watch. 'The TSA "is not a flier-centered system. It's a terrorist-centered system and the travelers get caught in it," said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who has tracked the agency's effectiveness since it's creation.' http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101121/ap_on_re_us/us_airport_security_backlash.

As a nation of Natural Rights, Morals and Laws, it is inexcusable that bureaucrats can instantly produce "policy" and randomly dispose of the protections guaranteed for 220 years by the Bill of Rights. Call your representatives and Senators and ask them to rein in the TSA now. I'd recommend asking them to co-sponsor and fast track the HR6416 Traveler Dignity Act before Christmas http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h6416/text . Tell them you will avoid air travel until sanity is restored to the process, and that restoring balance to our laws is necessary for the US to succeed in a changing global economy. Congress could even send a message to all bureaucratic usurpers by firing the heads of the TSA and DHS for violating their oath of office to the constitution, while leaving them open for suits from people injured by these policies.

Even if you entirely disagree with my complaints about these issues, at least consider the following clip from a Tennessee news program. Secondary screening can be very traumatic for children. This spot ends with the advice that you can ask a ticket desk whether your child has been randomly selected for secondary screening, and request that the child be "deselected" from that distinction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TCHSGvNwRY Another kid here in Salt Lake: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/11/21/tsa-makes-little-boy-remove-shirt-during-pat-down/