TSA admits "terrorists in America are not plotting against aviation"

An accidentally published, unredacted document from a lawsuit against the TSA reveals that the Taking Shoes Away people believe that "terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports." That is to say, there is no identifiable risk to America's skies -- and all of business with shoes and pornoscanners and horrible, abusive incidents involving toddlers, people with mental disabilities, cancer survivors, rape survivors, and the whole business of treating travellers like presumptive terrorists is all to prevent a problem that, to all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.

...The Court actually failed to seal the unredacted brief, and they have published in full the leaked document. The document — as of yet still available to the public through the PACER court records system — is properly labeled as “sealed” by the clerk’s office, meaning they received and understood my instructions that the document was not to be public, but neglected to hide the attachment from public view.

The information revealed, which I may now comment on since a third party has made it publicly available, is devastating to the TSA’s argument that virtually strip-searching the public using its $1B nude body scanner fleet, as well as literally putting their hands in the pants of travelers during full-body pat-downs, is necessary to prevent airplanes from dropping out of the sky at the hands of terrorists. In 2011, the year after the scanners became primary screening, TSA intelligence officials concluded that “terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports.”

The TSA has a lot of explaining to do, both to members of Congress and to the general public, all of whom were misled as to the threat we face and the justification for the most intrusive searches ever performed on the public at large in the United States in the history of this great nation. The terrorists that the TSA has made the country fear, it admits, do not actually exist.

@TSA Admits In Leaked Doc: No Evidence of Terrorist Plots Against Aviation in US

Notable Replies

  1. So, a tentacle of the federal government has admitted that it is totally useless and it hasn't been hacked off by deficit hawks? Is defunding something only fun when it struggles?

  2. I can only hope nobody made any obscene profits from this lack of actual problem.
    That would have been unethical.

  3. Cory,
    I hate to defend the TSA but the implications of this document aren't as big a deal as you're claiming. The fact that terrorists are not currently 'actively plotting against aviation' is not the same as terrorists do not have the intent and capability to target aviation. It just means that as the time of that assessment the TSA (or whoever was doing their assessment) saw no evidence that there wasn't an ongoing plot or targeting against aviation.

    So, for example, there are a whole lot of terrorist groups out there (AQAP, AQ Central, Chechen separatists, etc.) that have targeted aviation in the past AND appear to continue to have an intent to attack aviation BUT they may have other priorities at the moment causing them to focus their energies elsewhere. Broad security policy isn't something one can just flip on and off like a light switch so (I'd hope) decisions of what security measures to use can't rely solely on who's planning to attack a target right now but rather have to take into account who is likely to target aviation currently and in the near future.

    I find the shoe nonsense just as ridiculous as you do but this isn't the 'smoking gun' it may appear to be.

  4. The problem with the argument that "they've attacked us in the past, shown willingness to attack us again, and will attack us as soon as their attention isn't turned elsewhere" is that it's unanswerable - forever. In our imperfect world, we shall always have enemies. Does this mean that there is no way to roll back the security state; that temporary incursions upon our freedom are, in fact, always permanent?

  5. One issue that keeps the TSA going is that it has found a niche where it can play simultaneously to both sides of the aisle. On the left, it caters to hoplophobia - it's keeping those scary and dangerous weapons away from us! Surely if it saves even one life it's worth it! And on the right, it caters to authoritarianism - it's a visible sign that the gummint has good strong men running it! Those who would like the decisions to be evidence-based have their voices drowned by all the shouting.

    And we may well be past the point where informed debate is impossible. The US now has dissidents seeking, and receiving, asylum in other nations. A nation that expels its dissidents cannot hear the voice of reason through the fingers it has thrust in its ears.

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