OMG WTF TSA

Matthew says: "The TSA is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases, including records such as car registrations and employment information." From the New York Times:

At the heart of the expanded effort is a database called the Automated Targeting System, which is maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and screens travelers entering the United States.

Data in the Automated Targeting System is used to decide who is placed on the no-fly list — thousands of people the United States government has banned from flying — and the selectee list, an unknown number of travelers who are required to undergo more in-depth screening, like Mr. Darrat. The T.S.A. also maintains a PreCheck disqualification list, tracking people accused of violating security regulations, including disputes with checkpoint or airline staff members.

When I flew out of Burbank to Oakland on Sunday, the agent at the ID/boarding pass station had a mobile computer that he used to look up my information. It was the first time I'd seen something like this.

Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly

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  1. How is a no-fly list even remotely constitutional? In the absence of some kind of criminal conviction, it's just discrimination dressed up in the form of protection from terrorism. Don't you guys have a constitution that specifically outlaws that kind of thing?

    Interesting factlets:

    • Nelson Mandela was on the no fly list until 2008
    • as was a former US Army lieutenant colonel Robert Johnson
    • as was Senator Ted Kennedy

    ...and 20,000 other schumks who happened to share a surname and first initial with anyone ever arrested in connection with terrorism.

    Bonus feature: If you know someone considered a "terrorism suspect" they'll put you on the no-fly list and then offer to take you off it only if you inform against their real suspect. The Stasi would be proud.

  2. In theory, this could be a nice way to screen people... if you were smart enough to perform anomaly detection, and then investigate further based on that.

    However, some min wage TSA employee digging through my personal information doesn't make me happy at all. All I see happening from this is a series of false positives and violations of privacy. Because its security theater in the hands of some sickening bureaucracy whose first goal and only goal is to grow like a cancer and protect its own institution.

    Why we would expect more from a government that treats its own people as the enemy, by spying on everyone, by incarcerating more people per capita than anyone, who sells laws and regulations to the highest bidder, and whose elected representatives only job is to get reelected by garnering as many bribes as possible in the form of campaign financing, and live by a different set of rules?

    Seriously. Why expect anything more? They aren't good people. They aren't honest people. They don't give a fuck about you. Your outrage is pointless. You are free until they decide you aren't... then they can just hold you in prison like Kevin Mitnick without even charging you with a crime, or bust you for a crime you didn't commit, or one of they many crimes you probably commit on a regular basis, and don't even realize it because there are so many laws. Including secret laws you don't get to know, and copyrighted laws you aren't authorized to read.

  3. How is it constitutional? The best answer, "because some judges said so."

    The courts in recent years are careful to take the narrowest possible interpretation of individual rights. We have the freedom of speech - but we can give that away in order to be allowed to travel. We have the freedom of assembly - a freedom that requires the freedom to travel to be meaningful - but we do not have the freedom to use any particular means of travel. And the freedom to travel can be conditional upon giving up our right not to be subject to unreasonable search. Similarly, the 'administrative search' incident to flying is a search only for banned weapons - and thus ruled presumptively 'reasonable' - but anything else discovered in the search can and will be used against the traveler by the 'plain sight' doctrine: in fact, the TSA largely functions as a drug interdiction agency. We have the right not to have our rights abrogated without due process, but 'due process' consists of giving the aggrieved traveler an address to write to, without the government's being bound to reply, or even to acknowledge recept of the complaint.

    Most pernicious, to my mind, is the concept that the citizen can be required to surrender one right to exercise another (keep silent,refrain from associating from certain persons, surrender due process and submit to search in order to travel, submit to search and espouse particular views in order to go armed, and so on). I think the courts have a language problem here:

    "Inalienable. That word. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

  4. Isn't the terrorist goal to destroy our Freedoms? Looks like they are smarter than the gov't thinks because we are doing it to ourselves. The terrorists just sit back and laugh

  5. A week after I quit my job in early 2012 (for family care reasons, an entirely different bucket of nonsense), I went to my bank branch for routine business. The teller, out loud, apropos of nothing in particular, noted that I "recently had a job change," and did a little bit of a soft sell about the bank's IRA products - rollovers and such.

    I hadn't filed for unemployment. I certainly hadn't told my bank about my "job change." And yet there at the counter was an hourly-wage teller, entirely unknown to me, who - based on prompts on her screen - knew that I was now unemployed.

    Within a week.

    And that's when I knew that data privacy doesn't mean fuck-all. It's dead, folks. The only way to achieve it is to remove yourself from the electronic society, which increases the likelihood that you'll eat poison berries or be eaten by bears. Or both.

    So: TSA, banks, etc. That stuff? Transparent data exchange! It's important. It works!

    I'm on week three of trying to get subsidized health insurance coverage through a much-vaunted state exchange.

    That? That doesn't work for shit.

    Judge a society by what functionality it ensures.

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