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Musical comment on TSA pornoscanners

Jonathan Mann sez, "I saw Cory's post about the TSA accepting comments on the full body scanners and decided I'd give them a piece of my mind - in song."

My Comment To The TSA (Song A Day #1573) (Thanks, Jonathan!)

TSA finally seeks public comment on pornoscanners

From Slashdot submitter Trims: "The TSA is now in the public comment stage of its project to roll out Advanced Imaging Technology (i.e. full-body X-ray) scanners. The TSA wants your feedback as to whether or not this project should be continued or cancelled. Now is your chance to tell the TSA that this is a huge porkbarrel project and nothing more than Security Theater. You can comment at http:///www.regulations.gov and reference the docket ID TSA-2013-0004." You've got until Jun 24. Cory

Obama's regressive record makes Nixon look like Che

Redditor Federal Reservations has made a handy post enumerating all the regressive, authoritarian, corporatist policies enacted by the Obama administration in its one-and-a-bit terms. You know, for someone the right wing press likes to call a socialist, Obama sure makes Richard Nixon look like Che Guevara. And what's more, this is only a partial list, and excludes the parade of copyright horrors and bad Internet policy emanating from the White House, via Joe Biden's push for Six Strikes, the US Trade Rep's push for secret Internet censorship and surveillance treaties like TPP and ACTA and TAFTA; the DoJ's push to criminalize every Internet user by expanding the CFAA, and much, much more.

Obama extends Patriot Act without reform - [1]
http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-27/news/29610822_1_terrorist-groups-law-enforcement-secret-intelligence-surveillance

Signs NDAA 2011 (and 2012, and 2013) - [2]
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

Appeals the Federal Court decision that “indefinite detention” is unconstitutional - [3]
http://www.activistpost.com/2013/02/ndaa-hedges-v-obama-did-bill-of-rights.html

Double-taps a 16-year-old American-born US citizen living in Yemen, weeks after the boy's father was killed. Administration's rationale? He "should have [had] a far more responsible father" - [4]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/anwar-al-awlakis-family-speaks-out-against-his-sons-deaths/2011/10/17/gIQA8kFssL_story.html

Continues to approve drone strikes that kill thousands of innocent civilians including women and children in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries that do not want the US intervening; meanwhile, according to the Brookings Institute's Daniel Byman, we are killing 10 civilians for every one mid- to high- level Al Qaeda/Taliban operative. This is particularly disturbing, since now any military-aged male in a strike zone is now officially considered an enemy combatant - [5]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/7361630/One-in-three-killed-by-US-drones-in-Pakistan-is-a-civilian-report-claims.html

Protects Bush’s war crimes as State Secrets - [6] [7] [8]
http://www.salon.com/2010/09/08/obama_138/
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/04/obama-doj-worse-than-bush
http://washingtonindependent.com/33985/in-torture-cases-obama-toes-bush-line

Waives sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa in order to deepen military relationship with countries that have poor human rights records -[9]
http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/26/why_is_obama_easing_restrictions_on_child_soldiers

Read the rest

Lethal weapons from duty-free stores

Here's a writeup of Evan Booth's Hack the Box conference presentation on making lethal weapons out of items bought in airport duty-free shops. It's pretty ingenious stuff (the video above is from a related presentation at CarolinaCon 2013).

The problem here is that legitimate purpose of airport security is not protecting passengers and flight attendants from harm. In reality, there's no way to accomplish that goal against a determined attacker. The real and legitimate purpose of airport security is to protect airplanes and cockpits from harm -- to stop people from hijacking and/or crashing airplanes (this is why the TSA correctly relaxed its rules about carrying small knives onto planes -- and why so many of their other rules are pointless and stupid). So long as none of these lethal weapons can crash an airplane or beat an armored, bolted cockpit door, they embody no new incremental threat to aviation -- on the other hand, the improvised battery-bombs are a real threat.

Besides a bomb knew Booth also easy to make a bow and arrow of stuff he had bought in a shop in an airport. For this he used an umbrella, hair dryer, socks, a leather belt and condoms. Too obvious things like a lighter and deodorant as alternative gas burner he did not elaborate.

Booth also made a crossbow of an umbrella, floss, grab a toy, a rolkoffertje, a straw and tape. With a straw, cotton and a piece of metal from a remote controlled helicopter he was able to make a blow gun for firing arrows.

Remarkable is also a club that he made a gift, what magazines, floss, a leather strap and tape. In a test showed that so firmly, that he with a single blow a coconut in several parts stores.

Onderzoeker maakt bom van artikelen luchthavenwinkels [Dutch, Nu.nl]

Researcher makes bomb Articles airport shops [Google Translate]

(via /.)

French spies demand removal of a Wikipedia entry, threaten random Wikipedia admin in France when they don't get their way


The French spy agency Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur inexplicably flipped out about a longstanding Wikipedia entry on a military base (station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute) filled with public domain, widely known information. They tried to get the Wikimedia Foundation to delete it, but wouldn't explain what, exactly, they objected to in the entry. When the Wikimedia Foundation rebuffed them, they picked out a random volunteer Wikipedia admin living in France -- a person who had never had anything to do with the post in question -- and threatened him with jail unless he used his admin privileges to delete the post.

The Foundation is trying to support the their volunteer as best as they can. Meantime, the post about station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute's pageviews have shot from a couple per day to 9000+.

The Foundation takes allegations of national security threats seriously and investigated the matter accordingly. However, it was not readily apparent what specific information the DCRI could consider classified or otherwise high-risk. Without further information, we could not understand why the DCRI believes information in the article is classified. Almost all of the information in the article is cited to publicly-available sources. In fact, the article’s contents are largely consistent with a publicly available video in which Major Jeansac, the chief of the military station in question, gives a detailed interview and tour of the station to a reporter. This video is now cited in the article. Furthermore, the page was originally created on July 24, 2009 and has been continually available and edited since. We do not know why the DCRI believes that the article has suddenly become an urgent threat now.

We requested more information from the DCRI, such as which specific sentences or sections they believed to contain classified information. Unfortunately, the DCRI refused to provide any more specific detail and reaffirmed their demand that the entire article be deleted. Therefore, the Foundation was forced to refuse their request pending receipt of more information that we could use to fully evaluate their claim.

On 30 March 2013, we discovered that the DCRI, evidently dissatisfied with the Foundation’s response, contacted a volunteer with administrative rights (a “sysop”) who resides in France. This sysop is not responsible for the hosting of the content on Wikipedia, had no role in the creation of the article, and is not part of the Wikimedia Foundation. As we understand it, the sysop attempted to explain his limited role as a volunteer and directed them back to the Foundation’s legal department.

Legal and Community Advocacy/Statement on France

(Image: A general view of the military base of Pierre sur Haute, located in the Monts du Forez. It's a dependency of the Base Aerienne 942 of Lyon-Mont Verdun, GDL/CC BY-SA image by S. Rimbaud)

TSA routinely violates own rules and the law to discriminate against people w/disabilities

Sai has "a neurological disorder that causes episodic muteness and muscle spasms" -- basically, he sometimes becomes mute and gets bad shakes. His doctor has advised him to have juice continuously available, and this helps control his condition. TSA rules allow him to bring any amount of juice through a checkpoint. Unfortunately, the TSA doesn't read its own rules. Instead, Sai is detained at checkpoints for endless, illegal questioning and searches of his personal papers, confidential business documents, etc. When he loses the ability to speak, he uses pen and paper to communicate, but the TSA takes the pen and paper away as soon as he cites language from a landmark legal case limiting their power to search him.

He's videoed one of these encounters, with the TSA and its private contractors at SFO, and he's filed grievances with various agencies over that incident and another at Boston Logan. The TSA is illegally refusing to follow its own administrative procedures, so he's getting ready to sue them (he needs an ADA and/or FOIA-specialized lawyer qualified for the bar in MA and/or CA and/or federally -- any takers?). He's also trying to force them to disclose their secret procedures.

The edited, subtitled video of his run-in at SFO is fantastically infuriating. The TSA and its private contractors are vindictive, lawless, brutal. But Sai is an inspiring example of calm under fire, a guy who knows his rights back and forwards, and doesn't let the fact that his physical condition is deteriorating -- you can see his tremors -- make him lose his cool (here's the unedited version, which runs to about an hour).

Sai's site has plenty of ways you can help with this, including a petition to Congress and a questionnaire to help him with his Freedom of Information suit. And by helping him, you help everyone who has to fly -- and everyone who cares about freedom in America.

On March 1, 2013, San Francisco TSA refused to allow me to travel with medical liquids. My liquids had been been tested clean by xray & explosive trace detection, and the official on scene specifically acknowledged reading the TSA's Special Needs Memo (including that juice is a medical liquid and that there's no volume restriction on medical liquids). This directly involved the most senior TSA officials at the airport, who detained me for about 50 minutes total.

This is only the most recent in a long string of personal incidents of harassment, denial, or direct refusal to obey TSA's medical liquids policy. This time, though, I got it all on video.

Problems with the TSA (via Hacker News)

TSA screener finds pepper spray on the floor, gasses five other screeners because he thought it was a laser-pointer


A TSA screener at JFK pepper-sprayed five of his colleagues at Terminal 2 on Tuesday, according to the New York Post. The screener, Chris Yves Dabel, found a pepper-spray cannister on the floor and believed it was a laser-pointer, so (for some reason), he aimed it at five other screeners and pressed the trigger. The six were sent to Jamaica Hospital.

The screener sprayed five other TSA agents around him, sending all six to Jamaica Hospital and halting security checks at Kennedy for at least 15 minutes, police said.

No passengers reported injuries. Dabel refused medical attention.

TSA officials scrambled to keep the embarrassing incident under wraps yesterday — until The Post began inquiring about it, a source said.

Oops, TSA guy goes spray-zy! [NY Post/Josh Margolin]

(via Digg)

(Image: Pepper Spray Cop - White background, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from donkeyhotey's photostream)

English school (briefly) bans triangular desserts, citing food-fight shuriken risks


Castle View School in Canvey Island, Essex, England, briefly banned triangular flapjacks (not pancakes; the English call granola-bar-like food "flapjacks") after a student sustained an injury when another student threw a cornersome flapjack at him. The school authorities required that all flapjacks must be served in rectangular portions, to increase the safety of food-fights.

The ban did not stand very long. Public mockery seems to have killed it.

According to one report, in 2011 British MP and Education Secretary Michael Gove was prevented from taking flapjacks into a cabinet meeting, after officials cited similar safety concerns. That is the only report of that alleged incident, however—although Gove was (and is) the Education Secretary, there does not appear to be any other evidence that he was ever frisked for flapjacks or that even the British government has actually classified them as a security risk.

Triangular Treats Banned Due to Risk of Sharp Corners

(Image: Flapjacks..., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ajy's photostream)

TSA will allow small knives, golf clubs onto airplanes


In a rare, welcome moment of sanity, the TSA has announced that it will allow small knives, golf clubs, hockey sticks, wiffle bats, and similar items on planes. Given that you are allowed to bring on canes -- that is, clubs -- and 40-oz duty-free liquor bottles -- that is, long glass knives, this represents no new risk to flight crews. However, aviation employees are beefing and saying that this represents the TSA's convenience, not theirs. Gee, thanks.

On the other hand, they still ban box-cutters -- small knives of a specific, but not particularly lethal form -- because "there’s just too much emotion associated with them, particularly the box cutters." That's from John Pistole, head of the TSA, and apparent believer in sympathetic magic.

The agency will permit knives with retractable blades shorter than 6 centimeters (2.36 inches) and narrower than 1/2 inch, TSA Administrator John Pistole said today at an aviation security conference in Brooklyn. The change, to conform with international rules, takes effect April 25.

Passengers will also be allowed to board flights with some other items that are currently prohibited, including sticks used to play lacrosse, billiards and hockey, ski poles and as many as two golf clubs, Pistole said.

TSA Will Permit Knives, Golf Clubs on U.S. Planes [Jeff Plungis/Bloomberg]

(Thanks, Brian!)

Kicked off a United flight for taking pictures of the new first class seats


Matthew, a young man who blogs about air-travel, was thrown off a United jet after a flight attendant chastised him for taking photos of the new first class seats. She apparently thought he was a terrorist. According to Matthew, she lied (and the captain backed her up) and said that he refused to stop taking pictures when asked. The captain apparently threatened to have him taken off the plane by the police. Matthew says he's logged 950,000 miles with United though he's only 26 years old, and that this has made him question his views of the airline.

Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.

Me: Can you tell me why?

Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.

Me: That's a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

Captain: Look, I don't care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We'll call the police if we have to.

Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.

Captain: Look, we're already late. I'd advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don't make us bring the police in. Goodbye.

Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?

Captain: I don't have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is...[removed].

Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures! - Live and Let's Fly (via Hacker News)

Pennsylvania kindergartener uses Hello Kitty bubble-gun at school, suspended for "terrorist threat"


Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania suspended a five-year-old girl for pointing a Hello Kitty bubble-gun at another student, characterizing this as a "terrorist threat." The little girl had to undergo psychiatric evaluation before she was allowed back in. Her parents say that they couldn't get their daughter into another school, because no one wanted a kid with "terrorist" on her transcript. They're considering a lawsuit.

The school claims "the information supplied to the media may not be consistent with the facts" but declines to correct the record. They do, however, offer this empty, mealy-mouthed rubbish: "The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously."

The kindergartner, who attends Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania, caught administrators’ attention after suggesting she and a classmate should shoot each other with bubbles.

“I think people know how harmless a bubble is. It doesn’t hurt,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl’s family. According to Ficker, the girl, whose identity has not been released, didn’t even have the bubble gun toy with her at school.

Kindergartner Suspended Over Bubble Gun Threat (via Reddit)

TSA terminates its contract with Rapiscan, maker of pornoscanners

The TSA has given the boot to Rapiscan, maker of about half of the pornoscanners in use in America's airports:

TSA gave Rapiscan until June 2013 to come up with a software upgrade to prevent the scanner from projecting the naked image. TSA officials said Rapiscan won't be able to meet that deadline.

"TSA has strict requirements that all vendors must meet for security effectiveness and efficiency since the use of this technology is critical to TSA’s efforts to keep the traveling public safe," the TSA said in a statement.

Yes, they seriously named their pornoscanner company "Rapiscan." Seriously.

TSA ends contract with Rapiscan, maker of full-body scanner [Hugo Martin/LA Times] (via /.)

Easiest excuse for taking freedom: security

Here, in concise and precise language, is the best pricking of the security bubble I've seen:

Security is an ideal language for suppressing rights because it combines a universality and neutrality in rhetoric with a particularity and partiality in practice. Security is a good that everyone needs, and, we assume, that everyone needs in the same way and to the same degree. It is “the most vital of all interests,” John Stuart Mill wrote, which no one can “possibly do without.” Though Mill was referring here to the security of persons rather than of nations or states, his argument about personal security is often extended to nations and states, which are conceived to be persons writ large.

Unlike other values — say justice or equality — the need for and definition of security is not supposed to be dependent upon our beliefs or other interests and it is not supposed to favor any one set of beliefs or interests. It is the necessary condition for the pursuit of any belief or interest, regardless of who holds that belief or has that interest. It is a good, as I’ve said, that is universal and neutral. That’s the theory.

The reality, as we have seen, is altogether different. The practice of security involves a state that is rife with diverse and competing ideologies and interests, and these ideologies and interests fundamentally help determine whether threats become a focus of attention, and how they are perceived and mobilized against. The provision of security requires resources, which are not limitless. They must be distributed according to some calculus, which, like the distribution calculus of any other resource (say income or education), will reflect controversial and contested assumption about justice and will be the subject of debate. National security is as political as Social Security, and just as we argue about the latter, so do we argue about the former.

Yours, Mine, but Not Ours [Corey Robin/Jacobin]

(via Schneier)

"Zero Dark Thirty" not good enough to justify torture fantasies

"Zero Dark Thirty," director Kathryn Bigelow's truthy-but-not-a-documentary-but-maybe-it-kinda-is thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, opened in New York and Los Angeles this week. I watched a screener last night. I thought it kind of sucked. There's a lot of buzz about what a great work of art ZDT is. I don't get it. In reviews of ZDT, fawning critics reflexively note that she directed Oscar-winning "Hurt Locker." Guys, she directed "Point Break," too.

Read the rest

TSA to launch independent study of X-Ray Body Scanners for health risks

Michael Grabell of ProPublica: "Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency's X-ray body scanners." Whether the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or review previous studies is not yet clear. Xeni