Boing Boing 

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.

Five reasons to opt out of TSA pornoscanners this weekend

Marilyn sez, "Chris Elliott gives 5 good reasons to participate in the Opt Out protest against the TSA's full-body scanners over this Thanksgiving weekend and so far, 65 percent of the people reading his column on Huffington Post say they will take part (including me)."

1. They're not adequately tested and could be dangerous. Unfortunately, the scanners you'll be asked to walk through haven't been properly tested. The latest independent evaluations are actually based on data provided by the TSA. The government wants us to trust it, but it won't give us a reason. That's unacceptable.

2. They're easily foiled. It's not difficult to sneak a weapon through a full-body scanner, according to several reports. The career criminals who might want to do us harm have figured out how to get around the scanners already.

3. They're too expensive. At a quarter of a million bucks a pop, the scanners are a huge waste of taxpayer money. To use one, or to allow one to be used on you, is is an endorsement of an iffy technology. It also lines the pockets of undeserving security contractors, say critics...

5 Reasons I'm Opting Out Of The TSA's Scanners (And You Should Too) (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Ex-TSA agent: stealing is commonplace in the TSA


Marilyn sez, "My reporter friend Nicole Glass interviewed ex-con and ex-TSA agent Pythias Brown who said stealing is commonplace in the agency." The article, in RT, describes a culture of total, unaccountable corruption, compounded by terrible working conditions for TSA employees and complete alienation from, and hostility to, travelers. It's the perfect (and perfectly predictable) setup for runaway thieving and criminality. This is Brown's first interview since being released from prison after three-year bit for stealing on the job.

ABC’s interview with Brown highlights the extent of the dilemma passengers face when traveling with valuables. Brown is just one of many officers caught in the act of stealing goods worth thousands.

In February, 2011, two TSA officers were arrested for stealing $40,000 in cash from a checked bag in New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Using an X-ray machine, the men found that the bag contained $170,000 and removed some of the money.

In the first two months of this year, a TSA baggage screener in Orlando was arrested for stealing valuables by hiding them in a laptop-sized hidden pocket in his jacket and selling the goods on Craigslist. And, a New Jersey-based agent stole $5,000 in cash from a passenger’s jacket as he was going through security

While in April, a Texas-based TSA officer stole eight iPads from checked bags, while another officer stole a $15,000 watch from a passenger at the Los Angeles International Airport in May.

Ex-TSA agent: We steal from travelers all the time (Thanks, Marilyn!)

(Image: TSA Security Checkpoint, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from billypalooza's photostream)

Shirt that got Poop Strong man tossed off a Delta flight available once again!


After Arijit got thrown off of a Delta flight for wearing a TSA-mocking t-shirt I designed, a lot of people began to email, asking where they could buy one for themselves. Well, it seemed a bit weird to do a reissue and pocket a royalty for a shirt on the basis of someone else's legal hassles, so I worked with Arijit and Woot, and we've decided to reissue the shirt with all the profits being divided evenly between EFF, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Get yours today for a mere $15! Wear it with pride! Don't blame me if you get kicked off an airplane!

Also available in handsome tote form at $10 each.

Threat Level: Doctorow

Delta refuses boarding to Poop Strong man for flying while brown and wearing the security theater shirt I designed


Back in 2007, I designed a shirt for Woot! that featured a screaming eagle clutching an unlaced shoe and a crushed water bottle, surrounded by the motto MOISTURE BOMBS ZOMG TERRORISTS ZOMG GONNA KILL US ALL ZOMG ZOMG ALERT LEVEL BLOODRED RUN RUN TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES. Among the lucky owners of this garment is Arijit "Poop Strong" Guha, who proudly wore it this week as he headed for a Delta flight from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport to his home in Phoenix.

But it was not to be. First, the TSA Delta agents questioned him closely about the shirt, and made him agree to change it, submit to a secondary screening and board last. He complied with these rules, but then he was pulled aside by multiple Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority cops, more TSA, and a Delta official and searched again. No one found anything untoward, but --

The Delta official told Arijit he wouldn't be allowed to board, and neither would his wife. Period.

When Arijit complained about this, the Niagara Transport cops got "aggressive," questioning him further and noting in their discussions that "he looks foreign." Now Arijit understood that the problem was Flying While Brown. The Niagara Transport cops had lots of dumb questions, like why Arijit's wife hadn't taken his last name, why he had opted out of the pornoscanner, and then they sicced the drug-seeking dogs on him.

Delta rebooked them for a flight the next day, but didn't offer Arijit and his wife a hotel room overnight -- and when they turned up at the airport, they discovered that their "confirmed" seats weren't confirmed, and unless eight passengers on the oversold flight agreed to fly later, they wouldn't be getting on that plane, either.

It turns out that Delta has a pattern of removing brown people from its airplanes when its pilots and passengers evince thinly veiled (or obvious) racist fears, too.

Having been booted from our flight, the transit police now began to aggressively question us. At one point, I was asked where my brother lives (he was the one who gifted me the shirt). A bit surprised by the irrelevant question, I paused for a moment before answering.

“You had to think about that one. How come?,” she asked. I explained he recently moved. “Where'd he move from?” “Michigan,” I respond. “Michigan, what's that?,” she says. At this point, the main TSA agent who'd questioned me earlier interjected: “He said ‘Michigan’.” Unable to withhold my snark, I responded with an eye-rolling sneer: “You've never heard of Michigan?”

This response did not please her partner, a transit cop named Mark. Mark grabbed his walkie-talkie and alerted his supervisor and proceeded to request that he be granted permission to question me further in a private room. His justification?: “First he hesitated, then he gave a stupid answer.” Michigan, my friends, is a stupid answer.

And then, he decided to drop any façade of fair treatment: the veil was lifted, this was about who I was and how I looked: “And he looks foreign.”

Well, Buffalo is pretty close to Canada, so maybe he thought I looked Canadian. What does a Canadian look like anyway? Whatever it is, I’m sure that’s precisely what he was thinking. Certainly he wasn’t implying that dark-skinned people are not real Americans and that white people are the only true Americans. (I wonder what those who settled this land well before the arrival of Europeans would have to say about that.)

Arijit Vs. Delta

Petition to make the TSA obey a court order and hold hearings on pornoscanners

Bruce Schneier writes,

Year ago, EPIC [the Electronic Privacy Information Center] sued the TSA over full body scanners (I was one of the plantiffs), demanding that they follow their own rules and ask for public comment. The court agreed, and ordered the TSA to do that. In response, the TSA has done nothing. Now, a year later, the court has again ordered the TSA to answer EPIC's position.

This is an excellent time to add your name to the petition the TSA to do what they're supposed to do, and what the court ordered them to do: take public comments on full body scanners. The petition has almost 17,000 signatures. If we get 25,000 by August 9th, the government will respond. I doubt they'll capitulate, but it will be a press event that will put even more pressure on the TSA. So please sign the petition. (Here is my first post about it.)

Court Orders TSA to Answer EPIC

Deaf man writes that TSA agent mocked him as “F*cking deafie,” then stole his candy, ate it

Update (June 12): The young author of the post alleging mistreatment by the TSA contacted Boing Boing to request that we delete/unpublish this blog post, explaining that he hadn't intended the story to "go viral." He then took down his account from his Tumblr (which, before this widely re-posted item, appears to have been a small personal blog read by a small number of real-world friends). Today, the TSA also published this post at the official TSA blog. Snip: "A close examination of the video during this timeframe indicates that officers working the checkpoint were professional and appropriate with all passengers." The author of the original Tumblr post told Boing Boing he wants privacy.


teaandtheatre, who is deaf, writes about an upsetting incident of "ableist" or "audist" harassment he claims to have received from the TSA, while going through a screening at the Louisville, Kentucky airport.

He explains that he was returning home from the National Association for the Deaf's biennial conference, with friends who'd attended the same event for deaf rights advocacy. He writes on Tumblr that he wrote the post as a kind of heads-up for other deaf folks, but it has gone viral outside of that community. Snip:

While I was going through the TSA, some of them started laughing in my direction. I thought it might’ve been someone behind me, but I found out otherwise.

They went through my bag (for no reason), and found a couple bags of candy I brought. I was told I wasn’t allowed to fly with that (wtf? I’ve flown with food before — these were even sealed still because I brought them right in the airport). I was then asked if I would like to donate the candy “To the USO”. Since I know the airport there has an Air National Guard base, and I figured it would go to the soldiers, I (annoyed) said sure, why not?

The guards, as I was getting scanned, started eating the candy they just told me was for the soldiers. In front of me, still laughing at me (very clearly now). One of them asked why they were laughing, and one of them came up to me, pointed at my shirt, laughed at me and said, “Fucking deafie”. The Louisville TSA called me a “fucking deafie” and laughed at me because I was deaf, and they expected wouldn’t say anything back (or wouldn’t hear them). Make no bones about it — she was facing me and I read her lips. There was no mistake. I would later find out that they had called at least 4 other individuals the same thing.

Read the rest

TSA dumps Grandpa's cremains all over airport, laughs at distraught relative as he picks bone fragments off the floor

John Gross of Indianapolis claims that a TSA operative at the Orlando airport opened up the tightly sealed jar, labelled HUMAN REMAINS, which bore his grandfather's ashes, and then proceeded to butterfinger Grandad all over the terminal. Then the TSA person laughed at him, while he got on his hands and knees and started picking up bone fragments. Most of his grandad ended up in the carpet. From RTV6:

"They opened up my bag, and I told them, 'Please, be careful. These are my grandpa's ashes,'" he told the station. "She picked up the jar. She opened it up. I was told later on that she had no right to even open it, that they could have used other devices, like an X-ray machine. So she opened it up. She used her finger and was sifting through it. And then she accidentally spilled it."

Confrontation With TSA Agent Leaves Grandpa's Ashes On Floor (via Consumerist)

Bruce Schneier explains security to a neurologist who believes in profiling Muslims at airports

Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, challenged Bruce Schneier to a debate on whether Muslims should be singled out for additional screening at airports. Schneier patiently, and repeatedly, explains why (apart from the unconstitutionality and moral repugnance of this), it would be bad security practice. Harris changes the subject. A lot. But Schneier presents a model of how to use dispassionate reason to demolish intellectual laziness and xenophobia dressed up as "common sense."

There are other security concerns when you look at the geopolitical context, though. Profiling Muslims fosters an “us vs. them” thinking that simply isn’t accurate when talking about terrorism. I have always thought that the “war on terror” metaphor was actively harmful to security because it raised the terrorists to the level of equal combatant. In a war, there are sides, and there is winning. I much prefer the crime metaphor. There are no opposing sides in crime; there are the few criminals and the rest of us. There criminals don’t “win.” Maybe they get away with it for a while, but eventually they’re caught.

“Us vs. them” thinking has two basic costs. One, it establishes that worldview in the minds of “us”: the non-profiled. We saw this after 9/11, in the assaults and discriminations against innocent Americans who happened to be Muslim. And two, it establishes the same worldview in the minds of “them”: Muslims. This increases anti-American sentiment among Muslims. This reduces our security, less because it creates terrorists—although I’m sure it is one of the things that pushes a marginal terrorist over the line—and more that a higher anti-American sentiment in the Muslim community is a more fertile ground for terrorist groups to recruit and operate. Making sure the vast majority of Muslims who are not terrorists are part of the “us” fighting terror, just as the vast majority of honest citizens work together in fighting crime, is a security benefit.

Like many of the other things we’ve discussed here, we can debate how big the costs and benefits I just described are, or we can simplify our system and stop worrying about it.

One final cost. Security isn’t the only thing we’re trying to optimize; there are other values at stake here. There’s a reason profiling is often against the law, and that’s because it is contrary to our country’s values. Sometimes we might have to set aside those values, but not for this.

To Profile or Not to Profile? (Thanks, Deborah!)

Sealed evidence from the Byron Sonne trial

Denise Balkisoon, who did a great job covering the Byron Sonne trial writes, "If you're not tired of G20 hacker/accused bomber Byron Sonne yet, the details of his pre-trial are now no longer under publication ban. I'm doing two posts on Open File with details, this is the first. Includes the police statement as to why they lied about his jaywalking to get his ID: 'If he didn't do anything wrong, why wouldn't he give me his name?,' said officer Euane Simon. 'An ordinary person would not be that defensive.'

Sonne, of course, was Toronto's "G20 hacker," a security expert whose life was destroyed by Toronto cops and the Canadian prosecutor when he pointed out the stupidity of the $1.2B G20 security theater.

Witness: Officer Irvin Albrecht, forensic identification officer
Albrecht presented videos and photos from the search of Sonne’s then-home at 58 Elderwood Drive. He noted, among other things, “computer hacker convention passes” on lanyards. He also noted a “suspected homemade detonator,” a device that figured highly in Sonne’s two denials of bail.

“How was that identified as such?” asked Peter Copeland, another of Sonne’s lawyers.

Albrecht said that he identified the “detonator” during his initial walk through the scene with a Sergeant Gibson. He also “came across similar looking items” in his later reading.

Later, Gavin Edison of the Centre for Forensic Sciences identified the “suspected homemade detonator” as a thermocouple, otherwise known as a fancy thermometer.

Witness: Corporal Richard Plume, RCMP
Searched Sonne’s parents cottage in Midland. He turned the compressed air “potato cannons” that earned Sonne a dangerous weapons charge over to the Guns and Gangs task force. Plume and others shot wadded up paper towels out of the cannons in the Guns and Gangs parking lot.

What we couldn't say about the Byron Sonne trial, Part I (Thanks, Denise!)

TSA frisks actual (but likely harmless) mass murdering serial bomber

Henry Kissinger's wheelchair considered harmful: "Kissinger was taken to the search area, was required to stand, and was given the 'full Monty.'"

Reflections on the acquittal of Byron Sonne

Yesterday, Byron Sonne was acquitted of all charges against him. Sonne is the Toronto-area security researcher who pointedly demonstrated the inadequacy and incoherence of the heavy-handed, $1.2B security arrangements for the G20 summit in 2010. Denise Balkissoon has done some of the best reporting on the bizarre trial that followed (after Sonne spent nearly a year in jail), and now she's got good commentary on the acquittal:

“Byron Sonne, you’re a free man,” said one of his lawyers, Joe DiLuca, as Sonne stood outside the courthouse.

“I can be a moron again on the internet,” Sonne said, as he ripped up court documents that listed the bail conditions—including a curfew and not using a cellphone—that he has lived with since May 2011...

Later on the day of the verdict, in Kensington Market, Sonne stood having a cigarette and discussing Anonymous and Gandhi with Alex Hundert, who pled guilty to counselling to commit mischief during the G20. “They took a somewhat radical person like me and said, ‘Let’s put the guy in jail with real radicals,'” said Sonne, who was not involved with organized activists in advance of the summit. “I’m not interested in playing by the rules anymore.”

Sonne said he intends to help non-technologically savvy activists learn to encrypt their computers and online communications. Police were unable to unencrypt one of Sonne’s hard drives, which led the Crown to argue that it must contain nefarious plans. “There’s nothing on there that wasn’t on my other computers,” said Sonne, who said he encrypted it for travelling over the U.S. border. “But it’s good to know that the technology works.”

Sonne aims to get back the computer security certification that was suspended during his arrest, and wants to start rebuilding his professional network.

Sounds like he needs a job. Toronto-area readers, take note!

Here's our previous Sonne posts.

Byron Sonne, found not guilty on all charges, has plans for the future (Thanks, Denise!)

Byron Sonne is an innocent man

Twitter's #freebyron hashtag is alive with the news that Byron Sonne, the Toronto-area security expert who was incarcerated and treated as a terrorist for pointing out and making fun of the security flaws in the $1.2B security scheme for the Toronto G20 summit, has been found Not Guilty on all counts.

A moment of sanity from the Canadian judicial system, and all it cost was Sonne's marriage, house, and freedom.

Here's our earlier Sonne pieces.

#freebyron

Newark Airport security supervisor assumed murdered man's identity for 2 decades

Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole, a security supervisor at Newark airport, lived a double life for 20 years using the identity of the victim in an unsolved murder.

Since 1992, the undocumented Nigerian immigrant worked at EWR as Jerry Thomas, a man who was killed that same year in New York City. Oyewole continued to live as Thomas undetected for two decades, while overseeing security matters at one of America's busiest airports.

According to the Associated Press report, "the private security guards he supervised are responsible for manning TSA security checkpoints after passenger gates close for the evening and before they reopen in the morning. The guards also inspect delivery vehicles for possible unauthorized cargo."

Oops.

(Photo: Newark Liberty International Airport; courtesy Port Authority of NY and NJ.)

TSA orders baby off plane

An 18 month-old toddler was ordered off a plane Tuesday at Ft. Lauderdale airport, after TSA representatives told airline employees they wanted to "speak" to her.

Riyanna's father was flabbergasted. "It's absurd," he said. "It made no sense. Why would an 18-month-old child be on a no-fly list?" Riyanna's parents, who asked not to be identified, said they think they know the answer to that question. They believe they were profiled because they are both of Middle Eastern descent.

They were detained for 30 minutes; no apology was forthcoming for the humiliating theatrics. The airline, JetBlue, says that the TSA asked for the baby's removal and that both it and the agency were investigating. The TSA said, however, that the event was an "airline issue" and that it was not investigating it at all.

Baby, 18 months old, ordered off plane at Fort Lauderdale airport [WBPF]

TSA waste and corruption: the greatest hits

Some highlights from the House Oversight Committee's report on the TSA's finance, courtesy of TechDirt:

* As of February 15, 2012, the total value of TSA’s equipment in storage was, according to TSA officials, estimated at $184 million. However, when questioned by Committee staff, TSA’s warehouse staff and procurement officials were unable to provide the total value of equipment in storage.
* Committee staff discovered that 85% of the approximately 5,700 major transportation security equipment currently warehoused at the TLC had been stored for longer than six months; 35% of the equipment had been stored for more than one year. One piece of equipment had been in storage more than six years – 60% of its useful life.
* As of February 2012, Committee staff discovered that TSA had 472 Advanced Technology 2 (AT2) carry-on baggage screening machines at the TLC and that more than 99% have remained in storage for more than nine months; 34% of AT2s have been stored for longer than one year.
* TSA knowingly purchased more Explosive Trace Detectors (ETDs) than were necessary in order to receive a bulk discount under an incorrect and baseless assumption that demand would increase. TSA management stated: “[w]e purchased more than we needed in order to get a discount...

* TSA intentionally delayed Congressional oversight of the Transportation Logistics Center and provided inaccurate, incomplete, and potentially misleading information to Congress in order to conceal the agency’s continued mismanagement of warehouse operations..
* TSA willfully delayed Congressional oversight of the agency’s Transportation Logistics Center twice in a failed attempt to hide the disposal of approximately 1,300 pieces of screening equipment from its warehouses in Dallas, Texas, prior to the arrival of Congressional staff..
* TSA potentially violated 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001, by knowingly providing an inaccurate warehouse inventory report to Congressional staff that accounted for the disposal of equipment that was still in storage at the TLC during a site visit by Congressional staff..
* TSA provided Congressional staff with a list of disposed equipment that falsely identified disposal dates and directly contradicted the inventory of equipment in the Quarterly Warehouse Inventory Report provided to Committee staff on February 13, 2012.

Congress: The TSA Is Wasting Hundreds Of Millions In Taxpayer Dollars

Leaked DHS memo: Pornoscanners don't work


$90 million later, after a series of humiliating demonstrations, and critical analysis, an unclassified memo shows that the DHS suspects what everyone else knows: pornoscanners don't work. Here's David Kravets in Threat Level:

Meanwhile, an unclassified version of the Inspector General report, unearthed Friday by the Electronic Information Privacy Center, may give credence to a recent YouTube video allegedly showing a 27-year-old Florida man sneaking a metallic object through two different Transportation Security Administration body scanners at American airports.

The TSA agreed with all of the Inspector General’s recommendations. The Inspector General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In March, meanwhile, a TSA spokeswoman said “These machines are safe” when asked to address a video by Jonathan Corbett, of Miami Beach, who allegedly had discovered a method tobeat the body scanners, which number 600 and are in about 140 U.S. airports. A brief YouTube video allegedly shows Corbett, who had sewn a pocket to the side of his shirt, getting past two body scanners with a metallic object in that pocket.

Homeland Security Concedes Airport Body Scanner ‘Vulnerabilities’

TSA saves America from 16yo diabetic, breaks $10K insulin pump which totally could have been a bomb

You probably thought we covered all possible scenarios of TSA stupidity in our recent round-up post.

You thought wrong.

Via MSNBC today, the story of Savannah Barry, a 16-year-old diabetic girl who says the TSA broke her insulin pump. Savannah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago, and her pump is a specialized medical device that can cost up to $10,000 to replace, according to MSNBC.

Snip:

The Colorado teenager says TSA screeners forced her to go through a full-body scanner in Salt Lake City last week, breaking her $10,000 insulin pump in the process. According to Sandra Barry, Savannah’s mother, her daughter was coming home from a school trip when screeners required to her to go through a full-body scanner despite the fact that the girl had a doctor’s note describing her condition and stating that she should be given a pat-down rather than subjected to screening machines.

“Believe me, being 16 and female, she probably doesn’t want the pat-down but she knows that this is what’s required,” Sandra Barry told msnbc.com. “She tried to advocate for herself and they just shut her down.”

Read the rest

Immigration and Customs Enforcement intelligence chief James M. Woosley pleads guilty to massive fraud

 Files Imagecache Image Medium James-Woosley-Md 0-1 After we learned this week about how rotten the DEA and TSA are, we can also add Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the list of corrupt government entities: "James M. Woosley, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intelligence chief, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to an elaborate scam over several years involving false travel expense reports totaling nearly $600,000."

Today James Woosley became the fifth — and highest-ranking — individual to plead guilty as part of a series of fraud schemes among rogue employees and contractors at ICE,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. “He abused his sensitive position of trust to fleece the government by submitting phony paperwork for and taking kickbacks from subordinates who were also on the take.”

(Via The Agitator)

This week in TSA awfulness: a recap of recent American airport atrocities

Cue up the Yakity Sax! In case you missed it, there have been a number of Boing Boing posts of late documenting outrageous TSA incidents:

• A terminal in Newark airport was evacuated because the TSA forgot to screen a tiny baby.
• TSA agents discovered an "anomaly in the crotchital area" of a 79-year-old woman.
• TSA agents at JFK harassed the family of a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and developmental disability.
• TSA screeners in LA ran a drug ring and took bribes from drug dealers.
• The TSA's anti-hugging squad caught a terrorist masquerading as a 4-year-old girl who loves her grandma.
• A 95-year-old US Air Force veteran from World War II and his 85-year-old friend were humiliated, searched and robbed at a San Diego TSA checkpoint.

Did we miss anything else in the past week or so? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com

TSA agents discover "anomaly in crotch area" of 79-year-old woman

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports that his 79-year-old mother-in-law triggered a TSA pornoscanner at Washington Reagan airport last week, and was then asked by a TSA officer to explain what was the matter with her crotch:

She entered the machine and struck the humiliating pose one is forced to strike -- hands up, as in an armed robbery -- and then walked out, when she was asked by a TSA agent, in a voice loud enough for several people to hear, "Are you wearing a sanitary napkin?"

Remember, she's 79.

My mother-in-law answered, "No. Why do you ask?"

The TSA agent responded: "Well, are you wearing anything else down there?"

Yes, "down there."

She said no, at which point, the friend with whom she was traveling, also a not-young volunteer library advocate, came over and asked if there was a problem.

The TSA agent said, again, in full voice, "There's an anomaly in the crotch area."

This is, of course, a painful post for me to write. Like most normal American men, I don't want to see the words "my mother-in-law" and "crotch area" in the same paragraph. But let me go on anyway.

My mother-in-law said, "As far as I know I don't have any anomalies in the crotch area."

The TSA agent told her she would have to go through the scanner again. She demurred, saying she didn't like the machine very much. The agent told her she could opt for a pat-down. My mother-in-law refused to be frisked, figuring, correctly, that "they were going to pat-down my crotch area. I mean, there wasn't an anomaly in the chest area."

TSA to My Mother-in-Law: 'There's an Anomaly in the Crotch Area' (Via The Agitator)

UK Border Authority orders Heathrow to suppress evidence of massive customs queues


The UK Border Authority has ordered Heathrow Airport's management to stop handing out leaflets apologising for the gigantic customs queues at its terminals and advising them to contact UKBA to complain. UKBA has also ordered the airport to stop passengers from documenting these queues with photographs. I came into Heathrow T5 on April 13, and was stuck in an hour-long line just to get into the customs hall, where we were sorted into EU/non-EU passports, and took a picture or two. At the time, uniformed employees were telling us that non-EU passport holders could expect to wait five hours to clear customs. The Guardian's Ben Quinn reports:

The airport operator was also told to prevent passengers taking pictures in the arrivals hall, according to the Daily Telegraph, which obtained correspondence from Marc Owen, director of UKBA operations at Heathrow. Pictures of lengthy queues have been posted on Twitter by frustrated travellers.

Owen said: "The leaflet … is both inflammatory and likely to increase tensions in arrivals halls especially in the current atmosphere. It is inappropriate in that it is not for you to display how to complain on our behalf. Please refrain from handing out [the leaflets] or I will escalate [the matter] with ministers who are likely to take a very dim view. I know there are copies in the hall and your troops are ready with them."

Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour's aviation spokesman, said: "This is a pure coverup. I can understand people wanting to take pictures of the queues. This is further evidence of Border Force trying to hide the severity of the problem.

"Passengers need to know how to register complaints and for Border Force to try to prevent them doing so is outrageous."

UKBA accused of covering up airport delays

Newark Terminal C evacuated because TSA forgot to screen a tiny baby

The Port Authority Police and/or the TSA (they blame each other) at Newark Airport evacuated Terminal C on Friday because a tiny, little, itty-bitty baby didn't get screened (Mom passed the kid to Dad, got screened, and then they swapped). When the TSA's ever-vigilant anti-hugging squad figured out what had happened, the terminal was evacuated. But the mom, dad, and baby were never found. They had already taken to the air, and they may be there still. This is a stark reminder of the grave, existential risk that the TSA protects us from every day. When I think of the unscreened baby somewhere airside, circulating through America's aviation system, well, it gives me chills. I don't think I'll ever feel safe again.

Newark Airport Terminal Evacuated Over Unchecked Baby

TSA agents harass 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and developmental disability

The Transportation Security Administration launched the “TSA Cares” program to assist disabled fliers just four months ago, but a story making the rounds today proves that the TSA definitely does not. The Frank family was traveling from New York City's JFK airport to Florida, and were abruptly pulled aside after a dispute over how their 7-year-old daughter Dina was screened. The child is developmentally disabled and has cerebral palsy. She walks with crutches and leg braces.

Read the rest