In Jason Edward Harrington's Dear America, I Saw You Naked, he reveals that he was the anonymous TSA agent who wrote the Taking Sense Away tell-all/whistleblower blog. Harrington's piece is a shocking and eye-opening look into the world of TSA agents, especially the section dealing with the "IO room" where the nude photos of travellers who used the Rapiscan machines were displayed:
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UK Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron says that ISPs and phone companies should be required to store records of every click you make, every conversation you have, and every place you physically move through. He says that communications companies should be required to make it impossible to keep your communications from being eavesdropped in, with mandatory back-doors.
He says we need this law because "TV crime dramas illustrated the value of monitoring mobile data."
Remember the Snooper's Charter, the 2012 UK Conservative plan to require ISPs and phone companies to retain the records of all your calls and movements, and make them available to police and government without a warrant? Home Secretary Theresa May proposed an unlimited budget to pay ISPs to help spy on you, and called people who opposed this "conspiracy theorists" and said the only people who need freedom from total, continuous surveillance were "criminals, terrorists and paedophiles."
The Snooper's Charter was killed by a rebellion from Libdem MPs, who rejected the plan. Now it's back, just as the public are starting to have a debate about electronic spying thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent to which our online habits are already illegally surveilled by government spies. Let's hope that the Snowden revelations -- and the US government's admission that mass spying never caught a terrorist or foiled a terrorism attempt -- strangles this Cameron brainchild in its cradle.
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Kevin C Pyle and Scott Cunningham's non-fiction, book-length comic Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun! is a marvellous and infuriating history of censorship, zero-tolerance, helicopter parenting, and the war on kids.
The comics form turns out to be just perfect for presenting this material. The book opens with a history of the fight over comics publishing in America, where the liar Frederic Wertham and his Seduction of the Innocents hoax led to a harsh regime of comics censorship, book banning, book burning, and decades of pseudoscientific vilification and dismissal of artists and the young people who loved their work. Presenting this story in a comics form only drives home how wrong Wertham and the Comics Code Authority were.
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Reason's video enumerating the TSA's "12 Banned Items of Christmas" is a perfect, acerbic and funny list of the most egregiously stupid and arbitrary rules for American fliers. And as they point out, the TSA has never stopped a terrorist attack. But so long as we're prevented from carrying on guacamole (but permitted to carry on avocados) and permitted to carry on pies (but not pie filling(, I'm sure we'll be safe. And never forget this pro-tip: you can carry on as much liquid as you'd like so long as it is labelled "breast milk."
The TSA's 12 Banned Items of Christmas
In a photography forum, Surapon recounts the sad story of how the TSA took away his Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster, a blower for removing dust from equipment, at an airport in New York.
According to him, he was on his way back to North Carolina from Greece when the TSA flagged his camera-case for manual inspection. The TSA agent reportedly produced the rocket-shaped blower, and then he and a colleague grimly pronounced the dangers of this object, should it be filled with gunpowder and then launched like a rocket through the cockpit.
Since then, Surapon assiduously sliced the decorative fins off his blowers, and has had no further trouble from the TSA.
My New and Improve GIOTTOS Blower-for safety. (Thanks, Visionrouge!)
Two New York Times reporters are suing the DHS
, because the agency stopped them and questioned them extensively at the border, typing their answers into a computer, and then later insisted first that they weren't required to search for records, and then that they had no records at all on the men.
The sock monkey above is called "Rooster Monkburn," and he was created by Phillis May, who makes a sells sock monkeys. When Ms May and her husband traversed the TSA checkpoint at
SEA-TAC St Louis airport, an eagle-eyed TSA operative noticed that Rooster was sporting a sub-two-inch toy pistol, which she seized, threatening to call police. Altogether, now, everyone: U! S! A! U! S! A! U! S! A!
May said the TSA agent went through the bag, through the sewing supplies and found the two-inch long pistol.
“She said ‘this is a gun,’” said May. “I said no, it’s not a gun it’s a prop for my monkey.”
“She said ‘If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn’t know if it was real or not,’ and I said ‘really?’” said May.
The TSA agent told May she would have to confiscate the tiny gun and was supposed to call the police.
“I said well go ahead,” said May. “And I said really? You’re kidding me right, and she said no it looks like a gun.”
“She took my monkey’s gun,” said May, who has retained her sense of humor.
TSA agent confiscates sock monkey's toy pistol
[Susan Wyatt/King 5 News]
(Image: Phyllis May)
Phil writes, "Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project is doing a fantastic job of reporting on-site from Ibrahim v. DHS, the first legal challenge of United States government's no-fly list that has ever seen a courtroom. On the first day of trial, the judge learned that the plaintiff's daughter, scheduled to testify, was delayed because she had been denied boarding of her flight because she was put a Department of Homeland Security no-fly list. DHS staff deny this. The government's lawyers told the judge that the daughter is lying. The airline provided documentation of the DHS no-fly order. The subject matter of this trial is intense---restriction of movement based on blacklists---but there's no sign of an end to the jaw-dropping entertainment."
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Last March, Evan Booth presented a blockbuster talk at Kuala Lumpur's Hack the Box conference, explaining how to improvise lethal weapons from items in airport gift shops and duty-free stores. He's kept up the work since then on a website called Terminal Cornucopia, and he's presented 10 of his scariest weapons for a Wired story. And though the functional, breech-loading shotgun made from Red Bull cans, Axe body spray, and batteries (above) is impressive, it's only for beginners. There's also fragmentary grenades made from coffee tumblers, and a dart gun that uses braided condoms for its elastic.
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10 years and $900M later, the TSA's behavioral analysis program is a debacle. Here's the US Government Accountability Office on the program: "Ten years after the development of the SPOT program, TSA cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of its behavior detection activities. Until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose threat to aviation security, the agency risks funding activities [that] have not been determined to be effective."
Basically, the TSA has spent a decade and nearly a billion dollars reinventing phrenology. I feel safer already.
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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.
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The Arizona Republic has found a large cohort of elderly and retired people who claim to have been abused by TSA staff at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport. The passengers claim that they were required to remove their prostheses (particularly prosthetic breasts worn by cancer survivors), and that their objections were met with threats and hostility.
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More evidence that American travel is headed for a two-tier security theater
that is reasonable and light for rich people and business travellers, and increasingly awful and invasive for everyone else: as Pre-Check expands
, people who fly often enough to make it worth spending $85 will be able to keep shoes, jackets and belts on and avoid pornoscanners (including the new more radioactive versions
). Us dirty foreigners, as well as people who save carefully for one trip every couple of years to see their families, will get the ever-expanding Grand Guignol treatment, especially since everyone with any clout or pull will be over there in Pre-Check land, getting smiles and high-fives from the TSA.
A woman who valet-parked her car at Rochester airport returned to find a notice informing her that the valet had searched her car, on orders from the TSA. The TSA does not search cars in the other garages, and they do not provide notice to valet parkers that their cars are subject to search. The TSA says it searches the parked cars because they are stored close enough to the terminal that a bomb could do serious damage.
John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”
News10NBC went to the valet parking and one of the attendants showed us the notice they put in the cars.
We asked, “You're required, they tell you, you have to search the car?” Valet Parking Attendant Frank Dettorre said, “I have to do it.”
My prediction: the TSA will erect a sign at the valet drop-off saying, "By valet parking, you agree that we can search your car." And that will be the end of it. Because in the 21st century, posting a notice of your unreasonable conduct is the same as getting consent for it.
TSA searches valet parked car [Berkeley Brean/WHEC.com]
The TSA has launched an Instagram account, showing all the "dangerous items" they steal confiscate from air travellers. The message is clear: we are keeping you safe from in-flight danger.Read the rest
Things seem to be going well at the ACLU's day in court over the no-fly list
. The judge is pretty skeptical at the idea that using secret criteria to secretly limit the ability of Americans to fly (or board an ocean-going vessel) is consistent with democratic principles. "To call it 'convenience' is marginalizing their argument." -Judge Anna J. Brown
Two and a half years after
the TSA rolled out the nation's pornoscanners, they finally got around
to fulfilling their legal obligation to ask Americans how they felt about them. 97% don't want them
. Perhaps that's why they didn't want to ask. There were 4,321 responses.