Boing Boing 

An accountable algorithm for running a secure random checkpoint

Ed Felten presents and argues for the idea of "accountable algorithms" for use in public life -- that is, "output produced by a particular execution of the algorithm can be verified as correct after the fact by a skeptical member of the public."

He gives a great example of how to run a securely random TSA checkpoint where, at the end of each day, the public can open a sealed envelope and verify that the TSA was using a truly fair random selection method, and not just picking people they didn't like the look of:

Now we can create our accountable selection method. First thing in the morning, before the security checkpoint opens, the TSA picks a random value R and commits it. Now the TSA knows R but the public doesn’t. Immediately thereafter, TSA officials roll dice, in public view, to generate another random value S. Now the TSA adds R+S and makes that sum the key K for the day.

Now, when you arrive at the checkpoint, you announce your name N, and the TSA uses the selection function to compute S(K, N). The TSA announces the result, and if it’s “yes,” then you get searched. You can’t anticipate whether you’ll be searched, because that depends on the key K, which depends on the TSA’s secret value R, which you don’t know.

At the end of the day, the TSA opens its commitment to R. Now you can verify that the TSA followed the algorithm correctly in deciding whether to search you. You can add the now-public R to the already-public S, to get the day’s (previously) secret key K. You can then evaluate the selection function S(K,N) with your name N–replicating the computation that the TSA did in deciding whether to search you. If the result you get matches the result the TSA announced earlier, then you know that the TSA did their job correctly. If it doesn’t match, you know the TSA cheated–and when you announce that they cheated, anybody can verify that your accusation is correct.

This method prevents the TSA from creating a non-random result. The reason the TSA cannot do this is that the key K is based on result of die-rolling, which is definitely random. And the TSA cannot have chosen its secret value R in a way that neutralized the effect of the random die-rolls, because the TSA had to commit to its choice of R because the dice were rolled. So citizens know that if they were chosen, it was because of randomness and not any TSA bias.

Accountable Algorithms: An Example

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

White House TSA petition goes dark as it nears the finish line, disappears when the lights come back on

A White House petition about the TSA's screening procedures was 90 percent of the way to completion when Wired ran a story giving it a final push. The White House's petition site went down for unannounced maintenance, and when it came back up, the petition had "expired" -- though the Electronic Privacy Information Center says it still had time left on the clock:

At approximately 11:30 am EDT, the White House removed a petition about the TSA airport screening procedures from the White House "We the People" website. About 22,500 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the Administration were obtained when the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition. The site also went down for "maintenance" following an article in Wired that sought support for the campaign.

White House Pulls Down TSA Petition (via /.)

Update: The petition's creator reportedly disputes EPIC's version of the timeline, saying that the petition had run out its time during the outage.

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

Portland's "Naked American Hero" not guilty!

Here's the live blog recap of Boing Boing reader John Brennan's trial for taking his clothes off in protest at a TSA screening checkpoint at the Portland Airport. John was found not guilty -- hurray!

NewImage10:40am — The first witness is in the case is TSA officer Steven Van Gordon, who relayed the story of Brennan opting out of the full body scanner, requiring him to walk through a metal detector and get a pat down. Brennan didn't raise any protest when Van Gordon patted him down. But when Van Gordon tested his gloves after the pat down, the computer detected "nitrates" on the gloves and Van Gordon told Brennan he'd need additional screening. That's when Brennan got upset and said, "I guess I have to show you that I don't have anything" and stripped totally nude.

"He whipped them off pretty fast," said Van Gordon.

"Were you able to see his genitalia?" asked the prosecuting attorney.

"Yes," said Van Gordon. While the TSA officers called Port police, the crew stacked plastic bins around Brennan to shield his nudity from passing passengers who'd begun pointing and taking cell phone pictures.

When port police arrived and asked Brennan to get dressed, that's when the Naked American Hero said he was protesting and that he was protected under Oregon's nudity laws.

The prosecutor seems to be painting the picture that Brennan wasn't legitimately protesting because he didn't raise any issue during the pat down and wasn't wearing any sort of written message—like painting his chest with some words of protest—admonishing the TSA.

Portland's "Naked American Hero" not guilty!

Read the rest

Giant infographic reveals TSA to be the worst thing ever made by humankind

Screen Shot 2012 07 18 at 3 24 53 PM


Two clippings from an attractive infographic that presents a great deal of damning information about the TSA.

Screen Shot 2012 07 18 at 3 20 44 PM

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 agent pokes fingers in ashes of traveler's dead grandfather, spills them on floor, cackles

Indianapolis resident John Gross was going through TSA security in the Orlando, Florida airport, carrying the cremated ashes of his Sicilian grandfather "in a tightly sealed jar marked 'Human Remains." TSA rules say that this sort of material in carry-on baggage must be labeled, and go through the X-ray machine, but that human remains are to be opened under “no circumstances.” Guess what happened? According to Gross, an idiot TSA agent ignored the agency's own rules, and caused the ashes to be spilled on the terminal floor.

"They opened up my bag, and I told them, 'Please, be careful. These are my grandpa's ashes,'" Gross told RTV6's Norman Cox. "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."

Gross says about a quarter to a third of the contents spilled on the floor, leaving him frantically trying to gather up as much as he could while anxious passengers waited behind him.

"She didn't apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments. I couldn't pick up all, everything that was lost. I mean, there was a long line behind me."

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)

Toddler kicked off plane after iPad deprivation tantrum

A family from Washington state had to cancel an island vacation when their flight was grounded after their 3-year-old son pitched a tantrum.

The toddler had been quietly playing with an iPad while waiting for the plane to take off, the father said. When the iPad was taken away—you know how all electronics must be stowed during takeoff and landing—all hell broke loose.

Read the rest

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.'"

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

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

Naked airport guy is a happy mutant and is fighting the bogus charge against him

John Brennan, who calmly took his clothes off at the Portland Airport to show TSA officers he was not carrying a bomb (he tested positive for explosives) told Fox News he is going to court to fight indecent exposure charges. Prosecutors indicated they'd let him off the hook if he wrote a letter of apology, but since is perfectly legal to go naked in Oregon, John is choosing to fight the charges. John told the smirking Fox reporter:

201205041558The government has been slowly eroding our rights and this is one way I could stand up and say "in the balance between my right to privacy and other rights that I have under the Constitution the TSA was going a bit too far." We need to have safe skies and I need to have a right to privacy, and as the pendulum is swinging away from my right to privacy I took a stand.


John and I have been exchanging emails and I've learned that he is one of us: a long-time Boing Boing reader and a happy mutant. We are very proud of him. Go John!

Airport stripper chooses court over apology [Image: Dan Carino, Seattle Weekly]

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

Screwed by the TSA? Now there's an app for that.

Via the BB Submitterator, BB reader rbrammer says:

The Sikh Coalition just released the FlyRights app. It’s a smart phone app that gives travelers who believe they’ve been the victim of discrimination by the TSA the ability to submit formal complaints directly from their smart phones. You should have this on your phone the next time you fly!

Available for both Android and iOS. Makes perfect sense to me that a Sikh organization would be the one to put this together, given all of the idiot-hate that community has received post-9/11.

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)

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

TSA screeners in LA ran drug ring, took narco bribes


Photo: Reuters. A man is screened with a backscatter x-ray machine at an LAX TSA checkpoint.

Four present and past security screeners at LAX took 22 payments of up to $2400 each to let large shipments of coke, meth, and pot slip through baggage X-ray machines. Oh, we are so very, very shocked.

In one incident detailed in the 40-page indictment (Link), screeners plotted to allow eight pounds of crystal meth to get through—then one of them ducked into an airport men's room where he was handed $600, the second payment for that delivery.

Read the rest

Who did the TSA terrorize today? A 4-year-old girl. Why? She hugged her grandma.

PHOTO: Snapshot by Lori Croft of her 4-year-old granddaughter Isabella Brademeyer, in Wichita, Kan., where she was a flower girl at her uncle’s wedding. The child was harassed by TSA goons on the way back from that family event, for the crime of hugging her granny.


Earlier this week on Boing Boing, Cory blogged about a 95-year-old Air Force veteran who was robbed of $300 at a TSA checkpoint. After picking on the elderly, today the TSA is bullying children. A 4-year-old girl who was upset during a TSA screening at the Wichita, KS airport was forced to undergo a manual pat-down after hugging her grandmother. Agents yelled at the child, and called her an uncooperative suspect.

Nope, we're not making this up.

The child's mom, Michelle Brademeyer of Montana, shared the incident in a public Facebook post last week, and the story has since spread widely.

“They didn’t explain anything and she did not know what was going on,” the grandmother told the Associated Press. “She saw people grabbing at her and raising their voices. To her, someone was trying to kidnap her or harm her in some way.”

Think the TSA has apologized? Nah. The agency is defending its agents, despite promised changes in operational standards to "reduce pat-downs of children."

Read the rest

TSA Pre-Check reviewed

Choire Sicha: "I GIVE TSA PRECHECK AN A+++ IN AWESOMENESS. Though I also give it a D- in 'Constitutional and Human Fairness Issues.'"

95 year old veteran and 85-year-old friend humiliated, searched and robbed at San Diego TSA checkpoint

Omer Petti is a 95-year-old USAF veteran with artificial knees and a heart condition. Madge Woodward, his partner, has an artificial hip. They recently flew home to Detroit from San Diego, and were humiliated and robbed at the San Diego airport TSA checkpoint. The metal in their bodies set off the TSA magnetometer, and Petti was instructed to put his $300 in cash in a bin. Then he was further detained when a swab detected the nitroglycerin residue from his heart pills. He and Woodward were subjected to humiliating patdowns, and then discovered that their $300 had gone missing. When Petti asked where his money had gone, the TSA agent required he and Woodward to remove their shoes again and empty out their pockets, and asked if they were "refusing his request" when they objected. The TSA manager checked the security footage, but reported that it was "too blurry" to see what had happened to the money. The two elderly people were loaded into their wheelchairs and taken to their plane at full tilt, barely making it. They never got their money back.

"Can you imagine an 85-year-old lady and 95-year-old retired Air Force Major in wheelchairs being treated like terrorists?" Petti asked recently sitting in the kitchen of the Bloomfield Township home he shares with Woodward.

On March 29 Petti and Woodward arrived at the San Diego International airport at 10 a.m. for a flight scheduled to leave at 11:36 a.m. As usual, Petti and Woodward removed their shoes, jackets and sweaters and put these along with their other belongings — belt buckles, carry on bags, purse and jewelry, including Petti's money clip — into a total of four rubber bins.

Petti says a security officer asked him to remove Kleenex and $300 in folded bills that he had in his pocket and send it through the detector. "I hesitated and said: 'You really want me to put my bills in there?' " Petti said. The officer said yes, so Petti put the cash into a fifth bin. Then he and Woodward proceeded through the metal detector.

Seniors get the TSA runaround, lose $300 (Thanks, ROSSINDETROIT!)

TSA program to turn jumped-up mall cops into mind-readers didn't work

Bruce Schneier commented this morning on the Government Accounting Office's assessment of the TSA's "behavior detection" program, which is like the pick-up artist movement for creepy security agencies. Behavioral detection is a mishmash of pseudoscience, woo-y stuff like neurolinguistic programming, wishful thinking and witch-hunting that holds that you can train squadrons of jumped-up mall-cops to be mind-reading anti-terror ninjas who can look into your eyes and know whether you're a bad guy.

Bruce's post was so great that I just emailed him and said, "Hey, rather than trying to summarize what you wrote, can I just republish it?" And he graciously said yes. Here it is:

Interesting data from the U.S. Government Accounting Office:

But congressional auditors have questions about other efficiencies as well, like having 3,000 "behavior detection" officers assigned to question passengers. The officers sidetracked 50,000 passengers in 2010, resulting in the arrests of 300 passengers, the GAO found. None turned out to be terrorists.

Yet in the same year, behavior detection teams apparently let at least 16 individuals allegedly involved in six subsequent terror plots slip through eight different airports. GAO said the individuals moved through protected airports on at least 23 different occasions.

I don't believe the second paragraph. We haven't had six terror plots between 2010 and today. And even if we did, how would the auditors know? But I'm sure the first paragraph is correct: the behavioral detection program is 0% effective at preventing terrorism.

The rest of the article is pretty depressing. The TSA refuses to back down on any of its security theater measures. At the same time, its budget is being cut and more people are flying. The result: longer waiting times at security.

TSA Behavioral Detection Statistics

Naked Portlandian man protests TSA screening injustice through nakedness

A bearded gentleman in Portland, Oregon who was upset about being "harassed by airport security" took off all of his clothes while in the TSA screening lane Tuesday evening. He was arrested, taken to jail, and held on $4,000 bail.

According to Portland police, John E. Brennan took off his clothes while going through airport screening at Portland International Airport just after 5:30 p.m. and stood naked before other passengers, including children. Two screening lanes were closed as a result. Some passengers covered their eyes as well as their children's and retreated from the sight. But others laughed and began snapping photos.

(...) Said Brennan's father, also John Brennan, when reached by KATU News Tuesday night: "This is quite a shock. He hasn't been under any stress that I know of. He's never really under any stress. He works for a computer company in California. He does something with the Internet, which is just kind of mystical to me. This is quite a surprise."

Interviewed today by a Portland TV news program, Mr. Brennan (who has participated in Portland's Naked Bike Rides before) says he felt it was "the right thing to do." He is a frequent flyer who must travel often for his job (in San Jose, CA, I gather?), and he is tired of the TSA's junk-touching ways.

Oh, laugh all you want. And, sure, it's been done before. But this dude is my hero.

Photo: Brian Reilly, via KOMO News

TSA Blog boasts of nabbing soup smuggler

Tsa-Confiscated
Our close personal friend at the TSA, Blogger Bob, gave a rundown of prohibited items confiscated by his fellow officers on the front lines of the War on Terror.
Concealed Knife – A knife was found zip-tied to the inner workings of a bag handle at Cedar Rapids (CID). Clever, but no match for our officers and technology.

Chicken Soup for Your Pants? – Officers found a can of soup in a Las Vegas passenger’s carry-on bag. When told that it couldn’t go through because of the liquids rule (it was more than 3.4 ounces), the passenger said they would put the soup in their checked baggage. But when the passenger returned to the checkpoint, officers saw that the passenger had tried to hide the soup in their pants. No soup for them.

Derringer in a Dopp Kit – A Derringer was found amongst everyday toiletry items in a dopp kit at San Diego (SAN). I don’t think you could trim your nails, but I bet you could knick yourself if you shaved with it.

Stun Pen – I’ve often heard that the pen can be mightier than the sword. Well, in this case that statement is pretty close to being true. A stun-pen was found on a passenger at Chicago Midway (MDW).

Bad Kitty – Known as a black cat, or cat eyes, this seemingly harmless kitty cat becomes a punching weapon when your fingers are inserted in its eyes. It's cute little pointy cat ears are designed to puncture and rip flesh.

Belt Buckle Knife – A belt buckle knife was found was found on a passenger during screening at Akron (CAK). Holy utility belt, Batman, good thing you didn’t bring your batarang and grappling gun.

More Grenades – An inert grenade was found this week in a checked bag at Salt Lake City (SLC). Another was found in a carry-on bag at San Diego (SAN) and it had a 1" knife concealed inside it.
TSA Week in Review: Knife Zip-Tied to Handle of Bag