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."
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 - 
Signs NDAA 2011 (and 2012, and 2013) - 
Appeals the Federal Court decision that “indefinite detention” is unconstitutional - 
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" - 
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 - 
Protects Bush’s war crimes as State Secrets -   
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 -
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.
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]
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]
Taking Sense Away is the aptly named blog allegedly maintained by an anonymous former TSA screener. It delves into the kinds of shenanigans that go on in the image operator room where they get to see what you look like naked in the pornoscanner ("a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers"); a glossary of TSA insider jargon ("BBC: Bogus Bag Check, or Bullshit Bag Check. What happens when a not-too-bright x-ray operator decides to call a bag search."), and many other useful and enlightening posts.
This PBS NewsHour story by Miles O'Brien (which I worked on, as a shooter/producer) breaks it down.
Here's the deal: The devices branded "Rapiscan" that look like a blue box are the backscatter devices. These are the controversial devices that emit ionizing radiation (though exactly how much, and whether that's safe, is debatable). They also store and transmit very clearly invasive images of your naked body.
The millimiter wave machines made by L3 that look like a Tardis do not emit ionizing radiation. By all means, go ahead and opt out of those too, if privacy and civil liberties are your primary concern and you believe these searches violate your rights. But the Rapiscan devices are the ones that cause radiation exposure health concerns, not the L3 millimeter wave devices.
Again, the Rapiscan backscatter machines (which cost our government around $200K each) are the ones that emit ionizing radiation and create an invasively clear image of your body ("pornoscanners"). The L3 millimeter wave devices do not.
As ProPublica reports, the Rapiscan devices are quietly disappearing from major airports in the US and showing up in storage warehouses. Nobody in the civilian world is really certain what's going on, but it does appear that the TSA/DHS are retiring the Rapiscan devices for which we taxpayers paid billions.
(Thanks for the explainer, Miles O'Brien!)
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!)
Geoffrey McGann, a southern California artist, was arrested at Oakland airport for wearing an assemblage sculpture/watch he'd made. The TSA were also worried because he had a lot of insoles in his shoes. He was eventually released on $150,000 bail.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- A Southern California man was arrested at Oakland International Airport after security officers found him wearing an unusual watch they said could be used to make a timing device for a bomb, authorities said Friday... McGann told Transportation Security Administration officers that he's an artist and the watch is art, Nelson said.
Geoffrey McGann, Man With Strange Watch, Arrested At Oakland Airport [AP] (Thanks to everyone who suggested this!)
Rapiscan, makers of the naked-scanner technology used in many US airports, are in a lot of trouble. The TSA has accused them of falsifying their tests results on the software that supposedly protects flier privacy by rendering them as cartoon characters with suspicious blobs wherever the scanner's image-processor thinks they belong. If convicted, the execs at Rapiscan could go to jail, and the company would be assessed for stiff fines and be barred from any future government contracting. Here's more from Wired's Kim Zetter:
DHS has spent about $90 million replacing traditional magnetometers with the controversial body-scanning machines.
Rapiscan has a contract to produce 500 machines for the TSA at a cost of about $180,000 each. The company could be fined and barred from participating in government contracts, or employees could face prison terms if it is found to have defrauded the government.
It’s not the first time Rapiscan has been at the center of testing problems with the machines. The company previously had problems with a “calculation error” in safety tests that showed the machines were emitting radiation levels that were 10 times higher than expected.
It turned out the company’s technicians weren’t following protocol in conducting the tests. They were supposed to test radiation levels of machines in the field 10 times in a row, and then divide the results by 10 to produce an average radiation measurement. But the testers failed to divide the results by 10, producing false numbers.
Dave sez, "The National Opt Out and Film Week, a new campaign designed to expose the abusive policies of the TSA, is set to launch during Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel times of the year -- and the TSA might not be able to stop it."
Supporters of Opt Out and Film Week are encouraged to film TSA activities at their local airport -- even if they are not flying -- and upload the videos to Youtube and other sites. According to the TSA website, filming TSA agents and security checkpoints is not illegal, as long as it does not interfere with security procedures....
... "The reasoning behind a National Opt-Out Week is this: If the TSA decides to shut down its scanners in response to the protest, as it allegedly did in 2010, activists would have ample opportunity to document the action over a period of a week," Elliott wrote in an article for the Huffington Post. "TSA critics would then have more than enough evidence to prove that these scans and pat-downs are a false choice and do practically nothing to improve our safety."
TSA inspectors get a larger annual clothing allowance than Marine lieutenants get through their whole careers
TSA "officers" have a new deal: awesome new clothes to wear while they touch your genitals.
Under their new collective bargaining agreement, Transportation Security Administration officers get to spend more taxpayer money on their uniforms every year than a United States Marine Corps lieutenant can spend in a lifetime.
“TSA employees will see their uniform allowances nearly double to $446 per year,” the House Transportation Committee noted in a press release on the TSA’s new collective bargaining agreement. “By comparison, a combat Marine Lieutenant receives a one-time uniform allowance of $400. The cost of the increase in TSA uniform allowance is an estimated $9.63 million annually.”
TSA uniform perks more expensive than Marine Corps (Thanks, Marilyn!)