Posts Tagged ‘tsa’

originally posted February 27th, 2012 on

Stories about TSA abuse litter the internet like confetti after a security theater parade. So the fact that Senator Schumer is proposing the addition of passenger advocates at TSA checkpoints is a serious step forward. Unfortunately, Schumer’s press release states that under his plan “TSA would train existing officers in dispute resolution and require the agency to have one TSA officer designated as the on-duty passenger advocate to assist fliers with concerns and complaints at all airports.”

While the passenger-advocate concept is laudable, the implementation defies logic. If the abuses come from within TSA, does it make any sense to continue to trust TSA to ameliorate their own problems?

Secondly, TSA has violated the public trust so deeply that it’s hard to imagine passengers trusting one TSA employee when they are being abused by another. A passenger advocate, from the passenger’s point of view, is just going to look like yet another TSA employee. Or, worse, passengers will continue to mistake the advocate for a law enforcement officer. This is already a  problem because TSA employees are called “officers” and given uniforms that resemble law enforcement uniforms, despite the fact that they are not law enforcement officers.

Finally, if TSA were capable of policing their own, they already would have done it. In order for any advocate to be effective in a checks and balances system, the advocate must have autonomy. Will a TSA passenger advocate employee really be able to stand up to their own boss if it is the supervisor who is being abusive? It’s too much to ask, knowing what we do about human nature and the inclination to submit to authority. Time to dust off the old Milgram study, once again.


by Ian Driscoll

The TSA’s had a rough week.

First they’re forced to stop groping the elderly, and then Matt and Trey lambast them on Comedy Central. I’ll wait, if you’d like to get out your violins.

The backlash from recent reports of the TSAs handling of passengers who are advanced in years led to a change in their policies concerning members of the public over 75 years of age.

According to the new regulations, civilians 75 and over will be allowed to keep their shoes and light jackets on, as well as take a pass on the pat downs. TSA spokesman Jim Fotenis commented on the change in security procedures:

“By moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to security and applying some intelligence-driven and risk-based security models, TSA is looking at how this works for passengers. The TSA recognizes that the vast majority of air travelers present no risk to aviation security. But it’s how we identify those (travelers) and expedite the process that we’re working on right now.”

This follows on the heels of a move by Orlando Sanford International Airport to evict all TSA personnel, replacing them with more “customer friendly”, private security staff.

US Rep. John Mica, who authored the bill which led to the creation of the TSA following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, believes that the agency has grown too bureaucratic and bloated.

“I want to get it [TSA] out of the human resources business and back to security,” said Mica.

Meanwhile, South Park’s debut episode of season 16 mocked the agency’s perceived incompetence. In one particularly epic scene (linked above), a TSA agent monitoring numerous surveillance videos of people on the toilet, masturbated to the images for a full minute, intermittently helping himself to handfuls of moisturizing lotion.

The portrayal of agency employees as overweight, uneducated, superfluous buffoons only adds to the bad press the TSA has received in the last few months. Hell of a show, though.

Watch the full South Park episode here.

It was reported on March 12th that the TSA at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport routinely subjects a quadruple amputee to an “aggressive” body search, removing and inspecting each of his four prosthetic limbs, often examining them via x-ray machinges, prior to clearing him to board his flight.

This, despite the fact that all of the TSA agents at Phoenix know the man in question, Jeff Lewis, by name. As they remove each of Jeff’s limbs, he’s left as little more than a torso, waiting for the agents to finish their inspection.

Jeff’s story is just the latest in ridiculous TSA abuses of civil liberties.

Take the case of Thomas Sawyer, bladder cancer survivor, who was left “crying, humiliated, and covered in his own urine” after a TSA patdown. After the cancer ravaged his bladder, Sawyer was forced to use a urostomy bag, which collects his urine through an opening in his body. Despite having informed the TSA agents of his predicament, the officers subjected Sawyer to a forceful search, breaking the bag open in the process.

Or consider Lena Reppert, a 95-year-old woman dying of Leukemia. On her way to Michigan, she was singled out for special treatment because she was in a wheelchair. The TSA agents patted her down and felt “something hard.” Her daughter, Jean Weber, tried to explain that it was only her adult diaper, and that she needed it for the long flight to her home state of Michigan. But TSA officials weren’t budging. They forced Jean to escort her mother to the bathroom and remove her diaper before they would clear her to fly. Jean recalled the experience during an interview: “I ran with her to the bathroom and stripped her down. I got back to the line and just started bawling.”

The list goes on. Carolyn Durand, an producer with ABC News, opted out of the full body scan and chose the pat down instead. She reported later that the TSA agent reached inside of her underwear during the examination and prodded her genitals. According to Durand: “The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around. It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist. It was embarrassing. It was demeaning. It was inappropriate.”

And refusing the invasive inspection isn’t an option. Take John Tyner, who refused to allow a TSA agent to grope his groin. He was eventually escorted out of the airport and not allowed to board his flight. Here’s the story in his own words:

[The TSA agent] described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped.

And TSA inspections aren’t even confined to airports anymore. They’ve expanded, under the VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program to include “train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.”

They’re even at highway weigh stations, NASCAR events, and Greyhound bus depots:

In Tennessee in October, a viper team used radiation monitors and explosive-trace detectors to help state police inspect trucks at highway weigh stations throughout the state. Last month in Orlando, Fla., a team set up metal detectors at a Greyhound bus station and tested passengers’ bags for explosive residue.

In the Carolinas this year, TSA teams have checked people at the gangplanks of cruise ships, the entrance to NASCAR races, and at ferry terminals taking tourists to the Outer Banks.

At the Charlotte train station on Dec. 11, Seiko, the bomb-sniffing dog, snuffled down a line of about 100 passengers waiting to board an eastbound train.

Ray Dineen, air marshall in charge of TSA operations in Charlotte, SC, disparaged those who criticized the program’s expansion: “We are not the Airport Security Administration. We take that transportation part seriously.”

And its only going to continue. The VIPR program is about to receive an increase in personnel and funding, to the tune of 24M dollars. This is on top of the program’s 110M dollar 2011 budget. And that’s just VIPR. The run-of-the-mill invasion of privacy that we’re used to encountering in airports costs the American people 5 billion dollars on an annual basis.

As we discuss cutting basic human services around the country, laying off teachers, firefighters and police officers, why are we being forced to increase funding for an agency which time and time again has displayed an utter disregard for human dignity?