At JFK Airport, a TSA screener noticed an object on the floor. He thought it was a laser pointer and he tried it out. Turns out though that the item was a pepper spray device. Hilarity ensues.
Here is the official TSA announcement of the incident:
Yesterday morning, out of an abundance of caution, six TSA officers at JFK Airport were transported to a local hospital after being exposed to pepper spray. Officers were examining an abandoned item to determine its contents and to move it out of harm’s way when it accidentally discharged. Travelers and other airport employees were not exposed to the spray.
Did you know you don’t need a high-school diploma or GED to work as a security screener? These are the same screeners that TSA chief John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refer to as a first-class first line of defense in the war on terror.
These are the employees who could never keep a job in the private sector. I wouldn’t trust them to walk my dog.
An agent got through Newark last week with an improvised explosive device? That’s not even news to anyone who works there. It happens all the time. The failure rate is pretty high, especially with federal investigators, and the pat-down itself is ridiculous. As invasive as it is, you still can’t find anything using the back of your hand on certain areas.
When there are internal tests, conducted by the Newark training department, it’s easy to cheat because they use our co-workers. You could be working with someone all morning, and then they’re gone. Word gets around the checkpoint. Someone will come over to you and say, “Hey, it’s Joe. He’s got a blue duffel bag.”
What are the chances of you being on a flight where something happens? We always said it’s not a question of if terrorists get through — it’s a question of when. Our feeling is nothing’s happened because they haven’t wanted it to happen. We’re not any big deterrent. It’s all for show.
– A former TSA screener at Newark Airport
This post, which focuses on an incident involving a TSA attempted pat-down of a 3 year old in a wheel chair, argued that a TSA screener was wrong in telling a passenger they could not video tape the interaction with TSA.
Now, Chris McLaughlin, the TSA’s assistant administrator for security operations, has told the New York Times that:
The [TSA] acknowledged that the screener had incorrectly told the parents that the child needed to be patted down and incorrectly told the mother that it was illegal for her to record the encounter.
Your TSA is intimidating and scaring children. Watch this video of a 3 year old disabled child being told she will need a pat down and her wheel chair will have to be tested.
And notice that the agents immediately say it is illegal to film what happens at a checkpoint. This is not true, although the TSA has now removed the page on their website that provided the following:
TSA does not prohibit the public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping or filming at security checkpoints, as long as the screening process is not interfered with or slowed down.
Further, in a ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011, the right to film government officials was affirmed.
The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity].
Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.
It takes quite a lot of fear to make a child say repeatedly that she really doesn’t want to go to Disney World.
Full details here.
Teach your kids the true meaning of freedom with this Playmobil playset. Be sure to read the reviews.
Here is a sample review for a taste of what you will find:
3.0 out of 5 stars Great lesson for the kids! September 9, 2005
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said “that’s the worst security ever!”. But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.
The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillence society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillence System set for Christmas. I’ve heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I’ll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interogation Set instead (it comes with a cute little memo from George Bush).
(via The Awl)
TSA has announced that it is removing all the remaining pornoscanners from the nation’s airports.
However, replacement scanners will be put in place. The replacement scanners will not display a clear body image, but will rely on displaying avatars. So they are more private, but not necessarily any safer or effective. And even worse, the TSA says that the pornoscanners will not be mothballed, but rather will be moved to other government facilities “that might not require the same level of privacy called for in a crowded airport.” I suggest that they be put to use in all offices of the TSA, beginning with the headquarters of the TSA.
A new (at least to me) window into the TSA is called “Taking Sense Away” and is authored by a former TSA screener. Great inside stories including submissions from other screeners. Here is short example:
This one comes from Eric, who I believe is a current or former screener, given the very insider-y feel of his proposed addition to the Insider’s TSA Dictionary (I will update all the best proposed additions to the Insider’s TSA Dictionary in one lump post somewhere down the road). At any rate, after his proposed dictionary entry, he went on to say:
…I can’t argue with anything you say on your blog, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t. However, I do feel like it’s akin to poking a crippled, retarded bear with a sharp stick.
The TSA has finally agreed to conduct a study on the safety (or dangers) of the backscatter X-ray machines it uses on humans at airports.
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. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.
Of course, the TSA has agreed to do so only after it has begun transferring the backscatter X-ray machines to smaller airports.
TSA agents now get a larger uniform allowance in one year than a United States Marine Corps lieutenant can spend in a lifetime. Given the performance of TSA agents, and their general lack of training, they should get an allowance more along the lines of a McDonald’s employee.
According to ABC News, a stolen iPad was tracked to the home of a TSA agent using Apple’s “find my iPhone” feature.
In the latest apparent case of what have been hundreds of thefts by TSA officers of passenger belongings, an iPad left behind at a security checkpoint in the Orlando airport was tracked as it moved 30 miles to the home of the TSA officer last seen handling it.
Once again, the TSA is ever vigilant for your safety and security.
From Jonathan Turley comes yet another TSA story. It seems that a passenger was wearing a t-shirt that mocked the TSA. The TSA and/or Delta Airlines blocked the passenger and he wife from flying because they said the t-shirt made TSA and Delta employees “uncomfortable.”
The shirt logo makes a play on the TSA’s logo, with the eagle holding untied shoes and pouring out a bottle of liquid. Around the seal, it says, “Bombs ZOMG/ZOMG terrists,” and “Gonna kill us all ZOMG ZOMG alert level bloodred run run take off your shoes moisture.” (“ZOMG” means “Oh my God”.)
Here is the story from the passenger’s point of view.
Needless to say there are free speech issues involved, and examination of why the TSA or a common carrier can block US citizens for rudeness is needed immediately.
Please sign this petition on whitehouse.gov. I have. Whatever you think about the TSA, they should be required to follow a court order.
In July 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that the Transportation Security Administration had to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its policy of using “Advanced Imaging Technology” for primary screening at airports. TSA was supposed to publish the policy in the Federal Register, take comments from the public, and justify its policy based on public input. The court told TSA to do all this “promptly.” A year later, TSA has not even started that public process. Defying the court, the TSA has not satisfied public concerns about privacy, about costs and delays, security weaknesses, and the potential health effects of these machines. If the government is going to “body-scan” Americans at U.S. airports, President Obama should force the TSA to begin the public process the court ordered.
(via Daring Fireball and Bruce Schneier)
South Park has taken on the TSA. In this case, it is the Toilet Safety Administration, but I am sure you can note some parallels to the better known TSA.
Last year, a total of seventeen U.S. civilians were killed by terrorists.
According to the report, the number of U.S. citizens who died in terrorist attacks increased by two between 2010 and 2011; overall, a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year.
Comparatively, ladders pose a staggering risk to the safety of Americans, claiming 300 lives each year, while drunk driving claimed over 10,000 lives in 2010.