Posts Tagged “transportation safety administration”

TSA at Gate B9I’ve blogged a couple of times about the joke that is the TSA … you know, the people who make you take off your shoes and your belts, throw away your coffee, scan your innards — and in some cases pat you down thoroughly — before you go into the gate area of an airport. Interestingly, someone who once ran the TSA, from 2005 to 2009, agrees with this assessment. Kip Hawley wrote a book — and penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal — in which he makes this concession (WebCite cached article):

Airport security in America is broken. I should know. For 3½ years — from my confirmation in July 2005 to President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 — I served as the head of the Transportation Security Administration. …

More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect. Preventing terrorist attacks on air travel demands flexibility and the constant reassessment of threats. It also demands strong public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve.

The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.

I applaud Hawley for finally admitting that the TSA does not actually serve its stated purpose and needs to change its ways. But even having given him that credit, I must point out that the man is a brazen hypocrite. Back in 2008, he was interviewed by Leslie Stahl in the course of a 60 Minutes piece on the broken nature of TSA security. In that interview, Hawley insisted to Ms Stahl that everything TSA was doing, was required in order to thwart al-Qaeda … and to skip any of it would be to let the terrorists through and risk another 9/11/2001. He was adamant that nothing TSA was doing amounted to “security theater.” You can read the article on the CBS News Web site (cached)*, or watch the 60 Minutes segment right here:

I invite Mr Hawley to supplement his welcome comments on the TSA’s ineffectiveness, with an apology for having himself been part of the fraud behind it. (I don’t use that word lightly … the TSA is a fraud, in every sense of that word, except for the fact that the people who created and run it will never be prosecuted for having rammed their scam down the throats of American travelers.) Few people have the courage to make such an apology, so I don’t expect Hawley will ever offer it. This, I fear, is the closest he will ever come to doing so.

Photo credit: steuben, via Flickr.

Hat tip: CT Watchdog.

* The CBS article is broken into 4 pages; here are links and cached versions of each: Page 1 (cached), page 2 (cached), page 3 (cached) & page 4 (cached).

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Goddess / PentacleGoodness knows, I’m no fan of the TSA. But really, this is story is just ridiculous. A TSA agent working in Albany, NY was fired recently, and the fact that she’s a Wiccan was central in her firing. MSNBC reports on this would-be-laughable-if-it-weren’t-true debacle of fear and loathing (WebCite cached article):

Each person’s story is unique, but what happened to Carole A. Smith gives us a glimpse of the work life of the 400,000-plus Wiccans in the United States. And it sheds light on work life at the TSA, where the 40,000-plus public employees who keep bad people and bad things off of airplanes have started voting this month on whether to join a union.

It all started when one of Smith’s coworkers reported that she’d “threatened” her by “casting a spell” and following her home from work. TSA officials dutifully investigated:

The assistant director, Matthew W. Lloyd, testified later that he realized immediately there was no genuine threat of workplace violence. Smith hadn’t followed anyone home — that’s the only highway going toward her home from the airport. It was just a personality conflict made worse by fear of an unfamiliar religion.

He had a suggestion for Smith. She should enter into a formal mediation session with [Mary] Bagnoli, her accuser, through the TSA’s Integrated Conflict Management System, or ICMS. The mediation “would be a good venue to dispel any misconceptions” that her co-worker had about her religious beliefs, he told her.

“He wanted me to go to ICMS and sit down with Mary and explain my religion to her,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘No.’ I refused to do that. It’s not up to me to teach her my religion. I mean, would I have to go down and sit with her if I was Jewish?”

That’s a very good question … and one that would crop up again later. Things degraded rapidly for Smith:

“Where did you park your broom?” she said one co-worker asked her. “Why don’t you come to work in your pointy hat?” She said one shift supervisor told another, “She’s going to put a hex on me.” …

She said another employee yelled at her in a baggage room, in front of other employees and a supervisor, “Get her the hell out of here! I can’t stand to look at her!” A co-worker advised her to transfer to another airport.

Eventually Smith’s seniors at TSA fired her; she filed an EEOC claim over it, though, and at a hearing, the administrative judge asked the same question Smith had originally asked, about why “mediation” would have been a good idea in the wake of Bagnoli’s (false) accusation:

Judge Macauley: Why? Why? Why? Why should that be a good venue? It should be an irrelevant venue. If Ms. Bagnoli has a problem with her religion, then she needs to be corrected that it’s not relevant on the job and to ignore it. Am I correct?

Lloyd: Yes. You’re absolutely correct.

Judge: Let’s take the witchcraft out of it. If someone complains to you, he’s Jewish, and refers to a stereotype about his Judaism, go to mediation and work it out? Is that management’s response to that?

Lloyd: No. That would not be management’s response to that.

Judge: OK. But witchcraft takes it into a different thing? I guess. I guess witchcraft and Judaism are different in the sense that — what?

Lloyd: To be perfectly honest, sir, at the time, I wasn’t even — I didn’t know anything about witchcraft or Wiccanism. … I wasn’t even aware that Wiccanism was a recognized religion at the time. I had to research it afterwards.

Smith lost the hearing nonetheless, and is appealing. But let’s be honest, Wiccans are intensely disliked, distrusted, and often shunned. OK, so Wicca isn’t my cup of tea either … but this is a free country, fercryinoutloud. Grow up and get over it already!

Hat tip: RozMarija at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delpho Forums.

Photo credit: Wiccan & Proud.

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Privacy, health, fears over airport X-rayA couple weeks ago I blogged about the laughable fraud of “anti-terror security” which is inflicted on non-terrorist Americans every day, a post that was triggered by an asinine overreaction to something in my home state of Connecticut (cached article). Scams such as this depend on Americans’ inability to think critically. If we actually paid attention to what our leaders are saying, and took the time to really think about it, the fraudulent nature of TSA’s “security theater” would be obvious, and it would never be tolerated. However, Americans are easy to swindle and easily swayed by stupid platitudes and empty promises. So the scam continues.

I bring this up again because of TSA’s new, stricter and more invasive airport-security measures that have been implemented recently, and I’m gratified to see something of a backlash emerge against it.

In an op-ed which appeared in USA Today, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano ostensibly addressed the pushback (WebCite cached article). In the process she revealed the fraud for what it is, when she opened it with this paragraph:

Nearly a year after a thwarted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas Day, the recent attempt by terrorists to conceal and ship explosive devices aboard aircraft bound for the United States reminds us that al-Qaeda and those inspired by its ideology are determined to strike our global aviation system and are constantly adapting their tactics for doing so.

Here is where Napolitano’s lie is most evident: The event to which she alludes took place on December 25, 2009. That was nearly 11 months ago. If these new measures were truly intended to prevent that kind of attack, putting new measures in 11 months later is a lot like closing the barn door after the horses have gone loose. That the TSA — and the DHS to which it belongs — took 11 months to implement something to prevent it, demonstrates absolutely that there was no urgency behind it.

In other words, the 12/25/2009 attempted bombing literally cannot have been the real impetus behind this. It just can’t. So the secretary is lying when she suggests this is the case.

Napolitano goes on to lie again about what the TSA is doing:

Rigorous privacy safeguards are also in place to protect the traveling public. All images generated by imaging technology are viewed in a walled-off location not visible to the public. The officer assisting the passenger never sees the image, and the officer viewing the image never interacts with the passenger. The imaging technology that we use cannot store, export, print or transmit images.

Now, why do I say this is a lie? Because as CNET reported in August, officials and contractors have already been caught storing images of passengers which they were not supposed to have stored (cached article):

William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, acknowledged in the letter that “approximately 35,314 images…have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine” used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. In addition, Bordley wrote, a Millivision machine was tested in the Washington, D.C. federal courthouse but it was sent back to the manufacturer, which now apparently possesses the image database.

Napolitano claims storage of these images is somehow “impossible,” but fails to admit that it has already, demonstrably, happened.

Napolitano compounds her lies in her closing paragraph:

Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal: providing safe and efficient air travel for the millions of people who rely on our aviation system every day.

If this were true, these measures would have been implemented back on December 26, 2009 … not now, close to 11 months later.

In this single op-ed, the secretary exposes the scam of “airport security” for what it is. I’m sure she didn’t intend this to be an exposé … she very likely assumes Americans will simply buy into her lies … but that’s precisely what she penned: a big lie.

Photo credit: publik16.

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