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Representative Steve Southerland II

18 Jul

At long last there is further communication from someone!  Without further ado I present the letter from Representative Steve Southerland II:

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for contacting our office regarding aviation security, specifically the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  I value your input on this important topic and appreciate the opportunity to respond.

As you know, our nation’s air transportation system is designed to maximize accessibility and efficiency, two characteristics that make it highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.  While protecting the U.S. transportation sector from terrorist attack is difficult, measures can and must be taken to protect Americans in the air.

However, in working to construct and finance a system of deterrence, protection, and response that effectively reduces the possibility of another terrorist attack, we must do so without unduly interfering with travel, commerce, and civil liberties.  Like you, I am concerned about recent reports of intrusive pat-downs and privatization of security operations at our airports.

You may be interested to know, on March 31, 2011, Representative Jason Chaffez (R-UT) introduced H.R. 1279, the Aircraft Passenger Whole-Body Imaging Limitations Act of 2011. This legislation would prohibit the use of advanced technology as a method of screening a passenger unless: (1) the National Academy of Sciences determines the technology does not pose a threat to public health; (2) the technology is equipped with a privacy filter or other privacy-protecting technology; and (3) another method of screening, such as metal detection, explosive trace detection, or behavioral profiling, demonstrates reasonable cause for using advanced imaging technology to detect a possible threat to aviation security.

Additionally, it would require that passengers: (1) be provided information on the operation of such technology, including privacy policies and the right to request a pat-down search; and (2) be offered such a pat-down search in lieu of such screening.

Finally, it would prohibit the storage, transfer, sharing, or copying in any form of an image of a passenger generated by advanced imaging technology after a boarding determination is made.  While this legislation currently awaits further consideration by the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, should it reach the floor, I intend on supporting it along with any other legislation which ensures safe air travel while protecting civil liberties.

What’s more, in light of several recent operational failures on the part of TSA, Congressional leaders have requested an Inspector General investigate the security performance of the agency to ensure optimal efficiency and effectiveness.  As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation, I have a vested interest in these ongoing proceedings.

Please know, I will continue to work with my Congressional colleagues to advance legislation that ensures passenger safety, while respecting our civil liberties.  I will be sure to keep your views in mind should Congress consider issues related to aviation security in the future.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  I am humbled and honored you have afforded me the opportunity to represent you in the United States House of Representatives.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about issues of importance to you.  Feel free to visit my Congressional website athttp://southerland.house.gov or contact our office with any future concerns.

What are everyone’s thoughts on this?  It seems like a step in the right direction at least.

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Boiling a frog

23 Jan

They say that in order to cook a frog you have to heat the water slowly.  The frog gets used to the higher temperature little by little without jumping out.  Scientific studies show conflicted results; a frog will jump out of hot water if they notice the heat.  Apparently the trick is to make sure the temperature change is gradual and slow so that the added heat is not perceived.

This situation is often used as a metaphor to caution about the importance of being aware of those changes that could lead to harm.  Unlike the frogs however we are very much aware of what is happening around us.  It has been all over the news.  Why are so many still just sitting in the pot?

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal after the TSA introduced the new screenings in November “Backlash built up, but TSA stuck to its guns. And after Thanksgiving, the furor subsided.”

Are we or are we not more intelligent than frogs?  This is not even a gradual change that went unnoticed.  People noticed.  People even complained.  And then they got ignored and shrugged it off?

We need to do better.  Don’t just send an email, spread the word.  Ask others to join us.

Our representatives need to do better. It’s time to turn up the heat.

Martin Luther King Day

17 Jan

‘For all of us today, the battle is in our hands. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways to lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. We must keep going.’

— Martin Luther King

Could there be a better day to stand up for your rights?

Though many of us are getting automated letters and feeling ignored that is all the more reason to press on.  We will not be dismissed.

Today is the day.  It’s Monday.  It is time for us to let our voices be heard.  It is also time for us to grow in number.  Determine to talk to at least two other people about writing their representatives specifically on Mondays.  The soft roar of a crowd is hard to ignore.

TSA response part one

10 Jan

I received a response from my complaint to TSA that was sent on November 24, 2010.

Here is the first paragraph:

Dear Traveler:

Thank you for your e-mail to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Contact Center. Due to a significant increase in e-mail inquiries, TSA was unable to respond to your correspondence in a timely manner. We apologize for the delay. In an effort to resolve your concerns, included for your reference is information related to our most commonly asked questions.

So let’s get this straight.  They have addressed me as “traveler” which means they are sending a form email that is, for the record, not going to address my complaint at all but rather just explain the procedures again.  Apparently if we just understood the procedures they would somehow cease to be unreasonable searches.

Next, they apologize for the delay in response but explain that it is due to the volume of “inquiries”.  Could they possibly mean “complaints”?  After all when you contact them you first choose a category.  I chose “complaints”.  If choosing a category serves any purpose (though who would be surprised if TSA had a procedure that served no purpose?) then they should be aware that this is not an inquiry.  But nothing about their letter would indicate that it has been read or sorted at all.

After choosing a category you choose a sub category from a drop down box.  This box gives you the following options:

airline complaints

civil rights

discourteous/ rude employee

inappropriate screening/ pat down screening

inconsistent screening (different practices between airports)

inattentive screener– lax security

long lines/ lengthy wait at checkpoints

TSA accepted locks missing or damaged

items not permitted through the security checkpoint

disarrayed items in checked or carried on baggage

damaged or missing items in checked or carried on baggage

unable to get boarding pass online must check in

consistently selected for secondary screening

my complaint is not listed

I chose ‘civil rights’.  I am flabbergasted that there is such an abundance of these types of complaints that they have a drop down box for them; however it really amazes me that in spite of the drop down box method they can’t seem to distinguish a complaint from a request for information.  The rest of the letter is a list of procedures and begins with the importance of the pat downs:

Revised Patdown Procedures

At airports nationwide, TSA is implementing more streamlined, consistent, and thorough patdown procedures at security checkpoints to provide a higher level of security and increase the safety of the traveling public. Patdowns are one important tool to help TSA detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives.

Why aren’t they concerned about the airport itself then?  Shouldn’t the screening happen at the door?  What exactly would they have the training to do if they WERE confronted with an armed terrorist or an explosive at the checkpoint?  Is an explosion in the middle of the most crowded place in the airport actually safer than an explosion on the plane?

Enhanced patdown procedures are conducted by a TSO of the same gender. Passengers may request that enhanced screenings are conducted in a private location, and TSOs are required to offer a private screening to passengers who are subject to a patdown inspection of sensitive body areas.  Passengers should communicate to the TSO if they are experiencing physical or emotional discomfort during the procedure.  However, if a passenger declines to permit the search, he or she will not be permitted to board an aircraft. Every person and item must be screened before entering the secured area of an airport.

And if the passenger DOES experience discomfort?  Then what?  What if the very idea of being touched causes discomfort?  Oh I see. We won’t be allowed to fly.  Because you see we’re guilty until proven innocent.

And again, if an armed terrorist confronts the agent what exactly happens?  Are these agents in anyway trained to deal with that?  Their pay grade certainly does not make me think so.  And if we can afford to train them to overcome an armed terrorist then certainly we could train them to employ screening methods that do not involve violating our rights.  Why are we choosing to do neither?

It’s Monday.  Time to write our representatives and anyone else we think might listen and tell them that this is not acceptable.  We CAN do better.  We SHOULD do better and we are not going to accept a charade that violates our rights, our dignities and our peace of mind without doing a thing to promote safety and security.




Orlando International Airport pt 2

6 Jan

Undaunted by the obvious attempt to distract me with an unrelated argument, I have sent the following reply Mr.  Scott Moss:

Mr Moss,
Thank you for posting the official procedures. It is good to know what the official protocol is, so if people are treated differently/abusively, one can complain.  I would be interested in knowing how you handle those with religious objections or with those with histories of sexual abuse or other psychological trauma.
While it is helpful to know people have a right to things like private rooms, witnesses in a private room, informing officers of medical devices, or assisting in their child’s screening I continue to disagree with the new procedures.
In the first place I do not believe we should be subjected to this level of exposure unless there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be discovered.  And then I believe that the officer should only be allowed to search the area they believe that evidence to be located.  I believe the constitution affords me this level of privacy.
In the second place I do not believe that these procedures are making us safer.  I do not believe confiscating water, removing shoes and belts are making us safer either.  I believe your agency makes a mistake when the focus of your resources is spent looking for bombs.  We can not keep bombs off the planes.  We can only keep terrorists off the planes, and a terrorist will always be able to hide a bomb.  Off hand, I can think of a handful of areas that I HOPE you’ll never be allowed to search.
To the best of my knowledge TSA has yet to catch a terrorist and the terrorists who have been thwarted have been spotted by educated passengers.  Israeli officials also use intelligence and research to focus their efforts on looking for the terrorist instead of just the bomb.  It seems like we can be more productive and less invasive by taking such an approach.
At any rate I am unwilling to submit myself or my children to these procedures.  I hope that your agency will listen to the outrage expressed by people on all sides of the political aisle and reconsider your tactics.  I will continue to ask my representatives, airports, airlines and all concerned to take appropriate action if you are unwilling to do so.
Sincerely,
Jennifer

So far I have not received a response.  I will keep you posted.

Orlando International Airport pt 1

3 Jan

Orlando International Airport forwarded my TSA complaint letter:

I am writing to inform you of my outrage at the new TSA procedures which involve body scans and invasive pat downs.  These procedures violate my 4th amendment rights and would be considered assault in any other context.  I do not believe they make us safer.  They create an atmosphere of fear, and discourage tourism.  I have family in your area and travel their frequently but I will not be using your airport until these procedures have changed.  I will stay home.  If you want me to spend money in your airport you will act quickly to rectify this situation.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Bartlett

to Scott Moss who, in addition to being kind enough to ignore my blatant typo, sent the following in reply:

Dear Ms. Bartlett,

Thank you for your comments regarding TSA procedures.  Our partners in security at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority have shared this feedback in order for us to provide additional information.

We sincerely value all such feedback and send updates to our TSA leadership on how the traveling public perceives our agency and the security measures put in place to protect passengers.

As a traveler myself and the father of two daughters, I understand the concerns that many citizens have regarding the procedures that are currently in the news and getting so much attention.  I have had family members address their concerns with me and offer their viewpoints on how the media is portraying our processes.

I’m attaching a couple of links that may help clarify the new procedures and hopefully correct some of the misinformation that exists.

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/pat_downs.shtm

http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/privacy.shtm

Please feel free to contact me directly with any additional questions regarding TSA or our procedures at Orlando International Airport.

Regards,

Scott Moss

Customer Support/Quality Improvement Manager

Transportation Security Administration

Orlando International Airport

5850 T. G. Lee Blvd. Suite 610

Orlando, FL 32822

office: 407-563-4084

scott.moss@dhs.gov

Sigh.  Mr Moss, your courteous tone is appreciated but you fall short when you address arguments I have not made.  All of the info provided in your links CONFIRMS my concerns that my fourth amendment rights are being violated!  I’m not misinformed, confused, or being sucked into media drama–in fact I rarely watch major news networks.  I am simply appalled by the downward spiral we are on!

New Year’s Resolution

3 Jan

Looking for a good New Year’s Resolution?  How about saving the country from a total corrosion and corruption of it’s most basic rights?  How about standing up for what is right and good whether you are personally affected or not; whether anyone else joins you or not?

We allowed TSA to look at our bare feet and confiscate our belongings because we didn’t think it was that big of an inconvenience.  Now they are looking at our naked bodies.  Will we let this slide because we don’t make eye contact with the person who is viewing us?

Some think that those who oppose these searches are just prudes.  Is it prudish to refuse to show your body on demand?  Is it prudish to draw a line in the sand and say that my rights will not be violated anymore?

Or is it the right thing to do?

Let’s resolve this year to defend our country. Let’s resolve to get so involved in the cause against TSA’s practices that our representatives will know us by name.  Let’s fill their inboxes, mailboxes and voice mails.  Let’s give them one more reason to dread Mondays.

Write your reps every Monday until the madness ends.  Tell a friend.  Share a link.  Keep the buzz going.  Tell them you’ll be reporting their responses and do so here.  Let’s keep the pressure on.