Know your rights!

21 Feb

Here is a Know you rights cheat sheet that a friend and reader emailed me for those who are opting out of scanners.

So far I have not received any responses from my representatives.  How has everyone else been doing?  Any responses?

Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

If you’re feeling frisky you may consider playing “TSA agent” with your beloved.

Meanwhile I’ll be sure to send a Valentines greeting to my representatives telling them what I think of TSA agents playing games that normally require two consenting adults.  Just because someone tried, unsuccessfully, to set their underwear on fire over two years ago does not mean everyone’s underwear is now up for random inspection.  Hopefully one of the Powers That Be will eventually understand this.  In the meantime let’s all pray that no one tries to get on a plane with a homemade tampon bomb.

Senator Dianne Feinstein

6 Feb

A reader has shared the response they received from Dianne Feinstein and given permission to publish.

Thank you for contacting me about the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) legal authority to conduct security screening at airports. I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, the TSA began using advanced imaging technology (AIT) in February of 2007. These scanners produce a three-dimensional image of passengers, allowing TSA officials to quickly and efficiently search for prohibited carry-on items. Following the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 over the United States on December 25, 2009, the TSA has accelerated scanner installation, placing 450 whole-body imaging scanners across the country.

For those who don’t remember this is the guy who tried unsuccessfully to light his underwear bomb on the plane.  He was caught by observant passengers and taken into custody.

I understand you have concerns about the constitutionality of TSA’s airport security screening procedures. In United States v. Davis, the Ninth Circuit upheld TSA’s security procedures finding that the screenings were necessary and non-intrusive when compared to the federal government’s resources and obligation to find weapons or explosives. At this time, no court has ruled on the constitutionality of TSA’s use of AIT machines. However, you may be interested to know that the Electronic Privacy Information Center recently filed a lawsuit to suspend the use of AIT machines in airports.

First let me just say that, while the US vs Davis argument is debatable, I appreciate Senator Feinstein addressing the actual concern as opposed to reexplaining TSA policies or otherwise giving an argument for a completely separate concern.   I am also glad to see that other things are in the works.

I believe that the failed 2009 Christmas Day bombing plot is a reminder that it is important to meet our critical national security needs. I understand these procedures have caused inconvenience and discomfort for passengers; however, critics of these security screenings must consider the possible consequences of relaxing our security measures. Protecting American lives from terrorist attacks is, and must be, one of the nation’s highest priorities. Please know that I value your opinion and will keep your concerns in mind as I work to strengthen airport security, while continuing to protect individual privacy.

If you have general concerns about TSA policies, I would encourage you to visit http://www.tsa.gov to view current policies for travelers. Additionally, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to contact the TSA directly to share feedback about modifying current policies. This may be done either by phone at (866) 289-9673 or by email at TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

Once again, thank you for writing. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

What do you think?  Does the failed bombing attempt justify current TSA practices?

No rights, no safety, and no private contractors

31 Jan

According to a report by CNN John Pistole has decided to eliminate the competition.  Apparently more and more airports were opting to hire private companies to conduct the screenings and he “didn’t see the advantage”.  What?  Since when does there need to be an advantage for a company to continue to exercise it’s right to conduct business using the contractors it would like as opposed to the ones assigned to them?  I mean they do have to pay for security whether it is TSA or a private company.

Now some reports argue that private security is more effective than TSA, but the counter argument to that is that when they performed their own security tests they found both companies to be equal.  Are you ready for the really good news?  Both TSA and the private contractors who are required to follow TSA policies did NOT find the BOMB that was planted on the person testing their systems.

It’s Monday.  Time to send more letter asking our representative to stop allowing our rights to be violated by people who can’t even find bombs specifically planted to be picked up by their security devices let alone the ones that real terrorists would use to try and get past them.

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 two

17 Jan

I’ve included the remaining TSA response which was sent as a reply to my letter objecting that the screenings are a violation of my rights:

Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)

AIT allows TSA to detect a wide variety of threats, including suicide vests and other improvised explosive devices that may be hidden under a passenger’s clothing and cannot be detected by walk-through metal detectors. AIT enhances security, reduces the need of patdown searches for passengers with joint replacements and other medical conditions, and improves passenger safety and convenience.

· Health Concerns: AIT machines have been independently evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and each has affirmed the safety of AIT.

· Privacy: AIT images of the body, with facial features blurred for privacy, are displayed on a remote monitor. Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) attending a passenger cannot view the AIT image; instead, a second TSO views the image in a remote location where he or she cannot view the passenger. Devices capable of capturing images are not permitted in the viewing area, and the AIT image cannot be stored, transmitted, or printed, and is immediately deleted.

· Opting Out: Screenings using AIT are voluntary. Individuals who do not wish to be screened by AIT will be required to undergo alternative screening, including a thorough patdown. Signs are posted in front of each AIT location advising passengers of this right.

· Children: If an adult accompanying a child 12 years old or younger opts out of AIT screening on the child’s behalf, the child will receive a modified patdown. TSA never separates a child from the accompanying adult, and the adult observes the entire patdown process.

Allowable/Permitted Items The TSA Web site, http://www.tsa.gov, provides a guide to help passengers determine what items may be transported in carry on and in checked luggage. Regardless of whether an item is on the prohibited or permitted items list, TSOs have discretion to prohibit an individual from carrying an item through the screening checkpoint or onboard an aircraft if the item may pose a security threat.

Identification (ID) Requirements TSA’s identity verification policy requires all adult passengers (18 years old and older) to provide a valid Federal or State Government-issued photo ID for inspection before entering the security checkpoint.  IDs must contain the following:  name, date of birth, gender, expiration date, and a tamper-resistant feature.  TSA currently does not require commercial airline ticket holders under the age of 18 to provide a valid form of ID.  Additionally, TSOs always have the option of requesting a second form of ID.  If a passenger is unwilling, unable, or has an expired ID (including passports and drivers licenses), the passenger is required to undergo additional screening before entering the boarding area.   Passengers whose identity cannot be verified or who refuse to undergo additional screening by TSA may be denied entry to the secured area of the airport.

ClaimsTo protect passenger rights under federal law and to file a valid claim, passengers must send their claim in writing to TSA, stating the circumstances of the loss and the exact amount claimed (fair market value of lost or destroyed property, reasonable cost of repair for damaged property), within 2 years after the claim accrued.  Passengers may access a claim form online at TSA’s Claims Management Branch website at www.tsa.gov/travelers/customer/claims/index.shtm.  Once the Claims Management Branch receives the completed claim form, passengers will be sent a letter of acknowledgement and a claim number.  Passengers should keep their claim number for reference when inquiring about a claim.

We hope this information was helpful.

TSA Contact Center

I think it is highly amusing that they hope their information was helpful.  At no point in the response do they actually address me, my question or any of the objections I have raised.  I really don’t see how they can even pretend this letter was an attempt at being helpful.  It is clearly an automated letter and I think I’d like to see if the letter changes at all if I were to choose another drop down category.  What a mess.