Burning Man is a festival of art, music, culture, and spirituality, held annually in the vast deserts of Nevada. Over 60,000 attendees gather and literally build a temporary city — roads, emergency services, a mail system, and structures of every shape and size — for one week. Some of the most brilliant art projects in the world are showcased, many of which are ritualistically burned to the ground by the end of the event.
I find the experience I’ve encountered there to be like none other and treasure the learning and good times I’ve had. But, the organizers of the festival consistently do one thing that, were they anyone whom I did not hold in such high esteem, would have been sued a long time ago: any time a “child” goes “missing,” they block the exits of the festival until found. And almost invariably by “child” I mean “teenager,” while by “missing” I mean “has voluntarily gone off partying and some parent is worried.”
This is literally the definition of false imprisonment.
Traditionally, at common law, false imprisonment is defined as the 1) confinement of another, 2) within fixed boundaries for any period of time, 3) who is aware of, or injured by, his or her confinement, 4) without consent or privilege (Nevada law takes a substantially similar view). The “within fixed boundaries” part deserves clarity: the boundaries could be a cage, a house, a 100-acre estate, or even an entire city. The “privilege” part also deserves clarity: there has never been a “privilege” to detain a single person without reasonable suspicion, let alone to detain 60,000 persons, 99.9% of which assuredly have no idea where the missing person is.
Cut that shit out. It fails to uphold the community’s value placed on consent and self-reliance, and it’s just plain illegal.
First: No, this was not a vindication of the “TRAVEL BAN.”
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an opinion on the preliminary injunction entered by the 4th and 9th Circuits, as well as the government’s request that they hear the case (a “petition for certiorari” — that word is pronounced “sir-she-uh-ruh-ree,” for those wondering). The tl;dr:
We grant the petitions for certiorari and grant the stay applications in part.
So, the Court will hear the case in the fall, but what part of the injunction did they put on hold?
The injunctions remain in place only with respect to parties similarly situated to [the plaintiffs]. In practical terms, this means that §2(c) [and §6(b)] may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.
What it boils down to is this: the plaintiffs in this case were all alleging that they were denied access to attend to their family or business in the United States. When you file a lawsuit, as a general rule, you can only ask the court to help you, not to right a wrong against the public. Even if your case is a class-action, you can only seek to reach people “similarly situated” to you.
The lower courts enjoined the government from applying these two odious sections of the TRAVEL BAN to anyone. But, since some people seeking entry have no connections to the U.S., those people are not similarly situated to these plaintiffs, and thus the Supreme Court narrowed the injunction to only those with some connection to U.S. persons or entities.
So, in summary:
If you are accepted to university, are visiting a family member, or have been hired by a company in the U.S., the TRAVEL BAN is still on hold as to you.
If you have no connection to the U.S. at all, you may have to wait a few months if you’re coming from one of the 6 Muslim countries Trump has banned — or get some family or business connections here first (the ruling isn’t quite clear if having “friends” to visit in the U.S. would count as a sufficient connection).
In upholding the injunction as applied to those with a connection to the U.S., the Supreme Court is implying that the plaintiffs in this case are likely to win, because showing “likelihood of success on the merits” is required for any kind of injunction. Good deal.
A “laptop ban,” because older x-ray equipment can make it difficult to distinguish a laptop battery from a block of C-4. The better solution being an upgrade of older x-ray equipment notwithstanding, every recent airport attack has either detonated a bomb before the security checkpoint or used an alternative weapon — like a knife.
A more thorough molestation when going through TSA checkpoints. Because despite all the other holes in TSA security, grabbing everyone’s genitals makes us feel safer, right?
One of the more interesting (sometimes, disturbing) parts of “my job” is that I get e-mails from people across the country on a regular basis describing abusive TSA practices. These accounts range from descriptions of the TSA’s usual pat-downs, of which the author was shocked to realize happen that way, to descriptions of clear violations of TSA procedure, thuggish attitudes, and down-right sexual assault. There is one common theme beyond blue gloves: a high percentage of the time passengers feel abused, it is when they go to “the private room.”
For those of you who have had a TSA full-body pat-down, you probably know the speech they give you: a description of how they’re going to touch you, a note that they’ll be using the back of their hands on your “sensitive” areas, a question as to whether you have any injuries or medical devices, and finally, an offer to conduct the screening in private.
For the love of god, please do not take them up on this offer.
In the private room, there are no cameras, there is no supervision, and if you say the TSA screener inappropriately touched you, it is unlikely you will convince a TSA supervisor, a police officer, or a judge to believe you. Every checkpoint in the country has many cameras, and you can actually request footage from them by Freedom of Information Act request. If something goes wrong (well, more wrong than usual), this is your only hope for justice.
Sometimes, the TSA will insist that they conduct private room screening. In particular, this will happen if you alert the explosive trace detector. In this case, the private room screening will be even more invasive than usual. They will literally be grabbing your genitals with the front of their hands. Even if it results in missing your flight, do not go. Even if the TSA insists that you must, refuse. At some point, you have to draw the line — I urge you to draw it at this point or before. Let them throw a fit, call the cops, or whatever it is they threaten you with, but at the end of the day, they have to let you go.
Private screening allows the TSA to hide their pat-downs from everyone else, making it seem more rare and keeping the public less on notice of what may happen to them. By forcing the pat-down to be in front of everyone else, you are taking a small stand.
If you think I may be exaggerating, here’s an example of the kind of e-mail I get (warning: graphic):
This kind of sexual assault happens all the time, leading to a headline in 2011 where three different senior citizens in three different incidents accused the TSA of strip-searching them in the private room. But most of the time, stories like these get no media attention. The victim may file a complaint, and nothing happens.
Catching your flight is just not worth it. Please help me get fewer e-mails like this and spread the word.
P.S. – One more suggestion, if I may: tuck your shirt into your pants before a pat-down. If you do so, you won’t be asked to lift up your shirt, and you won’t feel their latex-coated hands on your bare skin.
Some commenters on my blog have taken a bit of offense to my regular criticism of Donald Trump, going so far as to call me a “partisan.” Shocked that after several years of railing against Obama administration policies (not to mention my pro-Second Amendment stance) that all of the sudden I’m now “partisan” for blasting Trump, it was explained to me that while I regularly complained of things that Obama’s agencies did, I rarely called out Obama personally.
I don’t consider myself a member of either political party. The reason for any disparity in naming Trump personally more than Obama is two-fold:
Obama had a filter and let his administration do their jobs, while Trump is a loud-mouth who puts his personal name on every bad decision his government makes.
Some of the stuff Trump says, and does, is not just disagreeable, but is flatly ignorant.
For an example of the latter, yesterday, it was reported that in a phone call with the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, our President said the following: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. … Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the situation in the Philippines at the moment, this may not sound so bad. In that case, allow me to summarize their drug policy: President Duterte has directed his citizens to murder drug dealers and addicts in the street. I mean this literally and with no exaggeration. Some quotes:
“Go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
“The funeral parlors will be packed. … I’ll supply the dead bodies.”
“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
The country’ federal police, at last count, had reported killing 1,959 alleged drug dealers and addicts, and have additionally reported finding the bodies of 3,658 more killed by vigilantes. That is over 5,000 people killed during this man’s term as president without a trial or any due process whatsoever, for a crime as small as possessing a few grams of meth.
Don’t really feel sympathy for druggies? Fine, here are some other choice quotes:
On rape: “I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first.” (Much like Trump’s response to his “grab her by the pussy” comment, Duterte responded to criticism by saying it is “just how men talk.”)
On traffic caused by a visit from the Pope: “Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again.”
On Hitler: “At least Germany had Hitler.”
Now, after reading the above, let it sink in that our President said to Duterte, “You are a good man.”
Fuck you, Donald Trump. Mr. Duterte is scum: a self-admitted murderer who does not believe in the rule of law and, quite simply, has respect for no one. This is not a “good man,” and you are ignorant for saying it.
I just passed through a TSA checkpoint at Miami International Airport, where, during my pat-down after opting out of the body scanner, I was placed directly facing a monitor that showed a laptop that was being screened (notwithstanding that TSA policy is that such screens should be hidden from view of passengers). From that image, it was clear that components underneath the battery of the laptop were indeed visible to the operator, and looked more like this image posted by bomb-detection specialists DSA Detection:
In other words, lithium batteries are not completely opaque “black boxes” which airport x-rays cannot penetrate.
Now, are the x-ray machines in the 10 airports subject to the current laptop ban of the newer technology which produces images like the one shown here, or the older that produces images like in my previous post? I must assume that if DHS has used any logic whatsoever, these 10 airports are using the older technology and that’s why they’ve been shit-listed. But there is no way all of Europe uses this older technology, and I truly hope that DHS’s European counterparts continue to resist the nagging of DHS to ban carry-on laptops anyway. DHS should be helping any airport with inferior technology or training to get up to speed, not treating everyone outside of the country as if they are inept and inferior (especially when comparing others to the TSA… you know what they say about those in glass houses…).
What has been missing from the story is, “Why?” Authorities have only disclosed a generalized fear that laptops could be used to conceal explosives, and have expressly denied a specific threat. But laptops have been around for decades, and as surely any sophisticated terrorist has heard of timers, why does it matter if you ban them from the passenger cabin if you allow them in the cargo hold?
A commercial aviation security official that I have verified but will not publicly name has explained the rationale to me: x-ray equipment of the variety commonly used for screening carry-on baggage disappeared a few months ago from a location in the Middle East, and it is suspected (perhaps even recently confirmed, given the desire to expand the ban) that ISIS members have stolen the equipment such that they can study how to properly conceal an explosive. Given that a bomb smuggled in a laptop exploded at an airport security checkpoint in Somalia on March 6th, 2017, it appears DHS has concluded that the theft was related and laptops were the concealment method of choice.
It’s not bad reasoning since lithium batteries are completely opaque to x-rays, and therefore a battery-sized metal box filled with explosives would look exactly the same [Edit – This is not true for the newest technology x-rays… read more…]. But, there’s three problems with the reaction that make the laptop ban the wrong idea:
Once the laptop ban was put in place, anyone who planned to use a laptop to conceal a bomb was tipped off and will simply try another approach. This is reminiscent of the failed “toner cartridge bomb,” after which the U.S banned toner cartridges from flights. But obviously, a toner cartridge is only what they chose that day… a stereo, Xbox, or, well, laptop, would have worked just as well. Likewise, just because they’re doing it in carry-ons now does not mean they won’t switch to checked baggage next.
A laptop battery actually holds similar energy to a small bomb. While it’s not easy to make a laptop battery release that energy all at once in an explosion, a fire in the cargo hold created by batteries malfunctioning (not Galaxy S7!) resulted in at least 2 deaths by plane crash so far (all-cargo, not passenger, flight, thankfully). By forcing all these batteries into the cargo hold where a fire cannot be rapidly detected and contained, DHS would be countering any deceased risk of terror with an increased risk of fire.
It is simply not economically viable. Taking away what would surely amount to millions of man-hours of productivity every year is simply not the solution (exactly $1.1B of loss, industry group IATA estimates, quite conservatively in my opinion). It would be far less economically impactful to swab every laptop that comes through the checkpoint for explosive trace residue.
So why was the stolen x-ray equipment kept a secret? I asked my source if there was some security reason for keeping the stolen x-ray equipment from the public, and was told, unequivocally, no. “It’s because the mom from the midwest planning to fly her kids to Disney would freak out. They are worried that people would stop flying if they knew.”
My thought would be that the public would be much more understanding if the government was more forthcoming. But apparently the U.S. government feels that you can’t handle the truth and therefore hides behind secrecy laws to withhold the full story. This hiding is, of course, illegal, since, with exceptions not relevant, to withhold information as “sensitive security information” (SSI) requires that the release of the information would be “detrimental to the security of transportation,” not detrimental to mom’s willingness to go on vacation (49 C.F.R. § 1520.5(a)(3)). The TSA, a sub-component of DHS, is well-known for using the · SSI designation in an · “inconsistent and arbitrary” nature, as well as merely to avoid embarrassment, so it is not particularly surprising when the parent agency does so as well. [I have reached out to the DHS press office, which has declined to comment on this story.]
(Note that my source did not specify whether this information was SSI, classified, or otherwise protected, but I assume it is presently SSI and not classified given my source’s role and reports that U.S. authorities have discussed the situation with airline officials, which would not be done for classified information.)
Putting together one more piece of the puzzle, it seems to me that the classified information leaked by President Trump to the Russians earlier this month was very likely the details (beyond that which are reported here and beyond my knowledge) about the how the government was able to infiltrate ISIS to investigate the use of the stolen x-ray machines. Most news organizations did not report the nature of Trump’s disclosure other than that it related to “a plot by Islamic State,” although the Washington Post actually did describe it as laptop-ban related. So at the same time as the American people are mislead about the risks of flying, the Russians were given more information than the airlines and airport operators who are responsible for actually keeping bombs off of planes.
So, to recap: the government lied to us when they said there wasn’t a specific threat, they withheld information from us because they thought we’d be scared, and they implemented a laptop ban that will be ineffective and expensive at best, dangerous (as a result of increased fire risk) at worst. Business as usual.
“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’ Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights. Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web: https://professional-troublemaker.com/“
Second, a recently released analysis of video of the brawl shows that Erdoğan himself ordered the assault. His personal bodyguard can be heard to say, “he says attack,” immediately after speaking with Erdoğan. His guards than rush to violence against a small group of protesters, allegedly from a political party that Erdoğan cutely labels “terrorists.”
Think about that for a second: a foreign head-of-state just ordered an attack on Americans on American soil.
And, you know, not inviting thugs to the White House.
Defamation Poem, by Jan Böhmermann (translated)
Stupid as fuck, cowardly and uptight,
Is Erdogan, the president,
His gob smells of bad döner,
Even a pig’s fart smells better,
He’s the man who hits girls,
While wearing a rubber mask,
But goat-fucking he likes the best,
And having minorities repressed,
While watching kiddie porn,
And even at night, instead of sleep,
It’s time for fellatio with a hundred sheep,
Yep, Erdogan is definitely
The president with a tiny dick,
Every Turk will tell you all,
The stupid fool has wrinkly balls,
From Ankara to Istanbul,
They all know the man is gay,
Perverted, louse-infested, a zoophile,
Recep Fritzl Priklopil
Head as empty as his balls,
Of every gang-bang party he’s the star,
Till his cock burns when he has a piss,
That’s Recep Erdogan,
The Turkish president.
This blog began in 2010 to document my lawsuit against the beginning of the TSA’s body scanner program. From that time until 2015, the body scanner was “optional” for all passengers — so long as you didn’t mind being molested by a blue-gloved screener during their “full-body pat-downs.” This was part of the reason that no court has struck down these body scanners as unconstitutional: because, they say, passengers are consenting to use them (even though that “consent” is coerced by offering the alternatives of “let us touch your junk” or “don’t fly”). But, at the end of 2015, the TSA announced that they would reserve the right to refuse to allow these body scanner “opt-outs” at their discretion, and I immediately filed suit.
There are two really interesting issues in this case that I hope may cause a wrinkle for the TSA:
The original body scanner rule in 2010 was issued without “notice-and-comment rulemaking,” a procedure required by Congress whereby agencies that make rules first have to ask the public for input. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit ruled that the TSA violated this procedure and, although normally that would require them to stop enforcing the rule (i.e., stop using the body scanners), the Court, fearful that the body scanners actually protect us, simply ordered the TSA to take comment after the fact. The new body scanner rule limiting opt-outs was also issued without public comment, and I’ve asked the court to, this time, put some teeth into forcing the TSA to actually follow procedure before issuing a rule.
The TSA is arguing that it needs to be able to force some passengers through the body scanner because, they allege, it is more secure than a full-body pat-down. But, this is objectively untrue. Besides the fact that I proved the scanners to be beatable in 2012, think about this: if one alerts a body scanner, the result is… a pat-down of the area of the body that generated the alert! How could this possibly be more secure than a full-body pat-down that would have touched that area of the body and more? The function of the body scanners is to narrow down those people who do not need to be patted down to save time, not to make a pat-down more secure. Body scanners don’t find weapons — pat-downs do.
This case lives in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the procedure for cases there is a written brief filed by the person filing the case, an opposing brief filed by the other side, and then a reply brief again by the filer, after which the court may rule on the case. Yesterday I submitted my reply brief after nearly a year and a half of delay, and so, the case is now “fully briefed,” meaning the judges can decide it at any point (or can ask for the parties to argue in-person, or can ask for more evidence, or, basically, whatever they want). Realistically, I expect it more likely that they will decide without in-person arguments, probably towards the end of the summer. I’m not holding my breath — the game is rigged, and the TSA gets almost complete control over what evidence the court sees, some of which I don’t even get to see (wouldn’t want the public to see things like how often their testing shows the body scanners miss a weapon, because that would be, well, embarrassing).