One Year Later, State of the TSA

One year ago, I published my video exposing the TSA’s nude body scanners as vulnerable to an extraordinarily simple attack: any metal objects placed on the side of the body are invisible. The TSA mocked, then threatened, then downplayed, but never denied that the $1B of our tax dollars spent on the most invasive search ever directed at the general public in the history of our nation is great at finding TSA screeners with small genitalia but utterly useless against fighting serious threats to aviation security.

Before I published my video, I said to my friends, “This is it — this is the end of the body scanners!” I believed that if the vulnerability I published was publicly exposed, the TSA would be forced to remove the machines. Anyone can use the technique to bring even a firearm through security completely undetected so the TSA would have to get rid of them, I thought. Yet one year later, the scanners are still here (and yes, I tested the exploit on one of the new millimeter wave scanners with ATD, the kind that swirl around your body and “create a [fake] 3-D image”). The TSA is too proud to return to metal detectors and admit that it wasted your money and invaded your privacy for nothing… even if that pride means we are significantly less safe when we fly.

We’ve seen some changes over the last year. We’ve seen one of the two types of scanners removed — the Rapiscan backscatter x-ray devices — and the other upgraded to include “automated threat detection” so that live people (supposedly) never see your nude body. This is a huge win, not only for privacy advocates but for those concerned about being dosed with ionizing radiation by their government. We’ve seen the TSA shrink back from threats of fines and jail for those who don’t want to allow the TSA to “touch their junk” (new non-public policy is simply to ask you to leave). We’re also seeing that court battles, after being tossed over questionable technicalities that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to address, are finally moving towards being heard.

We still have more work to do. The privacy violation, in the form of having every square inch of our bodies analyzed without cause (resulting in countless drug charges but zero terrorism charges), still exists. TSA assholery, from strip searching grannies, to stealing iPads, to traumatizing rape survivors, to making kids cry just for fun, to collaborating with airports to lie in Freedom of Information Act responses, still exists. But we’re getting somewhere, slow as it may be. If you’ve donated, shared links with your friends, or simply opted-out, thank you for your help.

30 thoughts on “One Year Later, State of the TSA

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  1. Your efforts have dramatically demonstrated how the Courts, the FedGov, the FAA, The DHS, and the TSA are a colossal fraud on the life, liberty, and property of innocent people. As a result, the Airlines are losing an average of 1 million passengers every for year the last 4 years.

  2. Thank you so much for your efforts to change the current system. While I have indeed opted out and shared your updates, I hope to be able to contribute financially soon as well. The freedom to travel without being treated like a criminal and having your health and privacy invaded is something everyone in this country should value.

  3. I am a subscriber and read all your posts even though I don’t always comment. Just want to say “thanks” for speaking out and filing your lawsuits and keeping us updated. You are a truly selfless spokesperson.

  4. Jon, you are one of the rare people on this planet I call “amazing.” Thank you for all you have done!!

  5. I thought you might be interested in this article: ‘TOP-TO-BOTTOM’:Rep Demands Review After Reported TSA Sting Breach.

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. You are doing amazing work Jon. I will continue to contribute to the cause. I also opt out every time I travel, and I make sure the TSA thugs don’t have any easy time with me by shaming them and letting them know that they are committing sexual assault. Freedom and liberty will prevail. And if Rand Paul is elected president in 2016, we will see a reining in of the TSA and DHS thuggery.

  7. GOP Senate candidate Michael Sullivan: TSA should hire returning veterans:

    Republican U.S. Sen. candidate Michael Sullivan is urging that veterans who’ve served in Iraq or Afghanistan be placed first in line for security jobs in the nation’s airports and transportation systems.

    Sullivan said the nation needs to do more to find work for our returning veterans including at agencies like the federal Transportation Security Administration.

    He said placing veterans at the TSA makes sense since the security needs of the agency dovetails with the skills veterans have acquired from defending the country.

    Sullivan said if elected to the Senate, he’d work to put such a policy into effect quickly.

    Sullivan is being challenged for the GOP Senate nomination by fellow Republicans Gabriel Gomez and Daniel Winslow.

  8. Missouri lawsuit reveals DHS’s national biometric database collection efforts:

    The Missouri Department of Revenue is colluding with the Department of Homeland Security to collect citizens’ biometric information and store it in a massive federal database. This information includes the names of those who apply for a concealed carry weapons permit.

    This was the allegation investigated at a meeting of the Appropriations Committee of the Missouri state senate, chaired by state Senator Kurt Shaefer (R-Dist. 15).

    Local talk-radio host Dana Loesch recounts on her show’s website the content of a conversation she had with Senator Schaefer about the hearing:

    Schaefer notes that the collection of biometric data was never discussed with Missouri lawmakers and that it was discovered quite by accident when suspicious Missourians questioned why the DOR would want their marriage licenses and a multitude of other information simply to renew their conceal carry permits. When Schaefer confronted the DOR, they twice lied to the senator, claiming that the DHS grant money was for things like “hole punchers.” Schaefer later learned the DHS grant money was actually used towards items like facial recognition hardware and software. It’s not only backdoor gun registration, but a massive invasion of privacy as well.

    Schaefer is reportedly furious at the attempt of the Missouri executive branch to bypass the people’s elected representatives and assist the Department of Homeland Security in compiling a nationwide database consisting of the most vital statistics of citizens of the United States.

  9. TSA tested, scrapped program that tracked Bluetooth devices:

    Lines can be long at airport security. The Transportation Security Administration knows too. Documents obtained by Eyewitness News showed TSA tested a project to measure how long.

    Sensors in the terminal found Bluetooth devices, honed in on the signals and tracked how long it took people to get through security.

    An internal TSA document stated it worked by, “…detecting signals broadcast to the public by individual devices and calculating a wait time as the signal passes sensors positioned to cover the area in which passengers may wait in line.”

    It said the information would be encrypted and destroyed within two hours to protect people’s privacy. TSA tested the technology in 2012 in Las Vegas and Indianapolis, but bailed on it.

    “This is an expensive and needlessly complicated way of estimating wait times, compared with say a ticket agent writing the time at the front of the line,” said Julian Sanchez, author of “Wiretapping the Internet.”

    TSA has taken criticism in the recent months for its handling of passenger privacy, including enhanced pat downs and whole body scanners.

    A spokesman for the Association of Airline Passengers Rights said his group isn’t comfortable with Bluetooth tracking and TSA has a history of saying it’s keeping passenger information private and then changing its story.

    TSA documents show the agency considered posting warning signs alerting passengers that Bluetooth sensors were active, but officials didn’t return comment when Eyewitness News asked if the signs were posted at the cities where the technology was tested.

    A spokesman confirmed they’ve scrapped the program before it became public.

  10. The Constitution applies when the Govt. bans Americans from the skies:

    The government does not have the unchecked authority to place individuals on a secret blacklist without providing them any meaningful opportunity to object, the ACLU argued in a brief filed last Friday with the federal district court in Oregon.

    We made the filing in Latif v. Holder, our lawsuit asserting that the government violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of 13 Americans, including four military veterans, by placing them on the No Fly List and refusing to give them any after-the-fact explanation or a hearing at which they can clear their names.

    Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government’s No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying¾perhaps forever. Each of them asked the government to remove them from the No Fly List through the only “redress” mechanism available—the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. But the government has refused to provide any explanation or basis for their inclusion in the list. Our clients have been stuck in limbo ever since.

    We submitted evidence to the court showing that the No Fly List burdens our clients’ constitutionally protected liberties, with devastating consequences for their personal and professional lives. It deprives them of the ability to fly—an essential means of travel in modern life. It also stigmatizes them as suspected terrorists, although they have never been charged with any crime, let alone convicted of one.

    Our brief argued that the Constitution’s core promise of procedural due process requires the government to provide at least some explanation and some hearing where Americans can defend themselves after it deprives them of their liberties. The government’s categorical refusal to provide either is unconstitutional. We explained:

    Defendants’ refusal to provide the bare rudiments of due process stems from their embrace of an explicit policy—known as the “Glomar” policy—of refusing to confirm or deny any information concerning a person’s status on the No Fly List. The Glomar policy and Defendants’ inadequate process cannot be reconciled with governing due process doctrine. Courts routinely require notice and some form of hearing for much less severe deprivations of liberty than Plaintiffs have suffered. Thus, the government cannot suspend a student from school for ten days, or recover excess Social Security payments, or terminate state assistance for utility bills without some kind of notice and hearing.

    In its own brief to the court defending its “redress” program, the government’s arguments boiled down to two sweeping—and extraordinary—claims. First, according to the government, the Constitution has nothing to say about the adequacy and fairness of the procedures the government provides Americans to challenge their inclusion on the No Fly List because “alternatives” to flying are available. We countered that argument in a separate brief (also filed on Friday) showing that the government relied on the wrong law, and by providing evidence confirming what is obvious: the No Fly List so severely restricts Americans’ ability to travel that it triggers due process rights. Not only does the list ban Americans from the skies, it even bars them from travel on boats. As a result, two of our clients have been effectively banned from traveling from the United States to be with their families in Ireland and Yemen.

    The government’s second sweeping claim is that even confirming or denying No Fly List-status (much less actually providing notice of the reasons and basis for inclusion in the list) will cause a parade of national security horribles, including the disclosure of sensitive or classified information. Our brief, however, showed that this argument is based on a fiction: all of our clients already know they are on the No Fly list; they were each prevented from flying and explicitly told that they are on the list. We also pointed out that the mere possibility that sensitive national security information might be involved is no reason to categorically foreclose the hearings that due process requires.

    Americans have a right to know what kind of “evidence” or innuendo is sufficient to land them on the No Fly List, and to have a hearing where they can defend themselves. Without this bare minimum, there is no meaningful check to correct the government’s mistakes or ensure that it uses the blacklisting power it claims fairly and appropriately. We are asking the court, therefore, to vindicate a basic yet fundamentally important proposition: a government black list that denies Americans the ability to fly without giving them an explanation or fair chance to clear their names violates the Constitution.

  11. TSA Begins Court Ordered Rulemaking on Body Scanner Program, EPIC Urges Public Comment:

    The TSA announced today ( that it will begin a public comment process on its airport screening procedures.!submitComment;D=TSA-2013-0004-0001

    The action follows from a 2011 court order in EPIC v. DHS. In that case, the Federal Appeals Court for the DC Circuit found that the agency unlawfully deployed body scanners in US airports. In a proposed two-sentence change to the agency’s extensive regulations, the TSA seeks to grant itself authority to continue to deploy Nude Body Scanners (“NBS”) without establishing privacy safeguards. EPIC, which brought the successful challenging to the TSA program, is urging public comment on the agency proposal. EPIC is recommending that the TSA adopt more effective screening procedures. If the TSA continues with Nude Body Scanner program, EPIC said the agency should make clear the right of individuals to opt-out as well as require privacy filters for all devices.

  12. House Republicans ask why Saudi Arabia was added to trusted traveler program:

    House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and the panel’s subcommittee chairmen are calling on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to explain why DHS has extended a trusted traveler program to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    In a letter to Napolitano released Thursday, the seven GOP lawmakers voiced their concerns about “potential risks” associated with opening the Global Entry trusted traveler program — which “allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States” — to Saudi Arabia

    “Of the 19 individuals who hijacked American planes on September 11, 2001 — 15 were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the committee members wrote in the letter dated March 27 but released the following day. “More recently, following the plot to blow up an international flight over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the Department saw fit to increase the scrutiny of passengers from countries like Saudi Arabia. This must be a factor in determining who to admit into the Global Entry Program.”

    Napolitano and Saudi Arabian Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef announced the agreement to expand the trusted traveler program to Saudi Arabia and begin plans for a similar program for American travelers to Saudi Arabia in January.

    “In effort to reaffirm the extraordinary bond between them and advance this partnership, [Ministry of Interior] and DHS have signed an arrangement to begin implementation for each nation’s trusted traveler programs,” the pair said in a joint statement. “The trusted traveler programs will facilitate trade and travel between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America and will help authorities from MOI and DHS more effectively identify potential threats to keep their borders and countries secure.”

    “The objective will be to start implementation within the next six months with full operations starting in 2014,” they added.

    The addition of Saudi Arabia to the trusted traveler program has received increased attention in recent days following a report from the Investigative Project on Terrorism. That report highlighted concerns about giving travelers from the repressive monarchy easeri access than is given to citizens of many close U.S. allies. Only a few other countries are currently a part of the program — Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands. Meanwhile American friends of long standing — including France, Great Britain and Germany — have not been included, and an agreement with Israel has yet to be implemented.

  13. Fusion Center director: We do not spy on US citizens, just anti-government groups:

    An official from an Arkansas State Fusion Center recently spoke to the press to clear up what he called “misconceptions” about what his office actually does, with depressingly hilarious results.

    “The misconceptions are that we are conducting spying operations on US citizens, which is of course not the fact. That is absolutely not what we do,” fusion center director Richard Davis told the local press.

    Fusion center employees are in a tight spot to justify the existence of their operations after multiple congressional reports over the past year took them to task for being poorly run, duplicative of other counterterrorism efforts, privacy violative wastes of money, or some combination of the three.

    So what does Mr. Davis’ fusion center do, then? Why does it exist?

    The Arkansas fusion center director, after having flatly denied that his office spies on US citizens, told the reporter the following:

    “I do what I do because of what happened on 9/11,” Davis says. “There’s this urge and this feeling inside that you want to do something, and this is a perfect opportunity for me.”

    Davis says Arkansas hasn’t collected much information about international plots, but they do focus on groups closer to home.

    “We focus a little more on that, domestic terrorism and certain groups that are anti-government,” he says. “We want to kind of take a look at that and receive that information.”

    So the fusion center does in fact spy on US citizens! Among them, “groups that are anti-government.” But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here: perhaps Mr. Davis thinks that people who hold “anti-government” views should not be treated as US citizens?

    The fact is, in the United States, holding “anti-government” views is protected by the First Amendment. And everyone in the United States, not just its citizens, is protected by the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights.

    Disliking the government isn’t a crime. But that’s not stopping many fusion centers from associating dissent with terrorism.

  14. FEMA’s guide to reporting suspicious activity openly encourages Americans to spy on each other:

    Suspicious Activity Defined: (Where everyone in the US could be a terrorist, does this sound familiar? Regimes like Nazi Germany or the USSR encouraged the public to spy on its citizens.)

    The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative defines suspicious activity as “observed behavior reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity.” IACP’s primary research found that most individuals rely on a combination of factors when determining if an activity, behavior, or object is suspicious and merits reporting to the authorities. These factors are:

    • Concern about the potential for harm to the community. (How could a person holding a camera could harm the community?)
    • Belief that the information may be useful to law enforcement. (A person’s beliefs are enough to label someone suspicious?)
    • Personal observation of activities. (CITIZENS SPYING on one another)
    • Personal instinct. (If a cop or citizen has a feeling you’re suspicious, that’s good enough?)
    • The agreement of others nearby that something isn’t right. (Paranoia 101, if your spouse or friends have a feeling, you’re a suspicious person, that’s good enough.)

    -Suspicious activities in and of themselves may not always be criminal, but when combined with other activities may be precursors to a larger criminal or terrorist plot. This can include asking questions beyond mere curiosity about a building’s operations, security, or infrastructure such that a reasonable person would consider the activity suspicious. Suspicious objects may include bags, suitcases, packages, cars, and other objects that are left unattended or seem out of place in the surroundings. (The list is purposefully vague and meant to imply anyone, anywhere could be suspicious)

    -Suspicious activity, behaviors, or objects may occur or be observed in areas around critical infrastructure. This includes transportation systems, power and electrical plants, hospitals, banking institutions, and other facilities that are considered essential for the functioning of society and economy. Increasingly, terrorists around the world are focusing on “soft targets” – locations with less political significance but typically with large amounts of people. These may include hotels, tourist attractions, and outdoor markets. Suspicious activity can occur anywhere – in residential neighborhood, rural areas, or larger metropolitan areas. (Could this include taking pictures of buildings, trains etc.? Don’t believe it, then checkout Photography Is Not A Crime)

  15. HNL TSA manager, fired twice, gets his job back again:

    Honolulu, HI – A Transportation Security Administration manager fired from Honolulu International Airport has been reinstated, the fourth TSA manager to win a settlement or successfully challenge his firing after a baggage-checking scandal that resulted in the termination of 36 TSA employees.

    “I was charged with being negligent and careless and the judge found that I was neither,” said Raymond Ware, who was let go along with 35 other TSA employees in 2011 after an investigation revealed that for several months, some officers failed to hand-screen checked baggage for explosives at Honolulu International Airport.

    As a manager, Ware was in charge of nine separate areas on two levels of HNL’s international terminal, including the lobby where the improper screening happened.

    He said he never saw any of his subordinates failing to screen checked bags for explosives.

    An administrative judge with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board ruled earlier this month Ware should be reinstated to his $89,000-a-year job.

    “I look forward to returning and doing what I love to do, which is to protect the flying public,” Ware said.

    Three other top Honolulu TSA managers have also successfully appealed their firings or obtained settlements in the case.

    Honolulu’s former Federal Security Director Glen Kajiyama, who was also fired by the TSA, won a financial settlement and federal retirement benefits in July, according to his attorney, Elbridge Smith. Kajiyama’s settlement amount was kept secret, according to terms of the deal with the TSA, Smith said.

    Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director Adam Myers also appealed his dismissal. In July, Myers settled his case for an amount of money that must remain secret as part of the settlement agreement, according to Myers’ lawyer, Todd Withy.

    Last October, former TSA manager Olivier Jodloman was reinstated to his old job by an administrative judge.

  16. A California businessman is suing Virgin America airlines says he was detained over an unflushed toilet:

    A California businessman is suing Virgin America airlines, claiming that he was improperly detained by police after flight attendants reported that he did not flush an airplane toilet and quarreled with them over the purchase of a soft drink.

    In a U.S. District Court complaint (, Salvatore Bevivino, 52, alleged that he was “taken into custody against his will” last April as he sought to disembark from a flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Bevivino said he was detained by six “uniformed officers” and taken to a room where he was questioned.

    Bevivino, seen at right, was detained after a Virgin America captain told investigators that the passenger “was using profanities and not listening to instructions from the flight,” according to a San Francisco Police Department report ( However, the captain added, “at no time did he or his flight crew feel threatened regarding this passenger.”

  17. Airline, Airport Employees Caught Abusing Security Badges:

    An exclusive NBC 5 investigation uncovered police reports showing workers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport abusing their security badges, even using them to help family and friends skip the checkpoints to board flights.

    Government officials and a top airline executive were among those caught.

    “Sometimes, unfortunately, humans do some really stupid things,” said airport security consultant, Larry Wansley.

    At DFW, thousands of employees have Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges. But SIDA badges can only be used by employees that are on-duty and they’re not allowed to take anyone else through the door with them.

    “You sign a piece of paper when you get your badge that says I have read and understand the rules,” said DFW Airport spokesman, David Magana.

    But that didn’t stop an off-duty Continental Airlines worker from using his badge to put his family in a van at a cargo facility and then drive them across the airport ramp to terminal E.

    They were caught entering the terminal after a police officer “heard children laughing” on the airport ramp.

    A police report said the worker told officers he, his wife and two children were “cutting through the terminal to catch a flight home to Ohio.”

  18. Explosives-sniffing TSA dog bites woman at airport:

    A Rome woman said Friday an explosives-detection dog working the baggage claim area at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport bit her, unprovoked.

    Susan Dubitsky said she and her husband were waiting for her sister to arrive around 4:15 p.m. May 2. As an Atlanta police officer and the dog walked past, the dog bit her on the stomach. A little later, when the officer came back to check on her, Dubitsky said, “the dog tried to come at me another time.

    “The dog just didn’t like me,” she said. “It was scary. There was no reason to go after me.”

    Dubitsky said EMT’s at the airport treated her hand-size bite wound.

    While the dog was working with APD, it is owned by the Transportation Security Administration.

    TSA said in an email that is is “working with Atlanta PD to investigate the alleged incident with the canine.”

    The dogs are trained by TSA to find explosives.

    APD did not respond to an email request for comment.

    Dubitsky said she had to have several shots but would not need rabies treatment because paperwork showed the dog has had its shots. The wound has now healed significantly, she said.

    “I’m kind of upset about the whole thing,” said Dubitsky. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

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