TSA Searching Bags in Penn Station

I have a friend who lives near Penn Station in midtown Manhattan who tells me that she sees the TSA there all the time, but never remembers to take a picture for me. Today, I had the “luck” of seeing it myself…

Smurfs in Penn Station

So, the next time someone says, “I don’t mind surrendering my rights in an airport; anything to keep us safer,” please remind them that the TSA has been plotting for years to invade every mode of transportation. They practice at Penn all the time because the NYPD is happy to join in their totalitarian distopia manufacture. They hit Amtrak stations, Greyhound terminals, music festivals, and political events. For now it’s a bag search. How long until the scanners and pat-downs are a “normal” part of walking down the street?

The time to demand change is now.

DHS “Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties” Admits It Is A Farce

I mean, they didn’t say that explicitly, but you be the judge: the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was asked to review the policy of DHS’s Customs and Border Patrol regarding conducting suspicionless searches of electronic media (generally, your laptop) at border crossings. This policy means that any time you enter the country, the government feels it has the right to look through all the documents on your hard drive, even if there’s no reason at all to suspect that you might be engaged in criminal activity.

The review concluded that “imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefit.”

Do you see a problem here with an office, whose job it is to ensure that an agency respects the civil rights of the people, that does not understand how requiring the government to have a reason before it paws through the photos of your kids and wife (yeah, those photos!), reads through all of your e-mail, and makes sure the music you’re listening to and books you’re reading are not “suspicious,” would have a civil liberties benefit? DHS does this, ostensibly, to prevent the trafficking of child pornography and corporate espionage. I’m no expert on either subject, but it would seem to me that if one were to engage in either crime, wouldn’t they simply upload their contraband to a secure location on the Internet, where they can easily download it at their destination, rather than travel the globe with it sitting on their hard drive?

It seems clear to me that the alleged desired benefit of these searches is unobtainable since they are easier to circumvent than the TSA’s body scanners. It seems clear to me that this is a new technique to spy on the citizens, collect data (“Oh, Mr. Corbett here has files on his hard drive relating to aviation security… let’s put him in a database!”), and chip away at the Fourth Amendment. It seems clear to me that this furthers the government’s, and particularly the Obama administration’s, desire to fellate the copyright industry — from its absurd extrajudicial prosecution of Megaupload, to its attempts to pass SOPA and related laws, to these hard drive searches at borders that have already seen travelers questioned about whether they illegally downloaded songs and movies.

While this battle is fought on the legal front, you can protect your data now: free software such as TrueCrypt can scramble the data on your computer such that, if done right, it cannot be unscrambled without the correct password, even by the government (and, even if the government can decrypt your hard drive, they won’t: to admit that they know how to break the world’s strongest encryption algorithm would be giving away a secret that is worth much more than prosecuting you). As U.S. Courts of Appeals have refused to compel people to provide passwords, for the time being, encryption allows you to force the government to respect your rights.

Woman Convicted of Crime for Yelling at TSA Screener Who Wanted to Touch Her Daughter’s Genitals

Regretfully, Andrea Abbott was found guilty of disorderly conduct stemming from yelling at a TSA screener who demanded to pat-down her teenage daughter. Her sentence was only a year of unsupervised probation, but what country do we live in where a jury agrees that a woman upset about government perverts demanding to grope her daughter has committed a crime?

Please express your outrage to the District Attorney’s office that prosecuted the case: http://da.nashville.gov/portal/page/portal/da/contactUs/

Manchester Replies, Says Scanners Are Effective. May I Test That?

The spokesman who was the subject of yesterday’s post replied to me today, telling me:

“I’m a spokesperson for this airport so when I said everybody in my quote, I meant our staff and our passengers from whom we’ve had overwhelmingly positive, genuine feedback.”

“On the health point, medical and x-ray equipment experts from across the World who’ve actually examined back scatter technology in detail have concluded unanimously that it poses negligible health risks.”

“Unsurprisingly, I also don’t agree that the scanners are ineffective. Security officers are not looking for metal tins but your film is an interesting watch and has certainly fuelled imaginations. We have actually operated body scanners for three years and we know they work.”

Well, on the first one, only you know whether or not you’re being truthful, but judging by the fact that even the TSA admits to receiving hundreds of complaints, it seems that Manchester must have very selective hearing.

On the second one, I’m no doctor, but I do know that there has been no fully-independent testing of the nude body scanners. Most of the times, the government has provided “researchers” with the data and asked them to come to conclusions, rather than giving them scanners and letting them run tests. I use “researchers” lightly because such a “scientist” is but a government lackey. I also know that the x-ray machines have been shown to operate out-of-specification (calculation error… or was it??) and to leak radiation to those near it (known as overshoot, which will affect the screeners more than anyone else). I also know that the most deadly computer programming error ever involved an x-ray machine that was “totally safe” until it accidentally overdosed its subjects, most of whom died a horribly painful death. Finally, I also know that the screeners are not qualified, even by the TSA’s own policies, to run radiation machines.

But that last one — the efficacy claim — I happen to know a lot about. 🙂 In March 2012, I took an undetected metal container through both backscatter and MMW ATD nude body scanners. The whole point of these things was supposed to be to detect non-metallic explosives, which my metal container could have been full of. To say that they are effective when they have been proven otherwise seems to be a matter of believing what you want to believe.

But Manchester, or any other airport with nude body scanners, if you would like an efficacy test, I would be happy to provide one. Get in touch with me and get me the proper approvals and paperwork, and we can have a challenge to see what can and cannot be brought past your security. My only condition is that we publish the results.

Somehow I don’t expect any takers on that one. I wonder why?

EU Bans X-Ray Nude Body Scanners, and An Open Letter to Manchester Airport

Dear Manchester Blokes:

Today, an article in The Daily Mail noted that the European Union has decided to ban nude body scanners that use x-rays from airports across the continent. The article had the following quote from Russell Craig regarding nude body scanners in use at your airport:

“Today, we’re just kind of standing around scratching our heads wondering why a trial that was popular with everybody, that everybody approved of, just never got the green light from Europe.”

I’m not quite sure exactly how far up his ass Craig’s head is, but nude body scanning has been the subject of international scorn. It is extraordinarily invasive and demeaning, and I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from people who have been left in tears after the process. It is a huge health risk, not just for the passengers, but for the operators who are exposed to ambient radiation from thousands of daily scans. And it is entirely ineffective, as I clearly demonstrated in my viral video, “How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.”

“Everybody” does not approve of your trial, but many are quite happy that the machines will end up in the rubbish heap.


Jonathan Corbett
TSA Out of Our Pants

TSA Caught Covering Up Pat-Down Complaints, Lying in FOIA Response

A group called governmentattic.org was nice enough to file an FOIA request with the TSA requesting snail-mail complaints received by them regarding their then-new pat-down procedure (which they admit requires screeners to touch your genitals, buttocks, breasts, and everywhere else). Over a year and a half later, the TSA replied with 201 complaints submitted by members of the public in Q4 of 2010.

Considering the ACLU states that it received over 900 complaints in just a single month of Q4, it seems highly unlikely that only 200 people wrote to the TSA to complain. Luckily, I don’t have to simply have suspicions: I know that the TSA either destroyed or simply failed to release complaints, because I personally wrote to the TSA on November 6th, 2010, just 10 days before I decided to file suit, and my complaint is not included in the 201 released!

Lying in an FOIA response may constitute a federal crime. Sure, it’s possible that mine just got “lost,” but based on the ACLU number, it seems more than a few disappeared. Let’s expose this: if you sent a complaint about the pat-downs to the TSA, DHS, or Office of the President at the end of 2010, please have a look at the complaints released and let me know (either way) in the comments here whether your complaint was included.

TSA Admits Plotting Nude Body Scanners for Rail & Bus, Refuses Environmental Impact Study

“If you don’t like it, don’t fly!” That has been the refrain of the few people left who support allowing the TSA to digitally strip search us and molest us and our families. We’ve already seen the TSA’s mission creep, expanding to patrolling Amtrak stations, Greyhound terminals, music festivals, and political events. But, the TSA thus far has not brought their nude body scanners and genital groping out of the airport, and has never stated an intention to do so. So, maybe TSA abuse will solely be confined to airports?

Not a chance. Through a Freedom of Information Act response that I’ve obtained of formerly unreleased, secret (“Sensitive Security Information”) documents, it now comes out that the TSA has been plotting since 2008 to bring nude body scanners to “ferry terminals, railway, and mass transit stations” as well as unspecified “other locations” — in other words, everywhere. You can expect them at train stations, bus stations, subways, highways, cruise ships, and anywhere that “transportation” happens (i.e., everywhere). And, where the body scanners go, so does the groping, since the body scanners have at least a 40% false positive rate which needs to be resolved by blue-gloved gestapo.

Further, the TSA notes that they have refused to conduct an environmental impact study of any kind. According to the document, DHS has issued an order “exempting” security devices from environmental review. Why not conduct an environmental impact study? Unless, of course, your device is leaking radiation everywhere…

So, why hasn’t the TSA told the public that they intend to bring nude body scanners to every mode of transportation we use? Because, of course, the only way they can convince the American people to allow for their rights to be taken away is slowly. Only a small percentage of people fly and only a small percentage of fliers are scanned. Combined with the fact that people are afraid of flying and are therefore more easily tempted to trade liberty for (a false sense of) security, there are not many to complain, and the government hopes that those of us who are complaining eventually give up. Then they can inch forward. Perhaps just the extra-fast Acela Amtrak trains will be scanned next. Then only buses that seat more than 100 people. Then those who are driving commercial vehicles on the highway. Until everywhere we go, we are scanned, groped, abused, and violated. Sensational? Read the document — the TSA admits in black and white what their intentions are, even if it is unpleasant to believe. Body scanning must be stopped now, or it will be a part of your daily life soon.

These “orders” of the TSA — declaring that body scanning will be everywhere and for all, declaring that no study is required, and declaring that your privacy is “protected enough” — are issued by this guy:

Anonymous. The TSA redacted the name of the guy who decided all of this. “Change I can believe in” should have been transparency in government. “Change I can believe in” should have been full environmental studies before deploying radiation devices across the country. What the hell kind of change have we actually received in nearly 4 years?

TSA – Deploy Nude Body Scanners Everywhere, Conduct no EIS (.pdf)

TSA Abuses Rape Survivor, Sent to ER

Anything for our safety, right?

And then they discovered an “anomaly” in her bra, so she needed to be patted down on her breasts. This freaked her out even more. She asked for a private room and for me to be there, and it was obvious that this pissed off the female assist TSO. As she started shaking and sobbing in the room as the TSO began to touch her breasts, I gently touched her arm. Big mistake – the TSO yelled that I couldn’t touch her and that I’d need to go through screening again.

Source: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/checkpoints-borders-policy-debate/1374235-pat-down-ended-my-wife-up-er.html

This is the organization who just claimed the right to detain citizens and read through their documents (paper, electronic, or what have you). This is the organization that claims the rights to inspect your genitals. This is the organization that has its employees arrested for felonies on a weekly basis.

“For our safety.”

TSA Refuses Drivers License, Demands Passport

Before I describe what happened, let me first explain why it is important that the TSA accept any valid government ID presented (and actually, is legally required to allow you fly even if you have no ID at all!). First, the TSA is not Customs, and has no right to ask me to provide any information before allowing me on my way. A passport contains much more information than a drivers license does: it’s a history of everywhere I’ve been. This can be used in a discriminatory fashion (“Oh, you’ve been to the middle east, eh?”) and I have the right not to share it. Second, even Customs has no right to ask for my passport as I leave the country. By law, we impose no “exit controls” on our borders, and such controls have frequently been used as tools of oppressing the people. Finally, the TSA search that we are required to undergo is permitted only to seek potential weapons. The TSA has been repeatedly accused of abusing that limited search in order to unconstitutionally further other interests — most often to find drugs, but in this case, keeping track of how much money travelers are moving in and out of the country. There is no basis for the TSA not only conducting such investigations, but maintaining records as travelers arrive with more than a few thousand dollars in cash. Those records, of course, are archived in a database and distributed outside of the TSA.

So last week when I flew out of JFK on an international flight, I was surprised by the TSA ID checker asking to see my passport after I presented her with my valid Florida drivers license. I assured her that TSA policy requires her to accept any valid government-issued photo ID presented, and she can check with her supervisor if she was unsure. She skips away to find STSO Egbert Haynes.

When Egbert arrives, he informs me that the original “officer” has the right to ask for “another” form of ID — which would be true if they were doing it, for example, because they were unsure of the validity of the first ID, rather than for the purpose of forcing me to show a passport. Prepared with many forms of ID besides my passport, he then proceeds to reject two additional forms of government photo ID — a Florida concealed weapons license and my old (but not expired) New York drivers license, both of which I’ve flown with as my sole ID in the past on domestic flights (incidentally, I’ve also seen the TSA accept non-government and non-photo IDs, such as credit cards and student IDs, as secondary identification when, for example, a traveler presented an expired drivers license). Eventually, he admits that I’m being treated differently solely because I’m traveling internationally, but I’m still given the choice of showing my passport or not flying.

Once again, the TSA has invaded my privacy. While this particular invasion is perhaps less offensive than photographing me using a nude body scanner, like the nude body scanners, it serves no lawful purpose. Those body scanners are great for finding large amounts of cash, drugs, and large penises, however utterly fail at finding the only thing the TSA is lawfully permitted to look for: weapons.

Of course, I record every interaction I have with the TSA. Audio and text transcription below:

STSO: Uh, the officer… I’m a supervisor, my name is Egbert Haynes. The officer has the authority to ask you for another piece of ID.
Jon: I’ll give you another piece of ID.
STSO: She’s asking for a passport, sir.
Jon: Well, she doesn’t have the authority to ask me for a passport, she has the authority to ask for an additional ID.
STSO: Uhhh…
Jon: TSA rules don’t allow you to ask for a specific form of ID.
STSO: Uh, are you sure about that, sir?
Jon: Yes, I’m sure.
STSO: How certain are you?
Jon: 100%. Is that the TSM? *points to guy in suit* [a TSM is a Transportation Security Manager, and is Egbert’s boss]
STSO: Well, I’m a… I’m a supervisor.
Jon: Yes, so if you want a second form of ID, I have it. The TSA doesn’t have the right to ask for a passport. *inaudible*
STSO: Uh, what are we looking for in your passport, sir?
Jon: Nothing.
STSO: Well, there is something in your passport, and the fact that you are flying international, the officer does have the right. If you were a domestic traveler, the additional piece of ID would be granted.
Jon: Ok. I’ll give you a concealed weapons license from the State of Florida.
STSO: Ok, well that’s actually not something that would be acceptable.
Jon: Ok, well do you accept drivers licenses?
STSO: Yes, we do, we do. And I don’t know, that [CCW] may also be issued by DMV and that would be…
Jon: It’s issued by the state.
STSO: We do accept some government IDs, but I’m unsure of the concealed weapons.
Jon: Well here’s a New York drivers license.
STSO: So we have 2 drivers licenses, now we have some issues. We can engage a document specialist. Why do you have two drivers licenses?
Jon: I used to live in New York, this is an old document, but it’s not yet expired.
STSO: So was this [NY DL] supposed to be turned in when you got this [FL DL]?
Jon: It’s not valid for driving anymore, but it’s still me.
STSO: Um, we only accept what type of IDs? Valid. [While not valid for *driving*, the person in the ID is still me even if I moved to another state.]
Jon: I will give you guys the passport, but I will be filling in a comment card. [By comment card, I probably mean lawsuit… :)]
STSO: Roger that.

Audio (.mp3)

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