Tag: Transportation Security Administration

The TSA Shooting

I’ve been holding back on commenting on Friday’s shooting since I wanted to wait for facts to come out. Much hay is being made of the shooter’s crackpot views about the New World Order and the fact that he obtained his guns legally. Of course, this tells us very little since most gun violence does not involve political views at all and involves guns obtained illegally, according to the FBI’s own research. Focusing on these factors is once again focusing on the tiny sliver of gun violence that garners most of the media attention.

I’m going to assume the man had mental issues (based mostly on the fact that he, you know, shot up an airport). Such people tend to be drawn to crackpot conspiracy theories and anti-government views. This does not invalidate the anti-government views any more than the Unabomber’s killing invalidated environmental issues. His disturbing behavior was noticed and his dad alerted police but they just missed him. As always, this emphasizes my point that ordinary citizens are our best line of defense. We don’t see the shootings that are stopped because a parent, a teacher or a friend got scared and made sure a horrifying incident was prevented. We only see the times they aren’t able to stop it. And in a nation of three hundred million people, the odds that one person it nutty enough to kill and “lucky” enough not to get stopped beforehand are unfortunately high.

I do want to comment on one aspect. By all accounts, this man deliberately targeted TSA agents. I and many other people have been extremely critical of the TSA for their security theater, their tendency to abuse authority, their lack of accountability and the constant propaganda at the TSA blog. It goes without saying that none of us advocate violence against the TSA (if anything, this will make things worse as Pistole is likely to call for TSA agents to be armed). It is absolutely horrible that a man is dead because some nut decided he was going to kill a innocent member of an agency he didn’t like. I want the TSA disbanded, not killed.

The VIPR in the Grass

What could possibly go wrong:

As hundreds of commuters emerged from Amtrak and commuter trains at Union Station on a recent morning, an armed squad of men and women dressed in bulletproof vests made their way through the crowds.

The squad was not with the Washington police department or Amtrak’s police force, but was one of the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short — assigned to perform random security sweeps to prevent terrorist attacks at transportation hubs across the United States.

With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Not everyone is happy.

T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive.

So let’s get this straight: armed teams of federal agents will show up in random locations and search anyone who looks suspicious. And I’m sure they won’t at all turn people over who have drugs or anything. And this is different from a police state because … Obama?

The VIPR teams started in 2005. But under Obama — stop me if you’ve heard this before — the program has been massively expanded, quadrupling in just the past four years. This is precisely the mission creep we feared when TSA was created in the first place. How long will it be before TSA teams are doing random traffic stops or random street searches? Just how much of our freedom are we prepared to surrender in the name of “security” or just plain apathy?

Don’t answer that question. I’m afraid the answer is “all of it”.

The Stabby Skies

Last week, TSA, in its never-ending quest to make air travel more complicated and arbitrary, decided to allow small knives back on planes. Apparently, this is controversial. But as I see it, the only real controversy is why they are only lifting the ban on small knives.

I realize that talking sensibly about terror threats is considered insensitive. We’re all supposed to be in a constant mindset of PANIC!! But let’s be honest: the big security loophole that was exploited on 9/11 was not knives. The security loophole was the policy of cooperating with hijackers, a policy the passengers of United 93 ended heroically and permanently. With a locked cabin and a policy of never cooperating with hijackers, the chance of another 9/11 is low whether the hijackers show up with small knives, big knives, Swiss Army Knives, machetes or nothing but their small swinging dicks. A hijacker armed with a knife could kill some folk (before likely being beaten to death by the passengers). But I think our efforts would be better directed toward keeping hijackers off planes rather than knives. The focus on knives is just an extension of our national dementia on weapons as evil talismans that cause death and destruction all by themselves.

Of course, even this baby step toward sensibile screening policy has to come with a passel of TSA bullshit. Knives are limited to 6 cm in length. Knives with molded grips or locking blades — assault knives, I guess — are still banned. Moreover, they are continuing a ban on boxcutters and razors for “emotional” reasons since obviously the sight of a razor blade would reduce the American passenger — the passenger who, you may remember, actually fought back on 9/11 — to weeping hysteria. So stand by for TSA lines to get longer as they puzzle out whether a blade is allowed or not.

Why should they worry? You are paying for it anyway.

The next time you hear some leftard or their mouth pieces in the LSM crying about how painful any kind of government cuts are to make remember this story about the TSA spending money when the seqeuster kicks in. In a nutshell:

Under their new collective bargaining agreement, Transportation Security Administration officers get to spend more taxpayer money on their uniforms every year than a United States Marine Corps lieutenant can spend in a lifetime.

“TSA employees will see their uniform allowances nearly double to $446 per year,” the House Transportation Committee noted in a press release on the TSA’s new collective bargaining agreement. “By comparison, a combat Marine Lieutenant receives a one-time uniform allowance of $400. The cost of the increase in TSA uniform allowance is an estimated $9.63 million annually.”

I bet you these uniforms are coming from some big friend of team Blue who’s making a killing with these contracts.

Spice That Up For You?

I’m assuming this is not perverts pretending to be TSA agents so they can put stuff in our drinks:

The latest — well, not the latest, actually, just finally picked up by the mainstream media — is that TSA agents, while randomly roaming around at the gate, well past the checkpoint, are not only singling out passengers for yet another grope or a paw through the bags, but also “testing” the beverages they’re drinking.

I know — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can’t make this stuff up.

Yes, dear reader, that water or coffee or soft drink in your cup, the one you bought after you passed through the checkpoint, in the so-called sterile area? That could contain a bomb! And you didn’t even know it!

Thank heavens the TSA is here to save the day. As they dip their little Magic Bomb-Detecting Stick into your beverage, be sure to smile and thank them. After all, they’re Keeping You Safe.

TSA defends the practice here, calling it layered security. I call bullshit. I am long past being generous with TSA. I don’t think it’s even security theater anymore. I think they are seeing how far they can push us until we stop complying.

The day is coming when we will see video of TSA agents manhandling someone because they didn’t want their drink sampled or their kid groped. And, to TSA and their bootlicking proponents, this will just mean we have to empower them all the more.

The TSA Follies: A Trifecta

You ever get the feeling that the TSA is trying to piss us off?

A few readers have pointed to a story on Facebook, posted by a Montana mom who was flying home from Kansas with her two young children and their grandmother.

According to the poster, she and her kids got through the checkpoint without trouble but grandma had triggered the alarm. She went through the scanner again, but the screener could not firmly ID what was setting off the alarm, and grandma was asked to have a seat and wait for a pat-down.

This is when the 4-year-old ran over to give grandma a hug:

Do I even need to tell you the rest of the story? I don’t, do I? They yelled at the child, forbad the mother from talking to her, patted her down. When the 4-year-old understandably resisted, the TSA threatened to shut down the airport, demanded the mother calm the child, etc., etc. All under the that grandma had passed the kid a gun, which she was storing in her little pants, apparently. Consumerist contacted the TSA who confirmed the basics of the incident but said that TSA agents followed “proper procedure”. For all of us familiar with TSA — hell, those of us familiar with many law enforcement agencies — we know what that means. It means what TSA inscribed on this complaint form.

TSANewBlog:

This isn’t about security. This is about power. Power and control. The TSA’s absolute power and control, and passengers’ lack of same.

Exactly. This agency is not really accountable. They have been given almost no restrictions on their budget or their authority. We were warned about this when the agency was created and we didn’t listen. Thank God they are at least restricted to … oh, crap:

A new program in Houston will place undercover TSA agents and police officers on buses whose job it will be to perform bag searches, watch for “suspicious activity” and interrogate passengers in order to ‘curb crime and terrorism’.

Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee unveiled the program, labeled Bus Safe, during a press conference on Friday.

Wait, a minute, you say. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee? Isn’t she a big liberal? Why, yes she is. She’s a big liberal who loves the Security State. She worships TSA and was furious when a law was passed that would allow airports to replace TSA with private contractors. Put a pin in that for a second.

Immediately after the program was launched, TSA began questioning passengers. This is an addition to the 9000 check points they put up last year to do random searches of vehicles. And do you want to place bets on how many terrorists they caught against how many people they caught with drugs or some other illegal item?

Now back to the pin: private agencies. Imagine how the situation with the 4-year-old; or the situation with Amy Alkon; or the situation with the video blogger; or a hundred other situations would have played out with a private security agency — a business. Instead of ignoring the problem, the liberals would gone nuts. Sheila Jackson Lee would have been on TV demanding the agency be fired. We would have non-stop press coverage uncovering donations the agency made to politicians. They would have been held accountable. And because of that constant unending threat of accountability — because the people providing the service could be fired — the abuses might not have happened in the first place. And if they were exposed by the media for letting guns and bombs through, they’d also be fired.

Neither party has an interest in this. Both are supporting TSA. The only way we will reclaim our liberty is to demand it, regardless of who is in power. We the citizens have to take care of this. Because no one else will.

Fooling the Nudie Scanners

At first, I didn’t think that this video was legit. But TSA’s weak-sauce response leads me to believe it’s accurate:

TSA is largely about theater — giving the illusion of safety. They rely on Americans to think that if we’re being humiliated so thoroughly — taking our shoes off, taking out laptops out, getting scanned, patted and questioned — it must be doing some good. But I remain unconvinced. I think it’s very likely that the biggest reason terrorist have not blown up an airplane is because they’re focused on other targets.

The Year in TSA

Hmmm. The TSA blog had a proud post up about their successes in 2011. Let’s go through the list and see how many involve terrorists, shall we?

#10 was live animals caught in MIA and LAX. These were, um, not even weapons. And the smugglers were not terrorists.

#9 was a science project that looked like an explosive. So, um, not weapons. And not a terrorist.

#8 was a metallic martial arms spike. It was a weapon — they find lots of knives and guns apparently. But he was not a terrorist, just a martial arts twerp. People forget knives easily. I know people who’ve accidentally (and successfully) taken knives through TSA. And I almost did it myself recently, only remembering I had it while I was walking into the terminal.

#7 was a few inert land mines. Definitely a weapon and stupid to bring on a plane. Still not a terrorist.

#6 was a stun gun disguised as a phone. I’ll be generous and give TSA credit for finding this one. Still not a terrorist.

#5 was a flare gun with active flares. Christ, how stupid can you get? This was a dangerous item and I’m glad they found it. But … still not a terrorist.

#4 were two knives concealed in a book. The passenger had forgotten about them and voluntarily surrendered them. Still not a terrorist.

#3 is a broad collection of 1200 weapons, most of which passegers forgot they had packed. If they found 1200, let’s not think about how many they missed. None of these people were terrorists; we’d have heard about it from the gun grabbers.

#2 was a loaded .380 attached to a passenger’s leg that he forgot he had. He’s either a liar or a dumbass; still not a terrorist.

And #1 is the reason I wrote this post. It was small chunks of explosive a passenger was bringing home to show off to his family. What’s funny is that TSA is boasting about finding this .. on his return trip. That is, they missed the explosives the first time he went through. This suggests a new motto for TSA: Finding Maybe Half the Explosives.

Not mentioned? TSA has failed almost all covert tests of their security. Government authorities and media are routinely able to sneak guns, drugs, explosives and bomb parts past these guys. And the list of their “finds”, to be fair, should really include cupcakes, colostomy bags, urine bags and Amy Alkon’s vagina (to be fair, vaginas have been known to talk men into really stupid things).

The blog I linked is devoted to defending TSA. And all they can do is make them look stupider. What does that tell you?

The DHS Follies

I sometimes wonder if the Homeland Security — and the Transportation Security Agency in particular — shouldn’t just take the plunge and change their acronym to WTF:

Vanessa Gibbs, 17, claims the Transportation Security Administration stopped her at the security gate because of the design of a gun on her handbag.

Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia.

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teen missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive at JIA.

They’re calling it a … hold on a second … she’s a pregnant 17-year-old? Not sure what that has to do with anything, but … man.

Anyway, they’re claiming the purse violated the rule against “replica” weapons. There’s a picture of the offending accessory in the article and how anyone could be confused about this is beyond me. This would only be dangerous in a James Bond movie where the beautiful Russian agent detaches it and shoots the mole. In real life, no one would give a shit. But the TSA does not function in real life; they function in a space where they exercise arbitrary power.

OK, but that’s TSA. I’m sure the rest of DHS is efficient in the way that they … oh, man, WTF?!

The WMSRDC recently purchased and transferred homeland security equipment to these counties — including 13 snow cone machines at a total cost of $11,700.

The Michigan Homeland Security Grant Program’s Allowable Cost Justification document, dated May 9, 2011, says the snow cone machines can make ice to prevent heat-related illnesses during emergencies, treat injuries and provide snow cones as an outreach at promotional events.

This is typical “justify it somehow” government accounting bullsh … wait a minute. $900?! Who the fucks buys a snow cone machine for $900? I could get one off Amazon for a tenth of that. Hell, I could buy a really good one for half that. Now $12,000 isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. But you know that this is just the tip of the snow cone with these guys. If they’re buying $900 snow cone machines openly because they could be used to treat heat exhaustion, what are they doing quietly in the budget?

Well, we all know government is inefficient. We accept that. The military is inefficient but they do such a good job of protecting us that even Libyan rebels are protected. At least the DHS is … oh, man, what the fucking fuck?

The Department of Homeland Security has spent billions since 9/11 trying to keep dangerous people and dangerous explosives off airplanes, and treating us all air travelers like potential terrorists in the process. But according to a former security adviser to a leading airline, the terrorists have changed the game — and the government hasn’t yet caught on.

According to Ben Brandt, a former adviser to Delta, the airlines and the feds should be less concerned with what gels your aunt puts in her carry-on, and more concerned about lax screening for terrorist sympathizers among the airlines’ own work force. They should be worried about terrorists shipping their bombs in air cargo. And they should be worried about terrorists shooting or bombing airports without ever crossing the security gates.

There’s a certain “Guns of August” aspect to anti-terrorism. Our officials are always preparing for the last attack rather than the next one (or, in the case of DHS, simply ticking items of their list as attacks happen, whether those items are related to the attack or not). But $56 billion should buy a little more in the way of anticipation. It should buy a modicum of vision. This isn’t the first report I’ve heard that DHS is failing at this.

So we’re not anticipating the next attack. But we are keeping purses off planes and nice refreshing snow cones available to hot people. What a way to run a “war”.

If they had done this when GWB was president…

I am sure the LSM would have gone bonkers, the left would have been furious, the accusations of racism, sexism, and profiling would have been all over the place, and the practice would have ended up dead. Oh, wait a second, that idea was floated when GWB was president, right after 9-11 if I recall, and it was killed immediately with precisely the above accusations – the language used however was far more colorful than mine – used to kill the whole deal. Now we have a different guy in the WH, so there is nary a peep about it.

What am I talking about? Well, the TSA is now going to adopt Israeli surveillance tactics at airports to screen individuals.

Boston’s TSA screeners — part of a security force whose competency has come under fire nationwide — soon will be carrying out sophisticated behavioral inspections under a first-in-the-nation program that’s already raising concerns of racial profiling, harassment of innocent travelers and longer lines.

The training for the Israeli-style screening — a projected $1 billion national program dubbed Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques — kicks off today at Logan International Airport and will be put to use in Terminal A on Aug. 15. It requires screeners to make quick reads of whether passengers pose a danger or a terror threat based on their reactions to a set of routine questions.

For those of you that don’t know better, the Israeli surveillance tactics are to profile heavily, focusing on people that cause red flags to be raised, and then working to determine if they are up to no good. You don’t waste time patting down old ladies, babies in diapers, or hot female models – that last one is a drawback, I guess – and focus on the people that have suspicious backgrounds, act out of place, and in general fit the profile of those you suspect to be up to no good.

I expect the program to fail. First we are dealing with unionized numbnutz that likely can’t think their way out of a cardboard box. It takes serious smarts and human empathy to pull the second part of this job off – the human interrogations – and the people with this skill are not going to be interested in wasting their time at our airports unless something changes.

I also expect some moron to immediately get their panties in a bunch when the people flagged disproportionately come from some specific background that make for worry. Like muslims, Norwegian nut jobs, or if you believe people like Joe Biden, Tea Partiers. That this practice will be far more productive or effective will mean nothing. I have long suspected that the TSA isn’t so much about airport security but about some kind of dumb ideological experiment we have so far have been lucky enough hasn’t botched up bad enough to cost more people their lives.

All in all though, I wanted more to point out how different things are when the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Drive has a (D) next to his name instead of an (R), and how the hypocrites that pretend to be journalists suddenly lose interest in something that made them froth at the mouth when the occupant was of the wrong pedigree.