Tag: United States Department of Homeland Security

Covering Up Incompetence

A while back, I blogged about the Rahinah Ibrahim case. In short, a Stanford University Ph.D. student found herself barred from flying into the United States because she was on a no-fly list. She challenged this and tried to find out why she was on the list. The Feds refused to divulge this information and even added her daughter to the no-fly list to prevent her from testifying in the federal case. They said revealing why she was on the list would compromise national security.

Well, we found out why Dr. Ibrahim was detained: the Feds fucked up:

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.

FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.

Holder went so far as to tell the judge presiding over the case that this assertion of the state secrets privilege was fully in keeping with Obama’s much-ballyhooed 2009 executive branch reforms of the privilege, which stated the administration would invoke state secrets sparingly.

This cover-up has been going on for seven years through two Administrations. And what, precisely were they covering up? A paperwork error. There was absolutely zero danger to national security in just admitting that they messed up, that they placed a scholar on the no-fly list by accident. But the reflex to lie, to cover-up, to deceive is so strong in our government that they engaged in a a ridiculous expensive seven year legal struggle to prevent this information from coming out.

This is the danger of creating things like the “states secrets privilege”. If you give any human beings that kind of an umbrella, they will put anything they want under it, including pointlessly detaining a PhD student because they checked the wrong box on a damned form.

But … you know … maybe they have a point. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for us to find out how arbitrary, stupid and error-filled this no-fly list is. Because if we find that out, we might question the entire massively expense security theater our government has built. And we can’t have that, can we?

The Infinite Recursion of the Security State

This is pretty amazing:

As you my have heard, there’s a trial going on here in San Francisco about the legality of the complete lack of any sort of due process concerning the US’s “no fly” list. The NY Times has a good background article on the case, which notes that somewhere around 700,000 people appear to be on the list, where there’s basically no oversight of the list and no recourse if you happen to be placed on the list. This lawsuit, by Rahinah Ibrahim (who had been a Stanford PhD student) is challenging that.

In that case, a Stanford University Ph.D. student named Rahinah Ibrahim was prevented from boarding a flight at San Francisco International Airport in 2005, and was handcuffed and detained by the police. Ultimately, she was allowed to fly to Malaysia, her home country, but she has been unable to return to the United States because the State Department revoked her student visa.

According to court filings, two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Ms. Ibrahim a week before her trip and asked about her religious activities (she is Muslim), her husband and what she might know of a Southeast Asian terrorist organization. A summary of that interview obtained by Ms. Ibrahim’s lawyer includes a code indicating that the visit was related to an international terrorism investigation, but it is not clear what other evidence — like email or phone records — was part of that inquiry.

Ibrahim is suing not only to contest her placement on the list but to find out why she was on the list at all. One of the witness in this case was Ibrahim’s daughter, who is a US citizen. She was supposed to fly in this week to testify at the trial. But she now claims she was blocked from boarding the plane because she was … put on the no-fly list. The government is saying that she just missed her flight, but documents have now shown up confirming that she was indeed placed on the no fly list. Gideon:

Just so you understand what’s happening: the Federal government is being sued. The Federal government, in defending that lawsuit, has apparently just blocked the opposite party from providing a witness. It’s as if the state charged you with murder, but you have a rock solid alibi of your family, so on the day your family was going to testify, they took your family and moved them to Guantanamo and then pretended like nothing happened and they didn’t know anything.

The TSA is also trying to retroactively classify public documents as Sensitive Security Information, including the information about why precisely Dr. Ibrahim was on the no-fly list. The federal judge has been coming down hard on them.

So why is the government so twitchy about this case as to try to bar a US citizen from entering the country and conceal public documents? Mainly because they don’t want anyone to realize just how much bullshit security theater these no-fly lists are. The latest report is that they may have barred Ibrahim because they mistook a Malaysian networking organization for a terrorist organization with a similar name. Imagine being on a no-fly list because the government thinks LinkedIn sounds like the Lincoln Liberation Front.

Those of you who are familiar with how our government does things will see a familiar pattern. We’ve seen it play out a thousand times with this administration.

(1) do something for arbitrary and stupid for arbitrary or stupid reasons;

(2) insist that your reasons were sound, even if we can’t quite tell you what they were;

(3) insist that you didn’t actually do it;

(4) try to silence people and bury documents who can attest to your arbitrariness and stupidity.

It’s always hard to distinguish a cover-up from standard-issue incompetence. But it will be interesting to see where this goes. TSA’s no-fly list is a massive unaccountable database that people have been complaining about for ten years. It appears that not only does TSA want to keep that idiocy going; they want to make sure no one know how badly run it is.

Why are they doing this?

It looks like the DHS is at it again. More ammo for what?

The Department of Homeland Security is set to purchase a further 21.6 million rounds of ammunition to add to the 1.6 billion bullets it has already obtained over the course of the last 10 months alone, figures which have stoked concerns that the federal agency is preparing for civil unrest.

A solicitation posted yesterday on the Fed Bid website details how the bullets are required for the DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico.The solicitation asks for 10 million pistol cartridge .40 caliber 165 Grain, jacketed Hollow point bullets (100 quantities of 100,000 rounds) and 10 million 9mm 115 grain jacketed hollow point bullets (100 quantities of 100,000 rounds).

The document also lists a requirement for 1.6 million pistol cartridge 9mm ball bullets (40 quantities of 40,000 rounds). An approximation of how many rounds of ammunition the DHS has now secured over the last 10 months stands at around 1.625 billion.

The question begs to be asked, what is Napolitano think her department needs this kind of ammunition for? Are they planning something they expect will result in civil unrest of that sort of magnitude? It certainly isn’t to fight terrorists, because according to these morons the “War on terror” is done and over. Besides, they have “da dronez” for that.

The most obvious reason I can see for this insane purchase is that it make a lot less ammo available for regular people to buy. And we all know these fucktards think nobody but them should be armed in the first place. Ammo prices have sky rocketed and the supplies are usually thin, if not nonexistent. This is seen as a bonus, because Obama’s DHS sees the most danger not coming from terrorists that are at war with us, but from Americans that don’t want to accept he is now ceasar.

The federal agency’s primary concern is now centered around thwarting “homegrown terrorism,” but information produced and used by the DHS to train its personnel routinely equates conservative political ideology with domestic extremism.

That long sentence is basically pointing out that Big Sis Napolitano’s “peops” think the real terrorists are those of us that want government to respect the constitution, stop the social engineering, and live within its means, and do not want to go along with the emperor and his cadre destroying the country. And no, contrary to what that Huffpo fluff piece starts off with, Janet’s DHS doesn’t think domestic terrorism is as bad as foreign terrorism, because they have repeatedly said that after they killed Uncle Osama, that foreign terrorism was a thing of the past. Janet has been very clear that the DHS thinks domestic terrorists, and not the home grown Islamic Jihadis either, are the big problem, and the paperwork her gang of thugs have published has repeatedly said as much. To the left people like this are the real problem.

It’s gonna get ugly I tell ya. can you imagine the firestorm from the LSM if evil Boosh’s people had done something like this?

Another Step Toward a Worse TSA

It’s not exactly news that TSA is unionizing. Pistole opened the door for that last year and they’ve finally hammered out an agreement.

What is news is how dumb the critics are getting. The criticism had focused on TSA striking. They’ve agreed not to strike but I frankly think we’d be better off if they did strike. It would have little impact on security but result in less gropings and harassment. The link above also has Republicans worried that TSA will be less “flexible”. I don’t think that’s really a concern since they’ve been flexible enough to ignore court orders for a year or more.

No, the concern is that any hope of any accountability is now gone. TSA agents have always been free to grope, harass, bully and steal, but they now have a big bad union to back them up. It’s not that all TSA agents do these things or even a large majority do. I travel a lot and have only had trouble with TSA a couple of times. No, the problem is that even a tiny minority of abusive TSA agents now have an even thicker shield of job security over them.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

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.


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.

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”.

The TSA Pushback

Our wonderful TSA reached new lows recently with their pat down of a baby and a groping of a MIss USA contestant that reduced her to tears. And they’re finally beginning to reap some pushback.

First, Texas:

The Texas House of Representatives late on Thursday approved a bill that would make invasive pat-downs at Texas airports a crime, after a former Miss USA said she felt “molested” at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport last month.

Transportation Security Administration agents could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, face a $4,000 fine and one year in jail under the measure.

The proposal would classify any airport inspection that “touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person” as an offense of sexual harassment under official oppression.

Of course, TSA will respond to this by shunting everyone into the X-ray scanners — at least until Texas outlaws them too. But I like the idea of the states wresting his issues from the Feds, who clearly don’t give a shit and will support anything as long as it has a big red “security” label on the front.

Or maybe not. Congress is moving too. The House Appropriations just put out its draft budget.

The bill includes $7.8 billion for the TSA, an increase of $125 million over last year’s level, and $293 million below the President’s request. These funds will be used to sustain the current cap level of 46,000 full time screening personnel, and for explosive detection systems, security enforcement, cargo inspections, Federal Air Marshals, and other TSA activities. The bill also includes an additional $10 million to address air cargo threats. However, the bill does not provide $76 million requested by the President for 275 additional advanced inspection technology (AIT) scanners nor the 535 staff requested to operate them.

This is just a minor thing in the ongoing budget war (we hit the debt ceiling today). But maybe … just maybe … someone’s getting the message.