TSA: Yes, We Scan!

Airport security theater after allowing 9/11 to happen

related page: Peak Airplanes: the plane truth

"As you know, they search you pretty well at the airport. There'll be lots of places later they'll be searching us, but the airport is where they're kind of trying it out."
- George Carlin, Saturday Night Live, October 11, 1975 http://snltranscripts.jt.org/75/75acarlin.phtml

November 24, 2010

The uproar over the TSA's naked screening machines and sexual assault groping of people who do not want to be irradiated may miss a potential issue that may arise from the current outrage. It is unlikely that the Homeland Security leadership (TSA is part of this Department) did not anticipate that many people would not enjoy having the government take naked pictures of themselves and their family members, and that even fewer would welcome the extremely invasive groping by TSA screeners for those who chose "opt out" of being irradiated with X-ray backscatter machines.

It seems reasonable to assume that the TSA will soon offer the "solution" of biometric identification cards for "trusted travelers" who have been investigated by Homeland Security so they can focus energy on the "others," the foreign, those with darker skin, those who don't fit the "normal" profiles. But since there is enormous evidence that the Federal intelligence agencies knew about 9/11 in advance - and suppressed the warnings, which was not incompetence - the security theater at the airports is merely a political charade.

Two examples of how airport security failed to prevent attacks.

  1. The FBI "refused" to search the laptop computer of Mr. Moussaoui, the French national they arrested in August, 2001. The flight school he was training at in Minnesota called the FBI to warn they were worried he wanted to fly into the World Trade Center. He is a French citizen, so the French government was asked about him by the FBI -- they were told he had been to Afghanistan for terror training and was on their watch list.
    Despite these facts, FBI senior management overrode the requests of the field agents who arrested him on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. The request to a judge for a search warrant, as required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, was gutted to remove probable cause, and his computer was not looked at while he sat in jail. After 9/11, his computer was examined and it contained enough incriminating evidence that had it been examined before the attacks, 9/11 could not have happened, even if Cheney wanted it too. This is precisely the situation where getting a search warrant from a judge was reasonable, the Constitutional procedures for federal investigation were sufficient to stop 9/11 if the senior management of the FBI had not deliberately interfered with standard operating procedures. More security procedures cannot stop a covert "stand down." We need democratic oversight of the national security establishment to protect the public.
  2. Mr. Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who tried to set a plane on fire on Christmas, 2009 (the "underwear bomber"), would have been stopped from flying to the United States if normal procedures had been followed. His father, a relatively high up person in the Nigerian elites, told the US embassy in his country that he was worried that his son had gotten involved with terrorists and they should watch out for him. It's difficult to get intelligence this direct, but his son was not put on the "No Fly" list despite his training with al-Qaeda inspired terrorists in Yemen. There was also a passenger on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit who claimed that Mr. Abdulmutallab had a government minder who made sure he got on the plane - this claim cannot be independently confirmed or denied, but it's beyond reasonable doubt that the warning from his father would have led to an investigation. If the intelligence system is too incompetent to follow up on a warning of this precision, then the managers of these covert agencies need to be fired. If the intelligence system wanted a failed terror attack to scare the public into accepting new forms of control, then we have a much bigger problem than most civil libertarians are willing to discuss.

The naked scanners, biometric ID cards and similar abuses are clearly not intended solely for airports, they are key technologies for creating the surveillance society on the cusp of the permanent energy shock. These devices are not needed to prevent terrorism - that goal would require reforming or abolishing the "intelligence" agencies that suppress warnings that terror attacks (9/11) are about to happen. As the economy contracts as the concentrated energy resources dwindle, there is likely to be enormous public anger over inequities and the refusal of the government and corporate powers to plan for the limits to growth (although much of this anger is unlikely to understand the root causes of the crises). Previous dictatorships could only dream of the surveillance power of interlocking computer databases, biometrics and other forms of mass spying. Here is something to contemplate: if biometric IDs and other 21st century electronic spying techniques had existed in Nazi Germany, there would have been even fewer survivors of the Holocaust.


What's next after full-body scans and pat-downs
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
CAMPBELL, Calif. (KGO) -- There could be an easier way to screen airline passengers without radiation or pat-downs. Its technology being developed in Silicon Valley that focuses on the eyes.
Resistance to full-body scans and pat-downs has security agencies around the world searching for a new, less-invasive tool to separate law-abiding travelers from suspected terrorists. Consensus is building that the next step is likely to be iris recognition technology.


The best way to reduce the risk of terrorism to airplanes (and trains, buses, shopping malls, etc) is not to impose a totalitarian surveillance society but to end global warfare that impoverishes nations, wastes resources and creates would be martyrs who want to avenge the many atrocities their societies receive. Shifting from military spending to reparations for the victims of imperialism by funding renewable energy systems, ecological restoration efforts and relocalization of production (especially food) would do more for our collective safety than any technological tyranny that promises security over freedom.

A Political Note:

The technological police state is completely bi-partisan. Some Democrats and Republicans think the "other" political party is behind this, and their guys have clean hands. There's many Republicans who think this is proof of Obama's anti-democratic credentials. Rush Limbaugh is telling his audience that the Obama administration is taking revenge on Republicans when they fly. Democrats counter that TSA and Homeland Security were created by the Bush administration (although they forget to mention the Democrats in Congress mostly went along with it and early planning for the Department started in the Clinton administration). There's also a political side show over whether airport security screeners should be federal employees or private contractors, unionized or not -- as if these concerns were the primary issues.

and a footnote about 9/11:

Much of the energy in the "9/11 truth movement" has long since passed over pointing out the seemingly mundane issue of official foreknowledge of the attacks and is now focused on claims the towers (and WTC 7) were deliberately blown up, plane crashes were faked, and even more obscure and extreme claims. But the political implications of "merely" allowing the attacks to happen is not much different than the controlled demolition claims. Arguing over the precise technical support given to 9/11 by the national security state is similar to debating the number of bullets fired at President Kennedy -- perhaps it may be interesting (or morbid) to a tiny minority, but irrelevant for understanding the Big Picture. Even if it is true that uninterruptable autopilots were used to "hijack the hijackers" with remote control (to ensure the planes hit their targets, and not the Indian Point nuclear power station, which Flight 11 flew over, and also not Rumsfeld's office in the opposite side of the Pentagon that was hit), that would not change the situation -- the covert government wanted, needed, enabled the 9/11 attacks. Regardless of the precise manner that 9/11 was facilitated, the "security theater" (to use security consultant Bruce Schneier's term) at the airports is a distraction from accountability for allowing the attacks to proceed despite ample warnings from US allies, FBI agents and military intelligence.


GAO says airport body scanners may not have thwarted Christmas Day bombing

By Spencer S. Hsu
Thursday, March 18, 2010

President Obama's push to deploy body-imaging scanners at airports will cost U.S. taxpayers roughly $3 billion over eight years, congressional investigators report, but it is unclear whether the controversial devices would have caught the man who allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with explosives hidden in his underwear.


August 4, 2010 4:00 AM PDT
Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images
by Declan McCullagh

For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they're viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded."
Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

note: the TSA has to store these images. If an actual terrorist passed through their screening system and attacked a plane, they would want to review the record of the screening to see if the screeners missed something they should have paid attention to.

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What the TSA isn't saying about Full Body Scanners and Your Right to Opt Out - Say "I Opt Out." Every Time.


Act Now. Travel With Dignity

The Plan is Simple

  1. If you absolutely, positively must fly, opt out of the scanners. Do it to protect your health and privacy.
  2. If you can avoid flying, don’t fly. Hit the airlines in the pocketbook until the scanners and gropers are gone. Make the airlines work for us.
  3. Raise holy hell. Register your disapproval of the scanners and gropers to your airline, your hotel and all government officials who claim to work for you. Educate your community.

For your Health

Backscatter X-ray uses ionizing radiation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers’ bodies. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer. Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm. In their letter of concern, the UCSF faculty members noted that “the dose to the skin could be dangerously high”. The eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of radiation, and as one study found allowing the eyes to be exposed to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.

For your Privacy

Aside from the health risks of these devices, the fact remains that they allow strip searches to be conducted on a wide-scale level. That they are automated and mechanical in no way changes the fact that when a government agent looks beneath your clothing you are being strip searched. These strip searches are being performed without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion, as primary screening. A recent article in the San Diego Entertainer on August 31, 2010 stated that “the scans are detailed enough to identify a person’s gender… to identify a passenger’s surgery scars, or to discern whether a woman is on her menstrual cycle or not.” Although the TSA purports to be staffed by highly trained professionals who respect the privacy and dignity of travelers, TSA Screener Rolando Negrin was ridiculed by other TSA screeners for having a small penis after being imaged by an AIT device (AKA porno-scanner).

For your Personal Property

There are also property risks. During the time that a person is inside the full body imaging machine, it is impossible to maintain a line of sight to his or her belongings. Remember that because you cannot have anything in your pockets during the scan, this will include all your identification, money, and all personal items. Numerous thefts have been reported at security checkpoints, including incidents that led to the firing of four TSA employees at JFK as ABC News reported.

The Scanners are Ineffective and Unproven Anyway

From the Vancouver Sun: Full-body scanners are waste of money, Israeli expert says

A leading Israeli airport security expert says the Canadian government has wasted millions of dollars to install “useless” imaging machines at airports across the country.

“I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

“That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport,” Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

Sela, former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security at Ben Gurion.

How to Opt Out: Say “I Opt Out”

Should you decide to opt out, you must be aware that the TSA will perform a pat down instead of subjecting you to the WBI/AIT (AKA porno-scanner). The TSA may try to pressure you into submitting to the scanners. You are not required by law to submit to imaging, however, many TSA employees may attempt to intimidate, coerce or insist that it is required. You will need to be firm, and sometimes will not be allowed to opt out unless you state in exactly these words “I opt out.” While you should be able to opt out using your own terms, such as requesting a pat down instead, or stating that you will not be photographed nude, remember that not all screeners will be respectful of your decision. They may continue to insist until you say “I opt out.” In these cases it is up to the individual traveler to determine whether to stand firm or to use the TSA’s preferred wording.

WARNING: Enhanced Pat Down

Be aware that the TSA is using what they call an “enhanced pat down” in many instances. These pat downs are much more rigorous and often include the TSA using their palms to touch your genitals in a manner that could feel like sexual assault. If you feel that you or your child were inappropriately touched during the enhanced pat down, call for a law enforcement officer.

note: the ACLU correctly notes that "enhanced" is a euphemism. Torture at Guantanamo Bay was renamed "enhanced interrogation."

graphics below posted at