In the U.S. where we are fighting invasions of privacy and the destruction of our First Amendment rights in about 900 different ways every day, most of us have stopped talking about how insane and offensive airport security still is. To begin with, allow me to disabuse you of the notion that airport security stops terror attacks. As Darryl Campbell reports in The Verge, “the reality is that TSA has played next to no role in the biggest counterterrorism stories of the past two decades. According to the think tank RAND, intelligence and security services manage to foil nearly two-thirds of terrorist plots in the planning stages.” Of course, U.S. law enforcement also helps create almost all of the “terror attacks” they thwart.
A US appeals court has ruled that Customs and Border Protection agents can conduct in-depth searches of phones and laptops, overturning an earlier legal victory for civil liberties groups. First Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch declared that both basic and “advanced” searches, which include reviewing and copying data without a warrant, fall within “permissible constitutional grounds” at the American border. Lynch ruled against a group of US citizens and residents objecting to invasive searches of their electronic devices. The group includes Sidd Bikkannavar, a NASA scientist who was detained and pressured to unlock a secure government-issued phone.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today demanding government documents about Transportation Security Administration (TSA) searches of electronic devices belonging to people traveling on domestic flights. “The federal government’s policies on searching the phones, laptops, and tablets of domestic air passengers remain shrouded in secrecy,” said Vasudha Talla, Staff Attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. The lawsuit seeks records from the TSA field office in San Francisco, California and the TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to policies, procedures, or protocols regarding the search of passengers’ electronic devices; equipment used to search, examine, or extract data from passengers’ devices...
By Michael Maharrey for Activist Post - The federal government plans to use a TSA program advertised as a way to avoid lines at airport security checkpoints to harvest photos and other biometric information that will ultimately end up in multiple federal databases. The TSA touts its PreCheck program as a way to avoid the hassle of security screening. Members of the program do not have to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. But according to a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Department of Homeland Security has developed this program with a broader purpose in mind. PreCheck will facilitate the collection of face images and iris scans on a nationwide scale. Once that happens, this biometric data will almost certainly be widely shared with other federal agencies and even private corporations. DHS’s programs will become a massive violation of privacy that could serve as a gateway to the collection of biometric data to identify and track every traveler at every airport and border crossing in the country. The TSA currently collects fingerprints during the PreCheck application process. Over the summer, the agency ran a pilot program at the Atlanta Airport using fingerprints to verify passengers’ identities. According to the EFF, the TSA wants to roll out the program to airports across the country and expand it to include facial recognition, iris scans, and other biometric data. This TSA will almost certainly share this information with other federal agencies, including the FBI.
By Carey Wedler for Anti-Media - Come January 22, all states are required to be in compliance with the Real ID Act unless they have received extensions. DHS is currently reviewing extension requests from states like California, New York, and New Jersey. So far, 25 states are compliant with the act. According to the TSA, states that are not yet compliant “will have a grace period until January 22, 2018, meaning that Federal agencies (including TSA) will continue to accept driver’s license and identification cards issued by these states in accordance with each agency’s policies.” After that, travelers in states that have not yet met the requirements may be required to show their passports for interstate travel. DHS says that “Starting January 22, 2018, travelers who do not have a license from a compliant state or a state that has been granted an extension (a complete list of non-compliant states/ territories can be found here) will be asked to provide alternate acceptable identification. If the traveler cannot provide an acceptable form of identification, they will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.” By October 1, 2020, “every traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel.”
By Jay Stanley for ACLU - The TSA is testing new requirements that passengers remove books and other paper goods from their carry-on baggage when going through airline security. Given the sensitivity of our reading choices, this raises privacy concerns. Tests of the policy are underway in some small airports around the country, and DHS Secretary John Kelly recently said that “we might, and likely will” apply the policy nationwide. “What we’re doing now is working out the tactics, techniques, and procedures, if you will, in a few airports, to find out exactly how to do that with the least amount of inconvenience to the traveler,” he told Fox News. The policy may also apply to food items. The rationale for the policy change given by Kelly and the TSA is that the imposition of growing fees for checked baggage by the airlines has prompted passengers to more densely pack their carry-ons, and that this has made it harder for screeners to identify particular items amid the jumble of images appearing on their screens. Laptops must already be pulled out separately because they are regarded as a heightened threat and can be better examined if they are not scanned in a bag with many other objects.
By David Kravet for ARS Technica - An Oregon man who stripped naked at an airport security screening checkpoint must pay a $500 fine after a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect this method of protest. The nude protest at Portland International Airport (PDX) by a traveler named John Brennan prompted legal action by both the federal government and the state of Oregon. Portland prosecutors charged him with indecent exposure. A local judge acquitted him, saying that Oregon cannot "punish" him for his nudity, which amounted to protest speech protected by the First Amendment. Federal authorities also imposed a civil fine for violating a US law that prohibits "interference with screening personnel." The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with the government, ruled last week that the First Amendment is no defense to getting naked in a TSA security line. As you might recall, Brennan made national headlines in 2012. A security screener's gloves used in his pat down tested positive for nitrates, a substance that can be used to build bombs.
By Justin Bachman for Bloomberg - The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has declined to say exactly where—and how—employees will be touching air travelers as part of the more invasive physical pat-down procedure it recently ordered. But the agency does expect some passengers to consider the examination unusual. In fact, the TSA decided to inform local police in case anyone calls to report an “abnormal” federal frisking, according to a memo from an airport trade association obtained by Bloomberg News. The physical search, for those selected to have one, is what the agency described as a more “comprehensive” screening, replacing five separate kinds of pat-downs it previously used.
By Chris Bray for TSA News - All analysis about the TSA eventually becomes the very same analysis, because the core of what the agency does never changes. Nor does the news media’s relentlessly credulous approach to covering the agency. After a while, you can just put new names into the template: 2016 is 2014 is 2012, and TSA Director Peter Neffenger is just the Dumb and Dumber sequel to Fifty Shades of John Pistole. The latest example comes from CBS News, which just offered a breathless report on the TSA’s new national training academy.
By Lisa Simeone in TSA News Blog - From the Washington Post comes this story of not only another instance of TSA abuse, but the TSA’s bragging about said abuse. The headline reads: “Why the TSA posted a photo of a passenger’s cash-filled luggage on Twitter.” And the TSA tweeter in question is none other than PR flack Lisa Farbstein, about whom we’ve written so many times before. From the Post: "The photo, from the Richmond airport, shows a passenger’s luggage containing $75,000 in cash. Farbstein asks, “Is this how you’d transport it?” Most people would not, but there is nothing illegal about simply checking a bag containing $75,000, or carrying it with you on the plane. Passengers aren’t under any obligation to report large sums of cash unless they’re traveling internationally, though the TSA recommends that passengers consider asking for a private screening."
By James Bovard in USAToday. Last August, Transportation Security Administrationchief John Pistole attacked an article I wrote, stating that it was "Misleading, inaccurate and unfairly disparages the dedicated (TSA) workforce. … We will not sit back and allow misinformation and conjecture to malign our employees." Pistole resigned last December — in time to miss the uproar this week about TSA agents failing to detect 95% of the weapons and bombs smuggled past them by Inspector General testers. While Pistole is leading the PR pushback to absolve his former agency, the I.G. report is the latest confirmation that TSA continues blindly blundering and pointlessly abusing Americans' rights and privacy.
Key security agencies in the United States are expected to be exempted from new Justice Department rules announced by President Barack Obama’s administration to reduce racial profiling by federal law enforcement. The exemptions will permit Homeland Security agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to continue to use racial profiling, according to The Washington Post. With the militarization and expansion of the region, which the US government considers the “border,” this means, as journalist Todd Miller has highlighted, 197 million Americans or 66 percent of Americans, who live “within the jurisdiction of US Customs and Border Patrol,” will not be protected from racial profiling.
Stacey Armato, the lawyer and mother who was bullied, harassed, and made to miss her flight by the TSA in 2010, has reached a settlement in her lawsuit against the TSA. We've written about Armato and her case several times. Information about her case is also in the Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses. Armato, a frequent flyer, was trying to take breastmilk through the checkpoint, which is perfectly legal and acceptable, but the TSA clerks on duty at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport were in a bad mood and wanted to lord their power over her. They refused to let her pass. From the complaint: She requested an alternate screening process for the breast milk so it was not exposed to radiation. Plaintiff even had a printout of the TSA's own guidelines - guidelines that had been in effect since July 20, 2007. These TSA agents, however, remembering her from the week before, retaliated against her for requesting alternate screening of her breast milk. Plaintiff was forced to stand in a glass enclosure in front of all the other passengers for over 40 minutes, where she was frequently harassed and abused by TSA agents. Plaintiff was specifically singled out for no other reason than to humiliate. Regular readers will recognize that this a common practice by TSA agents.
We have an update on the case of John Brennan, the man who stripped naked at a TSA checkpoint in April of 2012. We first wrote about Brennan here. We then provided updates here, where he said he wanted a trial, and here, where he was found Not Guilty of "public indecency." But not content with that ruling, the TSA pushed on, charging Brennan with "interefering with the screening process." This week, a judge sided with the TSA . . . and ordered a $500 fine, John Brennan plans to appeal.