Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

Beware of 95 yo terrorists!

June 27, 2011

If you had any question about TSA being completely out-of-control, last week’s event in Florida should be the last time you ever question that. It’s bad enough that babies’ diapers are searched, that kids are patted down but this – this is unconscionable. A 95-year old woman, dying of leukemia and headed to be with her family in her final days was patted down and forced to remove her adult diaper because it was “in the way.”

Are you freaking kidding me? I’d like to know when the last time was that a 95-year old great-grandma was secretly a terrorist. Or when “dirty diapers” became a euphemism for “dirty bomb.” Or when explosives were in bottles of breast milk.

Her daughter, Jean Weber, burst into tears when she was forced to help remove her mother’s diaper. Her tears then triggered a pat-down of her own because of her “suspicious” behavior.

Meanwhile, the Israeli airport has never had a terrorist incident. They use profiling (yes, it actually works!) and bomb-sniffing dogs, saving advanced screening for those individuals who actually warrant it (unlike great-grandmas). Here in the US, though, we are so afraid of offending someone, we don’t actually employ the tools that work. Instead, we suspect everyone, the TSA never backs down and doggedly stands by their “procedures.”

This is one more example of what happens with slavish devotion to “the law.” Trading freedom for (the illusion of) security never works. Congressman Jason Chaffetz has spent a considerable amount of time pointing out the problems with TSA – and now he chairs the committee that oversees them. Sweet. This latest incident will be one more arrow in his quiver as proposes legislation to trim TSA’s wings – and none too soon. This is ridiculous.


Securing our airplanes

November 22, 2010

Americans are making it pretty clear that digital strip-searches and intimate groping as the first line of defense is simply going too far. We need to be more effective and less invasive.

There are several possible alternatives.

A recent report from the Pentagon showed that dogs are the BEST at detecting bombs. After spending $19 billion and trying to create mechanical “sniffers”, the bottom line is that dogs detect the presence of explosives far more reliably than machinery. An article in “Wired” starts this way:

Drones, metal detectors, chemical sniffers, and super spycams — forget ‘em. The leader of the Pentagon’s multibillion military task force to stop improvised bombs says there’s nothing in the U.S. arsenal for bomb detection more powerful than a dog’s nose.

Next, we need to use intelligence to screen, well, more intelligently. Let’s get past the political correctness that prevents us from doing the best job possible and actually learn from the people with the safest airline and the safest airport in the world – the Israelis.

A 2006 Boston Globe article outlined some of their security practices:

The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel’s national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked.

The Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don’t hijack planes, terrorists do — and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition — what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.

Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers — that’s what they’re called — make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for “anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit.” Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water

They also put all checked baggage in a pressure chamber that will trigger any possible explosive devices and they pay particular attention to passengers from countries at war with Israel. We should learn from that. Mr. Shoe Bomber and Mr. Panty Bomber both got on flights originating outside of the US, where multiple red flags were ignored.

Last week, Michael J Totten, an independent foreign correspondent, wrote about the TSA and Israeli security:

Terrorists have yet to use the same weapon twice, and the TSA isn’t even looking for whatever they’ll try to use next. I can think of all sorts of things a person could use to wreak havoc on a plane that aren’t banned. Security officials should pay less attention to objects, and more attention to people.

The Israelis do. They are, out of dreadful necessity, the world’s foremost experts in counterterrorism. And they couldn’t care less about what your grandmother brings on a plane. Instead, officials at Ben Gurion International Airport interview everyone in line before they’re even allowed to check in.

And Israeli officials profile. They don’t profile racially, but they profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport — almost half are from Lebanon and Iraq — I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I’m a white, nominally Christian American.

If they pull you aside, you had better tell them the truth. They’ll ask you so many wildly unpredictable questions so quickly, you couldn’t possibly invent a fake story and keep it all straight. Don’t even try. They’re highly trained and experienced, and they catch everyone who tries to pull something over on them….They don’t put anyone into a “porn machine.” There’s no point. Terrorists can’t penetrate that deeply into the airport.

The system has its advantages, though, aside from the fact that no one looks or reaches into anyone’s pants. Israelis don’t use security theater to make passengers feel like they’re safe. They use real security measures to ensure that travelers actually are safe. Even when suicide bombers exploded themselves almost daily in Israeli cities, not a single one managed to get through that airport.

Isn’t it time that we started working smarter and stop treating everyone as suspects?

Don’t touch my junk!

November 22, 2010

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin

The current situation with the TSA is a perfect example of what happens when we trade liberty for supposed security. Toss in some bizarre notion of political correctness that prevents us from targeting suspicious passengers and we end up with a government agency that supervises taking (and storing) naked pictures and groping would-be fliers.

Perhaps we’ve been losing individual liberties since the adoption of the US Constitution 200-plus years ago.  James Madison proclaimed in 1788: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Bit by bit, we have lost our freedoms because we we are complacent, apathetic – or – shudder – we actually give up our liberties voluntarily.

A bit over 9 years ago, some people bent on the destruction of America, flew some planes into some buildings. We were shocked! Horrified! Outraged! And the majority of us rushed to give away our liberties for a chance at what we thought was more safety, more security under the guise of the Patriot Act. We have lost oh-so-much under that act. We can be spied on in our own homes. We can have tracking devices placed on our cars without warrants. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the FBI has illegally collected thousands of U.S. telephone call records. We’ve also lost the right to “habeus corpus” – the right to be protected from unlawful search and seizure, as guaranteed in our 4th amendment.

Today, the TSA takes the violation of the 4th amendment to a whole new level. In fact, a former assistant TSA administrator admitsNobody likes having their 4th Amendment violated going through a security line, but the truth of the matter is, we’re gonna have to.”

John Tyner headed to the airport earlier this month.  He opted out of the TSA porn machine and was led to the “pat down” area.  He describes his experience:

After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a “standard” pat down. (I thought to myself, “great, not one of those gropings like I’ve been reading about”.) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”

Charles Krauthammer wrote recently in the Washington Post about  Tyner’s quip:

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of “Don’t Tread on Me,” but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

Don’t touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter.

Tyner’s not the only one whose junk is getting touched.  We have 8 year-olds being strip-searched in line, a 5 year-old disabled child forced to remove his leg braces, a breast cancer survivor forced to remove her prosthetic, and a bladder cancer patient who had his urostomy bag knocked off during the TSA groping, soaking him in urine.  We have a pilot traveling with his 18 year-old daughter who overheard a TSA agent on his headset sayingheads up, got a cutie for you,” and 2 other pilots suing Homeland Security for wanting to “touch their junk.”  In fact, one of those pilots, Michael Roberts, has described the scanners as machines who can “see whether a man is circumcised or a woman is menstruating. They can see everything.” Oh, and TSA workers know it.  Just ask Rolando Negrin.  He’s the TSA worker who went ballistic after his co-workers started mocking him for – well – the size of his junk.

Lame duck immigration legislation

October 6, 2010

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced an immigration bill a couple of days before the Senate adjourned until November 15th. There was, of course, no time to act on that bill except to refer it to committee where it will likely die. Republicans weren’t impressed.

According to a Politico article:

Republicans think the legislation is just a game to gin up the base, potentially in heavily Hispanic parts of the country.

The fall push for immigration reform is “for effect rather than reality,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who previously sponsored the DREAM Act but doesn’t support it now, called it nothing more than a “cynical ploy for votes.”

“Sooner or later, we’ve got to do it, but anything done in this time period is just for show,” Hatch told POLITICO. “Apparently, [Menendez] thinks there is some benefit, but it is cynical and it’s not right to do it at this point. And it’s very unlikely for it to have any success. In fact, it’s impossible.”

Ironically, Senator Hatch introduced his own lame-duck immigration bill the very next day. He said his bill would go a long way towards securing the border and clamping down on identity theft and drug cartels.

Not everyone was impressed with his efforts either. According to the Salt Lake Tribune:

Eli Cawley, chairman of the Utah Minuteman Project, says he doesn’t believe Hatch is serious about the issue and overlooked the businesses that hire undocumented immigrants.

“I think he completely misses the boat when it comes to the real problem with illegal immigration,” Cawley said.

Without going after the businesses that hire the immigrants, and their connections with those who smuggle them across the border, the flow of immigrants will continue, Cawley said.

Ben Johnson, the executive director of the Washington-based American Immigration Council, says Hatch’s bill is simply more of the same rhetoric that’s been tossed around for a while and does nothing to move the debate forward.

“The reality is that there too many politicians, and I think, unfortunately, Senator Hatch is beginning to fall into that category, introducing legislation not in any effort to actually get it passed but to send messages to their constituents,” Johnson said.

The system works??

December 28, 2009

By now you’ve heard of the terrorist who tried to take down a plane on Christmas Day, right?  “Undi-bomber” Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab hid explosives in his underwear and tried to ignite them on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.  Luckily for the almost 300 passengers on the plane, he only succeeded in starting a small fire and not in getting the whole package to explode.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday morning, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano said “the system worked.  Everybody played an important role here.”  She followed that up by saying there is “no indication he was improperly screened.”  Robert Gibb, White House spokesman, said on “Face the Nation” that “in many ways, this system has worked”.

Apparently part of the plan is having an explosive fail and hoping there will be a passenger willing to take down the guy?  Maybe the part that worked includes allowing a man already on a watch list onto an airplane, allowing his visa to remain in force even after his own father informs the US that he’s become a radical jihadi, or maybe it was the part where he bought his ticket with cash and then got on an international flight with no luggage?

After Napolitano’s remarks, Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Select Intelligence Committee, accused the administration of being soft on terrorism.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “It’s amazing to me that an individual like this, who was sending out so many signals, could end up getting on a plane going to the U.S.”

This morning on the Today show, Napolitano had to backtrack and admitted that “Our system did not work in this instance.”  The New York Times reported today that “counterterrorism experts and members of Congress were hardly willing to praise what they said was a security system that had proved to be not nimble enough to respond to the ever-creative techniques devised by would-be terrorists.”

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman said “We ought to, in our age, be able to put 500,000 names on a computer and have everybody who’s trying to come to the U.S. go through that list,”  on “Fox News Sunday.” “That doesn’t mean they’re convicted of any wrongdoing. But it would be basis enough to take this guy out of the line in Amsterdam and do a full-body check, and that would have determined that he was carrying explosives.”

Kinda sad when the head of Homeland Security has to have other people point out that, um, it was a big fail.

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