Category Archives: Security

TSA Gives In

I feel vindicated.  I have argued for some time now that the body scanners used by the TSA are an unconstitutional violation of people’s rights.  Now they have voluntarily agreed to change the system so that it will automatically detect dangerous objects without showing a rough image of the person’s naked body.  The ACLU was among the groups saying that the viewing of such images by TSA officials was a violation of rights, but many of my friends and acquaintances thought that I was simply making a big deal out of nothing.

Hopefully the upgrade will also eliminate the need for “enhanced” pat-downs.  I had one of them once–before the backscatter machines were installed.  It was awkward and embarrssing, and the agent did come barely in contact with a part of my anatomy reserved for myself, my wife, and my doctor.

Texas Fails to Rein in TSA

Through various kinds of maneuvering, key legislators in Texas derailed a bill that would have prevented the TSA from continuing to grope airline passengers in their enhanced pat-down procedures.

Targetting the Mentally Disabled

So the TSA cannot target Middle Eastern men when they do security checks. But apparently they can target men with low IQs.

What irks me most about the story is that the parents tried to tell the agent about their son’s special needs, but the agent would not listen.  It reminds me of the time that I saw a man in a wheelchair go through the security clearing in an airport.  They required him to stand up, which he did with great effort and strain.  They also told him to take off the vest that he was wearing, which he could hardly do.  He worked for a long time at the buttons, and he finally was able to get them undone and boost himself forward to take off the vest.  The agent would not let any of the people who were traveling with him help him.

I felt sickened that the security agent had no respect for the old man’s age or for his physical limitations.  I felt disgusted that they could suspect such a person of being a terrorist.  Not only was he clearly a salt-of-the-earth American, but he couldn’t have hijacked a plane if he had wanted to.

Recently I saw a video clip from a news broadcast.  A man who had had a urostomy was patted down by TSA agents so that his bag of urine leaked on him.  He had little choice but to fly wet and smelly.  He tried to tell the agent to be careful, but the agent allegedly paid no attention.  How rude, to say the least!

I feel the same way about Drew Mandy.  They had the gall to ask him why there was padding under his pants.  How embarrassing!  How frustrating and even potentially frightening for a person like him to be questioned and search, when he cannot understand what they are saying to him and cannot figure out what to say.  Someday that agent may have to wear padded underpants and I hope people ask him about it everywhere he goes.  (Not really, but in my anger I couldn’t help but think that.)

They also took away his toy hammer–a toy that he had had for years and that was his “security blanket.”  So, my laptop can go through after they check it, but a toy hammer cannot?  Guess which one would be a more effective weapon?  For that matter, there are many items scattered throughout the cabin of the airplane that are far more dangerous than a toy hammer.

The TSA has admitted that this “isolated incident” was unfortunate and was handled improperly.  I love how government agencies call each of the dozens of incidents of improper conduct they are guilty of an “isolated incident.”  I know of two cases of little children being patted down and being reduced to tears.  I witnessed the bad treatment of the old man that I narrated above and saw the news clip of the man with the catheter.

I think that this incident shows once again two problems with our current airport security measures.  The first is that these “agents” don’t always know what they are doing.  The TSA has admitted it in this case.  What even makes these people security agents anyway?  I guess because they wear a uniform and have some kind of badge.  Are they actually specialists in security?  Are they trained police detectives?  Are they former military intelligence officers?  Were they in the CIA?

I remember when they all became agents of the government.  One day they were high school graduates who weren’t qualified for any other job except to wave people through a metal detector, and then the next day they were security agents working for the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.  I know more about security than most of them–at least more than most of them knew at that time.  Maybe they have all gone through rigorous training and are certified safety and security experts now.  I don’t see how that could be true, but maybe.

I certainly know that you can’t interrogate a little child or a mentally challenged person without scaring them.  The information they give you, if they can actually speak without crying is not always reliable.  I know that five-year-old girls in pigtails who are on their way to visit grandmother and mentally disabled people clutching toy hammers who are on their way to Disneyland are not Middle Eastern fanatics ready to blow up an airplane that they and their families are riding on.

Which demonstrates the second problem.  By doing random checks, they are checking people needlessly and checking people who it is actually wrong to check.  They are targetting, by default, people who could not possibly be terrorists and people who are not physically or mentally able to endure the check.

The TSA has admitted that the incident was handled poorly, but what will they do to correct it?  Will they inform all of their “security agents” that they must show more respect for people who have mental or physical limitations?  Will they put procedures in place to identify people who are exempt from being patted down and interrogated?  Will they make a rule that toys that are being carried by children or mentally challenged adults do not need to be confiscated, seeing that much harder, heavier things are not confiscated?

I’m disgusted with the whole thing.  I do not feel safer in a country where the mentally disabled are treated that way.  I feel that we have gone a few steps backward in treating people like Drew Mandy, as well as our senior adults, our children, and our physically disabled people with dignity and respect.

When I worked as an election judge I twice had the honor of helping people who needed assistance in voting.  One was a young man with low IQ who needed me to read the ballot for him.  Another was an elderly man whose hand trembled, and so he needed me to punch the ballot.  I did everything I could not to call attention to them or their issues but to let them retain their dignity as people.  That’s how we should treat such people–not the way that the TSA does.

The Problem of Israeli Withdrawal

Before I launch into specifics, I want to make a general comment about the position of the United States in regard to Israel.  Until we as a country are willing to give up our occupied territories, we have not moral authority for demanding that Israel do so.  Vast areas of the United States belonged to Native Americans and to Mexico and have been “perpetually” occupied.  Unless and until we revert to borders that include only the land that we legally bought or bartered for, we have no right to demand that any other country do so.

Although it sounds nice, in a mushy-gushy way, to talk about peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, there are several practicial problems.

How will Israel relocate the 80,000 or so settlers in the West Bank?  They had major difficulties relocated one-tenth that number from the Gaza Strip.  When people hear about settlements, they think about some outpost in the middle of nowhere, but the actual settlements are often like small cities–with highrise apartment buildings, shopping centers, and schools.  You could argue that they shouldn’t be there in the first place.  Perhaps, but I would argue that the Arab states should not have attacked Israel in 1967, which is what caused those lands to be “occupied.”

Even if Israel could afford to relocate the so-called settlers and build them new communities to live in within the miniscule territory that they had in 1967, the settlers are not going to go willingly.  Many of them believe that it is their God-given duty and God-given right to live there.  They will have to be forced out militarily, and it is never a pleasant situation when a country must turn its military against its own citizens, as Israel did with the Gaza Strip settlers.

And even if Israel gets all the settlers out of the so-called West Bank and into its tiny, tiny section of the area, how will Israel defend itself.  Perhaps you think that they won’t need to.  Once they withdraw from the “occupied territories,” the Arabs will be so happy that they will henceforth live peacefully next door.  Maybe, but do the constant attacks, numbering in the thousands,  from the Gaza Strip indicate that it is a likely scenario?  How about the recent bombing of a school bus in southern Israel by a laser-guided missile?

Israel will have to move their security barriers, which will be another expensive and time consuming project.  While they are moving the settlers and building new security walls and fences, they will be quite vulnerable to attack by terrorists or by other nations.

The narrowest part of Israel was about 8 miles across in 1967.  When the Arab states attacked Israel, one of their strategies was to cut Israel in half at that narrow neck of land.  What would stop them from doing so again?

And then there’s Jerusalem.  When the Arabs contolled Jerusalem, the Jews had no access to the Western Wall.  Jewish holy sites and archeological sites were not protected.  (In earlier times they were, but not after the creation of Israel in 1948.)  Since Israel has controlled Jerusalem there has been access to the holy sites of all religions and laws protect all ancient sites from pillaging or desecration.  That is the way that it should be, but what will gurantee that a “divided” Jerusalem will be open to pilgrims of other religions or will even be home to the many religions and sects already there?  The Western Wall is part of the pre-1967 Arab territory, as are some important churches and monasteries.

Please note that I have addressed none of the religious aspects of this problem, other than to acknowledge that they exist.  No matter what one believes, this is the situation as it actually exists.  These are the real, concrete problems that cannot be solved just because President Obama made a “nice” speech.

TSA Backs Down, Somewhat, Not Really

     I generally like Fox News, except when they simply print AP articles.  There is such a noticeable difference in tone that it is obviously not one of the Fox reporters who wrote it.  However, there are a few interesting tidbits on this article about the TSA and their security procedures

     The article indicates that the TSA chief, John Pistole, “appeared to give ground.”  As you read further you see that appeared is the right word.  It is clear that he plans to make no substantive changes in the current invasive procedures used by his agents.  He said that they would work to make screening procedures as “minimally invasive as possible.”  Wait a minute!  Did he admit that they have been making them more invasive than necessary?  I thought that the TSA had already assured concerned passangers that the procedures already are as minimally invasive as possible?  In that case, they obviously cannot change them.  He said at another point, “Clearly it’s invasive.” 

     By saying that they are invasive at all, he practically admits that the procedures violate people’s rights.  If they are invasive, it means that they invade something.  What?  If they invade people’s privacy, then that is a violation of our rights.  If they invade people’s person, then they are a violation of our rights.

     The TSA chief acts as though this is the only way to stop terrorist acts from occurring on airplanes, but it is not, according to some experts.  As I wrote in an earlier post, Israel does not put the average passenger through such an ordeal.

     The article clearly states that the scanners produce a “virtually naked image.”  It states that the pat-down ivolves officials in touching “the clothed genital areas of the passengers.” In almost any other context, it would be a crime for a stranger to do that to you.  Even the police cannot use such procedures on somebody without probable cause.

     The most interesting thing in the article was the fact that Hillary Clinton said that she wouldn’t like to submit to the screening.  I’m sure that she doesn’t have to.  I’m sure that John Pistole doesn’t have to either.  But, then, nobody should have to.

Opting Out of Being Violated

     There is a movement afloat to opt out of full body scans on November 24.  I will not be going through an airport that day, so I cannot participate.  However, if you are traveling by air, please consider opting out of that invasion of privacy.  Unfortunately the alternative is the newer, more intimate pat-downs.  They are certainly no better than the scan, but that is not the point of the opt-out day.

     The point seems to be to draw attention to the indecent procedures of the TSA by slowing them down and probably frustrating them.  Of course, it will only succeed if enough people participate.  I hope that enough do.

Security Like Israel’s

     I have just learned about Israel’s airport security measures.  Israel is one of the most targeted nations on earth when it comes to terrorism.  In fact, I would guess that they are number on when it comes to threats by extremist Muslims.  Yet their security measures are very different from those in the U. S.

     They do not do full body scans or invasive pat downs.  They do not make people remove their shoes, and they do not ban liquids.  Nevertheless, people at Israeli airports go through six levels of security checks, and they do it in all in less than half an hour. That’s from the parking lot to the gate!

     More importantly, they are highly successful.  They have not experienced a security breach in eight years.  Maybe the United States should learn from them.

     Actually, scratch the maybe.  The United States should definitely learn from them.

SOURCE:  John Tyner Might Like Israel’s Airport Security Better

Standing Up to the TSA

     A man named John Tyner refused to have a full body scan.  He then refused to have a pat down that would have involved the touching of his most private parts. 

     It’s about time that somebody stood up to these searches.  They are an invasion of privacy to say the least.  As Mr. Tyner said, if anyone but the government were doing it, it would be a serious crime.

     You can read and see more at Tyner’s blog.

Street Justice

     Construction workers (and other blue collar workers) might be the only truly sensible and heroic people left in the United States of America.  I have known many construction workers in my life, as my stepfather is an engineer.  I even worked at a construction site one summer, and found the workers there decent, principled people overall.  Unlike some liberal-minded people who give lip service to caring about working class people, I sincerely respect and like them and enjoy meeting and talking to them in town.   (And I would wish for a robust economy that would allow them to make the most amount of money and face the lowest possible cost of living possible.)

     The inspiration for this post is the story of the construction workers who stopped the shooter at the school in California were two girls were injured last week.  One of the workers knocked the shooter down with his truck while other workers kept the gun away.  Apparently they roughed him up a bit, which, although I do not completely condone it, I do not want to disparage them or their behavior in any way.  It was actually mild and moderate in comparison to what the shooter did.  In the past, a person committing such a vile act–shooting children–might have been killed on the spot.

    This part of the story is often missing from school shooting stories.  When I read or hear about some of them, I usually think, “Why didn’t anybody try to stop the shooters?”  I asked some experts that question once, and they had some reasonable answers.  It is not always wise for amateurs to try to take out a person shooting a gun.  More people can get hurt or killed in the process.  Even the experts approach such a situation gingerly, because what would work in one situation might not work in a different situation.  It is also difficult for the people on the scene to launch a concerted effort during a time when people are panicked.  They are not always able to communicate with each other in order to make a plan, and they are often paralyzed mentally by the stress.

     Still, these construction workers managed to stop the guy in this incident and perhaps saved other children from injury or even death.  If they could do it, couldn’t other people in other times and places have done the same thing?  I wonder.  I also think it makes a case, once again, for having several armed people on every school campus–teachers and staff members who are well trained in the use of firearms.  Otherwise, the kids at schools are sitting ducks.  Well, unless they have salt-of-the-earth construction workers there to intervene.

     Another construction worker in California recently rescued a girl who was being kidnapped.  Rather than stand and act helpless, as most people seem to do these days, he chased the kidnapper in his truck and forced him to stop, and then the kidnapper released the girl.

     I am a very mild-mannered person in real life.  The last time that I hit somebody was in eighth grade, and that was with pretty strong provocation.  Nevertheless, I can’t help but admire these heroic constuction workers.  It’s odd that they are singled out.  I would think that any adult would do what they did.  I hope and pray that I would.  I feel that I would, as the safety of any children far outweighs any risk to my own life, as far as I am concerned.

    Bravo, Carlos Partido and the other heroes in Carlsbad!  Bravo, Victor Perez in Freson!  You guys have my undying respect.

Joe Stack Was Not a Wingnut

     I want people to understand one thing very well:  Joe Stack was against capitalism.  He was no conservative, no rightwinger.  So if you think that he was, please learn the truth.  If you have read or heard editorials suggesting that he was just another wacko on the right, pay close attention.

     In this part of his manifesto, Stack railed against business:

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthikable atrocities (and in the case of GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?  Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. . . .It’s clear they [government leaders] don’t see a crisis as long as dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.”

     And a bit further down, he attacks religion:

“The intent of this exercise [reading the tax code in a group] and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living.”  [He was referring to income tax exemptions given to religious groups.]

     Futher down, he attacks business again:

“Her [a neighbor of his in college] husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.  Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because his incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. . . .I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.”

     And again:

“The rates [in Austin] are 1/3 of what I was earning before the [economic] crash [in LA], because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies  who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages. . . .”

     He was no fan of George W. Bush.

“The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.”

     At the end he extols communism and lashes out at capitalism.

“The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  The capitalist creed:  From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

     Joe Stack was neither a liberal, nor a conservative.  He was anti-business, anti-religion, anti-government, and anti-union.  If you read the full text of his “suicide note,” you might see your own viewpoints expressed in it, whatever your political persuasion might be.  Slack seems to have been a nut, but he was certainly not a rightwing nut.