TSA: The Scope-N-Grope Crowd Now Wants Weapons

April 6th, 2014
in econ_news

Investigative Reporting (with Gonzo Journalism style) from The Doomstead Diner

by Surly1, Doomstead Diner

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on t’other
[the other side].”

~ William Shakespeare – Macbeth

As some Diners plan on exercising their right to travel and freely associate by gathering in Italy, Texas, for the first ever Diner convocation, they will encounter the Transportation Safety Authority, or TSA. Few things inspire me to raving, spittle-flecked lunacy more than the notion of this federalized bureaucracy of former fry cooks, janitors, busboys and pederasts sucking a taxpayer-supported living from the body politic, all in the name of enacting security theater for we proles.

Follow up:

The “screenings” performed daily by these poor method actors consist of sniggering over the semi-nude pictures of your body generated by untested and unsafe back-scatter radiation machines, fondling your naughty bits during an intrusive pat down, sexually assaulting both Granny and Little Nell, and oh, let’s not forget, rifling through your luggage for stuff to steal and fence on eBay.

The TSA is a layer of expense and bullshit laid over the already demanding and expensive process of travel in the FSoA. Now, not content to merely grope your genitals or cop a quick feel from your daughter, they wish to follow the trend of escalating weaponization. This in the wake of the shooting of TSA checkers at LAX last fall. Providing armed guards is too expensive, you see, and as we all know according to the gospel preached by The Worst People on the Planet, the only thing that deters A Bad Guy With A Gun is A Good Guy With A Gun. So now proposals are afoot to arm the equivalent of mall cops.

Madness.

The TSA was enacted into law by Congress in 2001, within two months of the events of 9-11. The speed with which this piece of ready-to-wear legislation was approved shows that, like the grossly misnamed “PATRIOT” Act, it was already drafted and ready to be deployed against the American people as opportunity presented. TSA was transferred from Transportation to Homeland Security in 2003. From there, the agency morphed into the bloated, ineffective and corrupt bureaucracy we see today. Don’t take it from me: Wikipedia lists the “other complaints about the TSA complete with citations:

TSA agents are also accused of having mistreated passengers, and having sexually harassed passengers,[158,159,160,161] having used invasive screening procedures, including touching the genitals, including those of children,[162] removing nipple rings with pliers,[163] having searched passengers or their belongings for items other than weapons or explosives,[164] and having stolen from passengers.[116,165,166,167,168,169,170,171] The TSA fired 28 agents and suspended 15 others after an investigation determined they failed to scan checked baggage for explosives.[172]

The TSA was also accused of having spent lavishly on events unrelated to airport security,[173] having wasted money in hiring,[174] and having had conflicts of interest.[175]

The TSA was accused of having performed poorly at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration viewing areas, which left thousands of ticket holders excluded from the event in overcrowded conditions, while those who had arrived before the checkpoints were in place avoided screening altogether.[176,177]

In 2013 dozens of TSA workers were fired or suspended for illegal gambling at Pittsburgh International Airport,[178]

A 2013 GAO report showed a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, from 2,691 cases to 3,408.[180] Another GAO report said that there is no evidence that the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) behavioral detection program, with an annual budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, is effective.[181]

A 2013 report by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General’s Office charged that TSA was using criminal investigators to do the job of lower paid employees, wasting millions of dollars a year.

In 2001-03, if you asked most people, they would say that a couple of bucks per flight was money well spent to insure that domestic air travel was more safe. A reasonable premise. Yet it seems that the TSA’s role is not to provide safety for travelers so much as to provide security theater, the performance art segment of state propaganda.

Jason Harrington, a former TSA agent, explained in Politico the everyday ridiculousness of the job, a fact that all agents simply accepted as a fact of life. Yes, TSA agents are ogling or making fun of your naked physique in the full-body scans. Yes, they are racially and politically profiling certain people for extra screening. Yes, the body scans are ineffective and can be easily manipulated. (“They’re shit,” a scan instructor said.)

But Harrington recognizes the job’s clearer purpose — to create the illusion of security. "It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show,” he writes. Later, he points to his frustration with “the theatrical quality of nearly all airport security.” Essentially, Harrington is referring to “Security Theater,” an idea security expert Bruce Schneier explained in detail to CNN in 2009:

Security is both a feeling and a reality. The propensity for security theater comes from the interplay between the public and its leaders.

When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn’t truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn’t make any sense.

So now we understand the TSA’s purpose, which beyond collecting a federal paycheck and benefits, is simply to indoctrinate and degrade, and to reinforce blind acceptance and obedience to authority as the default response to increasingly bizarre searches and seizures. And as loath as I am to cite anything from Infowars, to their credit they have reposted a complaint from Jonathan Corbett, who has sued the TSA in a case challenging the constitutionality of the TSA’s nude body scanners and invasive pat-down program. The TSA has quietly admitted there is no actual “threat-addressing” basis for employing nude body scanners or invasive pat down procedures at airports in its own documents, a notion many travelers  weary of the agency’s borderline sexual molestation have long suspected but were hard-pressed to prove. The Court enjoined the blogger from publishing, but the Court failed to secure its own document, which Infowars republished.

Through Redactions, TSA Admits Terror Threats are Slim to Nonexistent

A section detailing how “The TSA Has Misled The Public As to the Likelihood of the Threat ‘Addressed’ By Nude Body Scanners and Pat Downs,” includes a blacked out portion concerning the TSA’s knowledge that “explosives on airplanes are extremely rare.”

For example, the TSA analyzed hijackings in 2007 and found 7 hijacking incidents across the globe, but none of them involved actual explosive devices,” Corbett explains in the brief, adding that the last attempt to bring an explosive on-board an airplane through a U.S. airport occurred 35 years ago.

Read the rest here. Bad news for the scope-and-grope crowd.

Meanwhile, when not rifling through your luggage for valuables to resell, TSA staffers have their own blog. A moving account wherein eager TSA-ers track notable confiscations, while their colleagues pocket others:

Convicted TSA Officer Reveals Secrets of Thefts at Airports

It became a regular racket.

A convicted TSA security officer says he was part of a “culture” of indifference that allowed corrupt employees to prey on passengers’ luggage and personal belongings with impunity, thanks to lax oversight and tip-offs from TSA colleagues.

It was very commonplace, very,” said Pythias Brown, a former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period.

It was very convenient to steal,” he said.

Speaking publicly for the first time after being released from prison, Brown told ABC News his four-year-long crime spree came to an end only because he tried to sell a camera he stole from the luggage of a CNN producer on eBay but forgot to remove all of the news networks’ identifying stickers.

It became so easy, I got complacent,” Brown said.

READ: ABC News Tracks Missing iPad to Florida Home of TSA Officer

Brown is one of almost 400 TSA officers who have been fired for stealing from passengers in the past decade. According to the TSA, 381 TSA officers have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012, including 11 so far in this year.

And if simple theft was as bad as it got, that would be one thing. But it’s not. Becky Akers wrote an inspired rant in the NY Post in 2011 exposing how the blue-glove crowd not only steals valuables but also runs drugs, and has not only failed to apprehend any terrorists, but that as many as 16 known terrorists had passed from point to point on TSA-inspected aircraft:

No doubt they were too busy groping Grandma instead.

If terrorists the TSA misses don’t bring down your next flight, the equipment it damages might. CNN reported in 2008 that one TSA inspector boosted himself into nine “commuter aircraft” by stepping on “sensitive” thermometers that help pilots “gauge the probability of icing” — the bane of these smaller planes.

“We caught it this time,” said a bemused spokesman for the airline’s pilots, “but who knows if this has happened other times … and with other planes that are out there?”

The TSA’s response? It threatened to fine American Airlines for leaving its property open to inspectors.

The agency’s also a public-health menace. Dr. Marybeth Crane, a foot-and-ankle surgeon in Grapevine, Texas, notes that airports’ filthy floors harbor the germs responsible for warts, herpes and staph — including the dreaded MRSA. Yet the TSA has forced billions of passengers over the last decade to shed their shoes and risk contagion.

Ditto for its infamous blue gloves. Screeners probe armpits and groins, often reaching beneath clothing to bare skin — without changing their mitts between victims. Not only does this satisfy the legal definition of “sexual assault” in most states, it also transfers viruses and bacteria.

Just one passenger in the early stages of flu — or something worse — could start an epidemic. Should we tolerate an agency this reckless with our health? Or one that’s killed a passenger?

Rigoberto Alpizar, a short-term Christian missionary returning to his home in Florida, changed his mind shortly after boarding his connecting flight and tried to disembark past oncoming passengers. Tragically, two TSA air marshals were already aboard; they chased him onto the jetway and shot him five times.

Not surprisingly, some voices have been raised about the waste and excess of the TSA. Worthies such as John Mica and Rand Paul has been critical of the TSA and called for its . . . privatization. If you have not left the house since the McKinley administration, “privatization” is the process by which taxpayers pay to build or create something, then cronies in government sell it to private corporations for pennies on the dollar, which such private entity enters into a long-term lease to provide the same service at a higher price, with profits guaranteed by the taxpayers. (In Virginia, this became an art form under the administration of now-disgraced ex-Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound.)

Even those striking heroic poses about TSA corruption such as John Mica aren’t making noise because they want this useless overhead eliminated- they want it privatized. The better to line the pockets of cronies, campaign donors and to push a daughter’s professional agenda. So Mica’s outrage extends only to his inability to cut himself a piece of the grift. Steven Frishling documents his concerns here.

And no mention of the Homeland Security grift would be complete without giving Satan’s personal emissary Michael Chertoff a nod. Chertoff, you will recall, followed himself out of the government into the arms of The Chertoff Group, who happened to represent Rapiscan, a manufacturer of back-scatter radiation machines. Headlines like, “Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners"  made the rounds:

What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.

An airport passengers’ rights group on Thursday criticized Chertoff, who left office less than a year ago, for using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients.

“Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected this particular type of explosive,” said Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, which opposes the use of the scanners.

Let’s be clear: Chertoff scarcely missed a TV camera in 2010 lobbying for employment of these untested and unproven devices on behalf of Rapiscan. Now the scanners are ubiquitous, and the outrage all but forgotten.

U.S. Government Glossed Over Cancer Concerns As It Rolled Out Airport X-Ray Scanners

The scanning-technology debate illustrates just one of Chertoff’s many financial interests in the security sector. In the recent deal to break up U.S. security firm L-1 Identity Solutions among two top European defense firms, Chertoff was well-positioned: His firm was a strategic adviser to French aerospace and security conglomerate Safran, which paid more than $1.1 billion to acquire L-1′s biometrics identification units; and he sits on the board of BAE, the British defense giant which bought L-1′s government consulting and intelligence services, as reported by HuffPost’s Dan Froomkin earlier this year.

For the record, Chertoff and Rapiscan denied all wrongdoing, etc. etc. It always works.

As a reasonable person can conclude, that TSA has been a scam from inception: security theater for the masses, the best face of which is that “somebody’s doing something about security,” with the worst being to inculcate the American people with the habit of being cowed, queued, and intimidated. Barely competent from inception, and now under the aegis of DHS  with  little track record  of accomplishment and less purpose, TSA has metastasized. The only discussions about reform go to privatization, the point of which is who gets cut in. On that lofty note,  we wish our Diner travelers well as they descend upon Eddie’s place in West Texas, with best wishes for unshredded DNA, unfondled genitalia, and unstolen electronics.

And Reverse Engineer, if I were you, I’d be carrying my cameras and sound equipment onboard with me . . .

************************************

For those interested in additional punishment on this subject, here are some other stories that I couldn’t work in. 2500 words is quite enough, yes?


 

 









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