Tag: TSA

National Parks Are Kicking Out Libertarians… For Cleaning Them Up

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

The government shutdown has turned into the longest one in United States history. The consequences have included our TSA not being paid (scary!) and the National Parks losing funding. In addition, the FDA is shut down. So amidst the constant slew of overdoses on cheap EpiPens and terrorist attacks, some kind-hearted libertarians decided to step up to the plate and do their part for nature.

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Remembering the Consequences of Tyranny on 9/11

By Josh Hughes | United States

Today is the 17th anniversary of one of the most tragic events to take place on American soil: The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 men and women lost their lives that day, and over 6,000 more were injured. The world after that day would never be the same. Americans and foreigners alike fell under new abuses of power that had never seen.

The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001

In reaction to the attacks, the Bush administration signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law in October of 2001. Officially the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, the bill greatly strengthened the surveillance power of the federal government. It allowed for credit card purchases to be tracked, extended the use of wiretapping, and monitored emails and Web searches. It also, under Section 216, states that probable cause was not needed to obtain this information. The government simply had to state they’d likely use it for a criminal investigation. Section 218 said that the government no longer had to certify that the surveillance was for foreign intelligence. They only had to say it was for a “significant purpose.”

The big issue most people had with this bill was that it allowed for seizures of information without warrants. This is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. Section 215 stated that the target did not have to be notified of seizures either. Another issue was the fact that documents and records could be seized based on keywords. People could be surveilled based off what they searched or said. Opponents of this claimed this was a violation of the First Amendment.

The main point of controversy came in 2013, with Edward Snowden’s release of the NSA’s overstep. He uncovered that secret courts gave the NSA permission to take the phone records of millions of Americans in the form of metadata. He also uncovered that the NSA could request access to the servers of tech companies. These companies technically don’t have to, but are legally compelled to comply. This information was shocking to the world, as the public didn’t know this was happening. This sparked the reform debate in 2015.

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet-level branch of the federal government that began as a direct result of 9/11. Its job is to “secure the nation from [any] threats we face.” With such an ambiguous duty, it’s no surprise that they have often come under scrutiny. They are notoriously wasteful, as audits have revealed they’ve wasted nearly $15 billion in failed contracts. They have even been accused of misusing government credit cards. This doesn’t begin to touch on its civil liberties overreach, however.

The DHS also is responsible for the TSA, one of the worst subdepartments in American history.

Homeland Security uses a system called ADVISE as a data mining tool. This first came under fire after being used on regular individuals without proper privacy measures in place. It was also discovered that it’s not very effective, and usually misidentifies people as terroristic threats. Hand-in-hand with the last point, centers of terrorism prevention called Fusion Centers are notorious for misidentifying people as terrorist threats. They have also been known to be used for unintended purposes, mainly spying on individuals that don’t need to be spied on.

All in all, the DHS is not only a threat to the civil liberties of Americans. It’s also a prime example of government bureaucracy and wasteful spending. It’s an unnecessary branch of the federal government that was only put in place because of 9/11.

Guantanamo Bay and the Abuse of Enemy Prisoners

Guantanamo Bay was set up as a detention center for terrorists in early 2002. The executive branch of the federal government claims the camp was set up in a part of Cuba. This would mean it’s not subject to typical American laws, the laws of the prisoners’ respective countries, or the Geneva Convention. They claimed the prisoners were receiving fair treatment. However, they came under heavy criticism when reports surfaced that prisoners were being both physically and sexually abused.

The main controversies surrounding the facility were not only where the prisoners unlawfully abused. Some were held without ever being charged for a crime. Prisoners were waterboarded, beaten, forced to engage in sexual activities, and force-fed. President Obama called for the detention center to be shut down in 2009. Yet, it’s still open today.

Modern Day Tyrannical Government

Historically, dictatorships have arisen in times of crisis. From the Romans to Abraham Lincoln to FDR, the strength and size of the government drastically increase during difficult times for the country. September 11 was not an exception. The government took new measures and violated technological rights of the people. This was a practice that hadn’t been seen before to this point. While the effects of government spying are always present in our lives, the ones that are a result of 9/11 are probably the most prevalent in this age of technology.

It is important on this day of reflection and remembrance to realize that we the people cannot allow our rights to be given up in times of hardship. As Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We live in a reality where we are always subject to be watched or listened to. It’s scary and troubling to think about a constant state of government monitoring, yet most accept it without batting an eyelash. A common phrase we hear is “if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.” This simply isn’t true. We shouldn’t be okay with giving up our rights in order for “protection” from the government. We must remember the American values in times of crisis, and refuse to relinquish our essential liberties.


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The TSA: A Threat to Transportation Security

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Earlier this morning, I had the great privilege of travelling through the airport. To my mild surprise, the TSA had granted me pre-check status. Walking through the security line, I did not need to remove my shoes and laptop, among other personal items. Ultimately, the line was not much faster, though this was simply due to the fact that there were not many people in either line. However, I was still through before the rest of my party, so I sat to wait for them.

Saving Americans From… The Injured?

As I sat, facing the security line, I noticed a young woman sitting in a cast near its exit. She appeared to walk with a slight limp, and clearly was in discomfort. I brushed it off as injury pain, or flight anxiety, but then, noticed the TSA agent approaching her. From a distance, I saw his face, stone-blank with apathy, as he forced her, hobbling on one foot, to remove the cast. He then met her grimace of pain with the same lack of emotion. Following this, and without assisting her, he guided the woman away from the line for a full-body pat-down.

Ultimately, the agent returned her to line shortly before the rest of my party got through. All in all, the process may have taken 5-10 minutes. Now, some may say that this is a small price to pay for American safety. But, just how safe are we?

A Not-So-Grand Success Story

Since the TSA’s conception in November of 2001, it has been profiling, flagging, and grabbing individuals in ways that they do not necessarily consent to. These often extend far beyond the incident of this morning. Without a doubt, there are some clear downfalls to the agency. Despite this, many defend it on the grounds of keeping America safe. The thing is, though, that America is not any safer. With all of the flagging and grabbing, the agency has caught a grand total of zero terrorists.

Throughout 2015, the Department of Homeland Security performed undercover tests on the TSA. Across, the country, they sent 70 different agents through security checkpoints carrying fake weapons. Of the 70, the local TSA agents successfully stopped three. Thus, the other 67 made it through the lines without any problems. With malicious intent, of course, they would have been a serious threat to security. How can an agency be imperative to national security when it cannot secure even five percent of simulated threats?

The TSA, in addition to their normal security procedure, also has a program known as SPOT. The program attempts to identify suspicious behavior in passengers, but again, simply fails. The Government Accountability Office looked into the effectiveness of this plan. Once more, the agency was entirely unsuccessful. The study found that of the many that the TSA flags, they only arrest 0.6 percent – yes, a less than 1% guilt rate. And of those arrested? The same study shows police did not designate a single one of them as related to terrorism.

Why Keep the TSA?

So, why must such a blatant failure exist? It appears that the agency has no functional purpose for the American people. Of course, it is possible that the illusion of safety may make some travelers feel more secure, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, this is no excuse to flag and grope American people. It further is not an excuse to take money out of Americans’ wallets to fund the agents’ useless work.

There are means of pacifying a nervous traveler that require less force, such as the private security that existed prior to the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. Yes, these measures were not able to prevent those attacks. But it appears, neither is the TSA, especially considering the hijackers did not use a gun or knife, but box cutters. Though imperfect, private security did not entail the groping and flagging of innocent citizens. It also cut down on security waits, as each airline had a separate line.

The benefits of private security are evident, as are the pitfalls of the TSA. But, there’s one thing left to fuel it, the same fuel that the rest of the government uses.

Oh That’s Right. It’s Profitable.

Without a doubt, the TSA is able to obtain massive amounts of money from American travelers. Let’s look at some numbers. In 2017, 48% of Americans reported that they had flown at least once in the past year. 88% had flown in their lifetime. This means that of the 325.7 million people then in the United States, roughly 156 million of them flew in an airplane in 2017, and 287 million had done so in their lifetime. These numbers are only increasing every year.

A TSA pre-check currently costs $85 for a five year membership. A survey in 2017 found about one quarter of American flyers use the program “all the time”. So, if that is the case, then in 2017, the TSA processed 39 million pre-check passengers. Each spent $19 a year on the service, for $85 over five years, making a grand total of $663 million in annual TSA pre-check revenue.

This is no small sum of money. But by the agency’s own standards, these people are unsafe. They leave their shoes on, and leave their computers in their bags. Yet, the TSA permits this to happen, provided they pay a fee. So, is this an admission that the regular screening process is unnecessary, if anyone can dodge it by fueling the government a little bit more?

In a free society, individuals do not have to pay the government to not be flagged and groped. Thus, the TSA is a clear and direct threat to American freedom. Quite ironically, the agency for security only makes us less safe.


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TSA Administrator Asks for Extra Funding Amid New Major Security Concerns

By Andrew Zirkle|WASHINGTON, D.C.

Today on Capitol Hill, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske testified in front of House Homeland Security Committee hearing entitled “Preventing the Next Attack: TSA’s Role in Keeping Our Transportation Systems Secure.” Pekoske, who was sworn in as the seventh administrator of the TSA in August, was testifying in front of Congress for the first time since his appointment. Pekoske is inheriting a TSA faced with many problems, including an ever-increasing passenger volume, new security threats, as well as internal organizational problems.

 

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David Pekoske

 

A 2015 report that surfaced earlier this year showed that the TSA overall had a 95% fail rate when it came to detecting prohibited items. Despite promises of reform, the latest round of testing by the Department of Homeland Security has revealed that the fail rate is still over 50%. Although this new figure seems promisingly lower, a source close to the issue interviewed by ABC said that the fail rate in actuality is close to 80%. These vulnerabilities, which were reportedly highlighted by the Inspector General before the hearing, were described by Congressman and Committee Chair Michael Mccaul (R-TX) as “disturbing.” Additionally, Rep. Mccaul stated that “I don’t think that the American people can afford to wait to for their own safety.” The TSA has also been entangled with other pressing internal problems. According to an internal review, 858 officers have been found using marijuana, cocaine or opiates.

During the hearing, Pekoske outlined his desire to replace current X-Ray technology with newer CT 3-D imaging technology. The CT system, which is undergoing currently limited trials in Phoenix and Boston airports, is a largely untested but promising technology. Throughout the hearing, Pekoske strongly defended the new CT technology, suggesting that the only reason why it had not been implemented is that of a lack of funding. Pekoske also highlighted the TSA’s desire to incorporate biometric data including face scans and fingerprint data in order to verify passenger identity and collaborate more efficiently with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Overall, the message of the hearing remained that Pekoske wanted more funding to achieve goals relating to security and workforce. As Democrats and Republicans continue to fight over budgeting issues, it remains to be seen whether or not the TSA will be able to improve its abysmal performance without incurring a larger expense on the budget.