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.

Members of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee Delta Region saw that garbage was accumulating, so they decided to head on over and volunteer. Amidst their efforts, though, a park ranger approached, demanding that their tribute to Mother Earth end. In the video above, one can see that the park ranger explains that if they wish to volunteer, they can sign a form that will be provided as soon as the facilities have re-opened.

The problem with that, though, is that due to the government shutdown, the facilities are closed. The park ranger informs a volunteer towards the end of the video that he has not seen the volunteer manager since the shutdown either.

The party explained:

No group of volunteers has been stopped throughout this nationwide effort until today. We were told about 30 minutes into our cleaning that we were not officially “volunteers” and would have to stop. We attempted to reason with the park ranger however he blatantly told us that even walking along side the walkways and picking up trash was prohibited….

The Libertarian Party is a party that centers on volunteerism and helping our community. It is a shame in the “Volunteer State” we are stopped from volunteering.”

Even unconsciously, the state seems to aim to monopolize everything good in this world so as to build up reliance on it. This act is one that shows that without government, beauty and nature will surely die.


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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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Abolish The TSA

By Spencer Kellogg | @TheNewTreasury

“Something has to be done. Everybody’s fed up. The people are fed up, the pilots are fed up and I’m fed up. What we are accepting at the airport is symbolic of us not standing up and saying enough is enough!”Ron Paul

In the months that followed 9/11, the American people were scared, confused and angry. The ruling class was not. They had been waiting for that very moment when the people would be dependent and weak. For the anti-imperialist majority, it was hard enough to wrap their heads around why people from thousands of miles of way held such a crowning vendetta against The United States. Who the hell was so mad at us and what had we done to make it so? After all, it wasn’t the mechanic or farmer or dentist or professor who had instructed the century-long conquest of democratic interventionism behind the towering force of a nuclear arsenal. With the people’s psyche at their most fragile, The United States government took control of the narrative and labeled what would be the new enemy of the 21st century: anti-western terrorists who were willing to do anything to watch America burn into smoldering ash.

Nevermind the century of global policing carried out by the American Empire that saw us play another man’s terrorist in stolen lands and throughout sovereign nations. Nevermind the belligerent, hawkish interventionism that had sewn seeds of hatred and rebellion in peoples far and wide and of no relation to the engineer or arborist that both call Pennsylvania home. Nevermind the pervasive wars in the countries of Kuwait and Iraq and Iran and Syria and Libya and Afghanistan. Nevermind any of it. Americans let themselves be hypnotized into believing that brown Muslims wanted to kill us because of our freedoms and George Bush was the bald eagle messiah to lead the whole, spiteful, deviled world into a bright new dawn of democracy and peace.

Yeah, right.

To save us from these threats of a World War, the Bush administration pushed aside the fundamental tenets of our constitution as The Patriot Act, the NSA, and the TSA were all hastily rushed through Congress in what is now clearly the single greatest seizure of federal power since the end of WWII. In one broad swoop, the branches that had anchored our patently slow-moving enterprise were unceremoniously cut and the new drivers of the military war machine set ablaze. Under the guise of warding off some great, undefinable terror that suddenly existed today where it had not the week before, the American empire began its swift attack on the natural and unalienable rights of Americans. Over 60,000 federal TSA jobs were created, the largest federal mobilization since 1946, and a whole new opportunity for invasive, authoritarian access to the lives of peaceful American citizens was afoot. In the years since 9/11, we have come to accept this government’s preening with an eye roll and a shrug. What power does any of us have in the fight against it? And don’t we all have somewhere to be anyways? Better to let the agent get on with their prodding and questioning so we can make the puddle jumper to Cheyenne to see the parents over the weekend.

Which brings us to the big news that has been kept relatively quiet in mainstream media. Earlier this week, The Boston Globe blew the top off “Quiet Skies,” a secretive TSA program that has tracked over 5,000 US citizens on domestic flights throughout the past year. “Dozens of air marshals,” told The Globe that they were instructed to report in minute detail on the behaviors of passengers exhibiting peculiar patterns. These patterns included routine sleep, bathroom, and eating habits that would make potentially any passenger in The United States a target of surveillance. Many of the marshals have suggested that “Quiet Skies” netted zero serious targets and was a complete waste of time and resources.

The late Gore Vidal was one of the sharpest critics of the Bush-era policies that gave expansive power to the surveillance systems of centralized intelligence. His reign was only the beginning of a vast reduction of Americans civil liberties and constitutional rights that have been sustained through Obama and now Trump’s presidencies.. Railing against what he saw as an opportunistic and parasitic state, Vidal often cried afoul of a national security apparatus that ran wild on the psycho fanatical nightmares of a ginned up public. When Congress passed the meticulously crafted 350+ page Patriot Act in the early months after 9/11, Vidal was one of the loudest voices to suggest that this new, abrasive surveillance state had been waiting in the wings for an event of this scale.

We were entering a bit of a depression around 9/11, so if it was Osama’s timing, it was very clever. They hit us when we were really quite off balance. These Presidents, as they get worse and worse – proving that Darwin was wrong – the wars get more surreal. We blow up Afghanistan when all of our enemies who struck at us in the airplanes that day were Saudi Arabians. They weren’t Afghans. And the Afghans were rather hurt that we were blowing up all their cities when we should’ve been taking out the Saudi Royal Family. We hit the wrong people.

The sinister side is the speed with which Clinton, after Oklahoma City, was ready with an anti-terrorist act. The speed of light and it had the most venemous dialogue. They decided, immediately, that many of our freedoms would be diminished starting with the 4th amendment. Now we have the Patriot Act, which was passed after the infamous September 11th. Congress passed it and as is their wont, didn’t read it. That was a terrific piece of legislation remeniscent of one of my favorite emperors: Tiberius.

Tiberius, when he became emperor, the Senate sent him some legislation saying that they would accept, in advance, sight unseen, any legislation that he wanted to send up to the Senate. He sent back a message and said “you’ve lost your senses. Suppose the Emperor has gone mad. Suppose the Emperor is a raging enemy of Rome and you didn’t know it. You can’t do that in advance.”

And they sent it back to him again “anything Glorius Ceaser, that you send us, we will endorse.” And he said, and I feel myself wanting to repeat Tiberius’ words: “how eager they are to be slaves.”

In the era of aviation before the towers fell, never would Americans have suspected that armed, plain-clothed officers were following them or fellow passengers onto flights because a person was deemed to have “taken a long nap” while awaiting their departure. Now, American citizens are forced to bitterly swallow intrusive searches of their person and property for the right to board a routine flight from St. Louis to Trenton. What’s worse, they are being systematically reduced to a state of intellectual paralysis where they can no longer remember a time where they were without the prying eyes of big government nosing through their suitcases and listening in on their bedrooms. “What can you do?” we think.

The very name ‘Transportation Security Administration’ strikes an anxious chord with most Americans. If there is an institution that expressly ‘secures’ transport, then there must be also an inherent suggestion that there is some great unknowable risk to our personal security at any given airport in any given city from Rochester to Sacramento. Is this true? Is flying that dangerous of an affair? Over two million passengers fly across the United States on any given day. Are the TSA really protecting us or are humans naturally peaceful and without an intent to harm? Is there a proven need for government agents to follow thousands of unsuspecting passengers as they travel freely around the country? Do we now hold such little trust in the decency of each other that we are happy to let federal officials encroach on our civil liberties for the perseverance of such an undefinable ‘security’? We can see clearly from research and media coverage that the TSA’s success rate in the past decade is a hotly contested issue with many suggesting overreaches without due cause or process.

In 2015 alone the TSA “missed 95 percent of weapons and explosives in security tests.” Even more ironic is a report after 9/11 that suggested 500 more people were killed a year as a result of automobile accidents after plane passengers opted to drive instead of the long waits and intrusive searches at the gates. This all signals what we already know to be true – the TSA does little in terms of protecting passengers from a terrorist attack. In fact, the more prodding you do of the TSA the more it appears that it’s nothing more than a carte blanch, federal cattle call that acts as an eye in the sky operation to survey and collect data on American citizens who have done nothing to warrant suspicion or investigation.

In our hearts and minds, we know as American citizens that these warrantless actions by the TSA are completely unjustifiable. We can still remember a time before the ever-present threat of a lurking, unspeakable terror threat. Programs like the TSA are simply another notch on the belt of the all-powerful state authority apparatus that cannot and will not be challenged. In the houses of Congress, where days should be filled with the thundering voices of vexed patriots, instead, career politicians smile and nod in happy cooperation. When it comes to the big stuff, they’re all on the same team, each being bought long before the first day they arrived. Their vote merely another casino chip.

As with many federal programs, before long the whole charade just becomes so mundanely every day that an entire generation of younger Americans grow up in the malaise and accept it as normal. The whole lot are indoctrinated through sheer, dramatic, routine, coaxing habit. Today, it’s commonplace to accept the ridiculous assertion that a bottle of shampoo could be a credible national security threat. It’s considered normal to allow another human the right to touch your body and investigate your property in the name of some worthwhile freedom on the other side. To live in America, the great land of liberty and happiness. No one dares step out of line. There’s family to be seen in Dallas.

Institutions should be judged on a basis of their merits. Does the TSA keep us safer? Is the TSA necessary? Or does it cut at the heart of our fundamental rights of travel and speech as Americans? Nobody trusts the TSA. And why should they? Every time you go through their surveillance systems you are made a target within your own homeland and that’s just the way it is.

Or is it? At what point does the American public justifiably ask for clarity on the subject at hand. How long will we remain criminals in our own country for crimes we have not committed? How long will we accept culpability for the violence of a rogue group of militant terrorists 17 years ago? How many of our civil rights must be trashed so that the state can keep us secure? How long before we send a clear and cutting message to Congress that they do not own the identity and soul of the American populace?


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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.

 

1200px-David_Pekoske_official_TSA_portrait
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.