Tag Archives: Transportation Security Administration

REAL ID to Go Live in 2016, Drivers’ Licenses from 11 States May Be Rejected By TSA

A law passed in 2005 mandating that drivers’ licenses in all states meet specific security standards recommended by the 9/11 Commission is on pace to take full effect in 2016.

The licensing standard, called REAL ID, has been to varying degrees rejected by several state legislatures, with at least 11 states still issuing drivers’ licenses that are non-compliant with the law. Opponents of the law criticize the REAL ID as a federal power grab and an effort to create a national identification card. Also, privacy advocates have raised concerns about REAL ID’s requirement that all states submit their motor vehicle information to a national database.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, “The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

[RELATED: REAL ID to Launch in 2016: TSA Will Force Airline Passengers to Show National ID Before Flying]

So far, people in non-compliant states have been able to board aircraft and enter federal facilities with their drivers’ licenses due to an exemption.

However, nine states and several US territories are due to have their exemption expire on January 10, 2016. The states facing a January expiration are Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Washington. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands face the same deadline. Minnesota and American Samoa are already listed as non-compliant,” wrote Ars Technica’s Joe Mullin.

He added, “Those states facing the deadline shouldn’t be hopeful for a last-minute reprieve. Local and AP news reports say that DHS has already told officials in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington that their requests for additional extensions have been denied.

The New York Times notes that New Hampshire and Louisiana have also been granted exemptions which are set to expire in June of 2016.

[RELATED: Former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate argues against Real ID Act]

The federal government has quietly gone around and clubbed states into submission. That’s a pretty heavy club,” said Minnesota State Senator and REAL ID opponent Warren Limmer.

The Department of Homeland Security will reportedly issue a warning to states 120 days in advance of enforcing the rule, which has yet to take place. DHS says that REAL ID enforcement “will begin with a 3-month period where agencies will provide notice to individuals attempting to use driver’s licenses or identification cards from noncompliant states but still allow access.

If the federal government does not grant an extension to non-compliant states, individuals in those states will soon be required to use a federally-approved ID such as a passport to board an airplane.

TSA Back Under Fire After Failing to Identify 73 Airport Workers with Terror Ties

Earlier this month, Truth in Media reported on the fact that the Transportation Security Administration abysmally failed a Department of Homeland Security performance test in which 67 of 70 undercover DHS agents were able to slip through security at dozens of US airports with potential weapons and explosives. In response, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson benched TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway and reassigned him to the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement. Secretary Johnson then promoted TSA Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to replace Carraway as head of the TSA.

Meanwhile, a new Department of Homeland Security inspector general report, released last Thursday, identified the fact that the TSA’s airport employee screening procedures failed to identify 73 workers “linked to terrorism.” Fox News notes that the 73 workers were employed by airlines, vendors, and other airport employers.

The TSA did not identify these individuals through its vetting operations because it is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related categories under current interagency watch-listing policy,” read the report. The DHS inspector general called the TSA’s airport worker security checks “generally effective,” but noted that some employees slipped through the cracks because the TSA “relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities.

The report said of the 73 workers with alleged terror ties, “TSA acknowledged that these individuals were cleared for access to secure airport areas despite representing a potential transportation security threat.

TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States,” read the report.

The report also determined that “thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers” and that the “TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting.

Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system,” the inspector general concluded.

Former TSA official Chad Wolf said in the above-embedded video by CNN, “These are airport workers, so this really speaks to the issue of the insider threat. TSA’s primary way to guard against that is to make sure that these background checks are complete and they’re exhaustive, and what this report says is they’re not complete, nor are they exhaustive.

DHS Chief Reassigns TSA Administrator Over Security Test Failures

Yesterday, Truth in Media brought news of a Department of Homeland Security report, first published by ABC News, which identified the fact that the Transportation Security Administration utterly failed a DHS security test in which undercover “red team” agents posed as passengers and attempted to slip through checkpoints at US airports carrying potential weapons or explosives. Over the course of the test, TSA agents allowed 67 out of 70 armed undercover agents to slip through checkpoints at dozens of American airports, raising questions about the bureau’s ability to protect airline passengers.

Late Monday afternoon, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered a series of changes aimed at fixing the security vulnerabilities. Fox News notes that Secretary Johnson has reassigned TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway to work in the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement and has promoted Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to Carraway’s former position as TSA Acting Administrator.

We take these findings very seriously. The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security,” read a statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Additionally, Secretary Johnson ordered a review of the agency’s screening equipment and that TSA officers undergo extra training. He also plans to continue the undercover testing program.

Former White House counter-terrorism official Frank Cilluffo told CBS This Morning in the above-embedded video that, when it comes to security, “We’ve got to be right 100% of the time. The adversary only has to be right once.

According to The New York Times, President Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to serve as TSA Administrator back in April, but Neffenger has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Secretary Johnson called on senators to confirm Neffenger in the wake of the failed tests.

An aide to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Fox News that the test’s findings that have been published so far in news reports “raise valid concerns in light of earlier inspector general findings and ‘red team’ tests of TSA’s vulnerabilities.” Said Senator Johnson’s aide, “Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to secure our air travel system. It’s important for that goal to be met.

TSA Fails DHS Security Test, Allows Weapons, Bombs to Breach Security 67 of 70 Times

The Transportation Security Administration abysmally failed an internal investigation into its ability to stop undercover Department of Homeland Security agents’ attempts to breach security with potential weapons or bombs, according to an explosive new report revealed by ABC News. The report notes that the test exposed the fact that TSA officers at “dozens” of US airports failed to catch DHS “red team” members armed with potential weapons or bombs in 95% of 70 attempts.

One such agent made it through security with a fake bomb strapped to his back despite setting off a magnetometer and enduring a subsequent pat-down.

“We know that the adversary innovates and we have to push ourselves to capacity in order to remain one step ahead. [O]ur testers often make these covert tests as difficult as possible,” read a 2013 TSA blog cited by ABC News describing the methods used by covert DHS red team agents, who attempt to blend in with passengers and sneak weapons through security to test the TSA’s capabilities.

At a 2013 congressional hearing, former TSA administrator John Pistole described the red team testers as “super terrorists” and said, “[Testers] know exactly what our protocols are. They can create and devise and conceal items that … not even the best terrorists would be able to do.” That same year, the TSA came under fire after a red team tester strapped with fake explosives was able to sneak through security measures, including a pat down and a metal detector, at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport.

A September 2014 TSA report also found security vulnerabilities in the bureau’s baggage screening system. That report noted the fact that, even with $540 million in spending on new screening equipment and $11 million spent for training, the TSA did not noticeably improve its performance following a prior 2009 review in which it also had performed poorly.

A DHS official told ABC News, “Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General’s report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report.”

CBS Denver Report: TSA Screeners Exploited Scanners To Grope “Attractive” Male Passengers

Denver, CO- An investigation conducted by Denver’s CBS4 station revealed that two TSA employees at Denver International Airport have been fired after one employee acknowledged manipulating the airport’s scanning machines to allow the intentional groping of male passengers.

According to an anonymous tip from a TSA employee from last November, a male TSA screener allegedly told a female colleague that he was able to fondle “attractive male passengers” that arrive at the screening area by having another employee deliberately input incorrect data into the scanning machines:

“He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”

In February, three months after the initial claim, TSA security supervisor Chris Higgins observed the screening area to check the accuracy of the anonymous tip. A law enforcement report obtained by CBS4 stated that Higgins “observed (the male TSA screener) appear to give a signal to another screener … (the second female screener) was responsible for the touchscreen system that controls whether or not the scanning machine alerts to gender- specific anomalies.”

The report went on to state that after a male passenger was seen entering the scanner, the investigator “observed (the female TSA agent) press the screening button for a female. The scanner alerted to an anomaly, and Higgins observed (the male TSA screener) conduct a pat down of the passenger’s front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy.”

The female employee who took part in the groping scheme was later interviewed by Higgins and admitted that “she has done this for (the male TSA officer) at least 10 other times. She knew that doing so would allow (the male TSA officer) to perform a pat down on a male passenger that (the male TSA screener) found attractive.”

The two TSA employees involved in the incidents have since been fired. The TSA declined to name the employees who were fired.

The TSA reportedly has video of the incident observed by Higgins, but it was not yet been released to CBS4. The TSA claims that there have been no further complaints of “serial” groping, and the male passenger observed by Higgins has not been identified. A prosecutor declined to press charges in the case because no victim had been identified and there was no “reasonable likelihood of conviction.”

A statement from the TSA said that “These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable. TSA has removed the two officers from the agency. All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable.” CBS4 reports that the TSA refused to answer any questions or offer any more information beyond the agency’s statement.

TSA holds man for 20 hours after incident at airport

A traveler from Philadelphia, who was attempting to fly to Miami to run a half-marathon in January 2013, was detained by TSA agents for close to 20 hours after an airport incident.

Roger Vanderklok, 57, was detained by the TSA agents after he allegedly asked to file a complaint against the airport workers. Instead, Vanderklok was escorted to a holding cell. Once inside the cell, according to the AP, Vanderklok was not questioned by police officers or given the chance to call his wife for nearly a day.

According to Philly, Vanderklok had placed some PowerBars and a heart-monitoring watch for the race in his carry-on luggage which had looked suspicious to agents. After 30 minutes of explaining the items were in his luggage, Vanderklok asked to file the complaint.

Charles Kieser, the TSA supervisor on duty at the time, then allegedly became confrontational and had ordered Vanderklok to be placed in the cell.

Kieser testified at a criminal trial against Vanderklok in April 2013, he had monitored the interaction between Vanderklok and the agents and testified in court saying, “Hands were in the air. And it’s something we deal with regularly. But I don’t let it go on on my checkpoint.”

After watching the incident unfold, Kieser then says Vanderklok, “put his finger in my face. And he said, ‘Let me tell you something. I’ll bring a bomb through here any day I want.’ And he said you’ll never find it.”

However, airport surveillance videos do not backup Kieser’s account of what happens. Instead, Vanderklok allegedly appears calm on the footage and does not raise his hands in a menacing manner. The police report on the incident also shows Kieser told officers Vanderklok said “Anybody could bring a bomb in here…” which differs from what Kieser testifies Vanderklok had said.

Thomas Malone, Vanderklok’s lawyer, did not challenge the agents investigating the material in Vanderklok’s luggage, but he says the footage from the airport contradicts Kieser’s account of the incident.

Now, months after the initial trial, Malone filed a suit against the TSA, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the Philadelphia Police Department, saying his client was stripped of his liberties because he wanted to file a complaint.

A TSA spokesman said the agency does not discuss pending lawsuits.

Lawsuit: TSA Officer Punitively Fabricated Terror Charges Against Man Who Asked to File Complaint

Attorney Thomas Malone recently filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of marathon-running Philadelphia architect Roger Vanderklok, who claims that TSA supervisor Charles Kieser falsified terror charges against him when Vanderklok asked to file a complaint after TSA agents took approximately 30 minutes of his time trying to determine whether his watch and prepackaged PowerBar protein bars were explosives. New York Daily News notes that, after Vanderklok asked for a form to file a complaint, he was thrown in a holding cell and subsequently arrested on charges of making terroristic threats and threatening the placement of a bomb. Municipal Judge Felice Stack, who was assigned to Vanderklok’s case, swiftly acquitted him of the charges. Now, Vanderklok is suing, claiming his civil liberties were infringed upon, and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky is calling for TSA supervisor Charles Kieser to be fired.

At around 8 AM on January 26, 2013, Roger Vanderklok passed through a TSA checkpoint at the Philadelphia International Airport while traveling to race in a half-marathon. His carry-on bag contained a watch with heart-monitoring capabilities, a standard tool used by fitness enthusiasts, and prepackaged protein bars. TSA officers at the checkpoint asked Vanderklok if his bag contained organic matter, and he said that it did not, as he did not realize that the TSA categorizes his processed protein bars as such. Consequently, the agents assumed that he was lying and spent the next half-hour analyzing his protein bars and heart-monitoring watch for explosives. After no explosives were found, Vanderklok asked Charles Kieser to provide him with a complaint form, as he felt TSA agents should have better informed him of their definition of organic matter. Instead, Kieser accused Vanderklok of threatening to blow up the airport and had him arrested by Philadelphia police.

Vanderklok missed his flight and remained in jail until around 4 AM the next day when his wife made arrangements to cover his $40,000 bail. “I was scared to death. I have never been arrested in my life, never had handcuffs put on. Throughout the night, I was in a dark place; no one knew where I was. I thought, ‘I could fall off the face of the earth right now, and no one would know it,'” said Vanderklok in comments to Philadelphia Daily News.

Kieser claimed in court that Vanderklok said, “Let me tell you something. I’ll bring a bomb through here any day I want.” The incident report by Philadelphia police says that Vanderklok said, “Anybody could bring a bomb in here and nobody would know.” Vanderklok maintains that he said neither, and surveillance footage of the incident seems to match his claims, as TSA agents never attempted to summon the FBI and continued calmly carrying out their duties as Vanderklok patiently waited for a complaint form.

Vanderklok’s attorney Thomas Malone told Philadelphia Daily News, “The police at the airport never even questioned Mr. Vanderklok. They just detained him. The detectives at the 18th [District] also never spoke with him. He was charged based on a single allegation by one TSA employee.”

Vanderklok and Malone are seeking unspecified damages in their suit against the TSA, the DHS, and the Philadelphia Police Department. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky wrote, “It’s unbelievable that [TSA supervisor Charles Kieser] still has his job,” noting allegations that “he swore under oath to things that were not true” in an effort to put an innocent man behind bars.

Newly-Filed Federal Lawsuits Claim TSA Officers Strip-Searched 3 Elderly Women

Unspecified Transportation Security Administration officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City are facing federal lawsuits after three elderly women raised allegations claiming that the officers performed humiliating strip-searches on them. According to New York Daily News, the women were reportedly chosen for extra screening on the basis of the fact that they were wearing medical devices, which officers deemed suspicious. One lawsuit claims that TSA officers subjected 88-year-old grandmother Ruth Sherman to an unusually-intrusive investigation because they felt that her colostomy bag might have been evidence that she was about to carry out a terror plot. 84-year-old Lenore Zimmerman’s back brace also worried TSA screeners, as did 69-year-old Linda Kallish’s insulin pump. The above-embedded video coverage, provided by WPBF 25 News shortly after the incidents originally occurred, features brief interviews with Sherman, Zimmerman, and Kallish.

Attorneys representing the three women filed separate lawsuits in federal court on November 25 which named specific TSA officers as defendants, rather than the Transportation Security Administration itself. The TSA apologized for the incidents, which took place on November 29, 2011, but claims that the strip-searches never happened.

Lenore Zimmerman said that she was injured during her strip search and that TSA screeners refused to help. Zimmerman told New York Daily News, “My sock was soaked with blood… I was bleeding like a pig.” Speaking sarcastically, she said, “I walk with a walker — I really look like a terrorist… I’m tiny. I weigh 110 pounds, 107 without clothes, and I was strip-searched.”

Ruth Sherman described how she felt when TSA officers allegedly strip-searched her to investigate her colostomy bag in comments to CBS News, “This is private for me. It’s bad enough that I have [the colostomy bag]… I had to pull [it] from my sweatpants and I had to pull my underwear, my underwear down… You don’t do that to anybody. I felt like I was invaded.”

According to Daily Mail, officers asked Linda Kallish to disrobe so that they could inspect her insulin pump’s implantation site. Kallish also claims that her insulin supply, which she relies on for survival, was left unsupervised on a conveyor belt for for a half hour during her ordeal.

The TSA published a blog defending itself against the allegations raised by Zimmerman, Sherman, and Kallish, which said, “TSA does not, and has never, conducted strip searches and no strip searches occurred in any of these incidents.” The blog also stated, “We truly regret these passengers feel they had a bad screening experience. Our goal is to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect. We work regularly with a coalition of advocacy groups that represent those with disabilities and medical conditions to help TSA understand their conditions and adapt screening procedures accordingly.”

John Pistole, chief of the TSA, will resign at year’s end

The Transportation Security Administration’s longest serving chief, John Pistole, has announced he will retire from the position at the end of this year.

Pistole has only served the TSA for four years, and he began his tenure as chief in 2010.  Previously, Pistole served in the FBI for 26 years and achieved the rank of chief deputy of the government entity.

“No words can convey my deep gratitude for the hard work and dedication of the thousands of men and women committed to protecting the American public,” Pistole said according to USA Today. “I could not be more proud of all that our employees have accomplished together, particularly what they have done to help enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation security while improving the passenger screening experience.”

During his four years as chief, Pistole faced many public relations crises concerning the unpopularity of the TSA in the public’s eye.  Much of the issues arose out of the use of X-ray body scanners at all airports, which produced near-naked images of flight passengers.  Eventually, according to Politico, the TSA did decide to remove the service in order to save face.

The latest issue which has caused a public outcry against Pistole and the TSA’s efforts to allow knives and small blades to be included in passengers carry-on baggage.  This plan was eventually dismissed thanks to the many concerns the public raised.

Anderson University, a private Christian college in Indiana, made an announcement Thursday stating Pistole will be brought up in the naming process for the possible position of president of the university.  Previously, Pistole had said he was going to take part in the world of academia, but refused to elaborate.

TSA Bans Cell Phones, Laptops with Dead Batteries from Overseas Flights

The Transportation Security Administration has announced a new set of airline security policies that could complicate Americans’ international travel plans. According to the TSA’s press release, “As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

The Washington Post is reporting that this new screening procedure will be conducted at airports overseas with direct flights to the United States. The rule change is being justified as a response to as-yet unverified rumors that Yemeni or Syrian terrorists equipped with US passports are planning to hijack an airliner. TSA officials believe that this threat could come in the form of a bomb built to look like a non-functioning laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Officials in the United Kingdom have also announced an increase in airline security measures.

The Transportation Security Administration indicated that it would be focusing on smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy and Apple’s iPhone. Also, officials announced that travelers’ shoes would be subject to closer-than-usual examinations.

However, this new policy regarding electronics could put Americans traveling internationally in a bind if they fail to maintain a charge on all of their devices. Under the erratic conditions of travel that one might experience on vacation overseas, it can be tough to keep a constant charge on laptops and cell phones, which are expensive, big-ticket items. Any device that can not be powered on during the pre-flight security examination will be banned from the flight, possibly forcing travelers to leave behind their most valuable electronic devices, some of which contain irreplaceable files and data. Also, individuals in possession of non-functioning or uncharged electronic devices will be singled out for further security screening.

Some individuals might find that a laptop or other electronic device fails while on an overseas trip. If the dead device were under warranty and the owner wanted to take it home to the US to claim a replacement, this new TSA policy could have harsh consequences. Also, if an electronic device experienced a malfunction overseas while containing important business documents, the individual possessing it would not be able to carry it onboard a flight to bring it back to the US to be worked on by a data recovery specialist.

The TSA has yet to mention the length of time this policy will be in effect, so Americans planning to travel overseas in the near future should make sure to have all electronic devices fully charged and operational prior to boarding flights and should expect delays, as passengers may be required to boot up all of their laptops and cellphones during the pre-flight security check.