Tag Archives: TSA

25 Civil Liberties, Privacy Groups Form Coalition to Fight TSA’s New Body Scan Guidelines

On January 13, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) issued a letter to the Transportation Security Administration and lawmakers regarding the TSA’s recent decision to make airport body scans a mandatory procedure.

The coalition, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and anti-biometrics group the Constitutional Alliance, said they were writing to Congress “regarding the TSA’s recent claim that it can mandate whole body scanning for airline passengers.”

In December 2015, it was reported that the TSA was changing its procedures without notice, making full body scans mandatory for some passengers. Prior to this point, passengers could choose to opt out of the full-body scan machines and undergo a pat-down instead. The new procedures will allow the TSA to select passengers for mandatory body scans.

The letter states:

“We are representative of leading civil liberties, human rights, and non-profit organizations, across the political spectrum. Many of us previously petitioned the DHS Secretary to conduct a public rulemaking on the use of airport body scanners after the agency sua sponte decided to make a pilot project into a national program of electronically strip searching airline travelers.”

The letter states that in the lawsuit EPIC v. DHS, a federal appeals court ruled that the TSA failed to conduct a public rulemaking as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.

The same court also found that the body scans were not a Fourth Amendment violation because “any passenger may opt-out of AIT screening in favor of a patdown, which allows him to decide which of the two options for detecting a concealed, nonmetallic weapon or explosive is least invasive.” With the new rule changes, that option is no longer available for all passengers.

The coalition called for public hearings to study the TSA’s conduct as well as a temporary hold on full-body scanner funding and increased oversight of the TSA. The letter also demands the TSA be required to publish all de facto regulations, be required to evaluate the cost of screening procedures using whole body scanners, and calls for several changes to regulations to make sure any orders from the TSA are subject to judicial review as are other government actions.

The letter was sent to Representative Jason Chaffetz, Chairman, and Representative Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Below is the full list of coalition members:

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Civil Liberties Union
Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Constitutional Alliance
Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Watchdog
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Cyber Privacy Project
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Liberty Coalition
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Security Counselors
National Workrights Institute
Niskanen Center
Patient Privacy Rights
Privacy Times
R Street
Restore The Fourth
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)

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.

Ron Paul: TSA Failures Raise Questions On $100 Billion Boondoggle

New evidence shows the Transportation Security Administration is failing to protect Americans, supporting Ron Paul’s point that it is impossible for government to keep us safe.

In the latest episode of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, the three-time presidential candidate and former Texas representative cited data from a Homeland Security Red Team investigation that showed how despite having spent nearly $100 billion since 2011, the TSA is not doing a good job.

Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and co-host of the Liberty Report, explained that this red team sent people under cover to attempt to smuggle mock explosive devices through TSA checkpoints. In 95 percent of those attempts, TSA agents failed to identify the mock bombs.

They’re supposed to be making us safe,” Paul said. “This proves our point that it is an impossible task.”

McAdams pointed out that TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway testified before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation back in March saying, “TSA is a high performing counterterrorism organization, applying a multi-layered, intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to protect the nation’s transportation systems.”

Now Carraway has been reassigned. Did Carraway know about these failures before he testified? Paul said the key question here is, “Is he a liar? Or is he a believer? Is he just a bureaucrat that makes himself believe this?

Paul has advocated for the elimination of the TSA. But is there a better solution to the problem of transportation security?

If you look to the rules of a free society, there is one,” Paul explained. “And that is, private individuals are responsible. . . . Those who are true authoritarians want us to be obedient to the state, that we respond in a very passive manner. They’ve done a pretty good job. We’re pretty intimidated and we all want to get on airplanes so they achieve all of that. And to promote the power of the state, they have to get us very fearful whether it’s economic fear or foreign policy problems that we have. It reestablishes this whole notion that it’s the government’s responsibility to make us safe and provide the safety net.

McAdams replied, “It’s amazing how some people argue that somehow the airlines that transport you to your destination don’t care if you get blown up or don’t care if you get hijacked. Don’t they have the most incentive to?

Watch the full episode above and catch past episodes of the Ron Paul Liberty Report right here at Truth In Media.

In case you missed Ben Swann’s Truth In Media episode on ISIS watch it below:


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.

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.

LEAKED: TSA Behavior Screening Checklist is a Joke

New details of the Transportation Security Administration’s behavior screening have been leaked, and they are just as ludicrous as expected. 

The Transportation Security Administration’s checklist for spotting suspicious behavior has been leaked to The Intercept. The checklist, also known as the SPOT Referral Report,  is part of the much maligned Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques program, also known as SPOT. Under the program Behavior Detection Officers identify suspicious passengers, monitors their activity, and questions the suspect to determine threat potential.

The checklist includes 92 items with different categories including a call for further inspection based on passengers’ possible “signs of deception.” These signs of deception the TSA is trained to watch for include having a recently shaved beard, whistling, and “wearing improper attire for the location.” Critics say the checklist is further proof that the TSA is a waste of taxpayer dollars and continues to be unsuccessful at catching terrorists.

Source: The Intercept
Source: The Intercept

Passengers are given a preliminary “observation and behavior analysis,” and then, if suspected of terrorism, they are pulled aside and inspected further. At this point the checklist calls for scoring suspicious behavior based on two or more categories. This includes having “unusual items” such as”numerous prepaid calling cards or cell phones.” The Behavior Detection Officers can also deduct points from passengers’ terrorism “scores”. For example, if two people are married and over the age of 55 they could each have one point deducted.

“Behavior detection, which is just one element of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to mitigate threats against the traveling public, is vital to TSA’s layered approach to deter, detect and disrupt individuals who pose a threat to aviation,” the TSA told The Intercept.

The leaked document comes one week after the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the TSA for records related to the SPOT program. The civil liberties organizations say they are seeking records related to the effectiveness of the widely criticized program, as well as the percentage of minorities that are targeted.

In November 2013 the Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday detailing the massive financial failures of the behavior screening program.  According to the report, the program works “no better than chance” and has not proven effective even at a cost of more than $1 billion since 2007. Steve Lord, director of the investigation for the GAO, stated that the “”TSA has yet to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.”

The new details of the behavior screening program reveal how arbitrary TSA training methods truly are. With over a billion dollars spent on this failure of a program, it has become even more obvious that the U.S. government’s Fear Campaign built around the War on Terror is yet another farce in a long line of lies from the alleged authorities.

Report: TSA Not Prepared to Detect “Catastrophic” Aviation Threat

A report from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted that its agents are not prepared to detect or to respond to the threat posed by a bomb made of the substance thermite, which could have a catastrophic effect if ignited on an airplane.

The classified document, first released by The Intercept, revealed that if igniting on an aircraft, thermite, which is a “mixture of rust and aluminum powder,” could result in “catastrophic damage and the death of every person onboard.”

Written in Dec. 2014, by the TSA’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the report stated that not only are thermite-based devices “easily assembled and concealable,” they are also likely to go undetected under current TSA screening procedures.

The report claimed that both a thermite-based substance and an ignition source can be placed in items that would “not arouse suspicion as they pass through TSA security screening,” such as children’s toys and water canteens.

Several anonymous TSA officials told The Intercept that while they had been briefed on the threat, they were given “no information or training on identifying thermite ignition.”

One federal air marshal described the situation by saying, “They say to identify something we don’t know how to identify and say there is nothing we can do. So basically, we hope it’s placed somewhere it does minimal damage, but basically we’re screwed.

When ignited, thermite burns violently and at extremely high temperatures, and may spray molten metal in all directions,” the report stated. “Thermite has the ability to burn through steel, and every other material of which an aircraft is comprised, it will continue to burn to completion.

The report went on to state that not only would a thermite-based incendiary device burn through all of the parts of an aircraft, it would also produce toxic gasses, “which can act as nerve poison,” along with a thick black smoke, which would “significantly inhibit any potential for in-flight safety officers to address the burn.”

The anonymous officials told The Intercept that while TSA “floods its employees with intelligence products from other agencies on various types of threats,” it has not told them how to respond to this threat.

The FBI released a statement saying that the “coordination between public safety, aviation, and national security focused agencies occurs on a continuous and collaborative basis to identify and neutralize threats to aviation safety.”

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.

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

Most Americans use a state-issued driver’s license as their primary identification card. However, federal-level politicians have pushed throughout history for the implementation of a national ID card, which privacy and states’ rights advocates have argued against as a threat to citizens’ private information or an affront to state authority. Reports of a move towards a national ID card were often dismissed by skeptics as conspiracy theories until 2005, when the REAL ID Act passed into law. However, the REAL ID has experienced significant pushback from many non-compliant states, forcing federal officials to delay its implementation.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and the REAL ID is set to launch in airports across the United States starting in January of 2016. According to KTVN-2, the Transportation Security Administration will no longer accept state-issued driver’s licenses that lack REAL ID compliant features as an accepted form of ID for boarding aircraft after the beginning of next year.

However, the adoption of the REAL ID by citizens is being portrayed as voluntary. Said Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Public Information Officer David Fierro in comments to KTVN-2, “It is a choice. It’s not mandatory. It’s a choice for secured identification. If you use a passport when you’re traveling you don’t have any problems. If you use your driver’s license as identification, you’ll need to either apply for the REAL ID card or get a passport.” While adoption of the federal REAL ID card by citizens may not be mandatory, those who choose not to get a passport or REAL ID will effectively be barred from airline travel.

REAL ID compliant cards must capture specific identifying details about each person and associate the data with a unique number. Privacy advocates worry that the REAL ID’s information database will eventually merge with other federal data sweeps such as the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system, which stores biometric data on Americans (many of whom have never been suspected of committing a crime), and the National Security Agency’s trove of stolen private online and mobile communications. The cards must also contain an electronic swipe feature allowing machines to read and write to them, raising fears that the REAL ID may be vulnerable to tampering by hackers and identity thieves. Though early versions of the regulations on REAL IDs required that the cards feature an RFID chip, that specific type of technology is no longer explicitly required.

However, some US states, such as Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Idaho, have passed laws against participating in the REAL ID program, meaning state-issued ID cards from those states may not be compliant in time for 2016. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 20-30% of Americans live in jurisdictions that are not compliant with the program, meaning citizens in those areas may no longer be able to use their state-issued driver’s licenses to board aircraft after January 2016. KIVI-TV notes that Idaho legislators are currently scrambling to find a solution to this problem.

The REAL ID’s implementation process is designed to come in four stages, two of which are already complete. The first two phases require the use of compliant cards to get into nuclear power plants and restricted federal facilities. The third phase of implementation, coming in October, mandates the presentation of REAL ID cards in order to enter semi-restricted federal facilities such as courthouses and military bases that require identification for admittance, with a waiver granted for individuals seeking entry to apply for federal benefits. The last phase of implementation, set to begin in January of 2016, will take place during security checks at airports.

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 Tries to Pat Down Man After His Flight, Watch Him Refuse

Last Saturday, Kahler Nygard took a Spirit Airlines flight to Denver to visit with friends. When he departed from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Transportation Security Administration agents patted him down and allowed him to board his flight. When the plane landed, he was singled out and ordered to exit before the other passengers. After he exited the aircraft, TSA agents approached Nygard and demanded that he go through an additional pat-down and a screening of his luggage for explosive materials.

He had already arrived safely at his destination in Denver and simply wanted to leave the airport. After an argument, which can be seen in the above video, Nygard refused the pat-down, despite the fact that TSA agents claimed that he would be arrested if he did not comply, and exited the airport without incident. According to KMSP-TV Fox 9 News, Nygard flew back to Minnesota yesterday without any complications.

KUSA-TV notes that Nygard indicated that he knew that he had been placed on the FBI’s “no fly” list around three years ago, despite not being told why, and took the flight to Denver in an effort to see if he was still on the list. However, he was apparently downgraded to a lower-level watch list that labeled him as a “Quad S” passenger. Passengers carrying the label “SSSS” on their boarding pass are forced to undergo additional scrutiny during TSA pre-flight screenings. Nygard says he believes he was placed on the list because he posted on anti-government websites, but describes his own advocacy as being against government corruption, rather than the government itself.

The plot thickened when TSA agents working at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport started forgetting the extra checks on Quad S passengers. Reportedly, two other Quad S passengers, in addition to Nygard, slipped through security over the weekend without additional screening. When the crew on Nygard’s flight noticed the “SSSS” designation on his boarding pass, they contacted officials on the ground in Denver, who then made the questionable decision to attempt a second, more thorough screening on Nygard after he reached his destination and was on his way out of the airport, when it would have been impossible for him to pose any conceivable threat to any airline passenger.

Nygard responded to the screening order by asking if he was being detained. Said Nygard, “Why do you need to do more screening if I traveled from point A to point B safely, right? Why does there now need to be more screening before I am allowed to leave? That would lead me to believe that I am being detained, am I not?”

“I’m not going to argue the process with you,” said the TSA agent.

Nygard reiterated, “Are you detaining me?”

“I am not detaining you,” the agent replied.

“So then I’m going to leave. I’m just stating what I’m going to do,” Nygard fired back.

The TSA agent then threatened Nygard with arrest. “And I will reach out to Denver police, and they will apprehend you.”

Nygard left the airport without consenting to the pat-down and was not arrested by police. He flew back to Minnesota yesterday with his father and arrived without any further complications.

The TSA is investigating the incident and issued the following statement to KMSP-TV Fox 9 News, “For security reasons, TSA cannot confirm whether specific individuals are on any type of watch list. TSA conducts watch list matching of all airline passengers against information controlled by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. This is one of several important security measures in place to protect US national and transportation security. Individuals known to pose a threat to aviation who are on this list will not be issued a boarding pass and are not allowed to fly. If an individual has received a boarding pass, he or she is not on the No Fly List.”

Exclusive: Leader of Scout Troop Confronted by Armed Border Patrol Speaks Out

In an exclusive interview with Benswann.com,  Jim Fox, the scout leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111, explained what happened earlier this month at a checkpoint along the Alaska – Canada border.

At the check point, one of the boys took a picture of the border agent and “threw the agent into a frenzy.” According to Fox, the agent immediately confiscated the camera, told the boy that he could be subjected to 10 years of prison or a $10,000 fine. The boys and driver were escorted inside the border patrol station.

“The border agent tried to bait me. He wanted to get a reaction out of me and I did not give it to him,” said Fox. The border agent didn’t want Fox to follow him while he searched the van because Fox might turn over “search techniques to the undesirables.”

One of the agents asked to see one of the bags of the scouts. One scout knew where the bag was and tried to get the bag to assist the agent. That’s when Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the boy.

Fox said that the boy thought the agent was going to shoot him and got back into the van. “They were sitting there scared to death,” said Fox.

“And for our government to take these young men and illegally search them and illegally seize and pull a weapon on these kids — something is wrong.”


Benswann.com’s Joshua Cook asked Fox, “Did you feel at that moment that you still lived in America?”

“No,” said Fox. “I didn’t and neither did the boys.”

Fox said that they have experienced this type of intimidation before with the TSA in Orlando, FL. In the Orlando one of the eagle scouts accidentally dropped his boots after going through a full search.

One of the officers said, “..if that boy doesn’t calm down I will arrest him and remove him from this airport.” Fox asked the officer, “what did the boy do?”

“He dropped his boots in a threatening manner, said the officer.”

The border patrol agent asked Fox, “I suppose you’re wondering why we are doing this?” While pointing at the teenage boy the agent told Fox, “It’s our job to protect this border, It’s our job to keep terrorists from crossing the border.”

Senator Chuck Grassley told Fox News, “It’s outrageous that a border patrol agent would point a gun at a boy scout just for taking a picture,” he told the television station. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Cook asked Fox if he thought his Fourth Amendment was violated?

“Totally,” answered Fox.

Fox had a meeting scheduled with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week to discuss the event, but will not attend without a constitutional attorney from the Rutherford Institute. According to Fox’s Facebook page, The Rutherford Institute offered to represent him.

Cook asked, “Is there any video footage of this event?” According to Fox, the DHS will not send a copy of the video it to him, media organizations or Sen. Grassley.

Fox told Cook that the Rutherford Institute will submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to access the video. DHS claims there is no audio of the event.

Cook asked Fox, “In light of the open borders and drug cartels going back and forth at the southern border freely, does it anger you at all that the focus of border security is on patriotic groups like the Boy Scouts?

 “It’s frustrating,” said Fox. “It’s frustrating that we give these thugs that kind of power.”

“And for our government to take these young men and illegally search them and illegally seize and pull a weapon on these kids — something is wrong,” said Fox.

“But they’re questioning whether or not they can go back into their own country…something’s not right!”


UPDATE: Fox has made his first national television appearance on the Rick Amato Show on the One American News Network. Below, you can see the Amato interview.

Drunk Banker Poses As TSA Agent, Allegedly Gropes Two Women

CBS San Francisco is reporting that, last Tuesday, 53-year-old Eric Slighton, a prominent banker and ticketed passenger at the San Francisco International Airport, allegedly had too many drinks at the airport bar, posed as a TSA agent, and then gave pat downs to two women in a private screening booth. Slighton came to the airport in khakis and a blue polo shirt, clothing similar to that of an employee of the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA officials allege that, after passing through screening, Slighton drank for hours at the airport bar. He acquired a pair of blue rubber gloves, either by bringing them in or stealing them from the TSA, and then pulled aside a pre-screened foreign female traveler, posed as a TSA agent, and took her to a private booth. Inside, he allegedly groped the female passenger. Afterward, she boarded her plane without being identified.

He might have gotten away with his scheme had he not attempted it a second time. When he took a second foreign female passenger into a private booth, TSA agents realized something was amiss, since male agents are not authorized to screen female passengers in private rooms without another female agent present. After he completed his alleged unauthorized pat down, Slighton was detained. However, TSA agents did not successfully identify or get testimony from the female passenger, who may have been a victim of sexual assault.

Slighton was arrested on charges of public drunkenness and may also be charged with additional crimes. He is currently out after posting bail, which was set at $10,000. Though it is believed that Slighton’s crimes might have involved groping female passengers, the failure of authorities to pin stronger charges on him may stem from the TSA’s inability to get into contact with the two alleged female victims, both of whom boarded their flights without being identified.

On Thursday, the TSA issued a statement about the debacle, saying, “TSA is aware of the alleged incident and is cooperating with law enforcement.” According to Breitbart, the TSA’s failure to immediately notice that a non-employee was conducting pat downs may have stemmed from the agency’s use of private contractors, which could have caused confusion and enabled Slighton to carry out the scheme. The screening room in question is overseen by Covenant, a contract security firm that works with the TSA at the San Francisco International Airport.

The incident raises questions about the effectiveness of TSA security policies.

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.

VIDEO: Police Officer Protects Rights Of Citizens Protesting TSA Pat Downs In Airport

So often, we hear stories about the growing “police state.” While it is legitimate to be concerned by police officers who abuse their power, it is also important to point out and acknowledge officers who uphold the law with dignity and respect for citizens’ rights. This story particularly caught our attention, especially with the growing concern over TSA tactics in airports.

Two activists, Ashley Jessica and Jason Bermas, showed up at the Albany International Airport in November 2012 to protest what they believe are invasive techniques used by the TSA.

The duo handed out packets to travelers in common areas outside of security that contained information regarding citizens’ rights to opt out of full-body scanners. Jessica and Bermas were also informing citizens that they have the right to film pat-downs performed by TSA officials.

After spending some time at the airport, Director of Public Affairs Doug Myers approached them along with an Albany County sheriff’s deputy. Myers ordered the two activists to stop filming.

The activists refused to stop filming and were brought downstairs where the interaction became tense.

Finally, Deputy Stan Lenic told Myers that as far as the law is concerned, Bermas and Jessica had every right to be filming. Lenic said, “Obviously, this is your constitutional right.”

Myers then commanded Lenic to keep the activists downstairs. Lenic said, “I can’t really keep them down here.”

Myers responded, “Then we’re going to close to all but ticketed passengers. We can do that. Only ticketed passengers upstairs from now on, OK?”

He then asked Bermas and Jessica to fill out a form and show identification, but Lenic intervened once again and said the pair did not need to do this.

The video of the incident went semi-viral online, and eventually the airport’s CEO, John O’Donnell, issued a statement regarding the matter. He said, “On Nov. 23, we asked two individuals to move away from the escalator area of the terminal where they were distributing fliers. Our concern — as it always is — was for the safety of the passengers and the public who were in the airport. It had nothing to do with their message or the content of their handouts. The policy we have in place for filming and leafleting in the airport is intended to help us ensure that this type of activity does not interfere with normal airport operations or safety. We would welcome them back to the airport to distribute their information. Filing a simple form and providing advance notice of their arrival are all that is required.”

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Ex-TSA Employee To America: “I Saw You Naked, And Yes, We Were Laughing”


Jason Harrington, a former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee, is speaking out about the screening process in American airports.

Harrington is working on a book about his time with the TSA, but on January 30 he penned a lengthy column in Politico called, “Dear America, I saw you naked — and yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.”

He wrote, “I hated it from the beginning. 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. Just as the long-suffering American public waiting on those security lines suspected, jokes about the passengers ran rampant among my TSA colleagues: Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display.”

Airport Security

He continued, “I quickly discovered I was working for an agency whose morale was among the lowest in the U.S. government. In private, most TSA officers I talked to told me they felt the agency’s day-to-day operations represented an abuse of public trust and funds.”

Harrington also said that TSA employees have their own code words. Here are common TSA sayings “decoded”:

Alfalfa: TSA malespeak for an attractive female passenger.

BBC: Bogus Bag Check, or Bullshit Bag Check. What happens when a not-too-bright x-ray operator decides to call a bag search.

Opt out: A smart passenger.

Retaliatory wait time: What happens when a TSA officer doesn’t like your attitude. There are all sorts of ways a TSA officer can subtly make you wait longer to get through security, citing imaginary alarms, going “above the SOP” for “a more thorough screening,” pretending that something in your bag or on your full body image needs to be resolved—the punitive possibilities are endless, and there are many tricks in the screener’s bag.

White Shirt: A TSA employee who still believes his or her job is a matter of national security.

Harrington also said that the reasons behind “enhanced screenings” are usually just as perplexing to TSA workers as they are to travelers. He wrote,  “‘Random’ security ‘plays’ were passed down from headquarters every day, or ordered by our supervisors. The enhanced screening was also triggered by SSSS stamps, which could show up on passengers’ boarding passes for any number of reasons, often reasons we would never know. But we would also sometimes pull a passenger’s bag or give a pat down because he or she was rude. We always deployed the same explanation: ‘It’s just a random search.'”

Hours after his article was published by Politico, Harrington realized that he forgot to include something in the piece. He tweeted, “One thing I left out of that Politico piece: HELL YES airport employees often drink those bottles of alcohol you surrender at the checkpoint.”

Screenshot 2014-01-31 at 12.44.50 PM

Over the past decade, a growing number of Americans have become concerned about privacy violations by the TSA. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has even called for an end to the TSA.

Harrington’s report will certainly bring issues associated with the TSA to the table for debate.

(H/T: Politico)

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