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Some people claim that the TSA is led by idiots. Others see the TSA as a bastion against terrorism. Now through the magic of the Internet,  you can decide!

Commercial Airline Aviation News

Big Brother Is Watching WHO??
Fri, 14 Apr '06

TSA "Terrorist" Turns Out To Be A Homeward-Bound Marine
by ANN Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

The Transportation Security Administration bagged a terrorist in Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday, or so they thought. Daniel Brown's name came up on their no-fly watchlist, so they dragged him into interrogation and grilled him, despite the protestations of Brown and his fellow travelers, who swore they could vouch for him.

The others in Brown's party went on their Northwest Airlines flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul, where they waited on a bus at the airport. You see, the detained man was Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown, USMC Reserve, and he was traveling with the other members of his Marine Reserve Military Police unit, which was heading home to Minnesota from eight months of combat in Iraq. The Marines were in full uniform and all, including Brown, had travel orders and military identification cards.

After attempts to stonewall under claims of "security," TSA spokesmen finally admitted that Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown was placed on the no-fly list, and ultimately detained, because they had detected gunpowder on his footgear -- not on this flight, but on a prior flight, which earned Brown a permanent place on the TSA's mysterious terrorist lists.

The footgear that had been exposed to gunpowder? Brown's combat boots, and the occasion of that flight was after his return from his first combat tour in Iraq. Gee... a combat Marine in Al-Anbar Province being exposed to gunpowder.

Exposure to gunpowder isn't something the TSA knows a lot about. Hey, who are you gonna believe, this here watchlist or your lyin' eyes?

Ultimately, the TSA screeners figured out that Brown really was a Marine, and no threat to his fellow passengers, and let him board a later flight. When he deplaned at MSP, his unit's bus was waiting -- his fellow Marines in it.

Marine 1st Sgt. Drew Benson explained why. "We don't leave anybody behind. We start together, and we finish together." All 26 Marines waited for Brown -- even though their families were waiting for them at a scheduled welcome-home bash at Fort Snelling.

Brown's mother Terry was glad they did. "They all come back together... no matter what it takes and I think that's very important," she told WCCO-TV.

Frequent TSA critic Richard A. Altomare, Founder and Chairman of the Coalition for Luggage Security -- and a former marine -- said, "I'm proud that Sergeant Dan Brown's Marine unit refused to report to their post until the 'man left behind' was permitted to get on a passenger plane. This TSA's bloated bureaucracy with documented insensitive treatment of countless Americans really rings home a need to dismantle their growing airport agency before all American freedoms are lost -- since now even the United States Marines can't help us."

The TSA watch lists are shrouded in such secrecy that it's impossible to tell if they have done any good. The TSA refuses to say how people get on the list or even how many are on. On the other hand, the absurdities of the list have been well publicized.

Senator Ted Kennedy, former child actor David Nelson, and other celebrities have turned up on the list. (TSA explained to Sen. Kennedy that there was a terrorist who once used "T. Kennedy" as an alias. "T" is not one of the Senator's initials; his full name is Edward Moore Kennedy).

Some of our own writers were placed on the list after we ran several Aero-Views critical of TSA management.

In the last few weeks, a DHS official originally recruited by TSA was in the news after being caught in a child sex sting; as Aero-News reported, before joining TSA he took early retirement from Time magazine after a porn scandal there.

Last month, a classified Government Accountability Office report leaked to NBC News reportedly revealed that security testers were able to bring bomb-making materials through TSA security at 21 of 21 airports tested.

But the TSA will not strike its colors; it has not yet begun to fight. Boston TSA head George Naccara told CSO Online, a magazine for security executives, last month that the TSA needed to extend its unique approach to security to other modes of transport: "subway stations, rail terminals, cruise ship and ferry docks, even special events like conventions."

"TSA was never clearly given a mandate to focus only on aviation," Naccara said. "I want to bring a sense of urgency to other modes and explain to them what we do and how it can be adapted to work in their environments."

Meanwhile, does the Marine of the hour have any words? Turns out he does.  "As somebody who has served 16 months over in Iraq for the U.S. Marine Corps and come home and get hassled by TSA, it's kind of a major disappointment," Daniel Brown told TV station WCCO. "I've been fighting terrorism for the last 16 months in Iraq. I don't think I should have to come home and deal with this."

Brown's father Carey echoed his son's sentiments. "For an individual who spent two tours over in Iraq fighting for his country, I think it's one of the biggest bogus things they could ever come up with."

WIth luck, no one at TSA will take that as a challenge.







Aqua Teen Overreaction Force?

Boston officials investigating this week’s marketing campaign gone awry should be sure to include themselves in the scrutiny, asking if they overreacted to the incident.

In case you missed the story, Cartoon Network, a division of Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, recently launched a “guerrilla marketing campaign” to promote its new adult-audience cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. As part of the campaign, the network hired New York marketing firm Interference Inc. to place notepad-sized, electronically lit signs of the show’s “mooninite” characters in unusual locations around urban areas.

The campaign received little notice in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, San FranciscoPhiladelphia, and Austin, Texas. But in Boston, public officials treated the signs as a possible terrorist threat, closing bridges, subway stations, roadways, and even part of the Charles River while bomb squads removed the signs.

Once the nature of the signs became known, Boston mayor Thomas Menino issued a press release blasting the campaign:

"It is outrageous, in a post-9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme. I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents."

Estimates for those expenses have already topped $1 million.

Boston officials’ initial concern is understandable and appropriate. Seeing an out-of-place object containing batteries, circuitry, and glowing lights is unsettling in these times and it should be investigated. But at what point should Boston officials have realized that the signs posed no threat, and called off the bomb squads?


Fleecing Uncle Patsy

Beats Working

        by Fred Reed

April 6, 2007


Human ingenuity is a wonderful thing, especially when combined with the instincts of a pickpocket. The following is from the Daily Mail.

“Tiny cameras the size of a fingernail linked to specialist computers are to be used to monitor the behaviour of airline passengers as part of the war on terrorism.” To find out whether they look nervous, see.

Yay-yesss! Rejoice! Brethren, we are now stark bonkers. In the hills, not of Galilee but maybe of Yorkshire a new industry is come unto us. Not a sparrow shall fall without some damnfool otherwise-unemployable at Homeland Security watching. Henceforth God will be seen as comparatively inalert, perhaps reading computer magazines and dozing off on his watch. Yes, the Divine will be replaced by tiny little cameras. For a price.

Listen to this. It’s wonderful. BAE Systems, just incidentally a defense contractor, is busily designing a seat with not only a little camera, but also a microphone.

“Cameras fitted to seat-backs will record every twitch, blink, facial expression or suspicious movement before sending the data to onboard software which will check it against individual passenger profiles.”

Why the microphone? At first I thought the Daily Mail was testing a parody generator, but it seems to be serious.

"A separate microphone will hear and record even whispered remarks. Islamic suicide bombers are known to whisper texts from the Koran in the moments before they explode bombs.”

What in the name of…well, the Comparatively Inalert, I guess…is this foolishness supposed to accomplish? Think about it. To begin with, will the airplane have special mumbled-Koran-detection software, fluent in Arabic? What good would it do?

The guy mumbles “moments” before he explodes the bomb. Sirens sound, lights flash. A screen in the cockpit flashes “Mumbled Koran, seat 34-F.” The terrorist won’t notice this, of course, and just push the button. I suppose that the air marshal would rush up and shoot him in the head, whereupon it would turn out that he was a bulk-lot soap jobber from Lebanon, muttering about what a sumbitch his boss was.

Note that the microphone is going to “record even whispered remarks.” To be listened to by whom? When? Since the terrorist has a bomb, the plane isn’t going to land. And if he isn’t a terrorist, who cares what he says? (“Hey, Sally, how ‘bout a nooner in London?”) Or maybe there will be a bank of Arabic-speakers in a secret compartment, wearing headphones and listening earnestly to even whispered remarks.

I can see that a lot of thought has gone into this.

What about false positives, which in practice will probably be all positives? You have three hundred people on the aircraft. Some, afraid of flying, mumble prayers, sweat, twitch. People with minor obsessive-compulsive disorder clear their throats, blink in sets of seven, blow on their fingers, and pull their earlobes. Some anarchist, tired of being watched, puts his chewing gum over the camera.

Every fifteen minutes the Terror Alarm goes off. The stews rush to the seat and strip search the suspected terr while the air marshal, dressed like a cheap divorce-attorney, waves his hog leg threateningly.

In practice of course everyone would simply ignore the alarms. Real terrorists would carefully avoid twitching or mumbling the Koran. In any event, once the plane is airborne the potential mumbler could just pull the pin. Take-off speed and an altitude of two hundred feet are perfectly adequate to make a gaudy mess of an airliner.

But more from the Daily Mail. "We're trying to develop technologies that indicate the differences between normal passengers and those who may be a threat to others, or themselves," said Catherine Neary of BAE Systems."

She is the leader of the team developing the watchful seat. Note the usual female preoccupation with safety at all costs, even when there is noting to be afraid of. She has moved from terror of terrorists to the realm of the remote but imaginable threat from the passenger in the next seat. Dodge ball also is dangerous, and second-hand smoke, and everything else. Angst, worry, and the man under the bed.

What is this logical contortionism really about? Money. Let me explain. I do so as one who spent many years reporting on the defense industry.

Commerce watches government as a tick watches a cow. Getting money from the government is immensely profitable and in general easy, since the people who dispense it do not own it and so do not care what is done with it. Industry, understanding this perfectly, is always looking for something to sell to the government.

After New York, a huge market sprang up for the paraphernalia of security: metal detectors, x-ray gadgets for baggage, and such like. These things cost whole bunches. Airports after all have lots of gates. Here was a Comstock Lode for tech industry. Further, a new federal bureaucracy came into being, hiring large numbers of people, screeners and marshals and supervisory ‘crats, who suddenly had a monetary interest in terrorism. When you get paid for solving a problem, the last thing you want to do is to solve it. Where would exterminators be without cockroaches?

Having sold Uncle Patsy all of these pricey contrivances, what does industry then do? The things last for years. Sure, there are maintenance contracts, but the real gravy is in selling things to the feds. The trick is to build upgraded and improved security gadgets. Thus we get pricey explosives-sniffers that any sophomore chemistry-major could circumvent, but that are certainly pricey, which is the point. Then we get semi-pornographic x-ray machines, which also cost a lot, which is again the point.

But these markets get saturated. To open the money drains yet wider, one needs completely new products. So engineers sit around and think, “How about…ejection seats for all passengers? Nah, not even the feds are that stupid. Uh, maybe shock-trauma modules to fit in the cargo bay? Hey, I got it! How about seats with little cameras, see, and we could record mumbled stuff from—what’s that book? Just the thing!”

Just the thing indeed. Think how many airliners there are, and multiply by the numbers of seats. BAE Systems or somebody would get to install a camera and microphone in each seat, along with the monumental amount of wiring needed (a wireless version would be an early and expensive upgrade) as well as the computers to monitor them. The MKD software would be a juicy contract by itself, with of course mumbled-Farsi and mumbled-Pashtu as expensive upgrades.

Cut-purses, footpads, blackguards, doxies, defense contractors, and siphoners of gas tanks. Same people. Don’t blink on your next flight, or its off to the calaboose.


No Time For TSA To Deal With These Fellows...

...Too Busy Hassling The Troops!

"I Will Bring Down Boston!"

Candidates For TSA No-Fly List

Show Your ID When TSA Says, "Papers, Please."


Remember, Ben Franklin says-- "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."