Archive for the ‘airport’ tag
The TSA is a joke, as is 98% of American airport security protocols. It isn’t that we passengers want unsafe flights, it is that the anti-terror measures taken are simply security theatre, and not at all an enhancement of our safety.
But it is absurd for the T.S.A. to demand background checks and fingerprinting for what amount to small modifications in the screening routine. The agency could relax airport security for everyone without gravely endangering the traveling public.
The former head of the T.S.A., Kip Hawley, has argued that the agency should allow passengers to carry on all liquids, in any quantity. As a safeguard against explosives, passengers would simply have to put their liters of Evian in gray bins and pass them through scanners. Mr. Hawley sees reasons for keeping footwear checks, but those, too, are of questionable value. Passengers do not remove their shoes in the European Union, or even in Israel, one of the world’s most security-conscious countries, with a famously stringent screening process.
It is time to stop pretending that annoying protocols like these are all that stand between us and devastation. The most effective security innovation post-9/11 was also the simplest: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, which has made it virtually impossible to hijack an aircraft.
As things stand, the T.S.A. asks its officers to enforce rules of questionable utility while giving them remarkably little discretion; they’re more like hall monitors than intelligence personnel. That is a huge waste of human talent and a source of inefficiency. At Heathrow Airport in London, passengers need to remove their shoes only if asked to do so by security officers. Imagine that: a screening agent entrusted with the solemn power to wave through a teenager in flip-flops en route to Honolulu.
(click here to continue reading Airport Security Without the Hassle – NYTimes.com.)
Kip Hawley, the former head of TSA, admits what we knew, the TSA was more concerned about confiscating our nail clippers than stopping a terror incident:
More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect. Preventing terrorist attacks on air travel demands flexibility and the constant reassessment of threats. It also demands strong public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve.
The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.
By the time of my arrival, the agency was focused almost entirely on finding prohibited items. Constant positive reinforcement on finding items like lighters had turned our checkpoint operations into an Easter-egg hunt. When we ran a test, putting dummy bomb components near lighters in bags at checkpoints, officers caught the lighters, not the bomb parts.
I wanted to reduce the amount of time that officers spent searching for low-risk objects, but politics intervened at every turn. Lighters were untouchable, having been banned by an act of Congress. And despite the radically reduced risk that knives and box cutters presented in the post-9/11 world, allowing them back on board was considered too emotionally charged for the American public.
(click here to continue reading Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How to Fix It – WSJ.com.)
If I hadn’t been eating a big slice of pizza, would have tried to shake his hand, and say “I hope you become President Obama’s Secretary of State – you’ll be an excellent diplomat”, or words to that effect…
embiggen by clicking http://flic.kr/p/dq5yWa
John Kerry at Austin Bergstrom Airport was taken on November 02, 2012 at 04:02PM
ABC News ran a sting against dirty TSA inspectors by leaving behind iPads (with tracking spyware) at ten airport checkpoints known for theft and following them electronically. One iPad, left at an Orlando checkpoint, moved 30 miles to the home of Andy Ramirez, a TSA inspector at the airport. Initially, he denied stealing the iPad, then he blamed his wife…Republicans have promised to fix this problem by firing the unionized federal workers and replacing them with private contractors. Because private contractors — not directly accountable to the government, insulated by layers of contractor/subcontractor relationships — would never, ever abuse their authority. Which is why mall security guards are the pinnacle of policing efficiency.
Flying is stressful enough, but getting sick as a result of traveling is even worse.
Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%. And the holidays are a particularly infectious time of year, with planes packed full of families with all their presents—and all those germs.
Air that is recirculated throughout the cabin is most often blamed. But studies have shown that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on most jets today can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. That said, when air circulation is shut down, which sometimes happens during long waits on the ground or for short periods when passengers are boarding or exiting, infections can spread like wildfire.
One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger. For that reason, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory in 2003 to airlines saying that passengers should be removed from planes within 30 minutes if there’s no air circulation, but compliance isn’t mandatory.
Much of the danger comes from the mouths, noses and hands of passengers sitting nearby. The hot zone for exposure is generally two seats beside, in front of and behind you, according to a study in July in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(click here to continue reading Where Germs Lurk on Planes – WSJ.com.)
and even the security check-in area is a pit of filth and disease:
You think the plane is bad? Security checkpoints harbor a host of hazards as well, researchers say.
Jason SchneiderAirport security areas can make it easy to get sick. People are crowded together, and plastic storage bins that hold personal effects are not cleaned after each screening.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.
Layers of Weakness
So, other than having a healthy immune system, what to do?
According to Scott McCartney:
- Drink lots of water. Dry air is a ideal place for viruses, and plane air has hardly any humidity. You can go so far as to spray your own nasal passages to keep them moist.
- Clean your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching the seat-back pockets. Who knows what lurks there? Likewise be wary of the tray tables. Some viral particles can live for 24 hours.
- Aim your air vent in front of your face – it can keep airborne particles from landing on you. Well, possibly.
- Avoid airline pillows and blankets – they are rarely, if ever, sanitized.
Or else, be part of the 1%, and get a private plane…
Well, one could hope it is. Patrick Smith of Salon.com has a few points to make about terrorism theatre…
For example, how is it that our sworn protectors manage to spend tens of billions of dollars each year, yet failed to stop an extremist saboteur whose own father had contacted officials to alert them to his son’s behavior and potential violence?
Well, it’s partly because the government’s list of known or suspected terrorists — the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE — contains more than half a million names. Abdulmutallab himself had been added to this list, but at a certain point a database this vast and unwieldy does more harm than good.
And although he’d been added to TIDE, Abdulmutallab had not been placed on any active watch lists or the so-called no-fly list — a failure of government intelligence sharing eerily reminiscent of the FBI-CIA disconnect that helped facilitate the 9/11 plot.
Here we are at a point where innocent preschoolers or entertainers (Cat Stevens) are denied boarding because of confusion over names, but somebody like Abdulmutallab steps onto a plane with no trouble. Our overzealous obsession with terrorism, together with bureaucratic bungling, has, predictably, bit us in the rear end.
Speaking of predictable, down on the front lines, our beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rushed to action. The agency’s first mandate was a nonsensical and short-lived requirement that all passengers on flights over U.S. soil remain seated for the final hour of flight, with no personal belongings (personal computers, etc.) in their laps or on tray tables. The thinking here was difficult to fathom. Presumably a bomber can only act while standing up? And presumably he would call off the attack if he had to detonate, say, 70 minutes from landing instead of 60, or out over the ocean? Funny, I remember Pan Am 103 exploding in the first hour of flight, not the last.
[Click to continue reading Ask the Pilot – Salon.com]
Does the TSA do more harm than good? Is the agency’s existence just to feather the nest of security consultants and corporations such as Chertoff’s good buddy, Rapiscan?
Since the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.
What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.
[Click to continue reading Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners – washingtonpost.com]
Especially since jerk-store politicians like Rudy 9-11 Giuliani deny that any acts of terrorism even happened when a Republican was in the Presidency! Rudy G must actually believe that 9-11 is a joke in his town.
Rudy Giuliani on one of the morning shows today:
On “Good Morning America” Friday, the former New York mayor declared, “We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we’ve had one under Obama.”
Hmmm. He didn’t misspeak, I don’t think. It’s likely quite intentional. It’s entirely of a piece with the the whole “we kept America safe” line that Cheney and others were trumpeting as the Bushies left office, trying to think of one positive thing they could say about an administration that ruined the country in most important respects.
The idea being implanted here is that 9-11 somehow didn’t count; that it was some kind of gimme. Because it was first, and it was a surprise, and unexpected. But as we know there were plenty of warnings, and plenty of signs that were ignored. The argument takes cynical advantage of the fact that flying planes into buildings was a complete shock to your average person. But it was not a shock to the people who are paid to think about these things.
It’s quite remarkable the success this line has enjoyed, though. You’ll see a fair number of pundits on TV and the like nodding in earnest assent that the Bush administration “kept us safe after 9-11″ as if 9-11 was a freebie.
[Click to continue reading 9-11 Doesn’t Count | Michael Tomasky | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk ]
A few interesting links collected January 5th through January 8th:
- Letters of Note: Art is useless because… – Included in the preface to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is the now famous and often misconstrued line, ‘All art is quite useless’. In fact, following the novel’s original publication in 1890, Oxford undergraduate Bernulf Clegg was so intrigued by the claim that he wrote to Wilde and asked him to elaborate. The following handwritten letter was Wilde’s response.
- The Airport Scanner Scam | Mother Jones – Beyond privacy issues, however, are questions about whether these machines really work—and about who stands to benefit most from their use. When it comes to high-tech screening methods, the TSA has a dismal record of enriching private corporations with failed technologies, and there are signs that the latest miracle device may just bring more of the same.
- Buddyhead’s Best and Worst Records Of 2009 | BUDDYHEAD – Animal Collective – “Merriweather Post Pavilion”Lazy music journalists tried to act like these nerds armed with bongos and delay pedals were the second coming of The Beatles or some shit. Everyone from Mojo to Rolling Stone to Pitchdork seemed to have these fruitcakes somewhere in their top five records for 2009. These dudes couldn’t write a song if their lives depended on it, they are to songwriting what “Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is to cinema.
A few interesting links collected December 6th through December 7th:
“Do I have the right to refuse this search?” | Homeland Security Watch – TSA Terrorism Theater is a Joke, and not the 911 kind1 “Within the last few months, I have been singled out for “additional screening” roughly half the time I step into an airport security line. On Friday, October 9, as I stepped out of the full-body scanning device at BWI, I decided I needed more information to identify why it is that I have become such an appealing candidate for secondary screening.
Little did I know this would be only the first of many questions I now have regarding my airport experiences.
Over these last few months, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what I view as an unjustifiable intrusion on my privacy. It was not so much the search (then) as it was the embarrassment of being singled out, effectively being told “You are different,” but getting no explanation as to why.”
- Mark the Spot: Tell AT&T where the iPhone sucks – Well now there is an electronic version of that crosswalk button for me to push whenever my signal degrades. This app, free in the App Store lets you pinpoint your location when the call was dropped. Expect a good constellation of points around my house
Oxford American – The Southern Magazine of Good Writing :: Ode to a Pecan Pie – The pecan pie has been on the Brigtsen’s menu for all twenty-three years of the restaurant’s history. It is evidence of Brigtsen’s broader philosophy.
“I wanted it to be just that: a classic Southern dessert. I am not out to change the world with my food. I am not out to reinvent the wheel. I’m only here to make people happy. And whatever it takes to do that is my goal. I also believe that just because something is one hundred years old or twenty-three years old doesn’t mean it isn’t good anymore.”
- or the 9/11 kind [↩]
Nobody will exactly say this was the one thing, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit that the out-of-control US airline security theater was a large factor in the decision to award Rio with the 2016 Games.
Did Chicago lose the chance to host the 2016 Olympics because of airport security issues?
Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”
[Click to continue reading Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame? – In Transit Blog – NYTimes.com]
and some noticed:
Once the news came out that Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the U.S. Travel Association didn’t miss an opportunity to point that out, sending out a critical press release within hours.
“It’s clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination,” Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president, said in the statement released today. “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system.”
That might help, but a bigger problem is the Bush Administration’s ridiculous terrorism theater policies, still in place.
A glimmer of hope for frequent fliers in the US, if the FDA can get off their asses and dance with the new technology
U.S. airlines and the FAA are phasing in a new navigation system that has already proved it can reduce weather delays, shave minutes off flight times and reduce noise pollution on the ground.
“Required Navigation Performance,” or RNP, is already in use in parts of China, Australia, Canada and Alaska. U.S. airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are working to expand it to major U.S. airports. Southwest Airlines, for example, will have all its planes and pilots ready next year. Washington’s Reagan National Airport already has an RNP procedure in place.
The plan in the U.S. is to attack the most congested cities first, starting with New York and Chicago. “We’ll apply it where the need is greatest to start,” said Victoria Cox, FAA senior vice president for “NextGen” air-traffic modernization.
Think of RNP as precision navigation. Using two different kinds of standard navigation equipment, the newest generation of Boeing and Airbus jets have the ability to fly an exact path with deviation of no more than the wingspan of the airplane. RNP routes take advantage of that equipment by creating very precise flight paths that require computers on board to alert pilots if the plane strays. No ground-based equipment like radar and instrument landing systems is needed. The plane’s autopilot can put the aircraft at an exact position within seconds of an assigned time.
[Click to continue reading A New Route to Ease Plane Congestion – WSJ.com]
[not related, but hey, my blog, my rules…]
The Transportation Security Administration batting average is pretty low, and of the tiny number of people arrested by the TSA, how many are for actual terror related activities? The number of arrests is even lower when you filter out drug-related crimes, penis-bumb related jokes, immigration issues, and whatever other petty offense sets off the wrath of TSA officials.
Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped.
A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said.
The TSA program trains screeners to become “behavior detection officers” who patrol terminals and checkpoints looking for travelers who act oddly or appear to answer questions suspiciously.
Critics say the number of arrests is small and indicates the program is flawed.
“That’s an awful lot of people being pulled aside and inconvenienced,” said Carnegie Mellon scientist Stephen Fienberg, who studied the TSA program and other counterterrorism efforts. “I think it’s a sham. We have no evidence it works.”
I wonder if Droopy Dog Lieberman in his continued1 role as chair-loser of the Homeland Security committee is responsible for TSA oversight? I wouldn’t be surprised.Footnotes:
Our flight out of O’Hare was delayed by a couple hours, but once we left the ground, all went smoothly.
eventually had to change planes. Looked to me as if the same plane was still at O’Hare when I got back three days later.
A Transportation Security Administration inspector grounded a plane the old-fashioned way: by damaging the plane itself. Yikes. Luckily airline mechanics noticed, avoiding a possible crash.
A bumbling inspector with the Transportation Safety Administration apparently has some explaining to do, after nine American Eagle regional jets were grounded at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday.
Citing sources within the aviation industry, ABC News reports an overzealous TSA employee attempted to gain access to the parked aircraft by climbing up the fuselage… reportedly using the Total Air Temperature (TAT) probes mounted to the planes’ noses as handholds.
“The brilliant employees used an instrument located just below the cockpit window that is critical to the operation of the onboard computers,” one pilot wrote on an American Eagle internet forum. “They decided this instrument, the TAT probe, would be adequate to use as a ladder.” Officials with American Eagle confirmed to ANN the problem was discovered by maintenance personnel, who inspected the planes Tuesday morning… and questioned why the TAT probes all gave similar error indications.
One Eagle pilot says had the pilots not been so attentive, the damaged probes could have caused problems inflight. TSA agents “are now doing things to our aircraft that may put our lives, and the lives of our passengers at risk,” the pilot wrote on the forum.
Grounding the planes to replace the TAT probes affected about 40 flights, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances. “We think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told ABCNews.com.
Yes, unfortunate. Even more so that these morons even have jobs. Not only did this TSA employee destroy one plane’s gear looking to see if “terrorists could get into the cockpit”, but he did it eight more times!
Airline industry folks are understandably outraged:
This was an extraordinarily dangerous incident, folks. The TSA has neither the mandate nor the knowledge to inspect any aircraft for any reason. The stupidity of this matter is nearly unbelievable… until you hear that the TSA is involved… then it becomes understandable, though still tragic. And I can not tell you how frustrating it is, to see them continue to hurt an indsutry that they were created to protect. The TSA has NO BUSINESS putting untrained personnel in a position to damage aircraft. Their bizarre games, in the name of security, do NOTHING to enhance security and do much to inhibit safety. Aviation personnel — pilots, A&P’s, ground personnel — are all either licensed or supervised by licensed personnel and this kind of tampering, had it been accomplished by anyone else, would have subjected that person to criminal charges.
Janet Jackson at least had a nipple guard on when she flashed the prudes of America.
A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.
“I wouldn’t wish this experience upon anyone,” Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. “My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way.”
Personally, I try to avoid Lubbock as often as possible. Lubbock or Leave It, as it were.
Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.
She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.
“Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her,” said Hamlin’s attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. Allred is a well-known Los Angeles lawyer who often represents high-profile claims.
Applying pliers to the torso of a mannequin that had a peach-colored bra with the rings on it, Hamlin showed reporters at the news conference how she took off the second ring.
She said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.
“After nipple rings are inserted, the skin can often heal around the piercing, and the rings can be extremely difficult and painful to remove,” Allred said in the letter.
Allred said she might consider legal action if the TSA does not apologize. Hamlin was publicly humiliated and has “undergone an enormous amount of physical pain to have the nipple rings reinserted” because of scar tissue, Allred said.
Hamlin said her piercings have never set off an airport metal detector.
“The conduct of TSA was cruel and unnecessary,” Allred wrote. “The last time that I checked a nipple was not a dangerous weapon.”
Well, except for Janet Jackson’s nipple.
Here’s why I hate to fly, post 9/11. All of the counter-terrorism measures enacted at US airports are just prop-comic jokes – supremely unfunny ones to boot. Shoe bombs? Liquid explosives? Only on television or in James Bonds films, not practical in the real world. Restricting wine openers and cuticle scissors? Ridiculous. One can make a deadly weapon out of a myriad of devices, including a credit card or a photo id! Try bending a card you no longer need in half, that sucker quickly becomes a sharp, sharp blade. Confiscating bottles of liquid in huge garbage barrels? If the bottles of water are so dangerous, why are they kept in the crowded areas of airports for hours? Obviously nobody is really scared of these liquids, yet the TSA guards become rapidly belligerent if one attempts to notice this fact, or any other inane Terrorism Theater prop.
Does any of the Terrorism Theater Kabuki make us safer? Doubtful.
Patrick Smith (a commercial pilot) explores the topic in detail:
But of all the contradictions and self-defeating measures T.S.A. has come up with, possibly none is more blatantly ludicrous than the policy decreeing that pilots and flight attendants undergo the same x-ray and metal detector screening as passengers. What makes it ludicrous is that tens of thousands of other airport workers, from baggage loaders and fuelers to cabin cleaners and maintenance personnel, are subject only to occasional random screenings when they come to work.
These are individuals with full access to aircraft, inside and out. Some are airline employees, though a high percentage are contract staff belonging to outside companies. The fact that crew members, many of whom are former military fliers, and all of whom endured rigorous background checks prior to being hired, are required to take out their laptops and surrender their hobby knives, while a caterer or cabin cleaner sidesteps the entire process and walks onto a plane unimpeded, nullifies almost everything our T.S.A. minders have said and done since September 11th, 2001. If there is a more ringing let-me-get-this-straight scenario anywhere in the realm of airport security, I’d like to hear it.
I’m not suggesting that the rules be tightened for non-crew members so much as relaxed for all accredited workers. Which perhaps urges us to reconsider the entire purpose of airport security:
[Click to read more of The Airport Security Follies – Jet Lagged – Air Travel – Opinion – New York Times Blog]
I just drive, or don’t go at all, if at all possible.