Another day, another sticky-fingered Transportation Security Administration agent caught stealing from airline passengers: According to the Associated Press, 31-year-old Alexandra Schmid, a TSA screener at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly helped herself to a cool $5,000 from a passenger’s jacket as it passed along an X-ray conveyor belt on February 1. The passenger, a native of Bangladesh, noticed the money was missing as soon as he retrieved his jacket, at which point he reported the theft.
Evidence that New York City is considering using drones to keep an eye on its citizens is growing, according to Don Dahler of New York’s CBS Channel 2. Dahler quoted an email it obtained indicating that a detective in the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism division asked the Federal Aviation Administration “about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] as a law enforcement tool.”
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) missed a flight to Washington, D.C., this morning after being detained by screeners with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for refusing a full-body pat down, his staff said. The incident happened at the Nashville, Tennessee, airport when a so-called “naked-body scanner” found some sort of anomaly around the conservative Senator’s knee.
New York Police Commissioner Joe Kelly is considering the latest in technology — Terahertz Imaging Detection (TID) — to be mounted on police cars and allowing them to roam the streets of New York looking for people carrying guns. The NYPD, sometimes referred to as the world’s “seventh largest army” with 35,000 uniformed officers, already does a brisk business frisking potential suspects, with little pushback. In the first quarter of last year, 161,000 New Yorkers were stopped and interrogated, with more than nine out of 10 of them found to be innocent. And there are cameras already in place everywhere: in Manhattan alone there are more than 2,000 surveillance cameras watching for alleged miscreants.
With so many of our most essential liberties under attack from the oligarchy on the Potomac, it is little wonder that the freedom of the press and speech are next on the government guillotine. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center (NOC) released its Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative last year and in that report the intelligence-gathering arm of the DHS, the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) gives itself permission to “gather, store, analyze, and disseminate” data on millions of users of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and business networking sites (Linkedin).
Google announced Tuesday a new social networking maneuver that will rummage through photos and commentary on its budding social network, Google+, so search results can provide more personal information for web browsing. The addition, which was employed the same day it was announced, will tailor search results by filtering content to the unique interests of each user browsing the Internet.
The company’s six-month-old Plus product is a social networking service Google offered to counter the sweeping popularity of Facebook’s online parlor and Twitter’s status-updating hub. The new feature, called "Search, Plus Your World," was partially activated Tuesday (some users will not see the change immediately) for all searches administered by users logged into Google; deactivating the individually catered results will require changing settings under the user’s personal preferences. Personal search results can also be suspended on a search-by-search basis by clicking an icon on the results page.
Google Fellow Amit Singhal detailed in a blog post three areas that will be affected by the new feature:
In a decision a plaintiffs' lawyer called an effort “to put lipstick on a pig,” a panel of the in San Francisco upheld Thursday a congressional grant of immunity from law suits to telecommunications companies that had surrendered records of their customers phone calls and electronic communications to warrantless government searches. The three-judge panel unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling holding the congressional action constitutional. The case consolidated 33 lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp, on behalf of the companies' customers.
The legal battles grew out of presidential order signed by George W. Bush in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance on Americans and others inside the United States in search of evidence of terrorist activity. The presidential directive authorized searches without either the domestic court warrants required for criminal investigations or those issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for investigation of activities of foreign persons or organizations, as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has called for states to mandate a total ban on cellphone usage while driving. She has also encouraged electronics manufacturers — via recommendations to the CTIA —The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association — to develop features that "disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion." That means she wants to be able to turn off your cellphone while you're driving.
With very little evidence, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that there were some 3,092 roadway fatalities last year that involved distracted drivers. Americans ought to totally reject Hersman's agenda. It's the camel's nose into the tent. Down the road, we might expect mandates against talking to passengers or putting on lipstick while driving. They may even mandate the shutdown of drive-in restaurants as a contributory factor to driver distraction through eating while driving. You say, "Come on, Williams, you're paranoid. There are already laws against distracted driving, and it would never come to that!" Let's look at some other camels' noses into tents.
Travelers hoping to retain their dignity by taking buses, trains, or cars instead of airplanes are in for a rude awakening. “The Transportation Security Administration,” writes the Los Angeles Times, “isn't just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.”
“We are not the Airport Security Administration,” Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Times. “We take that transportation part seriously.”
Indeed they do. No longer content to violate the rights of airline travelers alone, the TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams “have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year,” the newspaper says. That’s 9,300 times the government has deliberately ignored the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that it have probable cause and a warrant to search someone and has instead engaged in mass searches of the traveling public. The number of individuals searched during these operations surely reaches into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Add to that the roughly 700 million airline passengers also probed by the TSA in a year, and it’s clear that, as far as the government is concerned, the Constitution is no obstacle to getting what it wants.
“It’s infuriating,” Bruce Schneier remarked. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this — and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”
Schneier could, of course, have been referring to any of dozens of government programs. In this case, however, he was speaking of the federal government’s post-9/11 airport security measures — measures that Schneier, a security expert, has dubbed “security theater,” defined as “actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job.”