A recent poll reveals that approximately half of Americans are interested in seeing the Transportation Security Administration do away with X-ray body scanners. The survey, conducted by the media group ProPublica, shows that 46 percent of Americans do not believe that the risks associated with the machines outweigh the purported benefits of the machines.
It was reported in Tuesday’s Washington Times, among other places, that surveillance technology has taken yet another turn, this time bringing military-grade, high-tech surveillance tools originally intended for intelligence-gathering to the marketplace, enabling even relatively unsophisticated users to snoop on friends, neighbors, significant-others — and political opponents.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks began releasing documents last week related to what it calls the “mass surveillance industry,” a little-known but expansive underworld of contractors offering tools for governments — from brutal dictatorships to more moderate Western states — to monitor citizens and hunt down dissidents. Furious activists reacted to the revelations by calling for stricter controls and measures to hold the firms accountable as “accomplices” to mass murder.
The information released so far covers over 150 companies spanning more than two dozen nations. The documents highlight the nature and growth of a multi-billion-dollar industry that, in addition to supplying espionage assistance to the most murderous regimes on earth, has been quietly turned against citizens in supposedly “free” countries as well.
“Who here has an iPhone? Who here has a Blackberry? Who here uses Gmail? Well you are all screwed,” WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange told a press conference in London announcing the new project. “The reality is intelligence contractors are selling right now, to countries across the world, mass surveillance systems for all of those products."
Now the government-goons who molest little kids while claiming without a single blush that pedophilia is “proper procedure” are strip-searching grannies with the same excuse — even as they deny inflicting any such wickedness.
The latest brutality to catch the corporate media’s attention features an 84-year-old woman who divides her time between New York’s Long Island and Florida. Lenore Zimmerman wears a defibrillator, uses a walker and wheelchair, weighs less than 110 pounds and stands under 5 feet tall. She also boasts a nose for nonsense: “I really look like a terrorist,” she sarcastically told New York’s Daily News.
Here’s a headline the world’s 400 million-plus users of smartphones don’t want to read: “Your smartphone is probably spying on you.” The popular blog Talking Points Memo (TPM) has done yeoman’s work in keeping on top of this shocking story.
An 84-year-old grandmother in a wheelchair abused by Transportation Security Administration screeners at John F. Kennedy airport plans to sue the TSA, complaining of injuries and extreme humiliation suffered during a strip search. Homeland Security spokesmen, however, said “proper procedures were followed” and later claimed that the victim’s clothes were not fully removed.
In a phone interview with The New American, the traumatized 103-pound woman, Lenore Zimmerman, warned that America was in “deep trouble” if manhandling frail grandmothers was what “security” had come to. But she plans to seek justice and has already contacted an attorney.
“They stopped me to pat me down and I said ‘I can’t go through the machine because I have a defibrillator’,” Zimmerman explained, clearly distraught at the recollection. “So they patted me down and then they escorted me to a private room and strip-searched me.”
Zimmerman, utterly humiliated, demanded to know why she was being molested, asking the screeners for an explanation. “They’re off their rocker,” she said of the people running TSA, noting that there was no justification for conducting a strip search. “They’re nuts!”
Like their American counterparts, British officials are increasingly opting for so-called "security" rather than ensuring the privacy of their citizens. In Oxford, England, security officials have announced a plan to install surveillance cameras in private taxicabs.
The United Kingdom has announced that it will continue to use airport body scanners and backscatter X-ray scanners and will not permit passengers to opt out of the machines if they are chosen for further screening — despite reports of the potential dangers posed by radiation from the machines. The announcement follows the European Commission’s adoption of strict new guidelines regarding the limited use of the body scanners and a full ban of the backscatter X-ray scanners pending further studies.
A harshly critical new report by congressional investigators says that despite spending close to $60 billion on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), screening is based on “theatrics” that has failed to catch any terrorists, while passengers and crew are still the most effective line of defense. Air travel, meanwhile, is no safer than it was before September 11, 2001.
Instead of focusing on security, the agency has become “an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy, more concerned with human resource management and consolidating power,” according to the investigation released on November 16. “Today, TSA's screening policies are based in theatrics. They are typical, bureaucratic responses to failed security policies meant to assuage the concerns of the traveling public.”
The Joint Majority Staff Report entitled "A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform" sharply criticized the widespread waste and inefficiency that is rife throughout the “bloated bureaucracy.” The agency also suffers from a lack of administrative competency, investigators found.
According to the report, TSA has more than 65,000 employees. That means it has more personnel than the Departments of Labor, Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and State — combined. And its own “classified” performance results “do not reflect a good return on this taxpayer investment,” investigators said.
Not long ago, factions on both sides of the political aisle — from Republican Senator Charles Grassley in 1994, to liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in 2008 — viewed allegations of massive prying by government agencies, which purportedly tracked the personal information and activities of private citizens, as lunatic-fringe alarmism. But in the aftermath of United States v. Jones last week, even former skeptics are worried that the proverbial boat has sailed.