Transportation Security Administration

TSA Foils Lotion Bomb Plot, Nabs My Daughter


One day last week, I woke up, got dressed for work, and hugged and kissed my 18-year old daughter goodbye, as she was shortly to be heading out to the airport to fly out west to visit a friend. I then got in my car and headed to work. About two hours later, I received a phone call from my wife, who was sobbing and inconsolable. It took me a minute or two to get her calmed down enough to understand what had happened; and when she told me what happened, I was livid.

It seems that my 18-year old, 5’7”, 125-pound daughter was involved in a dispute with a TSA agent (my daughter is many things, but meek and soft-spoken she is most certainly not). As she was making her way through security, the TSA agent began going through her purse, and proceeded to begin throwing away personal toiletry items, including a bottle of lotion that exceeded the maximum 3.4 ounce limit by a few ounces. My daughter, who is extremely sensitive to perfumes and additives found in most lotions, soaps, and shampoos, has to buy this expensive lotion for her hands and arms. Seeing the agent throw the lotion in the trash, she asked the agent if she (the agent) was going to pay to replace it, and when the agent declared she would not, my daughter removed the lotion and put it back in her purse.

7 on the 7th: Inaugural Low-Hanging Fruit Edition

I’ve decided to start a new feature here at United Liberty, one that would run on a monthly basis. I’m calling it “7 on the 7th.” It will be a list of 7 agencies, on the 7th of the month, that we should get rid of. The purpose is to showcase just how many government agencie that exist, which most Americans just don’t realize. While they may think the government does too much stuff, I doubt that many know just what the government really does. Most don’t know about the ridiculous organizations that are prt of our government, and I can say because I don’t know.

So this will be informative not just for you, dear reader, but also for yours truly. What sort of stupid things can we uncover? Feel free to submit your suggestions for next month’s feature in the comments (but please, don’t be silly and tell me we must get rid of the Department of Defense; we’re moderate, sensible libertarians here, not barking-at-the-moon anarcho-capitalists.) Hopefully, if enough on the web read this feature, we may be able to spark a genuine discussion about the role of government and what it should actually be doing, so when some politician says we need more money to fund essential services, we can tell him (or her) that nothing he (or she) is demanding funding for is actually essential.

Now, on to the inaugural list. For this one I’ve decided to go for the low-hanging fruit, to get them out of the way and remove temptations for future entries. I don’t really expect to surprise anyone with these, but that just goes to show you how many folks think a lot of what our government does is rubbish.

1 - Department of Homeland Security

Rand Paul To Take on TSA Once Again

Rand Paul

We’ve complained long and hard about the TSA and it’s terrible “security” practices for years. It’s a horrible agency that should have never been instituted. Fortunately, Rand Paul is on the case:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he will very likely re-introduce legislation to drastically scale back the Transportation Securities Administration’s reach by privatizing TSA security screening operations at airports and creating a series of passenger protections, Politico reports.

“I think we are going to,” Paul said when asked if he would take another crack at the agency. “We have two different bills, one to privatize the TSA and then we have another one which is a passenger bill of rights.”

Paul’s introduced TSA privatization and flier bill of rights legislation last summer after resisting a pat-down, which postponed his flight and caused him to miss a speech at a March for Life rally.

One bill would have ended the TSA screening operation and require airports to choose companies from the private sector to do screening. The other bill would have allowed certain people to opt out of pat-downs, required distribution of a list of fliers’ rights, and greatly expanded an expedited screening program for frequent fliers.

TSA Profiling, Security Theater, and the Fourth Amendment


Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

This weekend, The New York Times reported that the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavioral detection” program at Logan Airport has devolved into a racial profiling program, according to complaints from 32 federal officers who’ve seen up-close how it works. And yet to my eye, racial profiling isn’t the only constitutionally problematic aspect of the program revealed in the article (emphasis mine below):

In interviews and internal complaints, officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavior detection” program at Logan International Airport in Boston asserted that passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for “suspicious” behavior.

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one white officer, who along with four others spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. […]

TSA: Drinking the bong water

TSA gets a tough rap.  Let’s face it folks, these people do a tough, tough job, and all they get from us is nothing but derision, despite their hard work  They keep us safe from terrorists and all we can do…

…OK, sorry, I just can’t keep typing that crap without laughing my butt off.

Seriously, TSA is about as idiotic an organization as could possibly exist.  Even if they were a good idea, the Department of Homeland Security can’t seem to get all that much right.  The TSA, and their idea of keeping the nation safe is a prime example:

A recent TSA blog post cites several cases in which the agency’s screeners stopped travelers from carrying guns or knives onto airplanes: “the passenger in Boston who had a steak knife in his carry-on bag; the El Paso passenger with a 6 ½-inch hunting knife in his carry-on bag; the LaGuardia Airport passenger who had eight rounds of 9 mm ammunition in his bag; the JFK Airport passenger who had a 6-inch butterfly knife in his bag; and the New Orleans passenger who had a loaded .380 caliber firearm—with a bullet in the chamber—in his carry-on bag.” I’m not sure those eight 9mm rounds posed much of a threat, unless the passenger planned to hurl them at people. And as a commenter notes on the TSA blog, there is no indication that any of these passengers intended to harm anyone. But at least guns and knives are weapons (or potential weapons) that theoretically could be used to hijack a plane.

TSA harasses 3-year old in a wheelchair

Only the Transportation Security Administration could make a child’s trip to Disney World so miserable that she doesn’t want to go. As the Forck family was going through security at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, TSA agents took away a stuffed animal from their three-year old daughter, Lucy, who is in a wheelchair due to a medical condition.

When the agents insisted on inspecting her wheel chair, her mother decided to pull out her phone to record the incident. When a TSA agent told her it was “illegal” to record them, she demanded that the cite the law preventing her from doing so. The ordeal caused Lucy, who was crying loudly to say, “I don’t wanna go to Disney World!”

Here is the video of the incident. It was originally recorded at an odd angle and has been made a easier to watch, but the captions are hard to read:

3 Reasons to Kill The Dept. of Homeland Security: It’s Unnecessary, Inefficient, & Expensive

See Video

Slow and Steady Progress on TSA Strip-Search Policy

Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Having pled before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that doing a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its strip-search machine policy is difficult and expensive, the Transportation Security Administration is dropping a cool quarter-billion dollars on new strip-search machines. That’s quite a fixation the TSA has, putting spending on new gadgets ahead of following the law.

But the writing is on the wall for the practice of putting travelers through strip-search machines and prison-style pat-downs at the government checkpoints in American airports.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit ruled against a petition to have the court force TSA to move forward with taking public comments as required by law. The language of the order signals the court’s expectation, though, that the TSA will get this done, quoting the TSA’s language and, well, saying as much.

ORDERED that the petition for writ of mandamus be denied in light of the Government’s representation that “the process of finalizing the AIT Rulemaking documents so that the NPRM may be published is expected to be complete by or before the end of February 2013.” Accordingly, we expect that the NPRM will be published before the end of March 2013.

Incoherent Politicians Lag Public Opinion on TSA

TSA groping

Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

If you needed proof of politicians’ sensitivity to, and encouragement of, persistent terrorism fears, look no further than today’s hearing in the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security. It’s called “Eleven Years After 9/11 Can TSA Evolve To Meet the Next Terrorist Threat?” and it’s being used to feature—get this—a report arguing for a “smarter, leaner” Transportation Security Administration.

Could the signaling be more incoherent? The hearing suggests both that unknown horrors loom and that we should shrink the most visible federal security agency.

Lace up your shoes, America—we’re goin’ swimmin’!

Our federal politicians still can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that terrorism is a far smaller threat than we believed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and that the threat has waned since then. (The risk of attack will never be zero, but terrorism is far down on the list of dangers Americans face.)

The good news is that the public’s loathing for the TSA is just as persistent as stated terrorism fears. This at least constrains congressional leaders to do make gestures toward controlling the TSA. Perhaps we’ll get a “smarter, leaner” overreaction to fear.

TSA searches 3-year old in a wheelchair

We’ve all seen the videos of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers searching seniors and small children, but a video from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is about as disgusting as it gets.

While going through the security checkpoint, TSA apparently felt the need to screen a 3-year old, who was in a wheelchair due to a broken leg, to make sure that he wasn’t some sort of terrorist.

The video is from 2010, but it’s absurd nonetheless:

The father of the boy, who apparently uploaded the video to YouTube, writes, “My little boy wanted me to come over to hold his hand and give him a hug. He was trembling with fear. I was told I could NOT touch him or come near him during this process. Instead we had to pretend this was ‘ok’ so he didn’t panic.”

Incidents like this most likely happen everyday, but we don’t see them. This is insane, yet the TSA insists that they are doing this for our protection. It’s sickening, and unfortunately, it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

H/T: Reason

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