Posts

PODCAST: Is it Safe to Fly?

Listen to this podcast of The Lisa Benson Show on National Security  that aired  Sunday, November 8, on KKNT 960 The Patriot and SMARTPHONE iHEART App: 960 the Patriot. Lisa Benson and New English Review Senior Editor Jerry Gordon  co-hosted this show.

Our guests were:

Amb. R. James Woolsey, Chairman of the Washington, DC –based Leadership Council of Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Global aviation and airport insecurity with the ISIS terrorist bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268  in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and  lax screening of  refugee airport workers at 13  US  airports revealed in a Lisa Benson National Security Task Force of America investigation as reported onFoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, NewsMax  and The Blaze.

Dr. Raymond Stock, Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum and noted Egyptian expert on the aftermath of the security issues facing President el-Sisi in the Sinai from ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood terrorism in the wake of the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.

Additional contributions on this broadcast were made by Board of Advisor members, Richard Cutting and Michael Weiser on calls for US  Congressional heatings on airport security and refugee employees screenings, as well as Isareli airline and airport security.  As a result of the broadcast interest has been expressed in doing a documentary of the issues raised arising from the terrorist bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 as well as an op ed for a major media publication. Stay tuned for further developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

“Contempt for the Screening Process” and 91 Other Reasons TSA Thinks You’re a Terrorist by Daniel Bier

It’s true that TSA’s physical screeners are embarrassingly bad at their jobs, failing to notice 95% of threats in tests by Homeland Security.

But always never fear! TSA also has Behavior Detection Officers. These super agents can spot terrorists just by looking at them. Now, thanks to a leaked TSA checklist (and scorecard) of suspicious behaviors, you can too!

The document shows 92 different behaviors that can flag you as suspicious — such as being too happy (or too sad); having “sweaty palms” or “rubbing hands”; “arriving late” and “body odor”; “gazing down” or “open staring eyes” — to which an arbitrary number of “points” are attached.

If you score six or more points, you win a trip to enhanced screening and an interrogation by police. But you can get points deducted for being old (minus 1 point for women over 55 or men over 65) or married and old (minus 2 for a couple over 55).

Of course, the Intercept reports, the program has

attracted controversy for the lack of science supporting it. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.”

After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

The suspicious behavior checklist also includes “having a cold penetrating stare” and “expressing contempt for the screening process.” After reading this, I’m not sure it’ll be any easier for me to get through TSA without them.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of TSA officer Robert Howard signals an airline passenger forward at a security check-point at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Jan. 4. (AP Photo)

TSA failed to identify 73 workers “linked to terrorism”

What could possibly go wrong?

Any attempt to determine if these TSA employees had links to jihad terror groups would have been denounced as “Islamophobic” anyway.

“IG report: TSA failed to identify 73 workers ‘linked to terrorism,’” FoxNews.com, June 8, 2015:

On the heels of Transportation Security Administration workers flunking a security test at airport checkpoints, the results of a new audit show that — while the agency keeps a robust system for screening commercial airport workers — it still failed to flag 73 airport workers “linked to terrorism.”

Apparently, TSA does not have access to all the terror watchlist information it needs to make those judgments.

The TSA did not identify these individuals through its vetting operations because it is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related categories under current interagency watch-listing policy,” the June 4 Inspector General report stated.

According to TSA data, the people in question were working for major airlines, airport venders and other employers.

The agency acknowledged that individuals in these categories “represented a potential transportation security threat,” according to the report….

RELATED ARTICLES:

A Contrast in Delusions: The TSA vs. Domestic Immigration Enforcement

Libya: Islamic State abducts 86 Eritrean Christians

Egypt: Terrified Christians flee homes following blasphemy accusations

AFDI Rolls Out New Free Speech Billboard Campaign Featuring Muhammad Cartoon

Bible critic cancels book criticizing Qur’an for fear of jihad attack

Islamic State jihadis funding jihad with UK welfare benefits

The Beauty of Bending Rules in a Complex World: Why pool attendants are better than bureaucrats by Isaac M. Morehouse

“We’re not checking IDs today,” the pool attendant told me.

We have a nice pool for the neighborhood, maintained with HOA dues. The homeowners association has tried different methods of monitoring who comes in to keep nonresidents from filling up the pool and squeezing out dues-paying members. A few times last summer, this was a problem. This year, a new company was hired to issue IDs and ensure that only residents use the pool. But not today.

Today the water was a bit cold and the pool wasn’t busy. The attendant realized this and didn’t hassle swimmers and sunbathers with an ID check. When he uttered those words it hit me in a flash just how profound it was. The ease with which he used common sense to bend the rules was a beautiful moment. Maybe you think I’m being dramatic, but let me offer a contrast.

A few years, ago I was in the security line at the airport with my wife. She removed her plastic baggy of size-approved liquids and gels and placed it in the container. The TSA agent picked it up and grunted, “Uh-uh.” Bewildered, I asked what the problem was. She said my wife needed to remove an item from the bag. I objected that every item was within the approved size and the bag was a recommended part of the procedure. The agent said that, according to regulations, the items are supposed to fit “comfortably” in the bag. They were pushing against the sides, ever so slightly stretching the plastic. We had to remove one. I asked her which individual item was a threat to security. She told us it didn’t matter which item was removed. The absurdity of the situation was beyond parody. There is no conceivable world in which a too-snug plastic bag of harmless toiletries could pose any possible threat to security. But it was the rule. Every bureaucrat knows rules must be followed without question.

If you’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket, as I have, for going 10 over at 3:00 a.m. on a five-lane road with no traffic, or for running a red light in a sleepy town with no cars for miles, you’ve felt the same. It’s clear that the reason for the rule — to keep drivers and pedestrians safe — is no possible explanation for its enforcement in these situations. Indeed, enforcement itself makes roads less safe due to police vehicles sticking out into the road and blocking other potential drivers. Meter maids handing out tickets for 2 minutes over in a lot surrounded by empty spaces is just as crazy. Parking meters and tickets are there to ensure spaces are available in high-demand times. What’s the point of ticketing when ample parking is available? Carding geriatrics for buying alcohol and so very many other examples of this silliness abound.

I posted a complaint to Facebook after the TSA incident. One of the commenters said, “Sure, following the letter of arbitrary laws in bad contexts is a pain, but would you rather have those agents doing whatever they want and using their own discretion on the spot?” The question becomes more poignant when you consider not just the bureaucrats armed with bad attitudes like those at the DMV but the ones armed with guns on the police force. Rule following is paramount in a bureaucracy because the alternative is also frightening.

It’s easy in the public sphere to get caught up in such debates. Is it more practical and just for government agents to use discretion in the moment when applying regulations, or for across-the-board universal application? It seems vexing: a problem without a solution. Whatever side of the debate you take feels uncomfortable. The letter of the law is oppressive and in some cases downright crazy, certainly counterproductive with respect to the law’s intended purpose; but discretion is a scary proposition as well, as many cases of selectively enforced law attest.

Outside of government, however, this is a nonproblem. When something is moved from the private, voluntary sphere to the public, coercive sphere, debates and division arise where none previously existed. The real problem is not rule following or flexibility; it’s monopoly. The absence of competition in the government sphere and all the attendant incentive problems create this unnecessary quandary.

It’s not that the police officers and TSA agents are worse people than my pool attendant; it’s that they face worse incentives. There is no metric for them to determine customer satisfaction or the value of their actions, because there is no profit-and-loss signal and no fear of losing our business. We are legally obliged to pay for and receive their service (or disservice.)

The pool attendant can be flexible with the rules when applying them strictly would annoy customers. He can become stringent when things get busy and residents complain about freeloaders. His company knows that at any time, they could lose the contract, and the only reason they are hired is to make residents happy and solve a problem. It’s the outcome that matters, and all procedures, policies, and rules are measured against that. This leaves ample room for experimentation and adaptation, with immediate feedback and accountability.

The public sector has no such flexibility because it faces no competition. The political sphere can make social and economic problems that have already been solved with incredible nuance seem unsolvable. It offers only yes-or-no, either/or, once-and-for-all-and-everywhere solutions, applied and enforced by people with almost limitless job security. It is a blunt tool, and incredibly unresponsive. It is unconcerned with outcomes and measures effectiveness only by inputs, intentions, and actions — not results.

Whether the letter of the law or individual discretion is preferable is the wrong question. Both are to be feared with state monopolized services. Neither is to be feared in competition because the choice is no longer binary but an ongoing dance of pluralistic discovery.

We’re not checking IDs today. Those five simple words reveal the beauty, complexity, and humanity of the voluntary market order.

Isaac MorehouseIsaac M. Morehouse

Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis.

Woman targeted by TSA Agent for reading The Jewish Press newspaper

Phyllis_Chesler

Phyllis Chesler, author of “An American Bride in Kabul”

I just read an article about a Jewish woman Phyllis Chesler who was at John F. Kennedy International Airport waiting for a flight to Florida (my home state) last Wednesday and she was notified there would be a delay because of the ice storm. So, not being inclined to be bored Ms. Chesler pulled out a newspaper called the “The Jewish Press” and went about reading it.

Paul Joseph Watson from Infowars.com writes:

Award winning Jewish author Phyllis Chesler was questioned and had her bag searched at New York’s JFK Airport as a result of a TSA agent’s suspicions over the fact that she was reading a conservative newspaper.

The incident happened on Wednesday afternoon after Chesler’s flight to Florida was delayed due to the recent ice storms.

As soon as Chesler pulled out a copy of The Jewish Press, a popular English language weekly with a conservative political bent, a TSA agent eyed her with suspicion, approached the author and asked to see the newspaper.

Read more.

Upon reading this article I immediately called the TSA at JFK in New York. I waded through all the press 1 for Spanish and 2 for Mandarin Chinese and then got hold of the TSA Special Agent in charge and laid down the law like Senior Chief’s are supposed to do. I don’t take prisoners.

He told me the phone call was being recorded and he wanted me to spell my first and last name and give him my phone number. No problem said the senior Chief here you go. I told him I am on so many lists adding me to yours at JFK is a badge of honor and make sure he records what I have to say. Do it !!

I then told him that we the people are watching them the government and how they treat Americans. I also added that I understand they are trying to keep us safe but not at the expense of the US Constitution. No way was this lady a threat to anyone and we are not putting up with it. I told the TSA agent that they are now on my list and we are watching like hawks.

I then stated that effective immediately all patriots that fly will be carrying a copy of the newspaper “The Jewish Press” I told him that tomorrow I will take my copy of the “Jewish Press” and stand in front of the TSA agents at Okaloosa Regional Airport and will read it. If they don’t like it well tough crap. Suck it up.

The TSA agent (Name withheld by me) said he was really sorry this happened he gave me directions to pass onto the lady how to file a discrimination charge against the agents that harassed her. He said he will initiate an investigation and find out what happened too. He got worried when I refused to stand down and I refused to stop my offensive posture. I was the castle crushing the pawns swooping across the chess board like a chess master on steroids.

The TSA Agent then surrendered to me emotionally told me that in accordance with TSA rules, Section 504 articles of rehabilitation Section 15.3b and 15.3d, Mrs Chesler has 90 days to file a discrimination complaint. The TSA Agent in charge thanked for me for my 30 years in the US Navy and again apologized for what happened. I think the man thought I was friends with Ms. Chesler or that I was an attorney but I am not.

I just stood up for her, the US Constitution and her freedom to travel freely unmolested at any airport in the United States.

EDITORS NOTE: Phyllis Chesler is the author of An American Bride in Kabul.

RELATED COLUMNS:

“American Bride in Kabul” Wins National Jewish Book Award

An American Bride in Kabul: My Life in Hell in an Afghan Harem