Texas Legislature Looks To Make TSA Groping Procedures Illegal

from the don't-mess-with-texas dept

We've discussed an attempt in New Hampshire to make TSA agents liable to be accused of sexual assault for patdowns, and now we learn that a bill is making its way through the Texas legislature that would criminalize the aggressive groping procedures, if there is no "probable cause." That choice of words is obviously quite intentional, as the idea is to refer back to the 4th Amendment. Unfortunately, courts have not found that such airport searches violate the 4th Amendment, though they've become ever more intrusive over the years.

The big question, of course, is what happens if this bill passes and becomes a law (apparently it has a large number of co-sponsors). It would create a difficult position for TSA agents in Texas, and I imagine a lawsuit would eventually be needed to resolve things. But all of that depends on whether or not the bill will ever actually pass. I could definitely see the White House putting pressure on Texas' governor to veto the bill... Still, with various states now looking to pass laws against these procedures, isn't it time the administration and the TSA reconsider these procedures?


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  1.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 8:15am

    Hmmm

    Seems like it wouldn't go very far due to the Supremacy Clause (if we assume that there is a clear mandate for the TSA to do these "searches" in federal law). If the law doesn't spell out how they must conduct themselves, and these searches are simply TSA policy, it might have an affect.

    Maybe an actual lawyer can weigh in here.

     

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  2.  
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    Scote, May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:10am

    Re: Hmmm

    The US Government can just say that if TSA policies are not followed that no planes can fly to or from Texas airports.

    It could be a real issue for TSA contractors. They are just private employees AFIK and not sworn Federal LEOs who would presumably have immunity from state laws while performing their Federal mandates--but I really don't how that plays out.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Hmmm

    The guy that dropped the gas into the "showers" at Auschwitz was just a employee, heck .... he isn't liable for anything. Just doin' what he was told.

     

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  4.  
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    Matt (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Hmmm

    "The US Government can just say that if TSA policies are not followed that no planes can fly to or from Texas airports."

    Assuming the federal government could do that it doesn't really server their cause. It would ignite a very significant amount of public outrage both in and outside of Texas.

    What would more likely happen is there would be lawsuits filed by the federal government as Mike notes.

     

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  5.  
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    Steven (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:35am

    I don't remember which organization setup the fake press government agency conference (maybe somebody can pull the link). I'd love to see somebody like that setup a fake security checkpoint and give all the folks in congress the pat down.

    That would be awesome.

     

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  6.  
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    BONES (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Knowing Governor Perry he's itching for a fight with the Obama administration

    Perry takes every opportunity to kick Obama in the crotch. Nothing would make him happier than to sign a bill into law that the Obama admin has told him to veto.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    The Nazis made Jews wear pieces of flair.

     

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  8.  
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    Scote, May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    "What would more likely happen is there would be lawsuits filed by the federal government as Mike notes."

    Perhaps, but the Fed might not be able to win such lawsuits and might elect to pull federal funding or federal FAA permission to fly instead.

    I'd say the more immediate question is whether TSA employees would choose to stop groping passengers or risk state prosecutions while the State and Fed fight it out.

     

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  9.  
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    scarr (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: Hmmm

    With two or three (if can I still count Continental) major airlines HQ'd here in the state, not to mention all the tech and energy companies, such a move would cripple the US economy. It wouldn't happen.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:41am

    In the end it will probably just be a symbolic gesture on the part of Texas. But sometimes symbolic gestures are worth doing. To date there have been very few checks on what TSA has done as each new procedure becomes more outlandish. We have had a lot of small protests by individuals and small groups, but escalating to having state legislatures push back might get the TSA's attention.

     

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  11.  
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    Matt (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    I guess I have two points, congress on the TSA or FAA controls the budget so removal of federal funding would probably be unlikely.

    My contention is that if the FAA did remove permission to fly to or over Texas it would be so unpopular heads would roll (figuratively speaking). I would also argue there is at least one person in the administration that would recognize just how bad of an idea it is or at least know someone who does.

    I'll also wager that the law wouldn't be used to target employees themselves since most of those TSA employees affected by the law would likely be residing in Texas as well.

     

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  12.  
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    Phillip Vector (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    Really? This early in the discussion and you are using Godwins law already?

     

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    Beta (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:55am

    it all makes sense in a way

    Notice that the state legislators don't say that these procedures are pointless security theater that does not significantly improve real security. They want to appeal to public outrage over TSA groping, but not lose votes by being Soft On Terrorism -- so do the federal officials.

    The feds won't ban air travel in Texas because the voters would hate them for it; the states won't denounce the body-scan and pat-down as useless, because the voters would scream in fear; the public is outraged over the videos of crying children and beauty queens, so some state politicians must jump on that wagon...

    So they attack the group with the least political power, the TSA screeners. If these bills pass, the screeners will have to risk jail time if they follow procedure... So they'll neglect procedure (as they already do in some airports). We'll have some dignity back, it won't make anybody less safe, but someday when somebody tries to bring down a plane (which will happen someday in any case) the politicians can point fingers at the "negligent" screeners.

    Wouldn't it be great to hear some courage in these debates?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    Just thought I'd get it out of the way so we can move on, you know ... before Bedfellow's law kicks in.

     

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  15.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:09am

    State's Rights!

    The States must work to bring the Federal Government back into alignment with it's original intended role and purpose.

    Thank God that Texans still have their State's Rights balls!

     

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  16.  
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    Kevin (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re: Hmmm

    They would never stop flights over TX. The government cannot impede on travel of citizens within its borders, and unlike many places around the US, the economy is actually recovering in many areas of Texas. Disrupting the recovery by banning flights would do far more harm than good.

     

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  17.  
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    Kevin (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:27am

    Re: Knowing Governor Perry he's itching for a fight with the Obama administration

    Can you blame him? I am not a big fan of a 50 year old man "accidentally" grabbing my %^*& for the sake of keeping me safe. Not to mention that when my bag went through the scanner they missed my pocket knife, and a bottle of water, and a set of toenail clippers.

    Yes, my %^&* is right there. Can I go to my plane now?

     

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  18.  
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    Joshy, May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:34am

    Unfortunately some minimum wage kid will be arrested for this new law and get caught in the middle of an idealistic war of the courts.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    I'd love to see all the entrances to the floor of congress set up with gropers and no one gets in without getting felt up first, just one day of this...I dream.

     

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  20.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    "The government cannot impede on travel of citizens within its borders"

    haha Good one!

     

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  21.  
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    Jay (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:54am

    A fight for the century

    I can see this fight in quite a few lights:

    1) a fight of state's rights vs federal rights

    2) citizen's rights vs security rights

    3) (This is the big one) the right of the federal government to increase while the state's rights decrease if this is allowed.

    Guess which one the administration is going to fight for?

     

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  22.  
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    Jay (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:55am

    Re: A fight for the century

    " DEcrease while the state's rights INcrease if this is allowed."

    Damn errors!

     

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  23.  
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    puggugly, May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:55am

    Re: it all makes sense in a way

    Umm regarding the "security" aspect, name one instance where the groping has actually stopped anything. I don't see it improving security as the only publicized instances of a plot being stopped happened on the plane itself (the underwear and shoe bombers) or prior to the person entering the US and being groped. A scanner might have picked up the shoes and underwear but groping was unlikely to even with underwear boy unless the agent used a good, quality grab.

    My guess is these gropings are doing nothing more then finding toy guns belonging to toys, nail clippers and other junk (no pun intended).

     

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  24.  
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    Mark, May 3rd, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    Remember on Sept. 11 and the days following, there were no flights to/from any airport in the US? Yes, the government can ground planes and redirect to other airports mid route if needed.

     

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  25.  
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    Christopher (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 11:06am

    The fact is that the TSA grope searches and even the scanning DO violate the Fourth Amendment by treating everyone as potential criminals. It's time to get rid of this security theater and move on past this stuff.

     

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  26.  
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    Christopher (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 11:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    Only when there is evidence of a criminal threat or another problem on a plane.

     

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  27.  
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    Christopher (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: it all makes sense in a way

    Which is why we don't need these 'security procedures' that bring no real security.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Ha! As if DC could do anything. Texas is one of the few states that can say "Screw you guys, I'm going home" and the US would be hurt worse than the state would.

     

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  29.  
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    Scote, May 3rd, 2011 @ 11:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    "I'll also wager that the law wouldn't be used to target employees themselves since most of those TSA employees affected by the law would likely be residing in Texas as well."

    If groping is to be made illegal without probable cause I don't see how the state can avoid prosecuting TSA employees. So as far as unpopularity goes, this cuts both ways. Should local TSA employees be made to pay for the policies set in Washington and be prosecuted as sex offenders? It isn't something I have a pat answer for.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:04pm

    Unless the TSA employee is getting paid overtime while in jail, I don't think the employee would grope anyone.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    So, someone explain to me exactly how the FAA could ban flights in Texas. While they could tell the air traffic controllers not to go to work, there's an awful lot of Texas airspace that isn't controlled anyway. So what would they do? Suspend every pilot's license in the state? Don't think so. Can't very well put an invisible, impenetrable wall around the state. So in short, unless someone else knows something about how flights are administered, not only would banning flights in Texas be a bad idea, there simply isn't any way for it to be accomplished.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:37pm

    Focusing on groping not big ass sharp pointy things in the carryon.

    I came from a industrial installation near Frankfurt via Frankfurt - Heathrow - Ohare - SFO to Portland with a 10" metal shaft flat bladed screwdriver that I hadn't realized fell to the nether regions at the bottom of my computer bag. I didn't find it until I arrived home. I went through just the normal metal detector and X ray my carry on (where they X-rayed my computer bag minus laptop multiple times) No groping, microwaving or irradating my body the entire trip.

     

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  33.  
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    Jason, May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:02pm

    Re:

    Why is that unfortunate?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: it all makes sense in a way

    name one instance where the groping has actually stopped anything.

    It's stopped me from flying unless it's unavoidable and absolutely necessary.

     

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  35.  
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    Kevin (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Focusing on groping not big ass sharp pointy things in the carryon.

    I say that is great. I went on one flight to Portland from Reno, and was given the "treatment." I was just trying to visit my folks, ended up getting a reach around from some old guy, and he didn't even offer to by me dinner either.

     

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  36.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    If running for governor in Texas please put this as your prime agenda in office... next stop congress if you please.

     

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  37.  
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    Kevin (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    I kinda laughed after I wrote it, but the theory is sound.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    Re:

    Declare it a no fly zone and shoot down anything flying. Dang Texans and their independent streak anyway!!!

     

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  39.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    "Should local TSA employees be made to pay for the policies set in Washington and be prosecuted as sex offenders?"

    Actually no. They would be prosecuted for their own actions. AFAIK the Feds aren't holding a gun to anyone's head telling them to perform sexually intrusive searches. The fact that your boss tells you to do something does not absolve you of its legal consequences and it definitely does not absolve you of moral responsibility for your actions. I say we should toss the TSA agents in jail and generally treat them like sex offenders. I'd like to see the viability of the TSA recruitment when their agents are universally reviled.

     

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  40.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 4:24pm

    Re:

    Hm... It's really easy for that kid to not get arrested: resign from the job which requires you to sexually assault innocent travelers. I don't understand this exoneration of TSA agents. They may not make the policy but they do implement it and if they were vaguely moral individuals they would resign and go find another job that does not involve sexually assaulting people. Yes it can be tough to find a job, but that does not excuse sexual assault.

     

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  41.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 6:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    Too late! Zarkov's law just kicked Bedfellow's ass.

     

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  42.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 6:16pm

    Re: Re: Focusing on groping not big ass sharp pointy things in the carryon.

    Wait until they try that with me, and get their hands wet for their trouble. I'll be sure to wear really dark pants. Maybe crack a rat or two, as well.

     

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  43.  
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    Greg G (profile), May 3rd, 2011 @ 9:53pm

    Just thought I'd throw this in:

    *WARNING* NSFW: TSA groping and more.

    The best part: our favorite lawyer for the porn industry is the director. Yep, none other than Evan Stone.

    Found via torrent site that I frequent. I just laughed out loud when I saw the title, and I'm very tempted to get it.. you know, just for the laughs....

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 12:30am

    Another excuse for sex offenders...

    Great, now instead of every registered sex offender claiming all they did was have sex with their underage girlfriend, we'll have them trying to claim they were just an innocent TSA employee trying to keep the nation safe from terrorists.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 5:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    What about with a lack of evidence of no threat..

     

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  46.  
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    btr1701 (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 10:23am

    Texas

    > I could definitely see the White House putting
    > pressure on Texas' governor to veto the bill

    The governor of Texas isn't known for caring about what the White House thinks about anything.

     

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  47.  
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    btr1701 (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re:

    > Declare it a no fly zone and shoot down anything
    > flying. Dang Texans and their independent
    > streak anyway!!!

    Easier said than done. Texas does have its own air force.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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