TSA Staffer Hires Buddies To Build Insecure Website For Folks Falsely On Watch List

from the well-that-makes-me-feel-safe dept

We’ve had so many stories of government computer systems or websites that have terrible security or are just useless (but expensive!) that it shouldn’t surprise us to hear of another one. Yet, there’s always someone who can go a step further. Witness the news that the TSA’s website for individuals who find themselves incorrectly on the security watchlist has been found to be insecure, with hundreds of falsely accused travelers exposing personal details by using the site. Even better, it turns out that the company that was hired to build the site got the job in a no-bid contract (meaning there wasn’t any competition — it was just chosen) and the guy responsible for figuring out who to hire just so happened to have been a former employee at that company. So, basically, what happened was that a guy who had taken a job at the TSA hired his former coworkers, with no competition for the job and apparently little oversight, to just build a website that turned out to be insecure. And, of course, without any oversight, it took months before anyone even noticed the site was insecure. And, remember, that this is the TSA we’re talking about here — an organization who’s main concern is supposed to be security. I feel safer already.

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Comments on “TSA Staffer Hires Buddies To Build Insecure Website For Folks Falsely On Watch List”

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Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:


My two-year-old is on the list. After I found that out on a family trip, I lost the last ounce of faith I had in the system. The ticketing agent said he will always be on the list and will always be flagged for secondary screening for the rest of his life. I just laughed since I am pretty sure this security won’t last too long.

Dave S says:

Re: Re:

Nobody has said that the entire list is innocent, just as nobody has said that everyone held in Gitmo is innocent.


A couple years back when EU nations started openly pressuring the US to shut down Guantanamo, Bush sent a spokesman out to make a statement saying that we can’t do that because we’d released about 200 people from Gitmo and 10% of them were later found engaging in terrorist acts. Right there, the Bush administration admitted that 180 former inmates were not known to be currently involved in terrorism. (And I’m sure they’re all under heavy surveillance, so it’s unlikely that they would be so much as picking their noses without the CIA noticing.)

But perhaps some of those 180 were terrorists when they went in, then the Gitmo staff helpfully counselled them and convinced them to become upstanding, America-loving citizens of the world. Let’s be generous and assume that, of the 200 released, 15% had been reformed in addition to the 10% who continued in their terrorist ways. That still leaves 75% – 150 people – who were innocent when they went in.

From there, I did a little digging and, near as I could determine, there were about 500 people in Guantanmo at the time and another 100 had been transferred elsewhere. Plus the 200 who had been released, that makes a total of 800 people who had been sent there. Of those 800, at least 150 (as derived above, based on the Bush administration’s own publically-announced numbers) were innocent of any terrorist activity. Thats roughly 1 in 5, even if we assume that every single innocent person sent in had already been released.

So, while you’re right that not everyone in Guantanamo is a “fine, upstanding human being”, neither are they all actual terrorists. Far from it, in fact.

You’re also right that “You get on that list for a reason.” I’ve heard of several documented cases of people being put on the no-fly list for reasons such as having the same initials as a potential terrorist suspect. There have also been multiple highly-publicized cases of members of Congress appearing on the list. Innocent people clearly do get put on the list for no good reason and need a way to get off of it without having to grant the entire world access to their personal information.

niftyswell says:

Re: Re: Re:

If even one accused mass murdering child killing terrorist or death row inmate is innocent then we should release them all. Dave S. please provide your location so that we can place them in your neighborhood.

Never has been a 100% system for identification of bad guys and it will be a very long time before there is. Until then this is what you got. Deal with it, quit your whining, and every time you read about a falsely accused inmate finding his way to freedom recognize that all countries have innocent people in jail but our system does its best to give them every recourse to prove their innocence.

Jason Still (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If even one accused mass murdering child killing terrorist or death row inmate is innocent then we should release them all.

You win 2 internets for this sentence. You could have earned another 2 bonus internets if you’d included something about how they rape the children before they kill them or how they eat puppies and kittens. I’m sure you’ll do better next time.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re:

How is it an efficient use of scarce security and safety resources to pull out a boy who has the same name as a 50-year old Pakistani man three times?

Why isn’t Homeland Security visiting people with the same name as a name on the no-fly list to improve the usefulness of the list?

Many plane tickets are purchased months ahead of the flight. Why not check the names at that point? If there is a problem, give the people a chance to ‘clear’ their name to avoid problems at the airport. This would free up TSA resources and possibly reduce wait times through security.

But why be logical when it comes to national security when you can just add names to a list.

Brad Eleven (profile) says:


I hate to acknowledge it, but I’ve officially become numb to this flavor of crap. It’s so pervasive, we hear about it so often, that I just shrug, now.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have become what we resisted. We are the Soviet Union, run by an incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy, crawling with criminals, black marketeers and war profiteers. We’ve even made the same mistake that the USSR made: We invaded a Middle Eastern country.

On the bright side, we do [sort of] elect new leadership every few years. Unfortunately, the process is polluted by corporate lobbyists, and most of us only hear what corporations want for us to hear.

I suppose it’s more of a fascist/corporatist state than the communist state that the USSR was, but it’s still an oligarchy.

Just gimme my tech and let me earn a decent living, and don’t torture me, rendition me and/or put me in a detention camp, or I’ll go all Solzhenitsyn on ya, Uncle Sam.

Ken says:

Facist Are We?


You couldn’t be further from the truth, IMO. That would stipulate central power with suppression to all opposition to that power via terrorism and censorship. That’s not what we’ve got; not even close.

We’re capitalists, always have been and most likely always will be. Perhaps you don’t like that, and that’s okay. However, if we were fascists, they you would be hunted down for your anti-Government comments and persecuted.

You shouldn’t give up, though; it’s all of us working together (and sometimes against each other) that keeps the criminals in both political parties in check at least somewhat. If everyone just doesn’t care, corruption will run rampant in our government. At least we’ve been actually prosecuting politicians we catch. Yes, many more shady deals happen that we don’t catch, but giving up on demanding a non-corrupt Government is like saying we’ll never defeat crime so we might as well just get rid of the police and all get used to being victims. Well I say screw that.

As for the complaints about people being anonymous, I haven’t seen one name that looks like a real first and last name on anyone’s post. At least ‘Anonymous’ has the guts to just call himself that instead of hiding behind some fake name and complaining about someone else doing the same.


Vincent Clement says:

Re: Facist Are We?

corruption will run rampant in our government

Will? Don’t you mean has? Pork-Barrelling and earmarks are nothing more than corruption.

Why does Alaska, a state that has no sales or income taxes and sends quarterly dividend cheques to every resident, need any money from the federal government for infrastructure projects?

Ken says:

Re: Re: Facist Are We?

Hi Vincent,

I was referring to what would happen should the American people give up caring entirely. At least now polititions have to try and hide their corrpution and face severe penalties, either criminal or electoral, when they’re outed. Imagine if they could just do it in the open because nobody cared.

I hate pork-barrel spending, but one senator I was listening to (don’t remember the name) had a good point. It was this: his constituents spend a ton of mony in taxes and it’s his job to get some of it, as much of it as he can, back to his state. I think they should have an annual ‘Pork’ bill, so that everything these guys spend money on using earmarks would have to pass on it’s own merit. That way, people could see what’s happening. While pork-barrel spending it a terrible problem and can aid in corruption, it’s not corrpution in and of it self. The most difficult part of getting rid of that type of spending is that the people who would have to vote out someone for that type of spending would be shooting their own state in the foot.

I’ve never understood why Alaskans get a dividend check from their oil when no other states that produce oil do, but all states get federal money for infrastrusture projects and I see no reason to exclude any single state. I do see a reason for the federal government to stop taking our money and deciding hot to dish it out instead of letting the states do it based on their local needs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Facist Are We?

However, if we were fascists, they you would be hunted down for your anti-Government comments and persecuted.

That has and is happening to many people in the US. So I guess that by that standard then we indeed are fascists.

And by the way, I post anonymously because I am afraid of being persecuted. I am much more fearful of my own government (US) than I am of the official terrorists. If the creation of fear is the sign of a terrorist, then what does that make my own government?

Glo (user link) says:

informationweek.com detects adblock plus, closes t

The URL cited in this article is at informationweek.com. Information Week seems to detect the presence of Adblock Plus browser plug in. It them closes your entire browser, not just the tab it’s opened in. … Nasty.

OK, so much for Information Week.

May I respectfully request that techdirt no reference anything at InformationWeek.com in the future.

Pro says:

The point is...

What’s the point of the article? This is how the whole government works. People aren’t spending government money in the best interest of The American People, they’re spending money in some way that they can directly or indirectly get a kickback.

People like Ken either benefit from the system or are blind to it. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, if you go and vote for either a Republican or a Democrat – you too are blind to it. Vincent Clement is correct, but it’s even worse here because at least in USSR they weren’t pretending.

Ken says:


I feel that you’re either just bitter or paranoid. I refuse to believe that everyone in the world is out to abuse the system for personal gain or that our entire Government works by giving away sole source contracts to their friends. Many do, but in all honesty, it’s society’s fault for putting up with it and re-electing people that they know do it, like the Kennedys.

As for benefiting from the system, if you mean directly, I wish (well, not really but you know what I mean); if you mean in general, I think we all do. We live in a great country; best in the world. If you really think that we’re worse than the USSR, then perhaps you should move to Russia and try it for a few years and then come back and tell us all about your experiences. I’ll be willing to put weight in your opinion after that; just don’t do too much complaining about the Russian government while you’re there or we’ll never get to hear your opinion of life in Russia.

I whole heartedly agree with your assessment of people who pull the lever for a party without regard to whose running. I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats and hopefully always will be able to do so. It’d be even better if someone would invent a viable third party.

Pro says:

Re: Pro...

I’m bitter, but I consider myself clairvoyant. I see that the sheep are too easily fooled into re-electing Democrats and Republicans, and that a great many have a financial interest associated with one or the other. If 50% of the people in the country were named Joe, and some guy ran on the platform that he was going to give people named Joe a huge tax incentive – I bet he’d get elected. I bet some people that weren’t named Joe would even vote for him.

Russia has it’s own problems that far surpass ours. We’re on the road to ruin, but we have a ways to go before we reach that level. I see our system as ‘the sun’. The sun is really big and has lots of fuel, but it’s a lossy system and will run out some day. Our economy is similar. People are a product of their environment, and business is a product of it’s environment. A good portion of our businesses don’t even create anything worthwhile anymore except that they ‘creates jobs’ and keeps the economy moving. This big circle of money gives the illusion that things are good. It also creates opportunity for the parasites have destroyed this economy to take their cut. Sooner or later it’s going to be dry up.

David says:

Yep it’s “a senitors job to get pork” [sic]. That’s a perfect reflection of what our country has become: money uber alles.

We don’t stand for sh*t except making and spending money. Our Commander in Chief told us to hit the malls when NYC was attacked. It’s more important for insurance companies to make a buck than for my mom to get treatment. Foreign occupation trumps domestic education.

We don’t stand up for freedom, justice or human rights, but we sure make a big stink when it comes to profits.

Some day I’ll have to explain to my grandchildren how Americans killed liberty because it wasn’t cost-effective.

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