TSA Still Not Taking Comments On Naked Scanners; So Public Interest Group Does It For Them

from the politicians-lagging-public-opinion dept

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 make gestures toward controlling the TSA. Perhaps we’ll get a “smarter, leaner” overreaction to fear.

Public opprobrium is a constraint on the growth and intrusiveness of the TSA, so I was delighted to see a new project from the folks at We Won’t Fly. Their new project highlights the fact that the TSA has still failed to begin the process for taking public comments on the policy of using Advanced Imaging Technology (strip-search machines) at U.S. airports, even though the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered it more than a year ago.

The project is called TSAComment.com, and they’re collecting comments because the TSA won’t.

The purpose of TSAComment.com is to give a voice to everyone the TSA would like to silence. There are many legitimate health, privacy and security-related concerns with the TSA’s adoption of body scanning technology in US airports. The TSA deployed these expensive machines without holding a mandatory public review period. Even now they resist court orders to take public comments.

TSAComment.com has gotten nearly 100 comments since the site went up late yesterday, and they’re going to deliver those comments to TSA administrator John Pistole, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and the media.

The D.C. Circuit Court did require TSA to explain why it has not carried out a notice-and-comment rulemaking on the strip-search machine policy, and assumedly it will rule before too long.

Getting the TSA to act within the law is important not only because it is essential to have the rule of law, but because the legal procedures TSA is required to follow will require it to balance the costs and benefits of its security measures articulately and carefully. Which is to say that security policy will be removed somewhat from the political realm and our incoherent politicians and moved more toward the more rational, deliberative worlds of law and risk management.

Hope springs eternal, anyway…

There could be no better tribute to the victims of 9/11 than by continuing to live free in our great country. I won’t shrink from that goal. The people at TSAComment do not shrink from that goal. And hopefully you won’t either.

Cross-posted from Cato-at-Liberty.

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Comments on “TSA Still Not Taking Comments On Naked Scanners; So Public Interest Group Does It For Them”

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PlagueSD says:

The TSA can go “pound sand” as my Dad used to say. I’m all for the Israeli style airport security. If a terrorist really wanted to blow himself up in an airport, he could kill a LOT more people in the security area than he could if he blew himself up in the air. What we need to do is stop them before they even get anywhere NEAR the airport. Nothing like guys walking around with AK-47’s as a detterent.

Anonymous Coward says:

An agency like the TSA requires it staff to show that they are achieving something, Therfore they hassle mainly people who do not conform to what the staff think are the social norms, and look for excuses to stopp odd cakes etc. being carried onto a plane.
Also how do you spot the person who is agitated or nervous because thaey are trying to do something they shouldnt, when they are making people nnervous or agitated because of the intrussive nature of the security theatre.

That Crazy Freetard says:

Gov't following the law

“Getting the TSA to act within the law is important not only because it is essential to have the rule of law, but because the legal procedures TSA is required to follow will require it to balance the costs and benefits of its security measures articulately and carefully.”

LOL, like that’s ever gonna happen. I, for one, am not holding my breath. Our Gov’t has shown repeatedly that they believe they’re above the law and become indignant when anyone suggests that this might be the case.

Also, good on those at TSAComment.com, hopefully they’re able to have an impact.

PlagueSD says:


No…A police state has people walking EVERYWHERE with AK-47’s. Keep it localized to major airports. I’d actually feel safer with that type of security than I would with a bunch of minimum wage workers trying to look like security…Everytime I go to a sporting event, I just have to chuckle at the “ELITE” security. Airports need REAL security…not security theater…I go to the theater for entertainment…not to feel safe.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:


Now that’s just silly!


There you are, wandering the back-country woods of the Grand Canyon. Within sight of you are 3 men wearing badges and armed with AK47s.

Later, on a cross-country bicycling trip on the dirt back-roads of the east coast; traveling from DC to Florida you find you’re passing an AK47’d Gov Agent every few hundred feet.

Still later, while scuba diving off the Florida Keys, you’re ready to explore an underwater cave–but the AK47’d Agent just won’t move from the underwater cave mouth.

While traveling thru Texas to get home, you read a headline “Oil Pipeline found Clogged with TSA Agent and AK47!”…

I do not believe there are enough people (or AK47s for that matter) to post an agent every few hundred feet over every acre of ground the Empirical Regime of the United States has laid claim to.

And yet, it’s still quite a debatable position that the US is a police state–or will be soon enough.

bob says:

armed guards as deterrent

armed guards is exactly what was implemented in the US airports I’ve been using. they seem like the most useless thing to me, since their presences wouldn’t have deterred 9/11 at all. I think the Israeli method being referred to has to do more with people trained to look for behavior patterns.
we already have the armed guards walking around.
and we’re living it.
soo…. yeah, let’s try something else. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:


There is only one problem the TSA has never actually stopped a terrorist.. The guy with the underwear bomb only failed because of bad luck thankfully. What did they TSA do to stop him? Hold thousands of people up? Treat paying customers like terrorist? Beat you half to death for having 1oz too much Pepsi?

Where there’s a will there’s a way and this works for not only the good guys but the bad guy. Maybe if the rest of the world liked us they would not want to attack us so much.. I’d hate the USA too if I was in a country where they’re trying to dictate how everything is done.

Much as we like to believe we’re not the world police.

I mean really it’s about fucking time we stop worrying about the rest of the world and deal with our own failing economy. We’re worried about world hunger when there are plenty of AMERICANS starving to death right here in our own back yard.
We’re in a war we cannot afford.
Our justice system is breaking down for dealing with so much petty bullshit. Our states are going bankrupt from dealing with the laws that should not be laws. EX Legalize drugs and tax the fuck out of them. The war on drugs has done zero to stop the problem.
If people want to do them fine have fun and if you fuck up you’re going to prison.
Want to get away with murder? Get drunk and run them over and serve 5 years or even less or none depending on your past record.
Get caught with some crystal meth? 20 Years Did you kill anyone? Nope.

We have people trying to get legit highs off of shit that turns people into fucking zombies figuratively speaking.

We have people starving to death and what do we give them? A fucking Obama phone.. How about a fucking hamburger? They’re still starving but at least they can send a fucking text.


Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Why are you putting something driven by a partisan group just before the election? Are you a Republican party member? Would you like to make a disclosure here?

Anyone who thinks Cato is a Republican partisan group doesn’t know shit about Cato. They just as frequently go after Republicans.

Either way, I like how you don’t address the actual issue here, because you can’t. Instead, you lie about the group and then slam the strawman. Hilarious.

Anonymous Coward says:


While Cato does go after both sides, they are pretty much a conservative group that falls in line with the Republicans.

I consider the timing of this move as too much in the election cycle. They clearly could have done the same months ago, why wait until less than 60 days from the election to push hot button item, except to try to score political points?

“Instead, you lie about the group and then slam the strawman.”

Umm, let’s see:


Not exactly a shining example

I would say that if they aren’t a Republican dominated group directly, they are pretty close. It only goes to show this sudden interest in a hot button issue for what it is.

Perhaps you live in Naive-ville, but the rest of us don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:


“The “disclosure” comment Anonymous Coward him would be hilarious if that person had any ethics and would first apply it to himself.”

What? What do I have to disclose?

I don’t work for anyone in the music or movie industries. I don’t work for Google. I am neither Republican or Democratic.

What else would you like? My name and personal information are not relevant, even though Mike has them already.

Fisher1949 (profile) says:

9/11 Legacy

The lasting tragedy of 9/11 is the damage that the unscrupulous fear mongers at TSA have done to our rights and values. They co-opt 9/11 to justify their existence and abuses even though over half of their screeners were working for the private security firms when it happened.

In 2008 who would have believed that people would allow a stranger to view a naked image of their child or permit the equivalent of a mall cop to rub their child?s privates in the middle of an airport?

Nearly a million people died defending the liberties that have been stripped away by TSA in the name of safety without providing any value. It is disgraceful that the government that is supposed to defend the Constitution is complicit in its destruction and that Americans dishonor the fallen by acquiescing to this.

Granting unbounded authority to TSA and it bureaucrats has led to wide spread and recurrent abuse of innocent airline passengers and their children. There have been thousands of reports of excessive and punitive searches that are amount to nothing more than gratuitous harassment of innocent people.

TSA operates with complete immunity and there a no consequences for abusing their authority. TSA is the sole arbiter of complaints leaving no avenue of redress for those who have been abused by the agency.

In the past two months 35 TSA workers fired or arrested and 66 more disciplined for misconduct. There were 98 TSA workers arrested in the last 20 months including 12 arrested for child sex crimes, over 26 for theft, 12 for smuggling contraband through security and one for murder.

A known pedophile, Thomas Harkins, was exposed three months ago but remains employed as a TSA Supervisor in Philadelphia with access to children. What kind of agency allows a known pedophile access to children?

It is unacceptable for any agency to be authorized to act contrary to the Constitution and the law. Both TSA and DHS need to be dismantled and their duties assigned to responsible and accountable agencies subject to strict Congressional and judicial oversight.

TSA has done more damage to our way of life and human rights than Al Qaeda could ever have hoped to do and Pistole and Napolitano have been their accomplices.

Ninja (profile) says:

I personally never had any problems with the TSA but I do find the security procedures highly invasive and ineffective. I’ve told this story before but I embarked with a lighter twice in the US before. I didn’t know it was in my backpack, I used to carry it around with me to use in the laboratories (I’m a chemical engineer) and to light up fireworks (ha!) on some events but other than that it just stayed there in stand by. While I don’t think I could crash a plane using a lighter it is in their no-go list so… Too much invasiveness for too little effectiveness.

Gregg says:

35 years ago, John Lennon wrote a song called “Imagine”. We all know the song, and it still plays often on the radio. The song is revered as a peace anthem that many world leaders, politicians and organizations of all kinds reach to as an image for their own cause. People sit back and listen to the words, it even brings tears to some peoples eyes.

Yet today we are far further from the words of that song that we were 35 years ago.

Jes Lookin says:

Many Layers of Incompetence

Known as ‘Security Theater’, they still don’t get it. Unproven, ineffective technique exercised by incompetent personnel – that’s the one-line summary. The evidence ? Huge failure rates of detecting test devices, criminal behavior at airports (luggage tampering) that is undetected and covered up, TSA agents (more than one a day) criminally prosecuted, and thousands of traveler stories of banned items on planes or innocent people harrassed for no reason. That doesn’t even mentioned the uncertified TSA personnel operating unspecified/calibrated? high energy scanners directed at travelers. The whole TSA thing seems to be a test of WHEN Americans can or will call STUPID on the government.

ian (profile) says:


Support for the TSA and the general increase in surveillance powers at the Federal level is one of the few bipartisan issues in the US. I fail to see how to construe the timing of this as a partisan action, either by tsacomments.com or by Mike, when both candidates agree on the issue.

Unless you are saying that any challenge to government action during an election cycle is inherently partisan, which would leave us perilously few times during the year when we /can/ challenge government programs.

Phil says:


I can see nothing wrong with having armed guards at an airport, a seaport, or something like that. But not on the streets of our cities. That is not a police state! It’s called security. I’d feel a lot more protected if I saw an officer carrying an M4 around than those little things they call a pistol. What’s a pistol going to do while a guy is spraying an AK47 around?

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