TSA – Too much power, too little accountability

This article from “Ask the Pilot” by Patrick Smith is well worth reading. It recounts a story that a pilot had with the TSA people.

Let me give you just one little snippet:

“Ma’am, that’s an airline knife. It’s the knife they give you on the plane.

You can probably imagine where this is headed.

There are a number of other very good articles on that site as well – be sure to check them out.

Your Papers, Please (Part 2)

Via Bruce Schneier’s blog – the TSA has a new photo ID requirement:

Beginning Saturday, June 21, 2008 passengers that willfully refuse to provide identification at security checkpoint will be denied access to the secure area of airports. This change will apply exclusively to individuals that simply refuse to provide any identification or assist transportation security officers in ascertaining their identity.

This new procedure will not affect passengers that may have misplaced, lost or otherwise do not have ID but are cooperative with officers. Cooperative passengers without ID may be subjected to additional screening protocols, including enhanced physical screening, enhanced carry-on and/or checked baggage screening, interviews with behavior detection or law enforcement officers and other measures.

You used to be able to travel without showing ID – your “papers” – it was a hassle, but you could do it. Now you can forget about it – ID is required. Unless you say you forgot it, in which case you’re OK. Because someone trying to hijack a plane or blow one up would never lie about not having ID…

Repeat after me: Identification does not equal security. Say it again: Identification does NOT equal security.

We’ll keep this up until someone gets the hint. In the meantime, get out your papers, comrade… or else!

UPDATE: In case you forgot about it, here’s part one of “Papers, Please,” and a really good quote from the Slashdot article that started me on this rant:

“I remember in the 80s we used to make jokes about Soviet citizens being asked “show me your papers” and needing internal passports to travel in their own country. Now we need internal passports to travel in our country. How did this happen? The requirement to show ID for flying on commercial passenger flights started in 1996, in response to the crash of TWA Flight 800. This crash was very likely caused by a mechanical failure. How showing ID to board a plane prevents mechanical failures is left as an exercise to the reader. How mandatory ID even prevents terrorist attacks is also not clear to me; all the 9/11 hijackers had valid government-issued ID. I hope the courts don’t wimp out on this fight.”

It seems like maybe the courts have wimped out on this fight, which is not only sad, but terribly distressing.

Clearly Stupid

Take a look at this ad I saw just the other day:

This has to be the single stupidest thing that has come about since the increased airline security policy went into effect after 9/11. It’s a card that supposedly will let you get through airport security faster – something about being “precleared.”

If you think about what that means for a little bit, little liberty-alarm bells should start going off in your head. This card effectively creates a new “class” of people – people who are “precleared.” People who are (supposedly) “safe.” Everyone else – and right now, unless you have one of these new cards, that includes you – is “untrusted.” Everyone else is “presumed guilty.”

Let me rephrase that – YOU are presumed guilty.

In effect, this is segregation – in the year 2008. Forget upper, middle, and lower classes – now we’ve got “precleared” and “possible terrorist.” And unlike the traditional social classes (upper, middle, and lower), you can’t work your way up to the new “precleared” class by yourself – you have to be “allowed” in.

“So what?” you might ask, “if I don’t want to be discriminated against, I’ll just sign up for the card.” Fair enough – but what if you are rejected? What are the criteria for being “precleared,” anyway?

What if you can’t sign up for this card because of the church you belong to? Or because of campaign donations you’ve made in the past? Or because of who you work for? Or because of your publicly stated beliefs?

Never mind that the whole idea of “precleared” is just plain bad security practice. (There are 3 links there, folks – read them all to understand the problem with “precleared” cards.)

Travel within the United States is supposed to be free and clear – we have no border posts between states, we don’t have to show papers to travel within our own country… or at least, we didn’t use to. Now we do – we have to show our new “national ID” – the specter of REAL ID rears its ugly head – and what your national ID says about you might determine whether you’re asked to step aside for “special” screening.

Personally, I’m going to be very disappointed if we just roll over and accept these sorts of things – as it appears we are doing. We have gone from the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” to the “Land of the Fearful and the Home of the Sheepish.”