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TSA criminals - Journal of Omnifarious

Oct. 19th, 2006

04:58 am - TSA criminals

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They should all be jailed for so routinely and blatantly violating the 4th amendment every single day they work. They are a blight and a stain on the covenant that used to make this country what it was. There are many other such blights, but I didn't have to deal with them in the last 10 minutes.

I can't believe that anybody could take that job and feel good about themselves when they got home. Some poor woman was reduced to tears over having a vial of liquid she purchased confiscated in front of me.

I feel that I make a deal with the devil every time I submit to them in only silent protest in order to get to where I want to go in a reasonable length of time.

I think, next time I fly, I'm buying bottled water or sprite or whatever in sufficient quantity to fill a full-sized carry-on bag. I encourage you all to do the same. The only thing that lets them continue this is our complicity.

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Current Mood: [mood icon] angry

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From:ts_umbra
Date:October 19th, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
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They are all Federal Employees. I say we fire the whole bunch (De-Federalize the TSA work staff) then rehire private screeners that have an incentive to be quick and respectful to the passengers.
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From:ex_butterfl246
Date:October 19th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
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I think that's an excellent idea. What are the steps toward that goal, do you know?
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From:hattifattener
Date:October 19th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC)
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How would one go about making the screeners have an incentive to do the job thoroughly but politely and quickly? That's the hard part. I don't think it's really a function of who pays their salary. Terrorism, at least of the 9/11 style, is very much an externality. Neither the airline nor the airport of origin (the two obvious choices for people to run the screening operation) had to pay for destroying the WTC, as far as I know.

A big part of the problem is that we're still politically in a situation where criticizing the TSA is seen as tantamount to terrorism. If that doesn't change, the TSA won't change either; they'll have no reason to change, and even if they want to do a better job, it's impossible for them to get accurate feedback. They'll continue to abuse their positions and not provide any substantial security.

Another problem, I think, is a serious lack of esprit. Screeners are low-paid, given a ton of responsibility (keeping terrorists off planes) but almost no authority (they can kick passengers around, but have no control over their own jobs). I'm sure they're as aware as we are that their job is a farce, is security theater. No organization does well in that situation.

My solution? Trains, when possible. You can go pretty far before the slower train speed outweighs the lack of pointless security delays. Some stations are kind of scungy, but I'd rather feel kind of like a bum than be treated like a criminal.
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From:omnifarious' OpenID account [omnifarious.org]
Date:October 21st, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
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I think was thinking about that. And I'd rather change liability law to make the airlines at least partly responsible for the damage caused by terrorist attacks using their equipment than I would have government employees responsible for doing the searching. I don't think them being government employees provides an incentive for being thorough either.

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From:omnifarious
Date:October 19th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC)
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That's exactly what I think too. I see a need for screening. But having any government employees doing it is clearly a violation of the 4th amendment. Having private screeners do it isn't. And then they would have an incentive to be polite and respectful. Also, the latest political whim wouldn't determine how they treated you.

The whole fluid thing is rather ridiculous. It's possible to make the cellulose in your clothing explosive in a way that's extremely hard to detect by treating it properly. There's a limit to what you can accomplish with screening.

IMHO, the main point of screening should be removing projectile weapons of any kind, heavy weapons like crowbars that can be used to break windows and such, and obvious explosives. None of those have a responsible use in the cabin of the airplane. Knives, OTOH, do have a responsible use.

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From:onecheshire
Date:October 21st, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC)
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My husband works for TSA. We feel fine about his job when we can afford to pay for groceries. It's true I am sure that some employess are rude. It is also true, however, that some passengers are rude as well. It isn't like the guidelines are a great mystery. Every change in them is dissected unto death in the news. Do I think that some of the guidelines are silly, yes. Do I think that it is fair to blame the people hired to enforce those rules, no.
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From:omnifarious
Date:October 21st, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
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I am not rude to TSA screeners. I am afraid to be rude. I am stonily , silently seethingly angry at them. I feel strongly that the job is inherently wrong. I don't care what the rules are, it is wrong to have federal employees who's job it is to search people without a warrant specifically naming them and their effects.

If it weren't federal employees, we wouldn't have nearly the incidence of people being arrested or mistreated simply for being rude or critical. And the rules would stand a greater chance of actually being helpful.

Right now, rules are put in place largely to serve political ends, not to serve the goal of a more secure plane ride. And this should be the expected result of the rules and screeners being a part of the government.

Though none of those reasons matter anyway. The wording of the 4th amendment is crystal clear, and the constitution of the US is the reason we have a country.

When I hear about a corporation dumping stuff into groundwater, I blame every employee from the person who turns the tap all the way up to the CEO who either ordered it done, or helped create an environment where that was considered an appropriate thing to do.

I feel very similarly about people who work for the TSA. The whole organization is in the wrong. Down from the lowest employee up to the president. They are all very deeply in the wrong. Every single person who works who works there thinks something is more important than the 4th amedment, because if they didn't, they wouldn't do it. There is no working within the system to change it because the fundamental assumptions governing the system's existence are wrong.

And maybe I'm a bit silly for thinking the 4th amendment is all that important. But it's my considered opinion that without the constitution we no longer have a country.p>

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From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 15th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)

Balance of security, comfort, and common sense

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I am a TSA employee. I've seen it all, as a passenger, as a screener, and as a supervisor. Having served in the military overseas and witnessed the spectrum of security practices from country to country, from laughable to impressive, I am confident in saying that security in America is moderately above average at best. The models for security are the Germans and Israelis, of course, but the passenger also has the least by way of rights in the face of security priorities.

Dismantling transportation security would probably be the most foolish thing America could do at this stage. And in the face of another transportation incident, the way the American public is today, reactive and short-sighted, it would be no time at all before the public outcry for improved security would reach such a level as to reinstate the TSA or another organization to fulfill the same task. A return to privatization would not likely improve security practices, I assure you, because those federal officers who survived the dismantling of TSA and transitioned back to private security would have lower incentives to perform well, and probably a tremendous chip on their shoulders. As it stands now, federal TSA officers have generally superior wages and benefits considering the type of work involved in transportation security and in comparison to private security companies. Instead, you would find a large number of probably inexperienced, recently recruited screeners, most of whom would be recent immigrants or young adults willing to work for lower wages, due to limited career prospects for non-native english speaking employees, or limited post-highschool education. That was the case before where I am located. Security standards under the private companies were abysmal and you would be surprised to know how much corruption and public deception there was. Sure, lines may have moved faster, but your rides were not as safe as they are now. Understand, though, there is a limit to safety. There is no such thing as 100% security. The only answer to this truth is thoroughness, and an organization that insists on 100% resistance to outside influence, namely, the resistance to the public pressure to go faster. Security as it exists could probably be streamlined, that is true of all organizations. However, if you cut it out altogether, that's inviting disaster. There must be a happiest for all medium.

The public has to flex in its own interest just as much the same public demands the federalized security force to flex. It may not seem to be the case, but the TSA does flex for the public and that is the greater part of what is so frustrating about being a TSA employee or a traveler is that one month a rule will be published, and then the next month it will be rescinded in response to public outcry through Congress, and then the next month it will be reinstituted with modifications. Naturally, this inconsistency is frustrating to the public as well, who hope to anticipate travel rules, only to find that they weren't current and end up being screened.

Travel light. Travel smart. Leaving knives and tools, etc., in checked luggage. Not essential for travel? Not worth packing. Use common sense, & a realistic sens of time: consider commute time to the airport, factor in time of day & traffic, parking, loading and unloading, etc. I generally, create a cushion of at least 2 hours prior to BOARDING TIME, NOT departure time.

The long view: I think that if we don't slow down, don't demand more than just faster lines, don't collectively come to reasonable solutions by making some concessions where possible, ultimately everyone's concern for Constitutional rights will become inarguably irrelevant. It's already eroding: the public will pay handsome annual fees to third parties for invasive background investigations into all aspects of their personal lives just to ensure their speedy processing through screening. What does this say for Americans if they are willing to pay hard-earned money in order to have their privacy invaded by 3rd parties just to get to the Starbucks line on the other side of security? That's putting the caboose before the engine: Paying to lose rights. This robs all Americans of their right to privacy for the sake of speed.
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From:klicrai
Date:November 17th, 2006 08:35 am (UTC)

The 4th amendment

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This isn't a demand for faster lines. It has nothing to do with speed, it has to do with the constitution. Nothing in your statement contradicts the core of Omnifarious's argument, which is: "It is wrong to have federal employees who's job it is to search people without a warrant specifically naming them and their effects."

We are patriots, therefore we do not trust our government. We don't want government employees searching us without a warrant EVER. It's a violation of the spirit of freedom, the constitution, and... I think that's the root of the violation everybody feels when a government employee asks them to remove their shoes. It's simply wrong.

Federal employees may be more convenient and efficient security personnel but their use as transportation security is unconstitutional, and therefore an attack on the spirit of our country.

I'd rather ride in a plane with a bunch of people that were allowed to keep their bottled water, matches and shoes than continue putting up with the TSA's existence. Terrorists don't frighten me, the corruption permeating our government like brine through a pickle frightens me.

Keeping this country on a permanent "terror alert" by posting federal employees in every major city, then constantly changing the policies and rules is wrong. It's time for the airlines to hire private security to handle the screenings and for the government to take it's hands off our luggage.
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From:shinmawa
Date:November 17th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)

Shame the Supreme Court disagrees

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The fourth amendment, like every constitutional amendment, is a living entity. In order to say any particular action violates or doesn't violate any facet of the constitution, it is important to first understand the Supreme Court's interpretation of it.

It would probably come as no surprise to you that this was actually put to bed *three decades ago* in United States v. Davis (1973). The Davis ruling established what is known as "Administrative Search Doctrine". This doctrine premise is "that searches conducted as part of a general regulatory scheme in furtherance of an administrative purpose, rather than as part of a criminal investigation to secure evidence of a crime, may be permissible under the Fourth Amendment though not supported by a showing of probable cause directed to a particular place or person to be searched." The following year, this was reinforced in United States v. Albarado (1974) where administrative searches were considered a deterrent, rather than for the specific purpose of discovery.

This doctrine has been upheld in a number of cases, including McMorris v. Alioto (1978), United States v. Dalpiaz (1974) and Downing v. Kunzig (1972) .

The other angle, of course, in the consent angle and what counts as a seizure of your person for the purposes of the search. If you openly consent to the search, then the search itself does not approach a fourth amendment violation. Specifically, see California v. Hodari (1991) where if a reasonable person would feel free to disregard police and go about his business (by presumably leaving the airport), the encounter is consentual. This has been applied to two facets of airline travel: examining your identification (Florida v. Rodriguez (1994)) and searching of your luggage (United States v. Mendenhall (1980)).

These actual cases are a lot more nuanced and complicated than my oversimplified summary in this LJ comment. Of course, I'm not giving any actual legal advice here, and stress all the other hire-a-lawyer-for-your-legal-needs disclaimers.

However, one thing is for certain, there is a lot of case law involved here. It has been ruled on for over three decades by the very Supreme Court that was established by the covenant that you hold so dear and is nowhere near as cut-and-dry as your ridiculous "Big Brother is blatantly violating the constitution!! Jail them all!" rant.
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From:omnifarious' OpenID account [omnifarious.org]
Date:November 17th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Shame the Supreme Court disagrees

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Now see, you actually site something worthwhile and interesting that's a rebuttal to my argument. I may feel that the Supreme Court was wrong, but that's a whole different kettle of fish. I'm going to see if I can hunt down the relevant cases, or at least a layman's description of them to see if I can understand the nuances.

There was no need to call my rant ridiculous. Perhaps it was 3 decades ago, but my arguments were considered worthy of review by the Supreme Court. So they didn't consider it ridiculous. The Supreme Court generally doesn't hear cases they consider ridiculous. Though I will admit that jailing them all is a bit ridiculous given previous history. It's not a remedy Japanese Americans ever received and their case for feeling wronged is even strong than mine.

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From:omnifarious
Date:November 17th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Shame the Supreme Court disagrees

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I did not know you had any training as a lawyer. And my attempts to find layman's descriptions of these cases haven't been fruitful. Do you know where there might be links?

Thanks.

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